Monday, August 31, 2009
(That reminds me of a video by Louis CK - my blog post continues after this but for your enjoyment, I've embedded the video. )
I did not leave the Catholic Church because of some single traumatic experience I encountered while attending (the whole experience is traumatic, really). I didn't leave because I was "wronged by a church member", etc. (When I say I was Catholic, people often suggest that some non "True Christian" did something to turn me away from the church.) I'm not sure I ever really believed what was told to me, I think I (wrongly) just went along with what I was told to do at my Catholic school.
Today I don't have a dislike for the church because of my experience in the church - I am most concerned with how religion interferes with our daily lives and the quest for the reduction of human suffering. The organization is oppressive, abusive and sexist but who am I to tell another person not to let someone abuse or oppress them if that is how they choose to live their life?
When it comes to science education, medical research and law making, religion is interfering where it does not belong. For a "group" to be so focused on "love" and "helping" (something they claim) to be against the very things that reduce (end?) human suffering is hypocritical.
The Catholic Church vehemently opposes the use of condoms - especially in countries where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is claiming millions of lives. Embryonic stem cell research, despite showing the possibility for truly promising therapies and cures, is a no-no to many believers.
I spent a number of hours with a Christian who claims a strong adherence to the Christian faith who told me that anyone who is against condoms or stem cell research (even embryonic) simply lacks the education or information to make an informed decision. (He applied the same statement to religious followers who oppose the teaching of evolution.) He may be right - and that is where I take issue with religious dogma and churches in general.
Why is it, then, that so many religious people "lack the education"? I would suggest that a good number of them aren't checking sources, aren't asking questions or aren't listening to the facts. It is easily done if you surround yourself with people who, too, don't ask questions, don't check sources and willingly ignore facts. A perfect example of this is the church.
Add in a "leader" who preaches misinformation or avoids talking about the facts and you now have a group of people who are not informed. As an uninformed (or misinformed) person, they often speak (and vote) with certainty against that which they have no knowledge. And that is where they affect public policy, science education and law making.
(As a side note, I admire that people have their own opinions and I, as my wife will tell, am open to stimulating discussions (disagreements) with informed individuals. I have a deep dislike for people who speak with authority on something in which they have no knowledge (I hope my blog makes that pretty clear). Simply, be ready to support the claims you make.)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
However, his comments deserve a response (he didn't post them on my site, they are on his site at www.darinjamesonline.com - under "Thoughts- by Darin James"). They are copied here below in case he updates/changes his page.
I recently received a few negative guestbook posts.... from Athiests as they call themselves. I have always been a believer in free speech and the beliefs of others .
If there were, truly, "a few", he deleted them. I did add another one yesterday that I don't feel is "nasty" but it might be to someone who lies to people for a living. (Or "thiests"??)
It amazes me how people of opposing beliefs will search you out and push their negative comments upon you or me as in recent events.
Sorry Darin, you fail. You actively are advertising your services on a public website. You "invited me" to your website and when I got there you clearly stated "Sign my Guestbook" - you had to have predicted I would have done such.
If you don't believe why look it up,look into it or even comment .
Because it is important to tackle lies, misinformation and woo-woo artists where ever and whenever possible. You aren't providing a noble service - you do not have psychic abilities and it is important that people remind others of that (apparently way more than we are!).
I am open to any and all comments and read them all but there is no reason to be nasty.
I don't think my comments were nasty - they may have attacked your core beliefs and I'm sorry - oh wait, no I'm not.
You have the same rights to believe what you do as I have to believe what I do. Be it the supernatural or religious freedoms.
That is something we both agree on. Awesome!
You have your reasons for not believing same as we have ours for believing what we do.
Crap, Darin, why'd you go and ruin it? We had some common ground! I would venture far from comparing my "beliefs" (based on evidence) with your "beliefs" (in spite to evidence). You are welcome to back your "beliefs" up since you are claiming something.
Wouldn't it be nice if we accepted people for who and what they are?
YES! Sort of. We accept your right to live a full life but I don't accept your desire to mislead people (and charge them for it)!
We are so blessed to live in a country that allows freedom of thought and speech .
Blessed isn't the word I'd use. Many, many people lost their lives to give us the right to free speech. I'm interested in giving them the credit for it - not some supernatural (non-existent) being or power. (A special thanks to all who defend our freedoms.) (The statement of being blessed to live in a country that allows freedom of speech is interesting considering he is suggesting the suppression of it.) The right to free speech does not include a right to have your feelings protected, though, Darin.
I thank everyone for coming to my site and leaving comments .
You're welcome! And I invite your comments on my site too, Darin!
If you have a story you would like to share with others e mail me and I may post it to share with everyone.
I shared my story and you deleted it. Honesty isn't a dominant character trait for you, is it Darin?
Love and light ............. Darin James
Darin, I invite you to make me look like an idiot. Provide us some evidence to support your "abilities" and I'll post a full apology stating my complete adoration and respect for you. (Just remember, evidence isn't just shit you make up! Making shit up is called "psychic counselling".)
Monday, August 24, 2009
I have had dreams in my life that seemed extremely real and could have been (mis)construed as religious experiences or experiences of an after-life. They, however, were neither. They were dreams or delusions. We all have them and there is good reason for it.
Richard Dawkins, almost 3 years ago, addressed, with great eloquence, the argument from personal experience and it is truly worth reading.
In the letter, Michael makes it clear that he once was an atheist (we all are born atheists, so that's honest!) and that his sky fairy friend is much happier if Michael worships him than if Michael doesn't worship him. Michael skips over the "proof" of his invisible friend because it is "self evident". It may very well be self evident to people who are interested in seeing/feeling invisible entities. It is not self evident (and it completely lacks evidence) to me.
What I find bothersome about the whole letter is the title that was published in the paper - "SHOWING ABSURDITY OF ANY OTHER ALTERNATIVE". There are few things as absurd as believing:
- in a being who can (supposedly) do anything but fails to stop suffering
- in a being who (supposedly) killed almost everything on earth (flood)
- in a man living in a "giant fish" for 3 days
- that a 600 year old man built a boat for his family and 2 (or 7) of every animal on earth
- people lived to over 900 years old
- the earth is only 6000 years old
- absolutely anything without a shred of evidence in support of but mountains of evidence against
Michael's primary argument is that logic is transcendental - (The Transcendental Argument for God). The problem (as with most of his arguments) is that they are based on unproven (disproved) base assumptions. The premise must be proven before the argument can be made. Start with proving god, Michael, or your arguments are circular (at best).
Michael Shoesmith fails to recognize that logic is clearly something that evolved into being. Other animals display logical behaviour (and both humans and animals display illogical behaviour). It seems that his invisible friend gave dirty (and clean) animals logic also.However, transcendental would mean that logic is absolute where it is not. "Logical" conclusions are only "logical" based on the available evidence to support it. Many years ago, many would have claimed that it was illogical to assume that man could transport itself (and hundreds of others) through the air. Today we see commercial air travel as not only possible but a "given" in the "logic" of today.
What Michael also fails to realize is that science continues to advance and update theories and, with such updates, alters conclusions that were once "logical".
Michael then returns to his "proof" of God's existence and how one can go about getting such proof of this invisible being (that fails to exist).
Michael, Michael, Michael - if logic is a gift, why have you failed to open it? Logic relies on evidence and you have failed to provide a shred of evidence in support of your (illogical) beliefs.
What "God" are you referring to? Please do define your god, Michael. Is your earth only 6000 years old, did Noah build a boat at 600 years old and was there a world-wide flood less than 6000 years ago? Did your god create this earth in 7 days? Did humans walk on earth with dinosaurs?
When it comes to "absurdity", Michael, you take the cake.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Penn & Teller have a show on Showtime, Bullshit!, that tackles subjects most TV shows steer away from. While exposing everything woo-woo to tackling religion (which is woo-woo too!), Penn & Teller hold nothing back. And the season finale for this season has Bill Donohue (Catholic League) pissed.
The final episode of the season exposes the Vatican so Bill Donohue has purchased an ad in Variety magazine that you just have to read for yourself. (Posting about the ad / The ad itself).
I sent an email to Showtime to provide my support for Penn & Teller because anything that pisses Bill Donohue off is a good thing.
(I bet Bill Donohue wishes that prayer actually worked.)
When searching for her, I came across a site "Gypsy Psychic Scams" that has an interesting personal account of Mary. You can read it yourself, here.
Unfortunately, the story is told by someone who is ashamed of what happened and obviously doesn't want to put her family through a public trial. Mary gets to continue scamming people because of such shame that people feel.
It is very likely that this is not the only time that Mary took advantage of a situation (not to mention that "psychics" don't have the abilities they claim to have and the simple act of taking money from someone who honestly believes it to be something other than entertainment should be illegal on its own).
If "psychics" always started AND ended each "reading" with "This is purely for entertainment purposes and any 'hits' that I get are purely by chance or by you interpreting them yourself. I do not have any psychic abilities and what I practice is simply manipulation intended to make you believe I know something I don't. Again, this is purely for entertainment only", I wouldn't have a problem with what they do. They, however, claim to have skills and abilities that a million dollars says they don't have.
Monday, August 17, 2009
On Darin's website http://www.darinjamesonline.com/, he explains who he is and the special "gifts" that he has. And, being a skeptic, I had to know more. Darin claims that Ouija boards can be dangerous (I agree, any rigid press board can be used as a weapon), that ghosts exist and that he can talk to the dead. He even claims that his grandmother appeared to him (as if fully alive) after her death. (Note: I've met many people who made claims similar but they also admit to the usage of hallucinogenics.)
Darin has a page titled "The Gifts, Energy & The Universal Subconscious Highway", which I've quoted below in case it gets changed. The spelling, grammar and content is Darin's - I have not edited the content either way (Other than to italicize it and put back in lost line feeds).
Everyone can or does tap into the energy known as The Universal Subconscious Mind or as I call it "The Universal Subconscious Highway".
It has been highly reported by science and other proffessionals that we do not use our entire brain compacity. Learning and expanding yourself you can use more of your brain power. Some are born with more useage others not . But we can all change this. A prime example is a young man who was shot with a 357 Magnum lost half his brain and completely recovered . In time and with surgery the doctors even repaird the damaged skull so nobody could tell his injury ever even happened.
I was born with extra use also giving me extra gifts . I do believe we all have gifts of some form or another. And yes you can develop your own gifts given time and work. Many of you experience dejavu a knowing or recognition of being in a place or situation before.
Gut feelings should never be dismissed lightly. Your first gut feeling is usually right in most cases. The problem is most listen to their conscious anilitical mind and second guess yourself. Trusting your intuition or Gut takes time and practice for sure.
I believe we are all energy and that the energy that is you and I inhabits our bodies like a space suite. Our bodies may not go on but our energy does. Being that we are energy we are connected to that Universal Subconscious that I talked about earlier. A very simple example your thinking of a friend who may live thousands of miles away now. Next thing you know the phone rings and guess who it is. Every thought we have is energy and it goes out on this Universal Subconscious Highway be it good thoughts or bad. That is why it is sooooo important to watch what you think and say for all of it returns to us in one form or another.
One thing you must also know that is so very important is when dealing with the subconscious either your own or the Subconscious Highway is the Subconscious takes things very litterally. It is our conscious mind that questions the subconscious takes everything as fact and records it.
Hypnosis is a very valuable tool to understand and deal with both subconscious and conscious minds. The subconscious records everything at all times and hypnosis can help in recall of any of those records or to change thinking patterns that you would like to change from Neg to Pos.
To begin with, the anecdote that Darin uses should be enough to convince anyone that what he has to say must be the truth. Two anecdotes is always better because in science, multiple anecdotes = data. *Smack* What the f#$k? I was dazed by the inanity and I must apologize. Anecdotes = anecdotes and the plural of anecdote is not data. I tried searching for information on this person who was shot in the head with a "357" with no luck - I'm not doubting that someone could recover from a "357" shot to the head, I just am not sure the story is as Darin tells it - I'm a bit skeptical, you might say.
Even if someone could lose half their brain and "fully recover" (what does a full recovery mean, anyway?), what does that say about "special gifts"? Nothing.
Ever thought about a friend who is thousands of miles away and then "voila", the phone rings and it is them? That's magic - or selective observation. Have you ever thought about that friend and the phone not ring? Have you ever had the phone ringing and you say "I bet that's John" and, amazingly, it is John? What about times that you've said it is John and it wasn't John? Was there another reason for you to suspect it was John?
I'd be amazed if the phone started ringing and Darin said "I bet that is someone I've never met before and his name is Harvey Winklestein" and, sure enough, some guy named Harvey Winklestein dials a wrong number and reaches Darin. That'd be amazing. I suggest you have Darin come over to your house and have him tell you who is going to call and then get ten of your friends (that he is not aware of) to randomly call your house - Darin should be able to tell you, before you answer the phone (or look at call display) who is calling. Heck, if he could get 50% right, I'd suggest he start planning on what he's going to spend his million dollars on.
Darin also warns that you should be careful what you think (remind you of a sky fairy, invisible pink unicorn or flying spaghetti monster?) because it will return to you in one for or another. (Did we forget that Darin claims to be a "free thinker"? Did he forget too?)
But the main reason that I quoted the above page is because we should not dismiss "gut instincts" lightly. Darin goes on to say that "Your first gut feeling is usually right in most cases" and I think statements like this are as wishy-washy as they have to be, to allow someone, like Darin, to make such absurd statements. Consider the wording itself.
"Usually right in most cases". Putting grammar aside, let's consider what percentages would constitute "usually". I would suspect that "usually" would mean more often than not (at least 50%). "Almost always" would be closer to the 90% mark where "most" would be closer to the 75% point.
If we apply such numbers to Darin's sentence. "Just more than 50% right in 75% of the cases." So less than half of the cases? Seems like a high enough level of effectiveness to throw reason out the window.
Come on Darin, you're pushing woo and my gut instinct says you know it's wrong.
Head on over to Darin James' site and leave a message on his guestbook - he'd love to know what you think!
My wife bought me a wonderful book "The New Atheist Crusaders And Their Unholy Grail: The Misguided Quest To Destroy Your Faith". It is a wonderful book (and by wonderful, I mean, that it has a nice cover and is well produced) written by someone who claims to be a satirist but fails to show any skill in satire.
It is often that my wife will order me books - sometimes they are books that other people suggest or they are, seemingly, books that might interest me. She does her best to make sure I read books on both sides of "arguments" or from a different perspective. The claim, by the publisher, for this book is something that would interest me but the author failed miserably at following up the claim.
The "Publishers Weekly" review of the book isn't very impressive and the book even fails to live up to that review. Publishers Weekly claims that she scores devastating points against the "new atheists" and only gives a single example. That example, one would suspect, should be the strongest example of her "point scoring" and it is. It is, however, a weak one.
The book, itself, is written by someone who should avoid calling themselves an author. It uses such simple language that one would assume it was written for a sheep (and it may have been!) but it appears that the pages of the final transcript were randomly sorted. Becky fails to provide a coherent argument against the "new atheists".
Becky, to her credit, does accept that many points the "new atheists" make are valid when it comes to fundamentalists and the like but suggests that most people are moderates and don't subscribe to their views. Her arguments against "new atheists" however are weak - 'Richard Dawkins is really really really smart in biology but he knows little about religion' and 'There are millions of believers' and 'Contrary to studies, christianity is growing because I talked to a guy who was doing his own informal study based solely on anecdotes'...
People who are well read in the arguments for and against belief in a god have heard all of the arguments that Becky makes but I bet they've heard them told in a more convincing and effective way.
Would I recommend you read this book? Yes - for a couple of reasons. 1.) I don't think my review of the book was bad enough - it is a horrible book, and, 2.) You need to read it for yourself to see that I'm not kidding.
Do you have a book you think I should read? Post your thoughts in the comments!
(Note: I have read a number of books from "the other side" including:
Is God a Delusion - Nicky Gumbel (and other Nicky Gumbel works)
Case for Christ - Lee Strobel
Case for The Real Jesus - Lee Strobel
The New Atheist Crusaders... - Becky Garrison
Remedial Christianity - Paul Laughlin
Twilight of Atheism - Alister McGrath
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Darwin's Black Box - Michael Behe
Finding Darwin's God - Kenneth Miller
Only a Theory - Kenneth Miller
Reasonable Faith - William Lane Craig
and countless others. I'll have to go through my bookshelf to complete my list.
(If you'd rather email me your suggestions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
It will not only be a great convention but it will be awesome to head to California and hang out with other skeptics. From what I understand, Sarnia has a number of people going down to the American Atheists International Convention and I'm not sure what I'm going to wear. I've been searching the internet for some ideas but haven't really decided. There are so many options - I've been browsing some "t-shirt sites" and here are some ideas.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Old Paracon2009 WebsiteCould this possibly be Robbie Thomas' first psychic failure? (Answer: No.)
I'm looking forward to Paracon2010!
(A little "aside": Robbie was talking to an attendee about what he was going to be presenting on - how he was involved in 14 homicide investigations. Unless Robbie was being investigated for the homicides, I suspect the police didn't willingly have Robbie involved! I would also venture to say that for him to call it "help" as it referred to what he did, he had to redefine the word "help". "Hindered", not "helped" was the word he needed in the sentence "I (hindered) 14 homicide investigations.")
Thursday, August 6, 2009
"Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing."
In other words, No matter how bizarre, outrageous, or just plain idiotic a parody of a Fundamentalist may seem, there will always be someone who cannot tell that it is a parody, having seen similar REAL ideas from real religious/political Fundamentalists.
Michael Shoesmith has sent a number of letters to the editors and has even added comments to this blog. I haven't really paid attention to what he has had to say because it is the exact same rhetoric that every other deluded apologetic uses when making their irrational and basis claims.
However, I recently (only minutes ago) approved a comment of his (he's commenting on an old post so it requires moderation) in which he claims that atheism is a religion (just as the saying goes, then bald is a hair colour) and that the 5 doctrines of atheism are: Cannibalism, Elitism, Defeatism, Liberalism, and Naturalism.
Time and time again, we hear religidiots claim "atheism is a religion" which is an odd argument to make. Are they saying "Atheism is bad bad bad because it is a religion" and then suggesting that because of that, we should not be atheists and join their religion? Or is it "Atheism is no better than christianity because it is a religion too"? Either way, the logic doesn't follow.
Atheism does not tell a person what to think - it is the lack of beliefs and lacks any tenets that must be followed. Atheists prefer thinking over believing, evaluating over accepting and reason over dogma - nothing more and nothing less.
To suggest that atheists are defeatists doesn't follow either. Many people who claim to be atheists would argue that we won't settle for not knowing something and that things that we do not know today may be known in the future. A "believer" in most religions would be accepting of "defeat" in not knowing the answers - simply accepting bronze-aged writings of common man as the most we may ever know.
Atheists are elitists? Is that house of Michael's constructed completely of glass and do I see a rock in his hand? To simply work from the definition of elite, who is more "elite" than someone who claims to "know" (and never backs it up!)? Who is more "elite" than a group that pushes/supports/requires indoctrination and unquestioned beliefs? Definitely not most atheists. To use the definition of "elitist", however, you are left with wondering if Michael has ever looked the word up. What is more elitist than the Catholic church (or any church group for that matter)? I'd venture to say, with almost certainty, nothing.
Many people don't understand the "cannibalism" reference so I thought I'd explain what is often meant by this comment from religious whackjobs (a group that Michael Shoesmith is obviously a card carrying member of) - as people who accept that evolution is a fact and a theory (evolution happens and there are theories to explain it), they obviously accept that we are related to all living plants and animals on this planet. Because of this, eating plants and animals is "cannibalistic" - yes, that is what they claim. And since we are well aware of the relations and willingly eat our "ancestors", it follows that we have no limits. It is, apparently, a well known fact (as in "it is a fact that a 600 year old man built a boat that housed two (or seven) of every living creature on earth", type of fact) that atheists eat their brothers and sisters. (Let's never mind the fact that evolution does explain that there are SPECIES and cannibalism relates to one's own species.)
Liberalism. It may be true that more atheists subscribe to the idea of liberalism but it is far from a "doctrine" (atheism is not a religion - there are no creeds, tenets or doctrines) that is followed. I would suggest that I am liberal (not a Liberal) but I do not hold steadfastly to any ideas to which I have not sufficiently researched.
I suspect that Michael included "naturalism" because all "isms" are bad (?). But I would suspect the vast majority of atheists would, by definition, fall in this group. There is insufficient evidence to ever need to resort to supernatural explanations. Atheists, by definition, don't follow gods or religion, they don't believe in revealed works and, without evidence, won't believe in (or resort to) "supernatural" explanations.
Michael Shoesmith - your comments and arguments may work in the echo chamber that is christianity but they fail miserably with any person who uses reason and thought as an approach to such claims. As in your belief in sky fairies and your adherence to a sexist and oppressive religion, just because you think it or say it does not make it true. Atheism is not a religion (and if it was (and it definitely isn't), what kind of argument are you trying to make?), the bible is full of inaccuracies, inconsistencies and contradictions and there is no evidence to support belief in a deity.
Oh, and for people looking for giggles and definite evidence to support the title of this post, check out The Internet Pastor - Michael Shoesmith! (I'm not kidding - when you see his site, you'll understand why I'm reminded of Poe's Law)
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Now that you're up to speed :) you we'll get to the fun stuff. Locally a "protest" has been planned for August 15, 2009 called "Moon the Balloon" and your suspicions are probably correct - they want people to come out at a specific time to "moon" the balloon. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend.
Fun stuff, but it gets funny. As a result of this protest, organizers of another event that will happen the same weekend have spoken up - to complain about the morality of people who would do such and at a time when "Gospel by the Bay" (look at the comments on the bottom of this article) is happening. Oh, my.
To add to the hilarity, one of the organizers for the "Moon the Balloon" event is apologizing - but makes a great point. Who are these highly moral individuals that have a right to criticize the morals of others? Surely they aren't people who continue to support institutions that have covered up (or committed) sexual abuse, theft and oppression. Oh, wait, they are.
Is the "god" that the Gospel by the Bay organizers pray to not able to intervene? Compared to what "god" supposedly "did", dealing with this should be a simple task. It reminds me of the famous quote, "lightning rods on churches shows a real lack of confidence". An all capable "being" should be able to handle this without needing his/her blind sheep complaining.