If Jesus had never been born… We’d just celebrate the solstice

Tim Wildmon, of the Christian hate-group the American Family Association, just published an on-line article titled “If Jesus had never been born…

It’s an interesting hypothetical. The first thing that comes to mind is that we really don’t know if this person existed. The character created by the various authors of biblical mythology almost certainly didn’t exist. Water to wine; virgin birth; walking on water; healing the blind; etc. are all things of the imagination and are no different than any of the other supernatural and magical attributes that man has been applying to mythical characters since before writing. Gilgamesh, Beowulf, the Maya hero twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque, and so on.

But Wildmon’s article isn’t about a thought-experiment, it’s about delusion. In his delusion, the United States is a direct result of a mythical person named Jesus Christ. He begins, “[i]f Jesus Christ had never been born, you would not be reading this column [and] there would be no United States of America.”

Wildmon is, of course, flawed and falacious in his reasoning. His premise assumes the conclusion, which is that Jesus Christ did exist as described in biblical mythology. This is the same circular logic that causes religious nuts to believe in most biblical mythology as fact rather than the myth it actually is. To support his circular claims, Wildmon cites Pres. Truman’s address to the Attorney General’s Conference on Law Enforcement Problems in 1950. Truman said, The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days”[1].

This couldn’t be further from the truth and, if one were to look at the documents involved (Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution), one would see that they in no way compare to the religious mythology either Wildmon or Truman refer to. In fact, biblical doctrines that Christians like to attribute to being the “foundation” of our great nation’s laws and government are down-right un-American. Leviticus alone is full of un-American dogma and doctrine: Rancher’s have a long, American tradition of raising a variety of cattle, the diversly planted victory garden is about as American as it gets, and the cotton-polyester blend is an American classic, but each of these is forbidden by Leviticus 19:19. The cruel and inhumane author of Leviticus was also unconcerned with national diversity and freedoms of speech and religion for death was the penalty for gays, adulterers (and their spouses!), and anyone who blasphemed his own particular notion of god.

But maybe Truman and Wildmon weren’t thinking of Leviticus. Surely they consider the Ten Commandments to be this “foundational” source for their own twisted idea of American origins. And yet when you compare, the American traditions and the 10 Commandments only share two out of ten things in common: don’t kill and don’t steal. Truman and Wildmon might as well attribute the Code of Hammurabi to “fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights.” In fact, the Code of Hammurabi is a much closer match to a potential origin of our Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution). The CoH provides for due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to present evidence, and some references to religious freedom (biblical mythology is very bigoted in this regard).

So Wildmon (and, by extension, Truman) are both flat out wrong about America being founded by Christian mythology. I challenge any one who thinks they are well-versed in this mythology to show where American Founding documents (Constitution/Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, etc.) are directly produced from Christian doctrine.

Wildmon continues with his failed article: “[i]f Jesus Christ had never been born, obviously, there would be no Christmas celebration or even a “holiday season.”

I think he’s wrong again. The Christian celebration of the alleged birth of Jesus (again, his premise assumes the conclusion) was intended by early cult leaders to replace pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. We can still see the remnants of this celebration in our modern representations of Christmas: holy, the tree, yule logs, etc. Had early cult leaders not claimed Jesus was born (he may or may not have been), we would still have a holiday season. It would simply be a celebration more obviously based on the Solstice.

Wildmon’s attempt here is to claim that Christmas is about Jesus… for some that may be true. But for most, it’s about family, children, world peace, love, giving, getting, eating, and so on. It’s a moment of social embrace where a family or even a community can come together and remind each that even though they have separate lives, they still have a common purpose. The season was always a celebration that we’ve reached the shortest day of the year and we’re about to embark on longer days ahead -we made it! Christians can do whatever the hell they want on Christmas: pray, go to mass, worship little barns with infants, whatever. They even have the right to bitch and moan that the rest of us just like the holly, mistletoe, snowmen, snowflakes, holiday trees (not a single religious ornament), reindeer, santas, and so on.

The axial tilt: it’s the real reason for the season.

  1. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13707#ixzz1hPtCYv7d []
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The Ghost of Christmas Past (at Breaking Spells)

"Give War Bonds for Christmas" - NAR...

Image via Wikipedia

I was thinking of whether or not to write a Christmas post and what I might write… then I  thought, “hmm… what have I written in the past?”

Here are some of my past Christmas related posts:

The So-Called War on Xmas. Uh… I Mean Christmas (12/7/07)

The Christian Who Stole the Grinch (12/13/10)

So-Called War on Xmas: AFA & Costco on the Frontline (12/14/08)

The Christian Candy Cane Lie (12/25/08)

 

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Christopher Hitchens is Dead

1949-2011

Referred to as one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, Christopher Hitchens died yesterday at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston of pneumonia, a complication of his esophageal cancer.

He was a political pundit, an author, an essayist, and an outspoken atheist. And his voice will surely be missed.

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William Lane Craig: Animals Don’t Suffer; Therefore God Exists

Across several posts on his site (which doesn’t seem to allow commentary from readers), WLC makes some fantastic claims about animal pain and how it proves the existence of his god. I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the relevant texts using a Google Chrome plugin that also creates a tiny url (I’ll edit this post later with a link to the plugin -I’m really loving it so far).

In his first post on the topic, WLC says:

…the awareness that one is oneself in pain requires self-awareness, which is centered in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain—a section of the brain which is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates. Thus, amazingly, even though animals may experience pain, they are not aware of being in pain. God in His mercy has apparently spared animals the awareness of pain. This is a tremendous comfort to us pet owners. For even though your dog or cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware of it and so doesn’t suffer as you would if you were in pain.

There are several things wrong with this.

First, and perhaps foremost, the pre-frontal cortex is present in animals outside the primate line. It’s a bit different (primates tend to have granularized cortices[1] ). But its shocking that WLC would so mindlessly and blindly go along with the philosopher he’s citing without so much as a Google search on the topic. Mice have a prefrontal cortex and they use it!

WLC is citing the work of philosopher Michael Murray, who suggests that animals aren’t aware of their pain (therefore god exists) -but Murray has some fatal flaws in his work. Murray differentiates humans from other animals by claiming (with minimal evidenciary support) that there exists a “affective pathway” which allows for self-awareness -this pathway, he says, terminates in the prefrontal cortex in humans. Because non-human animals aren’t self aware of their pain, according to Murray, they aren’t suffering. In other words, gratuitous evil is not present.

But lets suppose it’s the granular layer that’s found in primate cortices that makes the difference. This granular layer is present in many non-human primates, and yet these primates experience pain and are clearly, demonstrably aware of it. Gratuitous evil, therefore, exists among non-human primates that suffer predation, abuse, natural disasters, anthropogenic habitat destruction, infanticide, etc., etc.

If gratuitous evil exists, god can neither be omnipotent or benevolent. Therefore, god doesn’t exist. It’s not my reasoning, it’s the reasoning of WLC and Michael Murray. Surely one or both would move their goalposts accordingly if called on it, so I’m not expecting either to revise their positions. That would be too much like science.

Another thing wrong with WLC’s ignorant and uninformed statement above: “even though animals may experience pain, they are not aware of being in pain.” Seriously? WLC and Murray clearly haven’t done any scientific study on this, but the message WLC is sending certainly isn’t one that he pretends. It isn’t that “God loves animals and spared them the pain and wants us to be stewards of the Earth.” Its a message of “don’t worry about animals. Treat ‘em like shit -they don’t know they feel it anyway.”

No wonder Dawkins refuses to debate WLC. It would be something on the order of Einstein debating physics with Larry the Cable Guy.

  1. Semendeferi, K., E. Armstrong, A. Schleicher, K. Zilles, and G.W. Van Hoesen (2001). Prefrontal Cortex in Humans and Apes: A Comparative Study of Area 10. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 114, pp. 224-241 []
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It’s true: atheists don’t give as much as the superstitious…

…but not for the reasons you might think

The Giving USA Foundation published a report in 2010[1] that concluded about $227 billion was donated to charity by individual Americans in 2009. The donations went to religion, education, human services, health, the arts, etc.

In the recent few years, several pundits have made a big to-do about how it is that it’s the religious that give the most to charity, leaving the secular, including atheists, as the less-caring, less-likely to do good for their neighbors. The “Atheism Sucks” blog writes:

conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure.

Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone’s tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even when governments don’t provide them with enough money.[2]

And he’s citing Brooks from 2006[3] in case anyone was curious.

But, luckily, real science has been done on the matter and the nature of charitable giving was examined as it correlates to political ideology. Previous arguments by Brooks and the anti-atheist blogger above, which make partially researched claims that conservative politics drives people to be more giving are not supported in light of evidence gathered by more careful methodology.

The authors of a more recent study that used this more careful methodology examined three separate philanthropic outcomes: donation to congregations, donations to noncongregational religious organizations and donations to noncongregational secular organziations.

And it’s true: the non-religious give less than the religious, even to secular charities.

But not for the reasons they (the religious-conservatives) want us to believe!

What religious-conservatives want everyone to believe is that generosity is a result of their politics and their religious ideologies. But what this more complete research indicates very strongly is that habits and practice are what drive charitable giving. Not ideology. When the controls used are just net of income and demographics, conservatives clearly give more to religious causes. But when one, single, additional variable is added, this changes the results drastically. And that variable is religious attendance. The researchers found that it sufficiently explained the statistical significance between liberals and conservatives in previous studies that omitted the variable.

Along with religious attendence, the addition of attending political meetings and other political activities also affected the results, lowering the statistical significance with the addition of each additional variable.

What this means is that it isn’t ideology driving charitable giving. It’s practice. In other words, the person who attends religious and civic meetings is being presented with opportunities to give to charities. Even Brooks agrees that charitable giving is habitual and learned through practice[4]. Where the authors and Brooks differ is in what part conservative political ideology has in the process. Brooks sees religious people as being more likely to be politically conservative, but the authors show this isn’t a variable that is as necessary to explain charitable giving as civic participation in general.

So what’s this mean for atheists?

It means, as we get more and more organized, as we are, our rates of charitable giving will increase. The good news is, that it will likely be for secular (and, thus, more likely to be important) causes. One thing that I noticed from the study is that the religious are most likely to donate to themselves. While there are definitely religious charities that do good work, I’m not convinced, by a long shot, that they are either generally as effective or as efficient as their secular counterparts.

As humanity continues to break the spell of religious affliction, we’ll continue to participate in social activities that create habits of giving. Secular student organizations, atheist meet-ups, and other non-religious groups that are increasing in size each year show this to be the case. I’m scheduled to pick up trash in the Adopt-a-Highway program and participate in a blood drive in the next 30 days… both due to atheist/secular civic and social participation. And groups like ours inlcude charities in our communications, announcements, and oral presentations in much the same way Church attendees get.

But even if the religious continue to always give more than the non-religious to charities because they were religious (and it isn’t this way at all) it still wouldn’t demonstrate that the religious were right about their beliefs and superstitions.

For a list of good, secular causes to donate to, click this link: Secular Charities.

References

Brooks, Arthur C. (2003). Religious faith and charitable giving. Policy Review 121(October):39–50.

Brooks, Arthur C. (2006). Who really cares: The surprising truth about compassionate conservatism. New York : Basic Books.

Giving USA Foundation (2010). Giving USA 2010. Indianapolis, IN: Giving USA Foundation: Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Vaidyanathan, Brandon, Jonathan P. Hill, and Christian Smith (2011). Religion and Charitable Financial Giving to Religious and Secular Causes: Does Political Ideology Matter? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(3), pp. 450-469.

  1. Giving USA Foundation. 2010. Giving USA 2010. Indianapolis, IN: Giving USA Foundation: Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. []
  2. http://atheismsucks.blogspot.com/2006/11/study-proves-conservative-christians.html []
  3. Brooks, Arthur C.. 2006. Who really cares: The surprising truth about compassionate conservatism. New York : Basic Books. []
  4. Brooks, Arthur C. 2003. Religious faith and charitable giving. Policy Review 121(October):39–50.
    []
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An Atheist Registry?

By now, everyone in the Atheosphere has heard of pastor Michael Stahl, the numbnuts that wants to create a registry for atheists, comparing us to terrorists, the KKK, child molesters, and Lady Gaga. Okay, I made up the part about Lady Gaga.

But I thought I’d share this video by The Thinking Atheist. The quality is top-notch and the message is spot on.

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Stahl’s blog is now “by invite only” -no surprise since his traffic probably put his comments through the roof. And I’m sure he doesn’t want atheists reading his “plans.” As if we really give a shit.

But he’s quoted as saying:

“I mean, think about it. There are already National Registrys [sic] for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc..” Stahl writes. “This type of ‘National Registry’ would merely be for information purposes.”

And he recently started providing email lists of atheists that have sent him emails to christians to do with as they wish[1].

I almost wish a national registry of atheists would get created for Christians. I think the shear number of atheists and the surprise of who were actually atheists would stagger the minds of many Christians enough that they’d have to think about why there were so many people who didn’t think as they do. People these Christians previously thought were one of them if based just on how they acted: good.

But I did say “almost.” This is evidence that there are Christians (as well as probably Muslims and other faiths) that are so bigoted and steeped in their delusions that they perceive atheists as a threat to be met with harshly. This is precisely the reason why atheists need to continue to be vocal and active.

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  1. http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2011/09/atheist_national_registry_pastor_mike_stahl_sharing_emails.php []
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The Atheist Reader’s Choice Awards

If you don’t know, About.com’s reader’s choice awards are being compiled. Now’s the time to nominate your favorite atheist sites, podcast, books, etc. for 2010.

My nominations are:

Best Agnostic or Atheist Book of 2010: The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, by Victor Stenger (even though this debuted in the fall of 2009, it was 2010 when I read it)
Best Agnostic or Atheist Blog: Atheist Revolution
Best Agnostic or Atheist Podcast: Reasonable Doubts
Best Agnostic or Atheist Website: Iron Chariots Wiki, by the Atheist Community of Austin
Best Agnostic or Atheist to Follow on Twitter: vjack of Atheist Revolution
Best Agnostic or Atheist Facebook Page: Atheist, Agnostic, and Non-Religious
Best Agnostic or Atheist Social Networking Website: Atheist Nexus
Best Agnostic or Atheist Forum: Rational Skepticism
Best Agnostic or Atheist Ad: “You Know it’s a Myth…” -if only because of the discussion and attention it created. The American Atheists paid over $20k, but I seem to recall a story that they made over $60k in new memberships and donations.

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Monday Motivational #7

… because sometimes you can’t even make this shit up!

From www.motifake.com

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Monday Motivational #6

… because Mondays deserve a little extra funny in the coffee.

From www.arrogantatheist.com

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The Wrong Virgin!

James Burrows, of Toledo, Ohio claims to have found an image of the Virgin Mary in his Xmas candy this year. You can click the link to see the video, but this is essentially what they show:

Alleged Virgin Mary

The wrong virgin

I’m here to tell you Burrows has the wrong virgin. To see the image as it was correctly intended (by divine intent of the mother goddess, no doubt), you need only turn the candy a bit.

Here’s the right virgin. Okay, strictly speaking, the mother goddess isn’t a virgin since she gave birth to the Earth. But she was… once.

The Right Virgin

The right virgin

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