Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dawkins and McGrath

Richard Dawkins interviews Alistair McGrath: "Root of all Evil?" Lost Tape

When Richard Dawkins made his documentary, "Root of all Evil?" there was some footage that had to be left out of the final cut. Unfortunately, the entirety of his conversation with Alistair McGrath was nixed.

McGrath has written two direct critiques of Dawkins, including the more recent "The Dawkins Delusion?" in response to the latter's own "The God Delusion."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Reasonable Rally?

The Creation Museum run by Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis is having its grand opening this weekend, just south of my hometown of Cincinnati.

It's somewhat ironic that a hardcore Creationist organization, which makes no bones about promoting Christian theology, should be enjoying such an upswell of support, even as the more scientifically self-conscious Intelligent Design organization (the Discovery Institute) has been reeling since the decision at Dover in 2005.

From the Museum's press release:
Set to open on May 28, 2007, at its location in northern Kentucky 2 exits west of the Cincinnati Airport, this $27 million “walk through history” museum will counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn minds against Scripture – and Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe.
The museum's striking exhibits demonstrate to guests that the Bible is the “true history book of the universe” as they take a time journey through a visual presentation of the “Seven C’s of History” according to Scripture: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross and Consummation.
I cannot imagine a more inaccurate educational travesty, nor a more insulting parody of the scientific process.

And yet, I also cannot imagine anything productive coming from a protest of the damned thing.

Apparently, an organized protest calling itself the "Rally for Reason," which is endorsed by American Atheists, the Institute for Humanist Studies, the Secular Coalition for America, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is being planned for the day of the museum's grand opening, at the Answers in Genesis building in Kentucky. Planned speakers include Edwin Kagin, Frank Zindler, the Smalkowskis, and even Hemant Mehta.

Quite frankly, this level of organization and interaction among atheists is relatively as impressive as the planning which went into the Creation Museum. But I think that it's misplaced.

The thing is, this museum has been funded by private money, on private property, and attendance is strictly voluntary. Yes, of course it's as ridiculous as a Flat Earth Museum, but even if the Flat Earth Society came up with some way to build one, so what? I just don't see any reason to organize a protest against any privately-funded group. It smacks of political grandstanding, and I find that distasteful. I find myself in agreement with Penn Jillette on this matter, who's said that he thinks the best solution to awful ideas is the free exchange of other ideas. Marching back and forth in Northern Kentucky on Memorial Day with a megaphone just doesn't strike me as much different than lobbying to have Answers in Genesis' website shut down. Besides, it would be much more entertaining to simply publicize what goes on inside these crazy Creationist museums.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Twenty Commandments

Although Franc Tremblay and Dawson Bethrick have shown time and again that the Ten Commandments are morally worthless, I think that an analysis of the textual source for these lists is supremely fascinating.

Casual references to the scriptural source for the Ten Commandments will usually mention two locations (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5), but it's relatively rare to hear about the other place they're listed (Exodus 34). Usually, the reason for this is that although there's an obvious citation of the phrase "Ten Commandments," there isn't a recognizable list- at least, of the so-called orthodox version of the Commandments.

You see, looking a bit closer at Exodus 34 shows that there actually is a set of Ten Commandments therein- and there are even some that can be recognized, such as the command to worship only Yahweh (the name of the Hebrew deity), the prohibition against making any idols, and the command to observe the Sabbath. And yet, the other items in the list are strange, concerned primarily with Temple worship and cultic feasts.

In fact, if one were to dive a bit closer into the text of Exodus 34, and in fact, the larger surrounding corpus, one would find two parallel but slightly different narratives, laid end to end in Exodus, which indicate a human composition of the Pentateuch.

I performed such an analysis years ago just after I left Christianity, and have now posted this on my website. If you're interested, you can find it here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Free Kent Hovind!

Although it will do no practical good, I signed the petition. I think that this petition holds symbolic importance. I encourage all atheists and theists alike to sign the petition to free Kent Hovind. Let's not make political prisoners out of evangelists, whatever they are evangelizing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Guillermo Gonzalez Saga

Another update on the Guillermo Gonzalez situation from the Discovery Institute:
The Center for Science & Culture
Following the evidence where it leads

Key Developments in Gonzalez Tenure Denial Case, May 14-21

Action Item: Help Guillermo Gonzalez in his fight for academic freedom. Contact ISU President Gregory L. Geoffroy at (515) 294-2042 or email him at and let him know that you support academic freedom for Dr. Gonzalez to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

The big story this week was the denial of tenure to widely-published pro-ID astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State University, despite the fact that he exceeded by 350% his department’s standard for research excellence in peer-reviewed publications. A quick recap of the key developments in the case:
  1. Two tenured professors in Gonzalez’s department publicly admitted that his work on intelligent design played a role in his tenure denial.
  2. Two additional faculty members in Gonzalez’s department were found to be connected to a national statement denouncing intelligent design as “creationist pseudoscience.”
  3. Tenure statistics were obtained showing that 91% of faculty who applied for tenure this year at ISU received it, refuting the university’s claim earlier in the week that its tenure standards are “so high, that many good researchers have failed to satisfy the demands of earning tenure” at ISU.
  4. Tenure standards for ISU's Department of Physics and Astronomy were released showing that outside research funding was not a stated criterion for tenure decisions in the department.
  5. ISU continues to pretend that nothing is wrong while ignoring the hostile work environment for Gonzalez.
Now, I'm not sure why 1 and 2 are supposed to be a problem- it's well known that Intelligent Design is considered unscientific by professional scientific bodies like the AAAS and the NAS. Any university would be foolish to disregard that kind of opinion. Number 3 just shows that not everyone can get tenure- a fact of academics. Maybe Gonzalez just isn't that lucky. Number 4 might not be a "stated criterion," but it's pretty important anyway- this is academics, after all, and Mike Dunford explains why. And number 5 just makes me want to pull out the world's smallest violin- suddenly, having colleagues disagree with you constitutes a "hostile work environment?" How thin-skinned are these people, anyway? Mike Behe certainly didn't seem this touchy when he was questioned at the Darwin vs. Design conference.

We Pissed Off Chuck Norris...

...and now we're in serious trouble.

Chuck Norris is an internationally-known killing machine and born-again Christian who has just discovered the Blasphemy Challenge. As of this report, Brian Sapient and crew are fortifying their "bunker" with lead and concrete. This, of course, will not work.

Chuck advises all theistic patriots to "be wise to atheists' overt and covert schemes, exposing their agenda and fighting to lay waste to their plans."

To inform his readers of the correct plan of attack, Chuck details the Evil Atheist Conspiracy's™ 5-year plan (procured, no doubt, from the freshly slain corpse of one of our operatives). This includes:

Outlawing Christianity
  1. by causing a goof-up at the mint, resulting in "In God We Trust" being accidentally left off some new dollar coins.
  2. by joining the Freedom From Religion Foundation and ensuring that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution is correctly applied.
  3. by discovering the existence of a nonbelieving Congressman.
  4. by forcing Congress to pass a hate-crime bill.
Targeting Children
  1. by daring to raise them without religion.
  2. by offering a non-religious summer camp for freethinking kids.
  3. by providing an online forum to allow teenagers to question faith.
  4. by offering unholy Richard Dawkins link buttons for MySpace pages.
Promoting Atheism
  1. by purchasing Richard Dawkins' "atheist bible."
  2. by allowing Sam Harris to write letters.
  3. by ignoring the science that proves God.
It's clear- Chuck has our number, and I'd advise you all to clear out before you see the beard.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Vox Populi episode 25

Vox Populi episode 25- Dreams, future civilizations, shoddy arguments, and atheistic holidays.
Our team: Joey Carlisle, Shawn Huckabay, Melissa Martin, Alex Ramos, and Rick Slaten.

The show's web site is

We are still looking for new members. If you're interested, send a test recording to francoistremblay28 at

Thursday, May 17, 2007

ID Scientst Needs Your Help

When I submitted questions at the Darwin vs. Design conference in April, I volunteered my email address. Well, I guess it paid off, because I received an interesting email from Jay Richards today:
Dear Friend,

My longtime friend and colleague Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez needs your help. Please read the alert below and consider joining us in the fight for Guillermo's academic freedom.

Intelligent Design Scientist Denied Tenure at Iowa State University

Iowa State University has denied tenure to astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, co-author of The Privileged Planet, which presents powerful scientific evidence for the intelligent design of the universe. You can read about the situation in the Ames Tribune here.

This is a very sad day for academic freedom. Dr. Gonzalez is a superb scholar and his research has been featured in Scientific American, Science, Nature, and many other science journals. In fact, his published work exceeds ISU's required publishing by 350%. Dr. Gonzales has an impressive list of achievements including:
  • authoring 68 peer-reviewed scientific articles;
  • authoring a college-level astronomy textbook published by Cambridge University Press;
  • spearheading research that led to the discovery of 2 new planets;
  • building new technology to discover extrasolar planets;
  • and asked to serve as a referee for a number of leading scientific publications.
Iowa State's decision to deny him tenure is a travesty, and the university should be held to account for its action.

How You Can Help

This is where you come in. There is something you can do to help Guillermo Gonzalez in his fight for academic freedom. The decision to deny his tenure is currently under appeal before the president of Iowa State University. You can call President Gregory L. Geoffroy at (515) 294-2042 or email him at and let him know that you support Guillermo Gonzalez and his right to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Ironically, Dr. Gonzalez arrived in America as a child refugee from Castro's Cuba. Unfortunately, he seems to have discovered that the Darwinist ideologues in America's universities can be nearly as unforgiving as the Marxist ideologues of his home country.

-Jay Richards
Hmmm... I suppose that Gonzalez has "the right to follow the evidence wherever it leads," even if that means walking off the edge of a cliff (an apt analogy for the scientific merits of Intelligent Design argumentation), but he doesn't have the right to do it while tenured to the State's teat unless the State says so.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Own a piece of Jerry Falwell

Yes, you too can own a pound of lard which was not part of Jerry Falwell's body, but is just like his.

Up for auction is one pound of lard - exactly like the lard which composed Jerry Falwell. Place this tub of lard high on a shelf or on your mantle, should you need a tub of lard to look-up to. Place this lard on the back of a donkey or pig should you need a tub of lard to mindlessly follow.

The perfect keepsake with which to remember him.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dead

Jerry Falwell has died at his Liberty University office.

At the risk of sounding ghoulish, I'm somewhat heartened by this turn of events. Falwell was the voice of a political and social movement which sought to antagonize anything other than mainstream Christianity in this country, and with his passing, I'm hopeful that the chapter of American history he helped write will be soon coming to a close.

At the very least, the guy died doing what he loved- surrounded by his ideological fellows right in the heart of an academic monument to his beliefs. Not a bad way to go, all things being equal.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sam Harris vs Reza Aslan

Sam Harris comes off very strong in his books, and theists take alarm at the tone in his written word. I think you will see that in this live debate, Harris is composed, well-spoken, respectful to his fellow participants, and all around enjoyable. I daresay that Harris comes off "friendlier" than his opponent, Reza Aslan.

Ironically, in this debate, the power of Harris spoken arguments remain just as strong as his written ones, while the arguments presented by Aslan are rather underwhelming, whiny, and altogether reek of special pleading.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Rational Responders vs. Way of the Master: Uncut

In the aftermath of the RRS vs. WOTM piece on Nightline, I was tempted (like many others) to rage in anger against the edit ABC had used for their story, that cut out many of the instances which were embarrassing to Comfort and Cameron, and presented the confrontation as an even match, if somewhat shocking for the Christians.

But Chris Smith was in the RRS chat room just after the piece aired, and he mentioned that people tend to view news stories about their issues as having been presented negatively. That struck me, and I took a step back from my anger. Was it really as bad as I imagined? Was I even qualified to answer that question? I came to the conclusion that since what I really cared about was the open and friendly interaction between theists and atheists, this really couldn't be considered to be anything but a good thing, no matter who "won."

And if I felt that the editing job was so poor, the best remedy for that was to show the uncut video. Enjoy.

EDIT: You can download an iPod-friendly version of the debate here (caution- 600 MB).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Benny Hinn is Dropping Bodies

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Anger, Mockery, And Insults, Oh My!

Ray Comfort sent out this email to his supporters today, attempting to poison the well against Brian and Kelly. For what reason, one can only guess, but I don't think it's an unreasonable supposition that he didn't come off as well as he would have liked, especially since his previous debate with Ron Barrier from American Atheists kept the entire audience in stitches with his use of the argumentum ad bananum.

Just a quick note to let you know that the debate went wonderfully.

When I say "wonderfully," I have to qualify it. It was like an open air with an unreasonable and loud heckler. The "heckler" in this case wasn't just the two atheists we were there to debate, but the fifty atheists in the audience. As per ABC's stipulations, the audience was composed half-and-half -- fifty Christians and fifty atheists. The Christians were very quiet and polite -- the atheists weren't. It was very apparant [sic] who was who in the audience. It seemed that no matter what we said, it was completely ignored by Brian and Kelly (the atheists) and then followed up with their anger, mockery, and insults. But as with a good open air, the heckler is simply a platform to speak to the crowd who is listening. In this case there is a crowd of millions who will hear clear, concise evidence for the existance [sic] of God. How incredible. So I am delighted, because of what we were able to say.

Below is the press release and the information you need to watch the debate Wednesday. Thanks for your prayers.

God bless,
Ray Comfort
Well, the Rational Responders have released a video of the debate, and I have to say, I really don't see anger or insults- there were a bit of humor at Ray's expense, for example when Brian suggested that Ray violated his promise not to refer to the Bible by citing the Ten Commandments, and that the debate might as well be over just with that. At hearing this, the (according to Ray, atheist-only section of the) audience erupted in laughter. But I have to admit, it was a good rhetorical zinger that had probably been pre-planned, given Comfort's predictable playbook.

The video below will have to satisfy your curiosity until the official video is released tomorrow at

After The Dust Settles

I've been mulling this question privately for some time now, and since Aaron's post over at KTA brought it to the fore, I suppose I'll submit it for public consideration.

Much lamenting takes place amongst atheists gathering in the blogosphere as well as in the real world, railing against the supposed downtrodden status of those without a god-belief in this country. The University of Minnesota study which found that atheists are the least trusted group in this country is frequently cited, as is the quote from George H. W. Bush suggesting that atheists should not be citizens.

And yes, those are both disquieting facts to consider, but I just don't know if they're that big of a deal.

Matters of religion rarely come up in day-to-day life, and the average stranger next to whom you stand in line while waiting to order a burrito probably doesn't care if you've been to church this week, much less is interested in arguing the finer points of theology. Even close friends and acquaintances probably aren't going to care much, because if you're someone who lacks a god-belief, chances are you're not going to spend much time around those that do.

The obvious exception to this would be those who have recently lost their faith- like me, these fresh atheists likely have religious friends and family, and have been immersed in a religious environment for which every interaction becomes an altercation following their deconversion. These people, like Reed Braden of Unorthodox Atheism, have available to them today an instant platform to voice their objections to religion and report every religiously motivated injustice (Reed himself reports that he has drawn the ire of his school administrators for loaning a copy of "The God Delusion" to a classmate), and thus tend to get a bit more attention than the average non-believer.

My point here is not to downplay these facts- yes, it is unfortunate that atheists aren't considered trustworthy; yes, it is unfortunate that atheists can risk disciplinary action for sharing their opinions; yes, it is unfortunate that atheists might even be fired for their unbelief.

But it just doesn't seem to make that much of a difference to the big picture.

Maybe I've been fortunate so far, but I've never run across a zealous fundamentalist on the street or otherwise who took me to task for my atheism. I go out in public on a regular basis and chat very openly with my friend Derek at restaurants or bars about the nonexistence of God and the mythological basis of Jesus without attracting a single stare. Hell, every month the NTCOF descends on a local Jason's Deli after their church service and discuss all manner of atheistic topics, with nary a raised eyebrow seen by myself for over a year now.

Say what you will about the current President Bush, but I think an offhand comment to a German reporter ("'re equally American whether you're a Jew, Muslim, Christian, or Atheist...") easily cancels out an offhand comment by his father.

And can things really be that grim when large groups of Muslims are fighting against theocracy?

Yes, yes, I know that religious belief isn't dead everywhere, and there are still problems that need to be addressed in the world. But I think that this is increasingly more the exception than the rule. As Aaron points out, churches in Europe and America are being abandoned. Here in Dallas, the only congregations that are growing are the megachurches, whose religious content is diluted significantly, leaving little more to the church experience than social feel-goodery glazed with a thin patina of liberal Christianity. Just take a look at the website for one of the most successful Dallas megachurches, compared to the hardcore Reformed church in which I grew up.

I just don't see atheists being regarded as the societal pariahs that many people think we are. I've been regularly attending a local Southern Baptist apologetics class for more than a year, and I'm continually welcomed, thanked for my contributions (mostly the pastries my wife makes), and missed when I'm not present. True, I haven't been asked to babysit anyone's kids yet, but I was welcomed into their monthly respite service for local disabled children and their families. These are no theological pushovers, either- they may not be seminary-trained, but they take their faith seriously enough to keep Kevin Harris cranking out as many apologetics lectures as he possibly can.

So to summarize my points: religion does seem to be diminishing in either popularity or rigor; atheists may not be trusted, but they're not bothered either; and there is the real potential for believers and non-believers to commune without animosity.

Maybe I'm just being too optimistic here, but is there really anything else we need? Is there any reasonable criterion for victory? It seems to me that anything beyond this point is essentially a victory lap. If Richard Dawkins, whatever you think of him, can have a book called "The God Delusion" on the New York Times bestseller list for 8 months and counting (and whatever you think of the book itself, it's been influential enough to motivate a Christian "catch-up" attempt at rebuttal), then I don't think non-belief is in danger of extinction anytime soon.

Given all this, I want to look ahead to what is going to happen after the dust settles. In the years to come, as the need for religion continues to wane and the average person is more accepting of their non-believing neighbors, what then? Will blogs like this one fade away into oblivion? Will the Rational Responders be out of a job? Is that a bad thing?

Will churches be a thing of the past entirely? Will people still congregate to discuss morality and ethics in a rational context, as does the NTCOF? Or will people like Dawkins and Dennett be as obscure to future generations as Democritus and Epicurus are to us? Is that a good thing?

I honestly don't know, myself, but I think it's something that should be considered, because I think I can see the end of the horizon in the distance.

Question of the Day #70: Atheism/Freethought in Movies?

The June service of the North Texas Church of Freethought will examine instances and portrayals of freethought in the movies. But just how much have atheism and freethought been shown in this medium?

Which movies can you name that show characters who are either without a god-belief or show themselves to be freethinkers?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Brief History of Disbelief: The Final Hour

The third and final part of Dr. Jonathan Miller's documentary about the history of disbelief.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Brief History of Disbelief: Noughts and Crosses

The second part of Dr. Jonathan Miller's documentary about the history of disbelief.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Brief History of Disbelief: Shadows of Doubt

Since my local PBS station (and most other stations, I gather) won't be showing Dr. Jonathan Miller's documentary about the history of disbelief, I'll post all three parts here at GTA for viewing over the weekend. Enjoy.

The Myth of Atheist Unification

Austin Cline of has written an excellent article exposing the myth that there exists an "atheist movement" which threatens society. Check it out.

The fact that several people share something in common while working for some cause does not entail that whatever they share in common is a belief system, a belief, or is functioning as a belief system. This is obviously true of characteristics which are irrelevant to whatever cause people are working for, like simply being human or having hair, but it's also true of characteristics which are somehow connected to the cause, like being female, being a cancer survivor, or being a business owner.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Atheist Documentary Is Anti-American?

According to a story by the FOX News wannabes at CNS News, Christians are upset about the airing of Jonathan Miller's A Brief History of Disbelief on PBS this week.

According to the director of Concerned Women for America (a group founded by Tim "Left Behind" LaHaye's wife):
Airing the program gives credibility and cohesiveness to individuals who seek to undermine the beliefs and values on which democracy and the American dream are founded. One has to wonder why it is so important to them for everyone to understand their 'disbelief.' The program is not a dispassionate, positive voice - as they claim. Instead, it is clearly demagogic and propagandistic.
If one was still wondering at the importance of communicating the reasons for disbelief after watching a documentary that points out the many global problems caused by or contributed to by religion, then perhaps one really wasn't paying attention.

And the vice president at James Dobson's Family Research Council:
When I first read about this, I thought, 'Oh, they're attempting some sort of objective history of atheism. That might be interesting.' But when I actually watched it, I realized that it's really an evangelistic piece for atheism."

If they really want to be objective, they need to have a three-part series documenting the evidence in favor of Christianity. If they present propaganda for Islam, if they present propaganda for atheism, I think it's only fair they present propaganda for Christianity, too.
Well, in fact there have been documentary presentations about many beliefs aired on PBS, including Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, and Hinduism. To say nothing of their weekly broadcast program, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, which examines a much greater diversity of beliefs. Is it really so astounding, and so "anti-American," to give the spotlight to those who argue for a lack of belief?