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The Mystery in the Box

I was just looking in my neighbor’s yard. There is a large wooden crate behind his deck that hasn’t been touched in the last 6 months. As far as I can tell, it is there to stay. This got me thinking about people’s belief in god.

If my neighbor told me that inside his crate was $1 billion, I would probably call him crazy. But if he told me that I could have the $1 billion, he might pique my interest for a moment. I’d want to see some sort of proof or obtain some form of collateral, but he would have my attention. Here’s the bombshell: he tells me that to obtain the treasure, I would have to spend an indeterminate amount of time cleaning his house, mowing his lawn, doing other various chores, and finally giving him 10% of my annual income.

Well, screw that. Sure he lets me play basketball on his nice court, gives me a meal once in a while, and takes me on his annual ski trip with his family, but I’d still want some sort of evidence that the $1 billion actually existed before I donated vast amounts of my time and resources to obtaining it.

I know this isn’t a direct parallel to the god belief that so many among us hold, especially considering that the rewards of most modern religions don’t come until after death (if at all). Add in to that the uncertainty of whether our actions are predetermined or based on free will, and you have an even stickier situation which should give more people pause before devoting their livelihoods to the religion of their choice. Unfortunately, it does not.

People, for the most part, tend to carry on the beliefs of their ancestors and hold them dear without ever taking a moment to question them (After all, questioning those beliefs is a sin in itself.) What does it take to actually get someone with such a deeply internalized belief to question it? A traumatic experience? A trip to rock bottom? Too often, these events further entrench beliefs rather than diminish them.

I guess atheists need to start having a ton of babies.

Islam a Religion of Peace? Excuse Me While I Laugh

I am not a troll. I do not search out internet fora, Facebook and MySpace groups, or any other online community with the intention of creating inflamatory comments or rousing rabble of any sort. That doesn’t mean that I’m not tempted to do so from time to time. Usually, I just like to gain some perspective, see how people debate and support their positions (on all sides), and sometimes get some good ideas for blog posts.

I came across a doosie of a group a while back while browsing MySpace groups about Islam. There is a section devoted to the groups “rules”, some of which are very telling about not only the religion of Islam, but the sacred protection religion thinks it deserves in discourse.

The first few rules are reasonable enough:

  • No hate speech
  • No bigotry
  • No attacking another person’s religion

While I do not think that there is any such thing as hate speech in the way it is typically defined, I don’t think that every forum should have to be a stage for debate. No big deal so far, but the next few are quite revealing.

  • Non-Muslims are welcome and will be protected
  • Non-Muslims have the right to ask anything they wish. However if they abuse their privileges they will be banned!!!!!!
  • Anybody insulting my religion of Islam or my holy prophet Muhammad (saaw) will be banned !!!!!!!!!

It doesn’t say great things for your religion if you have to reassure non-adherents of their protected status when joining for discussion. Oh, and as for that discussion, ask anything you want, but don’t abuse those privileges. What the hell does that even mean? Is this like Scientology in that they will answer questions until one of the questions pisses them off or makes them reveal something embarrassing or heinous about their belief system? For instance, if I wanted to ask “How does the holy prophet Muhammad taking a child wife and consummating the marriage with intercourse when she was only 9 years old fit in to traditional Arab marriage roles during that time?”, I would probably be banned.

Even though it is a perfectly valid question whose basis is well document in the Hadith (Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64), this question would almost certainly be seen as an affront to Islam. As a non-adherent, this is a topic on which I would like more information, and what better place to ask questions than in a forum of Muslims?

Well, thinking about all of this again got me wanting to visit the group and put forth my two cents. Having bookmarked the link, I clicked through only to find that the group is no longer accessible. The group still shows up in search results, but cannot be viewed, which could possibly mean that the group has been made private. I’ve included the link in case it should ever be accessible in the future.

Guest Post: A Closer Look at The God Warrior

She's not a Christiaaaaaaaaan-uh!!

The following is a guest post from my friend Megan.

As you probably recall, there was an earlier post about the crazy God warrior woman from Trading Spouses. As luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to catch the entirety of this episode earlier today. If you have not had the pleasure of catching this episode, let me fill you in on a couple of things.

First off, let me give you a brief synopsis. The two spouse that switch are Margaret Perrin and Jeanie Flisher. Margaret is an overbearing mother and wife who is pretty much terrified of anything that isn’t Christian. Jeanie is a hypnotherapist who is very much into astrology and other New-Age things. Jeanie has an ok time, and Margaret has a meltdown from all of the horrors she experienced while in the Flisher house.

So what are these horrifying and “dark sided” things that this poor woman Margaret was forced to endure?

  1. There were Mandala (Tibetan sand paintings) on the walls of the house.
  2. There was a star (not a pentagram, but a regular old star) on the side of the family’s barn.
  3. There were Tibetan flags in the house.
  4. She met a psychic.
  5. She went to a Solstice party.

Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?

To me, the most interesting thing about this episode is the clash between two completely different belief systems. Now in my opinion, astrology and Christianity are equally ridiculous systems of belief, and yet it is only the Christian woman who is closed-minded, angry, judgmental and downright crazy. This episode pretty much brings to light everything that is wrong with the Christian faith. Here are some examples to illustrate:

Jeanie told the family that their house was beautiful.

Margaret freaked out about decor like Mandala and stars.

Jeanie met Margaret’s friends, who were cold to her because she wasn’t a Christian, and she still maintained a good attitude.

Margaret panicked because she had to go to a party to celebrate the moon and freaked out when she met a psychic even though he was also Christian.

Jeanie took one of Margaret’s daughters shopping for jewelry because she noticed the daughter was being ignored.

Margaret made Jeanie’s family to go to church and tried to force Jesus upon all of the kids.

When it came time to allocate the money, Jeanie gave the bulk of the money to the gastric bypass surgery that Margaret wanted.

Margaret gave Jeanie’s family a bunch of Bibles.

Margaret’s family missed Jeanie when she left.

Jeanie’s family did not miss Margaret.

What really made me mad about this episode is that Margaret didn’t even try to understand this other family. She immediately assumed they needed to be saved and forced her beliefs on them with zero regard to their interests and beliefs. As one of Jeanie’s kids pointed out, “Margaret kept talking about Jesus but we couldn’t talk about astrology or anything she didn’t believe in so it wasn’t really fair.” Margaret jumped to conclusions about the family without even asking them what they believe. Unfortunately, Margaret is not a unique case. There are many Christians out there who feel and act the same way she does, and that is what is truly horrifying.

If you would like to contact Megan, you can comment on her blog.

Glenn Beck is a Douche

First, let me state that Glenn Beck is a worthless blowhard that does not belong on any network. He makes flimsy arguments, and in true one-sided pundit fashion, he only ever has guests on to support his worldview to his sheep-like audience. On the off occasion that someone of a differing opinion joins him on screen, he treats them just like his network’s papa bear, Bill O’Reilly, and never lets them get a sentence out edgewise amid all of the interruptions, sour looks, and instant, fallacious refutations.

Glenn Beck is to logical discourse what the bubonic plague was to medieval longevity. He wouldn’t recognize a concrete argument if it sat on his face. I get douche chills in my spine just watching this short segment.

As with many examples of fundamentalist ideology that I present, this one is also replete with more flaws and fallacies than can reasonably be addressed given my limited time resources and the internet’s limited bandwidth resources. But as always, I’ll touch on a few of the more glaring cases.

“90% of us believe in God yet we seem to be pushed around by 10%”

This type of ignorance can only come from being deeply ethnocentric, as a fair amount of religious folks tend to be. When exactly have Christians been pushed around? It seems to me that when you send your children to a public, government-funded school, it doesn’t really matter what your opinion is on any matter, because in the end, the government will dictate the agenda for said school. Don’t like it? Send your kids to private school. Then they can pray all day long, have Bible study, do stations of the cross, play wholesome Christian sports, and learn to be a bigot in entirely new and creative ways.

“blah blah some people want to remove God from this country altogether. Right here. This nation under God.”

We have only officially been a “nation under God” since 1954, when that phrase was legislated into existence after pressuring from religious groups. To quote the Rev. George Macpherson Docherty:

“These words [‘under God’] will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded.”

Riiiight. Or they will be used by religious fanatics to insist that this country has been officially blessed by an all-knowing God, thus making us his second group of chosen people.

“You can’t even use the word ‘prayer’ in school.”

Wrong. You are wrong. The decision of the judge in Illinois did not ban prayer from schools, or ban the use of the word ‘prayer’ in schools. Children can do whatever they like during moments of silence. If they want to pray, that should be something that they would have wanted to do with that time anyway. They should not need to be instructed on the various ways in which 30 seconds can be used. Leave them to their imaginations. I’m sure toddlers can figure it out on their own. If their depth of faith is so great that they want to submerge themselves in prayer, they will do so. If they want to color, they will do so.

“Are the children of atheists so fragile that the idea of prayer could actually warp their minds?”

No they are not. Children of atheists, for the most part, already have a good foundation in logic and critical thinking. However, all children are extremely impressionable, and were it not for their parents dictating to them what they must believe to go to Heaven after death (another concept they probably haven’t even fully come to terms with) they wouldn’t even espouse such beliefs.

That’s it. I’m spent. I’m only 1:17 into this video, and I can’t suffer any more. What is your favorite piece of ‘wisdom’ from Glenn or Jimmy Dobs in this video?