Sunday, August 24, 2014


"Don't let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them."
Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot

Another pseudo-scandal?

To be honest I know very little about the details of Kendra Turner's expulsion. However, given the track record of such incidences it is relatively safe to assume that the media has once again fucked-up the story. I seriously doubt she was expelled for just saying "bless you" after a classmate sneezed. Considering how most of these stories play out I'd be willing to bet that either she has a track record of interrupting and causing disturbances in class that led to the teacher's actions or she has a record of attempting to proselytize during school. In the end the details once they finally come out won't really matter since the religious right will latch on to their preferred version of the story either way.

"Student Says She Was Punished At School For Saying 'Bless You'"

Pondering Faux History and Whiny Assholes

Right from the start David Gibson's "Analysis" is full of ridiculous shit. As a title, "America’s Christian conservatives ponder a ‘Babylonian exile’ (ANALYSIS)" sets the tone quite well. Comparing the US's religious right to the Biblical "Babylonian exile" of the Jews is utter non-sense. No one is forcing these self-deluded hypocritical assholes to do anything. They also still wield influence and resources far beyond what you might expect from their numbers.

It isn't just the stupidly of the title that irritates me. The implications of the very first sentence should annoy anyone who knows the actual history rather than the elementary-school rendition of it.
"From the moment they set foot on North American soil, the Puritans who came to the continent viewed their “errand into the wilderness” through a biblical lens, seeing themselves as modern-day Israelites building a New Jerusalem in the New World."
The "Puritans" fled England for the Netherlands in order to gain religious freedom. They got it. The left the Netherlands for the "New World" for expressly economic reasons. They came to find better access to resources and develop their personal wealth. It may seem nit-picky but it is common myth that the willfully ignorant religious right insists on using to make all sorts of other baseless claims.

Even though Gibson does not completely buy into all the bullshit the individuals he wrote to and spoke with about this "exile" he does very little to set the record straight. He even seems somewhat sympathetic to what all their griping really boils down to: their ability to bully other without question or limitations. I just don't get it. I do not understand why comparatively (emphasis on comparative) reasonable theists keep giving these overprivileged jerks yet another soap box. I also find it rather telling that Gibson and company don't see the innate contradiction. The religious right whines about not being taken seriously enough yet every mainstream outlet bends over backwards to give them as much of megaphone as anyone can possibly have.

Condoning and codling these dip shits doesn't help anyone.

Yoffie Vs The Strawmen

Over the years I have gotten the impression that Rabbi Yoffie is a nice guy who means well but really has no grasp on anything resembling critical thinking skills. He also comes across as somewhat complacent and lazy when it comes to many of the topics he chooses to write about for Huffington Post. His recent piece, "The Three Mistakes Atheists Make", is another example of his shoddy bias laden tripe. His "three mistakes" are a mixture of logical fallacies with little to no substance.

According to Yoffie these three are:
"1. They dismiss, often with contempt, the religious experience of other people.
2. They assert that since there are no valid religions but that religions do good things, the task of smart people is to create a religion without God -- or, in other words, a religion without religion.
3. They see the world of belief in black and white, either/or terms."

Even setting aside the vast sweeping generalizations that can be compared to equally stupid stereotypes like; "greedy jews" and "violent/criminal black", his three don't stand up to even the slightest examination. Even if every atheist automatically dismissed, contemptuously or not, so what? He destroys his own point without ever realizing it. For instance according to him, "Such arguments are legitimate, but they tell us nothing about the way that much of humankind experiences God...." Why does he single out this type of experience? People take hallucinogens and then claim all sorts of profound "insights". Are those automatically legitimate? Can't those be viewed as worthwhile "experiences". Most atheists I'm familiar with are unconcerned with such personal experiences so long as they are not used to influence public policies that will then effect everyone.

His second point is even more debatable and is far more nuanced than he allows. We don't all agree that religion in and of itself does good things. As I have commented on previously, most of the positive elements and effects are not innate to religion. Rather, the benefits are a side-effect of close social interaction. We certainly don't agree on approaches to dealing with religion when they encroach on social or political aspects of our society. I can only think of a few who seem interested in recreating religion without God. Idiots like Alain deBotton have been soundly refuted by numerous other atheists for just such an approach.

In point of fact, it is Eric Yoffie who sees things in black and white. There are very few atheists that use only a single argument let alone a single variation/approach to just one argument. This insistence is more of a reflection on theists like Yoffie then on atheists. Yoffie and others like him routinely fail to actually pay attention to the arguments and counter-arguments that are used by atheists. He seems to misunderstand and/or misrepresent what we say and write then turns around using such ignorance-laced crap to try to criticize us. These "three mistakes" are in fact not ours but his and his fellow travelers.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


"Men are most apt to believe what they least understand."
Michel DeMontaigne