My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for the ‘Freedom from Faith’ Category

In What Way Do These Myths Differ?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 07/06/2010

OK, friends, I am soooo fucking sick of the goody-two-shoes atheist billboards. If our messages are going to be vandalized anyway, let’s make them a little bit more confrontational.

Sorry, but I’m no artist. So consider these as rough. Very rough. But here are six entries in my suggested billboard campaign.


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Posted in Freedom from Faith | 23 Comments »

No, I’m Not Going Soft on Religion

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 07/04/2010

So in the wee hours of the morning on July 1, I was whisked away from home by ambulance. Although I was half out of it when the emergency medical people arrived, they did ask me which hospital I wanted to go to. I had enough presence of mind to say, “any one that isn’t religious,” but that narrowed my choices down quite a bit—and would have left my wife with a longer drive to and from my temporary accommodations than if I’d just blurted out the name of the Catholic hospital closest to my house.

After giving the matter about 15 seconds of thought, I reneged, and told the EMTs to take me to the most convenient facility.

Later, when I thought about it, I realized that many – maybe most – hospitals have some religious reference in their name. Why is that? (I’m in no mood to do research today, but I’m guessing that it goes back to the Middle Ages. Doesn’t everything?)

After spending a few hours being poked and prodded by the emergency staff, I was told that I’d need to stay at least overnight. So at about 4:30 in the morning, I was wheeled into a private room. All the while, I was telling myself that I’d be as negative as I could when the in-house chaplain arrived to bring me some Jesus.

It never happened. I was in that Catholic hospital for nearly 48 hours, and there were only two allusions to religion. One was a small crucifix that looked like a fancy letter-opener, tucked into an unobtrusive corner of the room. Frankly, as something to look at, I found it much more interesting than say, a picture of a cute kitty, or a flower-bedecked landscape. I was shocked at myself for not being offended by it, but I just didn’t care – it was no skin off my nose as long as none of the medical staff prayed to it or crossed themselves. Hell, they didn’t even look at it.

The other religious allusion came from a maid who entered my room to do some minor cleaning touch-ups about an hour after I’d been brought there. (A few drawers, apparently, were not sparkly enough.) When she was done, at about 5:45, she said, on her way out, “Have a blessed night.” I wasn’t in any shape to engage her in a theological debate – nor, I suspect, would it have mattered if I did – so I simply answered, “Thanks.”

That was it for Christ. None of the doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, or techies who attended me did any advertising whatsoever for their employer. I may have been a bit disappointed, because I was prepared with any number of devastatingly sarcastic comments to make when they did. But I never had the chance. They all acted professionally and seemed extremely knowledgeable; quite a few were able to banter with me snottily, which was encouraging. One N.A. with a funny voice characterized herself as sounding like Minnie Mouse on crack, which struck me – under the circumstances – as hilarious. A nurse, after asking me to let my leg go limp for a reflex test, said, “ummm … you’re not a guy who’s into relaxing much, are you?” A techie, who was administering a test for which she wasn’t “supposed to” give me the results said, “If I turn pale and run screaming into the hall, you can assume you’re in trouble.” Nobody said, “we’ll pray for you.”

So I’ve had occasion to reexamine my own prejudices about hospitals. Yes, it’s annoying that so many of them have a titular affiliation with a specific religious sect. And it’s also extremely grating to imagine that my insurance payment – and the no-doubt exorbitant percentage of costs I’ll be billed directly – will, perhaps, go to the furtherance of the Catholic message. But, really, I doubt it. There was nothing overtly papal about that hospital other than a dumb piece of wall art and a veiledly Christian offhand remark by a low-level employee (who, I suspect, was not actually a Catholic). In retrospect, my own bias against anything even mildly smacking of religion might have gotten in the way of what was, essentially, a positive – and definitely necessary – experience. And my poor wife had to drive only a short distance to smuggle in my Chocolate Cheerios.

Oh, and I got to take home a lovely quart-sized sippy cup, with a plastic bendy straw. That souvenir will probably show up on my bill as a $700 item, but that’s only a little more than I would have paid for, say, mouse ears at Disney World. Anyway, it’s an attractive purple-topped container, emblazoned with the name of the hospital and the words “The Science of Medicine, The Heart of Compassion.” The second phrase is probably secret Vatican code, but it’s stated in a fairly neutral way. And, seriously, I can’t argue with the first phrase at all.

Posted in Freedom from Faith | 17 Comments »

When The Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/26/2010

While reading my previous post, some of you may have been wondering if I was indirectly praising Roman Catholicism and Judaism. The short answer is: nope. I do think that Catholic and Jewish households may provide an environment in which falling away from those odious superstititions is easier than in, say, Protestant or Muslim households. But the teachings of religious “leaders” — ha! — of any persuasion are always geared toward keeping the faithful in the dark. These days, in fact, officials of the Roman Catholic Church are trying to dim not only the glow of reason, but also the torch of justice.

Many of you know that in 2004, three men in Kentucky filed a case against the Vatican for criminal negligence in failing to protect children against, and for covering up, widespread instances of child abuse. Their attorney, William McMurry, filed a class-action suit against the Catholic Church’s Hide-out in the name of hundreds of victims across the United States. Part of his reasoning is that American bishops are either employed by, or officers of, the Vatican.

McMurry has been trying to get the U.S. District Court in Louisville to (1) order the release of Roman Catholic administrative documents, (2) allow him to depose Pope Benny. The Catholic Church, of course, argues that (1) no evidence has been established linking officials in the Holy-Shit City to boy-rape in America, and (2) Il Papa is a head of state, so deposing him would violate international law.

As of Thursday, the arguments by both sides were submitted to the Court. But even if the judges find in the victims’ favor, could the ruling be enforced?

My gut-feeling was, originally, “no.”

But then I got to thinking. An international conspiracy to abuse children or abet their abuse is clearly terrorism. At very least, the Vatican officials are aiding and/or providing a safe haven to terrorists.

We will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

George W. Bush on September 20, 2001

I think our country’s duty is clear. There’s plenty of evidence against the Catholiban. So, for the good of America and all freedom-loving peoples around the world, we must invade the Vatican.

And, hey! I’ve even found an appropriate tune for our civilians at home to sing. Since the Roman Catholic Church has been a champion at disseminating intellectual darkness for centuries and centuries, I suggest that we cheer on our troops with this old song from World War II.

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Random Rants | 17 Comments »

The Humor Theory of Atheism: Laugh Your Way to Godlessness

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/25/2010

Fellow Lexingtonian atheist BrentH is a new friend of mine, and he has already left a number of funny and/or insightful comments on this blog. But some of his best stuff has come in private emails to me. So I’m going to give him credit for most of the ideas that follow. I agree with them, though, so if you think they’re ridiculous, don’t hesitate to attack either one of us. (Like I have to encourage you, right?) Brent can always say “fuck you” and leave the thread if you get too nasty. Or boring. I’m sorta stuck here – this being my old Kentucky (yikes!) Homesite – disproving by counter-example the myth of Southern gentility. So bring it on, you clowns. (At least, I’m guessing that you’re clowns. As you’ll soon see.)

Brent and I have been discussing the kinds of people who become atheists after having been raised in various specific religions. He grew up in a moderately Catholic home. I grew up in a household headed by a religiously indifferent mother and a loud-mouthed atheist father, but my neighborhood was heavily Jewish.

We noticed – through the filters of our own experiences – that in this country, ex-Catholics and former Jews do not usually seem to go through months and months, even years and years, of torturous angst after breaking free from their particular superstitions. We wondered why those groups were different from most Protestants, particularly, say, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and all those other Fundamentalist types. Some of those poor folks struggle agonizingly when they come to realize that they no longer believe.

My original thesis was this: For both of those groups, Catholics and Jews, regardless of how devout they are, the family at home is still the primary social unit. (That’s not always a good thing, as anyone with a Jewish mother can tell you.) For many Protestants, however, particularly those whose sects lean strongly in the Fundy direction, the church itself becomes the primary social unit. So, obviously, “leaving the faith” has tremendous interpersonal ramifications for those people, far stronger than it does for theists whose houses of worship are not life-encompassing.

Brent had a more profound hypothesis, which I’ll call “The Humor Theory of Atheism” (or HTA, for short). It may be easier, he said, for Catholics and Jews to “slide from being devout/observant” into atheism because both those groups have a tradition of comedy and humor. He noted that his family often mocked and satirized one another. That certainly was also true in my house, where it was difficult to survive a meal if you didn’t have a healthy streak of wiseguy, as well as a strong stomach.

We’re not talking about redneck guffaws here. Although Brent didn’t specifically say this, I think he meant that humor was used in his home as it was in mine, as a kind of intellectual challenge. You had to be alert, you had to be quick, and you had to be clever. Even the most innocent dinner-table pronouncements were always scrutinized for maximum comic effect. In my kitchen, we sat there shoveling my mother’s inedible food as we listened carefully to what one another said. All the while, our minds worked overtime to find an absurd connection, a weird association, a hilarious logical meander, or just a perfectly appropriate goofy face. We always knew that whatever we said was going to be examined, and we likewise dissected the statements of the others. We were under the impression that we were merely making jokes, but really, we were thinking critically.

Brent also pointed out that both Catholics and Jews tend to be found mostly in urban environments, places that are “edgy, irreverent, and even blasphemous.” Big cities are incubators for skepticism, particularly of the sardonically witty variety. What I learned to do at home, I did everywhere I went; and I’m guessing, from our short acquaintance, that he did, too.

Most of the funniest people I know are freethinkers, regardless of whether or not they’re out-and-out heathens. The kind of humor I’ve described is definitely not limited to only Catholics and Jews. But perhaps it comes a little more naturally for them because of their long traditions of derision, sarcasm, and even self-deprecation. In any case, whoever its practitioners are, humor is often an entry into critical thinking. Does that always result in atheism? Obviously, not. But without the ability and the desire to think critically, it may be impossible to break the mental chains forged by childhood indoctrination.

This is still a thesis in progress. So I’m asking: Do you agree or disagree with the following propositions?
(1) People raised as Catholics or Jews generally have an easier time acknowledging their freedom from faith than do those brought up in many other traditions.
(2) Humor is a very effective pathway to atheism.

Any (critical) thoughts?

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Once a New Yorker ... | 29 Comments »

Was Michelangelo a Joking Atheist?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/22/2010

My friend Srsny called me up yesterday all excited by a story about Michelangelo that she’d just heard on NPR. It seems that one of his depictions of Yahweh in the Sistine Chapel contains an anatomically correct brainstem in the Big Guy’s neck.

According to the two Johns Hopkins neurosurgery researchers who studied the painting, Michelangelo likely included the brainstem as (a) a kind of signature, (b) a joke, and/or (c) a nose-thumbing “fuck you” to the Vatican.

Apparently, it’s fairly well known that Renaissance artists, interested in learning human anatomy, obtained cadavers for dissection. The Church frowned on this practice at the same time that it paid for, and encouraged, realism in the painting of biblical subjects. So the authors hypothesize that Michelangelo included the brain in his painting essentially to twit the religious authorities with a subtle “Guess what I did!”

My take, as an atheist, is a different one. Perhaps Michelangelo was pointing out that his god’s brain was exactly the same as an ordinary human’s. Surely, the great painter had dissected the bodies of other creatures besides those of our species, and he would have known that animals’ organs, including their brains, are not the same as ours. So, if the heavenly creator were indeed more “superior” to Man than Man is to the beasts, his godly brain should have been of a different size and proportion altogether. For his brain to be so much like ours, he must have been a construct of mere mortals, rather than a supreme being to take seriously.

But that got me thinking about how amazing our brain really is. One of the things most interesting to me about the story was the great joke by the editors — the closing play-out music. This kind of joke is broadcast all the time on NPR’s various programs, but today was the first time I ever thought about the mechanics of such a gag.

First, the listeners have to recognize a collection of noises as music rather than just a group of odd sounds. Second, the audience has to “translate” what they’re hearing into a tune they know, even though the melody is played in a version that’s most likely a variant of the one they’re familiar with; perhaps it’s orchestrated differently, or performed at a different tempo, or slightly varied in its rhythms. Third, when the tune is recognized, its music has to be so indelibly tied to its title and/or lyrics as to make a certain phrase spring to mind immediately upon identification of the melody. Fourth, the listeners have to understand that the associated phrase is not just a random string of words, but one that communicates a definite message from the programming staff. Fifth, the message has to be processed by filtering the phrase through the context of the preceding story. Sixth, the juxtaposition of story and phrase has to be enough of a surprise to engender an involuntary laugh reflex; the more inappropriate the original context of the song to the broadcast context, the bigger the laugh is likely to be. That’s a pretty astounding series of “calculations” for an organ, mortal or not, to perform.

Oddly enough, I can’t think of a single instance in the bible of people using their god-like brains to laugh at a pure, clever joke like the musical one that followed NPR’s story, or the one that Michelangelo painted. Can you?

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Music | 28 Comments »

One Nation, Under the Shrimping God

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/16/2010

Sort of like our preacher-in-chief was last night, I’m pretty much speechless. But I have to say: If the government asks me to sacrifice a goat, I’m going to refuse.

[T]ime and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny -– our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there.

It’s a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea -– some for weeks at a time.

The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago –- at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “even in the midst of the storm.”

The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through -– what has always seen us through –- is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.

Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

After he’s done fixing the mess in the Gulf, perhaps Obama’s deity will help America conquer Jericho, or vanquish the armies of the demon king Ravana, or maybe even get Helen back from the Trojans. Gee, I sure hope he doesn’t decide to turn Michelle into a pillar of salt — although a swan would probably be OK. But, really, if the president’s god is going to do that bird trick, an American brown pelican might be more useful.

[Update – 06/16 at 3:10 p.m.: Instead of reciting a boring ol’ prayer, maybe Obama should have led the nation in song. Please note that the first 21 seconds of the video are silent so that you’ll have time to turn to the appropriate page in your hymnal.]

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Playing Politics | 49 Comments »

Hey, Guess What! I’m Not a Brand.

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/12/2010

A “contributing columnist” to the Herald-Leader’s Life + Dumbth pages is a local preacher named Paul Prather. Today, his written sermon was entitled “New atheists embody the very things they hate.” Original, huh?

Of course, Prather began by railing against “popular books demeaning any form of belief in God.” He mentioned — who else? — Dawkins and Hitchens. And Bill Maher, whose “anti-faith film,” Religulous, “got a ton of attention.” Never mind that Maher has never claimed to be an atheist. Doesn’t matter.

Then Prather went on to point out “the online comments that follow every news story about religion.” The responses, Prather said, “seem to come disproportionately from readers who jeer at all references to God or piety.” That assertion, unsupported by any examples or statistics, must be true. A minister wrote it. What stake could he possibly have had in misrepresenting the numbers?

Anyway, we atheists should show a little respect. That’s the Christian thing to do.

The real kicker of the argument came when Prather accused “the current brand of aggressive atheism” as being “just another form of fundamentalism.” Oddly, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with him if he’d said “a few atheists,” or even “some non-theists.” I’ve met plenty of bull-headed knee-jerk “rationalists.” Haven’t you?

But atheism doesn’t have a “current brand.” Not believing in something nonsensical is simply … not believing in something nonsensical. There have been atheists ( whatever they may have called themselves) throughout history who refused to succumb to their societies’ overwhelming pressure to bow to superstition. There’s no “brand” involved. If we atheists open our mouths at all, we’re perceived as “vocal” and “combative.” And “aggressive.” That’s always our brand, at least when Christians are doing the labeling.

The article continued with the usual foolishness about atheism being just another kind of church. That’s a ludicrous idea, even if it was recently bolstered by at least one Lexington idiot who seemingly claimed to speak for all atheists. In the very same newspaper section. How convenient.

But Prather is full of the milk of human kindness. “This might surprise you,” he wrote, “but I have nothing against atheists.” That’s blatant bullshit, the equivalent of “some of my best friends are Jewish.” Whenever I heard that, growing up in the Bronx, I knew that an anti-Semitic crack was coming. There was always going to be a “but …” involved.

The crux of Prather’s argument, nearly half his column, is that most “smug, dogmatic, and mean-spirited” atheists have not spent time reading a BP-gusher’s-worth of Christian apologetics. “I wish these atheists would venture, say, into a seminary library. They’d find tens of thousands of volumes written by thinkers great and obscure across two millennia.”

Many Christian arguments come around to that. We atheists haven’t sampled enough flavors of their religion to justify our blanket dismissal of its senseless tenets.

So, here are some generalizations about Christians of all brands. These statements are, I think, virtually impossible to challenge except by someone who has an extremely odd sense of what “Christianity” is:

1. Christians accept the existence of a god who is one or more (not necessarily all) of the following: omnipotent, omnipresent, omnisicient, and omnibenevolent.

2. Christians believe that a character known as Jesus Christ actually lived sometime during the first century (by our current counting system).

3. Christians say that this Jesus had ties to their god, through either (a) actually being that god, (b) being a manifestation of that god, (c) having some physical kinship to that god, and/or (d) experiencing an unusually close intellectual bond between himself and that god. (Note: You may notice that (d) might well define any delusional person with charisma enough to attract followers.)

4. Christians assume that belief in any or all of the above numbered items will do one or more of the following: (a) make them better people, (b) improve their lives, and/or (c) ensure them a pleasant afterlife. (Happy deathday to you.)

Now, when I look at even that small list, I don’t feel compelled to spend hours, days, months, years reading about those beliefs. Frankly, they sound pretty goddamned stupid to me.

Since the ridiculous and unsupported claims are all on their side in the constant “debate” with atheists, the onus is on Christians to prove those claims. Asking an atheist like me to read “tens of thousands of volumes,” all written to explain the many divergent ramifications of those four essential beliefs that even a non-threatened child would find incredible, is a tremendous imposition. Do Christians ask one another to visit the library and read thousands and thousands of books on Muslim or Jewish or Hindu apologetics? Or, for that matter, on areligious subjects? “Hey, you can’t honestly say that you don’t enjoy Shakespeare unless you’ve worked your way through two or three million volumes of analyses.” Or: “How can you claim that a diet of Entenmann’s Chocolate Donuts is bad for you unless you’ve read tens of thousands of books on nutrition?”

So, instead of attacking his imagined “new atheists,” Prather ought to challenge himself to clear his head. With no foregone conclusions and with a critical mind, he should read the myriad of silly books that he, himself, recommended.

I repeat: With no foregone conclusions. And with a critical mind.

But since Prather is one of the current brand of god-pushers, it’s never going to happen.

Posted in Freedom from Faith | 40 Comments »

Oh, Susannah, Go Ahead and Cry for Me. Yourself, Too.

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/03/2010

Last Saturday, I had an email from reader Susannah Roitman. She’s another transplanted New York atheist, now surrounded by Lexingtonian Jesus-jumpers, so we commiserate with one another electronically from time to time.  Susannah said she was sure I’d read the local rag that morning, and she was looking forward to my response.

As it happened, I’d been preparing for out-of-town guests who were scheduled to arrive later that weekend. So, being in kind of a rush to slurp down my Chocolate Cheerios and get to the wine, cheese, and cookie store, I had skipped my daily dose of dumbth. Besides, I already had planned to write a crucially important blog entry about a vocabulary contest. (See previous post.)

But, in deference to my new friend, I did take a quick look at the front page of the Herald-Leader, which immediately revealed what I thought she was talking about. A brightly colored banner boldly proclaimed that the Annual Guide to Vacation Bible School was being featured in the Life + Drivel Section.

However, it turned out that she had something else entirely in mind. On that day’s Opinion Page, every single one of the “Readers’ Views” had been mailed in response to a month-old letter written by an atheist. That letter’s title, obviously assigned by the Editor, reveals its contents: “God Exists? Prove It!”

To tell the truth: I don’t think I’d read that specific letter. If I had, it certainly wasn’t memorable. I tried to find it online, but unfortunately it was no longer available – even though the Op/Ed Powers-That-Be had chosen to run nine refutations, taking up half a page of prime newshole. Still, I can guess, with a high degree of certainty, the kinds of arguments the original letter-writer would have used in his time-wasting effort. (Since his name wasn’t mentioned, let’s just call him Mr. Heathen.)

Obviously, Mr. Heathen had had a terrific idea when he tossed off his note to the newspaper. By dint of his sharp reasoning, his never-heard-before points, and his oh-so-probing questions, he was going to show up the area’s religious nuts for what they were. Hell, his logical debating abilities would probably cause a mass deconversion.

Um, not quite. The responses, in summary, were:

Letter 1: I can’t touch air, either. But it’s there, right?
Letter 2: How can the universe have been created without a creator?
Letter 3: John Wesley once said [a paraphrase of Pascal’s Wager]. He was right. Mr. Heathen stubbornly refuses to consider the evidence, which is why he doesn’t know the “joy of hope for the future.” But there must be a god, because otherwise life is “sterile and meaningless.”
Letter 4: Mr. Heathen has not looked deeply enough inside himself.
Letter 5: Can Mr. Heathen prove that he exists?
Letter 6: Mr. Heathen has to have faith. He’ll remain ignorant of the truth unless he reads the bible.
Letter 7: You can’t see air. But it’s there, right?
Letter 8: You can’t hear, see, or smell gravity. But it’s there, right?
Letter 9: Mr. Heathen is obviously going through “a very tough time” — or he has disdain for all religion. But I kinda agree with his point. Maybe. Sorta.

Brilliant!

Without doubt, most of those responders were graduates of Vacation Bible School. So I turned back to the god-shilling on the Life + Propaganda page, and I learned that: “With its games, songs, snacks, crafts and Bible stories, vacation Bible school is a hallmark of summer for many Kentucky kids.” Good times, eh?

There then followed a listing of approximately eighty brainwashing opportunities. Apparently, quite a few of the programs are offered by more than one church. In case a recalcitrant child fails to be fully immunized from secularism the first time through a “course,” the parents can send him or her back elsewhere for a second mental dunking.

Anyway, here are a few of the interesting subjects available. Unlike the Life + Inanity section, which just listed these in date order (how useless for true believers who know that god is timeless), I’ve organized these by theme. For the most part, I’ve resisted the urge to add humorous comments because — let’s face it — I can’t get any funnier than the names of these classes.

Bible Crap You Need to Know About Egypt

  • Egypt: Joseph’s Journey from Prison to Palace
  • The Egypt File: Decoding the Mysteries of Life
  • Mighty Moses
  • Spend a While on the Nile
    [Note: Your mummy will be proud!]

Adventures in Exotic Christian Lands

  • Baobab Blast: God’s Great Get-Together
  • High Seas Expedition
  • Jungle Journey: Exploring the Nature of God
  • Soul Survivors on Danger Island
  • Lava Lava Island
    [Note: Usually known by its shortened form, La-La Land]

Adventures in Exotic Christian Lands: Kentucky Equine Division

  • Off to the Races: Learning about One of God’s Creatures (and Kentucky’s Favorite) Through Art, Music and Science.
    [Note: This one is full of horseshit. Literally.]

Hey, Guess Who Made Outer Space?

  • Galactic Blast
  • Planet Zoom
    [Note: No need to beam me up, Scottie. Jesus will take care of that in the Rapture.]

Get Up, You Young Lazy Christian Bastards.  There’s Work to Do!

  • Rise and Shine for Jesus
  • Hero Headquarters: Where Kids Join Forces With God
  • Step Up and Go Green for Jesus
    [Note: Children will be taught how to make lime Jell-O molds for church picnics.]

Kickin’ Back With the Big Guy

  • Praise Party
    [Note: Festive hats and horns will be provided, but BYOB. (The last “B” stands for “bible,” of course.)]

Let’s Not Forget to Pander to Minorities

  • Hip-hop Hands of Praise
    [Note: Formerly known, in God’s Glory Days of the Grand Tradition of the South, as “Happy Darkies’ Hands of Praise.”]

Got any more questions, Mr. Heathen?

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Idiots, New to Kentucky | 5 Comments »

Hey, Look Who’s Just Like You and Me!

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 05/27/2010

Tribal mentality may be evolutionarily wired into our DNA. Humans — most of us, anyway — apparently have a longing to group ourselves into easily differentiated categories. Religion being one of those categories, it stands to reason that atheists would feel a common bond with one another.

With that in mind, I hereby list twenty famous people you may not have known were atheists. I assume you’ll feel proud about at least some of them.

  1. Harry Truman
  2. Mickey Mantle
  3. General William Tecumseh Sherman
  4. Queen Elizabeth I
  5. Daniel Boone
  6. Bob Kane (creator of Batman)
  7. Marilyn Monroe
  8. Zebulon Pike
  9. Johnny Weissmuller
  10. Ernest Lawrence Thayer (writer of “Casey at the Bat”)
  11. Pancho Villa
  12. Lucille Ball
  13. Ludwig von Beethoven
  14. Moe Howard (of the Three Stooges)
  15. Annie Oakley
  16. Otto von Bismarck
  17. Chief Justice John Marshall
  18. Jane Austen
  19. Cliff Edwards (“Ukulele Ike,” the voice of Jiminy Cricket)
  20. Amerigo Vespucci

That’s quite a collection of individuals, eh? And all of them shared our worldview!

Um … nope. First of all, atheism isn’t a worldview. It’s not a religion. It isn’t a tribal designation. It’s not an indication of any specific kinds of thought-processes. Hell, atheism, in and of itself, isn’t even an idea; it’s merely the rejection of a particularly stupid notion: theism.

But still, we’d like to feel some sense of kindred, whatever that means, with the twenty people named above. If nothing else, perhaps we can claim them as intellectual colleagues, right? Isn’t there something intangible about atheism that makes those of us who are faith-free look at one another with a glimmer of self-recognition? So tell the truth: You see those folks in a new light now, don’t you?

Well, you can turn off that bulb in your dim brain. Because I made that list up. I have no idea whether any of those famous men and women were atheists. But I doubt it.

I repeat: the only thing that atheists have in common is our rejection of a particularly stupid notion. If we need to organize to fight theocracy — and I, for one, think we must — then we ought not have false expectations of one another. None of us should ever make assumptions about what other atheists think or feel, what anyone else does or does not believe. Instead, we should probably just acknowledge that we’re held together by a very thin bond indeed, and keep our focus appropriately tight and rooted in the real world: Keep religion out of government.

[H/T to John Evo & vjack, both of whose linked posts started me on today’s rant.]

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Random Rants, Useless Lists | 41 Comments »

Dear Athiest

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 05/19/2010

[Note: Some of the friendlier atheist blogs run occasional features in which a guest writer gives long-winded answers to correspondents who write to him for solutions to their personal problems.  Unlike Dr. Philistine, I’m not qualified to give advice at such length. (For example, my answer to Jessica would have been: “Duh. Send your kid to public school.”) But I do get my share of email inquiries, and I hate to let those notes go unanswered.  So, today’s column will be devoted to some of the thousands of uninteresting queries I receive.]

Dear Athiest,

I have a bad tooth aich. I prayed about it but God dont seem to do nothin to help. Its gotten sos I cant eat any food harder than mush with out yellin ouch or even somethin worse that sounds like Im takin His name in my veins. Cold yogert feels real good in my mouth but I hate the taste of it unless its coffee which it aint cause my wife dont buy any kinds but mixed beeries and aprilcut which I both hate. I also prayed about her shoppin so maybe the Lord woud make her pick up a better flayver, but my wife just says God heps those who hep theyselves. But hes not heppin me none! So what shoud I do?

Yours in Christ,

I.M.N. Payne

I.M.N.:

I suggest you see a dentist. You can pay him to buy whatever kind of yogurt you like.

Deer Athiest,

I was thinking the other day that John must of got it wrong when he said Jesus wept in chapter 11 verse 35, that’s the shortest verse in the hole Bible so I got it mammarized. Jesus could’nt of wept because gods do’nt cry, not even my husband crys and hes no god bulleave me! And over some guy named Lazris dieing? Jesus don’t cry at all when other people die even preachers and such. So do you think maybe John got it wrong? Floyd thinks yes because he says that Jesus woulda just manned up insted of balling like some girl. And what kinda name is Lazris I never knew no body with no name like that? How could Jesus wept about some one with such a wierd name I never heard of? Also, how come your an athiest when the Bible is the Holy Word of God?

Your freind,

Jess Asken

Jess:

Lazarus (note the correct spelling) was Jesus’s good friend. If you’ll read the next few verses (Yes, I know they have a lot of words, but perhaps you and Floyd could get through them if you go slowly), you’ll find that Christ prayed really hard and — presto! — Lazarus came back from the dead. I agree that preachers don’t usually rise up after they die, but that’s probably because they’re not on Jesus’s list of friends. I also agree that Lazarus is a weird name. I’m an atheist because I think the bible is stupid.

Deere Athiest,

There IS a hell and YOUR going their!!!! But their’s STILL TIME. Except the SAVOR JESUS CRHIST!!!!! Just remember that disapline is the key. GOD is your captain, your judge and, your jury. ‘The Lord will open the heavens, the store house of his bounty” !!!! (Duetoromony 28-1:12) In case your wandering, thats the Bibles’ way of saying He will give you good stuff from his store in the sky. And it will be FREE!!!! Otherwhys, ten days half rations. Keel haul this athiest!

Sin surly,

Christian Fletcher

Christian:

I don’t need any good stuff from the lord. I have too much stuff already. Perhaps he could figure out a way to ship it to the world’s most impoverished countries. By the way, your name made me chuckle because my best friend in third grade was a kid named Fletcher Jew.

der athiest,

heres what i dont under stand about you athiest poeple. you say theres no god but every body else says there is. can you prove theres no god? NO! so every body else must be right!

yours truely,

Billy Bob Aristotle

Billy Bob:

I’m glad you cleared that up for me.

Dere Athiest,

So let me get this strait. You don’t beleive that God causes all those horrorcanes an twizzlers an earthquacks an fluds an sudokus an oil spills. Am I rite? So who then? You?

Signed,

Sunny Daze

Sunny:

Aw, you caught me. I confess: I made all that bad weather. But please don’t hold me responsible for mosquitoes, tubercle bacilli, and nauseatingly cute kittens.

Dare Athiest,

If there ain’t no God, then why should we be good. You could just as well rape and murder and steel and masterbate and be a homo and kill babies and turn commie and say bad words and masterbate and cheat on your wife and drink and dance and smoke and masterbate. So that’s why I believe in God. Otherwise I might do those things except be a homo which I ain’t cause Bubba and I was ony fooling around and it didn’t mean nothing. And I’d probly never be no commie neither because I’d rather be an American than one a them cuckoo ratchas from Porta Rico or New Mexico or France. But otherwise I might. So what’s your excuse?

Love (but NOT in that way),

Sue (yeah that’s my name you wanna make something of it?) Macho

Sue:

Were you aware that Bubba’s from France? You can prove it by offering him some Velveeta. If he turns it down, you’ll know for sure.

Dir Athiest,

I make you a bet. You can chose to bleeve in God or not. If you do you win when you die cuz you go to heven. If you dont you lose cuz Ill kill you. So wich do you pick?

Watch Your Ass,

Sal Vation

Sal:

Could you throw in an all-expenses paid “cruise to nowhere” with the first option?

Dire Athiest,

I’m an athiest 2. I been looking for the nearest athiest church so I can practiss my relijon, but I can’t fine it in the phone book. So I’d be great full if you coul tell me where do you go to prey to nobody? Thanx for you’re cornside ration.

You’re fallow athiest,

Lourdice Myshepard

Lourdice:

No-god is everywhere. So you don’t need a church to practice your religion. Just pick whatever time and place you choose, and fall on your knees. I promise you, no lord will hear your prayers. Bless you, my daughter, for you have sneezed.

Dr Athiest,

I’m riting to you acause I spect that yawl will know this. It was the Final Joepardy answer tother day, but my dang TV went dead during the thinking music afor Alec’s had a chanct to come back and tell us what the question was. The catigory was The Dammed and the answer was: When he died, the athiest went to this place. ROFLMAO! Got yawl, dint I?

Ha,

Ben Gleck

Ben:

I believe the answer is “Kentucky.” Although it might be “the dentist’s office.”

[Note: If you have a question for Dear Athiest, please check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar (if she’s still alive).  Sorry, but mail received with no errors cannot be printed. Letters must be between 1 and 1,000,000 words long; pictures count as 1,000 words, and may be tampered with for space.  All letters published become the exclusive property of  the delete button.]

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Seriously Silly | 17 Comments »