The Skeptic's Guide to The Universe

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chapter Eleven; MORALITY AND MANKIND part forty-one

While it it's not as big issue using some of the moral teachings of the Bible to guide your life, it is nothing but a delusion to believe the stories of the Old and New Testament are based upon reality and science. I may not be able to convince the devout followers to abandon their faith in the fairy stories of the ancients and become and atheist as I am but I may be able to convince some moderate followers to see the wonders of nature and live their life for what we know and maybe get them to learn more about the wonderful Universe we live in.

From the Clovis civilizations museum near Portales, NM operated by the Eastern New Mexico University shows some actual artifacts from the items discovered of the Paleo-American civilizations and also has models of the dug out housing used by the people at that time. The ancient Clovis civilization is said to have roamed the Eastern plains in North America in search of Mammoth and Bison for food and other societal uses from 13,500 years ago. The artifacts found in the museum have been studied and sent to experts all over the country and world to help in the accurate understanding of the prehistoric Americans.

In a recent trip to New Mexico I was fortunate enough to visit the Eastern New Mexico University exhibit of the Blackwater Draw National Archaeological Site documenting the Clovis and Folsom civilizations. Near Portales, New Mexico there is an excavation site that was discovered in 1929 by Ridgely Whiteman of Clovis, New Mexico. At this site many bones and artifacts of ancient Paleo-American people and animals were found. These include discoveries of such extinct animals as the dire wolf, mammoths, giant ground sloths, American camels and horses, giant armadillos, American lion as well as the remnants of items left behind by the people living in this area for more than 13,000 years ago. It is hard not to see things like this as inspiring to myself and anyone else who may view the skills of our ancient ancestors. Knowing that my ancestors were able to adapt and use their environment to suit their need to survive so many thousands of years ago. The evidence is so overwhelming and pervasive, yet this small museum seems to have very little traffic through it. It is inconspicuously placed at the far end of a highway rest stop. Just waiting for the knowledge of its amazing artifacts to get seen by people. And those visitors learn about the people that lived in America before the time of the ancient Greeks, Phoenicians , Egyptians and many other ancient civilizations. We have many artifacts of these early Americans. It would lead one to wonder what keys to social and technical development did these people take or skip to not have grown into a more prominent civilization?

At that time, 13,000 years ago the findings of the Blackwater Draw indicate that the climate was much more humid and wetter with greater vegetation and rain than the climate is now in Eastern New Mexico. Maybe with the plentiful food and water their motivation to make a more advance civilization was not high on the priority list of these people. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” If there is not much to look for to survive then there is not need to advance the civilization. The Middle Eastern Civilizations had scarcity of food and water so they had to create a hierarchy of who would rule and how. So this is just my hypothesis of why the civilizations didn't advance as fast as the Middle Eastern ones. I use the word “advance” selectively as we really have no idea of the cultural advancements of this race and what knowledge they may have possessed. There is not a written record of their society.
This archaeological site and museum is well worth visiting if you ever find yourself out in the area. It is not just my recommendation but, “The Carnegie Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Academy of Natural Sciences, National Science Foundation, United States National Museum, National Geographic Society and more than a dozen major universities either have funded or participated in research at Blackwater Draw National Archaeological Site.”

This hole is a 11,000 year old hand dug well near Portales, New Mexico dug by the Clovis people of ancient America. At this time there were many megafauna that lived in America including the Mammoth. This well is older than what most of the young Earth supporters believe that the age of the entire Universe is younger than this whole in eastern New Mexico. This well is at the Blackwater Draw National Archaeological Site.

I would conclude that the people that believe in a creator and a young Earth either have to discount the evidence of these findings or somehow believe that they are less than 6000 years old. It is true that the same physical evidence can reveal different ideas of what it is and what it means. But even if I accepted their young Earth age, the evidence of these amazing animals is proof for substantial change in just a few thousand years. The tools of Paleo-American man are found in many of the bones of the animals discovered in the Blackwater Draw Nationals Archaeological Site including Mammoths. Most ID followers will “accept” what they call micro-evolution, and this is clear evidence of it happening on a large scale. The next step is to have them let loose of that ancient time line so they can see how the steps of evolution are in place to fill the steps from 3.5 Billion years back to Today.

I recently read some of the points made by Intelligent Design supporters and have found that most of the points they try to use to express their ideas of “natural implausibility” are usually based upon either ignorance of the material or blatant misrepresentation of written material. One may wish to research into the Dunning-Kruger Effect to help explain the issue of how ignorance helps a person feel smarter then they actually are. One such example is from the book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design by Jonathan Wells, Ph.D. In chapter nine he does a section on DNA which for the most part is really informative and I learned something from it. For one he points out that the ratio of DNA matched pairs are always equal in a gene. So adenine and guanine pair up so the ratio of these two molecules will always be equal and the thymine and cytosine pair up so these molecules will always be in the same ratio. This helps to explain how the DNA will always “seek” out the proper molecule to fill the right spot on the DNA sequence. That was some good basic information that would help a person to understand a little about DNA. Then in the chapter he throws in a quote from Microsoft founder Bill Gates about how DNA is like a computer code but more complex. Again, this point I will gladly concede. Like the sea shell I talked about before the DNA structure has had 3.5 to 4 billion year head start to get the pattern “right or wrong.” With this as a bridge from the basic DNA information he presented, he says references two source that the minimum numbers of genes to make a living cell is 250 genes. Oddly enough when I check the second of his source the it says only ~80 of the 250 genes were viable for life. The gene set was made up of 250 gene pairs but there are ~80 that are represented in all life. I will not try to interpret this any further since I am not a scientist but it is clear to me that Wells is being intellectually dishonest in his presentation of other people's work in his book. His thesis is that if a single cell needs at least 250 genes for the life process to happen that there is not enough time in the known Universe for this sequence to develop. And the conclusion is that the “information in DNA sequence is extremely complex.”

Wells fails to point out the cause and effect relationship for this conclusion. He also fails to use what time scale he is referring to. Wells also seems to impart some special pleading for the idea of information. Since we live in the Information Age, Wells may be using the popular meaning of that word. This is surely the terminology the Gates was referring to earlier. But in nature, information is any bit of data. It doesn't mean that the information is something created. It just means it exists. The distance from Earth to the Moon is information. The air temperature is another bit of information. How far your holding this book from your eyes is another piece of information. The way DNA matches up with its matched pair is information. But that is information in the sense that we are humans and use information to understand the world. A dog or pig or tree uses information about the world it is living in as well. The science of biology is basically a combination of chemistry and physics and that is the type of information a person must have at least a layman's understanding to understand the natural processes that will support the science that is used to explain the process of natural selection and evolution. The need for water and water itself is universally needed for life, as far as we know, so all life forms on Earth tend to have a mechanism for them to find the things that make them live. Water, some sort of gas for respiration, and for most forms of life, sexual reproduction. The biology of life is simply a matter of chemical and physical ideas coming together to produce life as we know it.

A simple way to look at how a biological process happens is the same as a chemical process. Let's take for instance a portion of gunpowder and we place that power on a table in a circle with enough room that it doesn't burn the powder next to it and we light the end point. When a certain chemical reaction is present, activity occurs. The heat from the flame makes the chemicals in the gunpowder begin an exothermic reaction releasing heat and light. This reaction continues unabated until something acts upon it. Say for instance water. The reaction would stop and would not start back up until the powder was dried or a high temperature was able to restart it.

This reaction is one of a more simple examples of the many many hundreds to thousands to millions that have happen over the period of time to produce the person reading this book today. I am sure you can think of at least a half dozen ways that the thought experiment I described could be different to produce a different result.

FROM: GOD IS NOT GREAT: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

“What believers will do, now that their faith is optional and private and irrelevant, is a matter for them. We should not care as long as they make no further attempt to inculcate religion by any form of coercion.”

Finally, faith answers all questions...with nothing.


2009 was the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin birth and also the 150th anniversary of the publishing of On The Origins of Species In 1859. In The United Kingdom the Royal Mint has issued a commemorative two pound coin with the struck pose of Darwin on the right facing across from a portrayal of chimpanzee. On the front of the coin is, of course, the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The coin is issued in a limited edition and you may be able to order on from the website listed below. xxxvii

I also have a Darwin 2009 t-shirt that I wore the last time I saw Richard Dawkins at Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 14, 2009. I got the t-shirt when I first saw Dawkins at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK on March 6, 2009. It has been good to see so many positive commemorations of the publication of Darwin's pivotal work. I have yet to get the £2 coin from the UK or the £10 pound note. I would like to get them both and have them mounted in a display case. But I digress.

However, when I last saw Dawkins, he mentioned something about the commemoration of the 150th year of On the Origins of Species that intelligent design or creationist Ray Comfort was publishing. This seemed rather odd to me. Ray Comfort has printed the keystone work of Darwin. A person that in almost every thing I have seem him produce is in polar opposition to this work of Darwin and evolution. Not to mention the scientific method as well.

The book has a nice cover on it and has a beautiful picture of Darwin on it. It says it is a 150th anniversary issue of the book and at the bottom it says with a special introduction by Ray Comfort. I find this odd but I have not yet read Mr. Comfort's text so I will not comment on that. But what I will say is that Comfort has took ever opportunity he possible can to try to make evolution seem less than factual. The ID advocate has failed in every example he has tried. I am not sure if Comfort is actually convince by these stories he is telling or that he doesn't understand the basic concepts of the science involved in the continual support of the Theory of Evolution or if he really is mentally sick and needs medication, what ever the reason it has clouded his ability to reason and process factual information. It is strange that the person that is one of the most opposed to the ideas and concepts of Darwin's natural selection would spend the money and time to publish the book, according to his website, word for word with only an addition to the beginning of the book.

Adding his comment to the beginning of the book may be to keep Comfort from actually reading the work Darwin put out 150 years ago. I have a feeling there are not going to be many reference such as “refer to page such and such for an example”. But I may be wrong about that. It seems a diluted mind never goes to waste. When the launch date for the book was set on April 22, 2010, I went to Washington University to try to get my hands on the free book. I figured I should be able to have one just as much as the other people around there. But after several contacts in the biological sciences I found out that the book had been distributed the day before, ahead of the announced date for the distribution to occur. Seems that Ray Comfort was willing to add his words to Darwin’s work but was not willing to keep his word to the public as to when the books would be passed out.

Coming Next Time;


Sunday, November 14, 2010


When addressing some of the issues of the fundamentalist view of evolution it is important to identify some key words that they use to try to vilify reasonable scientists and educated people that understand the concepts of evolution and natural selection. From the way the word is used by the intelligent design side it seems that the word “Darwinism” is meant to describe the “believers” in the Theory of Evolution to make it seem more like a radical belief such as astrology or paganism. It is clearly viewed as a philosophical belief instead of an area of fact such as electric theory and thermodynamics. To the Intelligent Design camp, believing in Darwinism is presented as a de facto religious belief. However they would not, for the most part, say that people that believe in the ideas and principles of plumbing to be “Plumbists.”
Words such as Darwinism, Darwinist, Evolutionism, and Evolutionists are used as hot button words to vilify the above groups. Not so much to the groups they are trying to attack but to their base supporters. Such as, These are not scientists, they are Darwinists. The truth of the matter is these are the types of general and specific attacks that the Intelligent design people use in order to motivate their base.
I will be the first to say that many of these people are indeed well educated and speak well about what they present. But unlike myself another reasonable people they are not prepared to have the basis of their views challenged. I have attended and watched several of the debates between Evolution and Intelligent Design. The strength of their attacks is usually in areas where science is not complete or the rehashing of previously discredited models and theories. Just as in any area of discipline there are those that either through poor methods or personal glory will use their position to advance their career. This is the same with those that have been involved in evolutionary research. Rightly so these persons should be exposed for the results they produce. By the same turn the methods of the Intelligent Design camp must be equally willing to lay behind the failed ideas of their ideas when a more sound set of scientific data comes around. The ID adherents will fight tooth and nail to keep their core ideas when the credible scientific facts are placed in front of the ID points. When this happens in the scientific community the result is not a failure of the model just a failure of procedure or ethics. Evolutionary researchers are often the most vocal and first ones to point out faulty research.
This is one reason that ID supporters are able to use the names of prominent evolutionary biologist in trying to support their ID case. They will take the quotes of scientists in the field and use them to show why sample or example XY or Z is not right. The reasonable point of this is to show weakness in the scientific processes and highlighting other discredited scientific mistakes then move on to other models that follow the predictive nature of the existing data. But by failing to offer reasonable models for the existing datum ID supporters only hope to show that the scientific community is trying to use fraud and subterfuge to support otherwise sound scientific methods. Also, many of the attacks on Evolution are not on the science itself but how supporters of ID and creationism have been treated by the legal and scientific community. Failure to offer both “sides” in the public classroom, referring to polls that show many Americans think that a “balanced” presentation of the two sides is fair. But I am sure if you asked the same Americans if Astrology should be given equal time as Astronomy or Alchemy should be given equal time in Chemistry class they would say it has no place in a classroom of science. Do you teach the “Flintstone” method of auto mechanics or the Icarus method of flight design in aerodynamics classes? Of course not and you don't teach the six day creation of Earth in the Biology class.
To the Intelligent Design supporters the debate between the two areas of thought is a chess game. The one that has the points wins. They will site public opinion polls and statements from scientist taken out of context and quotes from prominent persons that are not scientists. Other is trying to use “common sense” allegories to support their ideas such as the “irreducibly complex eye” and the bacterium flagellum, the “irreducibly complex wing and so on and so forth. Just a few highlights on the points I brought up are the eye at 95% productivity is much better then an eye at 50% productivity but both are useful to the animal that has them. Because both are better then 0% productivity of an eye. Concerning the wing. There are many aves that are flightless. I think that is all that needs to be said about that. Their argument implies a purpose of the wing. Humans are the ones that assign purpose not natural selection.
But science doesn't operate that way. Public opinion polls do not produce scientific results and should never be used to determine scientific procedures or results. If all the people on Earth still believed that the Sun rotated around the Earth it still wouldn't make it so. If every scientist was to support the ideas of ID, as some do, it still wouldn't change the facts of evolution. These are truly two different playing fields. Surely they wouldn't have the same views for the efficacy of immunizations and advancements in treatments for disease and and other accepted medical areas. Nor would they question the concepts of computing and electronics that make their life what it is Today. Surely they wouldn't argue against the use of engines and motors for transportation. For the most part these things do not conflict with their world view through their belief system. But when it comes to the evidence of Evolutionary Biology they feel threatened because their view of what life means and why we are here is called into question. They look at it this way, “if the Theory of Evolution is true then my belief system is flawed or even none existence.” But the same scientific principles that the ID supporters accept lead to the answers that Biology and Astronomy, Geology, and other areas of science use to come up with the answers that the ID people use to attack in their challenges.
For the most part the ID supporters do not want answers to these questions. There really is no need for them. They find their answers in their scared book. To the ID supporters, the Bible is a book of science as well as a book of religion. While ID supporters will work hard to find areas of weakness of Evolution they will exercise no effort show how a supernatural action is possible. The will use public opinion and try to use the political process to get their points of view in place in the public schools. Then when scientific discoveries are found that have a vague reference to support their religious view they will use these to shore up their sinking claims of a supernatural creation. Scientific ideas such as Quantum Physics and “the god gene” are a few of the areas that ID supporters will try to twist into their world view.
ID supporters will freely set aside the laws of Physics and other natural laws in which all nature have been shown to follow and conclude that the answers that fall outside the area of acceptable answers, such as the Earth being more than 6000+ years old are not in violation of the laws of nature since a creator is free to operate in any way it sees fit. So what they are saying is that if there is a creator or intelligence behind The Universe that this creator is free to deceive the entire Universe for his own purpose, however they offer no sound natural evidence of this ever happening or how it could happen. Basically they will examine the light from a star or galaxy and the spectrum will show a predictable redshift which the distance can be calculated using a standard formula. When the answer is 7000 light years or greater the ID believer must say from that point and older that the creator is just messing with us but everything up to that point is alright. This is a principle I would love to apply to my financial situation. “I am sorry, Sir you don't have anymore money left.” “No I am not broke I actually have millions of dollars but you just can't see them. But I sure do have them. I just imagine them like I do and they are there ready to spend.”
Recently I saw a set of questions that are suppose to support a creator. It dealt with DNA and the coded sequence. The point asserts that a DNA sequence is a “code” and that a code must be created for it to be a code. This is a misnomer as a definition. It is indeed a code as defined but a code is also the sequence that a snow flake is formed and crystals are formed. Other areas in Physics and chemistry follow similar patterns and codes.
Just because the DNA sequence is an advance molecule and behaves according to an predetermined pattern doesn't mean that the code is anything but a naturally occurring phenomenon. ID supporters look at a naturally occurring pattern and say this must have been created just like a computer code or music written for a song. But they misunderstand the idea of patterns and repetition in nature. One of the most clear examples is that of gravity. In nature, gravity works to hold matter together as it accumulate more matter together. One of the results of this is that celestial bodies gain and spherical form as they gain mass. That is why as a planet or start gains mass we see it as round. Of course even with gravity it takes a certain amount of mass to produce the spherical appearance that we are most familiar with. Objects such as asteroids may not have sufficient mass to have gravity form them into a sphere or other forces may have been at work on them such as collisions with other bodies. This is just one area where natural forces act according to a predictive set of laws discovered by man. The predictive nature of science is the key to which science subscribe and is a bedrock of the experimentation and discoveries that scientists from all over the world depend to make their work possible.
If we lived in a dynamic universe that the rules of Chemistry and Physics were ever changing it would be impossible to operate any equipment or depend on the purpose of medication with any known reliability. But we are able to make predictions of how things work and with this we can work to figure out how things operate in the natural world.
ID supporters will look at the way the universe is and say this is why things are this way because God made them like that. Douglas Adams addressed this many years ago with the water puddle story.i This puddle looks at its world and see how well this hole fits it. It says to itself, Wow, this is a really perfect world look how well this how fits me. It is almost as if the hole was made just for me. As a matter of fact it fits me so well the only way I could fit in it is if it was made for me. As the day goes on the Sun looms higher in the sky and the water evaporates and the holes shrinks. But even as this happens the puddle thinks I know I am special because I have been designed and this hole was made just for me. Surely my creator will save me.
But surely as the day continues, with the Sun shining brightly, the puddle dries up and the puddles last “thought” was, “Oops.”
What I am getting to with this is that the ID people look at how the balance of the orbit of the planet and the ratio of biological chemistry makes this the “perfect” place for life to be on.
To this I have little to say but, “No shit Sherlock.”
You know you go out to the mountains you will see up on the hillside homes made of logs with stilts and other material around the area that makes it work. If you go to the desert you will see building made of concrete, rocks or even adobe bricks. Guess what? These materials are abundant there. Same goes for the Caribbean Sea you will see homes made of palm trees and palm leaves. If life was not possible on Earth I wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't be reading it. We know that life is possible on Earth because we are proof of it. Not because we are a special creation of a supernatural carpenter. We happen to fit in the right spot at the right time. What this means is, as rare as life may or may not be, Earth was in the right spot at the right time.
If someone wins the lottery it isn't because of all the other times they played that they won it was the time they played that their numbers came up. Though some winners might disagree. Random chance, physical and chemical forces are the “creator” of life on Earth. In a very real sense, Being alive is one of the Universes greatest payoffs. Without us to see the magnificent Universe around us how would we know about the wonders of the world or the amazing worlds in out solar system. We are the only ones to know about the black holes, nebula clouds, quasars and the cosmic dust of the stellar nurseries.
To me this is an amazing thing to know. Of course, it would be nice to live forever and have peace and harmony among all peoples but if you can't get that at least the real world is pretty wonderful to the point of far overshadowing the make believe worlds of man. When it comes to the promises of God and the promise of tomorrow in the Universe, I take the Universe anytime. Yet as much as 45% or Americans still believe in the literal story from the Bible of how life began in the Universe. When you consider the other portion that feel a supernatural entity had some bearing on the way things are in the Universe the numbers that hold to a totally natural method of universal existence are anywhere from eight to fourteen percent. The concept of a outside influence seems to strong yet is so lacking in fact that anyone that would take the time to look at the cause and effects reason for evolutionary biologist to reach their conclusions would be force to abandon all or at least most ideas of anything supernatural influence on the natural universe.
A point of order I would like to bring to the front now. It is not that the people that understand biological evolution have all the answers, just as the studies of cosmological astronomy have found areas of correction over the decades. Things can change and discoveries can be made. Remember, Pluto is no longer a planet anymore, its a dwarf planet. But the most reasonable conclusions are not found in a ancient book of epic stories and drama, but in the halls of science. It can and has been said that it is much more easy to follow an unchallenged and simplistic dogma where one can feel a part of a bigger picture AND feel to possess a unique knowledge that others lack than to bother with the laborious idea of learning. This leads to the view that, “Everyone is wrong but us.” perspective. I have seen people say this over and over again. When I talk to adherents and they bring up a certain point of view special to their faith I will question them with, “You know the Baptists believe this,” or “The Methodists think this,” or the Anglicans believe this.”
The answer is always the same, “Yes, but were are right and they are wrong.” The person may have a Bible verse quote to add, maybe not. They may add a allegoric story. It may just be they feel “we are right” and “they are wrong” and that is it. Even after pointing out a clear example of how their “exception” to the rule is no different that the other adherents “exception” they hold to their unique special knowledge.
Of my more favorite examples of this is concerning baptism. When it comes to Christianity, this is one issue that seems to run through almost all the different denominations. But how it is done is greatly varied. For instance, some of the “older” Christian faiths such as Catholic and Episcopalian, Lutheran and several others say that a baby or child may be baptized even if they are too young to know what is happening to them and what is means. Other Christian faiths say that a person must make a decision to accept Jesus and that getting baptized is something they do after they decide to become a adherent. These are clearly two different perspectives of the same supposed issue. Yet they are still both very different from each other. One a person is not aware of what is happening to them, or really needs to know, the other the person decides when the event will happen to them with their full knowledge of the event.
This is just one part of this crazy act. The second part is how much water is to be used. Again, some feel just getting a persons head wet is enough to make it right and other adherents say you must be submerged totally underwater to be baptized. Again, both quite different actions about an event of the same name coming from the same religion and basically from the same book.
It is not as if, with scientists a person can come to a church that has a certain dogma and say, hey wait a minute we are suppose to be eating whole wheat bread for communion not unleavened bread, or what ever may be served. And show why and then everyone learns that is the correct way. Not at all, many times in history one that would say a thing such as that would end up being arrested, beaten, tortured or murdered. If one was lucky enough to escape such reception to resistance established dogma, they may find themselves founding a denomination of the same religion.
Today, for the most part there is are a few Christian religions that are generally viewed as cults. The best I have been able to find the only two things that makes a cult a cult is a strong central figure to gather around and the number of people that believe in the ideas of the said cult. One exception could be a command from the despotic ruler such as Constantine. Prior to that, Christians were considered a cult by the Romans and Jewish people. Organizations such as Campus Crusade and The Navigators have behavior that can be called cult like. But since they usually adhere to a somewhat generic dogma, it is not viewed with the eyes of suspicion like Jehovah's Witness is or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and other smaller and less well known factions of Christianity. A person never thinks they are in a cult but that tag is usually placed upon them by outside groups. I would guess that a person in a cult for the most part thinks they are doing something really special. With that they might either feel that everyone needs to k now or they have to learn more to become more “spiritual” in their adherence.
Here is an example, Let's say that I have a feeling that the property that others have is not theirs but either mine or “ours” and need a way to convince the others to accept your 'inspired' idea. With the current “respect” or “hands off” treatment religious beliefs have, it would be easy to convince a person that the giving of their property to the group is one good way to show how much God loves you and you love God. Throw in a few Bible verses or even better yet make up a few new ones of your own and soon your be laying in the lap of luxury with hundred or thousands of faithful followers.
Imagine if any one a several prominent atheists or agnostic persons of the recent years were to have a supernatural conversion and leave reason behind. Take Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Denett, Rebecca Watson, Penn Jillette, Matthew Dillahunty, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Bill Mayer, P. Z. Meyers and so on. There is many more to name but here is a short list of persons that if they were to allow ill intent to be there motivation they could make more than likely a much better living spouting religious dogma after having a “conversion” experience of some sort that they could tell people about over and over again punctuated with a call for a move of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people listening to them.
However, I feel rather confident that none of the for mentioned persons or the many persons I have met like them would be able to, in good conscience, to undertake such an endeavor. But believe me, I am sure there are famous person out in the realm of Christian fundamentalism that know the words they speak have no meaning whatsoever other than how often and how loudly they speak them. But their secrets are so closely guarded that even their spouse or friends may not know. It may be a secret that they are unable to share. Even when the reasonable adherents put out books or other media it is almost impossible to overcome the build in bias toward bullshit in the bookstores.
When I purchased Richard Dawkins' book “The Greatest Show on Earth” on September 23, I had to have the person from Hastings bookstore help me locate it. However, if one wanted to find the idiotic books from Glen Beck, Joyce Meyer, Bill O'Reiley or Joel Olsten they were easy to find. They were proudly and prominently displayed in the front of the store or on there own special bookshelf.
As is well documented, James Randi exposed the malicious actions of Peter Popoff in his ministry back in the 1970s and with the help of his friend, Johnny Carson, exposed the charlatan psychic spoon bender Uri Geller. A short search for either one of these persons should reveal the disgraceful way they use people to their own personal benefit, These are just two of the more successful examples of how when a persons actions are held up in the public they loose face and go away forever. But sadly that was not the result of either of those two or ones such as Jimmy Swaggart, Tammy Faye, Robert Tilton, Terry Hornbuckle and countless others that have been disgraced in their ministries only to come back with the same show to get the faithful to hand over their time and money. I look forward to what new ministry Ted Haggard gets into eventually, now that he is cured of homosexuality. But even after these failure of personal conduct that must of their followers and non-believers will never approach the supporters of men and woman like these will say,
Of course, there are those who see all of this upheaval as the work of the enemy. According to Bishop Larry D. McGriff of the Church of the Living God, Pillard Ground and Truth in Dallas, 'The devil doesn't want to see God's work done, so of course he's going to attack the head.'”
It just makes me hit my head when I see comments like that. Which got me to think about why are people so resistant to facts about the failure of people in their religion and the failure of the religion itself. The only answer I could come up with is, education, or the lack there of.
If you ask the typical person what is the value of an education they will say it is priceless or the value cannot be measured. I would disagree with this idea. I would say that education should be free or as cheap as possible. What I mean by this is that a person shouldn't be restricted by the economic factors to educate them since this is one of the most important factors that determine a active civil population. It is a true statement that the basis of understanding of all disciplines have had a erosion of what makes up them different and what applies to which discipline.
The concepts of accounting, language, history, mathematics, grammar, art and science all have reasons that they have certain rules, concepts and procedures based upon facts of logic and reason. Maybe not grammar and art so much but the other disciplines, for the most part you have standard concepts that help the typical student understand what is happening in the subject. The issue with educating the average student is the students think that l earning is hard. The fact is learning is difficult for most students. So the teacher, principal, administrators, school boards continue to make the subjects more easy to pass instead of more east to learn. If one was to take an eight grade math book from the 1930 and compare it to a math book of 2010 it would have many more mathematical concepts with fewer drawings and pictures. Mathematics needs no pictures except for the actual concepts of what is being talked about. It is the place of the book author to give the examples of mathematics or it is it the purpose of the teacher.
I feel the teacher has the primary responsibility for this. But the teachers are a product of a failed system as well. They have been diverted from creative and student based education to having to cram in so much testing material because of “Leave no Child Behind.” From almost every teacher I have talked to about this the LNCB pressure makes the curriculum so rigid that they cannot use the creative models like used to be used only a few years ago. So students are pressured to produce the right answers instead of understanding the disciplines concepts. While getting answers are good, if one understand concepts they can gain the knowledge with continued work.
So we are getting a generation that just wants the answer. Getting things done in a day or hour or half-hour is the time table that most of us are becoming accustomed to. So why should a student spend anything to learn the process of how language and grammar can affect meaning and context of stories. Without knowing that there is a reliable process of determining the distance of an object in the sky by the light that is reflected from it, how can they understand that processes on Earth can occur within that same time frame. Of course, education cannot be done for free and the job that teachers do is important for us all. It is when outside agents such as government and union pressures try to gain control of the students and teachers it is only a lose-lose situation.
The result is higher costs and lower knowledge gained. To be honest I would rather have a student that understands the concepts and principles of a subjects but has trouble with the details over someone that is able to determine the right answers without knowing why the answers are what they are. Without this understanding, the students are graduated to the population reading and willing to accept answers that the “authorities” or “professionals” provide them. Another generation ready to be consumers and accept the cause de jour.


Coming Next Time;


Friday, November 12, 2010


First, ask if they believe if the Old Testament still applies to a Christian Today. This will guide the rest of the discussion. As stated earlier, many fundamentalist state that they think the Bible is free of errors and contradictions. For my purpose and definition I would call “free of errors” as meaning that internally or externally is there anything inconsistent with the or contradictory in the text of the Bible or reflected in reality.
The good thing about this is with the Internet one can research the topics through the quickly. The idea that a person would hold to the view that these Bible stories are perfect and without error can only be defended in the arena of apologetics. This of course it the discipline of making 1+1=3. There is a whole area of religious study with in theological universities where the carefully contrived explanations of the biblical contradictions and errors are explained carefully to allow the faithful the foolish notion that what is clearly in error is actually correct.
One commonly known story from the New Testament is that of the death of Judas. As the story goes Judas, a follower of Jesus, was the Disciple that turned Jesus over to the Roman authorities for him to be judged and face his eventual death. He was asked by the Jewish authorities to reveal which one of the group was the Jesus and Judas worked out a signal that he would kiss Jesus when he greeted him and when the sign was given Jesus found himself arrested and so the story goes on that Jesus was taken before the Romans and then the Jews and then he was taken outside the city of Jerusalem.
Regardless of what the theology or point of view is of the story it is clear that there are two very different things going on in the Bible in Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:18-19. In the story in Matthew, Judas filled with guilt or regret returns the 30 pieces of silver to the Jewish priests and he hung himself. Then the priests bought a potter's field cemetery for foreigners. They didn't find the idea of putting the “blood money” in with the “not so much blood money” treasury.
In the Acts story the death of Judas says Judas himself bought a field and died after falling head long on his stomach and his guts all busted outside.
It is clear that these are not the same story. In one the field was bought by the priests, and other by Judas. In one the money was returned first and the other the money directly bought the field. In one Judas hung himself and in the other he died by falling head long and his bowels gushed out. [I am not sure what medical condition could cause this by the way. But this is another point of contention with the Bible.] What is similar is that Judas was the one that betrayed Jesus and he felt bad later about it then he died and there was a place called the Blood Field.
This one example is enough to show that the Bible is not totally free of errors. But this is only one of many through the Bible. There are factual errors, internal genealogical errors, misquotes and out and out lies. Another one example is the words above Jesus on his cross. This is suppose the sign for the charges against the criminal so others in the population would not make the mistake of doing the same crime and thus find themselves on the cross as well. In Mark it said to read, “King of the Jews.” Luke says the signs reads, “This is the King of the Jews.” In Matthew it quotes the sign as reading, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Finally in John, he says the sign had the words, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Now I have been to many concerts and other events where the place you are sitting or standing can determine what you can see. So maybe the sign was so big that the guys reading it wouldn't have been able to read it all. But it is more likely that the sign is a construct of writers later on that felt that it was important to have a sign on the cross. The only thing that is consistent through out the four quotes is “King of the Jews.” Maybe it was Jesus, maybe the guy was from Nazareth, maybe it was the King of the Jews. We can't really be sure.
There are many of these inconsistencies through out the Bible and I will touch on another one from Genesis. So what came first? Adam or Armadillos? Well if we look at the words of the Bible from Genesis 1:24-27 it looks like God thought that making cattle and creepy animals and all the other animals first then God got around to making man. Seems to me that if man is made in his own image that that particular design would have been the most easy to make. I know that mankind has a long history of making images and contraptions looking like a man or woman. However, God may have been trying to save the best for last. Then again he might have been on a bit of a bender since he was talking to himself. But not to disrespect God for that, I have been known to have discussions with myself. I do realize that I am actually just talking to myself though and not another person with me. But I digress.
The other story of God makin' stuff “in the beginning” is found in Genesis 2:5-7. It seems this time God was in such a hurry to make man he didn't even have time for it to rain yet, but he did make the oceans fill up from a spring coming out of the Earth. Then God scraped up some dust and made man. I guess this is alright since we are all made from star stuff in reality but the spring thing watering all the Earth...Well let's just say, God you have some 'splanin' to do. But to continue, After God made man from the dust of the Earth, God notice that there wasn't anything else on the planet and figured that it would be good for man to have a helper. Well God rolled up his sleeves and got making all types of animals for man for his helper. I can just see it God making all types of animals like a supernatural clown making balloon animals. Then God asks, Hey you, you want an aardvark for your helper? Then God goes all the way through the alphabet getting to the Zebra and still a “no go” with man. It seemed like man was not really thrilled with God's selection of helpers being animals. Then God is just sitting there thinking to himself laying on his stomach and blows on the dust on the ground in front of him and up pops a female. Adam looks and says WHOA MAN! That is how females got the name woman. Not really, but it fits the story. Actually it says that God made woman from Adam's rib. I wonder if that would be smoked or with bar-b-que sauce. Both of the scenarios are equally ridiculous.
Of course, this is the only time that a man gave birth to a person. That just goes to underline some of the basic sexist point of views that this and most religions have toward woman. In order to make woman subjected to man this stupid story of woman being birth from a man's rib had to be concocted. That took a divine surgery for it to happen. It must have been a result of stem cell research. But as it happens again these two methods are very different from one another.
In one man was made first, then all the animals. In the other, man was made after all the animals were made. In one animals were made from the dust of the Earth and on the other version it must have slipped the writer's mind about what the animals were made of. In one version man and woman were made at the same time and in the other woman was second and came out of man. Again these are not small areas of discrepancies but fully contradictory stories of an event. To be totally honest they are so divergent that with one you can promote the equality of woman and with the other the subservience of woman. These are more than mere grammatical errors and have far reaching influence for those that may be an adherent to them. Plus both are equally ridiculous.
If you wish to find more of these many areas in the Bible there are several website that can provide many additional examples and discussions can take place with those that think the Bible is still consistent. One is the website This website has apologists comments, so you can read for yourself the way they try to twist and turn the written words of the Bible to fit into the adherents supernatural World view of nature.
The reason why showing that the Bible isn't the the handwritten, direct, inspired word of God is because there are so many people that try to use it to support their views on so many issues. These range from homosexuality, stem cell research, separation of church and state, gender equality, education curriculum, evolution, foreign policy, race relations, health and welfare issues and many more. If a person can turn from seeing the Bible as the divinely inspired Word of God to a moral book of ancient stories it will save lives and help people gain respect for their fellow man and woman. Do we really need a God to teach us how to do good? No. But it seems damn certain that you need a God to make people to gather to do wrong to their fellow man. It has been said before and will be said again that religion makes it adherents that would normally not do harm to their fellow man but do it willingly and encourage others to follow suit.

Coming Next Time;


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chapter Nine; MY TEAM COMES TO PLAY part thirty-six

Of course I would insist that any course on world religion or religion in general have a section on atheists. It is clear that the atheist community has something to say about a great many number of subjects. Everything from climate change to fair housing, political corruption, good business policies, how the wars are being conducted, public funding of religious based organizations, equal rights for all Americans and so forth.
Keep in mind that while many atheists may actually take interest and have views on these and a great many more subjects the views held can be quite diverse. In Sam Harris' book The End of Faith, he makes great points about good reasons to minimize the influence of religion and why it should be minimized as much as possible. He spends a great deal of time dealing directly with Christianity, Islam and touching on Judaism and other faiths. But near the end of the book where he is trying to make his case for ending faith he slips out of the garden and begins trying really hard to justify a form of mysticism that separates the Conscience and objective awareness and the duality nature of our conscience existence.
I feel that Harris is either trying to hard to tie in a eastern philosophical view or exert his belief in some sort of a mystic world. While Harris went to some great lengths to try to make the connection to human happiness at the end of the book but he fails to make the step by step link cited in his book that, “spiritual experience, ethical behavior and strong communities are essential for human happiness.”
I would say that to a degree I found this distressing as he seemed to be endorsing a version of a spiritual nature possibility a forum of Buddhism. This however seemed to be the point of his book since he ends the main section of the book with his title. I would have to conclude that the end of faith would lead to a spiritual nature.
This is an example for me that atheists can agree with one another most of the time but have serious disagreements about other subjects. I thank Harris greatly for his book as it has done much for promoting a positive and a more concise view to the general public of what many atheist see as what is wrong with religion and why religious adherents can be use to hid more radical beliefs within the same general belief system. While the typical Methodist may disagree with abortion, it was that religious protection afford to the more radical Christian groups such and Operation Rescue and others that led a person like Scott Roeder to shoot and kill Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas while Tiller served as an usher at his Lutheran church. Roeder's radical views found a home in the radicalism of such organizations though I understand that he was almost universally condemned by even the abortion opponents. At least at the time. If some fellow Christian was to come against the views of Roeder, Roeder's defense could be something as simple as, “You don't understand what god wants to happen to Tiller.”
Statements like this in a religious context cannot be disputed. Yet I continue to be amazed by the religious adherents who will over and over again say that “they” are the only ones that has the “truth.” I would not expect to hear this if I was to speak about my objections to Harris' conclusion as I mentioned earlier. I feel as reasonable people Harris would at least attempt to listen to my reasons for disagreeing with him until he either determined I had no knowledge or comprehension of what he was talking about or he was able to see my perspective or some other alternative. Many believers also feel that if they were to loose their faith that they would have been a fool for all their life in which they based their actions upon their religion. I can see this but it brings to mind a story I heard where a researcher into some concept made a discovery breakthrough and when he did the presentation of the concept one professor that had been looking into an alternative view for several decades stood up in the audience and told him that he was thankful to him for reveling the errors of his ways. Then the professor led the applause for the presenter. I use this example to show that having accurate information is the goal of the rational thinker. While to the adherent, faith is the goal. So to destroy the faith is to destroy their world.
That is one great advantage to being a skeptic vis-a-vis an atheist. Disagreeing with each other and vigorous debate is a keystone of education and knowledge. But the acquisition of new reality based knowledge in religions either causes them to split, have war, or modify into a new belief system to accommodate the new reality. Believers that are convinced by themselves or by others that the actions they take in the name of their religion are right in spite of how they cause harm to their fellow man will stop at nothing to reach their goals. The actions that require one to have faith, rule out reason as faith rules out science. After all, “God” cannot have his followers second guess their actions or purposes with reason, logic, facts and science.
According the the book Atheists, Atheists are much more likely to support causes that have nothing to do with their belief system when it indicates an injustice. An atheist is also a more honest person than a person which holds dogmatic beliefs or are of a right wing mentality. There were other somewhat surprising but somewhat confirming results in the book that show atheists not only to be more honest and more self aware of the state of their behavior and mental state but are also more critical of people that both share and do not share their opinions. I would have to contend that this is in of itself a good definition of being a skeptic. If only the adherents in the religions were able to or encouraged to question those that provide the answers openly instead of having the same dogmatic message yelled into their brains or chanted week after week until they are mind numbed, we might have a much more peaceful and advance planet to live on. To wrap up this section I would like to just add;

Coming Next Time;

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chapter Eight; WHO IS ON YOUR TEAM? part thirty-five

So the top four areas of faith or lack there of, cover about 5 billion people. These are the best teams humanity has to offer for our posterity. To bad we cannot have head to head contest and the winners get the other adherents followers. A sort of “World Series of Belief”. Not so much to count numbers but to be educated in the others religion and judge it on its own merits.
Stephen Prothero in his book Religious Literacy makes the case for religion to be taught in the public schools. I agree fully with Prothero about this point and the benefit would be great to the civil mindedness of the common student. Imagine a person not getting upset because a person wears different clothes or dresses in a particular way because they realize that they may have a different but socially important belief system.
To me, the most important class on religion and World religions would be one on the effectiveness of prayer and miracles. Education in these two ares could help reduce the violence and prejudice between two groups from the beginning. Not only would this take the mystery and distrust out of religions that a person may not be familiar with but it would also give them equal footing in the discussion of relevance. This curriculum would have to be well made as to present it from a secular point of view. That is the only secular purpose that the government could have in this education. My hope would be to educate the religion out of someone.
The big mega-churches in the community would have their dogma reduced down to educational packets the same as the smaller groups of adherents. And at least while in the secular school, all things would be equal. And to me this would mean a diminishing of all of them because what would then be the most important is the education and knowledge of such things not the adherence to the beliefs themselves.
But Prothero makes several other good points for the teaching of a religious class in public school. There is much from our culture and literature that is based upon the stories and teachings in the Bible. Questions such as:
Who wrote the writing on the wall?
Who was Noah's wife?
Where does the phrase “go the extra mile come from?
What does, “From Dan to Bathsheba” mean?
What are the 10 Commandments?
What is the Golden Rule?

These are just a few from the numerous references of the literary aspect of the Bible. There are also from other religions and tribal beliefs that an education in religion would be helpful for.
The whole idea of learning about other religions is like learning the rules of the game. In order to be a fan or to play a sport you first must know the rules and goals of the sports. I see a good secular education in world religions to be similar to that. You are not learning just about your favorite team. You learn about them on your own effect but your learning about the other teams they may play against. It would be foolish to not have some clue about the team your favorite is getting ready to play. After all, before every game the commentators take time to highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of the match up and then let the two teams play it out on the field of play where the rules govern how the winner is decided.

Coming Next Time;

MY TEAM COMES TO PLAY part thirty-six

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chapter Eight; WRAPPING UP THE TOP TEAMS part thirty-four

The fourth largest group of adherents are the Hindu. Most of these adherents are from the India and Asian subcontinent. I have a visited a lot of hotels around the country and it seems like most of the Indian Hindu run these hotels. Oddly enough they all seem to have the last name “Patel”. I am not sure what it is about their religion or culture that attracts them to the hotel business but they do, indeed, seem to have an attraction for it.
After the Hindu, the rest of the World's adherents are far and wide but number under a billion and are spread across the planet. This area includes everyone to Norse Gods worshipers to indigenous beliefs, to Pagans and Jewish and Satanist and all the other Wide World of Faith.
When it comes to changes in religious belief, it isn't Jesus that defeated Zeus in The Colosseum to take over the Roman Empire. Jesus didn't defeat Thor in Sweden. It wasn't the Bedouin tribal religions that Muhammad destroyed but it was the followers of their teachings that converted by freewill or by force to change those nations into the followers they have now.
It has always seemed odd to me, even as a devout follower that if God is all knowing and all powerful and everywhere all the time, why would he ever need men to fight on his behalf? It seems really a sign of weakness on God's part. I guess if your using the team concept you could say that God is paying the players to play. But that does reduce the all powerful aspect of God and Allah too to just a rich team owner. But it could lend credence to the “money is power” saying. My view now is if your God is not powerful to do whatever you think he should do to me or others on his own then you need to change your God. Or at least reevaluate how powerful said god really is.
What is a god that wants or needs anything? It seems though he always wants money and your time and your thoughts and your clothing and your children and your anger and joy and all those things like he isn't God already. Imagine if you walked into work and you have a nice letter laying on your desk and it had your name written in gold calligraphy. You open the letter and it tells you that you have been promoted to God. I would be pretty happy myself. None of this silly fighting about which piece of dirt is the best or what to eat. I would just will it to happen and then we would all live in peace.
But maybe God doesn't like peace or isn't really able to cause it to happen. I know for my team, they like peace but they generally are not too powerful to make it happen. Seems there are to many adherents willing to do the work that their deity should be doing while they should just be marveling in his awesome power. This is actually a good point from the teaching of Jesus, “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.”

Chapter Eight; BELIEVE WHAT? part thirty-three

Growing fast and coming in third world wide is the section of non-adherents or unbelievers. This of course would be the most diverse group of all. I would also argue the only naturally occurring group that a person is able to reach without any outside influence. That is to say that being a unbeliever takes no more effort than just looking at how the world operates and rejecting what ever the dominate system of belief is.
As of this time, I am not aware of what could be called of a “Great Awakening” of unbelief or reason. I don't think it would be wrong to say that during the Cold War many Americans gained trust in the wonders of science. The space program and the build up of the military industrialized complex brought more Americans into the modern age with high skilled jobs. The idea of reaching the stars and using modern science and technology seemed to be the path for the future.
But with every great movement, there comes and end. With the age of science things such as the Vietnam War and The War on Poverty and Watergate began to turn people from anticipating what science would do next to, What is science going to do next?
In the 70's as people turned away from the marvels of science they turned to the old standards of religion again. Many of these new movements were away from the mainline denominations and more of the fundamentalist and or pentecostal type of movements. The movements generally brought the new adherents into new feel good churches where the preaching of people like Pat Roberts, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, was mirrored in the pulpits. Give to the cult of personality and God will provide all your needs. Thanks to the over the top antics of many of theses and other “evangelists” many of the followers stopped following them.
But in the mean time the religious center of America had been pulled to the right by these televangelist. So while the numbers of Americans that describe themselves as non-believers or agnostic or atheist has gone up in the past few years the center of America's religious identity has moved further to the right. What this shows is that while non-adherents are at an all time high, the believers are even more uneducated in their very own religion. Many of the people that are members of the Northern Oklahoma Freethinkers have stated that they were Christians until they began to read the Bible. So I always encourage people to study their Bible. It seems to be a good way for someone to leave their faith behind.
So worldwide adherents or non-adherents is about 1.1 billion people. Maybe that number will continue to grow in the United States and around the World.

Coming Next Time;

WRAPPING UP THE TOP TEAMS part thirty-four

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chapter Eight; THE BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD part thirty-two

Without a doubt Christianity is the largest team in the world. God has so blessed this religion that it can now be represented by hundreds of dogmatic denominations. Spanning from The Russian Orthodox Church to Shakers to Jehovah Witness to Episcopal to Westboro Baptist Church and all the variation in between. According to the website Christianity makes up about 2.1 billion of the planets population.
Coming in at number two, but gaining fans fast, is the religion of Islam. They are made up of a bit more cohesive group since the only way you can really understand it is to learn a 1400 plus year old language that is suppose to be God's special way he talks to the rest of the billions of people on the planet. [ Just an aside, It seems God would have wrote this in the most commonly used language in the World. Or at least did it in multiple languages at the same time.] I am sure that what we call English did not even exist that long ago.
This in of itself brings in difficulties with the words of The Qur'an. First the mere concept of using words to transmit meaning to other humans is one of the poorer methods that can be used. The closer a person is to the person talking to them the more likely they are to understand the words that are being told to them. Face to face discussions are the best. And we all know how bad those can be. But they help to see the facial expressions of the person plus you can ask questions to make sure the message is received properly. Next would be a visual or recorded message. Again the receiver of the message would be able to see the facial expressions of the person speaking but not ask questions of them.
Other better ways of communication than text include the phone, audio messages and pictures. All of these have advantages over simple text communications. Most people have experienced the situation when reading a message and having to ask the person that wrote the note to help decipher the message. That is just a level one transmission of a message. Imagine how much more chances for errors in understanding as the distance from the person creating the message increases in both space and time to the reader. Of course this is an allegorical example but one that we know for certain is that through time words develop more and different meanings. My own language, English, would not be at all recognizable to me as not only did the words have different meanings but the characters to write the words used a different alphabet at that time. English started out using a runic alphabet. At the time Muhammad was getting his dictation lessons from the Angel Gabriel anything written in what we would call English would be mostly unreadable to Today's readers. For an example try reading Beowulf in the original form.
So this is one area that the users of Arabic have an handicap with and hence with The Qur'an itself. Common sense would indicate the passage of time would change the words and meanings of words from the original text. Even if this text was kept as accurate as possible. The passage of time would lead readers of The Qur'an to have a more modern and hence different meanings of this work of ancient literature. One could argue that if this message was so important to have accurate for all time for the salvation of humanity, the best way to do it would be in the age of modern media where much more than written text could be used to enhance and help make the message truly timeless and clear. After all, an all powerful God should be able to save people that have already died too. No need to risk getting the message wrong by the silly humans that God created. This way God could really be his own man and run the whole production of the message from start to finish.
Anyway, the Muslims have their own sects and divisions as well but due to the language thing it keeps them a bit more on track than Christianity. But even with that in mind there are more than a dozen dialects of Arabic. Some of these speakers are not able to converse with one another while speaking the same language. That would be as if talking to a person from England couldn't understand the English that a person from Texas or South Africa was speaking. But if you wondered how one becomes a Muslim all you have to do is say; “There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet.” Oh, I think you have to say it in Arabic for it to really count though.
Some of the more common division in Islam include the Shiite and Sunnis. From there you have divisions that include Al-Quada, Hamas, Sufis, Druze and other religious and political Islamic groups.
This group is indeed a go getter when they take the field. They have a special way of governing where they can get enough control to be a government. They invoke sharia law. This special law would be like Christians going back to the Old Testament and carrying out the laws of Leviticus and the rest of the Old Testament. There team believes that Allah is so worried that his faithful male followers are so unable to control their minds when it comes to women that he must have all woman that wish to avoid being raped cover up themselves from head to toe except for their eyes and hands and feet.
I don't know about how powerful Allah is but I have been reading his book and it seems to say he is pretty strong. One would think that a God that can assure 40 to 72 virgins after you die for him would have no problem having his male followers control themselves around women that are naked or any other level of clothing off or on. I wouldn't think that Allah would let that slip his mind when making his literary masterpiece in the desert with the Angel Gabriel.
But on this team uniforms are very important, one would go as far to say life and death for the women that subject to the dogma of Islam. I am not sure if there is a certain color they have to be but I have seen both light blue and black. I would think the Detroit Lions would fit in well with this color scheme. This particular religion is such a slave to fashion, or lack there of, will even hold women that are not from their religion to the same insane standards as the woman that believe in their religion. (See the section DOES ALLAH REALLY CARE? REALLY? in part twenty-seven.)
So the Muslin world has about 1.1 billion to 1.5 billion adherents around the world. Most, of course, are in the Middle East. They also have a large number of adherents in southwest Asia and growing across Europe also. Islam adherents want to have the entire world either become adherents or die. At least their goals are clear enough. Of course this comes at different levels of fortitude of the adherents themselves. But The Qur'an teaches that the eventual position of the infidel is to convert or submit to Islam. The unbeliever is not highly regarded in the religion of Islam. 

Coming Next Time:

BELIEVE WHAT? part thirty-three

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chapter Eight; SPORTS AND RELIGION part thirty-one

This section is not the review of how so many sports heroes choose to solicit God's favor on their athletic endeavors but how who or what sports you choose to support has much to do with the same processes that one will select their religion. There has been many books and articles about that phenomenon. What I am referring to is the phenomenon of how who and what sport and/or team a person likes is very similarly wired as that in which we pick and support our favorite athletics events.
No one would argue with a person from Tyngsboro, Massachusetts that they are fans of the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins or Red Sox. However, if you were seen around town wearing a Yankees' jersey you might have a mild to serious confrontation. This is plainly understood as being from Massachusetts and the New England area that your going to support the team that represents your area locally.
But how reasonable is something like this to believe in? If one was to look at the rosters of most of the players of the teams you would find that most of them are not from your local area or attended college in that region. So really the support from the team is not so much the players themselves but from the employer that is able to hire them to work for your local team.
Because of this, it is easy to see that adherence to a sports team is largely due to where a person is born or raised or has some other intrinsic or intangible connection to the team. These connections can be anything from meeting a person when they were in high school or college or knowing someone in their family or being from the same state or town as the athlete. The possible reasons for liking a team or player is about is endless as there are fans of sports.
Sports fans are indeed fanatical and have strong views and opinions of what they think about their team and the teams that play them. We have seen on television and in person fans dressed to expressed their devotion to the team. Though these fans are fanatical, it would not be reasonable for a fan to say their team won even if the team had been clearly beaten. To this, alas, there are exceptions. But for the most part the fanatical adherence to the team is in spite of “win or lose” not because of it. Just ask any Cubs fan.
So when opposing sports fans come together the idea is not to change the mind of the fan to cheer or support your team but to have that fan's team defeated on the field of competition. If the end of the season each teams fans had converted to the winning teams by the end of most seasons logically there would be only one fan base and the other teams would be without support.
This is very similar to how religion works. For the most part we are “fans” of the religion that is dominate in our region. In The South it may be The Southern Baptist church. In the north it may be Catholic Church, out in Idaho and Utah it might me Mormon. In some states being Lutheran or Methodist may be the most popular selection for most people to be “fans” of the local religion. But unlike sports there are usually no team colors of church heroes like in sports. You do not have 24/7 coverage on TV for particular denominations and churches. Actually there are many of these channels but they are no where as popular as the regular cable sports channels.
But unlike in sports, these religious “teams” do not compete head to head in debate and discussion. In such a competition it would be reasonable to expect people to convert from one faith to another. Unlike with my sports team scenario. This may be why there is a truce in public about discussing levels and ideas of faith and belief of our favorite religious “team”. I can only imagine the Methodists going up against the Mormons in Sunday afternoon competition for souls saved. Winner gets the championship.
Since for the most part people attach an even deeper adherence to issues of faith, it is makes sense that is a person is willing to get into a fight for their sports teams, they would be even more willing to attack a person that is attacking their religious belief.
But when their adherence to a religion is viewed as simple geography or other illogical factors it should be a small step to see that if one was born in another part of the world or a different time the deeply held faith that they feel is so important to their lives becomes nothing than rooting for the “home team”.
I guarantee that if children from India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany or Zaire were adopted and raised in the United States that the children would be some sort of Christian adherents by the time they are adults.
So what we really have with the view of the World's religions is the same thing as cheering for your countries soccer team in the World Cup.
  • I like Brazil soccer because I am from Brazil.”
  • I like the St. Louis Cardinals because I am from St. Louis.”
  • I am Islamic because I am from Saudi Arabia.”
  • I am Mormon because I am from Idaho.”
  • I am Baptist because my friends are.”
  • I am Jewish because my family is.”
  • I am Pentecostal and I like Joel Osteen and Marlyn Hickey.”
  • I am Hindu because my family is from India.”
  • I am a Christian because I have had a Revelation from Jesus.
Each and everyone of these is a simplification of the adherent but there is just a slight departure from what a person believes to how a person acts. Never would a Christian adherent that lives and works in The United States and has a comfortable life, relatively speaking, would think for a moment that they would ever have a different faith if they would born in a different country or to a different belief of their parents. A person believes their view of God would follow them no matter where on Earth they lived. But the truth is that your view on God is based upon your family and your culture mainly.
Does a boy start attending church because he likes what the pastor says or is his real motivation to meet that new pretty girl that just moved to town? Is the woman attending church because she likes the message or because this is a good place to find a potential mate for her and a step-father for her three year old son?
I was recently told by a old friend of mine that I should find a nice Bible preaching church and find a good godly woman there so I would have a nice social place to call a home. It was said as a statement for my good will and to have something more to my life but it also was saying that going to church is a good place to pick up women.
Oddly, Church is one of the few places where asking a woman out is not seen as out of place but an almost religious action because doing it in the presence of fellow adherents means “God is in the relationship”. One soon has an entire support system set up and will be socializing with other couples either married or dating as well. This is one of the reason why one would go to a certain church and support the “home team” to find a mate.
So is being an adherent really anything more than timing and location?
I am a veteran and served in both the Air Force and the Army. When you join the military you are processed as you enter in. Much as how you are checked out in a grocery store. First come, first serve. SO you go through the processing and travel to where you have your basic training at.
One there depending on when the rest of the people in for your training class arrive you get assigned a transition location and then, finally a training class. Now in the Air Force my Training flight was “Flight 465”. This of course had no meaning to me whatsoever. “Flight” is a subunit of how the units are divided In the Air Force. They taught a mnemonic device to remember what these divisions are: How many new airmen will get sore feet? Which relates to Headquarters USAF, Major Commands, Numbered Air Forces, Air Divisions, Wings, Groups, Squadrons, and Flights. So I knew that a flight was pretty far down on the Air Force structure.
During my time in Basic Training we had various competitions with other flights in the barracks. Things from class test scores to inspections and physical fitness scores. We had a name for our particular flight which I have long since forgot but we painted a symbol of our flight in the flight day room.
The point of this is I very well could have been put in Flight 466 or Flight 464 and so on. But we worked hard because we felt that “Flight 465” itself was the best and we were lucky to be a part of it. Not that we were the total component of the flight and it was what we made it.
These are the sorts of random events that religious adherents usually do not even consider when it comes to the religious faith they hold or why they hold it. The most common answer when I ask a religious adherent why they believe this or that boils down to, “My faith” tells me what I believe is right. If you ask them if they think that they would be a “fill in Christian denomination here” if they lived in India or Indonesia? Inevitably they say, "Of course." So the next question I would ask is, "Why do you think that?" They will usually tell me, "Because God has shown me his truth."
I would like to see this put to the test. After all, someone that is willing to die for their faith is willing to die for nothing. There is a long history in every religion of martyrs. In the Christian religion one of the more famous books is Foxe's Book of Martyrs. I would like to rename that book: Foxe's Book of Suicidal Dogma Adherents. Each and everyone of the persons killed and the ones doing the killing in that book killed for nothing at all. Just an idea of their “team” being the best team and if you disagreed, you will die. Now that is what you call the faithful fans.

Coming Next Time:

THE BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD part thirty-two

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chapter Eight; HUMANIST POINT OF VIEW part thirty

But as I have said before, since non-adherents do not have a dogma we really have no need to meet together or organize. But I have a feeling that will change as we fight through the courts to return our nation to the secular nation that it was founded as. People seem to be tiring of the rules and control of dogma and want to be good peaceful people living with one another. Helping out where we can and staying out of the way when we should. In the past few years many voices of the non-believing nation have began to speak up. Many of these have found a new audience in the Internet and podcasts. But also more gatherings are being organized around the country.
While most Christian Americans have no problem with having beer and liquor sales regulated according to the wishes of the dominate fundamental Christian view, they would be, rightly so, up in arms if the laws of Islam (shirea) were to be introduced as laws in America. Today, Muslim cab drivers in New York City are fighting for the right not to carry a person that has been drinking or carrying unopened alcohol with them. This goes in the face of the “drink responsible” programs that have been promoted across this nation for years.
In Sweden recently, young women are brutally beaten and forcible raped by sick cruel Muslim men that think that just because a women on planet earth doesn't dress the way they think she should she has no rights and is fair game to be sexually assaulted. This issue has gone as far in Sweden at to be called a Muslim rape wave.

From the Assyrian International News Agency dated December 15, 2005:

“In Oslo, Norway, immigrants were involved in two out of three rape charges in 2001. The numbers in Denmark were the same, and even higher in the city of Copenhagen with three out of four rape charges. Sweden has a larger immigrant, including Muslim, population than any other country in northern Europe. The numbers there are likely to be at least as bad as with its Scandinavian neighbors. The actual number is thus probably even higher than what the authorities are reporting now, as it doesn't include second generation immigrants. Lawyer Ann Christine Hjelm, who has investigated violent crimes in Svea High Court, found that 85 per cent of the convicted rapists were born on foreign soil or by foreign parents.”

The story goes on to relay how the Muslim men feel about how the woman are treated:

“Some Muslim immigrants admit their bias quite openly. An Islamic Mufti in Copenhagen sparked a political outcry after publicly declaring that women who refuse to wear headscarves are "asking for rape." Apparently, he's not the only one thinking this way. "It is not as wrong raping a Swedish girl as raping an Arab girl," says Hamid. "The Swedish girl gets a lot of help afterwards, and she had probably fucked before, anyway. But the Arab girl will get problems with her family. For her, being raped is a source of shame. It is important that she retains her virginity until she marries."

When I read something like this, it actually makes me want to return kind for kind retaliation upon these so called men. If these Muslims, living inside these countries, do not wish to see woman dress as she wishes, then they should move to a country that shares their views. Otherwise they should be subjected to the same brutal treatment that has happened to these women. I would have little problem with fathers, mothers, sisters, brother, friends and the victims themselves, inflicting a penalty on these Muslim men that have no respect for women.
While the rape wave issue is religiously based, in the town I live in Oklahoma I was told that on the local public transportation a person cannot be taken to or from a bar or transport a person that has been shopping and has any alcohol with them. This seems to me to be a way to encourage a person to act irresponsibly concerning drinking. After all why should the state have any issue with a person acting responsible? These are state laws and can affect the funding of the local transportation service if they are violated. This is a odd reflection in Oklahoma of what the Muslin New York City cab drivers were asking for. Maybe they should move to Oklahoma. In the past few months I have seen every sort of an attempt to create the State of Oklahoma in to an actual theocracy. Sally Kern is a Representative here and has proposed a Proclamation for Morality. it claims among other things,
“WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery”
Kern seems to think that same sex marriage is the same as child abuse and sex trafficking and who the hell knows what is debauchery to her. As far as illegitimate births, Kern needs to endorse the teaching of sex education that actually prevents girls from getting pregnant and not the failed pipe dream of “just say no to your natural desires”.
In the past few years, stone tablets of the 10 commandments have been placed on county courthouse grounds in Haskell County, Oklahoma. An attempt was made to prohibit Professor Richard Dawkins from speaking as a guest of the University of Oklahoma to an audience. There was passed a law and signed by the Governor that is authorized to place a monument to the 10 commandments on the Statehouse grounds. Then again Representative Sally Kern wants to pass a Proclamation of Morality which also states in part:
“NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we the undersigned elected officials of the people of Oklahoma, religious leaders and citizens of the State of Oklahoma, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, solemnly declare that the HOPE of the great State of Oklahoma and of these United States, rests upon the Principles of Religion and Morality as put forth in the HOLY BIBLE

It is amazing to me that the religious adherents are either so unable or unwilling to control their own nature and behavior according to their self imposed rules of dogma and religion that they feel compelled to pressure lawmakers into passing legislation that reflect their personal dogma. It seems the way these pious and religious people are able to control their own actions is to also control the actions and desires of people who could careless about their beliefs. However, if an other religious group was to force their views on them they would be the first to cry for freedom from religion instead of integrating more of them.
The Native American tribes in many parts of the country have the ability to establish casinos on land that is owned by the tribe. So by default that basically makes gambling legal in Oklahoma as well as many other states where the state itself doesn't allow gambling. I have been to casinos several times. My first time to go to a legal casino in the United States was in 1994 in Las Vegas. I was doing well at blackjack. I won some money the first part of the night and then lost all I won plus the $80 I came to play with. I did know I needed to get back to Kansas and that I needed the money to be able to make the trip so I put that aside plus money need for food and hotels. I was trying to be responsible for my actions. After going up so big that first night them losing it all plus even more I had decided that I am not very good at gambling. So I basically gave it up. [lesson learned Las Vegas, thanks]
I have known people that go almost every week to casinos and will win thousands of dollars and then lose the same amount the following week. I guess if they can afford the fluctuation in their funds that is fine. I cannot, so I prefer not to risk it. But I am still a supporter of casinos.
Because of this I have decided for my own behavior that this activity is not for me. No lawmaker had to regulate my behavior, not dogma had to convert me to its system of belief. Simple experience shows me that gambling is something that I cannot win and will only come up on the short side. I do still indulge on the occasional lottery ticket. [I haven't won yet.]
Because of this, I don't see any reason to have laws that restrict how you can perform otherwise legal activities. It is one thing to have a law in place for drinking and driving. It is quite a whole other thing to have taken the right away from an adult to choose for themselves how to regulate their behavior. I am all for enforcement of laws that keep people that are under the influence of medications and legal substances from driving. [I wonder how many of these local prohibitions on drinking would be in place if the only way they could pass were for the churches to be shut done in the same municipality or counties?]
If a person doesn't want to have liquor, don't drink, if I person doesn't like abortion, don't have one, if a person doesn't like to smoke, then don't. If a person doesn't want caffeine, please have a root beer. I certainly recognize that some people have addictions to such activities and need help but that is a different situation than letting otherwise reasonable and able people from acting in a manor that suits their desires. The religious right some times fail to recall that our nations independence was sought with the idea of rights of liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness. As Benjamin Franklin said in Poor Richard's Almanack, (sic) “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” These ideas are driven by the individual not the collective body of America.
When it comes to religious laws in America some of the biggest ones that are de fato in place are the closing of public buildings and businesses on Sunday morning or all day and alcohol and smoking laws. There is not regular mail delivery on Sunday. The reason implied or driven by ordinances for business being close serves the purpose of making sure people have the ability to attend church without being encumbered with it affecting their income.
In many places in America one cannot buy a car on Sunday. I fail to see any religious based logic in that. Certainly there cannot be a reason to have a law to prohibit such “evil” activities.
Having lived and traveled in many states I find the inconsistencies with liquor laws to be quite fascinating and nearly incomprehensibly. These attempts by a moral majority to police a persons behavior are truly the result of an attempt to force religious morality upon a group of people that do not hold their view. The idea that a person is not free to decide for themselves is an insult to an adult. I could write a great deal about the different laws themselves but I will touch on a few of the more bizarre ones.
Keep in mind, any of these business that do these things based upon their personal choice is great. I am talking about either direct governmental or social pressure that are laws of the community.
On alcohol, In Oklahoma you cannot by any wine or liquor at any store on a Sunday. No bar can serve any liquor on a Sunday. No beer greater than 3.2% abw can be sold cold. In Texas, North Carolina and New Mexico a person by themselves cannot purchase a pitcher of beer in a bar. However a person can purchase several beers at one time, in some states. The issue with this morality by legislation has got to be one of the most futile attempts to try to regulate the behavior of citizens. These are all related to the desire to have a moral code forced upon people that may have no desire of belief in that said code.
To better explain this situation would be to turn the tables on those that wish to push their morality on the general population. So here are some fantastical laws governing religion.
• Must be at least 18 or older to attend a church.
• Church only on Sundays.
• No display of public religiosity.
• No open Bibles or religious books in public places.
• Other than in a church or your home, religion cannot be practiced anywhere else.
• You can only attend church at state approved churches.
• It is illegal to preach to or let children under 18 read the Bible or other religious material.
• Any person praying in public will be held at least 8 hours in a non-praying cell.
• Multiple violations will result in loss of your driver's license.
• Pastors on duty must cut a person off from religion if they have had too much.
• Preaching and driving strictly forbidden.

On views concerning liquor and tobacco I tend toward a Libertarian view, this would include the decriminalization of marijuana. I find letting out these person that have had only convictions related to the laws concerning marijuana possession and such to be a good way to ease up the high cost of housing non-violent offenders and have their record expunged of the offensive.
June of 2009 The State of California proposed to legalize marijuana to help ease the budget crisis that they are in. The measure would come up for a vote in 2010. The taxing of cannabis would produce millions of dollars for the state while taking dollars for law enforcement from arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens and putting them in place for more effective uses. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Said that he would welcome debate on the issue but has as of yet to cross the line to promote the wholesale legalization of the naturally fast growing plant. It is predicted that the legal sale and use of marijuana in the State of California could produce up to 1.3 billion dollars of additional revenue for the state budget.
Of course this set the religious right on edge. But even among the more conservative states the frustration of dealing with the overrun of dealing with the cost of enforcing the marijuana laws. The status quo of the religious fundamentalist is falling into the minority of this view and if the voice of the people is to be heard, then the complete legalization of marijuana is just a matter of time. Oddly enough, the people that have or had used marijuana in the past sound quite reasonable when talking about the issue and the ones that are opposed to the legalization of pot are the ones that seem “high” when you hear what they say.
I am thankful to President Barack Obama for deciding not to prosecute persons that are in line with state laws concerning medical marijuana use. It will be even better when the Federal Government decides not to pursue this issue whatsoever. While I disagree with motorcycle helmet laws and seat buckle laws I would be hard pressed to show a connect for these libertarian issue to be related to religion.
It is still odd that the pace of legalization is taking such a long time. It would be hard to imagine how different the country would be if Prohibition was still in place after 72 years, Ending in 1991 instead of 1933.
I recently read a comment on a forum about the legalization of marijuana. The poster wrote a comment to the effect as this, “Do you think the drug dealers are going to just turn over their plants and become law abiding citizens? Of course not.”
This person is in need of a history lesson. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the law to allow beer to be produced it wasn't the illegal companies that benefited but the legal ones. But it did stop the resources of law enforcement from having to deal with all the massive law enforcement efforts to prohibit the use of alcohol. Those that were the gangsters went into other forms of crime to deal in, such as marijuana and cocaine. The legitimate businesses were the ones that benefited from the repeal and the government got the much needed tax revenue of the legal products and a break on the overwhelming pressure that law enforcement was dealing with to keep alcohol out of the country.

Coming Next Time;

SPORTS AND RELIGION part thirty-one