Friday, March 20, 2009

The Scarlet A

Today is the official "coming out" day of the OUT Campaign. I have been an out-of-the-closet, outspoken Atheist for fifteen years now, so it's not my coming out day, but I thought I would show support.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Someone stole my daughter's CDs

My wife left her car unlocked accidentally when she came back to town Sunday evening, and overnight, someone got into her car and took a CD holder, mostly full of my daughter's favorite music.

Now, I'm not sure what the motivation would be to steal out of someone else's car in the first place, but once the thief discovered that the CDs had children's music on them, would it be unreasonable to think he/she might just quietly return the stolen items? Just leave them on the porch when we're not home?

I'm expecting too much out of someone who is unscrupulous enough to steal someone else's property in the middle of the night, I know, but man...I'm just so angry and saddened by this violation of our privacy.

People who have read this blog in the past know that my child has autism. She craves structure, and if certain music isn't playing when she wants it played, chaos ensues. Now, we do have some measure of discipline with her (she knows what "no" means and will often listen), but neither my wife nor I should have to deny her the music she likes because some jerk decided to come onto our property, open my wife's car door, and sift through her things in the console in between the seats, hoping for something valuable.

I'm sure the thief isn't going to read this article, but on the off chance that you are that person, are you happy? Are you happy with the copies you stole, which we made so we wouldn't damage the originals? Are you happy that you stole a kid's favorite music? Is your own kid enjoying it now?

It's just stuff. It is really just stuff. But hey, a person who would take my kid's stuff out of my wife's car might not care much about how wrong it would be to break into my house and take more of my kid's stuff. The thought of explaining to my kid that her favorite treasures are gone (little plastic toys she carriers around and collects; nothing very valuable to anyone but her, really) just makes me shudder, because she's not going to stop crying and screaming for awhile, and I'm not really going to be able to make her understand. She understands "broken", but not "gone", really.

A worse thought is that this person could break in when we're here, or when I am gone and my wife and kid are here, and do who knows what to them.

So now what? I'm thinking of canvassing the neighborhood, leaving a flyer on every door that explains exactly what this theif did. If nothing else, it will make the neighborhood aware that there are theives around. At best, someone might turn the culprit in to us.

I really just want my kid's music back. I can burn the CDs again, but it would be nice to know if this thief has a conscience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Catholic Cardinal Knocks A Straw Man Down--I Think

I will admit that I am one of few Atheists, it seems, who has not read anything written by Richard Dawkins. Sorry, Mr. Dawkins, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I think you'd just be preaching to the choir with me, so to speak, anyway. I did watch "The Root of All Evil", which is a Dawkins video, but I haven't touched the books. I think I've read enough books on evolution that I just have to keep up with the journals, and I'll be okay.

In any case, some Cardinal spoke on how evolutionary theory doesn't conflict with Catholicism, and he said something that floored me:

"We believe that however creation has come about and evolved, ultimately God
is the creator of all things," he said on the sidelines of the conference.

But while the Vatican did not exclude any area of science, it did reject as
"absurd" the atheist notion of biologist and author Richard Dawkins and others
that evolution proves there is no God, he said.

"Of course we think that's absurd and not at all proven," he said. "But other
than that ... the Vatican has recognized that it doesn't stand in the way of
scientific realities."

Now, wait a minute there, buddy. There's an "atheist notion" of biologist Richard Dawkins and others that evolution proves that your god doesn't exist? What?!?

Someone out there enlighten me, because I'm having trouble understanding why this Cardinal would say such a thing: did Richard Dawkins ever say that evolution proves that no god exists? I ask because I think he's setting up a straw man here. It would be absolutely absurd to say that evolutionary theory has anything to do with whether or not gods exist. It's not a question biologists would address when talking about evolution, and I seriously doubt Dawkins would ever say it.

Hey, maybe Dawkins did, though, but I'd have to hear his side of the story before I accept the word of someone who was part of the hierarchy in an institution involved in the biggest cover-up of child rape in the history of the world, as far as I know.

So anyway, great, the Catholic Church is all about the Darwin. So what? That's news? Did you really have to reiterate it after accepting evolution and teaching it in your schools for decades? That's right: I went to a Catholic high school in ninth grade, and we learned about evolution in that class. My teacher--and I'm sorry that I don't remember his name, because some of the things he said really stuck with me--said on the first day of class or close to it: "We will not be talking about creationism in this class. If you want to talk about creationism, go to the theology class down the hall. It does not belong in this classroom. You are here to learn about biology."

Mr....Ryan?...summed it up perfectly: biology should be taught in biology classrooms, not creationism. Creationism isn't science.

A couple other things I remember about Mr....oh, hell, I don't remember...was that he would say "Right there, in flashing green neon lights," while making flashing gestures with his hands. I also remember that he was the only teacher who noticed I was torn up inside when my mom had her brain tumor. He took me aside outside of the classroom and asked me what was going on, and I told him. My grades sunk the rest of that year in other classes, but at least I know he was on my side.

My friend Pete and I bought him this bowtie with little whales printed on it. He was a great sport; he wore the thing with a smile. Man, that guy was a good teacher and a good guy. I wish I could remember his name, because I'd thank him for teaching me evolution the right way the first time, and for being such a great teacher.

Anyway, the point is that evolution has been an accepted subject in Catholic school biology classrooms for at least twenty-three years, and I would suspect several more before that. Was there really confusion on how the Catholic Church stood on evolution as recently as Darwin's 200th birthday? And did the Cardinal who made this statement really have to bring Richard Dawkins into his statements? Of course the Catholic Church is going to think it's absurd that evolutionary theory disproves their god! Even if that were true, the Catholic Church would collapse virtually overnight, right? No god, no Catholicism. No more cover-ups of child rape.

I'm not just trying to make cheap shots at the Catholic Church by bringing up the pedophilia scandal. I am really, really angry that the Catholic Church not only didn't really do anything about the child rape, but also actively covered it up. Here's an institution that has missions that educate, feed, and clothe children around the world. Here's an institution that helped my dad's family to get to America when they were poor and struggling in a war-torn Germany. Here is an institution that has hospitals, including children's research hospitals. They have so much potential to do so much good, and they let something like child rape mar any chance they have at a decent reputation. I disagree with the Catholic belief system (and every theistic belief system), but I could tolerate Catholicism if they didn't cover up child rape--and if they didn't try to actively involve themselves in political decisions that affect people's private lives, but the child rape is a far more serious issue.

All they would have had to do about the child rape was to defrock the priest and turn them in. If they were so concerned about the doctrine regarding keeping confessions secret, they could have issued pennance that demanded that the offenders turn themselves in. There is just no excuse I'd accept. If they'll cover this sort of thing up, would they also cover it up if a priest went around stabbing children? I have to wonder.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Putting words into the mouths of Atheists

A long time ago, I voted Republican. I actually voted for George H. W. Bush (not his idiot son) twice. It's a decision I regret, and the words in the image above that I saw on reinforced the reasons why I regret that decision. George H.W. Bush once said that he considered atheists neither patriots nor citizens. If I could retroactively take away my vote, I would do it for that reason. I haven't voted for a Republican since.

Theocrats have taken over the GOP completely. They're the reason I never registered as a Republican, and they're the reason I will probably never vote with the GOP again, even if they do get rid of their corruption problems, their lie machines, and their ideology of supply-side economics. They obviously don't want the likes of me under their political tent.

That said, let's parse this statement, shall we?

"Atheism: the belief..."

No. Atheism is not a belief. It is a reaction to beliefs. Atheists do not accept the claims of theists. That is all that atheists have in common. There is no system of beliefs. There is no requirement to know anything about the origin of life or of the universe. All that is required is that we do not hold the beliefs of theists to be true.

"Atheism: the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to

No. Atheists do not have to believe anything about origins at all. We don't have the answers regarding how the universe came to be. We don't know anything about what happened before the universe began to expand. I argue that theists do not, either, but they fill that gap in their knowledge with a god or gods. Atheism, again, is simply not accepting the claims of theists. All I had to do to become an atheist is read the Bible, do some research, and realize that the book is not consistent with reality. After I was through with the Bible, I examined other religions and found them equally lacking in substance. It's all about faith at some point, and I have not found faith to be a useful tool in my life. What I have found is that faith keeps some people from accepting empirical evidence, requiring them to have a separate set of facts from everyone else.

"...and then nothing magically exploded for no reason..."

No. Theists believe that nothing magically exploded. Theists--well, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theists--believe that their god magically spoke the universe into being. Yes, he spoke, and the universe came to be, according to their mythology. If that's not magic, I don't know what is.

The "no reason" part is about right; unless someone can prove the existence of gods, I'm not seeing a point to the existence of the universe. It just is, and I'm in it, so I deal with it the best way I know how.

"...creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged
itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned
into dinosaurs."

No. There's no magic necessary. All life took was carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and a few traces of other elements, plus energy, plus time, to exist. Theists believe life came about through magic. Humans were created from clay and life was breathed into them, according to the theology of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. That's magic. According to evolutionary theory, life changed over time, present life had common ancestry, and life is very, very old. Dinosaurs didn't come along until well after the first life. The first life was present around three billion or so years ago, and it didn't even become multicellular until around six hundred million years ago. That's a very long time for genes to recombine and mutate, and for genetic material to be added, which happens with each reproduction. Again, however, atheists don't have to know anything about evolutionary theory. All atheists have to do is not be convinced by the mythology that life magically came into being after being formed in clay. Well, human life, anyway. How the rest of life came to be, their holy books don't say. They just say that they were created.

"Makes perfect sense."

What makes perfect sense is to say that I don't know how the universe came to be, I don't know exactly how life began on this planet, but I do know that I don't have to accept theistic explanations that clearly do involve magic. To recap, theists believe:

  1. Their god spoke the universe into being from nothing.

  2. Their god breathed life into a clay statue of a man and caused it to live.

Theists absolutely must believe in magic to believe these things to be true. Atheists merely have to say that they have no evidence for magic, have no conclusive evidence regarding origins, and have no reason to accept the claims of theists as anything other than myth.