Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fish come out of the water for food & Altrusim among ducks and fish

The Founding Fathers on Religion

As the quotes on this page illustrate, the claim that America was founded on Christianity is a myth. Many of the Founding Fathers and Revolutionary War leaders were Deists, and upheld a firm separation of church and state.

Webster's New World Dictionary -- Third College Edition

Deism: (1) The belief in the existence of a God on purely rational grounds without reliance on revelation or authority; especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. (2) The doctrine that God created the world and its natural laws, but takes no further part in its functioning.

United States Constitution

The First Amendment
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."

Article VI, Section 3
" religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

John Adams (the second President of the United States)

Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli (June 7, 1797). Article 11 states:
"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

From a letter to Charles Cushing (October 19, 1756):
"Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, 'this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.'"

From a letter to Thomas Jefferson:
"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved -- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"

Additional quotes from John Adams:
"Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?"

"The Doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."

"...Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind."

Thomas Jefferson (the third President of the United States)

Jefferson's interpretation of the first amendment in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (January 1, 1802):
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

From Jefferson's biography:
" amendment was proposed by inserting the words, 'Jesus Christ...the holy author of our religion,' which was rejected 'By a great majority in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.'"

Jefferson's "The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom":
"Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry....The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

From Thomas Jefferson's Bible:
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

Jefferson's Notes on Virginia:
"Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these free inquiry must be indulged; how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse ourselves? But every state, says an inquisitor, has established some religion. No two, say I, have established the same. Is this a proof of the infallibility of establishments?"

Additional quotes from Thomas Jefferson:
"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself."

"They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition of their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the alter of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

"I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth."

"In every country and in every age the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear....Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it end in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue on the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you."

"Christianity...[has become] the most perverted system that ever shone on man....Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus."

"...that our civil rights have no dependence on religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics and geometry."

James Madison (the fourth President of the United States)

Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments:
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise....During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution."

Additional quote from James Madison:
"Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

Benjamin Franklin

From Franklin's autobiography, p. 66:
"My parents had given me betimes religious impressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself."

From Franklin's autobiography, p. 66:
"...Some books against Deism fell into my hands....It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quote to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations, in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."

Thomas Paine

From The Age of Reason, pp. 89:
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of....Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and of my own part, I disbelieve them all."

From The Age of Reason:
"All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

From The Age of Reason:
"The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion."

From The Age of Reason:
"What is it the Bible teaches us? -- rapine, cruelty, and murder."

From The Age of Reason:
"Loving of enemies is another dogma of feigned morality, and has beside no meaning....Those who preach the doctrine of loving their enemies are in general the greatest prosecutors, and they act consistently by so doing; for the doctrine is hypocritical, and it is natural that hypocrisy should act the reverse of what it preaches."

From The Age of Reason:
"The Bible was established altogether by the sword, and that in the worst use of it -- not to terrify but to extirpate."

Additional quote from Thomas Paine:
"It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible."

Ethan Allen

From Religion of the American Enlightenment:
"Denominated a Deist, the reality of which I have never disputed, being conscious that I am no

Pat Condell: A secular world is a sane world

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Rise of Atheism - ABC plus Christopher Hitchens

Michael Shermer - [TED] Why People believe weird things.

A victory for the Seperation of Church and State!

Radio Interview with Bart Ehrman

Great interview on Bart's latest book : God's Problem How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question, Why We Suffer. Listen to it here:

Just in Case: Vatican Covering its ass on the chance that we find life on Mars

The Pope's chief astronomer says that life on Mars cannot be ruled out.

Writing in the Vatican newspaper, the astronomer, Father Gabriel Funes, said intelligent beings created by God could exist in outer space.

Father Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory near Rome, is a respected scientist who collaborates with universities around the world.

The search for forms of extraterrestrial life, he says, does not contradict belief in God.

The official Vatican newspaper headlines his article 'Aliens Are My Brother'.

'Free from sin'

Just as there are multiple forms of life on earth, so there could exist intelligent beings in outer space created by God. And some aliens could even be free from original sin, he speculates.

Asked about the Catholic Church's condemnation four centuries ago of the Italian astronomer and physicist, Galileo, Father Funes diplomatically says mistakes were made, but it is time to turn the page and look towards the future.

Science and religion need each other, and many astronomers believe in God, he assures readers.

To strengthen its scientific credentials, the Vatican is organising a conference next year to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the author of the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin.

Alkaline Soil Sample From Mars Reveals Presence of Nutrients for Plants to Grow


Stick an asparagus plant in a pot full of Martian soil, and the asparagus might grow happily, scientists announced Thursday.

An experiment on the Phoenix Mars lander showed the dirt on the planet’s northern arctic plains to be alkaline, though not strongly alkaline, and full of the mineral nutrients that a plant would need.

“We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past, present or future,” said Samuel P. Kounaves of Tufts University, who is leading the chemical analysis, during a telephone news conference on Thursday. “The sort of soil you have there is the type of soil you’d probably have in your backyard.”

Mars today is cold and dry, and the surface is bombarded by ultraviolet radiation, making life unlikely, but conditions could have made the planet more habitable in the past. Plants that like alkaline soil — like asparagus — might readily grow in the Martian soil, provided that other components of an Earth-like environment including air and water were also present.

The preliminary findings from Phoenix do not answer whether life ever existed on Mars (or might still exist somewhere underground), only that conditions, at least at this location, are not the harshest imaginable. The soil, taken close to the surface, was similar to what is found in parts of Antarctica, Dr. Kounaves said. The soil elsewhere on the planet could well be very different; even the soil farther down in the ground could turn out to be acidic or otherwise vary in composition.

The Phoenix is capable of performing the same chemical analysis on three more samples.

In a different experiment, a tiny oven heated another sample of the Martian soil to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, which released water vapor. “This soil clearly has interacted with water in the past,” said William V. Boynton of the University of Arizona, the lead scientist in this experiment.

Dr. Boynton said he could not say when the liquid water was present or even where it was. The moisture might have come from dust particles that had blown there from other parts of Mars. “At this point, it is difficult to quantify what was given off,” he said.

The oven experiment also found carbon dioxide vapors, not surprising because the planet’s thin atmosphere is primarily carbon dioxide. The data have not revealed any carbon-based compounds.

The Phoenix mission is not directly looking for life on Mars, but rather whether conditions for habitability ever existed. In the wet chemistry experiment, water was mixed into the soil to produce Martian mud. Then the apparatus performed the same sorts of tests that gardeners use to test the condition of their soil.

The pH level was between 8 and 9, Dr. Kounaves said. The pH, or potential of hydrogen, reflects the concentration of hydrogen ions, or acidity, of a substance and usually varies between 0 and 14, with 7 considered neutral. (The water of Earth’s oceans, for comparison, has a pH of 8.2.) The experiment also found the presence of magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride ions in the soil.

“There’s nothing about it that would preclude life,” Dr. Kounaves said. “In fact, it seems very friendly.”

Texas Court: Exorcism is protected by law

Texas justices throw out jury award after teenager alleged church ordeal

FORT WORTH, Texas - The Texas Supreme Court on Friday threw out a jury award over injuries a 17-year-old girl suffered in an exorcism conducted by members of her old church, ruling that the case unconstitutionally entangled the court in religious matters.

In a 6-3 decision, the justices found that a lower court erred when it said the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God's First Amendment rights regarding freedom of religion did not prevent the church from being held liable for mental distress triggered by a "hyper-spiritualistic environment."

Laura Schubert testified in 2002 that she was cut and bruised and later experienced hallucinations after the church members' actions in 1996, when she was 17. Schubert said she was pinned to the floor for hours and received carpet burns during the exorcism, the Austin American-Statesman reported. She also said the incident led her to mutilate herself and attempt suicide. She eventually sought psychiatric help.

But the church's attorneys had told jurors that her psychological problems were caused by traumatic events she witnessed with her missionary parents in Africa. The church contended she "freaked out" about following her father's life as a missionary and was acting out to gain attention.

Abuse and false imprisonment?

The 2002 trial of the case never touched on the religious aspects, and a Tarrant County jury found the Colleyville church and its members liable for abusing and falsely imprisoning the girl. The jury awarded her $300,000, though the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth later reduced the verdict to $188,000.

Justice David Medina wrote that finding the church liable "would have an unconstitutional 'chilling effect' by compelling the church to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs."

But Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, in a dissenting opinion, stated that the "sweeping immunity" is inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and extends far beyond the Constitution's protections for religious conduct.

'Intentional abuse'

"The First Amendment guards religious liberty; it does not sanction intentional abuse in religion's name," Jefferson wrote.

After the 2002 verdict, Pleasant Glade merged with another congregation in Colleyville, a Fort Worth suburb.

A message left for the church's attorney Friday evening was not immediately returned, and calls to two numbers listed in Schubert's name went unanswered.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fox Attacks Obama

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Science Teacher Burned Cross on Students' Arm.

High IQ turns academics into atheists

Intelligence is a predictor of religious scepticism, a professor has argued. Rebecca Attwood reports

Belief in God is much lower among academics than among the general population because scholars have higher IQs, a controversial academic claimed this week.

In a forthcoming paper for the journal Intelligence, Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, will argue that there is a strong correlation between high IQ and lack of religious belief and that average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 countries.

In the paper, Professor Lynn - who has previously caused controversy with research linking intelligence to race and sex - says evidence points to lower proportions of people holding religious beliefs among "intellectual elites".

The paper - which was co-written with John Harvey, who does not report a university affiliation, and Helmuth Nyborg, of the University of Aarhus, Denmark - cites studies including a 1990s survey that found that only 7 per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God. A survey of fellows of the Royal Society found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God at a time when a poll reported that 68.5 per cent of the general UK population were believers.

Professor Lynn told Times Higher Education: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

He said that most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence - and their intelligence increased - many began to have doubts and became agnostics.

He added that most Western countries had seen a decline of religious belief in the 20th century at the same time as their populations had become more intelligent.

Andy Wells, senior lecturer in psychology at the London School of Economics, said the existence of a correlation between IQ and religiosity did not mean there was a causal relationship between the two.

Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society at Birkbeck, University of London, said that any examination of the decline of religious belief needed to take into account a wide and complex range of social, economic and historical factors.

He added: "Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which - while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism - is perhaps not the most helpful response."

Alistair McFadyen, senior lecturer in Christian theology at the University of Leeds, said that Professor Lynn's arguments appeared to have "a slight tinge of intellectual elitism and Western cultural imperialism as well as an antireligious sentiment".

David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London Metropolitan University, said: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater ability - or perhaps willingness - to question and overturn strongly felt intuitions."

Silly Fundy Thinks Mars is a Waste of Money

Rob Hood, commentator on The Conservative Voice thinks that the Mars Phoenix probe is a waste of money - Read it here

"Mars is a desert planet and perhaps there is ice and maybe even water there. So what? Who cares? It’s water! That doesn’t mean a thing. Life originated on Earth when God spoke it into existence and there is no need in wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money searching for an answer that is based upon faulty evolutionary ideas."

~Rob Hood

Some numbers to consider:

Total amount budgeted for NASA 1958-2008: $592.38 Billion avg: $11.85 Billion per year.

Cost of Afghanistan and Iraq wars: $604 Billion and counting... in 7 years. Avg: $86.3 Billion per year.

50 years of exploration, science, understanding, and just plain betterment of the human experience... worth every damn penny.

7 years of an illegal war, countless dead, countless wounded... not so much.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

One of the best short films of all time based on one of the best short stories of all time.

Mr. Bierce would be proud...enjoy!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Washington and Religion

Washington gives us little in his writings to indicate his personal religious beliefs. As noted by Franklin Steiner in "The Religious Beliefs Of Our Presidents" (1936), Washington commented on sermons only twice. In his writings, he never referred to "Jesus Christ." He attended church rarely, and did not take communion - though Martha did, requiring the family carriage to return back to the church to get her later.

When trying to arrange for workmen in 1784 at Mount Vernon, Washington made clear that he would accept "Mohometans, Jews or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists." Washington wrote Lafayette in 1787, "Being no bigot myself, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church that road to heaven which to them shall seem the most direct, plainest, easiest and least liable to exception."

Clear evidence of his personal theology is lacking, even on his deathbed when he died a "death of civility" without expressions of Christian hope. His failure to document beliefs in conventional dogma, such as a life after death, is a clue that he may not qualify as a conventional Christian. Instead, Washington may be closer to a "warm deist" than a standard Anglican in colonial Virginia.

He was complimentary to all groups and attended Quaker, German Reformed, and Roman Catholic services. In a world where religious differences often led to war, Washington was quite conscious of religious prejudice. However, he joked about it rather than exacerbated it. Washington once noted that he was unlikely to be affected by the German Reformed service he attended, because he did not understand a word of what was spoken.

Washington was an inclusive, "big tent" political leader seeking support from the large numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Quakers in Virginia, and even more groups on a national level. He did not enhance his standing in some areas by advocating support for a particular theology, and certainly did not identify "wedge issues" based on religious differences. Instead, in late 1775, Washington banned the Protestant celebration of the Pope's Day (a traditional mocking of the Catholic leader) by the Continental Army. He deplored the sectarian strife in Ireland, and wished the debate over Patrick Henry's General Assessment bill would "die an easy death."

Washington was not anti-religion. Washington was not uninterested in religion. He was a military commander who struggled to motivate raw troops in the French and Indian War. He recognized that recruiting the militia in the western part of Virginia required accommodating the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, Baptists, and Dutch Reformed members in officially-Anglican Virginia. He was aware that religious beliefs were a fundamental part of the lives of his peers and of his soldiers. He knew that a moral basis for the American Revolution and the creation of a new society would motivate Americans to support his initiatives - and he knew that he would receive more support if he avoided discriminating against specific religious beliefs.

In the Revolutionary War, Washington supported troops selecting their own chaplains (such as the Universalist John Murray) while trying to avoid the development of factions within the army. Religion offered him moral leverage to instill discipline, reduce theft, deter desertion, and minimize other rambunctious behaviors that upset local residents. It was logical for Washington to invoke the name of the Divine, but it may have been motivated more by a desire for improving life on earth rather than dealing with life after death.

Wahington understood the distinction between morality and religion, and between toleration of differences and full religious liberty. Washington's replies to messages from Jews and Swedenborgians showed he was not merely accepting the differences of religion, tolerating those who had not chosen the correct path. Instead, he endorsed what Jefferson would later define as a "wall of separation between church and state."

Washington used generic terms with his public requests for divine assistance, to the extent that his personal denomination must be classified as "unknown." That vagueness has not stopped Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Unitarian Universalists from claiming him as a member, and has invited others to identity him as a Deist. Washington was a man dedicated to creating national unity, not an exclusionist seeking to identify and select those with correct beliefs for reward in this life or the next. It would have been inconsistent for him to seek to blend the westerners and the Tidewater residents, the Yankees from the north and the slave-owning planters from the South, into one national union - while at the same time supporting narrow religious tests for officeholders, or advocating the superiority of one religious sect over another.

The obelisk we call the Washington Monument is clad in white limestone. When illuminated at night, it glows white. It stands out from the dark background because of the artificial light we project on it; there is no natural light corning from the stone. If we projected a colored light, we'd see the tall Washington Monument as an object glowing with color. Similarly, many writers project onto Washington's life a set of religious beliefs - and see a reflection of what they project.

Mason Locke Weems manufactured stories to establish Washington as a pious Christian, a man who suceeded in part because he prayed for God's blessing. Weems was a parson, and his inaccuracies (including the moralistic "I can not tell a lie" tale about cutting down a cherry tree) have shaped the perspective of Washington for two centuries now. Many modern writers still repeat second-hand information of questionable reliability to describe Washington as a traditional Protestant. The individuals who describe Washington's life as one marked by prayer and steady attendance at church are often advocates of a religious perspective, proselytizing the perspective of a particular denomination or at least trying to shape American society so more people attend church regularly.

At times, they cite the generic proclamations issued as a public leader to portray Washington (or even Jefferson!) as a mainstream Christian, and to define the United States as a Christian Nation. Some of those who emphasize the personal faith - or faithlessness - of elected officials use it as a partisan issue. The Moral Majority led by Rev. Jerry Falwell was clearly allied with the Republican Party, and both Jimmy Carter and Pat Robertson used religion as part of his campaign for the presidency.

In modern America, many religious leaders consider personal salvation to be fundamental to the strength/survival of American society. The debate about the morality of elected officials has been intense since the realization that Lyndon Johnson lied about the status of war in Vietnam and subsequent Presidents have demonstrated publicly their own lapses, particularly Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

Those who attempt to project a religious theology upon Washington often seek to connect theological beliefs with civic benefits, assuming morality is based on religion. In contrast, Madison and others crafted a government that could succeed even if Americans were not angels, thanks to a balance of powers. Jefferson and other "natural law" theorists assumed that individuals in a mature society would follow a common set of ethical principles, independent of the different religious beliefs held by individuals.

Washington was a man focused throughout his life on gaining honor and respect. He acted in public settings with some personal distance, even coldness, to reduce the likelihood of some informality reducing the respect he sought from others. So it is likely that he would desire political leaders today to also earn respect through moral, virtuous behavior - even at some personal cost to their comfort level.

However, there is little in Washington's life to suggest he would support a political movement based primarily on a moral agenda. To make such a claim requires that we project a light upon the monument of Washington, then look at our own reflected light and claim its source to be Washington. The "myth of Washington" created during his life and shortly thereafter by Parson Weems is not static. Even today, Washington's life can be re-shaped when necessary to fulfill the agenda of a modern mythmaker...

Comedian George Carlin dies at 71

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs and dirty words, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday, a spokesman said. He was 71.

Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. PDT (2 a.m. British time) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.

Known for his edgy, provocative material, Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine called "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television." A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of the routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 1978 case, Federal Communications Commission vs. Pacifica Foundation, the top U.S. court ruled that the words cited in Carlin's routine were indecent, and that the government's broadcast regulator could ban them from being aired at times when children might be listening.

Carlin's comedic sensibility often came back to a central theme: humanity is doomed.

"I don't have any beliefs or allegiances. I don't believe in this country, I don't believe in religion, or a god, and I don't believe in all these man-made institutional ideas," he told Reuters in a 2001 interview.

Carlin, who wrote several books and performed in many television comedy specials, is survived by his wife Sally Wade, and daughter Kelly Carlin McCall.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

State/Church Bulletin

State/Church Bulletin
Bush Pushes Faith-based Schools

Pres. Bush called on Congress to fund inner-city faith-based schools to the tune of $800 million, at a White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-based Schools on April 24..

He justified the handout by saying "we're using taxpayers' money to empower faith-based organizations to help meet critical needs throughout the country. . . . We also provide federal funding support for institutions of higher learning. We're using taxpayers' money to enable somebody to go to a private university, a religious university. . . .

So my attitude is if we're doing this, if this is a precedent, why don't we use the same philosophy to provide federal funds to help inner-city families find greater choices in educating their children?"

He invoked the D.C. Choice Incentive Act, in which 2,600 children "find new hope at a faith-based or other nonpublic school," at taxpayer expense..

He proposed "Pell Grants for Kids" as a $300 million initiative to remove 75,000 low-income children from "troubled" public schools to go to a "school of the parents' choice."..

Bush attacked the "so-called Blaine Amendments" in 30 state constitutions, which prohibit public support of religious schools. He claimed these "amendments have their roots in 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry." They are actually patterned after Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute of Religious Liberty of 1786, protecting the right of citizens not to be compelled to attend, erect or support places of worship or religious seminaries..

Florida Amendment Spells Trouble

An amendment to the Florida State Constitution going on the November ballot would greatly weaken what the St. Petersburg Times has called "Florida's sturdy wall between church and state."..

The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission veered off the course of its mission and passed a proposal this spring to put a referendum on the fall ballot to repeal the state constitution's explicit limitations on taxpayer funds going "directly or indirectly" to aid sectarian institutions..

Efforts by former Gov. Jeb Bush to fund religious school vouchers have been repeatedly repelled by the courts, which cite the state constitution's prohibition..

This major threat is an attack which could be duplicated in many other states, whose constitutional provisions have been a safeguard against forcing citizens to fund parochial schools. The wording of the Florida amendment is so broad it would probably bar any litigation challenging "faith-based" funding..

2008 Religious Earmarks

The Secular Coalition of America, of which the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a member organization, has completed a review of the 24 Congressional Appropriations Committee reports for the fiscal year 2008 appropriations process, finding at least 140 earmarks deemed "constitutionally suspect." Those earmarks total almost $30 million in public funds, which have now been appropriated..

Earmarking refers to placing a provision in legislation that directs funds toward specific projects or organizations, typically in a legislator's home state or district..

Identified as the top ten most egregious earmarks:

* $750,000 to renovate World Impact Ministries' St. Louis Headquarters (Bond, R-MO)..
* $200,000 to pay for the the International Fellowship of Chaplains' attendance at the Road to Hope Training Program (Gillmor, R-OH)..
* $200,000 to the Lower East Side Conservancy, a group that works to restore and preserve living synagogues (Maloney, D-NY)..
* $200,000 to the Goodwill Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter that seeks to convert its clients to Christianity (Lautenberg, D-NJ)..
* $850,000 for construction at Morning Star Ranch, a Christian-only camp that trains youth to become lay evangelists (Brownback, R-KS)..
* $300,000 to Wildwood Ranch, another Christian-only camp (Conyers, D-MI)..
* $350,000 to Northwest Nazarene University, an evangelical college with a strict code of conduct that does not admit nontheists and possibly bars gays/lesbians (Craig and Crapo, R-ID)..
* $450,000 to Grace College, an evangelical Christian college that requires belief in an inerrant bible for admission (Souder, R-IN)..
* $150,000 to Quinn Chapel in Chicago for renovation (Davis, D-IL)..
* $150,000 to New Hope Academy, a reform and rehabilitation program that requires conversion to Christianity (Carney, D-PA)..

CNN Holds 2nd Faith Forum

CNN TV aired its second "faith forum" on April 13, subjecting the Democratic candidates to another media-imposed de facto religious test for public office, at Messiah College, Penn. The event, billed as a "faith and compassion" forum, was cosponsored by several religious entities..

Cohost Campbell Brown asked questions such as when a candidate had "actually felt the presence of the Holy Spirit," "do you have a favorite bible story?" "if one of your daughters asked you . . .

'Daddy, did God really create the world in six days?' what would you say?" and how did a spiritual leader "bring you closer to God?"

Newsweek editor Jon Meacham asked slightly more nuanced questions, such as "do you believe God wants you to be president?"

Readers are urged to complain to CNN about this inappropriate and unprofessional journalism..

Religious Pharmacist Loses

A Wisconsin state appeals court in March upheld sanctions against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills. The pharmacist, who cited religious objections and would not transfer the woman's prescription elsewhere, was sanctioned..

Ten Commandments Barred in Kentucky

A federal judge permanently barred a Kentucky county from using the Ten Commandments as part of a "Foundations of American Law and Government" display..

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley recently ruled that the Grayson County display, put up by a minister, had the "effect of endorsing religion." It originally included the text of the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and other documents. McKinley held that the intent of the display was religious, not educational..

Court Reviews Religious Displays

The Supreme Court will review a case determining whether cities can keep certain religious displays off public grounds..

The case involves a Utah lawsuit launched by the Summum faith, which sought to place its "seven aphorisms" on public grounds already displaying the Ten Commandments. Pleasant Grove rejected the request. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that if a city accepts donated monuments for a public park, it generally cannot favor some over others. The city is appealing that decision, with the aid of Pat Robertson's American Center for Law & Justice..

Religion Rules at Medical Schools

About 100 of the 150 U.S. medical schools now offer some kind of spirituality in medicine coursework. Three-quarters of these schools require students to take at least one spirituality course, according to the March 10, 2008, issue of American Medical News..

Parents Charged in Faith Death

Parents in Oregon City, Ore., who let their infant daughter die by relying on prayer rather than medical care, were charged in late March with manslaughter and criminal mistreatment..

They are the first to be charged since a 1999 Oregon religious shield law was struck down..

The parents, who belong to the infamous Followers of Christ Church, allowed their daughter to die from treatable bacterial pneumonia and a blood infection..

Saudis Arrest Starbucks Woman

Saudi Arabia's religious police arrested an American businesswoman in February for sitting in a coffeeshop with a man who was not a close relative. The woman was briefly detained..

Olberman - McCain in Context

Expelled Parody

The "Threat" of Creationism by Isaac Asimov

Scientists thought it was settled. The universe, they had decided, is about 20 billion years old, and Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. Simple forms of life came into being more than three billion years ago, having formed spontaneously from nonliving matter. They grew more complex through slow evolutionary processes and the first hominid ancestors of humanity appeared more than four million years ago. Homo sapians itself—the present human species, people like you and me—has walked the earth for at least 50,000 years.

But apparently it isn't settled. There are Americans who believe that the earth is only about 6,000 years old; that human beings and all other species were brought into existence by a divine Creator as eternally separate variations of beings; and that there has been no evolutionary process.

They are creationists—they call themselves "scientific" creationists—and they are a growing power in the land, demanding that schools be forced to teach their views. State legislatures, mindful of the votes, are beginning to succumb to the pressure. In perhaps 15 states, bills have been introduced, putting forth the creationist point of view, and in others, strong movements are gaining momentum. In Arkansas, a law requiring that the teaching of creationism receive equal time was passed this spring and is scheduled to go into effect in September 1982, though the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit on behalf of a group of clergymen, teachers, and parents to overturn it. And a California father named Kelly Segraves, the director of the Creation-Science Research Center, sued to have public-school science classes taught that there are other theories of creation besides evolution, and that one of them was the Biblical version. The suit came to trial in March, and the judge ruled that educators must distribute a policy statement to schools and textbook publishers explaining that the theory of evolution should not be seen as "the ultimate cause of origins." Even in New York, the Board of Education has delayed since January in making a final decision, expected this month [June 1981], on whether schools will be required to include the teaching of creationism in their curriculums.

The Rev. Jerry Fallwell, the head of the Moral Majority, who supports the creationist view from his television pulpit, claims that he has 17 million to 25 million viewers (though Arbitron places the figure at a much more modest 1.6 million). But there are 66 electronic ministries which have a total audience of about 20 million. And in parts of the country where the Fundamentalists predominate—the so called Bible Belt— creationists are in the majority.

They make up a fervid and dedicated group, convinced beyond argument of both their rightness and their righteousness. Faced with an apathetic and falsely secure majority, smaller groups have used intense pressure and forceful campaigning—as the creationists do—and have succeeded in disrupting and taking over whole societies.

Yet, though creationists seem to accept the literal truth of the Biblical story of creation, this does not mean that all religious people are creationists. There are millions of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews who think of the Bible as a source of spiritual truth and accept much of it as symbolically rather than literally true. They do not consider the Bible to be a textbook of science, even in intent, and have no problem teaching evolution in their secular institutions.

To those who are trained in science, creationism seems like a bad dream, a sudden reveling of a nightmare, a renewed march of an army of the night risen to challenge free thought and enlightenment.

The scientific evidence for the age of the earth and for the evolutionary development of life seems overwhelming to scientists. How can anyone question it? What are the arguments the creationists use? What is the "science" that makes their views "scientific"? Here are some of them:

The argument from analogy.

A watch implies a watchmaker, say the creationists. If you were to find a beautifully intricate watch in the desert, far from habitation, you would be sure that it had been fashioned by human hands and somehow left it there. It would pass the bounds of credibility that it had simply formed, spontaneously, from the sands of the desert.

By analogy, then, if you consider humanity, life, Earth, and the universe, all infinitely more intricate than a watch, you can believe far less easily that it "just happened." It, too, like the watch, must have been fashioned, but by more-than-human hands—in short by a divine Creator.

This argument seems unanswerable, and it has been used (even though not often explicitly expressed) ever since the dawn of consciousness. To have explained to prescientific human beings that the wind and the rain and the sun follow the laws of nature and do so blindly and without a guiding would have been utterly unconvincing to them. In fact, it might have well gotten you stoned to death as a blasphemer.

There are many aspects of the universe that still cannot be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance only implies ignorance that may someday be conquered. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.

In short, the complexity of the universe—and one's inability to explain it in full—is not in itself an argument for a Creator.

The argument from general consent.

Some creationists point at that belief in a Creator is general among all peoples and all cultures. Surly this unanimous craving hints at a greater truth. There would be no unanimous belief in a lie.

General belief, however, is not really surprising. Nearly every people on earth that considers the existence of the world assumes it to have been created by a god or gods. And each group invents full details for the story. No two creation tales are alike. The Greeks, the Norsemen, the Japanese, the Hindus, the American Indians, and so on and so on all have their own creation myths, and all of these are recognized by Americans of Judeo-Christian heritage as "just myths."

The ancient Hebrews also had a creation tale—two of them, in fact. There is a primitive Adam-and-Eve-in-Paradise story, with man created first, then animals, then women. There is also a poetic tale of God fashioning the universe in six days, with animals preceding man, and man and woman created together.

These Hebrew myths are not inherently more credible than any of the others, but they are our myths. General consent, of course, proves nothing: There can be a unanimous belief in something that isn't so. The universal opinion over thousands of years that the earth was flat never flattened its spherical shape by one inch.

The argument of belittlement.

Creationists frequently stress the fact that evolution is "only a theory," giving the impression that a theory is an idle guess. A scientist, one gathers, arising one morning with nothing particular to do, decided that perhaps the moon is made of Roquefort cheese and instantly advances the Roquefort-cheese theory.

A theory (as the word is used by scientists) is a detailed description of some facet of the universe's workings that is based on long observation and, where possible, experiment. It is the result of careful reasoning from these observations and experiments that has survived the critical study of scientists generally.

For example, we have the description of the cellular nature of living organisms (the "cell theory"); of objects attracting each other according to fixed rule (the "theory of gravitation"); of energy behaving in discrete bits (the "quantum theory"); of light traveling through a vacuum at a fixed measurable velocity (the "theory of relativity"), and so on.

All are theories; all are firmly founded; all are accepted as valid descriptions of this or that aspect of the universe. They are neither guesses nor speculations. And no theory is better founded, more closely examined, more critically argued and more thoroughly accepted, than the theory of evolution. If it is "only" a theory, that is all it has to be.

Creationism, on the other hand, is not a theory. There is no evidence, in the scientific sense, that supports it. Creationism, or at least the particular variety accepted by many Americans, is an expression of early Middle Eastern legend. It is fairly described as "only a myth."

The argument of imperfection.

Creationists, in recent years, have stressed the "scientific" background of their beliefs. They point out that there are scientists who base their creationists beliefs on a careful study of geology, paleontology, and biology and produce "textbooks" that embody those beliefs.

Virtually the whole scientific corpus of creationism, however, consists of the pointing out of imperfections in the evolutionary view. The creationists insists, for example, that evolutionists cannot true transition states between species in the fossil evidence; that age determinations through radioactive breakdown are uncertain; that alternative interpretations of this or that piece of evidence are possible and so on.

Because the evolutionary view is not perfect and is not agreed upon by all scientists, creationists argue that evolution is false and that scientists, in supporting evolution, are basing their views on blind faith and dogmatism.

To an extent, the creationists are right here: The details of evolution are not perfectly known. Scientists have been adjusting and modifying Charles Darwin's suggestions since he advanced his theory of the origin of species through natural selection back in 1859. After all, much has been learned about the fossil record and physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, ethology, and various other branches of life science in the last 125 years, and it was to be expected that we can improve on Darwin. In fact, we have improved on him. Nor is the process finished. it can never be, as long as human beings continue to question and to strive for better answers.

The details of evolutionary theory are in dispute precisely because scientists are not devotees of blind faith and dogmatism. They do not accept even as great thinker as Darwin without question, nor do they accept any idea, new or old, without thorough argument. Even after accepting an idea, they stand ready to overrule it, if appropriate new evidence arrives. If, however, we grant that a theory is imperfect and details remain in dispute, does that disprove the theory as a whole?

Consider. I drive a car, and you drive a car. I do not know exactly how an engine works. Perhaps you do not either. And it may be that our hazy and approximate ideas of the workings of an automobile are in conflict. Must we then conclude from this disagreement that an automobile does not run, or that it does not exist? Or, if our senses force us to conclude that an automobile does exist and run, does that mean it is pulled by an invisible horses, since our engine theory is imperfect?

However much scientists argue their differing beliefs in details of evolutionary theory, or in the interpretation of the necessarily imperfect fossil record, they firmly accept the evolutionary process itself.

The argument from distorted science.

Creationists have learned enough scientific terminology to use it in their attempts to disprove evolution. They do this in numerous ways, but the most common example, at least in the mail I receive is the repeated assertion that the second law of thermodynamics demonstrates the evolutionary process to be impossible.

In kindergarten terms, the second law of thermodynamics says that all spontaneous change is in the direction of increasing disorder—that is, in a "downhill" direction. There can be no spontaneous buildup of the complex from the simple, therefore, because that would be moving "uphill." According to the creationists argument, since, by the evolutionary process, complex forms of life evolve from simple forms, that process defies the second law, so creationism must be true.

Such an argument implies that this clearly visible fallacy is somehow invisible to scientists, who must therefore be flying in the face of the second law through sheer perversity. Scientists, however, do know about the second law and they are not blind. It's just that an argument based on kindergarten terms is suitable only for kindergartens.

To lift the argument a notch above the kindergarten level, the second law of thermodynamics applies to a "closed system"—that is, to a system that does not gain energy from without, or lose energy to the outside. The only truly closed system we know of is the universe as a whole.

Within a closed system, there are subsystems that can gain complexity spontaneously, provided there is a greater loss of complexity in another interlocking subsystem. The overall change then is a complexity loss in a line with the dictates of the second law.

Evolution can proceed and build up the complex from the simple, thus moving uphill, without violating the second law, as long as another interlocking part of the system — the sun, which delivers energy to the earth continually — moves downhill (as it does) at a much faster rate than evolution moves uphill. If the sun were to cease shining, evolution would stop and so, eventually, would life.

Unfortunately, the second law is a subtle concept which most people are not accustomed to dealing with, and it is not easy to see the fallacy in the creationists distortion.

There are many other "scientific" arguments used by creationists, some taking quite cleaver advantage of present areas of dispute in evolutionary theory, but every one of then is as disingenuous as the second-law argument.

The "scientific" arguments are organized into special creationist textbooks, which have all the surface appearance of the real thing, and which school systems are being heavily pressured to accept. They are written by people who have not made any mark as scientists, and, while they discuss geology, paleontology and biology with correct scientific terminology, they are devoted almost entirely to raising doubts over the legitimacy of the evidence and reasoning underlying evolutionary thinking on the assumption that this leaves creationism as the only possible alternative.

Evidence actually in favor of creationism is not presented, of course, because none exist other than the word of the Bible, which it is current creationist strategy not to use.

The argument from irrelevance.

Some creationists putt all matters of scientific evidence to one side and consider all such things irrelevant. The Creator, they say, brought life and the earth and the entire universe into being 6,000 years ago or so, complete with all the evidence for eons-long evolutionary development. The fossil record, the decaying radio activity, the receding galaxies were all created as they are, and the evidence they present is an illusion.

Of course, this argument is itself irrelevant, for it can be neither proved nor disproved. it is not an argument, actually, but a statement. I can say that the entire universe was created two minutes age, complete with all its history books describing a nonexistent past in detail, and with every living person equipped with a full memory; you, for instance, in the process of reading this article in midstream with a memory of what you had read in the beginning—which you had not really read.

What kind of Creator would produce a universe containing so intricate an illusion? It would mean that the Creator formed a universe that contained human beings whom He had endowed with the faculty of curiosity and the ability to reason. He supplied those human beings with an enormous amount of subtle and cleverly consistent evidence designed to mislead them and cause them to be convinced that the universe was created 20 billion years ago and developed by evolutionary processes that include the creation and the development of life on Earth. Why?

Does the Creator take pleasure in fooling us? Does it amuse Him to watch us go wrong? Is it part of a test to see if human beings will deny their senses and their reason in order to cling to myth? Can it be that the Creator is a cruel and malicious prankster, with a vicious and adolescent sense of humor?

The argument from authority.

The Bible says that God created the world in six days, and the Bible is the inspired word of God. To the average creationist this is all that counts. All other arguments are merely a tedious way of countering the propaganda of all those wicked humanists, agnostics, an atheists who are not satisfied with the clear word of the Lord.

The creationist leaders do not actually use that argument because that would make their argument a religious one, and they would not be able to use it in fighting a secular school system. They have to borrow the clothing of science, no matter how badly it fits, and call themselves "scientific" creationists. They also speak only of the "Creator," and never mentioned that this Creator is the God of the Bible.

We cannot, however, take this sheep's clothing seriously. However much the creationist leaders might hammer away at in their "scientific" and "philosophical" points, they would be helpless and a laughing-stock if that were all they had.

It is religion that recruits their squadrons. Tens of millions of Americans, who neither know nor understand the actual arguments for or even against evolution, march in the army of the night with their Bibles held high. And they are a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason.

Even if I am right and the evolutionists' case is very strong, have not creationists, whatever the emptiness of their case, a right to be heard? if their case is empty, isn't it perfectly safe to discuss it since the emptiness would then be apparent? Why, then are evolutionists so reluctant to have creationism taught in the public schools on an equal basis with evolutionary theory? can it be that the evolutionists are not as confident of their case as they pretend. Are they afraid to allow youngsters a clear choice?

First, the creationists are somewhat less than honest in their demand for equal time. It is not their views that are repressed: schools are by no means the only place in which the dispute between creationism and evolutionary theory is played out. There are churches, for instance, which are a much more serious influence on most Americans than the schools are. To be sure, many churches are quite liberal, have made their peace with science and find it easy to live with scientific advance — even with evolution. But many of the less modish and citified churches are bastions of creationism.

The influence of the church is naturally felt in the home, in the newspapers, and in all of surrounding society. It makes itself felt in the nation as a whole, even in religiously liberal areas, in thousands of subtle ways: in the nature of holiday observance, in expressions of patriotic fervor, even in total irrelevancies. In 1968, for example, a team of astronomers circling the moon were instructed to read the first few verses of Genesis as though NASA felt it had to placate the public lest they rage against the violation of the firmament. At the present time, even the current President of the United States has expressed his creationist sympathies.

It is only in school that American youngsters in general are ever likely to hear any reasoned exposition of the evolutionary viewpiont. They might find such a viewpoint in books, magazines, newspapers, or even, on occasion, on television. But church and family can easily censor printed matter or television. Only the school is beyond their control.

But only just barely beyond. Even though schools are now allowed to teach evolution, teachers are beginning to be apologetic about it, knowing full well their jobs are at the mercy of school boards upon which creationists are a stronger and stronger influence.

Then, too, in schools, students are not required to believe what they learn about evolution—merely to parrot it back on test. If they fail to do so, their punishment is nothing more than the loss of a few points on a test or two.

In the creationist churches, however, the congregation is required to believe. Impressionable youngsters, taught that they will go to hell if they listen to the evolutionary doctrine, are not likely to listen in comfort or to believe if they do. Therefore, creationists, who control the church and the society they live in and to face the public-school as the only place where evolution is even briefly mentioned in a possible favorable way, find they cannot stand even so minuscule a competition and demand "equal time."

Do you suppose their devotion to "fairness" is such that they will give equal time to evolution in their churches?

Second, the real danger is the manner in which creationists want threir "equal time." In the scientific world, there is free and open competition of ideas, and even a scientist whose suggestions are not accepted is nevertheless free to continue to argue his case. In this free and open competition of ideas, creationism has clearly lost. It has been losing, in fact, since the time of Copernicus four and a half centuries ago. But creationism, placing myth above reason, refused to accept the decision and are now calling on the government to force their views on the schools in lieu of the free expression of ideas. Teachers must be forced to present creationism as though it had equal intellectual respectability with evolutionary doctrine.

What a precedent this sets.

If the government can mobilize its policemen and its prisons to make certain that teachers give creationism equal time, they can next use force to make sure that teachers declare creationism the victor so that evolution will be evicted from the classroom altogether. We will have established ground work, in other words, for legally enforced ignorance and for totalitarian thought control. And what if the creationists win? They might, you know, for there are millions who, faced with a choice between science and their interpretation of the Bible, will choose the Bible and reject science, regardless of the evidence.

This is not entirely because of the traditional and unthinking reverence for the literal words of the Bible; there is also a pervasive uneasiness—even an actual fear—of science that will drive even those who care little for fundamentalism into the arms of the creationists. For one thing, science is uncertain. Theories are subject to revision; observations are open to a variety of interpretations, and scientists quarrel among themselves. This is disillusioning for those untrained in the scientific method, who thus turn to the rigid certainty of the Bible instead. There is something comfortable about a view that allows for no deviation and that spares you the painful necessity of having to think.

Second, science is complex and chilling. The mathematical language of science is understood by very few. The vistas it presents are scary—an enormous universe ruled by chance and impersonal rules, empty and uncaring, ungraspable and vertiginous. How comfortable to turn instead to a small world, only a few thousand years old, and under God's personal and immediate care; a world in which you are his particular concern and where He will not consign you to hell if you are careful to follow every word of the Bible as interpreted for you by your television preacher.

Third, science is dangerous. There is no question but that poison gas, genetic engineering, and nuclear weapons and power stations are terrifying. It may be that civilization is falling apart and the world we know is coming to an end. In that case, why not turn to religion and look forward to the Day of Judgment, in which you and your fellow believers will be lifted into eternal bliss and have the added joy of watching the scoffers and disbelievers writhe forever in torment.

So why might they not win?

There are numerous cases of societies in which the armies of the night have ridden triumphantly over minorities in order to establish a powerful orthodoxy which dictates official thought. Invariably, the triumphant ride is toward long-range disaster. Spain dominated Europe and the world in the 16th century, but in Spain orthodoxy came first, and all divergence of opinion was ruthlessly suppressed. The result was that Spain settled back into blankness and did not share in the scientific, technological and commercial ferment that bubbled up in other nations of Western Europe. Spain remained an intellectual backwater for centuries. In the late 17th century, France in the name of orthodoxy revoked the Edict of Nantes and drove out many thousands of Huguenots, who added their intellectual vigor to lands of refuge such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Prussia, while France was permanently weakened.

In more recent times, Germany hounded out the Jewish scientists of Europe. They arrived in the United States and contributed immeasurably to scientific advancement here, while Germany lost so heavily that there is no telling how long it will take it to regain its former scientific eminence. The Soviet Union, in its fascination with Lysenko, destroyed its geneticists, and set back its biological sciences for decades. China, during the Cultural Revolution, turned against Western science and is still laboring to overcome the devastation that resulted.

As we now, with all these examples before us, to ride backward into the past under the same tattered banner of orthodoxy? With creationism in the saddle, American science will wither. We will raise a generation of ignoramuses ill-equipped to run the industry of tomorrow, much less to generate the new advances of the days after tomorrow.

We will inevitably recede into the backwater of civilization, and those nations that retain opened scientific thought will take over the leadership of the world and the cutting edge of human advancement. I don't suppose that the creationists really plan the decline of the United States, but their loudly expressed patriotism is as simpleminded as their "science." If they succeed, they will, in their folly, achieve the opposite of what they say they wish.

( Isaac Asimov, "The 'Threat' of Creationism," New York Times Magazine, June 14, 1981; from Science and Creationism, Ashley Montagu, ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 182-193. )

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Atheism better for America


Occasionally we non-believers have our suspicions about the negative impact of religion on modern societies confirmed with statistical data and hard evidence; and when we do, we ought to shout it from the rooftops. However, this time the ring of truth for our oh-so-religious country has a decidedly dissonant tone.

It’s kind of hard to celebrate the fact that the U.S. has higher rates of murder, suicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, STD infection, and infant and juvenile mortality than other more secular nations like the U.K., France, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries. But those are the cold hard factoids according to a paper published in the Journal of Religion and Society based on several studies which have shown that “the least religious countries are the least dysfunctional,” based on the measuring sticks mentioned above.

So, essentially, it’s safe to conclude that despite the highly religious nature of this nation, such an atmosphere does not appear to be conducive to fostering the moral and ethical basis for a healthy society. And what a blow this ought to be for the godlovers across this land. But they will of course either choose to ignore or just happen to remain blissfully ignorant of these findings.

Social scientist and author of the paper Gregory Paul used a wide range of surveys including data from Gallup polls, the International Social Survey Program, and other research sources to obtain his conclusions.

It’s perhaps a good idea to close this post concerning the information presented in said study with some words from a related article in The Times UK and directly from the author himself of these conclusions:

Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of Hurricane Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills. “I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the poor societal performance of the Christian states,” he added.

He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in religious belief, Mr Paul said.

“The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.

“The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”

These conclusions and the conditions which led to them can, no doubt, be interpreted as a Pyrrhic victory for atheists in this country. One can hope, though, that the tide is turning in favor of secularism.

How do you think atheists should react to this information?

Penn Jillette: There Is No god

There is No God

As heard on NPR's Morning Edition, November 21, 2005.

I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

Penn Jillette is the taller, louder half of the magic and comedy act Penn and Teller. He is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and has lectured at Oxford and MIT. Penn has co-authored three best-selling books and is executive producer of the documentary film, “The Aristocrats.”

Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with Emily Botein and Viki Merrick. Photo by Nubar Alexanian.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Teacher in trouble for burning crosses on kids !! This is supposed to be Science?

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - A school board in central Ohio voted Friday to move ahead on firing a science teacher accused of preaching his Christian beliefs in class and using a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.

The Mount Vernon school board voted 5-0 to pass a resolution of intent to terminate the contract of middle school teacher John Freshwater.

Board attorney David Millstone said Freshwater is entitled to a hearing to challenge the dismissal. A lawyer for Freshwater said he will request such a hearing.

A report by independent investigators found that Freshwater also taught creationism in his science class and was insubordinate in failing to remove a Bible and other religious materials from his classroom.

School board members gathered a day after consulting firm H.R. On Call Inc. released its report. The community is about 40 miles northeast of Columbus.

The report comes one week after a family filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on their child's arm that remained for three or four weeks.

They're family values, friend says
Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

"With the exception of the cross-burning episode ... I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Friday.

Several students interviewed by investigators described Freshwater, who has been employed by the district for 21 years, as a great guy.

But Lynda Weston, the district's director of teaching and learning, told investigators that she has dealt with complaints about Freshwater for much of her 11-year term at the district, the report said.

Science tool used to make crosses
A former superintendent, Jeff Maley, said he tried to find another position for Freshwater but couldn't because he was certified only in science, the report said.

Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students' arms in December, the report said. Freshwater told investigators he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an "X," not a cross. But pictures show a cross, the report said.

Other findings show that Freshwater taught that carbon dating was unreliable to argue against evolution.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Evangelism in China and the Military

Idiocracy: The beginning of this movie is unfortunately true

The beginning of this movie is evolution for dummies.

One of the funniest movies I've seen...

The failure of the media

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Poem: Half a Savior too little by: yours truly.

Half a Savior too little

by: Rich Rodriguez

On a given Sunday morn,

All the towns’ children gather.

To learn a tale of a savior born,

Of which there was no father.

They sing and praise this man god’s name

Though they know not how to read;

And read it not, is the lesson learned,

Since those that do are free and leave,

The unpleasantness of the sanctuary.

Those that escape are often ostracized

By those who can’t see through their eyes;

They waste their time looking to the sky

And miss this one true paradise.

But in the town of Milton’s Pit,

There lived a boy who questioned it.

He tried but could not understand,

How life could form without a man.

For he had learned in Biology,

That two were required for progeny.

And in this act did forty-six,

Young chromosomes exchange and mix.

The building blocks of a brand new life,

So saith his teacher Mrs. Blythe.

He then cried out” how could this be,”

“For Mary gave but twenty-three”

“Did the Holy-ghost impart the rest?”

“Or did ole St. Matthew write in jest?”

“Perhaps it’s just a mystery?”

“No, no, no, no it’s plain to see,

This is no tale from History.”

“They cannot get me to believe,

This tome of childish fantasy.”

more to come...