Thursday, August 28, 2008


Just a quick plug for this site, The Brick Testament. It's the Bible illustrated with Legos. It's at least as fantastic as it sounds.

Duck And Cover

Monday, August 25, 2008


An unavoidable side-effect of atheism is lack of belief in an afterlife. There exists no scientific reason to believe that any shred of self-awareness or thought remains of us after death. This is what scares so many people away from atheism. They don't want to die. Not for real.

I don't exactly want to die either, but I no longer fear my own death. I fear the pain that may lead to death, I am saddened at the thought of the pain that my loved ones might suffer because of my death, but the thought of death itself is simultaneously a comfort and a motivator for me.

I like living in a universe where the only constant is change. I like knowing that everything dies eventually. No matter how messed up things get, it's only temporary. Everything changes. Everything dies. Once I learned to accept that concept instead of struggling against it, I found it oddly soothing. My own insignificance and transience reminds me to just live and experience life in the best way I know.

At the same time, it motivates me to do it. I'm on the clock, as it were. There is no Heaven where I'll see all of my dreams come true. If I want them to come true, I have to make it happen. And I have to make it happen sooner rather than later.

But my own paltry offerings aside, some other thinkers have given us excellent perspectives on death in a godless universe.

Dale McGowen, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, tells the story of explaining death to his children. He does a fine job, using terms they understand to express a quote attributed to Mark Twain: "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

George Hrab wrote a song about it when his dog died. His sentiment was that, even though he felt immense pain and sorrow at the loss of his friend, he was thankful that his friend would be spared that same pain and sorrow. His dog would never miss him the way he missed his dog. Often, a husband or wife will wish for their own death before that of their spouse in fear of their own weakness in the aftermath. This is the reverse of that, taking the burden of surviving from the loved one as an act of true and noble affection.

Death causes pain, without question. At times, it seems unfair that we are denied eternity. The fact is, though, that we are mortal. No matter how deeply we feel that pain, there are honest consolations for a rational mind to help soothe the grief. We needn't lie, even to children. Over time, one's own death seems almost inconsequential compared to the death of loved ones. Greater love hath no man.

The Strange Case Of Rev. Samuel Krouse

You can read the story over at Friendly Atheist.

The extremely short version is that this Reverend has taken stock of the "New Atheist" movement and analyzed it pretty honestly.

He acknowledges that intellectuals are far more likely to be atheists, that atheists are very knowledgeable about religion and are completely aware of what they've rejected and, most importantly, he agrees with Sam Harris in saying that there's really no good reason to believe anything but Biblical Literalism or Atheism. I think there are one too many options in that last bit, but it's not my opinion we're talking about.

The confusing part is that he has seen atheism for what it really is, he seems to understand it, and he seems to laud all of its strengths... but he's still a pastor. He seems determined to fight against this movement with everything he has. It's another example of fighting against the evidence to preserve one's existing beliefs, taken to a very strange place.

That said, it's refreshing to see an honest attempt at rational thought from the other side. Perhaps we could even have an honest debate between intelligent people. I don't agree with his conclusions, of course, but the Reverend does deserve some applause for stepping outside the party line. I hope to hear more from him.

For a more in-depth analysis of each of the Reverend's points, visit the Black Sun Journal.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Captain Disillusion

I realize that this can sometimes be a very negative blog. So, in an effort to make it a little brighter around here, I wanted to share this with you all. I hope it makes you smile.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cat And Dogs Living Together

Chances are, if you're here, you support the right of gays and lesbians to marry. I do, too.

But let's talk about this a little bit.

What is the logic that leads us to the conclusion that they should be married? We can figure that out by trying to draw some parallel examples.

One example that the bigoted like to use against these rights is the suggestion of bestiality. Calling those who suggest this as a parallel example "bigoted" is, I think, very accurate. One creature is capable of reflective and abstract thought, the other isn't. That is, of course, assuming that the bigots do believe gay people are capable of thought on the level of ordinary people.

A comedian, whose name I'm sad to say I cannot remember, made an interesting observation on this subject.
They like to say that next people will want to marry box turtles. I'm a vegetarian. By that logic, I can say that you all are only one step away from eating gay people.

So, obviously, the animal comparison is right out.

That said, there are other taboos on marriage. We don't tolerate polygamy. We don't tolerate incest. How do we differentiate these?

Incest is a tough one. Assuming that both of the participants are consenting adults, how do we say that they have no right to be together? Certainly, they risk genetic abnormalities with their children. However, gay couples can have no children. The production of children isn't the purpose of marriage. It's neither necessary to it, nor sufficient for it.

This is the toughest one for me, because I do feel that it is rightly illegal but I cannot explain why. Perhaps my feelings on it are simply a matter of societal conditioning. Osiris and Zeus married their sisters. Without the assumption of harm to potential children, whose conception cannot really be linked with the marriage in question, there is no victim.

Polygamy I find less challenging. It should be legal.

Before you disagree with me, consider that every negative thing we associate with polygamy is wrong on its own grounds. Marriage to a minor, for instance, we find just as repugnant in monogamy. A forty-year-old married to a fifteen-year-old is disgusting whether or not he has another wife. We can make that illegal by itself, with no need to stigmatize polygamy with it.

Often, polygamy is associated with arranged marriages. Women are assigned to a husband and expected to serve him. This is wrong, because it is a violation of the woman's rights. But, again, it is still wrong in a monogamous example. We can make arranged marriages illegal, though such a law is perhaps unenforceable when the victims refuse to believe that their rights have been violated.

There is nothing inherent in polygamy to suggest that it values men any more than women. Simply because we never hear stories about a woman choosing to have three husbands does not mean it does not and could not happen. That it always seems to be a man with many wives is just a reflection of the gender bias that still runs through our world's societies. Nothing about polygamy is sexist unless sexism is forced onto the topic.

Separating polygamy from its unsavory associations, it makes more sense. Adultery is not illegal. We do not demand fidelity as a society. Orgies are even legal. In our society, people are free to love as many people as they will. Polyamorous individuals become more common as people start to question the validity of the "mate for life" tradition. There is no reason that any consenting adult should be forbidden to marry as many other consenting adults as he or she wishes. There is nothing to force a spouse to stay in a polygamous relationship if that is no longer what that individual desires. There is no harm and no victim.

That said, I still think the vast majority of us prefer monogamy. I believe, very fiercely, in fidelity to one person. But that doesn't mean that everyone has to live the same way. I have no reason to believe that my way of life is any more justified or reasonable than the above examples.

We may look askance at polyamorous groups and have our doubts about the nature of their relationship. We may look at an incestuous couple and privately feel disgusted.

But then, that's exactly how the bigots feel about homosexuals. Maybe we still have some tolerance to learn.

Lucky for me, I'm planning to die alone so none of the above is really my problem.

Good Ol' Texas

If you live in Texas, you should probably join a church as soon as you can. After you've done this, feel free to break any laws you want. That is, as long as you can say you broke them religiously.

That's the logic behind this case that recently regained some publicity.

Here's the short version. This 17-year-old girl was a member of this church. She was acting weird one day, so they tied her up and beat her while she begged them to stop. They held her captive for two days. They called it an exorcism.

After the event, she dropped out of school. She tried to slit her wrists.

Now, twelve years later, the Supreme Court of Texas is saying that they can't do anything for her. It's a First Amendment issue, can't interfere in the practice of religion.

You wonder how these people sleep at night.

If a crime is committed, the religious reason doesn't matter. At no time or place in our society should religion supersede the law or government. You aren't allowed to beat someone when they don't want to be beaten, especially not a child. You aren't allowed to hold someone prisoner for two days if they don't want to be held, especially not a child. Religious law is supposed to be the lowest authority in the land.

The court claims that they can't do anything because the harm inflicted was emotional, not physical. So it stands to reason, then, that as long as you keep someone in reasonable health, you can imprison them indefinitely in your church. As long as you're convinced that you're helping and you don't cause any physical harm (except for bruises, which the young lady suffered from being pummeled by church members), the Supreme Court of Texas has your back.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Grand Wheatgrass Finale

I'm tired of it, you're tired of it, but I'm too stubborn to quit, so here we go. The remaining lies.

26 Drink Wheatgrass Juice for skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis.

Lotion does it better.

27 Wheatgrass Juice keeps the hair from graying.

Dye does it better.

28 Pyorrhea of the mouth: lay pulp of wheatgrass soaked in juice on diseased area in mouth or chew wheatgrass, spitting out the pulp.

I think the people who wrote this have pyorrhea of the mouth. Wrong -rrhea, I know, but work with me here.

29 By taking Wheatgrass Juice, one may feel a difference in strength, endurance, health, and spirituality, and experience a sense of well-being.

Or one may not. In fact, probably will not. One is more likely to feel a shudder of disgust as one tries to gulp that garbage down.

30 Wheatgrass juice improves the digestion.

Uh. How?

31 Wheatgrass juice is high in enzymes.

Enzymes. They're what plants crave.

32 Wheatgrass juice is an excellent skin cleanser and can be absorbed through the skin for nutrition. Pour green juice over your body in a tub of warm water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse off with cold water.

Nope, I didn't make this one up. They're seriously suggesting that you bathe in wheatgrass juice. Personally, I'd recommend water and soap. I hear those are great at cleaning skin.

33 Wheatgrass implants (enemas) are great for healing and detoxifying the colon walls. The implants also heal and cleanse the internal organs. After an enema, wait 20 minutes, then implant 4 ounces of wheatgrass juice. Retain for 20 minutes.

I promise I'm not making these up. They really did tell you to hold 4 ounces of wheatgrass up your ass for 20 minutes.

34 Wheatgrass juice is great for constipation and keeping the bowels open. It is high in magnesium.

Sometimes, you want the bowels shut. It's hard to hold down a job with permanently open bowels. That said, you can probably nail two birds with one stone and just solve this problem with one of those wheatgrass enemas!

35 Dr. Birscher, a research scientist, called chlorophyll "concentrated sun power." He said, "chlorophyll increases the function of the heart, affects the vascular system, the intestines, the uterus, and the lungs."

Do a Google search for Dr. Birscher and count how many times that sentence, slightly mutated, appears. Check out the article about his findings written by... Dr. Ann Wigmore! I remember her! Wow, this is awesome. She's quoting the Bible to prove how healthy wheatgrass is. Truly scientific.

36 According to Dr. Birscher, nature uses chlorophyll (wheatgrass) as a body cleanser, rebuilder, and neutralizer of toxins.

Your body uses protein (BigMacs) to rebuild muscle! See what I did there? (Of course, my initial statement was actually true.)

37 Wheatgrass juice can dissolve the scars that are formed in the lungs from breathing acid gasses. The effect of carbon monoxide is minimized since chlorophyll increases hemoglobin production.

First of all, they misspelled gases. Second, is there any real indication that chlorophyll increases hemoglobin production? I see lots of talk about one having to do with the other, but it ranges from this to the molecules simply resembling each other.

38 Wheatgrass Juice reduces high blood pressure and enhances the capillaries.

It enhances the capillaries? What does that mean? Do they become admillaries? (Captain... Admiral... give me a break, I'm sick of this subject.)

39 Wheatgrass Juice can remove heavy metals from the body.

Immortal challenges that assertion. Be careful, they have weapons and look like scary pandas.

40 Wheatgrass juice is great for blood disorders of all kinds.

Sufferers of everything from anemia to AIDS will be thrilled.

Done! Next subject: 75 facts about astrology.

Consider yourselves lucky I didn't pick the list that suggested douching with wheatgrass.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Why Am I Being So Hard On Wheatgrass?

I just got this comment in my last post on the subject. I've provided a handy link to a website called "What's The Harm?" that will show you why I care about this stuff.

However, in an effort to get this horse to drink some water, I guess I'll have to do more than just lead it to the lake. Consider this the metaphorical equivalent of holding water to the horse's mouth:

The 13-year-old, the youngest of four children, has a genetic disease that interferes with her kidneys and breathing. Two of her brothers also have the condition, which has only been documented 39 times in the past 50 years.

She was taken from her mother by a youth court judge in February because her mother had placed her on a regime of wheat-grass juice and raw foods and was withholding a medication. Judge Judith Landry found that the mother had watched her daughter's health deteriorate over a period of months and ruled that custody be temporarily transferred to the teen's father.

I'm hard on wheatgrass because it leads to situations exactly like this. People think they can use this snake oil instead of real medicine and it causes harm and death. If you want to do shots of wheatgrass that's your business, but stop telling people that it does anything except provide a fraction of the nutrition of a spinach salad until you can prove otherwise.

And on the subject of raw food...

Natural Selection

I had a conversation with a friend last night about religion, and he asked me why it is that the prominent religions seem to be based on the idea of wiping out any other religions.

We can't ever know for sure, but natural selection certainly seems like a plausible reason. Richard Dawkins has suggested that memes follow a similar pattern to genes in this respect.

When one religion preaches passivity and tells its followers not to evangelize it will eventually die out as its followers are killed by more aggressive religions. Its culture is soon wiped out in favor of the religion "designed" with multiplication in mind- specifically, the religion that says to kill the infidels and to convert unbelievers.

It helps, of course, if your holy text can be interpreted to say both. That way you can multiply at the expense of others while still managing to avoid being perceived as a threat.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Oh my god, it keeps going.

21 Wheatgrass Juice cures acne and even help to remove scars after it has been ingested for seven to eight months. The diet must be improved at the same time.

Okay, so wheatgrass causes this effect as long as you do this other action that is known to cause the same effect. Hey, if you buy my lucky pennies you are guaranteed to win the lottery. You must have a winning lottery ticket for them to work.

22 Wheatgrass juice acts as a detergent in the body and is used as a body deodorant.

If you like smelling like mud, I suppose. Hippies. And again, they're harping on this detoxification thing. Detoxification is a myth. You don't need it. It doesn't fix or improve anything and it costs you money. Give me money if you want to be rid of it so badly. I'm at least honest.

23 A small amount of wheatgrass juice in the human diet helps prevents tooth decay.

There's that word again. "Helps". You kind get the feeling it helps like a three year old helps his dad fix a car.

24 Wheatgrass juice held in the mouth for 5 minutes will help eliminate toothaches. It pulls poisons from the gums.

GOOD LORD YOU HAVE POISON IN YOUR GUMS, RUN! Come on, seriously? What poison? Name it. Again, note the use of the word "help". One begins to wonder why, if this stuff cures toothaches, acne and parasitic vaginal infections, on top of granting immortality to rabbits, we don't bathe in it daily. Which is more likely: that there's a vast conspiracy of evil doctors desperately trying to hide this elixir of life from us in protection of their own pocketbooks, or that this stuff really doesn't do anything?

25 Gargle Wheatgrass Juice for a sore throat.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that would give me a sore throat. That stuff is nasty.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Oh man, I can't believe I let this thing sit here this long. I'm a horrible blogger.

Today I wanted to talk about a complaint I've seen a lot lately. That is the idea that atheists stubbornly ignore evidence for God.

The suggestion is ridiculous.

When you present evidence for God, we consider it. If it is found erroneous, we discard it. That's not us being stubborn, that's adherence to the facts. If you perhaps presented evidence that withstood the rigors of inquiry, we'd accept it.

Let me present the argument in another one.

Person 1: Y because Z.
Person 2: No, Y doesn't necessarily follow from Z and Z is only half true to begin with.
Person 1: No, Y because of Z. Why can't you accept that?

Who's being stubborn?

If you want to say you have legitimate evidence for God, it has to withstand inquiry. If you can't come up with a response for our criticisms, perhaps that indicates a problem with your assertion.

Truth has nothing to fear from inquiry.