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Member since: Sat Jul 3, 2010, 12:24 PM
Number of posts: 19,705

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Don’t Replace Religion; End It

Religion cannot and should not be replaced by atheism. Religion needs to go away and not be replaced by anything. Atheism is not a religion. It’s the absence of religion, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Religion is not morality. Theists ask me, “If there’s no god, what would stop me from raping and killing everyone I want to.” My answer is always: “I, myself, have raped and killed everyone I want to ... and the number for both is zero.” Behaving morally because of a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is not morality. Morality is not bribery or threats. Religion is bribery and threats. Humans have morality. We don’t need religion.

Religion is faith. Faith is belief without evidence. Belief without evidence cannot be shared. Faith is a feeling. Love is also a feeling, but love makes no universal claims. Love is pure. The lover reports on his or her feelings and needs nothing more. Faith claims knowledge of a world we share but without evidence we can share. Feeling love is beautiful. Feeling the earth is 6,000 years old is stupid.

Religion is often just tribalism: pride in a group one was born into, a group that is often believed to have “God” on its side. We don’t need to replace tribalism with anything other than love for all humanity. Let’s do that, okay?


The Ludicrous Mythology that Christian Colleges Teach as Fact

Cedarville University is a Baptist college in Ohio with 3,000 students. The campus is currently engulfed in a minor uproar over the way it's enforcing its ideological beliefs. Let's take this opportunity to gape and marvel at what some people who run educational institutions actually believe to be true.

Inside Higher Ed has the story of Cedarville's current controversy: the administration is trying to cut its philosophy department, and a professor who espoused a slightly less literal version of Bible doctrine was recently suspended, and an administrator who was somewhat less conservative than average is resigning, and all of this is being perceived as a move by the school towards a stricter, more conservative stance with regards to its wacky Christian beliefs. Briefly:

Even by the standards of its fellow members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an association of evangelical colleges, Cedarville is theologically and culturally conservative. Students are required to attend chapel five days a week. Every student is required to minor in the Bible. The college boasts of its belief that the Earth was created exactly as described in the Bible and says its graduates are "in the world but not of it."

The real treasure for future anthropologists will be the school's 14-point doctrinal statement, to which professors must subscribe. These are just a few of the things that are being taught to young students who have paid money in order to obtain "education:"

We believe in the literal 6-day account of creation, that the creation of man lies in the special, immediate, and formative acts of God and not from previously existing forms of life...

We believe in the imminent "Blessed Hope," the Rapture of the church before the tribulation, when the "Lord shall descend from heaven" to catch up His bride to meet Him in the air and "so shall we ever be with the Lord." ...

We believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of the crucified Lord, His ascension into heaven, His present life there as our High Priest and Advocate, and His personal, bodily, visible return to the earth at the end of the tribulation to establish His millennial kingdom on earth, and to reign as the only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

What often gets lost in America's historic respect for Christian belief is just how motherfucking insane those actual beliefs are. "Hi, I think the whole universe was created magically in six 'days' [WHAT ARE 'DAYS' IN THIS CONTEXT???] just a few thousand years ago, and I also believe that a couple thousand years ago a magic guy lived and died and was magically resurrected, and I believe that if you believe what I believe you will one day be magically beamed up to a special place far, far away to live in bliss. Can I interest you in my educational program?" Under normal circumstances, that's when the Taser would come out. But here we have an entire subculture of people who can successfully sell blatant rejection of science as "education" to some poor god damn victims students. Is there not some responsibility for professional educators to avoid passing on things that are clearly mythological as fact? Conversely, can we please come up with a new category for doctrinal religious schools, outside of "education?" How about, I dunno, "hilarious ancient propaganda?"

It's useful to remember that Christian doctrine is patently absurd, and to allow that to inform your judgment of the intellectual faculties of those who believe it to be true.


While there may be some belief and doctrine at this particular school that is not in the "mainstream" belief of most Christians, the part (in bold) about the resurrection certainly is. Even the most liberal christians believe this, right? It is a central tenet of the faith, right?

The writer closes with this:

It's useful to remember that Christian doctrine is patently absurd, and to allow that to inform your judgment of the intellectual faculties of those who believe it to be true.

Do you find that a fair statement?

Religion does not make you love your neighbour - study

Being religious only appears to make people more co-operative or unselfish when they are dealing with other people of the same faith, it suggested. The findings, likely to prove controversial, emerge from a study carried out by Nottingham University Business School as part of government-funded research into the role of religion in public life.

A team of behaviour experts asked a group of Malaysian people with different religious backgrounds to take part in a series of tasks involving sharing money with other participants. In one task people were given an imaginary sum of money and given the option of sending some to another participant. They were told that whatever they did not send they would be able to keep but also that the participant could chose to send some of it back – which would then be tripled. They had to judge how “generous” to be. Participants included Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and non-religious volunteers

The team noticed that there was little difference between levels of co-operation and generosity when people knew nothing of the other person’s beliefs and when they knew that they were of different persuasions. But when told that the other person shared their religion they were markedly more trusting and generous with the money.

Dr Robert Hoffmann, an Associate Professor of Economics at Nottingham University Business School and co-author of the report, said: “One would imagine the charity inherent in many well-known articles of faith might have some impact on everyday behaviour. But we discovered no evidence of that when we examined what happens when people who are religious knowingly interact with those of a different or no faith. "


Well, we already know that religion does not automatically make one a better, more moral, or more caring (it may make one more of an asshole, but that study is still in the works.) but it is nice to have the hard facts, the data to support it.

Best Photos of 2012: Spaceflight

Although 2011 saw the end of the exciting Space Shuttle launches, 2012 would still see plenty of cool launches and the deliveries of each shuttle orbiter to its respective museum. I would meet many amazing people along the way and continue to share the exciting times with others.

The busy year of spaceflight photography would start out in March when I traveled to Florida to photograph space shuttle Endeavour inside the Orbiter Processing Facility. I had been really looking forward to this opportunity, as I would get to photograph the crew module of Endeavour powered up. Well unfortunately some last minute changes by the powers at be scrubbed the powered flight deck opportunity and I would only get to photograph a dead orbiter. While still very exciting and special in its own right, it was not the shot I had been hoping for and I would leave quite disappointed.






MANY more pics at link. Enjoy!

Why the secular movement is here to stay

Fads come and go in America, whether we’re talking about consumer products, hairstyles, or social-political ideas, so it’s reasonable to wonder whether the secular movement might be just another trendy fashion. If we’re considering what’s hot and what’s not in popular culture, clearly the notion of personal secularity is in the former category, with demographic trends breaking in favor of nonbelievers and the nonreligious. But will it last?

For several reasons, it’s hard to see the modern secular movement as a passing phase that will be gone tomorrow. The movement may level off, and even experience ebbs and flows over time, but the emergence of seculars resulting from the modern secular movement is highly unlikely to reverse itself, and the impact of that emergence is likely to be lasting and profound. Here are five factors indicating that the contemporary trend of secularity should have long-term traction:

1. The secular demographic won’t disappear

Secular Americans are a broad tent that includes not just atheists and agnostics, but millions of Americans who are simply not religious. These are good, taxpaying citizens who are generally skeptical of grand theological claims, who wouldn’t dream of spending Sunday morning sitting in church, and who tend to see church-state separation as important. These seculars have always been around, and there is no chance that they are suddenly going to disappear.


2. The Internet and social media have changed everything

A generation ago, if you were an nonbeliever living in, say, Columbia, South Carolina, you may have thought you were the only one for twenty miles in any direction. Today, however, by using tools such as meetup.com, you can quickly discover that there is a group called the Freethought Society of the Midlands, with almost 400 members. Thanks to the Internet and social media, seculars are identifying openly, finding community, and connecting with one another in ways that simply were not possible just a few years ago.

(read more at the link)
3. Seculars are organized
4. The ideas underlying secularism are modest, not radical
5. Seculars are finally demanding equality


I Really Hope You Accept The Beauty Of The Christian Message Someday.

If one suspects a poster of being a sock puppet or zombie...

Is it against the rules to call them on it? Some time ago, I accused a poster of being a sock puppet (complete with supporting evidence) and had the post hidden as a "call out."

Both our faiths promote charity and compassion, afterall

Probably how most of us have felt here once or twice...

Religion may not survive the Internet

As we head into a new year, the guardians of traditional religion are ramping up efforts to keep their flocks—or, in crass economic terms, to retain market share. Some Christians have turned to soul searching while others have turned to marketing. Last fall, the LDS church spent millions on billboards, bus banners, and Facebook ads touting “I’m a Mormon.” In Canada, the Catholic Church has launched a “Come Home” marketing campaign. The Southern Baptists Convention voted to rebrand themselves. A hipster mega-church in Seattle combines smart advertising with sales force training for members and a strategy the Catholics have emphasized for centuries: competitive breeding.


In all of the frenzy, few seem to give any recognition to the player that I see as the primary hero, or, if you prefer, culprit—and I’m not talking about science populizer and atheist superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson. Then again, maybe Iam talking about Tyson in a sense, because in his various viral guises—as a talk show host and tweeter and as the face on scores of smartass Facebook memes—Tyson is an incarnation of the biggest threat that organized religion has ever faced: the internet.

A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers. It is why Quiverfull moms home school their kids from carefully screened text books. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does!)

Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.

Tech-savvy mega-churches may have twitter missionaries, and Calvinist cuties may make viral videos about how Jesus worship isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship, but that doesn’t change the facts: the free flow of information is really, really bad for the product they are selling. Here are five kinds of web content that are like, well, like electrolysis on religion’s hairy toes.

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