Kill Bill

In California, a lawyer has filed the Sodomite Suppression Act, a new bill that will legalize murdering gays

by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.

Since this is California, the bill will go to the signature-gathering stage because under California law, any bill that you introduce will do so – provided that you cough up the USD 200 fee. So Matt McLaughlin thought this was a wise investment, and paid in full.

Somewhat predictably, this caused people to become flustered; some even went so far as to call for McLaughlin being disbarred.

Now I don’t think that submitting a bill, even if it was created from pure, unadulterated hate and mixed with equal amounts of terminal homophobia such as this one, should result in legal action against whomever submitted it. For a number of reasons:

  • progressing the bill is a phenomenal waste of resources, yes. But don’t kill the messenger. The correct response is to change the process, not to punish the person who uses it correctly. If you can submit such an insane bill, something may be wrong with your legal system.
  • that being said, I think it’s also a sign of a healthy trust in your population that you allow whackjobs to submit whacky proposals. Even if we don’t like what’s proposed, at least all proposals are heard. This is actually a good thing.
  • also, I think freedom of speech is more important than silencing an idiot because we don’t like to hear what they want to say. Let them speak freely. That way we also know whom to avoid in the future.
  • this is a another great example to cite when some believers tell you that religion is good for people

And of course, reading the comment section is as entertaining as visiting the local zoo: asks a (presumably devout Christian) believer:

Is this nutter for real?  Sadly, he gives Christians a bad name.  I think he may need to acquaint himself more closely with the teachings in the Bible which are based around love, not discrimination and hatred

Obviously, that commenter, unlike hate-filled Matt McLaughlin, didn’t read the bible.

Muslim Creationism

A few days ago, I found a book in my mail box. It was made from glossy, high-quality paper, some 300 pages thick and titled The Evolution Deceit. Since it’s no secret that I have disdain for pseudo-science, especially when it serves to spread religion, I thought a friend was poking fun at me, giving me a fake book, or a well-made satire. After all, even at a cursory glance, it hits all the wide-eyed creationist highlights and the introduction reads like something straight from The Onion.

[…] the theory of evolution constitutes the underpinning of a deceptive philosophy that has held sway over a large number of people: Materialism.

Now, that is high satire. I mean, come on – claiming that a natural order can become an ideology is funny. I wish I had thought of that.

However, I quickly found out that not only is the book real, it also represents a tragically inept attempt at spreading religion:

  • First, the book is peddling Creationism. Here in Switzerland, levels of education are high, and only a few stubborn half-wits believe in the literacy of ‘God created Adam from clay, and Eve from a rib’. The potential audience for this kind of book, the occasional US ex-pat aside, is minuscle.
  • Then, as I was stunned to discover, the book is selling Islamic Creationism. This is astonishing for the simple fact that unlike Christianity, Islam never had a problem with evolution. So this book first creates a problem where none exists, and then tries to sell Islam by solving a non-existing issue. And if this wasn’t enough, Switzerland is a predominantly Christian country, with very little sympathy for Islam. So if you do find someone stupid enough to believe in creationism, they’d already be a Christian.

If you want to sell that kind of crazy here, I don’t think that you could pick a worse combination than Islam and Creationism – even if you wanted to.

The book itself is pretty much what you’d expect from someone foolish enough to try and use ‘science’ to disprove Evolution: misrepresentation (‘Darwin claimed in Origin of Species that Whales evolved from Bears’), misattributions, false assumptions, misdirection, really bad math (these Creationists sure love miscalculating probability), outright slander (my favorite: ‘Darwin is responsible for Hitler, Nazis and Communism’), allegations of conspiracy against ‘alternative’ science, and of course mountains of suggestive evidence that has been taken out of context. It doesn’t help that the author is also a conspiracy theorist and – this is a first – has both denied and affirmed the Holocaust.

But why am I writing about a deranged, scientifically illiterate or dishonest author who is prepared to lie in order to sell his religion? After all, there are tons of those, and nothing of what he writes is original nor noteworthy.

It’s not so much the fact that yet another scientific ignoramus is sacrificing his integrity on the altar of his imaginary master. It’s this: the book has enormous production values: high quality paper, lots of good photos and illustrations, impeccable layout, and well translated. The production values are higher than most school books I’ve seen recently, and it is distributed for free (I was wrong – no friend dropped off that book; everyone on my block got one as unsolicited mail).

I find it unsettling that someone would spend this amount of money to produce and distribute a book dedicated to undermining knowledge, reason and science. This book undeniably looks and reads better than most academic books I read at university. I’m worried what it could do to a poor community where real science books are difficult to come by and where people have little means to discern science from hateful claptrap.

This book wasn’t written to educate, to better this world and humanity. It’s been written, produced and distributed to prey on unsuspecting people; to infect minds with a divisive, dangerous ideology, disguised as science.

It serves as yet another unwelcome reminder of the fact that there is no evil that fundamental Christians do that Islamists won’t imitate.

Idiot worship

Why are we here? What is our purpose? Atheists usually answer this with ‘happenstance’ and ‘none at all’, respectively. Believers, however, say that this is too sad a proposition for them to accept. They state – with no little emphasis – that we are here because god created us, and that our purpose is to worship Him.

Let us think about this for a while. So God created us (let’s not go into ‘in his own image’, that’s a bit too much). God created this universe with 200 billion galaxies, each containing 300-400 billion solar systems, and then, as his crowning achievement, he created us. So we can worship him.

Really? Why? To me, almost everything is wrong with this picture:

First, the scale is off. Let’s assume I was a God, and created more solar systems than there are grains of sand on earth. Why would I then want to create a single, tiny planet that orbits one of the more obscure, run-off-the-mill suns in an ordinary galaxy, and populate it with a race of ignoramuses? To worship me? They represent not even a  trillionth of a percent of my creation; yet I went to all this length just to have that infinitesimally small fraction worship me? Why isn’t my crown achievement in a setting befitting it’s purpose – The centerpiece of my creation?

If I had the power to create a universe and the desire to be worshipped, there are much, much better ways to go about this: create an immense, beautiful plane (with physics that allow this), populated by trillions of smart, brilliant and fun beings that worship me.

Then, allegedly, if we worship Him in our lives, we’ll get to worship Him even more after our death. Am I the only one who thinks that this not only incredibly boring, but also an incredibly stupid set up? If before and after death is the same, the concept of death is completely irrelevant. Except for those who don’t worship God – those will be tortured in eternity by this allegedly benevolent god. And here, again, the scale is off: the proportions don’t match: an infinite punishment (eternal torture) for a finite transgression (non-worship in lifetime). Wouldn’t that be an infinitely immoral punishment?

Yet that is not the biggest issue I have with a god that requires worship – it is this: doesn’t it strike you as incredibly petty of a supreme being to have the need to be adulated? This god is all-knowing and all-powerful. Compared to gods, humans are less than ants, idiotic motes of dust who can’t even perform a single miracle, or break a single physical law. Pathetic. If I had the urge to be adored, I’d want to be adored by beings of importance, not the bunch of losers that ruin their own planet the same way pigs trash their sty.
I seriously doubt that a God would want to be worshipped, at least not by us. Consider: Programmers have a rare privilege; they can create virtual worlds in the programs they write. They are, in a very small way, gods and creators of the programs they write. Few, if any programmers ever feel the urge to write code that extols the virtue of their coder. It’s no challenge, serves no purpose, and makes them look really pathetic. So why would a God want something that even the lowliest, personality disorder-ridden geek wouldn’t want?

There is no way a god would ever want to be worshipped. At least not by you, me, or any other human.

So why do believers insist that we must worship their god?

Yep, that’s what I think, too.

Selling Religion

Some people have said that the Ten Commandments represent the crown achievement of morals. Obviously, these people are mistaken. The majority of Christians, after a short, perhaps brutal discussion will agree that the commandments could have dramatically improved humanity had, for example, the first two commandments (I am the Lord, and Don’t blaspheme) been thou shalt have no slaves and thou shalt treat men and women as your equal instead.

So why aren’t they? Is God a moral lightweight? Why did the Ten Commands fall short? Believers say that the Commandments reflect the time that they were created; they were a political compromise. Had they been phrased more ethically aggressively – for example had they held imperatives to abolish slavery and institute gender equality – that would have prevented the belief from spreading. It was important to first get the people into your belief; afterwards you could then improve the standard, making everyone more moral.

Indeed, forcing men to give up slaves and treat former property (women) as their equal is a hard sell. From a political view, this makes sense. Creating a more moderate code of conduct would increase the likelihood of acceptance, and raising the bar afterwards is a sensible approach to improve society.

Yet that doesn’t make sense in a religious frame of reference. The very context of how the commandments were given, as narrated in the Bible (in Exodus) makes it abundantly clear that God could have demanded anything from his followers. Let’s look at this through the eyes of one of the Israelites in Exodus:

I had just witnessed God’s might first hand – a few days ago he parted the sea to let me through; then he drowned the entirety of Egypt’s army. That’s powerful stuff. So, I’d do my best to get on His good side. What’s that you say? He’s uncool with me selling my daughter into slavery and treating my wives as property? No worries, he’s bossman; I’ll play ball! After all, those were also pretty nasty plagues he visited upon that Pharaoh guy a couple weeks back. So, hell yeah, I’ll release my sex slaves and be nice to women. Hey, I see reason in the form of vastly superior might…

Arguing that after such a display of might it would have been politically unwise to demand ethical conduct from your subjects doesn’t make sense. God had just proven beyond any doubt that he was willing to enforce his word. Arguing that God tempered his commandments so more people found them palpable makes sense only under two assumptions: the story never happened, and you assume that God would not enforce his commandments – the very story that presents the commandments be damned.

Therefore, if you argue that the Ten Commandments reflect the time they were issued you also argue that there is no god to back them up. You admit that you have to sell your belief on the merits of the rules, not the might of your deity. Plus: hoping to increase the standard after the fact may work in modern day democracies. It doesn’t work in theocracies that rely on written scripture – scripture that can’t be changed after it was written. After all, the Ten Commandments haven’t changed much in three thousand years (except changing thou shalt not murder to not kill and don’t covet thy neighbor’s wives to wife, singular).

So this is what it comes down to: the Ten Commandments are not divinely inspired. They are a simpleton’s sales pitch.

I’m with stupid

If there is one expression that makes me gag in disbelief at the sheer amount of pompous, delusional self-aggrandizement then it would be

having a personal relationship with god.

First, what should we think of a person who claims to have a relationship with a deity? Doesn’t that immediately disqualify them from any further discourse? If someone in earnestly tells you a god is their personal friend, they are conceited jackasses, or are playing with only half a deck of cards. Probably both.

Just what goes through the mind of someone who feels they have to tell you something like this? It’s the ultimate name-dropping – is it even possible to appear more desperate in seeking attention? Just by itself, personal relationship with god is such a cringe-inducing, pathetic statement that I have difficulties hiding my contempt, and I usually have to avert my eyes.

Have you ever paused to think what this person, in all honesty is trying to tell you – what they have convinced themselves of, and what they want you to believe: that they regularly converse with a super-being; that this being not only exists, but that it takes their moronic views [Note: if you are a super being, all human thoughts are moronic by default – its intelligence would see past all our petty self interests and there would be nothing interesting we could contribute in an exchange of ideas with it] serious – and that this being offers personal insight, solace, and advice.

It gets worse: if we were to allow for all this to be true, we’d have to contend with the fact that even though these people regularly converse with a super-being, all advice and information they receive is stupid, ordinary, and banal: not one believer with a personal relationship to their god has ever shown to have supernatural understanding of, or brilliant insight into anything. So this super-being is either not very smart, or deliberately feeding its counterpart bad information. Which means that you have a personal relationship with an über-prankster, a being that continually has jokes on your account.

So, just by looking at the record we know that bragging about a personal relationship with gods is a sure way to get you and your god ridiculed – for good, documented reason.

Yet that is only half of what makes the expression so fundamentally stupid. Let’s say that we agree that the person claiming to have a relationship with god is not stark raving mad. This means that they tacitly agree that it’s more likely to have a relationship with a pet rock than an entity that nobody ever saw or could be proven to exist. A pet rock you can at least hold in your hand – but it would never answer to any kind of interaction. Yet, any sane relationship requires interaction from both sides. What would you think about a person who earnestly tells you they have a relationship with a rock? Wouldn’t you think them at least a bit pitiful?

What, then, would you think of a person who tells you that they have a relationship with a pet rock that you can’t see, touch, feel or otherwise detect?

But it’s the personal bit, the utter ridiculousness of the insinuation that the relationship is based on personal exchange that makes it such a tragically pathetic proposition, so impossible to accept. Because, let’s face it, it’s not personal until the object of your relationship responds to your individual communication, in ways curtailed to you. Everyone knows that when gods talk to you, you have gone mad. So again, there is tacit agreement that, clinical cases aside, in this ‘personal relationship’ the other side has never, ever, responded. And yet these people call it a personal relationship.

So why are they doing it? Pompous self-importance perhaps. Trying to impress the easily impressed probably. In many cases, they have been told this idiocy by other believers – and repeat it now in vain hope that if they say it often enough they would someday believe it themselves.

Just sad.