Lessons From Sir Ted

datePosted on 12:39, August 26th, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

The passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy is a sad affair. But with the passing of any individual it is customary to look at their life. Senator Kennedy led one of the most productive lives any individual could aspire to lead. Yes, he had his issues. And yes, there are many that looked to him with contempt for the overt excesses he manifested in his personal life. But no one can deny the accomplishments that he achieved in the area of human rights for all Americans – and the world, for that matter.

In his 47-year-career as a senator, Kennedy authored over 2,500 pieces of legislation – many of those becoming some of our most important and cherished laws. Throughout his career, Kennedy was awarded many titles. He was even made and honorary Member of the British Empire (knighted) by Queen Elizabeth earlier this year – a testament to his broad reaching influence. He was a civil rights and health care leader with no equal. But what really set him apart was that he did all of this in spite of who he was.

Edward Kennedy was born into a life of privilege that most people will never even begin to comprehend. Yet, he spent the majority of his life fighting for those who were not so privileged. He was the voice of the poor and the oppressed. He was the hero of the working class. He was the last line of defense against the oppressive large industry or government powers that threatened to injure the average citizen. But more than that, it’s how he achieved what he did. He reached out to his enemies as well as his allies. People who opposed him also respected him immensely. Kennedy was a liberal Democrat. He was fierce and relentless and yet he has been hailed as the greatest senator of our time from friend and foe alike. His ability to work with those who held different world views is perhaps best represented by conservative Republican Orrin Hatch commenting on the passing of Kennedy:

“Today America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, and leader of the Senate. And today I lost a treasured friend. Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy’s name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber.”
–Sen. Orrin Hatch, 8/25/09

That was said by an opponent. We could all learn an important lesson from Kennedy. Be strong and firm in your convictions but at the same time understand that you do not live in a vacuum. One must learn to work with others of opposing positions in order to get work done. As atheists we need to embrace the things we have in common with theists to work for the greater good of society. It does not mean we should ever back down or roll over – not by a long shot. But sometimes we need to give a little in order to gain a lot.

Christianity to the Rescue of Muslim Teen?

datePosted on 12:33, August 25th, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

The wonderful state of Florida is presenting the nation with another “morals based’ political drama. For those who have been missing it due to the poor coverage, there is a 17 year-old girl from Ohio who ran away from her Muslim parents and took shelter with the reverend and his wife of  an Evangelical Christian church in Florida.

The teen, Rifqa Bary, claims that her father “must kill” her because she renounced Islam and was baptized without his permission. In Islam, if you turn away from “The Profit,” you are considered an apostate and the Koran says you must be put to death. The incident is also filled with many inconsistencies and uncorroborated statements. However, Florida Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson will make the decision of whether Rifqa will get to remain in Florida with here new friends or have to go back to Ohio. By the way, the church that Rifqa ran away to is the Global Revolution Church. She met the Reverend and his wife recently on Facebook.

The rule of law is perfectly clear. The Minor must be returned to the state where she resides. But there are circumstances. The teen claims her father did, in fact, threaten to kill her. And yes, there are several thousands of “honor killings’ every year carried out in the name of Allah. These killings are committed against those who leave Islam. There are also rumors that the girl has been physically abused. Now, on the other hand, the Muslim-turned-Christian girl is an honor student and a cheerleader in high school. One could speculate that if the father would consent to her being a cheerleader and wearing short skirts and such you think he might be okay with Christ. There is also no formal record of abuse and the father has repeatedly claimed that he would never hurt his daughter. Plus, we have new the Christian “friends” that she recently met on-line. Could they be coaching the teen on what do say (become one of us type thing).

The Christian – I mean Fox Network has been covering the story and pretty much painting the parents as evil and the child as this poor desperate girl running for her life. For the time being she is in a state-run foster center in Florida until the judge makes his ruling sometime in the next week. What’s going to happen? We’ll just have wait and see. One thing I predict is that the other networks will pick this up and it will grow out of proportion pretty fast. The best thing to happen would be for the girl to go back to her parents and lead a safe, normal life. Then we could blame all of this on Christian crusaders trying to turn people against Islam. Of course, she could also be killed. Then we could blame Islam for once again demonstrating it is indeed the bloody religion it ironically claims itself not to be. No matter how it turns out, the real issue will most likely never be addressed. Religious morality (immorality), in general, will probably escape unscathed again.

Muslims burn Christians in Pakistan

datePosted on 13:16, August 3rd, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

Innocent children were among the casualties that were purposefully burned to death in one of the worst massacres in recent memory. Muslims in Pakistan went on a rampage killing Christians in the village of Gojra. Over forty houses and a church were burned by angry Muslim mobs. The violence was over the alleged desecration of the Koran which is punishable by death in Pakistan. Christians are a minority in Pakistan making up less than three percent of the population.

Personally I feel for the families and friends of the victims. As a humanist I am appalled at such careless displays of violence. However, this is typical behavior for religious zealots from a historical point of view. Islam is once again showing the world that it is unquestionably the most violent, intolerant religion today. Killing people because they may have said something bad about or did something to a book! A book! A book of fiction about hatred and killing that is held in more esteem than human life itself. To the Christians in Pakistan I say, “Get out!  You are not welcome there. Pakistan is quite obviously a country populated by barbarians with absolutely no regard for human life. If you stay, the Muslims will probably kill you because you are different. Just like Christians did to everyone else for centuries. See, being persecuted for your beliefs – or lack of them, is not much fun is it?”  Imagine no religion…Hmm.

RU-486 legal in Italy inspite of Vatican opposition

datePosted on 09:42, July 31st, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

Good job Italy! In an almost unanimous vote, the Italian Drug Agency approved the use of the abortion drug RU-486. This is significant because the Vatican, which is located in Italy, has argued that the drug is a form of abortion and abortion and contraception are banned by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has lobbied heavily in Italy and the United Nations against the use of the drug which provides a safe alternative to an actual physically invasive abortion.

Italy’s decision is perfect example of a national government taking the correct course of action and looking out for the well being of its citizens even when that action contradicts leading religious dogma. This is the 21st century. All nations need to put past and harmful behavior based on unfounded and irrelevant religious traditions and superstitions behind them. Religious institutions have no business whatsoever trying to involve themselves in health care.

Italy legalized abortion in 1978 and also allows use of the morning-after pill. Abortion is legal in most European countries.

Wake Up Scientists!

datePosted on 12:25, July 14th, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

Last month a group of paleontologists toured the Creationist Museum in Kentucky (Palentologists visit Creationist Museum). All of them were offended, most were outraged, and one was even brought to tears. Well, what the hell did they expect? The truth? Wake Up! The museum not only preaches the asinine ideas of a flat, 6000 year-old-Earth where people walked hand in hand with dinosaurs; but also blames all of the suffering in today’s world on the science of evolutionary biology.

Hopefully this was a wake up call for the few scientists that did attend the tour. Scientists today MUST speak up and speak out against the rampant proliferation of ignorance and harmful religious dogma that threatens all aspects of our world today. Ignoring these lunatics will not cause them go away. Their medieval ideas need to be confronted and destroyed publicly at all costs. I realize that many scientists hold on to the idea that if they confront the ignorant creationists, flat-earthers, etc. they will be giving credence to the outlandish ideas. So, they choose to ignore them. Bad idea! While scientists ignore them, they gain power and followers.

Rational people everywhere must fight ignorance and deceptively false knowledge whenever it is encountered. Truth, real scientific truth, must be taught publicly again. Scientists can not bury their heads in a laboratory and ignore what is going on in the real world. We need people like Richard Feynman, and Carl Sagan now more than ever. When someone makes a stupid statement like, “6,000 years ago when the dinosaurs…” they need to be confronted right then on the spot and told there were no dinosaurs 6,000 years ago. Creationism and other ills of society need to be destroyed, not with silence, but with careful, lucid, correct explanations of how the universe really works. I blame the scientific community for their misguided political correctness; afraid of offending someone’s beliefs – if it’s nonsense, offend away!  Science is not about being nice. Science is about discovering the truth. If someone has a bad or false idea, tell them it’s bad or wrong. If they persist, they need to be reprimanded and discouraged from spreading their nonsense.

I have a new slogan I’m going to put on a t-shirt:

The universe is 13.7 billion years old
The earth is 4.6 billion years old
The earth is round
Humans are distant cousins of all other species alive today
When you die, you cease to exist

If you have a problem with any of the above facts, you are an idiot!

Science and Religion

datePosted on 00:01, June 28th, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

There has been so much talk about the compatibility – or incompatibility of science and religion that it’s enough to make one sick. The old argument of non-overlapping magisteria is really not valid. Science is a way of explaining the world we live in. Science is a specific deliberate method for solving problems and making predictions. Science IS the world we live in. Conversely, religion is none of the above. Religion is an unsubstantiated, untestable fantasy that neither explains nor predicts anything. So if religion does not have its own magisteria; why bother? Science and religion are way beyond being mutually exclusive. One, science, explains reality; the other, religion, invents horrible stories to contradict reality. However, in spite of this quite obvious fact, there are many scientists who disingenuously hold religious beliefs. I truly do not even know how to respond to that. Fortunately others do.

Physicist Lawrence Krauss recently debated some theists and discussed this very issue.

Science is only truly consistent with an atheistic worldview with regards to the claimed miracles of the gods of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Moreover, the true believers in each of these faiths are atheists regarding the specific sacred tenets of all other faiths. Christianity rejects the proposition that the Quran contains the infallible words of the creator of the universe. Muslims and Jews reject the divinity of Jesus.
So while scientific rationality does not require atheism, it is by no means irrational to use it as the basis for arguing against the existence of God, and thus to conclude that claimed miracles like the virgin birth are incompatible with our scientific understanding of nature.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that these issues are not purely academic. The current crisis in Iran has laid bare the striking inconsistency between a world built on reason and a world built on religious dogma.

–Lawrence Krauss

We atheists are not on a mission to destroy all religious belief. Anyone is entitled to believe in anything they want to. The issue is when those beliefs in the supernatural realm are used set public policy and obfuscate the real world we live in. It is reality itself that is incompatible with most religious dogma. Science is responsible for the vaccines and medicine that you take to improve your life. Science has brought us the technology to form the computer you are reading this post on. Science is real. Religion, on the other hand, has brought us ignorance, war, and suffering. The real question is whether you accept reality, or you need to believe in a fantasy world populated by aweful dreadful vendictive monsters that no one else can see in order to survive your brief existence.

Digital Television Conversion Helps Non-theists

datePosted on 08:42, June 17th, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

This week marks the beginning of life without free television (well, it’s still free if you put a converter box on each television you own). The much over-talked about switch to digital television signals in the United States has finally been implemented. There has never been a major paradigm shift that has been more publicized than this conversion. Every type of news media from television and radio to magazines – not to mention the internet, has been explaining this for the past several years. To not know or not understand what has happened, you would need to either be on another planet or be a very stupid individual. Apparently there are plenty of people that fit into the later category. For the past few days, hotlines all across the country have been besieged with hundreds of thousands of calls from people complaining that they don’t have television anymore.

It is my personal opinion that this is a good thing! You see, atheists tend to be a little more “with it” than theists for the fact that we demand evidence for claims. We want to know how and why something works. We demand explanations for everything. Theists, on the other hand, close their minds to reality and blame much of life on the random actions of their imaginary friends. I do not know this for a fact, but I would be willing to bet that most, if not all, of the people complaining about losing their television reception are theists. We atheists do not take things for granted. The television is a complicated invention that relies on many different types of advanced technologies working with many different systems. We understand why this switch was made and how it impacts us. As someone who subscribes to cable, like most people I know, this conversion has no impact on me at all – but I do understand it. I am sure many theists just assume their television is this box that “just works” when they turn it on. They use it to watch all of the religious programming that is ubiquitous through out the United States. Now that their television sets are silent, they will not be able to watch their religious nonsense. This is good. Perhaps they will pay more attention to reality and in doing so put less faith in their gods. This, in turn, will make it easier for us to explain science to them. “…remember the television conversion, that’s science, that’s reality.” After all, praying to a god will not restore their signal, but paying money to a science wielding cable or satellite company will.

Through The Eyes Of A Child

datePosted on 22:17, June 5th, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

Through the eyes of a child the world is a wonderful place. My wife and I recently returned from taking our daughter to an indoor waterpark resort to celebrate her 7th birthday. The resort was wonderful, but what really hit me was the diversity of people there. I was sitting in a lounge chair at the water’s edge of the wave pool watching the hundreds of children – and some adults – laughing and playing. Our daughter had befriended a little girl about her same age and the two were having great time playing together. They were also playing with several other children, as well. My daughter and her new friend are Caucasian, there were several African-Americans, Asians, and Middle-Eastern children, as well.

Now my daughter is being raised in a secular home (Atheist), her new friend was Christian (her father had a crucifix proudly displayed around his neck), the Asian children could have been practicing Buddhists, Confucians, or maybe even Shinto, and there was a little boy whose mother was wearing a hijab and was fully covered (my guess is they were Muslim). Atheists, Christians, Muslims and more all playing together and having fun. Oh no! The world must be coming to an end!

When recounting her adventures to us, our daughter used many adjectives to describe the children she had met; not one of them referred to race or religion. Through her eyes, there was no distinction between race or religion; there were no prejudices or hypocritical discriminatory actions or postures to make. There was only laughter and fun.

We are not born knowing hate and fear. These attributes need to be taught. Prejudice and hatred need to be explicitly and repeatedly infused into our upbringing. Religious intolerance needs to be learned. I was never more proud – or jealous of my daughter that afternoon. Jealous, because she hadn’t yet learned to hate people for being different. I was also very sad because I knew that eventually the innocence of childhood would soon be replaced with the dogmas and prejudices of adulthood.

If only adults could see the world through the eyes of their children perhaps there would be no Protestants killing Catholics, Catholics killing Jews, Jews killing Muslims, Muslims killing everyone. Perhaps if adults could see the world through the eyes of their children they would see the positive qualities we all share, rather than the differences which divide and separate us. Through the eyes of a child the world is indeed a wonderful beautiful place. If only it could last.

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

–Lyrics from “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” from the musical South Pacific

Get Your Facts Straight Joe

datePosted on 10:40, May 21st, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

Joseph Ratzinger (AKA Pope Benedict) finished his trip to the Middle East last week. In disingenuous lip service he urged peace between the non-Christian Jews and Muslims. After having toured Israel, the Pope made the following comment:

Those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews — mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends — were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred.

–Pope Benedict XVI

Let’s get this straight. Adolph Hitler came to power not in spite of, but as a result of the Catholic Church’s support. Pope Pius XI signed the 1933 concordat with Germany acknowledging Hitler and his regime. The Vatican ordered all of the bishops to accept and support Nazi Germany. Hitler could not have come to power without the support of the Catholic Church. Hitler was born and died a Catholic. In his infamous book Mein Kampf, Hitler stated the following:

Therefore, I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.

–Adolph Hitler

Hitler was a Catholic. Perhaps if he was an atheist the world would have been very different. For the Pope to blame the atrocities of the Germans in WWII on the “godless” is a blatant lie which I object to. It was a Catholic dictator commanding a Catholic military under the approval of the Catholic pope that committed the atrocities of WWII. Once again atheists get blamed for something that was perpetrated by the theist majority. As I’ve said before, the Pope is a perverted, sadistic, dogmatic anachronism that spreads hatred and lies.

Santa Barbara Children Mentally Abused By Evangels

datePosted on 21:21, May 12th, 2009 by Kosmic Kurt

For those of you that are not familiar with this, I strongly encourage you to take the time and read this article. The Good News Clubs, run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship is actively going after elementary school children and trying to convert them – after they teach them that everyone who doesn’t convert is a sinner. The story of the Jewish child that was accosted by her Christian classmate is horrible. What’s worse, the Christian child was covertly recruited to do exactly what she did. She attended an after school brainwashing class at her public school. She was taught that everyone who not one of them was a sinner. So she relayed that sentiment to her Jewish friend.

Good News Clubs are sponsored by the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), a worldwide     organization founded in Warrenton, Missouri, more than 70 years ago. The declared mission of the CEF is to produce conversion experiences in very young children, and thus to equip them to “witness” for other children. “I was told that a child at five, if properly instructed, can as truly believe as anyone,” said Mr. J. Irvin Overholtzer, who founded CEF in 1937. “I saw that if there was any truth in this statement, there was a door of opportunity lying open before us.” As of 2008, according to CEF Vice President of U.S.A. Ministries Moises Esteves, there were approximately 3,410 Good News Clubs in public K-6 schools around the country.

This is a very serious issue that will most likely affect all of us at some point. What do you do when your child’s school tells other children that your child is a sinner and will go to hell? That’s exactly what happened to this six-year-old girl. The CEF has been doing this for some time all across the country. It was eventually brought to the Supreme Court but the right wing of the court out-maneuvered the left and the moderates. In writing the court’s opinion; right-wing-theocrat Clarence Thomas stated that is was all right for the CEF to indoctrinate children in public schools (Good News Club v. Milford Central School)!

All of us have a responsibility to our children to protect them from hatred and prejudice. They do not deserve to be mentally abused because of their parent’s ignorance. Religion has always been the supreme force for child abuse; this case clearly defines why. If these awful, divisive,  duplicitous people (Good News Clubs) are in your community or do come to it in the future, be prepared to fight them. Your child’s eternal future could depend on it!

Reading, Writing, and Original Sin: An Evangelical Group Sets its Sights on Santa Barbara’s Public Elementary School Kids (original article).