Saturday, December 6, 2008

obviously, atheists can be jerks too


basically, some atheists put up a sign next to a nativity scene. the sign reads:

"At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds"

they then acted surprised when the sign was found to have been taken from the site and chucked into a ditch. yeah, big surprise.

i agree with the contents of the sign but the approach here is all wrong. the last sentence in particular is bad. it goes from stating a given worldview (a naturalist one) to attacking everyone who doesnt believe in that worldview.

"Religion is but myth and superstition" implies that if you believe in it, you are stupid.
"that hardens hearts and enslaves minds" there is no room there for religion to be doing anything beneficial.

this is not the way we should be going. we cant afford to attack religious people, especially the good ones, because such attacks will provoke defensive responses. for people claiming to be putting forward the rational argument, where is the benefit in provoking a primal/defensive response?

you dont need major changes to the sign to achieve the same goals without falling into pretentious traps. "Religion is full of myth and superstition that can harden hearts and enslave minds". there. same message, only now the reader isnt an enslaved, hardened idiot.

the first step towards gaining acceptance and legitimacy is to prove that atheists can actually be good people. words like "godless" and "heathen" still have extremely negative connotations in american society. people think atheists can not be morally good people. they're wrong of course, this is like any other prejudicial stereotype, but sentences like "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds" don't go far in winning them over.

many people think they need god and religion to be morally good people. often these people were brought up in such a manner that morallity and religion were always tied together and so its hard for them to imagine one without the other. the first step for atheists is to show that that does not have to be the case. and going the crusades route doesnt usually end well. if you end up in a "but thats a perversion of my belief system" argument, you cant get out easily. the religious person is personally invested, and trying to make rational arguments will again provoke irrational and defensive responses. its not a good way to go.

instead, we need to show that we dont need god or religion to be good people. we can do it just by ourselves. then, since we are just ordinary people like anyone else, nobody really needs god or religion to be morally good.

if you can get a theistic person to admit the above, you've won. they've admitted they dont need god or religion to be a good person. now you can launch in with the mind enslaving, genocide-inducing aspects of religion. once you've shown that its not needed for good, and that it can cause horrendous evil, you have the extremely powerful question: "so why should we keep it?" let them mull that one over. and dont just reject any answer they come up with out of hand

thats the way to go. the sign skips the first step, and that first step is completely necessary, so they aren't doing us any favors. how is the golden rule "myth and superstition"? mother theresa, martin luther king, were their hearts hardened and minds enslaved? religion is a deeply human phenomenon and insulting people for buying into it is like insulting them for falling into one of the various logical fallicies human brains are hard-wired to fall into.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mad Max and the Meltdown

one DANIEL HENNINGER has an opinion article in the WSJ today that made me mad. combine that with the fact that its about stuff i dont know much about (anything outside of computer science and comparative literature) and we have the makings of a blog post.

link to aritcle.

the so called "war on christmas" is one of the most ridiculous notions that so-called conservative talking heads talk about. the idea that stores would put up signs with "happy holidays" instead of "merry christmas" actually offends them. they need to feel offended that badly, for reasons i think Glenn Greenwald has written a book about (though i havent read it).

here are my two biggest issues with the article:

1) "Little or nothing that has occurred through this crisis discredits the system of free-market capitalism. Across several centuries of rising world incomes and social gains, the system has proved its worth. In this instance, the system has been badly used -- by mere people. "

isn't that the exact argument agaisnt socialism/communism? i am no history buff, i know very little about political theory, but "from each according to his means, to each according to his need" sounds like a great idea. i need a tv, someone knows how to build tvs, he gives me a tv, now i have a tv. the guy who made me the tv needs a website, i know how to make websites (i dont, btw), i make him a website. of course we're just doing this out of the goodness of our hearts, so no money changes hands.

but it would never, ever work in reality, and has the potential for extreme, horrible abuse, as i think we've seen.

now it looks like the same is true for zero-regulation free-market capitalism, but this time its not the idealogy's fault, its the people's fault for not implementing it correctly? wtf?

for the record i'm all for regulated, sane free market capitalism. just like i'm all for individual freedom. but my individual freedom doesnt extend to me scamming, stealing, or killing others in order to enrich myself. when i do those things the state intervenes and throws my ass in jail. why should the economic freedom be any different? i dont want the government making aribtrary regulations just for shits, i dont want it preventing hostile takeovers because they aren't "fair" or some childish shit like that, but clearly we need some rules (laws) so that some actions (murder, predatory lending, fraud) are illegal and then we need to actually enforce those. government closing its eyes and ears to the financial world makes just as little sense as it does to the criminal world.

2) (and i cant believe these are actually coming up in the same, short article)
"Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.
The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines."

this is offensive bullshit rooted in the concept that atheists can have no morals. that merely because we dont believe in god, we have no concept of what's right and whats wrong. i'm not even going into this one but it angers me and is bullshit on its face.

and wait, i thought greed was the driving force of the free market? wouldnt that mean acting in my own depraved self interest should be good for the system, not bad? i mean, one of my few readers correct me if i'm wrong, but isnt his argument then:
1) morality and rules have no place in the free market system, and implementing them would be a determent to that system
2) a cause of the financial meltdown is the secularization of modern society which is underminding its moral base

clearly those two can not both be true. so as i see it we have a couple options here

1) I'm off base in my understanding of some of the core concepts, or the article itself; probably oversimplifying something
2) this guy is a fucking idiot
3) this guy is a selfish prick

i'm going with 2 and/or 3 (after all these arent mutually exclusive). someone let me know if 1 is also true.

how weird is it that the current GOP is made up of 3 (separate?) coalitions that think we should 1) police the world, 2) police the bedroom, and, 3) for the love of god, not police the market?

Friday, November 7, 2008

community is definitely a positive thing about religion. of course, you also definitely dont need religion to have a community.

Friday, October 10, 2008

recent goings on with mccain

let me start by saying i think its pretty much wrapped up. obama will win this thing in november barring some sort of outliar. of course, those do happen, but his victory seems all but inevitable. 

this video, and the others like it going around now, really scare and sadden me. these people represent the worst of us, and when they start singing god bless america, i actually feel physically ill. their intolerance is revolting and the antithesis of everything good about the country for which they sing. and, as far as im concerned, palin is one of these people.

mccain is not, i dont think. he's been taking a lot of flak lately, and deservedly so, for stoking the flames of these people's hatred.

today it looked like he had had enough of that kind of campaigning. he told his crowd today that they didnt have anything to fear from an obama presidency, and that he was not an arab and was rather a decent, family man. crooksandliars has the video.

(lets ignore for the moment the fact that the woman said "arab" and mccain said no, he's "decent". because we all know that woman meant terrorist. "arab" and "decent" are not, in fact, opposites).

now a lot of liberal media types are saying that its too late, mccain stoked these flames, he shouldnt get any credit for now going back on his strategy, that this is exactly what he wanted people to think, and that he's only stopping now because its backfiring. 

but he never looked comfortable when he was fanning these fires, even before today. he looks (and sounds) completely disoriented to me, like in the back of his head he was questioning if doing that was really worth it.

i think mccain really wants to be president. i think in that ambition, he took on the people who manufactured two bush victories, even though those people had strategies completely agaisnt what mccain originally stood for. i think, little by little, those guys pushed him to abandon the "straight talk express" values he used to exspouse. and he went along, because he really really wanted to be president, because he honestly thinks he could do a good job. and as he continued to fall further and further behind, these guys told him to go after obama in more and more sleazy ways. and mccain honestly thought "these ads arent me calling him a terrorist, just questioning his judgment". or rather, he rationalized them to himself that way. and so, as is how i think all "evil" is created, little by little, over time, each action performed, rationalized, and then used as a justification for the next, mccain wound up doing some really horribly negative campaigning.

i think sometime between yesterday and today, he took a step back, maybe even saw the videos of what his supporters were saying, and his conscience kicked in, and he realized he couldnt let this keep happening.

i think that, probably because i want to think that. this is probably not based on rationality, this is purely hopeful on my part. because the other alternative is that Glenn Greenwald is right, and that mccain is backtracking on this purely because its backfiring in the polls at large (and i'm relieved for the entire country that it is). and if thats the case then he's just as evil as cheney.

i disagree with mccain on just about every stance he has. his views on war themselves disquailfy him for office as far as i'm concerned. but if he continues to defend obama from slurs he himself helped create, he can at least, in my view, lose this thing with some small amount of dignity. as of yesterday he didnt even have that chance.  after all, today he was defending obama when he knew full well that he'd at least get booed at his own event for doing so, and maybe even possibly lose votes, all when he's already way behind.

i think he's taking some responsibility for what was pretty heinous, cynical, and outright evil campaign strategy. but at least he's doing something about it now. if he goes postivie for the rest of the campaign, i wont hate him forever.

if he comes out with a new attack ad tomorrow, fuck 'im.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympics and other small things

i'm a bit bored tonight so hey.


NBC was brilliant in posting pretty much every god damn thing imaginable on the internet. most of them dont even have commentary, which is great for a lot of the sports i watch. listening to someone explain what right of way or a back row attack are to the audience like their a bunch of four year olds gets really annoying really fast.

which is completely unfair to kevin barnett, one of the commentators for indoor volleyball, who is hilarious. karch on the other hand annoys the hell out of me. its just his tone of voice.

i love indoor volleyball, particularly the mens game. its a fast-action testosterone-filled competition that makes for great spectating in my opinion. but maybe i just have so much fun because i can imagine doing that the guys on the court are doing (but only imagine).

the best part about the phelps thing is how classy he's been. 8 medals is definitely impressive, but on the other hand its a little bit like giving out medals for soccer competitions of 10 mins, 20 mins, 30 mins... the point being most other atheletes simply dont have the opportunity to win more than one medal every 4 years, particularly those in team sports. but he's won with such class that i definitely support him.


never has it been more clear in recent history just how limited the US's power actually is. "Hey, Russia invaded Georgia! what can we do about it?"


but this is an excellent article on that subject by someone extremely more knowledgable than me on that topic. i frankly think we should start minding our own damn business as much as possible, and i hope barack agrees.

it will surprise precisely no one who knows me that this statement really pisses me off:

Warren did say, though, he couldn't vote for an atheist. "An atheist says, 'I don't need God,'" Warren said. "They're saying, 'I'm totally self-sufficient in myself,' and nobody's self-sufficient enough to be president -- it's too big a job.

the quote is from here

its remarkable how little some religious people think of people in general. apparenlty we're not capable of governing ourselves (even in a completely and utterly incompetent fashion as demonstrated by the current administration) without some benevolent supernatural force.

benevolent to us anyway. my interpretation of that sentence (and i suppose its possible that i'm wrong) is that Warren thinks god is on our side. so lets break it down:

1) people can't run their own countries without God's help (we must be too stupid.)
2) God is on our side, since he's helping out our president. why did he choose america? i dunno, perhaps he flipped a coin. its a good thing we were all born here anyway, because that mere accident makes us better than everyone else.

blech. as always, my biggest problem with religions: they serve to draw distinct "us" vs "them" lines. they further a tribalisitic mentality that we would do much better as a global society to leave in the prehistoric age where it belongs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

tacking center...

ha, i think i had long hair still the last time i posted. thats weird. and adrian has apparently tagged me 7 times or some such nonsense.

anyway barack's got me mad enough to actually come post again. I'll assume the readership here (hi, adrian!) is familiar with what went down in the senate yesterday, what barack had said he was going to do about FISA/telco amnesty, how he actually voted yesterday, and why that would make someone like me mad.

so what to do about it?

i actually havent given barack any money so far, and right now i'm glad of that. but i know plenty of people going "he's not getting any more donations from me".

thats great, but he's already gotten a lot of those donations, and they cant ask for their money back once he wins the nomination, "moves to the center", and starts fucking them all over.

what we need instead is a constant stream of small donations. get together a whole lot of people who want to support a candidate. each person donates however much money they want. the money goes into a really big pool. the candidate recieves small amounts of that money (daily, lets say) every day so long as those doing the donating are still happy with them. should they suddenly change views, the money stream is literally turned off, to be restored when the candidate makes recompense (or else returned to those who did the donating, whatever % of their donation had yet to be paid out).

in the age of the internet, this would be excedingly easy to do.

seems like the only way to hold a candidate to the promises he or she makes during the primaries is to threaten to take their money away once they start heading into the general election should they drastically change views.

and of course, only those passionate enough about the issues to be/stayed informed throughout the process are making the donations in the first place (and none of the contested-for swing voters are, presumably, or else they would have already decided on a candidate and thus by definition not be swing voters).

"Oh, but barack's just doing what he needs to do to win"

yeah. so much for "a diffirent kind of politician", huh. the biggest reason i'm so pissed is cause i actually let myself believe that stuff when he was selling it a couple months ago.

anyway, the turn-offable money faucet would take:

1) a very large number of people donating a (combined) very large sum of money. we'd need to be imperative to the success of the campaign to have any real influence.
2) a specific set of positions on a specific set of issues that, if breached, results in the turning off of the money stream.
3) a website (trivially easy in these days).

Glenn Greenwald et all have done a really good job raising funds for specific issues, something like this money faucet seems completely feasible to me. and if nothing else, it would give us a lot more leverage than we have now (since, like everyone else, i'll be voting for barack in november despite this). and we could punish/reward specific bad/good actions on the candidates part, more than just symbolically.

so who wants to set it up for 2012?