Religious Orders

Draw Mohammed Day

Posted: Thursday May 20 2010 @ 5:22pm

Religious Order: Religion

So, it's Draw Mohammed Day. In case you're not familar with it, it's basically a reaction to Islamic threats towards those who have portrayed Mohammed in drawings. (Specifically, the recent South Park episode. Although the problem is more wide-spread than just that.)

It's also become, unfortunately, an outlet for a shit-load of racism.

The problem Muslims have regarding drawing Mohammed is two-fold. On one hand, some interpret the Qur'an to forbid drawing the prophet at all, in order to forestall people from worshiping the prophet in place of God. Well, that's fine, if that's what you believe. But don't expect me to follow suit. Additionally, if you're worried about me worshiping Mohammed, well, don't worry. Ain't gonna happen. So there's some irony there. Muslims may expect me to follow some rule for reasons that explicitly don't apply to me.

On the other hand lies the respect issue. Many, even most, of the people drawing Mohammed lately are being as rude with their drawings as they can. And Muslims are taking offense and asking for/demanding respect. And, again, that's fine. But then it escalates to threats and even attempts at violence. Then, it's not so fine.

Of course, on the gripping hand, the US has fucked around with the Middle East quite a lot, both historically and lately. And if I came from that perspective, I might throw a bomb myself.

Yes, that's right, I said it. Much of the Muslim anger towards the US is entirely justified. Radical Islam itself grew from the shitty things we did to Iran with the Shah. We are reaping what we've sown. That said, if y'all keep hitting at the US, we will eventually just blow you up. No, really, we can do that. I hope we don't. But we can. We really can. When US hawks yap about turning the Middle East into a smooth plain of glass, they're not kidding. I don't think folks in the Middle East really understand that we have enough missiles to take out the former Soviet Union. Sad, but true.

Well, in any case, I can't draw worth shit. But I can use an avatar creation program. So, here are my drawings of Mohammed. I decided to work against the can't draw the prophet at all rule instead of trying to be offensive just to establish that I can be offensive. So I went for cute and clever:

These next two aren't really drawings of the prophet at all. Rather, they're rather obvious plays on words:

Finally, if you want to draw Mohammed quickly and easily, here are two emoticons:

Stern Mohammed: (((:~{>
Happy Mohammed: (((;~)>

I did follow the Facebook group for awhile and engaged in some discussions with Muslims. And I learned some things, both good and bad. I'll post some thoughts on that tomorrow.

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The Morality Paradox

Posted: Monday December 07 2009 @ 1:53am

Religious Order: Religion

(Yes, it's another one of those long serious posts where I pretend to be all intellectual and shit.)

Reading this article, Creating God In One's Own Image, reminded me that I had been meaning to write about the Morality Paradox. Maybe paradox isn't the right word. I don't really know. Anyway, I find it interesting.

The article talks about how people attribute their own values to God. In other words, instead of deriving their own values from God, they decide on their own values first and then project them onto God.

And it reminded me of something about which I've been thinking recently. In short, people of faith, with a God-given set of rules upon which to draw, can't seem to come to any common moral conclusions. Meanwhile, atheists, who have no set of rules handed down, are surprisingly uniform on many moral issues.

Maybe I'm just grossly misinformed, but religious folks seem to cover the vast spectrum on moral issues. You have folks on each side of issues like abortion or gay rights. As one evangelical I know and respect said In their rhetoric, it is almost like progressive and conservative Christians are reading from two different Bibles. (Well, okay, I know this person's spouse. But the person quoted seems just as nice and smart. And I have loads of respect for both of them.) Of course, you also see them all over the political spectrum on money-related issues as well.

But, when you look at atheists, you just don't see many (any?) who are pro-life or who think we ought to restrict the rights of gays. Atheists are all over the place on other political issues, particularly money-related issues. I know far lefty atheists. I know libertarian atheists. And I know a shit-load of liberal Democrat atheists. But, on morality issues, we tend to line up pretty well.

I don't know any straight-up conservative atheists, presumably based on incompatibility with the moral issues listed above.

And I most certainly don't know any pro-life or anti-gay-rights atheists.

Shouldn't we be expecting the opposite? Shouldn't folks who don't recognize any supreme authority be all over the place on these sorts of moral issues? Shouldn't folks with a God-given book of laws all agree?

We can partially explain away the lack on consistency on the religious side by pointing out that the books of rules tend to have so many rules, you're almost forced to pick and choose which ones you want to follow. The Bible has Leviticus, a collection of rules that are followed or ignored based at least partially on who or what the follower doesn't personally like. Not to be outdone, the Qur'an tells you how to wipe your butt. No, seriously, including which direction to face so that an all-seeing God doesn't see you dirty butt.

Or, as the good Reverend Lovejoy once pointed out just about everything is a sin, technically we can't even go to the bathroom.

So, okay, it's understandable that they would come to differing opinions on what the various books of laws actually say. (Which brings up the question of why then bother with the book of laws. Another topic for another time.)

But I remain fascinated by the uniformity of us atheists on certain moral issues when we certainly don't agree on much else. Money issues? No way. There's a healthy percentage of atheist libertarians to counter all the liberals. Foreign relations? Nope. Sure, there's plenty of doves. But some of the most famous atheists are outright hawks.

But on personal morality issues? Right down the fucking line!

So, why would that be? The glib answer is that, without a book of laws, we're forced to actually think about the issues rather than having the answers handed to us. So we naturally come to the same correct answers.

Is that all there is to it? Yes!!! Bwaa-ha-ha!!! That's all there is to it!!! Ahem, sorry, got carried away by glorious rationality.

But that does lead me to another issue that's been rattling around in my skull. Long ago, I read Hitchens' god is not Great. I didn't much like it. It's long on shallow bitching and short on actual analysis. The only really interesting piece comes on page 126, I think. (The fact that I remember the page number is testament to the general lack of ideas in the book.)

Basically, Hitchens makes the assertion that good religious folks would still be good without their religious belief, but that bad religious folks are at least enabled by their belief. And I think that's true. But, how to actually prove that? Well, I don't think you can, but the study at the top of the post leads you in that direction. Their personal ethics and decisions drive their take on religion rather than the opposite.

The other thing that leads in that direction is the realization that atheist are basically a control group for moral decision-making, at least in some areas. Following that line of reasoning, we see that religion doesn't really make people good. They would be good anyway, like the control group. But religion can indeed make you bad, at least on some issues.

Yeah, I know, dime-store ethics. Whadda want for nothing? Rubber biscuit?

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In Good Company

Posted: Thursday October 08 2009 @ 6:25am

Religious Order: Religion

Here's a cool letter from Albert Einstein where he lays out his view of religion:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

Ooo! Harsh!

It is important to note that Einstein not believing in a God doesn't mean there isn't one. (Although there isn't. Sorry.) It just means that I'm in good company. Sorta. After all, Al was a nice guy, but he still cheated on his wife. And he pissed the end of his career away with an adamant refusal to accept quantum mechanics.

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Fundamental Difference?

Posted: Thursday July 02 2009 @ 12:13pm

Religious Order: Religion

So, I was pondering about whether there was some sort of fundamental difference between believers and non-believers. I'm sure there isn't any one simple thing. But I did run across what seems like a significant difference that I'm gonna explore a little here.

There's a family of arguments for the existence of God that all have a common basis. I don't know what the technical term is, so I call them Arguments that posit an extra-logical being to get around unwanted logical outcomes. Here are some examples:

First mover arguments argue that every object has to have some external force move it. Therefore there must be some first mover to start it all off. And that mover is God. Some call this the Big Domino argument. Creator arguments are also of this ilk. Everything needs a creator, therefore there must be a God to act as that creator.

Designer arguments argue that everything has a designer, thus there must be some first designer, again, God. This is often posed as a watchmaker scenario. If we find a watch, we assume there was a watchmaker. Similarly, we see the watchmaker and we should also assume that there was a watchmaker-maker.

Another one is where folks argue that our morality can only exist is derived from the higher level authority, again, God. I call this the Big Daddy argument. Just as kids get their morality handed down from their parents, their parents get it from God.

There are certainly more arguments along this line. These are just the first ones that pop to mind.

They all take the same form. They all start by asserting for every A, B must be true. A can be real world objects or concepts like morality or something else. B usually refers to another A as the source for the current A. It'll be something like has a creator, or derives from another source of morality.

The problem with these arguments is that they aren't really logically sound. If everything has to get their morality from somewhere else, where does God get his? If every object has a creator, who created God? These aren't logically sound arguments. (Realizing this propelled Bertrand Russell towards atheism.) The key is, they aren't meant to be logical arguments. They're really more a statement that logic doesn't suffice and that something extra-logical is required.

These arguments present situations which require an extra-logical concepts to exist in order to resolve things. The logical alternatives are unacceptable and demand the extra-logical being.

For example, if the statement is that everything truly needs to have a creator, then, logically, there are are two possible outcomes:

  1. There's an infinite chain of creators, or
  2. The statement is false and not everything needs a creator.

And, when faced with that choice, people seem to have one of two different reactions. Either they're okay with those options, or they can't accept either and instead posit an extra-logical being to resolve things. And that leads to the actual point of this (overly long) post. Is that reaction the difference between believers and non-believers?

Or put another way, does a fundamental difference between believers and non-believers lie in whether they find positing an extra-logical being to be a comforting answer to the logical situation that these sorts of arguments pose. (I'm not happy with using comforting here. It sounds like I'm being judgmental and I'm trying hard to not be that way in this post.)

For me, having some sort of infinite series or just having things be created from nothing isn't a big problem. Sure, it doesn't square with common sense. But neither does relativity, much less quantum theory. And exotic particles actually do appear and disappear from the quantum foam all the time. I stopped expecting the universe to conform to my ideas of common sense long ago. But many, perhaps most, people have a real problem with those sorts of concepts and find positing an extra-logical being to be a good solution.

Conversely, for me, saying that God starts things off as the prime creator/designer/hander-down-of-morals doesn't really resolve things. I keep asking myself, well then, who created/designed/handed-morals-down-to God? But, obviously, for a great many folks, that's an answer that works for them.

So, are we looking at a fundamental difference here? Does it explain at all why believers and non-believers often talk past each other?

And, from my standpoint, the biggest question is why does positing an extra-logical being satisfy believers? (And they all want to ask me why it doesn't. :)

I really don't have any answers here. But it's what I've been thinking about on my last few walks, so I thought I'd write it down. I'd love to hear other folks' take on it. And I'll try hard to just listen to comments rather than argue against them.

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National Day of Prayer?

Posted: Thursday May 07 2009 @ 10:35am

Religious Order: Religion

So what's the deal with the National Day of Prayer? Does that imply that the other 364 days in the year are days of non-prayer? Does it mean that religious people need to be reminded occasionally that they're supposed to pray? When is the National Day of Meditation, for those with non-theistic religions?

And why the hell does it need a Task Force?

It's just weird. That's all I'm saying. Especially since it follows the equally weird Loyalty Day.

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Apparently They Didn't Have Enough Faith

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

Here's an appalling little story from Wisconsin, via WCCO.

Seems there were these parents who had an 11-year-old girl who developed diabetes. Instead of bringing her to a doctor, so she could get insulin treatment, they decided to just pray for her. So, for a month, this little girl was in pain and torment as she slowly died.

According to the police chief, their explanation was "apparently they didn't have enough faith."

Apparently they didn't have enough brains and a little girl died in pain because of it. But the police chief isn't much better. The girl has three older siblings. And these nut-job parents still have custody. Said the chief, "There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see."

What the fuck? Hope they don't get sick.

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A Legion of the Godless

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

You gotta love a story that starts with:

A legion of the godless is rising up against the forces of religiosity in American society.

The full article is entitled In America, Nonbelievers Find Strength in Numbers. Before anyone gets excited, be sure to check out the 2007 SOFA report.

I need a shirt that says Proud Member of the Legion of the Godless.

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Fucking Whackjobs

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

Here's the latest news from Norway regarding gays and Islam:

The Norwegian Islamic Council is still waiting for a reply from the European Fatwa Council before it decides whether or not it is in favour of the death penalty for homosexuality.

Note, we're not talking about some remote sect. We're not talking about some hard-line leader clinging to power in a hot and sandy country. We're talking about the main councils, the official voices of Islam in Europe and Norway.

So, let me be clear. If you think gays ought to be killed for being gay, you are a fucking whackjob who deserves no respect whatsoever. Given the horror show that is American right-wing religion, it's easy to forget that Islam is even worse in many cases. Beware of the false dichotomy. It's perfectly possible that both Islam and Christianity can be evil.

What I can't figure out is this:

Unacceptable, says lesbian Sara Asmeh Rasmussen, the only openly lesbian Muslim in Norway.

Sara, it's time you realized that your religion is a sham. They want to kill you for what you are. Doesn't that tell you that something is wrong?

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In The Majority

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

I mentioned the SOFA report a couple weeks back. It's an annual report on what people know and think about the First Amendment to the Constitution.

One of the scary findings is that 55% of Americans believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. Of course, if you read the damn thing, you'll see that it does nothing of the sort. The only mention of religion at all is in the First Amendment, which identifies that we each have freedom from the government choosing a religion for us.

Well, okay, 55% of the American public may be made up of morons. But surely a Senator and presidential candidate would know better. asked crazy old John McCain about it:

A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, "I only welcome Christians." We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

Oh, I guess not. Hey John, try reading it some time!

Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt and focus on "a nation founded on Christian principles," you're still screwed. The Ten Commandments say there's only one God, while the Bill of Rights says the government can't force one upon you. The Ten Commandments say you can't take the Lord's name in vain, god-dammit! The Bill of Rights says you can say whatever the hell you want. Parts of the Bill of Rights are in direct opposition to the Ten Commandments.

Then you have cases like "Thou shalt not murder." Sure, murder is illegal in America. Of course, it's illegal everywhere else. Prohibiting murder is hardly a Christian-specific principle.

I hate to break it to people, but the Founding Fathers were not, by and large, Christians. Many were deists, who believed that some supreme being had created the universe, then left it the hell alone. These guys hated all the spooky supernatural revelation stuff. Jefferson even created his own version of the Bible, cutting out all the divine stuff.

Of course, there were plenty of other Founding Fathers that were stolid Christians, but, when it came time to lay down the laws of the land and found a country, they all agreed to base it on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, not the Bible.

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Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

I honestly don't know what to make of this photo of a Muslim TSA agent frisking a Catholic nun.

(If only the nun had red hair. Then it would be hot!)

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