Wednesday, September 29, 2010
“The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.”
- Salman Rushdie
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
“Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy – he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.”
- Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909:
Saturday, September 25, 2010
"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."
-- H L Mencken, Minority Report (1956)
|We shall not soon see his like.|
Thursday, September 23, 2010
|Don't mess with scooter-prone grad students|
that look a bit like Michael Moore.
Evidently Lovell had used some colourful language as kids these days are wont to do when aroused. The university decided this amounted to being "threatening." According to the website Lovell said, I’m not exactly sure what they found threatening. I used a couple of curse words, but I did not intone violence; I think what they actually found threatening was that I dared to be rude and dared to criticize them. The charges against Lovell were dropped but only after FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, sent University President Michael Adams a letter explaining they had violated his rights.
The content of this case is somewhat trivial: a parking charge, a silly over-reaction. Still, it highlights the smug, self-important attitudes that haughty university boards tend to incubate in their administrators. Complaints with a harsh tone are grounds for criminal charges. What sort of small-minded Napoleonic imbecile makes such a decision? The kind that get hired and promoted at top-ranked universities. This would all slide too, until and unless a national watchdog agency like FIRE intervenes. As if tapping the school-heads on the shoulder and calmly saying "pardon me, you're completely full of shit. please stop. thanks" at which point, red-faced.. knowing their shame, they do.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Two young men in Georgia said Tuesday that the pastor of a 33,000-person Baptist megachurch, Bishop Eddie L. Long, had repeatedly coerced them into having sex with him.It's the Ted Haggard saga all over again. Homophobic, hate spewing pastors taking out their repressed sexual feelings on victims within their own congregation. True, it is merely a lawsuit, and nothing has been proven yet. The parallels between Christian anti-gay dogma and pastoral sexual abuse are becoming clearer by the day, though.
“Defendant Long has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using his authority as bishop over them to ultimately bring them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship,” said a suit filed by one of the men, Maurice Robinson, 20. The other man who filed suit is Anthony Flagg, 21.
Bishop Long is an outspoken critic of homosexuality and has been called by the Southern Poverty Law Center “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.” He is the author of a book titled “What A Man Wants, What A Woman Needs: The Secret To Successful, Fulfilling Relationships.”
“This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves”
- Robert Green Ingersoll
We will be holding a blood drive on October 1 at the Wesley Foundation Methodist Church. If you would like to volunteer or sign up to give blood, add your name to the appropriate spreadsheet:
Party! -- Friday, September 24
Join all your ISSA pals for a great time! More details here.
Next Week and Beyond:
Explore the limits of academic freedom and the speech rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Speakers include FIRE's Azhar Majeed, U of I's own embattled professor Dr. Kenneth Howell and ISSA's Ed Clint. See it all at 6pm in Room 1320 at the Digital Computing Lab.
International Blasphemy Rights Day -- Thursday, September 30
International Blasphemy Rights Day takes place every September 30th, to commemorate the publishing of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. The purpose of this event is to set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind [from Center for Inquiry]. We will have a table by the Union and various displays to mark the occasion.
Red Cross Blood Drive with Cru -- Saturday, October 1
As previously mentioned, we will be holding a blood drive from 11AM-3PM. We will be co-hosting the drive with our friends, Cru.
Curtis Orchard Trip -- Mid-October
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Annual Convention -- Halloween Weekend
This year's speakers include Dan Barker, Julia Sweeney and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In addition, this will be a chance to meet and socialize with our excellent friends from sister campus secular groups such as UNIFI, AHA!, and NUSHIFT! Conferences are awesome and always a lot of fun, guaranteed. Let us know ASAP if you would like to attend, costs will be minimal for the first 12 people.
ISSA on the Web
ISSA Blog http://uiucatheists.blogspot.com
Flickr Photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/uiucatheists/
See everyone at the meeting!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
- Mark Twain
More on the wickedness contained in the Bible at our weekly meeting, for Blasphemy Day is coming up soon!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Religion easily has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.- George Carlin
"Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29)."
Thursday, September 16, 2010
"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality, and by no means a necessity of life."
- George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)
And speaking of drunken men, hope to see you all at Murphy's tonight!!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
"Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place,"And this law apparently has the support of a majority of the French population.
The French back the ban by a margin of more than four to one, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found in a survey earlier this year. Some 82 percent of people polled approved of a ban, while 17 percent disapproved…Clear majorities also backed burqa bans in Germany, Britain and Spain, while two out of three Americans opposed it, the survey found.Shame on the French. They may be trying to battle religious dogma, but in the process are undermining a basic right of women – to wear whatever they want to wear. It is common for Muslim women to choose to cover themselves in a veil. One may never win the battle against religious oppression by restricting the freedom of expression – that is simply altering the type of oppression, not combating it. Subjugating women is something religious fundamentalists are good at - the French are simply following in their footsteps.
Correction - The law does not ban the hijab. I misread it for the niqab ("a face-full veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes"), that has been banned
"Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people."
--House M.D. Season 4, Episode 2
Sunday, September 12, 2010
uiucatheists.blogspot.com is probably written by a male somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.
"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
- Albert Einstein
|Sociologist and B&W enthusiast Phil Zuckerman|
To contest this madness Cohen cites the survey work of most excellent sociologist Phil Zuckerman. Some of his findings from last year include that atheists/secularists:
- are concentrated in states with the lowest murder rates
- have a lower level of prejudice against gays, women, and ethnicities
- are less likely to beat their children
- are more likely to be tolerant supporters of women's and gay rights.
|Coming soon.. IlliniCoR. I promise.|
Saturday, September 11, 2010
What: Annual ISSA fall cookout
Where: Scott Park Map Link. Click me.
When: Sunday, Noon till whenever
Why: Hedonistic revelry; affinity for fire, geometric foods
To what extent: uh this is getting a little philosophical here so I'll just say 'chips'
Tell me more about What: free food, drinks. Frisbee, football, frisbee football, getting stuck in the playground equipment, de-pastifying your skin by about 10%; throwing rocks at Mel's house optional.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Florida pastor Rev. Terry Jones must be basking in the fame and attention. President Obama, Gen. Petreaus, Robert Gates, an elite FBI squadron and half the nations in the world have weighed in on this egregious situation – not to mention media coverage that follows this fanatical evangelist’s every moustache twitch. He has flip flopped on the event as much as he could – shortly after making an announcement on the ‘Early Show’ calling off the event, he gave reporters the following remark, "We are seriously, seriously, seriously considering not burning the Qurans.” How much more apparent can it get – this pastor is masturbating over all the anticipation and suspense that he keeps creating. Next time I want to be famous, all I need to do is piss on a hundred Bibles? Well maybe not Bibles, but Qurans should definitely do it.
Regardless, most Americans remain united against the ‘Burn a Quran Day’. In fact, prominent atheists and secular groups, such as Jerry Coyne, Hemant Mehta, and American Atheists have been sternly disapproving of it. In the midst of this pandemonium, PZ seems to be one of a few with the cojones needed to call a spade, a spade.
“The problem isn't a few books being burned; that's not a crime, and it doesn't diminish anyone else's personal freedoms. The problem is a whole fleet of deranged wackaloons, including the president of the USA in addition to raving fundamentalist fanatics, who think open, public criticism and disagreement ought to be forbidden, somehow.”I tend to agree with him. The Quran is just a book. What PZ is talking about is a fundamental issue with religion - it gains unwarranted privileges that no institution should have. Pastor Jones is undoubtedly a crazed lunatic, and his reasons may be far from stellar. However, only one principle should trump this all – the right of stupid people to make stupid decisions, as long as they are legal. Instead of going ape shit over this, anyone who disagrees with the burning would probably be better off just shrugging and walking away. Of course, everyone including high profile critics such as Obama and Gates have the right to express their disdain over the burning (as much as Jones has in going on with it). The impact, though, of the leader of a secular nation making a political statement suggesting the repression of unpopular free speech may go well against the notions of living in a completely free country. It is true that Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere may find another reason to hate America and hurt Americans. Another reason out of a million. We are always going to piss off Islamic extremists - but the day we try to shun free speech in fear of their sensitivities, it might not be worth saving ourselves.
At the end of the day, the Quran does contain a violent philosophy that did, at its core, motivate the terrorists to carry out 9/11. Just saying, the pastor does have a point in all of this.
UPDATE 9/14/2010 : Hemant Mehta has since clarified his stance on the issue - he agrees with PZ now. "Just because you care so very much about a certain book, or a particular way of living your life, or a personal hero, or reciting a certain prayer… it doesn’t mean everyone else also has to take those things seriously. We can respect it or mock it all the same."
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Greetings goodly unbelievers! Hope you enjoyed your day off. Are you a strong atheist? Perhaps an agnostic or antitheist? This Thursday, September 9 at 7 we will discuss what these terms mean and some of the primary arguments which support them. None other than Phil Ferguson, President of CU-Freethinkers, will be on hand to school you in Atheism 101. As always we will adjourn to Murphy's afterward for some food, drink and conversation.
Monday, September 6, 2010
As far as dichotomies are concerned, the contention between scientific thought and religious dogma reigns as one of the most debated, significant, and longest-lived. In a recent New York Times article by a self-professed atheist, Cambridge Professor of Philosophy Tim Crane attempts to objectively discern the driving impetus behind both. Why are the number of religious followers greatly disproportionate to those who devote themselves to the scientific process? His argument is that the two currents differ in their fundamental construction, with one relying upon the rigorous examination of evidence and the other on the acceptance of 'mystery'. By these dissimilar modes of conception, science and religion assert truth in their respective spheres. Though Crane recognizes that historical claims of a religious nature are refuted by a distinct lack of evidence, he reasons that religion does not measure its significance by an empirical yardstick. Alternatively, he suggests that the studiousness and technical expertise demanded by scientific thought is largely undesirable to a mass audience due to time consumption and lack of 'meaningful' insights. Through this reasoning, Crane makes an effort to understand the structure of religious thought while allowing for the accommodation of both systems on the basis of their separate foci.
With all respect, it is my inclination to disagree with this argument in its entirety. In my perspective, both systems ultimately fail to provide the essentials: meaning and practicality. Many would then respond: "Well then what else is left?!" Whereby my response would be that the dichotomy of science and religion is, like all distinctions, false. Instead of attempting to reconcile the two by conceding that either functions according to its own conception of reality, we should recognize the similarity in their failures. Before elaborating, it should be clarified that my sympathies lie with the scientific method and atheism, but for reasoning most likely divergent from many and also possibly disconcerting.
At their most base, religious thought lacks intellectual flexibility while the scientific method does not possess inherent meaning. Although either can supply its manufactured goods, meaning and community in the former and evidence and adaptability in the latter, each furthers its own designs and seeks support for its worldview. To return to my previous negation of both systems, the reasoning follows that each was built with human hands and thus subject to the fallibility of perspective. If you confide in the existence of an absolute which may manifest itself in the face of a deity, an indestructible scientific law, or an active subject, then my argument will be rather inconceivable. Whether it be divine or mundane, religious or scientific, everything is subservient to perspective, and it is through our own eyes that distinctions are promoted, delineations formed, and boundaries forged. From this perspective, then, which predicates only on the notion that all structure derives from our own psychologies, any bias and its related conceptions are 'false'.
Thus we must turn to truth, that ageless subject of debate, the focus of innumerable energies, and the instigator of mistrust and disagreement. To understand truth according to my proposed view would be to not understand truth. Instead, the entire concept of 'truth' should itself be revealed for its falsehood, in that it merely denotes subjective preference, as the discovery of any 'absolute' truth would be contrary to the fallibility of perspective. To state this another way in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: "There are no facts, only interpretations". 'Meaning' thus follows in the same vein, being a quite human concept, one overripe with subjective pretensions. Yet you may ask: "Even if the truth and meaning of all things can be seen as subjective, what then can be substituted for 'truth'?" And my response would be that 'truth' is not a question of reality or absolutes or mystery, but of utility.
To many this may seem ridiculous and to some impossible, but if this inspired consideration, provoked discussion, or suggested a skepticism of all conventions, it was worth it. By never assuming or taking something at face-value, evaluating every idea and concept on the same scale, and recognizing the possibilities provided by intellectual flexibility, it is my hope that all borders and inconveniences will be overcome. In essence, there is nothing that should limit our perspectives and the construction of meaning on our own terms, for as one philosopher put it: "Any kind of meaning is better than no meaning at all".
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Of course, it would be preposterous to assume that America follows this global trend – when is the last time we did anything in conformance with the rest of the world? We remain as one of the only rich countries to be majorly religious (our posse includes Italians, Greeks, Singaporeans, and oil-wealthy Persian Gulf nations). Amongst Americans, 65% say that religion plays an important role in their lives. Our rich counterparts in Europe and Asia are far more secular, with religiosity levels meekly surviving around the 30% mark.
But the bigger question at hand remains, why is there a correlation between poverty and religiosity? Gallup offers its explanation – religion may provide comfort and emotional security to those in the poorest countries struggling to make ends meet. Could this be a viable explanation, or merely a simplistic effort to dodge the inevitable (yet politically incorrect?) intuition of the horrendous ramifications that result from supernatural myths pervading a nations’ population?
Religion does more than provide emotional comfort to oppressed people – it fuels the cycle of ignorance, whether its effects are seen in education, health development, socio-economic decisions, or any of the vital factors that propagate development. When women rights are subjugated due to sharia law, or condoms are done away in accordance with orders from the Pope, development takes a step backwards. When homeopathy is seen as a substitute to medicine and swamis take the place of physicians, people die.
As further statistics and polls give us a better picture of how religion goes hand-in-hand with dire underdevelopment, it is time to push theology and doctrine to the back seat and push for secular progression and scientific education to help these countries back on their feet. After all, that was how centuries ago the Dark Ages was vanquished into the pages of Western European history.
Friday, September 3, 2010
As reported by CNN.com, world religious leaders fired back at Stephen Hawking today. Hawking wrote a book they haven't read but are pretty sure they won't like. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, wrote the physicist in his upcoming title The Grand Design, provoking a rainbow coalition of godheads to leap to the defensive.
Non-physicist and head of the Church of England, Archbishop Williams corrected Hawking, physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing. Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence.
Science is irrelevant to religion, according to Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who said Religion is about interpretation ... The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being. It's hard to argue with that. The rabbi along with many other religious leaders don't care that the universe did not need a God to make it, and seem hurt by the implication their god is a 'god of the gaps' living in the dark corners untouched by the light of science. The details of creation are not important, they seem to say, God isn't necessary to explain life, planets or the universe. Our God is tiny and irrelevant.. a do-nothing, impotent voyeur helplessly watching the universe unfold of its own accord. Take that, Hawking.