Sunday, August 29, 2010

Not Even Good Content for Fiction: Dangerous Christian Plot: Convince Courts Atheism is a Religion

I found this article on a neighbor blog and absolutely had to share it. As an educator these are the ideas that spell doom for our future. Let's not hope, but let's stay focused, work dilgently, and stand firm in reality as it is, so as not to allow these dangerous delusions obscure our vision.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Acceptance Redefined

Apparently the "minds" behind the Creation Museum in Kentucky are not as Christian as the "good book" teaches them to be.

Compulsory Christianity

Barton combined hours of observation and analysis of museum materials into an ethnography, a detailed narrative about a place and its culture that is often used in sociology. Unlike other research methods, the ethnography does not strive for impartiality; rather, the researchers recognize and reflect on their own reactions to what they see.

On her third trip to the museum, Barton took her undergraduate students, who found the visit unsettling. Several in the group were former fundamentalists who had since rejected that worldview. Several others were gay. In part because of these backgrounds, Barton said, the students were on edge at the museum. Particularly nerve-wracking were signs warning that guests could be asked to leave the premises at any time. The group's reservation confirmation also noted that museum staff reserved the right to kick the group off the property if they were not honest about the "purpose of [the] visit."

Because of these messages, Barton said, the students felt they might accidentally reveal themselves as nonbelievers and be asked to leave. This pressure is a form of "compulsory Christianity" that is common in a region known for its fundamentalism, Barton said. People who don't ascribe to fundamentalism often report the need to hide their thoughts for fear of being judged or snubbed.

At one point, Barton reported in her paper, a guard with a dog circled a student pointedly twice without saying anything. When he left, a museum patron approached the student and said, "The reason he did that is because of the way you're dressed. We know you're not religious; you just don't fit in." (The student was wearing leggings and a long shirt, Barton writes.)

The pressures were particularly tough for gay members of the group, thanks to exhibits discussing the sinfulness of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. A lesbian couple became paranoid about being near or touching one another, afraid they would be "found out," Barton writes. This "self-policing" is a common occurrence in same-sex relationships in the Bible Belt, Barton said.

I wonder what security would do if I walked in dressed in a long, white robe with sandals. Do you suppose they would call the press to announce my coming?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Catholic Studies Professor Sticking to his Guns, and Silly Logic

I was reading Michael's Picks from Rationally Speaking on InsideCatholic details for its readers five ways to talk to the Left about same-sex marriage. The fifth way, Show that Gay Marriage is Harmful, compiled a list of people and organizations that were 'harmed' by gay marriage. Two groups of Catholic charities were affected. Boo-hoo. A Canadian teacher was disciplined by the teacher's governing body for denouncing the school’s teaching on homosexuality. His statement: "Sexual orientations can be changed and the success rate for those who seek help is high. My hope is that students who are confused over their sexual orientation will come to see me." Oh yeah by the way he is a school counselor. Umm, it is completely unethical for a counselor to project their own beliefs onto students who have complete trust in them. So once again, boo-hoo.

Now one of the people on the list, Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois, lost his job teaching Catholic Studies for explaining why the Church teaches against homosexuality. A student complained via e-mail to the head of the department - "Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation." Howell states 'he disagrees with the idea that a professor must present lessons without even hinting at his own beliefs on a subject.' And, "It doesn't seem to me to be particularly honest or fair to a student. If you believe something, you can tell the student that. Where it becomes problematic is if it becomes injurious to a student by penalizing them for their beliefs. I always tried to be fair and honest and upfront with my students, and engage them on questions of human reason." Now I have to admit that the student complaining was the one taking the course. What else would you expect to be learning in Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought? As much as I want to help rid the world of all harmful anti-thought, I have to admit that I am in defense of this guy. It is his job to promote the uselessness of Catholic dogmas. However, I hope to one day see secondary and higher education using curriculum like this to address what humans once believed and why they believed it.

Another way to discuss gay marriage with lefty liberals is to focus on the words 'Right' and 'Marriage'. That statement left me unsettled right from the start. I thought, word-play, right? Correct. They focus on what it means to have rights, and that the freedom to marry is not a right. ??? For example, you can't marry someone who is already married, or someone who is related to you, or who is too young. How in the hell does this argue that the freedom to marry is not a right? The age argument is completely irrelevant to our society anymore. Kids aren't going to get married because their parents aren't arranging them anymore. With respect to incest, it just ain't fun! Lastly, who the hell wants to attempt to avoid the IRS as they claim their taxes twice and hope for two refunds? I know, that was a far reach. My point is that these "examples" of why it is not a right to marry are in no way connected to Inside Catholic's argument against gay marriage. Sure, free speech is a right, but with some basic, common sense limitations, so is marriage.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Slayer, Megadeth and Testament

Metal's annual premier event (in my mind) came to Tower City Amphitheater last night. The tour was to commemorate the 20th anniversaries of Megadeth’s fourth album, Rust in Peace, and Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. The strange thing was there were fewer people than I anticipated. I mean, it's SLAYER! Dave Lombardo ripping the shit out of his drum set. Ludicrous and dangerous riffs bouncing back and forth from Jeff to Kerry. Stupid, drunken assholes plowing their way through non-moshers. Ahh, metal shows (nostalgic stare off into abyss). But I do not dare forget about Megadeth! (we missed Testament:( Call me biased but Dave Mustaine can still crank out the most ridiculous guitar solos the world has ever experienced. I happen to prefer Lombardo's drumming over Shawn Drover's, but Mustaine easily takes the cake against Jeff and Kerry. Here is Take No Prisoners by Megadeth. Here is Angel of Death by Slayer.

God doesn't work for the SEC

God-damn it. Literally. Everyone once in a while I happen upon a story that just gets my blood boiling and that makes me want to punch someone in the throat. This is it. I wonder if we should rewrite the song 'Imagine' to include modern atrocities directly atttributed to religion. Imagine there's no god to use as bait in a ponzi scheme to take money from people just because they are gullible. I know, I know, what rhymes with gullible? I'm still pondering. People may choose to look at my view and say, "Hey they're the morons who should have seen it coming." No one deserves this. And christians say atheists have no morals.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just Because

I stumbled upon (again) this video and just have to share with anyone who hasn't seen it. Eloquence is not the word for Carl Sagan.
He is just plain awesome.

Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made For Us

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Slow Whining Death of British Christianity

The title of this blog is an article written by Johann Hari for the magazine GQ. In it is the description of how the Chruch of England has gone from being the bully and persecutor to becoming the 'bullied and persecuted'. It is interesting to note that it is not faux pas to be openly irreligious in England, yet the religions control over a third of the state-funded schools. There is state-enforced prayer in schools. This does not resonate with the educational system in the states at all. But why the contradiction? How can America, with it's back-asswards view on a 'connection' between winning a presidential election and belief in a three-O god, not have an educational system like Britain's? I believe that the church's hold on the ed. system in Britain is the last piece of the puzzle to a truly secular nation. You might say that America is closer to this notion because our schools do not have state-mandated prayer, or that religion doesn't have as much influence in the schools here. This struggle can be seen in the ID/Creationism in the classroom debate. But I believe Britain has the correct model to apply in moving the human race forward towards rationality. The governing body needs to shed the assumption that irrational beliefs guide decisions which affect the populace. Then the younger generations (in colleges and universities, as well as primary education) will see the actions and attitudes displayed by their parents, their politicians, and their role models.

I tell my students that they always have a choice. They can choose to come to class, do their assignments, and treat each other with respect. If they choose to not do these things, there will be consequences. The consequences of not speaking up in favor of rationality in the educational arena and the political arena is the creation of a theocracy. We don't need to look any further than North Korea to see the consequences of this.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

They should have seen it coming

In an update on Constance McMillen, the Jackson, Mississippi school that duped her into missing her prom had to pay a settlement of $35,000 in the discrimination lawsuit as well as implement a policy banning discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I know this is going to be hard for such a back-asswards type of southern school, but hopefully any other schools practicing bigotry will see this and resolve their problems without being humiliated in national news. Then again, that would mean one less topic for me to blog about! But in the end, all that matters is equality and freedom.

Monday, August 9, 2010

On a Roll

My blog Logic and Reason has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Replace Apple Butter with Olive Oil

I was going through the Atheist Blogroll and happened upon a wonderfully created video at the blog The Gospel According to Chaos. There are many ideas in it that I can feel but not express. Hence, I want to share it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Religion and Science

For anyone wondering if Einstein believed in the human concept "god".

Religion and Science
The following excerpt was published in The World as I See It (1999).

by Albert Einstein

Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and desire are the motive forces behind all human endeavour and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present itself to us. Now what are the feelings and needs that have led men to religious thought and belief in the widest sense of the words? A little consideration will suffice to show us that the most varying emotions preside over the birth of religious thought and experience. With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions—fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death. Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal connexions is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates for itself more or less analogous beings on whose wills and actions these fearful happenings depend. One's object now is to secure the favour of these beings by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the tradition handed down from generation to generation, propitiate them or make them well disposed towards a mortal.

I am speaking now of the religion of fear. This, though not created, is in an important degree stabilized by the formation of a special priestly caste which sets up as a mediator between the people and the beings they fear, and erects a hegemony on this basis. In many cases the leader or ruler whose position depends on other factors, or a privileged class, combines priestly functions with its secular authority in order to make the latter more secure; or the political rulers and the priestly caste make common cause in their own interests.

The social feelings are another source of the crystallization of religion. Fathers and mothers and the leaders of larger human communities are mortal and fallible. The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes, the God who, according to the width of the believer's outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even life as such, the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing, who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.

The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, which is continued in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in a nation's life. That primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The truth is that they are all intermediate types, with this reservation, that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.

Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. Only individuals of exceptional endowments and exceptionally high-minded communities, as a general rule, get in any real sense beyond this level. But there is a third state of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form, and which I will call cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to explain this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.

The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear in earlier stages of development—e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contains a much stronger element of it.

The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no Church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with the highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as Atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.

How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it. We thus arrive at a conception of the relation of science to religion very different from the usual one. When one views the matter historically one is inclined to look upon science and religion as irreconcilable antagonists, and for a very obvious reason. The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events—that is, if he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man's actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God's eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it goes through. Hence science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear and punishment and hope of reward after death.

It is therefore easy to see why the Churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion which pioneer work in theoretical science demands, can grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labour in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics!

Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a sceptical world, have shown the way to those like-minded with themselves, scattered through the earth and the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man strength of this sort. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.

You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe.

But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pledge of Allegiance

Here is an article from Boston, MA, School Committee Approves Pledge Proposal In it you will find happy people who are glad that they can again lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance. Students will not be forced to say it. The strange thing is that no where in the article is there a mention of the famous insert 'One nation under god'. But if students are not being forced to say the pledge, then I believe it is a fair assumption that the 1953 addition 'One nation under god' is part of it. Senior Sean Harrington has been hoping for this day. “It’s just tears of joy,” Harrington said, wiping tears from his eyes. “I’m just so overly excited.” “I’m proud that this passed,” Harrington said. “I just thank God it passed.” No Sean, do not thank god it passed. Thank the religiously zealous school committee. Just hope that you'll be learning actual science in the science classroom.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ohio Academic Content Standards in Science

I am preparing for a workshop to prepare myself and a colleague to teach a STEM class (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) this coming school year. I was going through the science standards for Ohio to help get an understanding of what kind of projects the kids will be doing, and I found a great grade-level indicator. It is the 11th grade Ways of Knowing Standard, Ethical Practices Indicator:

Recognize that bias affects outcomes. People tend to ignore evidence that challenges their beliefs but accept evidence that supports their beliefs. Scientist attempt to avoid bias in their work.

This is a perfect statement to help understand why people hold on to their religious beliefs.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Do you believe in god?

After listening to a podcast by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York, I was directed to the website
I found an interesting section called Ask a Philosopher and was skimming through some of the questions and aanswers. I thought this one was interesting.

(31) Ashley asked:

Do you believe in god?


No, I don't.

In the first place, I have never found the God premise a necessary foundation upon which to base an understanding, or a prediction of, the world around me. I have always found Naturalistic explanations far more accurate, comprehensible, and useful. By Ockham's Razor, therefore, I have chosen to reject the God Premise. (Ockham's Razor — 'entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem' — the principle that 'entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity' — the simplest explanation tends to be the best one.)

In the second place, I have never encountered a meaningful description of other people's understanding of the 'God' concept that I have not found to be internally logically self-contradictory. Consider, as just one example, the 'problem of evil'. The existence of evil in the world is logically inconsistent with the premise that God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

In the third place, I have found that many of the efforts I have encountered to provide a logically consistent description of the God concept, result in descriptions of a God that is unworthy of my respect or admiration. This seems to be inconsistent with the concept intended for God by those who provided the descriptions. As but one example, it is easy to argue that what we consider 'evil' is actually a 'necessary evil' by God's standards in her effort to create the best possible world. But if that is the case, then God, for her own professedly omnibenevolent reasons, tolerates a degree of evil in the world that would be intolerable to any reasonable person. Such a God is hardly worthy of our respect and admiration, in my judgement.

In the fourth place, I am a very curious soul. I like to know why. I like the process of finding out why. I like the idea that I could find out why, even if I can't right now. But the God concept is an inquiry stopper. God is, by any definition I have ever encountered, incomprehensible, unexplainable, and beyond the reach of rational inquiry. I do not like the notion that there may be elements of the world that are, by definition, beyond my comprehension. It may turn out that there are in fact elements of the world that are beyond my comprehension. But I prefer to proceed on the basis that there aren't. Inquiry is pointless if it is given there is no comprehensible answer.

Stuart Burns

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra

The wife and I went to see the Cleveland Orchestra perform at Blossom last night. We had 10th row tickets in the pavilion (mom of course won them). Blossom is a wonderful venue to see the orchestra as the pavilion theater provides excellent sound quality. Case Scaglione from the Aspen Academy conducted "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis", done originally by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The piece had a wonderful blend of volumes, pace, and emotion. The violin solos were on point. Next was Sergei Prokofiev's "Suite from Lieutenant Kije", Opus 60, conducted by David Zinman. It contrasted nicely with the first piece. Intermission came and then we got our surprise. Zinman conducted "Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor", Opus 15, by Johannes Brahms. World-renowned pianist Stephen Hough amazed the crowd and myself. Each of the 3 movements were perfect. The emotions you feel while the horns are blaring and the violins and cellos are strumming furiously are unexplainable. If ever you get a chance to see Stephen Hough play the piano, don't miss it.