Polls from Fox News and CNN indicate that around 60% to 70% of Americans disapprove of an Islamic community center being built in New York, blocks from Ground Zero. A followup Gallup poll, though, shows 65% of Americans have only heard a fair amount, a little, or nothing at all about the issue.
Either way, I find it disturbing. The majority of Americans either think their petty sense of emotional outrage is more valuable than an unambiguous right of religious freedom, or they are opinionated on an issue they are not completely familiar with. The media has gleefully fanned the flames without clarifying the facts.
“Yes,” I hear the critics of the Islamic community center say, “we all have religious freedom.”
“But,” they add, “you should be polite enough not to use it when it offends us.”
No matter how well a person states something, no matter how eloquent, mild mannered, and straightforward they are, religious drones will find some way of belittling and warping the initial message. Promoting a reverence for Christianity only protects Christians; promoting freedom of speech protects everyone. But some Christians miss this point entirely and criticize writers like Philip Pullman for writing an “offensive” book they don’t have to buy or read. And then some of them sometimes ask why Western atheists don’t speak blasphemously of Allah, too. What’s most disturbing is the envy that question betrays.
John McCain is a temporal anchor on American politics, and he’s dragging the rest of us back in time to the Vietnam era when black & white militaristic thinking got us bogged down in an unwinnable war. Oh, wait. I think I’m confusing him with the present day incarnation of John McCain who helped get us bogged down in Iraq. Perhaps, John McCain is Dr. Who, and enjoys sticking his big nose in other people’s business because he has a god complex. Ever since the US presidential election, I have to admit I can’t recognize the real John McCain. For example, does he support nation building or not?
Yes, why don’t we publicly take sides in Iran and further fan the flames of Islamic extremists? Then all we’ll need is a fatheaded congressman suggesting we send a team of advisers to Iran to help the protesters liberate the country. Apparently, someone in the US State Department already made a play and requested that Twitter delay its site maintenance so the Iranian people could still communicate their protest strategy.
I long for the day when politicians will sit twiddling their thumbs, not thinking about how to spread democracy around the world. Aren’t their domestic plates full enough?
Let’s gain some wisdom from the story of an ancient Roman politician named Cinna in his campaign for power:
They contributed money and military forces, and he was joined by many more people, including some of those who were influential at Rome, who found political stability not to their taste.
From The Civil Wars by Appian
Does an old, war dog like John McCain live for peace or conflict? I wonder.
One example of the inconsistency of religion
Trapped in the recesses of the web –like hardened chewing gum stuck for eternity in the cracks of a sidewalk– are religious forums and pseudo-news organizations with URL names beginning with “faith”, “belief”, or “answers”. They’re little worlds unto themselves, and that’s the way their readers like it. They don’t spurn reality, for they create their own; the same way Las Vegas casinos don’t cheat because they make up their own rules.
At Belief.Net a dude named David Klinghoffer has chronicled his Dialogue with Atheists. He challenged atheists to explain how life can have meaning or morality without a supernatural being bestowing them upon us. Klinghoffer stretched his argument to the extreme, though, by comparing atheists to the Joker, the supreme nihilist. He forgets, though, that the Joker also loves to expose hypocrisy.
As an atheist, I’m left wondering where religious folk find their meaning and morality. Surely it’s not in any religious text; for bestsellers like the Bible and the Quran are morally ambiguous at best. They’re all things to all people. Prohibitionists, for example, used the bible to speak against the evils of alcohol; and we know how that ended. And according to which Christians of the 19th century you consult, the Bible both supports and condemned slavery. Today, if you compare the King James version of the Ten Commandments to more modern translations here’s a hint of what you’ll find: The former says Thou shall not kill; the latter say Thou shall no commit murder. How Orwellian.
Religions are not wells of meaning and morality; they’re justifications for capricious humans. Give me reason over faith any day.
My posts have mostly slammed Christian creationists for their anti-intellectualism and pseudo-scientific ideas. So to be fair, I’m offering up this turd of a video featuring a Muslim creationist. He may have an accent, but he blabbers on like a Christian, using all the hackneyed arguments against evolution. He spins a caricature of Darwin and science for his audience, and hopes the sheeple will not question his lies.
The arrogant prick who posted the video on YouTube describes it as “Why Darwin’s theory is incompatible with the Quran”. A reasonable person, of course, would not have held a single book up as irrefutable. Science is open to being questioned; that’s why it works. Clearly, the Quran is a fragile text, one that crumbles under the slightest criticism.
In a Newsweek opinion peice from September 27th, writer Lisa Miller, “argues against the atheists”. The column is called “Belief Watch”, and Miller’s apologetic scribblings do the vacuous nature of religious belief complete justice. She begins by arguing that atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are unfamiliar with real believers.
First, if 90-odd percent of Americans say they believe in God, it’s unhelpful to dismiss them as silly. Second, when they check that “believe in God” box, a great many people are not talking about the God the atheists rail against—a supernatural being who intervenes in human affairs, who lays down inexplicable laws about sex and diet, punishes violators with the stinking fires of hell and raises the fleshly bodies of the dead.
When over fifty percent of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, what are we atheists supposed to think? If we include all Christians worldwide, particularly the ones in poorer Catholic and Eastern Orthodox nations, the percentage is probably much higher. This doesn’t take into account the non-democratic Islamic nations, where Western ideas are spat upon, and where basic education is limited to males, and where people are threatened into believing in the all-powerful Allah. So, the actual number of believers in an angry, vengeful, and intervening god is probably much much higher than even Lisa Miller cares to imagine.
Apologetics is a form of faith; it’s faith in faith. Miller finishes her paper-thin argument by hauling in the invisible sacred cow.
Submitting faith to proof is absurd. Reason defines one kind of reality (what we know); faith defines another (what we don’t know). Reasonable believers can live with both at once.
Reasonable believers? Can reason and faith coexist? And how can faith define the unknown? Isn’t the unknown, by its very definition, indefinable? Here, Miller’s mental gymnastics are Olympic quality. And most believers would likely take great offense to her reducing their unshakable faith to an algebraic X. Personally, I prefer to think of all faith simply as a Y.
Searching the web for creationism is sometimes like sifting through trash and finding the occasional humorous but, completely worthless, object. You feel darn conflicted. You’re dirty from the trash but the “prize” makes the whole ordeal somehow worthwhile. Behold, the rotten fruit of my labors.
It actually says “Science From Dumbies”
. This ironic work of art is from a website called Evolving Minds
, but they’re selling them on eBay, too. Their “mission” statement is:
We are a new ministry dedicated to the fight against the theory of Evolution. We think it is important to defend ourselves against the falsehood of Evolution and the lies that are associated with it… Our mission is to reach out to the lost, mainly those who believe in Evolution. We hope to change their thinking and challenge their faith in the theory of Evolution. Our goal is to fully equip anyone who has the drive to debate this topic. We are in this fight together and want to offer our resources to help destroy the work of the devil.
The back of this devil fighting t-shirt has a popular misquote from Charles Darwin’s Origin Of Species.
It’s on the origin of the eye, and Talk Origins
explains the details of their mistake. Also, the EvolvingMind’s links page
contains both Kent Hovind (DrDino) and Ben Stein (Expelled: The Movie). I guess the Young Earth Creationists operating this ministry didn’t read the memo about Intelligent Design ostensibly being a secular theory, or see the news about Kent Hovind’s imprisonment on tax fraud. Wait… I’m still laughing hard at the shirt.
I think the general public has a somewhat comical view of animals and their mental abilities. From chickens playing tic-tac-toe at county fairs to ”stupid pet tricks” on TV to humorous news clips of zoo animals entertaining the masses. It isn’t much of a résumé. Perhaps one of the mental barriers to seeing evolution in a clear light is regarding animals as buffoons; and being related to a buffoon is unacceptable to many people.
But if we actually give animal behavior more than a cursory glance, we find that many groups exhibit extraordinary abilities on par with humans, if not quanititatively then qualitatively. My favorite is the birds, specifically the corvid family. (Monkeys get all the attention, the diaper wearing media whores.) New Caledonian Crows have demonstrated their ability to use tools. Watch the video of a crow forming a wire tool, but look closely or you’ll miss the key moment.
“Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays” by Candace Savage
“Ravens In Winter” by Bernd Heinrich