in which i feed a formspring troll

Ordinarily I advise against troll-feeling, as it tends to validate their existence and whatnot, but this one, I cannot resist:

So, let me get this straight… You are an atheist that chose god as your username? You atheists are obsessed with a God that you do not believe exists? Why? I will pray for you, God Bless.

OK, that’s not much of a troll, as trolls go, but still. My formspring answer was brief and dismissive, but the more I thought about it this afternoon, the more I realized I really want to answer that. Why would non-believers invest a good deal of time, effort, and energy into repeatedly dismissing something they profess not to believe? Well, it’s not the non-existent god that we obsess about, it’s the things that are done in his name, and the consequences he’s used as a shield against, and the repeated efforts by his followers to break down barriers between church and state. There are actually far too many reasons to list, but this is a good start:

  • Catholics. When we are confronted by a seemingly endless array of horrific tales of abuse, when we read things like this: ” Murphy would call them to his bedroom in the school, or visit them in their dorm beds late at night, masturbate them and leave. Sometimes he would go on to other boys. Often he would say nothing. Sometimes when the boys saw him molesting other boys in the dorm room, they would cover their heads with their blankets, hug themselves tightly and weep.”, we are motivated to speak out against the shield that religion offers these monsters.
  • Fundamentalist hate groups. It’s not like non-believers can, in good conscience, sit idly by while weapons-grade religious nuttery runs amok.
  • Texas. In addition to the group linked in the above item (under the word “groups”), we also have a situation with Texas rewriting history, and with its textbook purchasing power, influencing schools far beyond its borders. This is just not OK. There are far too many religions to let a small faction of one of them control our educational system.
  • Hypocrisy: Put simply, people who believe in literal interpretations of so-called holy books like the Bible and the Qu’ran are conditioned to accept all manner of egregious behavior in their leaders, and someone has to keep an eye on y’all. See Mojoey‘s Hypocrisy Watch map.

There are just so many excellent reasons to pay excruciatingly close attention to the bullshit that religions attempt to impose upon those who choose not to follow — I didn’t even get into the horrors of Sharia law or Ugandan human rights horrors, or any of myriad other very valid reasons why atheists have every reason to “obsess” on religion.

That being said, the 281 questions I’ve answered to date as god on formspring have included very, very few pompous religious nitwits offering to pray for me, and for that, I am glad.

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inhuman nature

On Beliefnet, Rod Dreher offers a study in contradictions, starting with the title: Atheism and our inhuman nature. If human nature has a tendency towards evil, then evil isn’t inhuman, is it?

Then, as part of his argument for the necessity of religion, he cites atrocities in the Congo, then states:

This is not a matter of religion, or no religion. This is a matter of human nature, and what human beings are capable of absent civilized restraints. If you think people are bad with God, just imagine what they’re capable of without Him. I finished the Kristof column and thought to myself, “How is it that people still believe in the basic goodness of man?”

So if this is not a matter of religion or no religion, why, exactly, would religion help? In places like the Congo, or Rwanda, or any of the other places horrific things take place on a massive scale, are we to believe that by introducing (presumably) Christian morals, the rape, torture, and genocide would magically go away? This is a bit like shipping solar-powered bibles to earthquake victims who are starving and dying from lack of the most basic supplies – ignoring the overwhelming *real* needs in favor of imaginary ones. Not to mention completely overlooking the unspeakable persecutions currently being inflicted on gays in Uganda by a government heavily influenced by “The Family.”

But that’s not a contradiction, it’s just stupid. This is a contradiction:

And I believe having God — in the sense of professing belief in Him — is not enough to prevent individuals and sometimes entire societies from turning to evil (I think from time to time of a story I told here about Serbian butchers — Orthodox Christians, presumably — massacring innocent Bosnian Muslims; it was related to me by my friend Rich, who was haunted by the black mold on the wall of the warehouse, feeding on the bodily fluids of the murdered men). But if we are to be good, God must be present, and present in a real way in our hearts, such that His laws are binding on our conduct.

The cognitive dissonance is absolutely deafening. It’s like there’s an invisible 11th commandment, “Thou shalt disagree with thine own self.” Or maybe “Thou shalt not make any fucking sense at all, for the sensemakers are an abomination unto the Lord your God.”

In other news, Religious belief is likely a by-product of human moral reasoning, suggest psychologists.

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15 seconds of super bowl vs. 75 employees for 1 year

source: adfreak blog on adweek.com (click image for more)

Ahh, the choices we face in life. Imagine you are an executive with Focus on the Family. I know, I know, it’s unpleasant, but bear with me. Now, imagine you have a difficult choice to make: do you run a $3,000,000 advertisement for fifteen seconds during a football game, or do you hire back 75 recently laid-off staffers at an average of $35,000 salary for a year?

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what is it with that silsby woman?

Exactly:

The creepy factor here is off the charts.

But don’t judge her just by the (for lack of a better word) smile. Listen to “Carol”, a former employee of Ms. Silsby:

A woman, I will call her Carol*, contacted me after reading my article on OS earlier this week regarding the Baptists missionaries detained in Haiti. She reached out to me because she said (via email) “there is a group of us watching the events in Haiti [regarding Laura Silsby] in horror.” and ”she [Silsby] is a snake oil salesman.”
Many of us have been watching this story with great interest. But, Carol’s perspective is different as she has been observing Silsby for years, from the inside – Carol is a former employee of Silsby’s online company PersonalShopper.com.

Carol went on, “Laura Silsby is incredibly good at getting enormous sums of money from people. 10 years good at it. She has probably smooth talked these poor people and now they’re stuck in jail with her.”
The New York Times quotes Edwin Coq, the Baptist’s lawyer, stating that 9 of his 10 clients were “completely innocent,” but that, in an apparent reference to Ms. Silsby, “if the judiciary were to keep one, it could be the leader of the group.” (read the rest here)

It really is a shame that religious institutions have a general tendency to discourage critical thought, it makes their members such easy prey for thieves like this.

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pet peeve

News just featured an interview with a missionary who just got home from Haiti, relating her experience during the earthquake, as her building held up while others around her collapsed: “I could feel god’s presence, he was right there with me.” Huh. Well, he must have had a Special Purpose for you. What are you doing back in the states then? You’re a missionary, why didn’t you stick around and HELP? Way to show god how thankful you are that he was hanging out with you, making sure you were A-OK while letting countless other people die horrible deaths. Bitch.

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satan’s letter to pat robertson

Pure awesomeness from Lily Coyle of Minneapolis:

Dear Pat Robertson, I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll. You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract. Best, Satan

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the temple of hume

Aasif Mandvi and Jon Stewart totally nail it on the issue of poor persecuted christians:

On a more serious note, Jeff Schweitzer over at HuffPo had some observations on conservative christian morality and the facility with which some of its more notable practitioners twist it up:

• South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a vocally conservative Christian, was caught in a torrid affair with his Argentinean mistress, a crime under his own state’s law, which he is responsible for enforcing. By the high moral standards of South Carolina adultery is a punishable offense defined as “habitual or carnal intercourse with each other without living together as a man and woman when either is lawfully married to some other person.” Sanford has compared himself to King David, and has said that god wants him to remain in office in spite of his civil and moral crimes.

• Nevada Senator John Ensign, another Conservative Christian, had an extensive on-going extramarital affair with a woman on his campaign staff. Ensign is a long-standing member of the Christian men’s ministry called the Promise Keepers. The irony!

• Former U.S. Representative Mark Foley had a yen for male pages, urging one to “get a ruler and measure it for me.” According to ABC News , Foley emailed an invitation to one male page to stay at the congressman’s home all for the low price of oral sex. This is the representative who piously introduced legislation to prevent exploitation of children under the banner of Christianity.

• Ted Haggard was accused of paying male prostitutes for sex while using crystal meth. This is the man who held weekly meetings with President Bush, teaching the president that homosexuality is an abomination. Haggard was at the time the head of the National Association of Evangelicals.

• U.S. Senator Larry Craig infamously was charged with soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. What makes that interesting is his vocal, loud and prominent opposition to gay marriage on the basis of his adherence to “Christian values.”

• Bob Allen, a Republican Congressman in the Florida House of Representatives, was charged with paying an undercover cop $20.00 for the pleasure of offering to the officer oral sex. This act of illicit love is in bright contrast to his active sponsorship of Christian-inspired anti-gay legislation.

• Glen Murphy, Jr., while National Chairman of Young Republicans, allegedly got some young Republicans drunk , and then decided to practice some oral sex on the inebriated up-and-comers on the right.

• Republican State Representative Richard Curtis from Spokane, Washington was involved in a gay sex scandal. Donald Fleischman, Chairman of the Republican Party in Brown County in Green Bay, WI, was ensnared in his own scandal of homosexual yearnings.

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what it’s all about

I am, by nature, a conciliatory sort of person. I want to be low-key, i want to please. When I post in the obnoxiousness category, I feel self-conscious, as if I have no business — and I worry that friends of mine with spiritual beliefs might be offended. But then I read something like this and I realize that obnoxiousness is an absolutely necessary response to the evils of organized religion. It is vitally important to speak out against religious extremism in all its forms, against those who abuse their power over others, whether they are parents, priests, or political activists seeking to impose their beliefs on others.

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