Rationality Now Rotating Header Image

Christianity

Facebook makes for interesting discussions

A friend of mine posted a Facebook update this morning proclaiming that she is a Christian and proud of it, asking others to proclaim the same and to pray for others who join in. Here’s the text of her post [sic… but emphasis mine].

[Her name] Is a Christian and proud to say it!! Let’s see how many people on fb aren’t afraid to show their love for God! Repost this as your status. Each time you see this on someones status say a quick prayer for that person!! Let’s get God back in this country like He should be!!! If you agree post this in your status. Like/unlike write a comment.

That’s all pretty innocuous and she meant it as an upbeat comment to start the day… but she did solicit comments, and after a few positive responses with prayers (“Father I lift up [her name] to you right now and I ask you to flood her with your presence today.”), another poster hit upon the phrase I highlighted above. He said [sic]…

[His name] while I’m pleased to know that your religious perspectives bring you joy and peace, I have reservations about the comment “Let’s get God back in the country like He should be”. I’m not sure who says “He should be”, but it certainly was not our wise and enlightened founding fathers, who were careful to institute concepts like the seperation of church and state and freedom of (and from) religion. Spirituality is a personal path, to be kept in one’s heart. Once you start declaring that God should play a role in an entire country, you infringe upon the rights of people with a different belief system. A quick study of Saudi Arabia or Iraq shows what that can lead to.

Your post requested a comment, I’m sharing mine.

I found that a pretty fair response. Given our secular Constitution and the religiously diverse population in this country, I think the idea of putting “God back in this country” is, at the very least, a bad one. [His name] calls it out perfectly, saying that it would “infringe upon the rights of people with a different belief system” and points to perfect examples.

The response came quickly from [her name] and said [sic]…

[Her name] Our God teaches peace. Their Gods teach violence. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

I thought the response was first, missing the point and second, misinformed. So I responded with a simple…

[Me] In [his name’s] defense, a theocracy is a theocracy, regardless whose concept of a deity is used.

I thought maybe that bit of simplicity might help [his name’s] point hit home. It didn’t. [Her name] posted another bit about the god of Islam vs. the god of Christianity, but deleted it shortly thereafter. Then another poster joined in… and inspired me to write this blog post. She said [sic]…

[Supporter] It’s been quite awhile since I studied this, so I could be incorrect, but the reason why there was “separation between church and state” was so there was not a dictatorship as in England. They did not want the government to dictate how things should be handled…they wanted each jurisdiction to have the right to dictate that, which is the main reason America was even founded. Now, it is important to not that it was “One nation, Under God”….so that negates the theory that they didn’t want God to be a part of things…..I still also believe that if you view Creationism as a religious theory, than Evolution should also be a religious theory, and then the answer in school would be teach neither, or teach both….just as some believe God shouldn’t be taught in school, others don’t subscribe to the “big bang THEORY” either……just some other thoughts to consider.

I pondered a response for a bit, but decided there was too much wrong with that to deal with in a Facebook status thread, so I bowed out by just saying “Too much for me to get into on a Facebook thread.” [His name] had one more go, however, with this [sic]…

[His name] Bear in mind, the God of Islam is the same God of Christianity and Judaism, and the Qu’aran speaks of peace (and violence) as much as the Bible does. Also remember that “one nation, under God” is a phrase that did not officially exist in the US until the 1950’s to seperate us from the “godless” communists. I generally keep my opinions to myself, but this post conveniently comes the day after an election wherein I am once again denied the equal rights (thanks, Maine) of the majority because of the loud and powerful religious right’s influence on government and voters. Anyway, being thought provoking can be upbeat and lifting. I’m not trying to insult anyone, and I’ll say no more.

Good for him. Not only did he call out one of the misconceptions in [Supporter’s] post (The “One nation, under God” part), but he called out the religious right’s negative influence on human rights in this country… with a perfect timely example.

[Supporter] is also misinformed about evolution and creationism (and the big bang theory, it seems), saying that if creationism is a religious theory, then evolution should be a “religious theory.” Those who know anything about evolution (or science) will automatically recognize that statement as absurd, but it’s one that is heard all too often. When people can’t discern the difference between biblical “magic” and scientific theory, it’s a pretty glaring sign that the educational system in our country needs some serious help.

It’s frustrating, to say the least, and I cringed when I read [Supporter’s] post. I pulled back from commenting harshly, though, because she’s been a friend for a long time and I value our friendship… and I think that particular Facebook thread was an inappropriate venue (it had been hijacked enough as it was).

Perhaps sending her a Richard Dawkins article would be a good starting point.

Fun with church signs

Occasionally, I see a church sign that just begs to be addressed. A local church recently changed their sign to read:

Time well spent is time spent in prayer.

I know that the idea that a god listens to (and answers) prayers is something that is foundational to many peoples’ religious beliefs. Hearing the phrases “I’ll pray for you” or “You’ll be in my prayers” is an all-too-common occurrence. To an atheist, it sounds even worse when someone asks “Please pray for my friend” or “Your prayers would be appreciated.”

Prayer - How to do nothing and still think you're helping Not only do I feel that the person asking me to pray is engaging in nothing more than wishful thinking, but he’s asking me to participate in his do-nothing fantasy world as well… in the belief that clasping my hands together and wishing really, really hard is going to make any difference to his situation.

Prayer is contradictory to some pretty basic Christian beliefs, too. Another common phrase that is heard from religious folks is “God has a plan” or “God will show me the way.” Their god is supposedly all-powerful, as well… omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. So… wouldn’t he already know what they want? If that god has a plan, won’t his plan play out as he designed it… with our without their prayers?

Prayer is an attempt to change the will of a god. Doesn’t that seem a bit egotistical on the part of the person praying? On one hand, believers will say their god is mighty, loving, benevolent, and all-knowing… but they’ll turn around and try to tell him something, anyway… as if he doesn’t already know… as if they can change his mind.

I suppose some might simply pray their adoration for their god instead of asking for his assistance. That doesn’t seem to be quite as ego-centric, but it does seem to be just as irrelevant. And really, if some almighty god really gets off on his subjects repeatedly telling him how awesome he is, isn’t that just petty and vain?

I think prayer is one of the religious concepts that believers don’t think about very much. They just do it. Thinking about it would “break the spell,” as Daniel Dennett would say. If the practice is examined too closely, it falls apart into a chaotic pile of contradictions, pettiness, and wasted time.

I propose fixing the church sign by replacing “well spent” with “wasted.” It would be far more accurate and might actually encourage congregation members to raise their heads, get off their knees, unclasp their hands, and instead of simply wishing for a situation to improve (thereby doing nothing), take action to improve the situation.

Now that would be time well spent.

Herding Cats and Situational Etiquette

In the atheist community, there are two sure things. The first is, of course, that atheists don’t believe in any gods. The other thing is that a lack of belief in any gods is pretty much the only universally common attribute of atheists. Atheist groups sometimes have trouble gaining or keeping members because, as the president of my local group, the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, says, organizing atheists is like herding cats.

Because of this incredible variety in attitudes, outlooks, worldviews, political leanings, and philosophies, it’s no wonder that atheists don’t always agree on everything.

One point of disagreement is commonly at the forefront of atheist discussions… how to grow our community. How do we let other people know it’s okay to be an atheist? How do we get rid of the stigma associated with the term “atheist” and turn it into a positive? How do we go about criticizing religion, superstition, and pseudo-science without shooting ourselves in the foot?

In one case, there are outspoken, in-your-face atheists. They’ll wear “There is no god” t-shirts or accessories that proudly proclaim their atheism. They’ll bring up the topic constantly (sometimes in what some people consider inappropriate circumstances) and argue about it. They almost seem to be looking for a fight.

In other cases, there are proponents of science and critical thinking. They tend to focus more on education, whether it be astronomy, biology, or skepticism. They’re sometimes bold, but usually polite (but not always), and though they don’t shy away from outspoken criticism of archaic religious dogma, they tend to see atheism as the result of clear, rational, scientific thinking… not vice versa.

Other atheists tend to be quietly comfortable with their beliefs, and though they don’t go out of their way to bring them up, if questioned (or if the subject presents itself), they’ll happily (and amicably) discuss the matter, offering criticism where it’s due, but keeping a friendly tone and listening to the opposing views.

Of course, none of these are absolutes. People are combinations (or eclectic hodgepodges!) of these basic types and it’s probably rare to find someone who always fits in one single category.

I tend to be a combination of the science category and the friendly category. Why? I’m not an “in your face” kind of person. I’m friendly by nature and I like making people smile. I’m generally very good at gauging a situation to know what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate, so the idea of wearing a t-shirt that proclaims “ATHEIST” to work or to a 4-H meeting or to anything other than an atheist gathering seems incredibly rude to me… in much the same way I would find it rude for someone to wear a t-shirt saying “CHRISTIAN” or “MUSLIM” or “Abortion is murder!” on it in those same situations. For me, it’s far more appropriate to wear a pro-science t-shirt… and I think that’s a much better starting point for a discussion.

However, if someone brings up the topic of religion or asks me about it, I have no qualms about discussing it, but I’m not out “looking for a fight” in order to tell someone they’re wrong and start “preaching the gospel” of atheism. To me, that seems silly and counterproductive. Many (most?) atheists dislike fundamentalist evangelism, especially the “in your face” kind, and if someone is just out looking to start a fight in order to “preach” about atheism, it strikes me as the same thing.

If someone says that the Earth is 6,000 years old, I’ll question them. If someone tells me that vaccinations cause autism, I’ll question them. If someone claims that religion is the only source of morality, I’ll question them. If someone tells me that this country is a Christian nation or that Obama is a fascist or that evolution isn’t true or that the moon landing was faked… I’ll question them. I’ll do what I can to educate people or at least provide them with pointers to get the information they need to make rational decisions.

What I’m not going to do is walk up to people and, out of the blue, say “I’m an atheist and if you believe in Christianity, you’re wrong.” To me, that’s sort of what a t-shirt proclaiming “ATHEIST” says. It’s a chip-on-the-shoulder dare to Christians or Muslims or Hindus. It won’t win friends. It won’t win converts. It won’t educate. It only aggravates.

…and I think that’s rude.

Christian Vision of Reality?

Garden of Eden While perusing the news today, I came across an article on BeliefNet titled “Making Sense of the Natural World.” It was posted by the BioLogos Foundation, which is the organization founded by Francis Collins and, until recently, also headed by him. It’s an organization that promotes the compatibility of science and religion.

There’s been quite a bit lately about that topic… science and religion. Jerry Coyne started a new term, “faitheist,” to refer to atheists who are, what he considers, overly accommodating to religious beliefs. PZ Myers has written extensively about the topic as well.

In this article on BeliefNet, there was a quote by Alister McGrath, author of A Fine-Tuned Universe and The Dawkins Delusion?, which I found fairly representative of religious belief, though I’m not sure it was intended that way.

The Christian vision of reality offers us a standpoint from which we may view the natural world, and see certain things that others might indeed regard as puzzling, or strange — such as fine-tuning — as consonant with the greater picture that the Christian has to offer.

Here’s how I interpret that quote.

A Christian perspective offers an explanation for things that are puzzling or strange, thereby negating any need (or desire) to find out anything more about those puzzling or strange things. In other words, God did it and that’s all you need to know.

I don’t have the context surrounding that quote, so I don’t know to what the “greater picture that the Christian has to offer” refers or how that fits in with the idea that a supernatural explanation is any explanation at all. I suspect I’ll have to get a copy of McGrath’s book to find out.

I’ve said before that the whole of religion is a curiosity killer. Obviously not for everyone, but in general, if someone knows that “God did it,” what’s the point of moving further? If someone already knows the answer, they’re done… which is why science never “knows.” Science is always probing, always asking, always testing. Even the theory of gravity (yes, it’s “just a theory”) is constantly being tested and modified when necessary.

Religion is why fundamentalists reject evolution… and real cosmology… and, for some odd reason, global warming (or climate change, if you prefer). When the facts and the scientific analysis of the facts contradict their theology, they assume the science is wrong, and since they aren’t the ones who researched the facts (why bother, since they already know the answer), the facts are dismissed out of hand.

Though, to me, this is a sad state, it’s not a real problem… until these fundamentalists want to impose their theology on others. When they start to spread their anti-intellectual, anti-education, anti-science, anti-fact drivel to the rest of us who work and play in a reality-based world, it causes big problems. When people like this get elected into public office where they have the power and authority to set policy, it causes huge problems. And when people like this get put into positions where they have control over others and authority to command them, it causes deadly problems.

So McGrath’s “Christian vision of reality” really isn’t a vision of reality at all. Not really. It’s a vision of a building facade on a movie set. It may look real at first glance or when the camera pans across it, but there’s nothing behind it. There’s nothing there.

And when you look hard enough, you can see it’s fake.

Creation Museum – The Last Adam

The Paleontologist At the end of the Creation Museum’s “Walk Through History,” they show a video, The Last Adam, that encompasses their final three C’s of History… Christ, Cross, and Consummation. If you’ve read my six-part write-up of the museum, you’ll understand that, by this time, I was worn out from keeping myself from bursting out with ridiculing laughter or derisive criticisms of the museums disturbingly shoddy “science.” So, in a way, it was nice to just sit in a dark room to passively watch a video instead of walking the halls and reading ridiculous plaques that bastardized science.

Sadly, I didn’t get much respite from the shenanigans.

The Last Adam talks about Jesus, his crucifixion, and his resurrection… sort of. It talks about a lot of other stuff, too. It starts off with the paleontologist (who we’d seen in other videos) holding a T-Rex tooth, “a relic now,” he says. But it reminds him of “something real… something powerful.” He then picks up a bible and says (predictably)…

Now this book some people think it’s just an old relic, too. Tales and stories from another time and place. Not to me. This is written by someone who was actually there.

I’m not sure what being written by someone “who was actually there” has to do with it… or why that makes the book more important to him. He doesn’t elaborate. The video does, however, by quoting from 2 Timothy 3:16.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

It’s the classic “the bible is true because it says so” ploy and the paleontologist says that he believes all of it.

Sacrificing lambs for the children The video is structured so that it brings up things that were seen earlier in the museum… the paleontologist, the dinosaurs, Adam, sin, death, etc. Bible verses are displayed and quoted throughout as the narration continues. The main point of the video is, of course, that Jesus came to Earth to die for our sins, cleaning up the unholy mess the “first” Adam created 4,000 years before… when T-Rexes were vegetarians.

There’s an segment where Mary speaks of her childhood and the sacrificing of lambs… and how the angels came and told her that God was going to get her pregnant… and that her son would be Jesus… and would be called a lamb. Nice sacrificial circle. She seemed a bit bitter about it.

Jesus suffering There’s also a testimony of a Roman Centurion who was there when Jesus was crucified (“Actual Footage” as Penn and Teller would say) talking about how Jesus said, “Forgive them father. They don’t know what they’re doing” and then said “It is finished” and then died. Strangely, there was no mention of Matthew and Mark saying that Jesus also said, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” I guess that didn’t fit into the whole “God’s Plan” scenario they were trying to convey.

What is really striking about this video is the blood. From the sacrificial lambs to the scenes of Jesus being beaten and hung on the cross, it’s a mini Christian gore-fest. There are multiple scenes of a hammer coming down to pound the spikes through Jesus’ hands.

Pounding spikes Now, I’m not squeamish, but this is a “family museum” and there are little kids watching this. It’s appalling. Not only is the blood and gore inappropriate for young children. It’s a horrifying thing to show this to children and then tell them that they must worship this god and revere this religion that so glorifies blood and death.

More blood! More blood! If the museum is trying to show the greatness of the Christian religion, they’re failing. What they do with this video, however, is portray the death cult mentality that this religion so vehemently embraces. It’s a very high production value synopsis of Christianity: create a problem and then offer a solution, but make sure there’s lots of blood, suffering, and death.

The end consists of a summary by the paleontologist where he delivers the message that God’s gift is eternal life through Jesus  (Christians have an odd definition for “gift” but perhaps that’s a topic for another post).

Here are some of his lines.

The power and plan of God were demonstrated when Jesus conquered death. He rose from the dead. His resurrection was witnessed by over 500 people.

Strangely enough, the only place we hear about the resurrection being witnessed by 500 people is in the bible. Self-referential evidence is no evidence at all, I’m afraid.

But in Jesus we can find life and live forever with him in a new world that God is preparing where there will be no more sin or suffering or death.

I find it odd that God wasn’t able to create that kind of world the first time. If he can do it now, why couldn’t he do it then?

In the Garden of Eden in the dawn of creation, God looked upon all he made and said it was very good… perfect… but the first Adam polluted it and because of him all things were broken. The world’s still reeling from that first act of rebellion. But in the last Adam, Jesus, all things will be made new. The first Adam brought sin and death into the world, but the last Adam, Jesus Christ, brings life to the world.

Jesus on the cross That sounds like scapegoating to me. In the bible, God created everything and set Adam up to fail, knowing that he would fail and “screw up” this “perfect” creation. That’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination unless you’re a pulp crime fiction author. The whole paragraph is just absurd when you consider Christian theology.

The final verse is one of the most dogmatically horrible verses in the bible, in my opinion.

If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. – Romans 10:9

This is the verse that negates any worthwhile concept of morality that the bible has to offer. This one verse is what gives Christians a free pass to sin their entire lives away with, in their theology, no consequences. No matter what they do, no matter how horrible their crimes, no matter how depraved their actions, no matter how many people they hurt, no matter the harm they do in the world… all they have to do is confess and believe in Jesus, and Christian theology teaches that they are saved and going to Heaven.

That is abominable.

Creation Museum – Microscarium

MicroscariumTicket One of the special presentations that Craig and I attended was called “Microscarium,” which required the purchase of a separate ticket and took place in one of the museum’s “classrooms.” The ticket indicated that this was part of the museum’s “Discover the Truth” series of workshops. I was rather dubious of that title.

The museum’s website describes the presentation with these words.

Welcome to the Microscarium! Enter the world of the microscopic with our intrepid Dr. Menton on a journey through a landscape filled with ferocious looking creatures that move rapidly through the dense jungle of the living world that is their home, hunting for something to eat. From single celled protozoa that accomplish many of the same functions that humans do with 30 trillion cells, to the more complicated creatures sucking in anything that comes near them, you will be thrilled with this trip through the wondrous [and sometimes a bit scary] micro-world created by our awesome Creator God.

Interesting, if not hyperbolic.

DavidMenton01 The presentation was being done by a Doctor David Menton, who gave us a bit of background about himself. He’s got  quite a list of credentials, which you can read about here and here if you’re interested. If not, suffice it to say that he he holds a PhD in cell biology from Brown University and the Washington University School of Medicine seems to think highly of him. It seemed somewhat encouraging.

He appeared in a white lab coat… very sciencey-looking until I noticed the “Creation Museum” logo embroidered on the front of it. Then it was just amusing.

The presentation was going to talk about all the life you could find in a drop of pond water and there was a very impressive phase-contrast microscope hooked up to a large-screen display so everyone in the room (about 30 of us) could easily see it. When we got there, we saw a pink image on the screen which turned out to be a very thin slice of rabbit tongue. While Dr. Menton was waiting for everyone to arrive, he was chatting about it. He seemed very personable, sometimes funny, and definitely happy to be there.

He talked about the tongue, pointing out the barb-like structures (mini versions of a cat’s barbs) and said that humans have them, too, which is why we can lick ice cream cones and actually get ice cream instead of having our tongues just slide off. He contrasted that by moving the slide to show the underside of the tongue which was very smooth. He also showed how the muscle cells in the tongue go every which way instead of in parallel like many muscles… because we can move our tongues all over in every direction. It was all pretty cool and his presentation was entertaining.

Then it suddenly want down the tubes. When talking about the barbs again, he said, “Can you imagine if they went the other way?” Everyone chuckled, and then he followed it up with, “That’s why I can’t be an evolutionist.” Almost everyone laughed. Craig and I were stunned. He then went on to make the same comment in relation to the tongue being upside down.

So after an introduction to some really cool material about the tongue, he lost all his credibility by showing that he had not the slightest notion of evolutionary theory… yet was quite content to dismiss it for reasons that anyone with a basic education in evolutionary biology should know are preposterous.

Craig left shortly after that (he wasn’t feeling well anyway… flu), but I stuck it out for the majority of the presentation and heard some gems.

Dr. Menton spoke about cells for a bit and said that the human placenta was a single, giant cell… the largest cell in the human body. I had never heard that before and he mentioned that he’s told that to other biologists and doctors who didn’t know that, either.

*skeptic bells go off*

Then he said (about the single-celled placenta), “You won’t hear that anywhere but here.”

*skeptic klaxon alarm blares*

Doing a bit of googling seems to indicate that the placenta is not a single cell, by the way.

That’s when what had been a somewhat interesting biology lesson turned into a high-alert bullshit-detection exercise.

He went on to show some slides of different single-cell (or thereabouts) organisms that we might see in the pond water (new pond water each time, so he never knows what he will see) such as amoebas and parameciums and the like. He got to one organism with a flagellum and my hackles went up in anticipation of a comment relating to bacterial flagellum, but no such comment materialized.

What did materialize was much worse.

flagellum He showed a diagram of the internal workings of a flagellum similar to the one on the left. His diagram was a bit more detailed but showed how it worked and how each internal piece interacted with others to create the whip-like motion that caused propulsion. It was a cool diagram and interesting information.

Then he said, “Can you imagine that just all happening by chance?”

*strike one*

He added, “There’s just so much that I know is going on there. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I know too much to be an evolutionist.”

*strike two* … *strike three* … You are SOOOO outta here.

“I know too much to be an evolutionist.”

Seriously? How can someone seriously make a statement like that with a straight face? How can someone with any sort of ethical values make that authoritative claim to an audience so anxious to hear real scientific information? The audience ate it up, though. They laughed and nodded and thought this fraud’s information was all true and accurate. After all, he was a doctor!

To give you an idea of the crowd, however, I offer this anecdote. I can’t say if this example is indicative of the entire audience, but it struck me as interesting.

When Dr. Menton asked the audience how many cells were in the entire human body, one man called out, “thousands.” Yes, he said thousands. Not even millions. Not billions. Nobody said trillions. The real answer is trillions (about 50 – 100 trillion, depending upon who you ask). “Thousands” isn’t even on the continent, much less in the ball park. Much like 6,000 isn’t close to 13.5 billion.

Dr. Mention said one trillion, by the way.

At that point, I was done. I watched detachedly as he put the drop of water under the microscope and panned around to find a couple swimming organisms, but after a couple minutes of that, I got up and left.

It was an appalling display of ignorance and abuse of authority.

Creation Museum – Men In White

men-in-whiteA truly disappointing waste of theatrical technology and flair. As with most of the museum, this “show” was well produced (totally bat s%&t  crazy) but well done. The Men In White were the angels Michael and Gabriel. By putting a “hip” spin on an old story for the sake of youngsters, teachers and scientists are comically portrayed as villainous and silly.

The show starts with a young animatronic girl named Wendy sitting at a campfire pondering her existence and the meaning of life. During her moment of lost contemplation and doubt, Michael & Gabriel show up to raise her spirits. The implication is that without a purpose from God, Wendy is lost, alone and miserable. The angels show up to persuade Wendy that God exists and cares for her and they begin to show her “proof” of his existence.  It is here that the angels begin with, ” …if you use the bible as your starting point Wendy, then everything makes sense!” ANGEL SAYS WHAT?? Imagine if your science teacher started your first class with, ” …if you just take everything I say as fact, then everything makes sense!” From the very beginning this presentation insults the human intellect. Science doesn’t require blind faith and it never suggests a “starting” point.  This is where the “machine gunning” of  “facts” begins.

When you start with the bible everything makes sense like:

1. Marine fossils found on mountain tops? Those mountains were once covered in water from the great flood.

2.Volcanic dust found in ice cores? Just think of all that volcanic ash in the atmosphere after the flood.

3. Similarities in DNA found in the cells of every living thing? Since God created DNA he made it so that all living things could live and eat in the same world.

If you believe in evolution or as the angels call it “goo to you” then none of this makes sense. According to the angels, “…evolution makes no sense without billions of years!”

-Next we move on to discredit radioisotope dating.  This form of dating is flawed because there are too many assumptions required to be accurate, say the angels. Zircon crystals have been found with helium gas in them. This suggests that they are not nearly as old as man believes because the helium gas is escaping to quickly to be millions of years old. This is refuted on the following CHRISTIAN website http://www.answersincreation.org/RATE_critique_he-zr.htm . I highly suggest you read this article. It gets all “sciencey” but it is fascinating and alot more accurate than two white overall clad buffoon like angels.

-Next we learn from the angels that the earth can’t be millions let alone billions of years old because of the salt content in the oceans. The angels (portraying high school students in a science class) smuggly challenge a teacher about the age of the earth due to the lower than they expected salt content in the oceans. This is called EPIC FAIL. This moronic notion that if the earth were millions of years old there would be higher concentrations of salt in all of the world’s oceans is wrong. Wrong for several reasons but once again I would direct you to the following CHRISTIAN website to read the refutation of this quackery. http://www.answersincreation.org/argument/G336_creation_science.htm This article explains that creationist’s salt theories are misguided and fail to account for several factors involving the mechanisms for the removal of salt from the oceans.

-Next up, the crazy dinosaur theory. Our smug little angels tell their professor that in 2005 a T-Rex leg bone was found with blood cells intact and un-fossilized. This obviously means that the leg bone could not be millions of years old, right? WRONG! Again the answers to the BS claim come from a CHRISTIAN website. http://www.answersincreation.org/rebuttal/magazines/Creation/1997/trexblood.htm . In this excerpt there is an email log from the actual paleontologist, Jack Horner, who was chiefly involved in this discovery. He goes on to explain that it is not true and that creationist are grasping at half truths and no facts.

-The angels just can’t quit. Next we find out from these two brainiacs that the earth’s decaying magnetic field would indicate that life could not have survived millions of years ago. This is again refuted at http://www.answersincreation.org/argument/G811_creation_science.htm . The angels are referring to a scientific article written by Thomas Barnes. It has been all but publically laughed at by theoretical scientists and bears no scientific weight.

-Next…lack of super nova remnants proves a young earth, say the angels. No, it doesn’t. http://www.answersincreation.org/malone_supernova.htm . I hate to keep linking after every point but since the creation museum didn’t use any real science to make their point, I figured I should.

With about thirty minutes of research on the Internet I have found tons of articles scientifically refuting everything said in this absurd display of purposeful ignorance. The men in White should be taken away and locked up by …men in white jackets. The most disheartening part of this “program” was the fact that children were in the audience being “taught”. Shame on the creation museum and shame on the parents who made their children sit through this glaring display of  stupidity.

Satan Hates Metro South Church

A Detroit, Michigan church has begun using Satan’s name to promote their church. Metro South Church is trying to get folks to come to their Sunday services by using signs, signed by Satan, that say bad things about the church.

Metro South Church Sign 1

Adam Dorband, the youth pastor at the church said this.

The technique is like all these signs that say they’re from Satan, but really we think like Satan is probably against what we are doing because God is doing some really big, awesome things in our church every week. Hundreds of peoples lives are getting impacted and changed.

[…]

[Jesus] wants us to be creative and he wants us to… use whatever it takes to reach people.

The reaction has been mixed, according to Pastor Jeremy Schossau.

A little bit of good, little bit of bad, but overall there’s been a lot of reaction. I guess that’s sort of the point of marketing, isn’t it?

It’s an interesting approach, to be sure. Evidently, it’s offended some folks while others think it’s clever, but it’s gotten them a lot of attention and that’s what advertising is all about… mostly.

Metro South Church Sign 2

Referring to the signs, Pastor Schossau added…

We’re sorry if you’re offended by them. That’s not our point. We don’t mean to… shock anybody or make anybody mad. We thought it was clever. We thought it was whimsical. We didn’t mean… to get anybody upset.

It seems someone disingenuous to say that they didn’t mean to get anybody upset or shock anyone. The effectiveness of the campaign is almost purely based on its shock aspect. I think it can safely be categorized as “clever” but “whimsical” is a stretch.

Atheists probably find it fairly amusing, however. As one commenter stated…

“You can always depend on Satan to get something done, apparently.”

Religion and Education in Iowa

Teaching the bible... teaching evolution Americans United for Separation of Church and State posted an article on Facebook today about a public school in Iowa that dropped two new classes in order to avoid any potential legal trouble. One class was a bible class and the other was a critique of evolutionary theory. The Des Moines Register has the full article.

There aren’t any details on the classes, so I can’t see exactly whether the bible class was going to teach about the bible or teach the bible. Those are very different things. However, the inclusion of the class to critique evolutionary theory tends to indicate that the bible class wasn’t going to be an impartial view of biblical literature.

The story aside, what I found more interesting were the comments following the article.

They started out innocently enough with statements like these.

“Use the time to schedule just a little more history teaching. It couldn’t hurt and might help explain the middle East and other troubled parts of our world.”

“Schools are for learning reading, math, and history. Church is for religion.”

“Seems like another attempt to introduce a specific religion into the public schools. Makes me wonder why these individuals feel church, television, radio and door to door are not enough.”

Those sound reasonable to me, especially the last one where it’s pointed out (not nearly often enough in general) that religion is promoted so heavily in other venues that it seems redundant at best to include it in public schools.

Another great comment was this one by “Brandieport.”

With math, science and writing being so important to high school graduation rates and college admission, it seems to me that more electives should be dedicated to core subjects and less to religion, unless there is a variety offered. Why not teach a “religions of the world” course that allows the kids to see the diversity of thought that lies just over yonder hill.

I think a “Religions of the World” course would be a great elective for public schools, but I doubt that would fly, especially in more fundamentalist parts of the country. Some fundamentalists are terrified enough that their children might hear about atheism, much less other religions!

The majority of the comments toward the beginning are mostly rational and only mildly politically charged. However, as the thread progresses, a bit of religious ideology starts to rear its head. It starts mildly with this comment by “aackso” (sic).

[…] I am a young Conservative that has shaped many of my political beliefs based on my personal relationship with God and the Bible as they have made very clear declarations on a number of topics (abortion, taxes, the needy, etc). I do believe whole heartedly in the 3rd Amendment preventing the establishment of a religion, but I also believe in the next phrase protecting “the free exercise thereof.” I believe that Schools should present Christian based Creationism in the same classes that they teach Evolution, they can coexist. I believe that History classes should feature Christianity as it has effected as many cultures over the last 2000 years as anything. […]

Shaping political “beliefs” on 2000-year-old mythology is bad, okay? …and the second amendment is the one that prevents the establishment of religion… and the “free exercise thereof” part means I shouldn’t have your religious beliefs shoved down my throat in any government-sponsored venue (that includes public school). The worst offense in this passage, however, is the statement that Christian-based creationism should be taught in the same class as evolutionary theory… and that they can co-exist. So much for aackso’s support of the second amendment.

Let’s be clear. Christian-based creationism is not science. Period. Since it’s not science, it shouldn’t be taught in a science class. Evolutionary theory is science… one of science’s most heavily supported theories, with over 140 years of evidence-based research… and it does belong in a science class.

Nor can creationism and evolution cannot co-exist. They cannot. They are diametrical opposition. Claiming that humans were created by magic in their present form can, in no way, be reconciled with the idea that humans evolved from more primitive animals over millions of years. That book is closed (or should be).

Another exchange (sic)..

nateborland says: “I wonder how we, as a species, got so far down the path of believing in a mystical being instead of paying attention to the nature around us. […]”

fourputt responds: “Paying attention to the nature around us leads many to believe in a higher power. The beauty and majesty of the earth and the solar system is too profound to be an accident.”

SLSTC expands: “Obviously Christians do pay attention to nature around them, considering they believe God is the one who created this nature. Nature is truly amazing! And when truly observing nature, it’s hard to believe that it could have ocurred by any other means. It’s too intricate, and too profound to have just ocurred by “accident.” Observing nature only further confirms my personal belief.”

This is such a common refrain to hear from theists that it doesn’t frustrate me anymore (mostly). It just makes me sad. It’s a perfect example of how religion is a curiosity-killer. Once you have the all-purpose solution of “God did it,” there’s no reason to look any deeper… no reason to find out about how things work… no reason to discover all the delicate, internal workings of living things and how they’re all directly connected to the workings of other living things… no reason to explore knowledge… no reason. It’s an excuse to willingly sit in blissful ignorance of the world around us. It cheapens life. It cheapens the almost unfathomable level of amazement that this world can provide. Religion tells us to disregard the millions of years of beautiful evolutionary complexities that show the interconnectedness of all life on Earth… and to just say it was magic.

Most of the comments were actually good, rational statements and it was nice to see. It’s a refreshing change from the average comment threads on religiously-charged news stories.

But then “mrspigglewiggle” chimes in with more silliness later in the conversation.

That’s sad, they can teach evolution as fact when it was Darwin’s religious views, they should be able to present both sides in a rational manner. I though scientific fact meant that something had to be observable, the only One there at the beginning of the world was God. I don’t understand how they can present something like evolution as fact when there obviously wasn’t anyone else there. hmmmmmmmmmmm

Thankfully, she receives a well-justified smack down in the following three comments, starting with a return volley of mock silliness by “ponders” where he says “Were you there to observe God? hmmmmmmmmmmmm.” It gets better from there.

I didn’t follow the entire comment thread, but for the amount I did read, there seemed to be a fair number of rational folks fighting back against those spouting religious ideology… and debating other good points among themselves. It was nice to see that, in contrast to the average comment thread following religiously-charged news stories.

Kudos to rational Iowans.

Heading to the Creation Museum

Tomorrow morning, Craig and I will be taking off to head to Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. We’ve had our trip planned since before the Secular Student Alliance made their huge visit, but their visit just made us more enthusiastic about experiencing the exhibits in person.

We’ll be loaded with video cameras, still cameras, and plenty of note-taking apparatus so we hope to have some decent reports when we return.