“Religion Hurts Humanity” Video Series

Just want to recommend you check out this YouTube channel, recommended to me by a reader that is also the creator of the series.

The videos probably deserve a trigger warning if you’re anything like me – they are video collages of current events showing religion gone wrong. From physical attacks to vitriolic slurs, the videos are a prime and hard-hitting expose of the many different ways religion is perverted and twisted by humans to hurt other humans every day in every corner of the world.

It’s almost like religion is all right until it enters the minds of the masses.

Er, is it appropriate to say, “Enjoy!”?


Thought of the Day: Don’t let go of the wheel, you idiot

Do you all remember that song “Jesus Take the Wheel” that Carrie Underwood sang a million years ago? It’s been a while for me, too. The lyrics are about some woman who has kind of a sucky life and she’s driving and something happens so instead of trying to make a corrective maneuver she just gives up and yells, “JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL!”

I’ve always hated that song. Seriously, if something happens while you are operating a motor vehicle, please, please, please do not just let go and start yelling for Jesus.

Even if he does exist, is divine and can help you, don’t you think maybe he could spend his time a little better than driving your car for you because you’re too crazy to at least break gently and come to a stop on the side of the road? He could be making a sandwich, and you want him to drop everything?!

I mean a sandwich for a starving child in a country with starving children, of course…

[Photo from wikimedia commons. By Ryanandlenny (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s been so long that I can’t remember what I usually call these posts.

Failure. Utter failure. I just don’t ever feel like blogging after a day at work.

And weekends? Forget it.

I do Tweet. The Friendly Atheist favorited one of my tweets today. Speaking of, Jessica’s coughing says it all about tax laws and churches on this post from the F.A. page.

Don’t you just love when women tell victims of sexual assault that it’s not their fault, but basically it is? Because after all, if women would just stay at home all the time no one would sexually assault them… Oh, wait. Haven’t I heard of many cases in which women are assaulted and/or raped in their own homes? Why yes, I have.  And just for the record, as Turley aptly puts it, courtrooms are not advice columns.

“Judges increasingly seem to yield to the desire to use their courtrooms to dispense their own forms of improvised justice or homegrown advice.”

The Culture War Reporters had a piece today on mourning celebrities versus mourning loved ones. It is well-written and touching, perhaps more so if you’ve ever lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s.

Freedom of speech can apparently be abused if you use it to say something against religion or that hurts religious peoples’ feelings. *sigh*

I really appreciate this post on Turley’s blog about torture.

Fighting for change – I really love the blog Inspirational Freethought because of the emphasis on positive things. It’s easy to get burned out, particularly lately as a feminist member of the atheist movement.

Argh. That’s right, that’s about as far as I can express myself about this. It’s just so incredibly frustrating! *Goes back and reads fighting for change post again*

Those 70s movies are oddly unattractive...

CONvergence: An overview – I swear some meatier posts are coming your way!

I know how jealous you all are that I went to CONvergence this past weekend,* and I want to share more about the con with you.

I’ll start off with a run down of my activities. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t use any mind-altering substances (unless you count caffeine, and I use that sparingly) so the late evening events at CONvergence were not particularly interesting to me. My primary interest were the many, many panels. The panels were made up of between 4 and 7 people; usually each panelist shared something and once every panelist had a chance to speak they took audience questions.

I skipped Thursday evening because it was my grandpa’s birthday. I don’t think I missed much, but I was definitely disappointed that I had to miss the early programming on Friday because of work. But, you know, money.

Friday evening after work I lazily made my way over to the hotel, which is 15 minutes on non-freeway roads from my house. I just want to say that I love when I’m familiar with an area and don’t feel stuck on main roads/freeways. A smartphone is not a substitute for this.

After eventually finding registration, which was obscurely located, I discovered my badge aid “Felicia” instead of “Amanda.” No big deal – I bought a discount ticket a few weeks ago and the registration was transferred. Obviously the badge had already been made. The look on the volunteer’s face (who was getting my badge for me) was priceless. He actually said, “I’m not crazy…” It was fun.

Here’s something I don’t recommend: going to a convention alone. I felt mildly awkward. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all grown up and I can handle being on my own (probably better than a lot of people, actually). It simply would have been nice to have someone to people-watch with and make snarky comments to. Yay snark!

I caught the tail end of Ask a Scientist (as billed in the program guide: Brianne Bilyeau, Lori Fischer, Matt Kuchta, Matt Lowry, Miriam Krause, Robert Smith?) where I saw a delightful Doctor Who costume. Unfortunately Mr. Fake Doctor spoke and the illusion broke. His fake British accent was just too fake. It sucked, actually. Even so, he was definitely a David Tenant doppleganger.

After an oddly timed break ostensibly for dinner during which I watched part of Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), I went to Wonder Women of the Whedonverse (some of my favorite panelists of the weekend – Mark Goldberg, Miriam Krause, Tim Liebe, Will Shetterly, Windy Bowlsby) because I love Joss Whedon.

I was slightly surprised at how well I fit in with some of the other attendees. The guest of honor was even Tamora Pierce – I was almost obsessed with her books at one point. Still, I didn’t reveal my secret – that I’ve never seen Star Wars and I’ve only watched part of one of the Lord of the Rings movies. Still, I loved Xena: Warrior Princess as a kid, read some books that fit into the whole sci-fi/fantasy thing, and I love Doctor Who and Joss Whedon though both of those are relatively new interests.

I seem to be babbling. I swear I’m about to wrap this up…

After Whedon, I decided to take notes on the panels for my lovely readers’ sake! That’s right, I was thinking of you. Feel special. I attended The Physiology of Drugs and Alcohol (Bruce Miller, Natalie Reed, PZ Myers, Maggie Koerth Baker, Anne Sauer) on Friday night**. I had planned to attend Evolution and the Female Orgasm, but got stuck in a conversation with the Freethought Blogger who writes Camels With Hammers. Thank goodness his name (Dan Fincke) is on his blog, or I’d be caught having no idea what his name is. People mumble a lot.

After a long conversation, I came to the realization that it was that time of night when everyone who is drinking has become affected by the alcohol. I left to return the next day.

On Saturday I attended (slightly late…) Alien Evolution (PZ Myers, Bug Girl, Emily Finke, Greg Laden, Lori Fischer) at 9:30am followed by Mutants! (PZ Myers, Bug Girl, Greg Laden, Lori Fischer) at 11am (regretted that decision – should’ve attended The Physics of Super Fashion). I skipped a session to go home and eat, then returned for Women in Science and Technology (Amanda Little, Maggie Koerth Baker, Emily Finke, Brianne Bilyeau, Maria Walters, I may be missing someone) followed by The Science of Evolution (Greg Laden, PZ Myers, Bug Girl, Matt Kuchta). The next session was disappointing – I had to decide between three choices: Minnesota Women Filmmakers, Matt Smith continued (Doctor Who), and Ancient Alien Debate. I went to the first of these, but left after 15 minutes. Then I went to Matt Smith, and I was so bored and annoyed after 15 minutes that I went home again. Despite having no interest in the remaining programming on Saturday night, I went back to socialize (gasp!). In a strange turn of events, I actually felt like a conversation queen. It was almost as if people (okay, they were all guys) were lined up to talk to me. I even got asked what my favorite geekdom was. XD

Sunday I woke up to go to Invisible Superheroes (Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, Heina Dadabhoy, Laura Okagaki) followed by the Future of Libraries.

After that I went kayaking because I couldn’t resist the awesome weather after that awful heat wave last week.

Quick take-aways: fuzzy dinosaurs are awesome and real, PZ Myers loves to talk, Rebecca Watson is just as awesome in person as you imagine her to be from what she writes.

*Yes, that’s sarcastic, although some of you may actually be a little envious.

** We already know I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to my weekend activities. Shouldn’t surprise you that I enjoy learning about the physiology of addiction and alcohol use more than I enjoy watching drunk people act, well, drunk.

CONvergence, SkepchickCON, and Things Other Than Money That Increase Utility Levels

Today at CONvergence I went to a panel discussion on evolution. The panelists included PZ Myers, Bug Girl, Greg Laden and Matt Kuchta (my personal favorite – like a much better version of Ross from Friends). I enjoyed listening to what they had to say, and I also enjoyed (some of) the questions they took from the audience. I particularly liked the fuzzy dinosaurs bit, but more on that later.

I made the entire room laugh. I didn’t do something terribly embarrassing, either. I actually used a bit of wit to make people laugh. It was fun. The panelists got on the topic of science and how we have a never-ending stream of questions to find answers for. Bug Girl and PZ joked about how nice it would be if there was just one question, they answered it, and then got to go have a drink and be done. Talk continued for a minute or two, then circled back to this idea. In a brief moment of relative silence, I said, “If science were that easy, you wouldn’t have a job and wouldn’t have any money with which to buy your drinks.”

It’s fun to make people laugh.

The panelists responded in what I consider to be a silly way. Keep in mind these are people that appear to enjoy their jobs – they have very clear passion for the various topics of their research and whatnot. They responded with, “You think we get paid for this?” PZ actually said he thinks he would make more money if he were a refrigerator repairman like his father wanted him to be (only if they’re unionized, PZ).

Here’s my problem with professors and researchers throwing those comments out there: there is more than one kind of compensation. Monetary compensation is certainly important, but the level of utility* reached by a professor paid $60,000** is probably higher than the level of utility reached by someone doing mindless data entry all day for the same pay. Simply being able to research something you have a passion for is basically compensation when we consider utility levels, as is being able, in the case of a professor, to live in a college environment. Whatever its issues, I think we have to admit that the college environment is rather more friendly than the rest of, well, the universe.

I’m not saying researcher/college professor is a glamorous or well-paying job. I’m just saying that there are actual reasons why it’s not, and that doesn’t make it a bad job by any means.

* I refer to the economic concept of utility here. It roughly translates to level of happiness. Often economists use income as a proxy for utility because income is far easier to measure and standardize. When we speak qualitatively, though, it is more reasonable to use utility as that term encompasses more contributing factors than just monetary income.

**Random number. Don’t throw a fit.

Upcoming posts on CONvergence (SkepchickCON) and the Multifarious Mix!

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately, but I wanted to post about my upcoming posts. Yeah, I know, why not just write the posts? I’m a little busy and a little lazy and about to leave my house again.

First, I made a list of links to share with you all the other day, but never quite managed to give you a Multifarious Mix.

Second, I have a variety of post ideas inspired by the time I spent at CONvergence this weekend. Most of these will be sharing with you about the panels I attended and suggesting other bloggers for you to check out. I will also be writing a post on an interaction I had with some of the panelists today.

Enjoy your weekend. If you live anywhere near me, be happy! The hot weather finally broke. Expect lovely weather for the next week.

This post is way too long, but it’s a response to an annoying commenter.

I got a few comments recently from someone claiming his experience echoed mine, but in reverse. Once explained, it was quite clear to me not only that this person over-thinks things, his experience in no way really echoes mine. His (actually, it could’ve been a woman, but in my head it’s a man so we’ll go with that) was a culturally religious upbringing leading to a teenagehood of, apparently, trying to be atheist because that’s what the “smart people” were doing, then some sort of thought-process that led him back to belief. Mine was a mildly religious upbringing in which I was taught to think for myself and eventually came to the conclusion that there was no god by myself.

His comments were full of way too many philosophical terms. What do I mean by that? Just that the average person reads the following terms as, essentially, gibberish: arch-postmodernist, ontological naturalism, atheo-materialism, celestial potentate, denizen of a metaphysical no-man’s land, philosophical materialism, dogmatic reductionist scientism.

Not that these words or terms don’t have meaning, but they make the writer appear one of a few things – pretentious, over-educated, or overly obsessed with a thesaurus. These terms and words also suggest the writer is in the wrong place. My blog has never been and will never be a place where I discuss philosophy, mostly because I’m not that into philosophy. I think philosophy often (but not always) comes down to over-thinking things.

Then, of course, was the lovely insult he threw at me. Perhaps he is one of many believers that doesn’t realize how insulting, stupid and condescending this is – he suggested that my path to disbelief started when my prayers weren’t answered.

First, I want to put one thing straight about me. My prayers were never unanswered. I didn’t get mad that I didn’t get what I wanted and give up on faith. That’s incredibly stupid. There happened to come a point when I realized I was talking to myself. Not the good kind of semi-conversation that some people have with themselves, either. It was the entirely unproductive listing of people for the non-existent divine being to protect.

Second, let me go over, again, why suggesting that someone became an atheist because god didn’t give them what they wanted is insulting. Belief in god is not a default position. Culturally speaking it may be, but scientifically or whatever you want to call it, it’s not. Do children in countries where Santa Clause is not a tradition believe in Santa as a default? No. Moving on from that problem, what you are suggesting when you say an atheist lost faith because god didn’t answer a prayer is that we are angry at a being we don’t believe in. Did you stop believing in Santa Clause because he didn’t bring you that penguin you asked for? Did you disown your parents because they didn’t let you eat cake whenever you wanted to? Let’s face it, most religions cover the whole “god doesn’t always answer prayers” thing, and most people accept it. When coming from a state of belief, it’s rarely unanswered prayers that act as a catalyst because very few people actually have a powerful unanswered prayer (and let’s face it, if you are led to the path of disbelief because your son died in a fiery car crash 5 minutes after you prayed for his safety, you’re being pretty reasonable to doubt the existence of god).

The thing is that I’ve heard a lot of deconversion or losing faith or whatnot stories from a wide range of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. I’ve read these accounts, I’ve heard them in person, I’ve heard them via video or radio. The vast majority of nonbelievers do not come from an angry place. They do not have “an axe to grind,” as the commenter arrogantly suggests:

Nevertheless, contrary to what many atheists say, it is often the case that the “free thought” part is largely sponsored by an “axe to grind” attitude.

Contrary to what we say? That suggests to me that regardless of how honest and open atheists are with this person, he will make many, many unjust and ridiculous assumptions about us. He’ll decide what really motivated us to question our beliefs. Clearly if we want the world to be more science-oriented it’s because religion didn’t make us feel good enough. It couldn’t possibly be that medicine and science is more helpful than religion for curing the sick or preventing mass infections.

The axes we do have to grind center primarily around what religions fuck up in this world. The children that die unnecessarily, the people that receive accolades they don’t deserve, the nonbelievers that suffer for thinking differently, the invasion of government by religious rules based on the beliefs of one subset of the population. These are things that usually come after our disbelief takes root. Things that our eyes are opened to upon throwing out the all-powerful idea that “religion is good.”

The commenter wants to know what led me to atheism. A lot of things. A lot of separate thought-processes. A lot of rehashing arguments in my head and trying to fit certain ideas into the frames already built as I grew up. And then throwing out the frames that were clearly wonky.

His Dark Materials made me think, what if God really were old and feeble, being kept prisoner by his angels? What if the story in this book is just as likely to be true as the Bible? Maybe the other religions of the world, the archaic and obsolete ones, are more correct than Christianity? I always thought Greek mythology was more fun than Christian mythology. The answers to these questions led me first to basically deism, then to agnosticism. It didn’t add up that there’s a god somehwere that’s all-knowing. He certainly couldn’t be omnipotent and omniscient. And why did it have to be a he?

Maybe, I thought, there’s a god that just sort of hangs out. Maybe he/she/it/hir/their noodliness treated the universe like an ant farm or those sea monkeys you can by. A sort of disinterested science experiment. Why would that be any further off from the truth than the more fleshed-out religions of the world?

I have an inquisitive mind. These questions developed further and went on for years. I became more agnostic than anything. I started to see the harm caused by religion somewhere along the way, and that’s when my thoughts about the existence of god started to run parallel to my thoughts about the silliness of religion. I started to see the benefits from freeing my mind from the heavy frame imposed by most religious world-views, and at the same time I started to find the idea of the supernatural more and more ridiculous. I didn’t simply reject religion and throw out the possibility of the divine with it.

There was a time when I wanted to believe, but the more I thought, the less a god or a divine universal force made sense. If the world/universe/whatever was created, then the being that did so was either horribly bored or terribly cruel or both. I rejected pretty much every religion for the tremendous failure to cover the vastness of the universe or the possibility of intelligent life-forms on other planets. If there were a “word of god,” I’m pretty sure that the god giving that word would be smart enough to make it more timeless than anything offered up so far. Particularly if it were an omnipotent or omniscient god.

I read about half of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. I didn’t finish it because I had already hashed out most of his arguments in my head a million times*.

As it currently stands, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist. The concept of god is quite silly to me – an oddly hopeful wish that your life is secretly being controlled by a higher power. Personally, I have no desire for their to be anything controlling the universe or my life. I like to take responsibility for what happens to me. It’s funny to me that one thing many religions suggest is that god will help you if you help yourself – it’s as if the people who made it all up suddenly said, “Shit. We told all these people there’s a god watching you so be moral, and a bunch of them realized if there’s an all-powerful being then they’re not responsible for the crappy stuff that happens to them!” I don’t care if love is only a chemical reaction because I enjoy that chemical reaction. It still means something to me, even if it’s just the inner-workings of my odd, human brain, just as there is still beauty in the world even if it’s just the workings of the universe.

Freethought is associated with atheism because atheists have released the belief in the divine. We have, if you will, freed our minds to consider the numerous other possibilities and even the new possibility that there is a higher power separate from anything humans have come up with. Sure, that possibility always falls short of being acceptable, but I certainly reconsider it on occasion. Freethought, to me, is more associated with moving away from dogma than moving away from belief in god(s), anyway. You can be a believer and a freethinker; it’s when you constrain your world-view by a frame made by others (re: religion) that it becomes impossible to think freely.

I’ve had enough of this whole explaining thing. From now on, just accept my atheism as a far-foregone conclusion. It’s been so long since I’ve figured this all out that I’m not sure I could tell you exactly what thought process got me here anyway. All I can say is I’m constantly thinking, constantly considering. While it’s leading further and further away from belief in the supernatural and particularly further away from any existing explanation offered by the religions of the world, that doesn’t mean I would reject any new evidence offered to me. Good luck finding any.

*hyperbole much?

The Multifarious Mix: June 21, 2012.

Are some drugs worse than others? According to the DEA: drugs bad. All drugs bad! (I think this may have been followed with a grunt and hitting something caveman style). The sane people of the world are wondering why we can’t at least admit that pot generally makes people relax, which is a lot better than the effects of meth, crack, heroine, cocaine, certain painkillers, ecstasy and alcohol.

A friend of mine works for this theater group, and it sounds awesome. I told her to come start a similar group in Minneapolis (it being second only to New York City in live theater per capita).

Schroedinger’s Threat – it’s like the cat, but worse.

Ahh, the information problem. Downgrading of major banks a little overdue.

No Trader Joe’s for Minneapolis this time. I’m more interested in the last sentence of the article:

Trader Joe’s attempted to open a store at 22nd Street and Lyndale Ave. South in 2009, but failed to garner necessary exemptions to bypass a spacing requirement between liquor stores.

I know MN has some stupid liquor laws*, but spacing between liquor stores? Seriously? What do they think is going to happen? Competitive prices? >_<

Interesting NPR blog post on owning music.

Dirtying Up Our Diets: Will the rise of farmer’s markets fight back the rise of auto-immune diseases and allergies? It’s only an op-ed, but it raises interesting questions.

*Note this is coming from someone that doesn’t ever drink alcohol.