Thursday, August 31, 2006

Anonymous comments policy

I am currently in the middle of a conversation with an anonymous commenter here, and I just realized that I'm not totally sure if I've been dealing with the same person for the whole conversation. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: please, do not use the "anonymous" option. If you don't have a blogger account, pick "other" and you'll get to type in a screen name. You don't have to type in your real name. Just use something that will let me tell you appart from other commenters. I will not delete anonymous comments, but I will either ignore them or respond only with a link to this page.

Conversion therapy

Early this month, Vjack mentioned that scientific studies have shown that attempts to "convert" homosexuals don't work. I asked for references, he gave them, and I eventually dug through them to find Douglas C. Haldeman's chapter in Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy. Good material, though not a book likely to be found in your average public library, so I thought it was worth typing up the skinny here.

First, to no one's surprise, Haldeman shows that it doesn't work, and studies claiming to show it does aren't very impressive. The first one he discusses is a study that only claimed a 27% success rate, based on therapist's judgement rather than more objective criteria. Worse, a large chunk of those involved in the study weren't homosexual to begin with but bisexual.

The most damning information, however, comes from admissions of those who administer the therapies. One admitted that "Most, if not all, people who have been homosexual continue to have some homosexual feelings, fantasies, and interests. More often than not, they also have occasional, or more than occasional, homosexual outlets, even while being 'happily married.'" What this enthusiast is describing are not ex-homosexuals, but homosexuals who've caved to social pressure to pretend to be straight. Haldeman also cites the analysis another researcher who focused on religiously based attempts at conversion: "Blair states that although many of these practitioners publicly promise 'change,' they privately acknowledge that celibacy is the realistic goal to which homosexuals must aspire."

Thus goes yet another bit of fundamentalist pseudoscience.

Preaching to the choir?

Beware of Dogma responds to Vjack's question of Are We Just Preaching to the Choir? He makes the excellent point that many people will find our blogs via Google. I, for example, got 4 of my last 20 hits through that things.

Also, it's important to realize that whenever you write on controversial subjects, you have to do a certain ammount of preaching to the choir. However, it's still important to have stuff on atheism out there for the open believer, as well as for the recent deconvert.

Skeptics Circle 42

The 42nd edition of the Skeptics Circle is up at Immunoblogging. Highlight: Science is Dead, a piece that might pass for genuine right wing nutjobbery if the author's name weren't Jon Swift.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

CotL 20

The 20th edition of the Carnival of the Liberals is up at The Green Belt.

Bobcasting, Episode 7

In this edition of Bobcasting, I answer a request made on Internet Infidels. Further requests welcome.

Episode 7: God in the Constitution
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Athevangelism

There's a great discussion about it going on at Internet Infidels. I rather like the recycle bin trick.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Good news

Last week, I had a post full of bad news. Now, better news:

Daniel Morgan notes growing secularization among Spanish and Austrailian youth. The trend is probably global. At the place I lived this summer, there were at most 20 guys, and at least four identified as atheists... a little higher than the general population.

Via Atheist Revolution, a theist lashed out at religious texts. Hope to see more of this.

I'm watching The Closer right now. It features a priest who tries to weasle out of police questioning by asking if the detective believes in God. Someone's sick of religious people playing the God card.

Finally, Ed Brayton catches catches Dembski looking rather desperate.

I may need to see this...

PZ Myers does a write up of acreationist video trying to tie Darwin to Hitler. Does anyone know where I could get a YouTube of this? I might want to watch it... might... it's one of those watch-the-train-wreck sort of things.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bobcasting, episode 6

This edition of Bobcasting finishes up "Why I Am an Agnostic." Next, I'll start on "God and the Constitution," which was requested by an Internet Infidels poster.

Episode 5: Why I Am an Agnostic, parts 8 through 11
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EDIT: Thanks to TNG for linking to this podcast.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Review: Sense and Goodness Without God

At last, I'm finding time to sit down and write a review of Richard Carrier's Sense and Goodness Without God. As I mentioned, further parts may follow; this part is focused on general quality over the specific ideas.

Carrier opens with strong punch: "Philosophy is not a word game or hairsplitting contest, nor a grand scheme to rationalize this or that..." He goes in this vein for several pages, looking at how philosophers have failed to live up to their calling, as well as discussing the connection between philosophy and religion. Most of it hits every bit as hard as the first sentence. Carrier explains that the purpose of the book is to lay out his personal philosophy and worldview in a way that nonspecialists can understand. An admirable goal, and Carrier gets off to a good start in the opening section.

For all the promise in the opening chapter, I don't think this book is going to do much to bring philosophy to the masses. The problem is that Carrier has the ability to produce forceful prose, but isn't able to apply that ability consistently. Most of the first half of the book drags. It's understandable without having a background in philosophy, but many without such a background will have trouble seeing why it matters. One problem is a frequent lack of concrete examples. Take his discussion of method: the only kind of example used is the Cartesian Demon. A far more readable discussion of method can be found in "Why I Am Not a Christian," where Carrier gets in far more examples in less space.

About halfway through the book, however, the quality of writing picks up. I found his discussion of the Rain Miracle (in part IV, "What There Isn't") better than the online version. Among other things, in Sense and Goodness Carrier give the case clear larger significance: "we have a legend sprining up just eight years after the fact, when thousands of eyewintesses were surely still alive... despite these seemingly unfavorable conditions, this legend beat out the truth." Likewise, part V "Natural Morality" soars. Among other things, Carrier looks at the reasons given by J. P. Moreland for theists to be moral, and shows that Secular Humanists have equivalent reasons.

Carrier got one other thing right: not using footnotes, but including bibliographies at the end of each section rather than in the back of the book. This is probably the best way to direct readers to further resources on given subjects. In many cases I have not read the books he cites, but where I have, I can say that Carrier has made excellent choices.

I should emphasize that while this book may not catch on with the general public, the book isn't a waste for not having done so. It would have been nice to see such a book, but that really wasn't Carrier's main purpose. His main purpose was to lay out a coherent worldview, a worthwhile pursuit. He rightly criticizes modern philosophers for having abandoned system building. When I write further on this book, it will be to assess the ideas laid out in it.

Bibliography of belief

The Neural Gourmet has found an college class syllabus on The Psychology of Belief. Many of the publications (Charles Mackay, Michael Shermer) will be familiar to skeptics, but it's worth having all the same.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Heroics vs. Ethics of Belief

As you can see, I've bumped up my Best of Counter Apologetics post and added the famous essay "The Ethics of Belief." I include it because I think it takes the rug out from under all attempts to rationally defend the traditional religions. This post is written to explain why.

Let us grant, for the sake of argument, all the apologetic arguments made in favor of Christianity: that there is reasonably strong evidence that the Gospels were written by their traditionally assigned authors, that their historical reliability on various points has been confirmed again and again by outside sources and never called into question by them, that the disappearance of Jesus' body from the tomb is as well-established as any fact of ancient history, and that this and other facts can only be explained by a miracle.

Suppose we grant all of these things, would it be conclusive evidence for the truth of Christianity? A few objections could be raised, but here is one serious one: no matter how much faith he has in the evidence for Christianity, ever apologist will admit that the majority of human beings are not well schooled in apologetics--or, I should say, Christian apologetics, for every religion has its defenders. The apologist must admit that those not schooled in apologetics cannot be expected to accept arguments which they have not heard made in detail. He must furthermore admit that such persons might have a hard time telling the miracle claims of Christianity apart from those of any other religion.

On top of these admissions, one further admission is unavoidable: if God is truly God, he could have avoided all of these problems by making the evidence far more conclusive. He could have written his revelation in the sky, or made all accurate copies of the Bible indestructable, or simply sent Moses to the modern world to turn some sticks into snakes in front of cameras and skeptical magicians. Why hasn't he done any of these things? After all, if they happened today they would surely be much better doccumented than any event of 2000 years ago. Is God reluctant to have his miracles well-documented? This question will seem to many much harder to answer than the question of what happened to Jesus' body (if it ineed went missing).

The same problem afflicts every religion which claims to have a revelation from God. One could admit, for example, that it is hard to understand how a mere human could have written the Qur'an yet object that this is no evidence of revelation, because the vast majority of humans do not speak the right language to judge the book's literary quality. Why hasn't God given those who cannot read the Qur'an better evidence of its divine origin?

To such questions, there is one answer that gets repeated over and over: if God had furnished better evidence, there would be no room for faith. In other words, God wanted to give men the opportunity to commit the heroic act of believing on imperfect evidence, as well as to commit that mortal sin of having the wrong opinion on religion.

This is where Clifford is useful. His argument consists of noting other examples of where correct belief is of great importance, as in the seaworthiness of the ship or accusations made against respected members of a community. He observes that in these cases, believing on faith is clearly wrong, and evidence is required.

Once we decide to use the same standard of evidence in religion as in other matters, the above explanation for the lack of evidence for religion collapses. There is nothing noble about adopting an unshakable belief that Jones is a murder based on only a little evidence. To say, "he is probably guilty, but the evidence is not enough to hang him" does not deserve eternal punishment. Therefore, anyone who wants to be consistent must admit that there is nothing noble about adopting an unshakeable belief in Christianity based on only a little evidence. Similarly, it must be admitted that it is not wicked to say, "the evidence that Jesus rose seems fairly strong, but it is not strong enough for me to base my life on."

Once this is realized, there is no longer any excuse for the flimsiness of the evidence for the traditional religions, and they must be rejected as gross falsehoods.

The best of counter-apologetics

I've decided to put together a small index of the best online articles responding, directly or indirectly, to various arguments for theism and Christianity. If anyone has any recommendations, please post them in the comments.

Thinking About Religion
The Outsider Test by John Loftus. This should be a standard opener for atheist debaters.
?The Ethics of Belief by W. K. Clifford. A landmark essay in the fight against blind faith.

Atheism--General
An Atheist Manifesto by Sam Harris. Contains some particularly strong statements of old arguments.

Miracles
Beckwith on Historiography by Richard Carrier. A solid empirical case for skepticism of ancient miracle claims
Hero Savior of Vietnam by Richard Carrier. Sketches the evidence for Christianity, but using a parallel case of a hypothetical "Hero Savior."

Creationism
29+ Evidences for Macroevolution by Douglas Theobald. The best way to fight creationism is not to spend all your time counter-punching creationist arguments, but to lay out the evidence for evolution. The rest of TalkOrigins has good stuff too, though.

The Design Argument
God's Greatest Mistakes. I've seen other things like this on the internet, but I've never seen so many in one place.

Morality and God
Defenders of the Faith by Slavoj Zizek. This is the article that gave us the phrase "If God exists, then everything is permitted."

Hell
Why I Am an Agnostic (Parts I and II) by Robert G. Ingersoll. I can't to Ingersoll justice; just read him.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Common sense

Tom Gilson has a post where he quotes G. K. Chesterton: "The first effect of not believing in God, is that you lose your common sense." Hmmm...

"The first effect of not believing in Zeus, is that you lose your common sense."
"The first effect of not believing in Ganesh, is that you lose your common sense."
"The first effect of not believing in faries, is that you lose your common sense."
"The first effect of not believing in astrology, is that you lose your common sense."
"The first effect of not believing in alien abductions, is that you lose your common sense."
"The first effect of not believing in psi, is that you lose your common sense."
"The first effect of not believing in Xenu, is that you lose your common sense."

My common sense tells me that none of these statements is less reasonable that Chesterson's.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The sky is falling!

At least, I feel like it is sometimes. Ed Brayton reports that somebody is calling for treason charges against John Murtha. James still reports that evolutionary biology has been dropped from the list of majors available for federal grants--for ideological reasons? And I'm still reading Healing Iraq, which is a contentor for "most depressing blog on the net," though odds are that there's a blog somewhere that could edge it out. Arg.

War-Torn Middle East Seeks Solace In Religion

The Onion Strikes Again.

This one is particularly funny, because this headline could be in a regular newspaper (and not just one with an inattentive editor), yet it hits hard.

Bobcasting, episode 5

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Bobcasting, where I read from the works of Robert G. Ingersoll.

Episode 5: Why I Am an Agnostic, parts 6 and 7
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Quote of the Time Being

Really, it's okay to reserve judgement until the evidence is in.
-Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World, p. 180

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A unChristian game?

Some Christians are attacking the Left Behind video game as "unChristian." I'm torn on this one. Part of me says "good for them," the other part tells me Jerry Jenkins' defense makes sense (if you accept his absurd premise that the Bible is a good book).

Monday, August 21, 2006

The one that got away

Over at Debunking Christianity, JEHolman tells the story of a failed conversion that hurt.

Bobcasting, episode 4

Welcome to Bobcasting, the podcast where I read from the works of Robert G. Ingersoll.

Episode 4: Why I Am an Agnostic, parts 4 and 5
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Quote of the Time Being

A 1996 op-ed piece that I was invited to write for the New York Times on Hillary Clinton's "conversations" with Eleanor Roosevelt was cleansed of any irreverence toward established religion (although I was expected to mock New Age). I was not allowed to observe that while Mrs. Clinton was criticized for talking to Eleanor Roosevelt, millions of Americans regularly talk to Jesus, long deceased, and that many people believe that God talks to them, unbidden.
-Wendy Kaminer, Sleeping With Extraterrestrials, p. 25

I've heard some atheists complain that the Dawkinses of the world need to be more polite. No, the Dawkinses of the world need to be more aware of their environment, and preface their remarks with a well placed slap up side the head to the effect that religious beliefs are no less deserving of rational critique than other beliefs.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

CotG 47

The 47th edition of the Carnival of the Godless is up at Revolvo Inritus.

EDIT: Link fixed

That's a relief

Mrs. Robinson says the fundamentalists won't outbreed us after all:
It is true that the retention rate (the rate at which children raised in the faith stick with it as adults) is somewhat higher among fundamentalist Christians than it is among mainstream Protestant groups. However, it's still not good: the odds are probably better than even that kids raised in either group will not be practicing in those same groups by midlife...

The current best research (I think it's Pew's stuff) reveals the real trend we need to discuss: The number of Americans who consider themselves secular, and have no church affiliation, has been steadily rising for the past couple generations and shows no signs of slowing.

Quote of the Time Being

Jerry Jenkins, the co-author of Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of novels, says, (in an apparent effort to deflect criticism of the controversial forthcoming video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces), that "It's not more violent than the Old Testament."
-Frederick Clarkson

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The problem with philosophy

Richard Carrier laid out his case about what's wrong with modern philosophy on the latest of his shows with the Rational Response Squad (payment required). He goes head to head with a forum member alias ChaosLord, who argues that people don't care. I side with ChaosLord. Talk to the average person about philosophy and they'll be bored; they'd rather head about other things... religion and morality and stuff...

In a similar vein, Hell's Handmaiden goes off on a little rant after being told to act like a philosopher. Money quote: "So, to the question, 'Ought a philosopher be a passive and unobtrusive wallflower?' the answer has to be 'no'."

Snakes on what?

This is funny. But not as funny as the actual ads for that movie. Though I'm not sure the ads are supposed to be funny. This movie looks like it's going to be so bad I that I just might have to see it.

The 9/11 crackpottery movement

It's something I'm kind forced to pay attention to as a college student (unfortunately). I've found yet another excellent page on the real truth. For those who aren't aware of them, I also recommend the following:

Popular mechanic's take (seems they've actually done a whole book, I'll have to get that)
Loose Marbles, parts I, II, and III
911Myths.com
My own small take

HT: Neural Gourmet

Banjoing to Hell

Don't ask. I'm not sure either.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dawkins video clip

The Atheist Jew has a video clip of Richard Dawkins talking about disproving the existence of God. The Jew gets this issue dead right: "It is only when believers actually give God characteristics (or a personality) or give God credit for doing specific things, that one can disprove God's characteristics or personality, or actions." One thing he admits though that the standard description of "omnipotent and benevolent" makes God trivially easy to disprove. I'm actually rather amazed at self-described agnostics or weak atheists who talk about the problem of evil without quite getting this point.

University indoctrination of Christians?

Daniel Morgan looks at the question. I second everything he said, and have more thoughts along the same line. A university education can indeed be quite damaging to conservative Christian beliefs, but not because of students being mindlessly told and forced to repeat anti-Christian ideas. Rather, it's a matter of bumping up against a few cold, hard facts. Science majors are likely to encounter specific evidence that the Genesis story is false. Even a chemistry major may be taught in his freshmen year that the second law of thermodynamics does not in fact cause a problem for evolution. Colleges also tend to be a very easy place for gays to be out of the closet, which means learning that they are in fact human beings, and don't really deserve to be put to death (Lev. 20:13).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Who's who among the damned

BeliefNet compiles a list of today's top ten atheists. It's a fairly decent list, though where is Richard Dawkins? Did they mean to do only American atheists? Also, Ellen Johnson's photo reminds me of Ann Coulter, and I think the lack of anyone from Infidels.org--say, Jeff Lowder--is a little questionable.

Hat tip: Brian Flemming

One humanist's mainifesto

The following is in response to a couple of comments to the effect that I do nothing but attack religion. It is a simple statement of what I am for. Every one of these things, I should point out, is threatened by religious fundamentalism. That's why I spend so much time talking about the things I do.

  • I believe in reason.

  • I believe in being honest with oneself.

  • I believe in improving on accepted beliefs.

  • I believe in having the freedom to seek the truth without worrying that the evidence will point to the "wrong" conclusion.

  • I believe in having the determination to make a careful investigation and not accept the first answer that is presented.

  • I believe in having the courage to face unpleasant realities.

  • I believe in the demonstrated human ability to change unpleasant realities.

  • I believe in using advances in knowledge to fight the things that have plauged humankind since the beginning of history.

  • I believe that religion, once understood as a human-created social phenomenon, can be a fascinating subject of study.

  • I believe in the value of human beings.

  • I believe in our ability to create and appreciate beauty.

  • I believe in laughter.

  • I believe in joy.

  • I believe in questing to fulfill our dreams.

  • I believe in the ability to find good in life's imperfections.

  • I believe in the richess of variety.

  • I believe in pondering the universe's puzzles.

  • I believe that all of this gives human beings worth that no one can take away.

Want my e-mail

Mark Murphy argues that potential daters should give up exchanging phone numbers and get with the information age. Among his arguments:
An email tells you a lot. Is it @wisc.edu? Perhaps @harvard.alum.edu? Or the @gmail.com which implies some email savvy? What about @hotmail.com? In the latter case, never talk to her again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Re: human being

Here's a response to a comment left on this blog:
I suspect you think thoughts like, "he disagrees with evolution, logic, therefore, demands I regard all other statements from him as stupid, unless he's agreeing with me. Only a fool could disagree with truth!"
I don't think everybody who disagrees with me is stupid. I do think that certain positions on certain issues (i.e. creationism) make one woefully uniformed at best--though again, not necessarily stupid. Many creationist claims are every bit as obviously false as the urban legends Williams debunks. I suggest taking a look at TalkOrigins if you've never visited the site before.
I think you are a fundamentalist. I've the impression that you worship yourself; to you, your opinions are truth. It's impossible to reason with somebody like you, because you are unwilling to recognize the possibility that you're wrong. You're only human, don't forget it.
I do recognize that I could in fact be wrong on many issues. If you have some actual evidence that I am on some issue, feel free to tell me. I do find this all rather ironic, though, because I was criticizing the guy for rejecting evidence based reasoning with regards to his pet favorite beliefs.
Christians don't hate you: you are God's beloved creation. Why do you hate us?
I do not hate Christians. Even with individuals whose behavior I find dispicable, I can get some grasp of their reasons for being that way. I do, however, hate Christianity in its orthodox form. It is hard to imagine a worse creed than one that decalares all dissenters deserve eternal punishment.
If we ever got into power, we would not persecute you or anybody on the basis of their faith (I'm uncomfortable with Bush labeling himself as a Christian--he certainly isn't practicing).
I am glad to hear that you would not persecute non-Christians if in power. I am not so confident that all Christians would agree with you, though. I for one cannot refute Thomas Aquinas when he argues from Christian doctrines about Hell to the conclusion that heretics should be put to death. Furthermore, when I hear Christians talk of any criticism of Christianity as "persecution," I cannot help but worry that they will try to pass "anti-persecution laws" in the future.
We do not want to mess with your children and turn them against you, although you want to turn our children against us. We do not force you to bow before our God, and we do not insult you for not doing it.
I do not know what you mean by "turn our children against us." If you mean "convince them that some things in the Bible are wrong" (damnation of dissenters, killing of people whose land you want, etc.) then I guess I do want to turn your children against you. But I don't see what's wrong with that.

Bobcasting, episode 3

This is another edition of Bobcasting, where I read from the works of Robert G. Ingersoll.

Episode 3: Why I Am an Agnostic, part 3
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Wednesday three

I title this post like it's going to be a regular feature, though it won't be. Probably. Anyway:

Andrew Sullivan blogs from a parallel universe where Sept. 11 never happened. To surreal to ignore.

Ed Brayton catches theocrats pursing a policy of "religious freedom for me, but not for thee." This is a reflection of one moderately frightening aspect of the modern religious right: they're learning to use ideals of religious freedom to attack religious freedom.

Vjack does his report on the atheist 30 days episode. He says, "I was wrong to predict that she show would focus on an atheist learning to better understand and appreciate the mindset of Christians."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

PC 34

The 34th edition of the Philosopher's Carnival is up at El Blog de Marcos

Review: The Cost of Deception

Snopes.com can make for wonderful reading. There, you can read about urban legends involving getting high of Coca-Cola, bin Laden's gum arabic holdings, and Arizona camel-hunting laws. However, if you really want a good time reading about urban legends, I recommend picking up a copy of John A. Williams' The Cost of Deception.

Why? The thing is, most of the legends covered by Snopes are secular ones. And in terms of myth-mongering, secular Americans can't hold a candle to Christian fundamentalists, whose friend-of-a-friend stories are the focus of Williams' book. Among the legends covered: Madalyn Murray O'Hair's supposed attempt to ban Christian broadcasting, stories of angels showing up to announce the end of days, and a report (supposedly from a "respected Finnish scientific journal") about scientists drilling to Hell in Siberia. Such tales make a choking doberman look rather mundane.

The book does have on deeply ironic element: Williams is himself a fundamentalist, and he's writing not to laugh at fundamentalists but to keep themselves from getting laughed at. At one point, he quotes another Christian writer as saying: "Our credibility is on the line. People might think if Christians are stupid enough to fall for this falsehood, maybe early Christians were gullible enough to fall for the resurrection story." Williams never explains what is wrong with this inference. The truth is, his book sheds considerable light on the origins of religious mythology. He notes that part of the problem is that people tend to believe what they hear, especially when it fits with their worldview.

The irony is made worse when he complains that "Many in the world have sought to make a god of science and empirical reasoning. Faith is of no use to them." Of course, it is only by empirical proceedures that anybody can determine that these modern legends are bogus. We all think it would be foolish to believe the drilling to hell story on faith. Why does anybody think it reasonable to believe Christianity by faith? Simply put, it is respectable to believe Jesus rose from the dead because people have been believing it for a long time. It is a classic example of error sanctified by age.

All this does not detract one bit from the reading experience, though. In some ways, it makes the book more fascinating. It's one shortcomming is that Williams does not go into detail comparing different versions of legends the way Jan Harold Brunvand does. However, Willaims more than makes up for this problem with his colorful subject matter.

Armageddon

There's so much depressing news around that I'm never sure what to pay attention to. I think this one takes the cake, though: Apparently, the White House has been lending its ear to end times groups. The group in question seems to be betting on an escalation of problems with Iran to bring in the end times. Funny, that's the doomsday scenario that's been kicking around in my head in recent days. Thing is, I'm not terribly excited about the scenario...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Man the Wikicades!

Via Pharyngula, it seems there's a strange little conspiracy to undermine Wikipedia by a group of Christian fundamentalists. I have one thing to add to this: this is good reason to regularly spend some time working on Wikipedia if you know something about an issue, especially a controversial one. We need to be able to counteract things like this.

God's kill count

I just found out that the author of the Skeptic's Annontated Bible has a blog, and he went through the Bible and counted up how many people God killed. He then did the same for Satan. Guess who has more kills.

The biases of Biblical scholars

At Christian CADRE, there's an approving link to a blog post by conservative Biblical scholar Ben Witherington III called "Justification by Doubt." I think it is deserving of a fisking. First, the added CADRE remarks:
Some of the less imaginative skeptics claim that the reason that NT scholars and historians do not lend support for more radical theories, such as the Jesus Myth, is that they are Christians or fear backlash from Christians. Such a purported cabal has not prevented many scholars from advancing theories that are nearly as contra to traditional Christianity, such as the Jesus Seminar's marking most of the Gospels' Jesus sayings as of dubious authenticity.
As apologists constantly reminded us when the Jesus Seminar was in the news, they make up a fairly small minority of Biblical scholars. To get an idea of the general make up of Biblical scholarship, Gary Habermas claims 75% of Biblical scholars believe Jesus really rose from the dead. The remaining 25% aren't necessarily going to be hard-core opponents of Christianity. As I noted in my review of the Jesus Seminar, their conclusions are colored by "the most blatant wishful thinking, the strongest will to believe that Jesus was a great teacher"--essentially Christian biases, if not of a conservative stripe. What percentage of scholars have their views similarly colored by liberal Christian commitments? Does 5-10% seem reasonable? If so, it would mean that for 80-85% of scholars have their conclusions determined by religious commitments.

Now to Witherington:
I was recently reading a very fine manuscript by a friend and fellow NT scholar, Craig Evans. He says in this manuscript that sometimes skepticism is mistaken for critical thinking. Some scholars think the more skeptical they are the more scholarly they are being. He adds that adopting an unwarranted and unreasonably skeptical posture is no more justified when it comes to the Bible than adopting a gullible one that accepts anything and everything that comes down the pike masquerading as real scholarship.
Well, when dealing with religious and supernatural claims, skepticism definitely is a mark of good scholarship, or perhaps I should say minimally competent scholarship. Any historian who accepted Josephus' claim about a cow giving birth to a lamb would justifiably be labled a crackpot.
Let it be said that the Bible has survived the critical scrutiny of many of the greatest minds that ever existed over the last several millennia. We shouldn’t think that it is now in danger of being explained away or set aside or shown to be irrelevant. As Jerome once put it "Defend the Bible? It needs about as much defense as a lion!"
The claim that the Bible has survived millenia of skeptical scrutiny is totally bogus because it hasn't been skeptically scrutinized for millenia. There is only a single disputed non-Christian reference to Christianity from the first century. I do not know of a single example of one of the "greatest minds" of the period of 100-300 A.D. devoting their energy to critiquing the Bible. If Witherington wants to claim Thomas Aquinas as an example of someone who scrutinized the Bible, he should consider Islam just as true as Christianity, because there were many medieval Muslim theologians who thought the Qur'an was the word of God. The Bible really only received serious outside scrutiny starting with the enlightenment. At the very least, it could have done better in the face of modern scrutiny, what with scholars such as Bart Ehrman and Robert M. Price entering the field as fundamentalists and coming out agnostic.
My main point is this. Skepticism is itself a faith posture, a presupposition that affects and infects how one reads Biblical texts, just as ardent faith is also a faith posture...

There is of course no purely objective value free scholarship out there.
You know the theist has lost the debate when he's given up claiming his position is rational and has to try to claim the skeptics have a position based on faith too.
It also needs to be said that it is not good scholarship to have as a beginning point a posture of distrust towards the subject of one’s historical study. One ought to begin with a posture of trust when approaching a certain historical subject...
Even when the subject is Herodotus' story of the mass resurrection of cooked fish?
Skepticism is no more scholarly than gullibility. But they both have one thing in common—they are both faith postures, not critical stances.
Is skepticism of the story of Apollonius no more scholarly than gullibility about it? No. Are both faith claims? No.

Conservative Christianity claims to have absolute truth. It's surprising then to see a conservative Christian trying to treat it all as relative.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What does belief in Hell do?

I've often thought about what the doctrine of Hell does to people psychologically. Possible effects include making people live in fear of honest inquiry, making them willing to lie to gain converts, and causing them do demonize everyone who doesn't agree with them. It certainly contributed to the killing of dissenters during the Middle Ages. But now, a psychologist will be studying this issue.

Hat tip: Be Reasonable

Bobcasting, episode 2

Here's the second edition of Bobcasting, a podcast where I read from the works of Robert G. Ingersoll.

Epidode 2: Why I Am an Agnostic, part 2
Ourmedia page

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bligbi on "30 Days"

I've found yet another post on the "30 days" episode: "it wasn't utterly horrible."

I watch "30 Days"

I succeeded in seeing the atheist-evangelical episode of "30 Days." I agree with Cassandra's complaint about the superficial treatment. At the end there was a clip of someone from the Bible study group saying that the atheist, Brenda, had asked good questions, but you never saw those questions getting asked. One memorable part, though: she got asked "What criteria or doccuments do you base your life on"--as if the Christian was expecting to find out the name of the Atheist Scriptures.

Ode to science

Neural Gourmet has an excellent post on the wonders of a scientific worldview:
There is grace in science. There is warmth in this physical world. A sophistication completely unimaginable in the trappings of the paranormal, the supernatural, or the metaphysical. It pains me and shakes me down to my foundation to think that people are willingly missing out on all of it and that they do so by surrendering their minds and intellectual prowess to comfort. What is the belief in an afterlife besides a salve for the fear of death? What is the belief in God besides security against absurdity? It cheapens this life that we lead in this world.

Ingersoll's birthday

Heh. I post on Ingersoll today, and I don't even realize that yesterday was Ingersoll's birthday. Go read the link--it's the Ebon Muse giving a nice mini-biography of Ingersoll.

Ingersoll and liberal Christians

Yesterday, I gave a listen (see Robert Ingersoll Podcast) to What Would You Substitute for the Bible as a Moral Guide? In it, Ingersoll argues that, "There are many good precepts, many wise sayings and many good regulations and laws in the Bible, and these are mingled with bad precepts, with foolish sayings, with absurd rules and cruel laws." He also notes that "At the same time, we must remember that the Old Testament is a natural production, that it was written by savages who were slowly crawling toward the light. We must give them credit for the noble things they said, and we must be charitable enough to excuse their faults and even their crimes."

It occurred to me listening to this that many liberal clergymen would find very little to argue with in what Ingersoll says in this lecture. Very few, though, would say it. It is too embarrassing to admit that the Bible which provides your liturgy is a merely human book. Thus, respect for the Bible is encouraged by those who do not respect it. I think this is another example of how liberal religion hampers the fight against fundamentalism.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Using evolution to explain science

The weekend before last, Richard Chappell had a post on better science teaching.

I have a proposal along similar lines: hammer the scientific method, and use evolution to do it.

So much science education is about learning factoids and not method. What do factoids do? Educators have complained about students who complain that science classes aren't going to matter for their future, but how many people really are going to need to know Avagadro's number in their future work? Not many. The state of human knowledge is far enough advanced in our age that not everyone can know everything, and thus we are a society of specialists. Specialists do not really need to know the details of the fields of other specialists. What they do need to be able to do is interact with other specialists. In the case of science, this means being able to distinguish science from pseudoscience. This must take precedence over teaching factoids. It can be done by scheduling a good block of time in high school educations to look at the evidence for one scientific theory.

Why use evolution for this? It's simply the easiest subject for explaining the scientific method to high school students who haven't been so big on science and especially math.

Consider some other examples of scientific theories. One of the high points of my sophomore physics class was really understanding how universal gravitation can produce not only circular orbits, but circular orbits that follow Kepler's laws. I still have the math memorized. A lot of high school students, however, wouldn't be so happy with the math. Even I'm not quite sure how the eliptical orbits work.

What about chemistry? I'm aware of a number of things that atomic theory explains: Brownian motion, the Law of Dulong and Petit, behavior of gases, etc. I had to regurgitate some of the math for these things last year for my freshmen college chem courses, but I'm not sure I remember it after a summer, and it's certainly not high school material.

Compare these examples to the case of evolution and the theory of common descent. Statistical analysis has been applied to evolution, but it isn't necessary. Darwin didn't employ it. Put up a diagram showing the bones in the human hand, bat wing, and whale fin and the teacher will not only not have to use math, but will hardly need to explain why the similarities suggest common descent. The argument from nested hierarchies requires a little explanation, but it's the sort of argument that "clicks" quite easily. Many other main supports for common descent are similarly easy to explain.

Such a plan has a good chance of working for increasing good understanding of science. For one thing, it would make biology classes more than rote memorization of facts, and would be gladly embraced by many high school students. The only downside is that many biology teachers are uneasy enough about teaching evolution as it is, and trying to play up evolution would likely get a lot of parents mad. This is purely a question of political will, though. Also, campaigning for such changes in the high school curriculum would be a good forum for explaining the evidence for evolution to the larger public.

The Atheist Mama on "30 days"

The Atheist Mama has done a write up of the atheist-evangelical 30 Days episode. I think I'll try to catch the encore this weekend, don't know if I'll suceed.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Possessed of demons"

That's what a Christian fundamentalist called John Raskin said of Dan Barker after debating him, as reported in Freethought Today. Amusing, though it makes me wonder if any good came out of the debate.

Poo package, first class

The Pooflinger takes on Joe Carter.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Plato was something of a fascist"

That's a quote from Richard Carrier in his recent show with the Rational Response Squad. Good listening, certainly worth the $4 I paid.

Also, I got Carrier's book Sense and Goodness Without God in the mail a couple of days ago. I'll be reviewing it for sure. This may end up being a multi-part review, making it my yet another entry in my recently added "big ones" category (see sidebar).

HelloVader

I don't care if anyone else finds this ammusing. I'm making this post so I'm sure to be able to find this later. HT: PZ Myers:

Bobcasting

Last week, I posted a link to a podcast of reading Robert Ingersoll's works. I found it somewhat dry, though, and so did one Internet Infidels poster, so I decided to do my own version. I call it: Bobcasting. Let's see if it works:

Episode 1: Why I Am an Agnostic, part 1

UPDATE: It works, though be warned it will take a few minutes to download.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ann Coulter's footnotes

Via Ed Brayton, Ann Coulter has been caught with footnotes that don't say what she says they say. I noticed this back when I bought her book Slander:
Page 134: Even during the media's nightly flogging of Iran-Contra, Reagan's approval ratings fell only 5 pecentage points, from 80 percent to 75 percent.

Page 229 (the footnote): Reagan's approval rating fell from 63 percent to 47 percent. But Reagan's personal popularity fell only from 80 percent to 75 percent.
I thought it was an isolated instance. Now it's just more evidence that Coulter may not be as crazy as she seems--just a lying harpy in it for the money.

Visit this site

I'm not entirely sure what it is yet, but Stumble Upon game me a load of hits today. Here's returing the favor.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Resurrection debate index

This is the index post for a debate between myself and a Christian over at Christian Forums on the topic of Jesus' resurrection:

Opening Statements
Round Two
Round Three
Final round

I. Am. Numbere 1.

This blog is the current #1 Google search for Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self. Go me.

EDIT: Also for forthcomming articles in archives of oral biology, believing in both evolution and christianity, the squirel rant, can you prove the earth is round, and Earth's 5-billion-year time-line. Ya know, I would not get nearly as many hits if people knew how to run decent Google searches. Hooray for technical incompetence. More encouragingly, I'm also the top search for id pseudoscience and review "Resurrecting Jesus" Allison. Those are more competent searches.

Reasons for supporting Israel

The Economist talks about why support for Israel is so much higher in the U.S. than Europe. Now, my personal take on this whole thing is that why Israel may not be perfect, it's up against Iran, whose president is certifiably insane. However, the Economist thinks the reason are rather different than that:
Why is America so much more pro-Israeli than Europe? The most obvious answer lies in the power of two very visible political forces: the Israeli lobby (AIPAC) and the religious right. AIPAC, which has an annual budget of almost $50m, a staff of 200, 100,000 grassroots members and a decades-long history of wielding influence, is arguably the most powerful lobby in Washington, mightier even than the National Rifle Association.
Doesn't it make you glad to know that money any religious nuttiness counts for more than concerns about the sanity of a man working on nuclear weapons? Of course part of me doesn't want to believe it, but given the large number of religious nuts in the country, I have to conceed that the Economist is probably right.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

CotG 46

The 46th edition of the Carnival of the Godless is up at Love and Rage.

Christianity naturally militant?

Austin Cline, commenting on the Greg Boyd story, said that:
The combination of religion and military might is basic to the Old Testament, so why shouldn’t it be accepted by Christians who think that they are now God’s Chosen People and that America is God’s Chosen Nation?

Granted, believing such things is ridiculous, but once they are accepted then everything which Boyd is reacting against follows naturally.
There's a suggestion that the Bible naturally encourages theocracy, and Boyd is fighting against the thrust of what's in there. Normally, I'm inclined to agree, but let's not get carried away. As Sam Harris observed, "The Bible is a fundamentally self-contradictory document. You can cherry-pick it in a way that you really can’t the Koran." Boyd's opponents may be able to find support for their position, but when someone opposes that position, let's remember that the other position has just as much Biblical support. It's a messy way to fight fundamentalism, but if it works...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Atheist activism wrap up.

Daylight Atheism has a wrap up of it's series on evangelistic atheism. The series itself is somewhat long, but this wrap up is a must-read, and provides more practical suggestions than I am likely to give.

Ah, Wikipedia

Watch this clip from the Colbert report.

Done? Okay, not have a look at Wikipedia's entry on Elephants:
Because of recent vandalism or other disruption, editing of this article by anonymous or newly registered users is disabled (see semi-protection policy). Such users may discuss changes, request unprotection, or create an account.
I am both amazed by the ability of public figures to incite something like this and Wikipedia's ability to resist it.

EDIT: Oh, when you're done seeing those two things, read this.

Quote of the Time Being, day's second

There's a reason they're called "time being"--it can be four weeks between them or four minutes:
We spend a lot of time here bashing xian fundamentalists who are annoying with their drive-by proseltyzing, their creationist museums, Battle Cry youth cults, and Rapture Ready.com end-of-the-world prophecies. However, these xian fundies seem very tame in comparison to Muslim fundies.
-God is for suckers

I hate to admit it, but this is probably right. And the reason I hate to admit it is not because of any love of Islam but because of what I know about Battle Cry.

Quote of the Time Being

If one is going to believe that a man died, stayed dead three days, rose from the dead, flew into the air above the clouds and is right now with you as your invisible companion, well, why not believe the Jews started all of the wars in the world?
-Brian Flemming

Friday, August 04, 2006

James Dobson's Nuttiness, Part I

Yesterday, I decided to read James Dobson's most recent newsletter, and today I bring you a fisking. It is labled Part I because if Dobson's future newsletters are anything like this one, I've got blogging material for a long time to come.
Dear Friends,

The year was 1990, and Gary Bauer and I were collaborating feverishly on a new book titled Children at Risk.1 Our purpose was to warn parents, teachers and church leaders about the coming assault on the hearts and minds of kids. It had become obvious for several years that homosexual activists and their allies on the far left had crafted an alarming new strategy to gain control of children. It focused on public education and textbooks, children's entertainment and literature, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the nation's legal apparatus, and especially, the massive arms of government. Even liberal churches were in the crosshairs.

This effort represented an audacious attempt to reshape the beliefs and attitudes of an entire generation, beginning with the youngest and most vulnerable. In so doing, they hoped to undermine the Judeo-Christian system of values in two or three decades and open the door to radical ways of thinking and behaving.
Memo to Dobson: Judeo-Christian "morality" was for all intents and purposes killed off when the civilized world realized there are such things as war crimes (see most of first few books of Bible).
It was a brilliant plan, hatched in Satan's own lair.

Not since Adolf Hitler prepared a generation of German and Austrian youth for war has so grand a strategy been attempted.
What's wrong with Hitler? After all, he's one of the few modern leaders who put into practie the Biblical command to kill homosexuals.
Kids were then, and still are today, sitting ducks for those who would subject them to carefully designed propaganda.
You mean like creationists?
This is precisely what was beginning to unfold in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, many parents seemed largely unaware of the threats to their kids and considered our urgent warnings to be overstated political ramblings. Either that, or they were simply too busy to notice...

Almost all of the early goals related to children have been achieved in California and Massachusetts, the two most liberal states in the nation. Can the rest of the country be far behind? The California Legislature, which is controlled entirely by gay activists and radical liberals, is able to sit in planning meetings and dream up whatever suits their fancy. Thus, they can impose the most extreme social experiments without serious opposition from conservatives. Liberal Democrats have succeeded in re-districting the state so as to always be in the majority. With this hegemony, they can do whatever they want to children, provided they can get the governor to go along. Too often, he does.
I'm underwhelmed. Wake me when a school tries to tell kids that any book that teaches the killing of gays is bad book and the measure isn't declared unconstitutional.
...When I learned of these devious plans and the assurances that everything was "okay," this Scripture came to mind: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20, NIV). Subverting the morals of children is evil, no matter what its promoters call it.
Funny, Isaiah 5:20 always pops into my mind when I hear fundamentalists like Dobson so much as mention the word "morality."
...Is there any doubt about the commitment of these people to the task of controlling children's minds? All the ranting and raving about "tolerance" is a ruse. The real purpose here is to promote sexual "lifestyles" among the young. Hence, the fate of California's children, and by extension, the children of the nation, hangs in the balance.
Don't buy the rhetoric about teaching "tolerance" for blacks! They really want to turn kids black!

Er, seriously, I think the point is to make sure that gay high school students don't have to deal with death threats.
...May I ask you to think for a moment about what else these laws will mean in day-by-day practice?

Picture a room packed with five-year-olds sitting cross-legged on the floor. God made them vulnerable for a time to everything adults tell them. Indeed, they can be made to believe that reindeer fly and Santa Claus climbs down the chimneys of every house in the world in a single night.
That's not the half of it. You can even get them to believe that everyone who disagrees with Dr. Dobson's religious ideas will spend eternity in hell!
Because of this uncritical acceptance of what they are taught, teachers and administrators have enormous power either to inspire and elevate their developing little minds, or to inculcate within them all manner of base, immoral and harmful ideas.
Ideas like "it's okay to kill just about anybody if God tells you to"?
I know this as a former teacher. I always considered my responsibility to the children and their parents to be a sacred trust that demanded the highest degree of integrity. I'm convinced that the vast majority of educators today identify with that high sense of calling. They are dedicated to their profession and are doing a marvelous job under what are often very difficult circumstances. But there are others, including a majority in the California Legislature, who would seize the opportunity for manipulation of children and abuse it for political gain. If they are allowed to do so for 13 formative years of a child's life, he or she will never fully recover from it. Nor will the society they ultimately inherit.
Not true! Plenty of people have recovered from early fundamentalist indoctrination!
...So, what are we going to do about these outrageous circumstances? The only hope is that parents, grandparents, pastors and teachers will prayerfully rise to the challenge. We can and will continue to represent you on the front lines, but ultimately, there has to be an army marching behind us. Let me say it again. It is our kids who are at risk. I beg you to join us in battle.

I'm willing to take the heat if you will remember us in your prayers. Believe me, I will pay a price for writing this letter, but it matters not. I'm beyond caring about things like that. A generation of children is at stake, and that is what matters.

Here's a little analogy that may illustrate the state of our families: Suppose you and your loved ones are living in a warm and cozy house where your children are being cared for. You are feeding, guiding and bringing them up "in the fear and admonition of the Lord." Focus on the Family is dedicated to helping you nurture these precious youngsters.

Unfortunately, there are predators around your house that want to gain access to your sons and daughters. They will, if given an opportunity, twist, warp and molest them.
I think we've established whose twisting and warping kids already. And is Dobson really unable to remember the religious affiliation of the most high-profile child molesters of recent years?
Indeed, they are tinkering with your locks today and seeking to break open the windows.
Really? I didn't know the situation with the priests was that bad.
Focus on the Family also stands ready to assist with the defense of your family. This is why our motto reads "nurturing and defending families worldwide." We care about both the inside and the outside of your home. All we need is your invitation to help. Let's work together to save the next generation.

I'll leave you with this request for your financial participation. We are behind budget for the year, and your contributions will be graciously appreciated. Jim Daly sends his warmest regards.
Wait... does he believe all that nonsense, or does he just want money? I'm suddenly confused.

That's it for this month's edition of James Dobson's Nuttiness. Join us next month for... well, I don't know and I'm not sure I want to.

SC 40

The 40th edition of the Skeptic's Circle is up at Daylight Atheism.

Robert Ingersoll on MP3

Yup, some of Robert G. Ingersoll's works are now available as podcasts. The reading is a little dry, but I'm still amazed by Ingersoll's gift for clear writing. He should be used as a model for speakers and essayists everywhere.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Why are Americans fleeing liberal churchs?

I just finished reading the book Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity, which I mentioned last week. I've decided not so much to write a review as to write up some key points that come across.

First, it's worth making clear what we're talking about when he says liberal churches. Hearing the term, I initially thought of the guy Richard Dawkins interviewed for his BBC special: tolerant of gays, believed in the resurrection, didn't think of the virgin birth as quite as important. More often, though, it means figures like John Shelby Spong, who put out a statement of beliefs which said, among other things, "I do not define God as a supernatural being." This leaves the realm of liberal religion for pseudo-religion, irreligion dressed up in religious clothes. (Aside: I think it was on my 18th birthday that I got a copy of his book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism from a member of my parent's church. I don't know whether he realized how radical Spong is.)

In one chapter, Shiflett (the author) interviewed a couple who mentioned Spong as a major reason for leaving the Episcopal church for Eastern Orthodoxy. All this made me think that pseudo-religion may do significant harm. Simply put, when people like Spong try to cover up rationalism in religious language, it furthers the mentality that unbelief is shameful (see Atheists as Other). And of course, nobody buys it. With open unbelief not presented as a serious option, conservatism is the only place where people can avoid incoherence.

The last chapter provided further evidence that fundamentalism thrives on a lack of credible alternatives. Here's an evangelist who was interviewed for the book:
"You might not be able to sell them a biblical worldview, but you can show them their worldview is a house of cards. For instance, there is a widespread belief that there is no objective truth, that every opinion is as good as every other opinion. So you ask the person you're talking to for their opinion about rape. Is it true, or not true, that people should not be able to rape other people?" Suddenly, he said, one piece of objective truth has been discovered: rape is wrong. Absolutely.
Does it make a bit of sense that evangelists can make the jump from "rape is absolutely wrong" to "damning people for the wrong opinions is right and proper"? No... except when you force yourself to see what happens when they're up against brain mush that denies objective truth. When that's you're competition you can get away with anything.

If there's anything the freethought movement needs to focus on, it's presenting itself as a credible alternative to fundamentalism. Currently, such a thing is somewhat lacking.

It isn't just the commander in chief

The military is also incompetent. The Daily Show reports that the military has canned another gay Arabic expert. Their investigation included finding out if he had ever been involved in community theater.

Insert punchline here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

CotL #18

The 18th edition of the Carnival of the Liberals is up at Rey on the Hill. It includes a post which compares "joining a church with the date-rape culture of a fraternity or sorority." Sounds hideously offensive, but I think the poster is on to something. To quote Robert M. Price "when an evangelist or an apologist invites you to have faith "in Christ," they are in fact smuggling in a great number of other issues."

Deconversion

It gets a brief discussion on Vox Populi. My vote is for it. Few people change their minds without any help at all. Many, I think wish they had had more than something written by some philosopher 20 years ago. If you haven't already, listen to the July 15th Free Thought Radio, where Dan Barker talked about deconverting thinking he didn't know any atheists. He also, a little after the 25th minute, talks about a conversation with his mother that had a much greater impact than expected.

Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self

Yes, I linked to that Non-sequitur cartoon yesterday, but only upon reading today's Onion did I find the need to do some reading on the subject.

"My grandfather survived filibuster

Orac makes me wish I could find time to watch the daily show.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Speaking against theocracy

Via The Secular Outpost, an interesting story in the New York Times. It's about Greg Boyd, a megachurch pastor who was one of Lee Strobel's interviewees. This time, though, the topic is not apologetics but politics. Boyd preached a series of sermons "in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a 'Christian nation' and stop glorifying American military campaigns." It's encouraging to hear that from a major evangelical leader. Less encouraging is his congregation's response: he lost a thousand members, some leaving mid-sermon. The church fell millions of dollars short of a fundraising goal. They also lost 20 volunteers, some of the best according to the church's family pastor. When these volunteers left, some indicated they thought the church was supposed to be "supporting the Republican way."

The key question about this story is what the people who stayed thought. Are we looking at 4,000 happy parishoners here, or a group of people that just wasn't quite pissed enough to leave?

Fuck!

The Mighty Middle is no more, because Mike got worried about little kids reading his blog. He writes children's books with his wife for a day-job, and they were finding the site.

Atheist/evangelical 30 days

Via Vjack: There's a reality TV show coming up involving an atheist going to live with an evangelical Christian family for 30 days. Vjack thinks it would be much better to have it the other way around. I'm not so sure. Only having to deal with one atheist might be less intimidating for the Christains. Hopefully, the atheist they've got is someone who'll be a good communicator. If he or she is, all should go well.