Atheism Archives

Friday Link Wrap-up

No, the Bush tax cuts didn’t cause the recession. Yes, Obama’s "recovery" has been the worst in history. These and other economic realities can be summed up in this graph. (Click for a larger version.)

 

A sex scandal involving adults and children under their charge. No, not the Catholic church of the 60s; the public schools of today.

While he did get the number wrong, Romney was right in that those who pay the least in income taxes are the least likely to vote for him.

The number of scientific papers that had to be retracted last year was a 10x increase over the rate during the previous decade. And a study of those retractions finds that 3/4ths of those retractions were due to misconduct rather than honest mistakes.

Good news in the stem cell debate. "Two stem-cell researchers have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work in cellular reprogramming, a technique that unleashed a wave of advances in biology, from cloning to the possible treatment of diseases using a patient’s own cells." That is, there is less of a reason to use embryonic stem cells, when adult ones will do just as well.

Hedging their bets? "A survey by the Pew Research Center discovered that 2.4 percent of Americans say they are atheists and 3.3 percent say they are agnostic. Among the atheists and agnostics, however, 6 percent said they pray daily."

Need more money for your school district, by proving how many students attend? Make them wear microchips. Privacy takes a back seat to cash.

And finally, some apt scripture for the VP debate last night. (Click for a larger version.)

    National Atheist Party Convention

    Cancelled, due to lack of interest.

      Well, this was just a matter of time. "New congressional estimates say the trust fund that supports Social Security disability will run out of money by 2017, leaving the program unable to pay full benefits, unless Congress acts. About two decades later, Social Security’s much larger retirement fund is projected to run dry, too, leaving it unable to pay full benefits as well."

      A Jewish friend of mine give a report on Glenn Beck’s "Restoring Courage" rally in Caesarea, Israel.

      "A pregnant woman, her husband and their three-year-old son were killed in a house fire early yesterday as police who arrived before the fire brigade prevented neighbours from trying to save them." Yes, you read that right. Read the rest of it.

      Good news on the abortion front. Defenders of human life are advancing in the war of ideas.

      If unions can get their gravy train, they’ll just take their ball and go home.

      The long obsolete Fairness Doctrine finally, officially, dies.

      When Bush’s approval ratings were low, hardly a day went by when the media made note of it. Now that Obama is in the same territory, all of a sudden approval ratings don’t seem to be news. (Just like involvement in foreign wars and casualties from the same.)

      The media will ask conservatives "Yes or no, do you believe in evolution?", but they’ll never ask a liberal "Yes or no, do you believe in the Bible?"

      Could you escape a terrorist attack in 15 seconds? In southern Israel, where rockets from Gaza are a nearly-daily occurrence, they have to.

      The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) (no, really, "CERN") published a report in the magazine "Nature" that shows the Sun really does have more influence over our weather, clouds specifically, and thus current climate models will need to be (and I quote) "substantially revised".

      Sorry, no cartoon this week. Nothing really stuck out.

        Friday, er, Monday Link Wrap-up

        There have been more casualties in Afghanistan under less than 3 years of Obama than we did under 8 years of Bush. Additionally, in the first 3 years of the Iraq war, we had fewer casualties than two and a half under Obama. This is not to criticize Obama for these deaths; that’s what happen in war. But Reason magazine notes that this raises 2 questions. "First, where are the antiwar protests? And second, where is the press?" The "anti-war" protestors are, as I’ve said before, more anti-Bush (or anti-Republican) than anything else. And the press are tied up trying to dig up dirt on Sarah Palin. It’s a full-time job, y’know.

        Unions hand-picked 6 of the most vulnerable Republican state senate districts to target for recall. They just needed 3 wins to take control. They could only manage 2. Granted, recall elections have been notoriously difficult to win over the years, but if Democrats and the unions that sponsor them can’t get their base energized over their own referendum on alleged "anti-worker" sentiment in hand-picked districts, that doesn’t say much about how the public views them.

        Atheists seem to believe that if humanity would just get rid of this archaic religion thing, violence would drop and peace would reign. Just ask Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, or even John Lennon. Yeah, well, how did that work in the Soviet Union, where atheism was essentially the national religion? Or in Europe today, especially Britain, where religion is on the decline?

        And speaking of ideas not working, how’s that gun ban in Britain working out for those store owners in the middle of the riots?

        Remember the spontaneous "You lie!" outburst by Rep. Joe Wilson of S. Carolina during an address by President Obama about his health care bill? Joe said that after Obama said, "There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally." Well guess what? Turns out Joe was right.

        Why do we need voter ID laws? To keep this from happening; overenfranchised Democratic voters. And how about this bit of irony: "While NAACP President Benjamin Jealous lashed out at new state laws requiring photo ID for voting, an NAACP executive sits in prison, sentenced for carrying out a massive voter fraud scheme."

        Dale Franks of Questions & Observations has some great points about our economic situation. A couple of paragraphs, from one post talking about the hole we’re in:

        And don’t come back at me with some lame "Our GDP:Debt ratio was 120% at the end of WWII" silliness.  Yes it was. And you know how we fixed it? We cut Federal spending from $92 billion in 1945 to $38 billion in 1949. For 2011, 40% of the federal budget was financed with borrowed money: We’ll spend  $3.818 trillion, of which  $1.645 trillion is borrowed. If we funded only defense, Medicare/Medicaid, and Social Security, and interest on the debt, we’d still have a deficit of $673 billion. Just to balance the budget this year—forget paying off any debt—we’d have to cut an additional ~25% from Health, Defense, and Pensions. Follow the link and download the CSV file, open it up in Excel, and run the numbers yourself. The magic number to balance the budget this year is the revenue of $2.174 trillion.

        That’s $2 trillion this year, not over 10 years.

        And from another post, noting that tax increases alone, even historic tax increases and an incredibly rosy set of other assumptions, aren’t going to do it. Spending cuts, substantial cuts, must happen.

        In order to pay off this year’s share of the $61.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities, the government will have to collect $4.261 trillion in revenues.  With an estimated 2011 GDP of $14.922 trillion, that comes to 28.6% of GDP. If we assume government revenues rise to the historical average, the we’ll need the government to take 31.6% of GDP in tax revenues. Happily, because we’re assuming a 3% rise in GDP and revenues for every year over the next 30 years, that percentage will decline slightly every year, until, in 2041, we’ll only need to collect 20.5% of GDP in tax revenues to pay off the last installment, assuming, again, 14.8% of GDP covers the operation of government.  If we go back to the 17.8% figure, then we’ll have to collect 23.5% of GDP in revenues.

        Either way, for the next 30 years, we need to collect substantially higher tax revenues than we have collected at any time in the nation’s history, and we have to do it every year for 30 years.

        The point being, this is probably not possible, economically or politically. This is how bad our situation is, and how much action we need to take now on spending.

        And yet, who gets blamed for trying to bring sanity back to the budget? (Click for a larger version.)

          Freedom Requires Responsibility and Morality

          Hat tip James Taranto, "Students protest slurs in N.C. State’s Free Expression Tunnel".  The opening paragraph:

          Raleigh, N.C. — Students have vowed to protest or block North Carolina State University’s Free Expression Tunnel until the university’s chancellor gives guarantees that no hate speech will be allowed there.

          The easy snark would be to laugh at students wanting free speech who then go out and protest free speech.  But this brings up the necessity of responsibility and morality in our daily lives in order to properly enjoy those freedoms we have.

          There are limits on free speech, of course.  When said speech could present a danger to people (and moreso to particular people like the President), it does have limits, and those limits are given the force of law.  The quintessential example is yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there isn’t one, and causing a stampede that could hurt or kill people.  As a society, we’ve also decided that the psychological issues related to pornography are not something children are ready to deal with, so we have limits there as well.

          What these students, and many liberal folks, want to do, then, is elevate hurt feelings to the same level as psychological or physical harm and death as reasons to legislate against certain speech.  This severely degrades the adjective "free".  People get hurt feelings all the time.  This doesn’t mean we should be legislating against all those free expressions.

          But my main point is this; why would someone yell "Fire!" in a crowded, non-burning theater?  I think I can get pretty much unanimous agreement that this would come from a lack of ethics & morals and a general lack of responsibility towards one’s fellow man.  Irrespective of which moral code you live by, I would imagine that someone living up perfectly to those morals would not do such a thing, and if we all lived up to those morals perfectly, there would be, indeed, no need for such a law.

          So the fact that some people don’t live up to these morals, even common ones most Americans share, means that we’ll have irresponsible and immoral speech out there.  And the more moral the people are, the less of it we’d have.  This is why morality is inseparably tied up with government.  Good laws are not just good policy; they are (or ought to be) good morals and ethics.  John Adams noted that the foundation of our laws was written with this in mind:

          Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

          Freedom requires a measure of responsibility and morality to be exercised properly. 

          And I would note, along with Adams, that morality and religion are essentially inseparable.  Where atheism is the state "religion" (e.g. communist countries, for example), freedom is scarce.  Those here in the Western world who push for a shared ethic based solely on human thoughts and understanding would do well to look at history for a list of bad examples.  Humanity, with no outside influence or acknowledgement of something higher than itself, tends to descend to the occasion rather than rise to it.

          Keep the faith.

            Is Atheist Display "Tolerant"?

            TChris on the lefty site Talk Left claims that the atheist display outside the Washington state capitol, considered "equal time" for the Christian and Jewish displays, is simply a matter of Constitutional protection.  The outrage that protestors and Bill O’Reilly are expressing somehow proves that they don’t really want freedom of religion.

            Except this display of atheism is not simply a display.  It’s scorn and ridicule.  Here’s the text:

            At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

            Aside from the first sentence, the rest is a denigration of all the other displays.  Indeed the sponsors say so.

            "It’s not a religious display; it is an attack on religion,” Freedom From Religion co-president Dan Barker said. His group was behind the atheist display.

            How "tolerant".  And it points out the fact that this is decidedly not a case of equal time or freedom of/from religion, in spite of the cover that Washington state politicians are taking behind the Constitution.

            Gregoire and the state’s attorney general responded to criticism by citing the First Amendment and releasing this joint statement:

            “Once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of non-believers."

            The nativity scene is a positive expression of belief, speaking no ill to those who don’t agree with it or believe in it.  The "Solstice Sign" is a protest specifically against those with different beliefs.  They are completely different things.  A nativity scene on government grounds does not guarantee the right to protest against it right next to it, any more than it would somehow guarantee the right for the KKK to put up its own display next to it.  They are completely different things, and those in Washington state who are sponsoring the sign and defending it seem to completely miss the concept.

            But it does give us insight into what organized atheism considers "tolerance" towards religion.  They don’t just want equal time; they want additional rights to denigrate it.  That’s not equal.

              Not Exactly A Documentary

              From the website for Bill Maher’s new movie, "Religulous":

              The documentary RELIGULOUS follows political humorist and author Bill Maher ("Real Time With Bill Maher," "Politically Incorrect") as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion.  Known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent with and commitment to never pulling a punch, Maher brings his characteristic honesty to an unusual spiritual journey.

              Well, no, he did not bring his "characteristic honesty" with him.

              For a guy that has practically made a career out of regularly accusing the Bush administration of lying to get America into a war, comedian Bill Maher clearly isn’t opposed to telling fibs if it serves his financial interests.

              Such was exposed by CNN Monday when Maher and the director of his new film "Religulous" admitted — without the slightest hint of remorse — they had lied to get people — including political and religious figures — to appear in the movie.

              In fact, one evangelical pastor said that he thought he was participating in a PBS documentary and never would have agreed to the project if he had been told Maher was involved

              The NewsBusters site has a transcript of the interview.  Calling it a comedy is one thing, but lying about it and passing it off as an honest documentary suggests that Maher may need to get some religion himself.

                Heroes

                Mark Earley on “The Heroes of 2007″, and what it says about atheism.

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                  “The Golden Compass”, Lacking a Moral One

                  The movie, “The Golden Compass”, is essentially a moral compass that points south instead of north. As mentioned here before, author Philip Pullman, from who’s books “His Dark Materials” the movie comes from, is distinctly anti-religious. As such, the movie, while it is marketed to the same crowd as The Chronicles of Narnia, seeks to deconstruct religion in the eyes of the kids.

                  Not content with the subtleties of allegory, Pullman’s movie involved the church directly, and depicts it as willing to kidnap and experiment on children in trying to determine if a particular substance is actually Original Sin. He blurs the idea of a daemon as simply the human soul that manifests itself, in some of the universes in his story, as an animal that stays with the human. Ultimately, in the trilogy, the God figure is killed. Christians will immediately see the difference and the problem with one character’s goal of establishing a Republic of Heaven to rival God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

                  Even though it sounds like the anti-religious themes are being downplayed in the movie, the movie inevitably spurs book sales, which is where the real issues are. I would ask Christians not to put this movie on their holiday schedule. While the controversy will no doubt increase some ticket sales, I’m hoping that the dollars withheld by others will more than offset that.

                  (Information on this can be found at Wikipedia here and here. A review of the books from a Christian who really wanted to like it can be found at Journeyman. The original press release by the Catholic League can be found here.)

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                    Ed Morrissey Interviews Dinesh D’Souza

                    One of the podcasts I listen to is Heading Right Radio with Ed Morrissey of “Captain’s Quarters”. He gets some great interviews, and last week (I’m behind in my podcast listening) he got Dinesh D’Souza and they talked about D’Souza’s book “What’s So Great About Christianity”. Fresh from his debate at King’s College with Christopher Hitchens, D’Souza covers a number of interesting topics from his book, including the truth about the Gallileo’s persecution, the limits of reason, why the recent increase in atheist apologetics, the supposed “war” between science and religion, thank-you letters to Portugese inquisitors, and other light topics. >grin<

                    Click here to listen to any of Captain Ed’s shows, and stick it in your podcatcher.

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