Archive for May, 2010

Sunday Sermon: Context and contradiction

When normal, rational, sane people say something was taken out of context, they mean that a quote has been doctored to make it appear that the author is saying the opposite of what he’s really saying. Darwin’s quote about the eye is one common example.

But when certain Christians say a Bible verse is taken out of context, what they actually mean is that they can find another verse that says exactly the opposite, so that the first verse can be safely ignored, along with the blatant contradiction.

So, if there’s a verse (or several) where Jesus says you shouldn’t judge people, but you like judging people, just look for “context” in other verses that offer contradictory advice. Likewise if you’re in the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy and you’re nervous about that whole camel-needle thing.

P.S. Tomorrow, or any time this Memorial Day weekend, you might want to take some time to remember and thank atheists in foxholes.

(pic — full-size version here — via Dave Barnhart)

Yet another science-vs.-religion post

Mano Singham’s “New Atheist” vs. Accommodationist article is worth a read, no matter which side you’re on.

While the headline “The New War Between Science and Religion” seems overblown, the article itself is much more restrained and  certainly (given that it’s a “New Atheist” writing it) less fear-mongering than the headline sounds.

Personally, I take the opposite of the “plague on both their houses” approach — I think that both those who favor respect for religion and those who favor strident contempt both have valid points to make, and both deserve a place at the table.

The mere existence of religious scientists doesn’t mean religion isn’t silly (anyone can be wrong, especially when their judgment is clouded), but it does mean that a deep understanding of science can, in fact, co-exist with a belief in a supernatural realm that science can’t prove, disprove or even study.

Sunday Sermon: Closer to home

OK, so we had a bit of fun twitting extremist Muslims with “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” but now that that’s over and done with, it’s worth noting that while Islam may be the biggest source of the worst extremists, it’s not like they’ve got a monopoly on people who want to kill those they disapprove of.

Case in point: Pastor Jeff Owens, who urges his followers to “Stop burning flags and start burning fags” (extra link in case the ones there have been taken down). And, of course, when Christianity was about as old as Islam is now, burning heretics (like the Templars in the picture shown) was even more common.

I should probably go off on some sort of rant about this, but really, I’m just speechless. The thing speaks for itself.

(via Reddit — pic via Istria)

Thursday Sermon: 20th of May, 2oth of May, drawing Mohammed starts today

In honor of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day ( and with apologies to Jonathan Coulton), here’s my contribution along with a really bad lyric (follow the Coulton link for its inspiration):

It’s the 20th of May, 20th of May, draw Mohammed some old way
Bring your favorite crayon, or at least your favorite Cray
The image offends, but it’s speech that’s protected,
Maybe one day this censorship will be rejected
Let them whine to the sky above,
Celebrate the day in a crazy little way called … Drawing Mohammed

UPDATE: It’s not supposed to be a contest, but nevertheless, here’s the winner!

(pic — other than the caption — via the idiot Facebook page devoted to killing all the other Facebook pages promoting Everybody Draw Mohammed Day)

Sunday Sermon: Mo’ Mo

This cartoon is horrible. Badly drawn, amateurish, making no significant point that I can see. And it wouldn’t shock me if it were motivated more by ethnic/racial intolerance than by any principled stand against some movement.

But you know what? If you’re going to attack a guy in public just because he drew it, and then try to burn the guy’s house down, just because you have a problem with pictures of Mohammed, I’m going to see fit to reproduce it, and to encourage others to do the same.

And maybe I’ll try to get a little more up-to-speed on the draw/paint features in my new Gimp image software (I can’t afford Photoshop) so I can take part in Everybody Draw Mohammed Day this Thursday, May 20.

To Mojave and Mojave Not

So, a cross in the Mojave desert, placed in a national preserve by a veterans group, has been the subject of a legal challenge by freethinkers who think a blatantly religious symbol has no place being displayed on public property.

Now, after a court granted temporary permission for the cross to remain in place, it’s been stolen. That’s just the wrong thing to do, any way you want to look at it.

For one thing, stealing is just not nice. If it were a KKK cross intended to symbolize oppression, that would be one thing, but even its detractors aren’t claiming it’s there as an “in your face” to atheists or other non-Christians. It’s a kind (if misguided) effort to honor dead soldiers.

For another, the courts are still dealing with the case — permission was granted to display the cross until it’s settled, but it’s not like there was some final decision made.

And last but (perhaps) not least, it’s just a bad tactical move. It makes atheists look bad, and makes Christians look like oppressed victims. As Jon Stewart would say, “You’re not helping.”

Sunday Sermon: Less Mo

Yes, it’s Fox News via the New York Post, but I suspect they’re pretty much on the mark about Comedy Central wussing out on the whole Muslim thing.

Retroactively deleting the 2001 (pre-9/11) episode that actually showed Mohammed (to no discernible protest at the time) is bad enough, but now it seems they’re trying to tone down any discussion that might rile Muslims into pulling another stupid stunt in Times Square.

(Mohammed pic via

Pith and Vininger

I’d like to give a shout-out to a new freethinking blogger in town (and not just because she’s got me on her blogroll, although that doesn’t hurt).  Six Blind Men Discover the Universe is just over a month old, but it’s taking shape really nicely.

It’s interesting to see vininger trying to navigate through life (and blogging, and atheist blogging) without being able to fall back on familiar comforts like religion (and without falling into the trap of mindlessly rejecting the familiarities of her upbringing in North Dakota, not all that far from my native Wisconsin). I took a different journey, but I recognize a lot of the same milestones, and I suspect other readers will as well.

(pic via Nature Structural & Molecular Biology)

Sunday Sermon: Minchin on the Mic

No time for a Sermon today — getting ready for a job interview(!) tomorrow — so I’ll turn over the mike to the always awesome Tim Minchin, and his thoughtful and nuanced response to the Catholic Church’s recent troubles. WARNING: NSFW language (I could have just said “WARNING: Tim Minchin”).