Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Religious Nuts in the News

Not all religious people are nuts. It can be argued that the religous are party to delusion on some scale, but we all become subjected to delusion from time to time.

The religious nuts, however, are not only deluded, but they're often sociopathic and, well... nuts!

J.K. Rowling was confronted by a religous nut

While shopping in a toy store with her children, an American religious nut approached her, put his face very close to his and said, “Aren't you that Potter woman?” and, “I pray for you every evening.”

Religious nuts have long held that her books promote "witchcraft" and "sorcery," so its not surprising that when you have someone writing fictional accounts about the supernatural that nuts who actually think the supernatural exists will be offended. Rowling was quoted as saying, "I should have said he'd better pray for himself but I was stunned. It was very frightening. I want nothing to do with fundamentalism of any sort. It scares me."

Religious Nuts in Russia are Waiting for Armageddon
This group of orthodox Christian religious nuts believes that everything in the world is "evil" and that globalization is "evil" and they've retreated to a man-made cave in a remote region of Russia called Penza, which is about 400 miles from Moscow. Not only are they waiting out the end of the world, they've also threatened to blow themselves up. It would be funny if it weren't for the fact that these religious nuts have their children with them.

Mitt Romney's Problem as a Religous Nut
I'll start with a quote from the article linke above:

If it were possible for a politician to sue voters for religious discrimination, Mitt Romney would have an open-and-shut case against the Republican electorate. Here is a man possessing all the known qualifications for the job of GOP presidential nominee - strong communications skills, a successful governorship, total agreement on every issue,...
... and he's completely batshit. This is a guy that wears magic underwear, that evolution is false, and that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri to name but a few nutty beliefs. So, yeah... Romney has all the qualifications of the typical conservative republican (what do conservatives really conserve anyway?). I think his fellow republicans who are crticial of Romney are just jelous that their cults don't have magic underwear.

Religious Nuts Who Call Themselves Government Officials Behead a Man for Sorcery
An Egyptian man was beheaded because he practiced witchcraft, committed adultery, and put a Koran in the bathroom. Apparently the guy had candles and herbs and liked to read while taking a dump (you'd think he'd find something more interesting, though). Oh, and he was alleged to have committed adultery.
The ministry said Ibrahim was exposed after a foreign resident sued him for practising sorcery aimed at causing him to split with his wife, and authorities found suspicious books and artifacts in his home.
So what else is punsishable by death in Saudi Arabia? Murder, drug trafficking, rape, apostasy, armed robbery and apparently sorcery. This is why we don't need religious nuts running my nation.

Religious Nuts Want it to be Legal to Carry Swords on Airplanes
... from the box-cutters-are-too-small dept
Sikhs in the U.K. want to be able to take their ceremonial swords called kirpans through secured areas where metal detectors alert to the presence of these weapons. The Sikhs argue that they are not allowed access to public places like Parliament, Immigration offices, courts, airports, etc.

Have they considered leaving the weapons at home?

On religious nut argued that, “[u]nder the Offensive Weapons Act, a kirpan is exempt because it is an article of faith but security personnel deny us entry to public places because we are carrying it."

I'm thinking of starting a new religioun in which my Glock is an article of faith.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Unscientific Poll Wars!

Every so often a Christian or creationist site runs a poll that gets hammered by atheists, rationalists and the like.

Via Pharyngula, here's the latest 'unscientific poll' from Baylor University's The Lariat Online, the online version of the school newspaper. How should Baylor Approach Intelligent Design.

Go and cast your vote! Skew the poll!

Sure, it's unscientific and doesn't mean that if a flood of atheists tip the results in favor of rationalism that Baylor will officially reject 'intelligent' design. But at least it'll let them know atheists are out there. Anything that gets us counted and noticed as a population that's big enough to affect polls is good.

In the mean time, the IDiots are encouraging their minions to vote and the poll, so far, shows 1039 votes for "encourage it" and 81 votes to "support it." The "discourage it" and "prohibit it" votes are climbing with 472 and 333 respectively. This as of 22:44 hrs on 17 November 2007.

Funniest quote from the IDiot blog comes from the very first post: "Baylor had a chance to be cutting edge in a field that holds tremendous promise: ID!"

"Cutting edge" and "tremendous promise" reminds me of the nutbars that go on and on about cold fusion, free energy, and thousands of crap herbal supplements.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

False Piety and Perceptions of Status

Lots of poll results get quoted on atheist blogs and during debates like the Gallup poll that reported 45% of Americans believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so; or the Harris poll that reports 90% of all Americans believe in God. Then there's the Pew Research poll that reports 20% of American Christians are sure that Jesus Christ will return in their lifetimes.

As startling as these figures are, one point of fact regarding them that is rarely discussed is this: the methodologies of the polls themselves do not allow for an accurate reflection of what those polled actually believe. At best, it can only be said that those polled claim to hold these particular beliefs. What percentage of those polled gave the answers they did because of how they want to be perceived rather than based on what they actually think? I remember once a speech many years ago in which the speaker quoted a Chinese philosopher, perhaps Lao Tzu (though I've been unable to find the source of this), who said that we each have Five Faces:

The face we see of ourselves;
The face we want to see of ourselves;
The face we want others to see of ourselves;
The face that others see;
And the face we actually wear.

I'm not a big fan of Chinese philosophy and I've never been able to find the actual source of that Lao Tzu quote (hell, I'm not even sure it was Lao Tzu), but I've always felt that there was something to this. It would be no intellectual leap or revelation to say that humans have a tendency to "present an image" of themselves that they deem favorable or desirable. Rappers and hip-hop artists have the "gansta" image. Politicians like to be seen as the common man. Living in the south, I've known many a smart man that pretended to be a dumb redneck. Truly stupid people seem to demand acknowledgement of their mental superiority. And so on.

Among these "images" that people present of themselves is also one of piety. What large workplace isn't littered with little religious symbols, bibles on desks, printouts of short scriptures, etc.? In my office, I walk past a half dozen or so bibles on desks just to go to the restroom. Several of the readers of these bibles can be seen taking notes and highlighting their bibles. Another desk has a blanket on the back of a chair with various names of the Judeo-Christian god embroidered on it. I can't count the number of scriptural sayings and quotes that are pinned to cubical walls. And their owners always seem eager to announce their church plans on Sunday; what church they attend; the goings on at this or that church; churches they once attended and why they no longer attend it. My own boss raves about the new Starbucks at his BFC (Big Frickin' Church). Each of these people works at a call center. Nearly every one ends their call with "have a blessed day." In fact, religious jargon litters their vernacular in a way that they may hope seems natural and genuine, but I can't help but think it is all contrived. Perhaps habitual, but contrived nonetheless.

In sports, this is very evident. How many times have you observed a boxer kneel in his corner and sign the cross? I've even watched fights on pay-per-view where both fighters kneel simultaneously and make the same pious gesture! How does that work? Does their god flip a divine coin to choose his winner? What about the baseball player that gives a post-game interview in which he attributes his team's recent win to divine favor? When that team doesn't make it through the playoffs, does that indicate his god has a favorite team; did his god suddenly find disfavor with his team; or did football season start and God changed his channel?

One conclusion that can be drawn from these public displays of piety among sports figures and co-workers is that they are mini-advertisements for their religion. For some or, possibly, many, this may be the case. In most cases, however, I think that these displays are appeals to popularity. Remember the percentages in the first paragraph? Americans are generally given to appealing to popularity anyway, which can be seen in the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and the music we turn up loud. An appeal to popularity gives group acceptance and provides some status within the group.

It makes me conclude, then, that the percentages I mentioned above aren't what people actually believe, but what they want others to believe about them. If that's the case, then the number of people who actually believe the world to be 10,000 years old may be less. And the number of people who actually believe in God to the degree they claim could be fewer. If this is so, continuing to be vocal about the rational and reasoned point of view about religion and religious beliefs may prove to be effective in marginalizing religious dogma and bringing rational thought into the mainstream.