Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Christian’s Religious Liberty is not Under Threat in the USA

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Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113

I’m getting really tired of certain Christians claiming that their religious liberty is under attack in the USA. Or worse, that they are being prosecuted for their beliefs. Right. The above illustration is Christians being persecuted for their beliefs. When was the last time Christians were rounded up and killed in the USA? Their churches systematically destroyed? Their faith being illegal to practice? Never. And no one has proposed anything even remotely like that, at least outside the lunatic fringe. The chances that a nation that is overwhelmingly Christian would start persecuting Christians is essentially zero.

Yet that didn’t stop certain quarters from claiming that, for example, the veto of Arizona’s anti-gay law was the “new Jim Crow” and telling Christians to “move to the back of the bus.” Let me see if I get this straight, a law that would have allowed Christians to discriminate against anyone they perceived as gay was about religious liberty? If one’s religion says don’t be gay, then don’t be gay. It doesn’t give one the “right” to define how other people live their lives, nor does it give one the “right” to discriminate against them. One’s religion may give one the “right” to be a bigot, it doesn’t give one the “right” to practise that bigotry in public commerce or enshrine their bigotry in public law.

And we are talking about bigotry here. Gay people are just that, people. The scientific evidence is in, and its overwhelming. As anyone who ever actually got to know gay people would know. Whether it is a lifestyle choice or biology  is irrelevant, there’s nothing inherently wrong or unhealthy about being gay. There have always been gay people, there always will. The only difference now is that our society is maturing (we don’t burn witches, keep slaves, or sell daughters into marriage anymore) and gay people and their allies think it’s past time that they came out of the closet and enjoyed the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Gay people are our friends, our family, our neighbours, our siblings, our co-workers. Over a third of them have children. That’s right, 37% of gay people have children. And they want those children to have married parents like everyone else.

Frankly Jesus said that the Old Testament no longer applies, and he said nothing about gay people. So people who are selectively hating on gays because “the Bible says” are simply using the Bible as cover for their bigotry. The Old Testament also says that adultery, lying about virginity, eating shellfish, and working on the Sabbath all merit the death penalty. Yet the Biblical gay bashers don’t get all hot and bothered about these or any of the other few dozen things prohibited by death in the Old Testament.  And no, gay people are not out to “convert” anyone. In fact the only way a straight person could even think that was possible if they were gay themselves and in deep denial about it. Nothing could make me find men sexually attractive, I’m just not wired that way.

The so called Christians who are all about persecuting gay people and driving them back into the closet are on the wrong side of history. Gays want the same rights as everyone else, because they are everyone else. They are no more going to go back in the closet than blacks are going to agree to be slaves again. And this is a good thing. Sadly the Old Testament Christians don’t see it that way. They want to go back to an America where they got to define social institutions for everyone. In other words an America where Christians could freely persecute people they disproved of. That’s not Christian, that’s Satan doing his finest work in the name of Christianity. (It’s also an incredibly weak faith if the mere sight of people who don’t adhere to its Bronze Age proscriptions is a problem.)

And of course, what about God? Let’s see, Canada has effectively had gay marriage since 1999, and gay marriage in every respect since 2004. God has had over a decade to punish Canada for this terrible transgression against his purported wishes. Have plague, pestilence, and God’s wrath descended on Canada? Not that I’ve heard of. Have gays taken over, forced millions of Canadians to be gay, promoted paedophilia,  or outlawed heterosexual marriage in Canada? Again, it doesn’t appear to be making the news. In fact the only thing that has happened is that they don’t call it gay marriage in Canada any more. They just call it marriage.

Frankly these Old Testament selective moralists give me the creeps. I don’t mind them having their Bronze Age prejudices, but I’m damn sick of them thinking they still get to define morality for everyone by their own outdated standards. Hopefully most of them will get over their umbrage as the calamities God is going to heap upon us for marriage equality don’t manifest. At the very least they hopefully will be consoled by the fact that they won’t be forced to be gay married, won’t be forced to attend gay weddings, and just in general if they want to close their eyes, they won’t see gay people at all. Hell, the Duggar daughters already signal their dad and brothers so they can avert their gaze in case a pretty woman is on the street, now they just have to come up with a “gay signal” so that their dad and brothers don’t see some gay person on the street. Problem solved.

Tomorrow, the insanity of redefining marriage.

(The above image dates from the nineteenth century and is public domain under US copyright law. It’s called “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer” by Jean-Léon Gérôme 1824–1904. It’s a tradition that Christians were fed to the lions in the Colosseum, not historical fact. Some Christians have always been obsessed with martyrdom and persecution, I guess that natural for a faith that worships a dead guy nailed to a stick. Jesus wept.)

Written by unitedcats

March 13, 2014 at 9:05 pm

And the Winner of this Year’s Most Tasteless 9/11 Commemorative Message is: ALIPAC

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sad

“The illegals are trying to hijack the cockpit of America’s government! Let’s roll! —William Gheen and The ALIPAC Team”

Isn’t that just lovely? Let’s use the most terrible crime in American history to compare immigrants to mass murderers.  Yes that’s the message of the anti-immigrant group ALIPAC. Lovely, just lovely. It’s bad enough that 9/11 has been used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, strip us of our rights, support overseas wars, and the creation of a vast mind-numbingly wasteful and counterproductive police and security state … now it’s being used to foment racism in the USA! Merika!

Sigh. This is an example of why I’m having trouble blogging lately. The Religious Right in the USA is going further off the rails every day. If you aren’t a white, Evangelical Christian, heterosexual, male American … you aren’t really an American. That’s the platform of the Religious Right now, it scares me, it should scare any decent person. I’d write more posts about it, but it would just upset me more. People who want to keep up on the brain-dead antics of this formerly fringe movement should follow Right Wing Watch. A lot of it is the usual crap, trying to get religious teachings back into school, etc. Some of it is a lot worse. Tell gay couples to die on their wedding day, gays wear special rings to infect non-gays with HIV, Obamacare is designed to kill conservatives. The sort of stuff that used to be limited to flyers stuck under windshields is now mainstream fare. Jesus wept.

What does this have to do with 9/11? A lot, 9/11 really seems to have pushed a lot of right wingers over the edge. A friend of mine was calling for the USA to blanket Afghanistan with neutron bombs after 9/11. He came back and later admitted it’s a good thing he wasn’t in charge of the country that day. Many kept right on going as evidenced by the Religious Right’s every widening gap between themselves and reality. The rest of the country is trying to move forward to an America with justice and fairness for all Americans, the Right wants to return to a day (that never existed) when American was synonymous with white Evangelical Christian. And I am most definitely talking about Republicans and the Tea Party, though there are plenty of conservatives who think it’s gone too far. They are being purged from the Republican party from what I can tell. This is the legacy of 9/11, Republicans have turned into a party of hatred and divisiveness.

Then there’s the whole war monger thing. Sigh. 9/11 was indeed blow-back from our murderous foreign policy, but few if Americans know that. The propaganda that 9/11 was purely caused by America hating religious nuts who only understand violence and can’t be negotiated with is pretty much stock-in-trade for most Americans. With the full and enthusiastic cooperation of most of America’s atheists too. Sigh. Again. Yes, 9/11 was a terrible thing. And we’ve used it to justify endless 9/11s against Muslim lands. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as we set our military loose to “protect” America by murdering foreigners. And we wonder why foreigners hate our foreign policy, if “kill as you please” can even be described as a foreign policy.

The there’s the other 9/11, one that I didn’t even realize was a 9/11 event until recently. Yes, 40 years ago today with the full backing and aid of the CIA and USA government the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown by a military coup, ushering in nearly two decades of repressive military dictatorship. I guess it’s only fitting that we used our own 9/11 to strip Americans of their rights and energize our efforts to overthrow governments overseas. It’s an American tradition now, like football, mom, and apple pie. And now due to Obama’s beneficent influence, even the Democrats are the party of foreign wars!

To me this is the greatest sadness and shame of 9/11. A terrible event that could have triggered a national debate and reflection on the role America plays in the world was hijacked by war mongers, war profiteers, and haters from the beginning; and we now have a country that wages war constantly abroad and spies on and restricts its citizens at home. We could have followed the Prince of Peace, instead we pledged our souls to Satan. To commemorate the loss of loved ones by killing foreigners and stripping Americans of their rights isn’t commemoration, it’s sick. America lost its way in 2001and went enthusiastically down the dark path Bin Laden wanted us to follow. Maybe someday we will wake up from the dystopian police state nightmare that has been evolving in the USA since then, but I’m not seeing many bright spots on the horizon.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and it is the best image I could find to illustrate my feelings about 9/11. I have no idea who to attribute it too. “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” —John Lennon)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2013 at 10:42 am

It’s Offensive Image Month on Doug’s Darkworld!

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islam

What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, this picture is a bigot test. If you agree with the meme expressed, you’re  a bigot. It’s that fucking simple. Bigotry isn’t hard to understand, it’s making wild generalizations about people based on things like their race, religion, gender, etc. In the case above, the generalization is so wild it’s almost breathtaking in its stupidity. The meme above comes out and says there is something so hateful and intolerant about Islam that it sets it apart from other religions. And I know damn well many people think that, even the majority of atheists think Islam is the “worst” religion, which shows atheists are just as prone to bigotry as anyone else.

OK, a few facts. It should go without saying that a religion with over a billion adherents is going to be all over the map, just like in any major religion. However, let’s look at specifics. Malaysia. 61% Muslim. Secular constitution, rights of religious minorities are guaranteed. And in fact most Malaysians are proud of their multicultural and multireligious society. Let’s go to Bosnia. Muslims are the majority at 45% of the population. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Third one I checked, Indonesia. Muslim majority. Religious minorities rights protected by the constitution. So factually speaking, the meme is already garbage. It’s safe to say that in numerous Muslim countries there will be religious rights for minorities in their constitutions.

Of course the bigots will claim that even though they have these rights on paper, there are still problems with some Muslims wanting to trample the rights of non-Muslims. News flash, all religions have tendency to trample the rights of minorities when they are the majority. In some countries, like the one I live in, a religious majority whines about having their rights trampled. Well, not all of them, just the holy rollers stuck in the Bronze Age. I’ve kind of had it with people who think their religion means they get to decide the law of the land for everyone. Even people who don’t follow their religion! Yes, dear readers, I’ve wandered near another point. And I’m going to make it. Many religions exhibit a nasty tendency to persecute minorities under the right conditions, it kind of comes with the territory. How is Islam different from, say, Christianity in this regard? It isn’t, Christians have a long proud history of suppressing the rights of those that disagree with them. To this day many Christians are working tirelessly to turn the USA into a theocracy and trample the rights of non-Christians. And sadly even Judaism, long a trampled upon minority, has shown a nasty tendency in this persecutory regard now that they are a majority in one country. So singling out Islam in this regard is hypocritical at best, bigoted and hateful at worst.

That’s another point that needs to be made about this image. How, exactly, is making this hateful generalization about Islam helpful? Will this encourage people in America to be more tolerant of their Muslim neighbours? No, the opposite in fact, it encourages fear and loathing. That may not be bigoted, but I sure think it’s evil. We’ve even got such paranoid dogmeat as state legislatures outlawing Sharia Law. The chances of any Muslims enacting Sharia Law anywhere in the USA are zero, so this is ridiculous on the face of it. And if some Muslims wanted to use Sharia Law to adjudicate civil affairs among Muslims, who gives a shit? We don’t care about Orthodox Jews, Quakers, or numerous other religious groups that chose to live by their religious code within the framework of secular criminal law, why the hell would anyone care if some Muslims did this? Hint: The answer starts with b. And no, I’m not suggesting we let Muslims stone each other to death, any more than we would let a Christian cult stone its members to death for blasphemy. (Lev. 24:16)

The sad thing about images like this is how effective they are. If one wants to have a bad view of Muslims (or anyone) in general, it’s easy to find all sorts of stuff on line to reinforce one’s prejudices. And the mainstream media as well as hordes of amateurs are only too happy to generate and spread hateful images. It’s by no means limited to the right or conservatives as well. I know I’ve pilloried some hateful images by atheists and liberals in previous posts, I find propaganda hateful no matter who is targeted. I think this is a terrible failing of the modern media and online world, it’s making people more divided, not less. I’ll expand on this train of thought in a future post.

Hope everyone is having or had a great weekend. I’m having a BBQ.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Pretty sure that unless the author actually took the trouble to file a copyright, images on Facebook are public domain, correct me if I’m wrong.)

Written by unitedcats

August 25, 2013 at 8:58 am

Seven Ways Gay Marriage Hurts Heterosexual Marriage

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Simpons - Homer Facepalm

Yes, a navy chaplain has come up with a list of seven ways that gay marriage has hurt his marriage. What can I say, the douchebaggery coming from people who hate gays is reaching new heights as the rest of the world grows up and moves out of the Middle Ages. This guy isn’t just grasping at straws, he’s making them up out of whole cloth. I will address each point in turn since some of them are just begging to be refuted. My comments are in italics. Just that he calls it the “homosexulization of marriage” shows that he is another anti-gay person with a bizarre fixation on how other people are having sex, but I digress. Here, in the chaplain’s own words:

“Here are 7 ways the homosexualization of “marriage” has de-valued the traditional marriages of all Christian families, including my own:

1. It has made our traditional marriage less valuable in the eyes of the state.

This one is a word salad, I’m not even sure what it is supposed to mean. First of all, “traditional marriage” is a meaningless phrase, marriage has changed throughout history and has evolved considerably just this century. And wtf are “the eyes of the state?” Basically it sounds like he is saying that the more people get married, the less his marriage is worth. There’s like only so much marriage value to go around and gays are spreading it thinner?

2. It has forced Christian couples to pay more taxes to make up for the homosexual “bonus pay” now issued by as tax-benefits given to gay “married” couples.

So? The amount of money we are talking about is trivial at best. And at worst, this is just another fucktard upset that some of his tax money goes to something he doesn’t approve of. Guess what, that has always been the case and always will be the case, so this is nothing new. If you don’t like it, don’t pay taxes. He’s also got it backwards, until now gays had to subsidize HIS marriage with their taxes, how come he doesn’t have a problem with that. Oh, right … only his medieval “Christian” values count.

3. It has de-valued by inflation our dollars in our family’s bank accounts by increasing the national debt to pay for more government benefits for gay “married” couples, for which the Fed must print new dollars to pay such debt.

This is basically a restatement of point number two. And the amount of inflation we are talking about here would require an electron microscope to see.

4. It has taken away the rights of Christian couples and Catholic charities to foster or adopt children in states like Massachusetts, as my friend Amy Contrada proves here.

First of all, there are no “rights” to adopt or foster children, so he’s either an idiot or deliberately using the word in a  context where it does not apply. And yes, some states insist that foster and adoptive parents not be religious zealots who are going to indoctrinate their children with their extreme religious beliefs. So? Also, wtf does this even have to do with marriage equality? Nothing.

5. It has hurt our national security and therefore our family’s safety by de-funding benefits given to straight couples or weapon systems and re-distributing those Pentagon dollars to gay “married” couples.

Again, break out the electron microscope to see how much funding we are talking about here. And again, this is just a restatement of points number two and three. This is like reading a bad high school paper where the kid didn’t do any research and just kept repeating the same things in different ways to make the paper long enough. Pathetic.

6. It has hurt our ability to worship Almighty God in a Christian chapel building whose altar has been desecrated by homosexual “weddings” depriving us of a sacred worship space.

This is both a  lie …. and really sick shit. First of all, no one has suggested forcing any church to perform a gay marriage, and there are no legal ways to do that. Secondly, he’s just saying he thinks gays are so icky they contaminate everything. That’s his problem, not society’s. Note he is also apparently claiming there is something magical about gay marriage since it bothers his magical sky buddy. It’s the 21st century, arguments based on magic belong in the Middle Ages.

7. It has threatened our family’s religious freedom in countless ways, as I explain here.

OK, I’m not going to listen to a 30 minute YouTube rant that will be entirely about distressed privilege. IE it will be an attempt to rebrand religious discrimination as religious freedom.

If I thought about it more, I’m sure I could develop a longer list. But the fact is, yes David, my own marriage has been adversely impacted (as I said twice on your show), and yet my love for my wife and my relationship with her remains faithful and unchanged.”

His last line pretty much destroys his own argument. As a lawyer will ask if you want to sue someone for ruining your life: They will ask if your wife still loves you and your kids still hug you when you come home? If the answer is yes to both, then your life isn’t ruined. Or your marriage in his case. His marriage is apparently just fine, so where is the harm to it from marriage equality? His whole rant is pretty much an illustration of what is so fucked up about ideological and religious thinking, they start with a conclusion and then search for evidence that supports their conclusion. So when the conclusion is nonsense, such as “Gay marriage will hurt my marriage,” the “evidence” is going to be nonsense as well. As the good chaplain has been so obliging to come up with and publish.

As I have said before and will no doubt say again, if you think about, let alone have concerns about what consenting adults are doing with their genitals, you are the pervert with issues.

(The above image is used entirely without permission and is even hard to come up with a good Fair Use rational. It’s not being used for profit though, and the Simpsons has been an outspoken advocate of marriage equality, so hopefully Matt Groening won’t object. Today for a change I’ll conclude with some visual humour:

marriagereligiondoughnutdietHope everyone is having a great weekend! Oh, and I didn’t even address the chaplains contention that gay marriage hurts national security, because, well, that’s so fuctarded stupid that it deserves no rebuttal.)

Written by unitedcats

August 4, 2013 at 11:42 am

Those Crazy Atheists

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atheismpeace

Ah, another lovely atheist meme lifted from Facebook. I see a lot of stuff like this. It bothers me for a number of reasons. It’s a wonderful example of how convincing false arguments can be, since I’m pretty sure most atheists have no problem with this image at all. That’s how false arguments work, they sound very convincing if one already agrees with them. That’s how Rush Limbaugh and his ilk cash in, they just endlessly regurgitate strings of false arguments that reinforce the prejudices and misconceptions of their target audience, and they’re golden. It works the same with all belief systems as far as I can tell, atheism among them.

OK, let’s get started deconstructing this mess. “Radical Muslims fly planes into buildings.” Well, appeal to emotion for one thing. One should always be suspicious of arguments that start off by pushing emotional buttons. This is also a propaganda button, since the idea that 9/11 was because they were crazy Muslims has been the central plank of US propaganda since 9/11.  Um, yes, the 9/11 plotters were Muslims, but their reasons for attacking the USA were largely secular and completely in response to US actions in the Middle East. Actions that killed vastly more innocents than died on 9/11. In other words, this first statement isn’t really true, and it’s completely without context. It’s a great way to demonize all Muslims though, even though the vast majority of them are as appalled by 9/11 as anyone else.

On to number two, abortion doctor killers. How many of them have there been, three? To say this is a cherry picked example is being generous. Thousands of murders are committed in the USA every year, most of them with motives as messed up as the abortion doctor killers. One could find examples of murders by any sort of person one likes and then hold it up as an example of how some radical world view poisons people. An argument that can be used to support any position isn’t much of an argument.

And what about radical Christians and Muslims that do good things? How come they don’t get mentioned? Small numbers of radical Christians helped their neighbours avoid the holocaust. Radical Muslims built a holocaust museum on the West Bank and surround churches in Egypt to protect their Christian neighbours. Wow, what monsters these radical religious people must be! In other words, radical religious people do terrible things because when a terrible thing was committed by a religious person, it must have been because of his religion. What?

Lastly, and the most transcendentally absurd considering that the meme is apparently trying to make the case that somehow atheism is a voice for peace, is the idea that radical atheists are just harmless authors. Well, first off, even the radical atheists they are alluding to, Hitchens and Dawkins I am assuming, have been some of the biggest cheerleaders for America’s violent foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia. Um, promoting war against Muslims isn’t about peace, it’s warmongering. It gets even worse. Stalin and Mao were both atheists and they both wrote books. And they were definitely antithetic to religion, which would seem to make them pretty radical. They also did far more than write books, they killed tens of millions of people. In fact they make al-Qaeda and abortion doctor shooters look like amateurs when it comes to mass murder. Why not mention them in the company of radical atheists?

In the real world the reasons for human violence are complex and deeply rooted in history, personality, culture, and politics. And while religion is most definitely used to inspire people in violent endeavours, it’s rarely the seminal cause of those endeavours. Sophomoric tropes blaming violence on religion are just atheist propaganda, and about as helpful as blaming Jews or Muslims or Christians for the world’s  violence. It’s easy to blame the world’s problems on people who are different than you. This is what radical atheists are doing with this meme, it’s just a way for atheists to pretend they have the answer. Kinda like what so many religions do.

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

(The above image appears to have its own attribution, and since they must have released it on Facebook, it must be public domain. In any event it’s not being used for profit and is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I could have also mentioned that a certain famous German atheist wrote a book called Mein Kampf that’s not exactly a handbook for peace. However his atheism is debatable, Mao and Stalin’s isn’t.)

Written by unitedcats

June 19, 2013 at 10:29 am

The Ultimate Roller Coaster, Sham II, and Boston Marathon Madness

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coaster

A thing of beauty, eh what? Yes, yes it is. This concept roller coaster is the ultimate roller coaster. The top is 510m high, nearly 1/3rd of a mile, and it takes two minutes to haul the 24 passengers up there. Downwards the cars reach 360 kilometres per hour (220 mph), very close to terminal velocity, the fastest they can fall. Then into the loops, each designed to maintain 10g on the passengers as the cars slow down. This would be as if they weighed ten times their normal weight. At the end of this exhilarating ride the passengers are unloaded, and new ones board. Wait, what? Yes, unloaded. The passengers have to be unloaded at the end of the ride because they won’t be exiting under their own power. This is because they will be dead. Yes dear readers, this is the Euthanasia Coaster.

Dear God, why would anyone build such a thing? Fortunately they haven’t, but if people have devised plans to build doomsday devices, this shouldn’t be a surprise. The Euthanasia Coaster was actually designed in 20120 as an art project by one  Julijonas Urbonas, the idea being to take lives “with elegance and euphoria.” I’m not sure it really hits either on the nose, but it would take lives. As for its practical use, euthanasia or execution pretty much covers it. It has been suggested that people with no legs or people wearing special high altitude legging might actually survive the ride, so I suppose there might be some who would risk it for the ultimate thrill. I’ll pass thank you.

Seriously though, the chances this would ever get built seem remote. That didn’t stop the anti-euthanasia group “Care not Killing” from being concerned. I’d never heard of “Care Not Killing” before, but as soon as I read the name I knew it was a religious group. Sigh. And it is. I’m getting good at spotting groups with hidden agendas. Hell, probably harder to spot the ones without, there don’t seem to be too many of those. As for executions, there’s probably cheaper ways to execute people.

Meanwhile, in Syria, someone has actually built a euthanasia device:

sham

OK, more of a suicide device I suppose. People are clever. That’s the Sham II, a homemade “tank” built by Syrian rebels. I has a remote control machine gun mounted on top, and is controlled inside by using video cameras and video game components. It’s built around a car chassis of some type. What ever possessed them to do this? Beats me, things are a might confused in Syria right now. I can’t imagine it would last long in battle, it might be impervious to small arms fire, but anything from an RPG up would do the trick, and the Syrian military has plenty of weapons. Hell, even homemade munitions like Molotov cocktails would work. I suspect it’s more for western attention and publicity than anything else. Still, last it was in the news it was on its way to battle in Aleppo. Improvised armoured fighting vehicles have a long history. If I hear how it fares I’ll post it.

I kept waiting for some news on who was behind the Boston Marathon Bombing, but alas nothing yet. Likely a nut or right wing terrorism would be my guess. Media coverage has been ridiculous, but that’s always the case. And as always some in all walks said stupid, hateful, inappropriate, or self-serving things. Modern America, fun place, like Disneyland with guns.

(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.  They are not being used for profit, in fact I lose money writing this blog. That means they should pay me for using them. Coming soon, a fund raising drive. You have been warned.)

A Cosmic Mystery: Diffuse Interstellar Bands

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Diffuse_Interstellar_Bands

Diffuse Interstellar Bands. (DIBS) What are they? No one knows. Where are they? In deep space. Were they the inspiration for Pink Floyd? I seriously doubt it. What am I talking about? Diffuse Interstellar Bands. Sheesh, pay attention.

OK, let’s start at the beginning, the early 20th century to be exact. Scientists by then were studying the light of stars. A spectrum is the light emitted by a star or bright object passed through a prism. Molecules in and near a star will block some of the spectrum, making dark stripes as seen above, these are called absorption or spectral lines. Thus scientists can tell what a star is made of. It even works with reflected light, this is how they tell what planets and asteroids are made of. This is all of course terribly simplified, because I have a very dim grasp of it all myself. All well and good until 1922, scientists happily studied what stars were made of. However, in 1922 astronomer Mary Lea Heger discovered some absorption lines that were much more diffuse than the typical lines in a  star’s spectrum. She also found that the lines were associated with the galactic interstellar medium, not stars.

This was a head scratcher. People commonly think that space is a perfect vacuum. It isn’t, it varies widely, but one atom per cubic centimetre is the “average” density of interstellar space. It was thought this matter was so diffuse that while it might dim an entire spectrum slightly, it wouldn’t make lines. Well, sciencists were wrong, some molecules in interstellar space were apparently common enough to cause absorption lines. Mary discovered a few such lines, and by 1975 about 25 had been discovered. By 1994 when the first conference on DIBs was held, about 50 were known. Today about 300 have been discovered, illustrated above. The reason it’s a head scratcher is because no one knows exactly what molecules are creating these lines. Despite scientist’s best efforts, they have not been able to replicate the lines experimentally, or even come up with a theoretical calculation that explains the lines.

This is a major scientific mystery and has been for decades. For reasons I don’t understand, let alone can explain, it does seem pretty certain that the lines are caused by molecules, not single atoms. And it also is clear that numerous different molecules are involved, a single type of molecule couldn’t produce over 300 DIBs. The best guess is that they are being caused by long chain molecules. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, long carbon-chain molecules, and fullerenes are all strong suspects. And that’s that. Somehow our galaxy contains dust or gas of unknown origin or composition, what it is and how it is created is still a complete mystery.

Is this important? In a practical sense, no, figuring this out isn’t going to change our lives. Not figuring it out will have the same effect. It’s important though to understand that there are plenty of complete mysteries in our scientific understanding of the Universe. A lot of people, especially certain religious types, don’t seem to understand that. Science can’t currently explain everything, and there doesn’t appear to be any chance that it will ever explain everything. This isn’t a  failure of science, th0ough it is oft presented as such by science-deniers, it is one of science’s greatest strengths. So whenever I stumble across an unsolved scientific mystery, I am impressed by the mystery itself, and I’m impressed by the fact that science even uncovered the mystery. Is there any chance that the solution to DIBs will force a re-examination of other aspects of science? Possibly, but I don’t know how possible. When it comes right down to it, our understanding of the cosmos is still in its infancy.

One last little observation is that I am always curious that science deniers miss things like this. If one was going to construct logical sounding attacks on science, mysteries like this would be a great place to start. Instead, the science deniers seem to make very little effort to find new arguments, and simply recycle old arguments. Some of the “objections” raised about evolution date from the nineteenth century for God’s sake. And while some of them were valid concerns then, a hundred years later they have long been laid to rest. I suppose it’s further evidence that science deniers are in actual denial about science, since few of them seem to take the time to even understand it well enough to construct modern arguments against it. Or it could mean that when people study science hard enough they realize its true, they are converted to science and reason?

Pause for laughter. Beats me. The older I get the more I find people and their motivations both painfully predictable … and painfully puzzling. It’s a conundrum it is.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I got it off of Wikipedia so it’s safe to say that non-commercial use of the image is OK. And I left the copyright information on the image itself. Next a furniture history post, or a post about the recent discovery that the Universe is flat.)

Written by unitedcats

February 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

Another White Male Goes on a Killing Rampage

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T shirt about God and schools

I’m sure everyone in America, except for those in comas, have heard about the Newtown shooting last Friday. Hell, even many people in comas have heard about it, no doubt TVs are turned on in many coma wards. As with any tragedy, it brought out both the best and worst in people. The above is an example of the worst. Yes, within hours of the murder of 20 children, people were exploiting this tragedy to promote their religion. Jesus wept. This above was one of the least offensive responses. There were worse. Up to and including the Westboro Baptist Church which is planning to picket the event. They will get lots of publicity, which of course is their goal. People who worship a child killing God have no shame. Neither does the media. As of Thursday, much of the TV news is still devoted to the shooting. I find it disgusting really. Basically pandering to people’s emotions to get ratings. The classy thing to do would be to let the friends and families deal with their grief in peace, instead of turning it into a media circus. Fat chance. In any event, I waited a week to let the dust settle, let the facts get straight, and think about the shooting and the various points people have made. In no particular order, here are my observations on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and its aftermath:

Everything one hears about an incident like this should be taken with large doses of salt. This is especially true when the news first breaks. Sadly the human tendency is to put a lot of emphasis on the first things people hear, and often people will incorporate all sorts of garbage about an event into their minds simply because they heard it early on. Worse, plenty of people are well aware of this, and will rush to use it to their advantage. This is why I waited a week to blog about it. Even then, I am sure I have some of the facts wrong.

Sigh. Of course the issue of gun control was immediately in the news. On the one hand, yeah, after something like this, it’s reasonable to wonder if there is any way future events could be prevented. It’s even reasonable to ask if there’s ways to keep high ammo capacity semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of unstable people. That was about as far as reason got. The gun lobby almost immediately went on the offensive, at least by proxy. The NRA itself has been laying low I understand. They had some reasonable points, but it was mostly old nonsense.  The Supreme Court recently ruled that the 2nd Amendment is indeed an individual right, a responsible citizen can indeed have a handgun in their home. They also clearly stated that the state could indeed regulate weapons and who owns them. So both sides lose. Yes, the government can indeed outlaw high ammo capacity semi-automatic weapons. And yes, no matter what, law abiding Americans have a right to have basic revolvers and rifles in their homes. Issue is settled. One wouldn’t know it from much of the stuff I’ve seen on Facebook. I’m betting nothing but symbolic gun control will be enacted, if that.

The gun lobby has suggested arming teachers as a solution to the problem. While I do not have a problem with the idea that responsible citizens should be allowed to carry some types of guns, this idea has a number of problems. Basically one is suggesting that tens of thousands of school teachers, a demographic about as far away from gun enthusiasts as it gets, are going to turn into Dirty Harries if a gun is strapped to their hip. I can think of all sorts of ways this might not work out as expected. I don’t really think that the police want to respond to a shooting where a bunch of teachers are running around shooting. If school personnel with military or police training want to carry a gun, I don’t have a problem with that. The idea that giving all sorts of teacher guns doesn’t make sense though. It would cause more problems than it solved. It’s a downstream solution.

Many are claiming that mental illness is the issue, and that by treating mental illness properly, many incidents like this won’t happen. Well, yes and no. The USA gave up on its mentally ill in the sixties and seventies by closing all the asylums and putting the patients in halfway homes. The states just never got around to funding/building the halfway homes though, so the mentally ill live with their families or live on the street. What treatment there is consists of finding drugs to control the mentally ill. Basically the costs of the mentally ill have been dumped on their families and society at large, except for profits for the pharmaceutical industry. Since Americans aren’t already up in arms about this perversion, it’s safe to say that a few school shootings won’t make  a difference.

Even then, in some ways the mental illness line misses the point. This particular type of shooting, where someone goes out in public and kills a bunch of people to get revenge on the world, is almost exclusively the province of white males. That bears some thinking about. It won’t get much thinking though. If school shooters were predominantly Muslims or blacks or anything but white males, it would be a huge deal and everyone would be talking about it. And since white males easily have the best access to mental health care, clearly the idea that school shootings are caused by lack on mental health care doesn’t hold water. If school shootings were the result of lack of mental health care, their demographics would reflect society’s access to mental health care. They are the opposite of society’s mental health care demographics. In other words, shootings like this on some level are a symptom of a cultural problem.

That however is fodder for another post. America and its gun crazed, frontier mentality, cowboys and Indians, Dirty harry, white male privilege society. Have a great weekend everyone!

(The above image is viral on Facebook, so I think I can safely claim Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s an offensive image on so many levels, the utter disregard for facts being at the top of the list. Prayer and God are most definitely allowed in schools, the Supreme Court was very specific on the former. So basically people mewling about “no God in schools” are upset because public schools aren’t allowed to promote or endorse their particular religion. Anyone who thinks that a God would murder little children because their particular religion isn’t allowed to preach to and indoctrinate students in public schools … is sick in the head.)

Written by unitedcats

December 21, 2012 at 7:59 am

Is Atheism a Religion Revisited?

with 6 comments

religious-right

Many people of faith make the claim that atheism is a religion. Ask any atheist if this is true and the answer will be a resounding no. For the longest time I thought the comparison was absurd, as evidenced by my repeated quote: “Atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby.” Alas, I am cursed with a tendency to think about things, especially a tendency to think about things from different perspectives, and as a result, I have concluded that the “atheism is a religion” argument is not entirely without merit. Here then, in no particular order, are some reasons why. (Note that I am not claiming that atheism and religion are identical, just that the theistic argument has some merit.)

The fact that atheists generally get annoyed to angry at the comparison is the first indication. Even worse, most of them don’t even want to discuss the issue, and dismiss it out of hand with truisms like my quote in the preceding paragraph. Um, getting angry at an accusation and responding to it irrationally and emotionally is a hallmark of religion, not a neutral secular belief. Just in general I’ve noticed that people get angriest when an accusation contains an element of truth, atheists are just as capable of denial as anyone else. And I think that this is an area where many atheist exhibit strong indications of denial.

Moving right along, atheists have formed organizations to both defend and promote their beliefs. Granted lots of different organizations do such, but the beliefs of atheists tend to revolve around religion to a large degree. They have meetings, they form groups, they often tend to associate with other atheists. And a lot of them have issues with people who aren’t atheists. Frankly I’ve had atheist trolls berate me for not being atheist enough. Again, I certainly see common ground here between atheism and religion.

Then there’s the definition. If there were no religious people, there would be no atheists. Granted some will say that everyone would be an atheist then. Still, the word atheist wouldn’t exist, and there would be no people that called themselves atheists. It’s certainly safe to say that atheism as we know it wouldn’t exist without religion. That to me indicates, again,  that atheism has some things in common with religion.

It should also be pointed out that atheists are not above using false, malicious, or misleading arguments in their attacks on religion.  Granted this is human nature, hell, I sometimes I think there must be a straw man argument gene, right next to the slippery slope argument gene, they seems so hard wired into some people. It’s hard for me not to notice when both sides of a debate are stooping to irrational lows. And boy, want to make an atheist mad, point this out when they post such on Facebook.

Speaking of anger and emotional responses, there is one final point in this argument that isn’t debatable. If one asks atheists, American atheists at least, which is the “worst” religion, the vast overwhelming majority of them will answer that it is Islam. Let’s think about that. Atheists in a Christian country, a religion that demonizes Islam and has been waging war on it more or less continuously since the seventh century … mostly agree that Islam is the worst religion. Since Islam and Christianity are essentially the same religion, and both have a history drenched in blood, it’s impossible for me to not notice the similarity between Islam hating Christians and Islam hating atheists.

I am saying is that American atheists have internalized some core Christian values and thought forms, and not the pretty ones. It makes it hard for me to understand how they can claim they are in no way religious. If one share’s a religion’s prejudices, there is common ground. Granted, I’m not an atheist, so I can’t speak for them. The only point I am trying to make in all this is that the religious contention that “atheism is a religion” is at least debatable. From some perspectives, there are a lot of similarities between atheism and religion. Whether atheists like it or not.

PS. After I published this I discovered I had written a previous post on “Is atheism a religion?” I knew this would happen sooner or later. :)

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. It’s all over Facebook so I have no clue who the author is. Granted it’s not exactly germane to the topic, but close enough. It’s also funny, since it’s true. The American Christians agitating for prayer in school aren’t doing so out of some concern for freedom of religion, they are doing so because they want to promote Christianity among America’s youth. They are also off the mark since the Supreme Court not only didn’t prohibit prayer in school, they specifically said they weren’t prohibiting prayer in school. They prohibited organized religious services in school, big difference.)

Written by unitedcats

December 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

No war yet, but we’re not out of the woods, and other news

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Introduction. Above is today’s Facebook gleaned image. I could post an image every day from Facebook if I wanted to. A very very carefully selected image. Many people I know on Facebook post dozens of images a day. I’ve even unsubscribed to people because they posted so many images, cartoons, bon mots, quotes, etc. Even if I agree with the sentiment, unless it really grabs me or makes me laugh, I’m not inclined to forward it. This one though makes me laugh. As with most things that make me laugh, it’s because I see layers and subtlety in it. Or in more common parlance, it appeals to my particular sense of humour, warped though it may be. Anyhow, moving right along …

Random news. Terrible police shooting in England. Two policewomen were lured to an abandoned building and shot to death. The shooter turned himself in afterwards. It’s the worst police shooting in the UK since 1966, which kinda shows how Britain is still head and shoulders above the US in regards to gun violence. Just in the past few years I know there were several policemen killed in a bi shootout in Oakland. Most cops in the UK still don’t carry guns, neither of the women were armed. And apparently there isn’t much call for them to do so, which again shows that in the USA a frontier mentality still prevails. Maybe we’ll grow up as a nation, but we got a ways to go yet.

Random musing. People pairing up and becoming couples, sex or no sex or whatever, is the most natural thing in the world. People were doing it long before we were even people, if there was no culture or religion and we just lived in little bands of family and friends … couples would still form. It’s kind of at the core of what it is to be human. This is why the primitive religions try to define and control coupling, because if they can get people to surrender control of their core identity … it’s a easy slide to completely controlling them. Religions that completely control their followers are the ones that try and impose their beliefs on other people. It’s … a shame … that fundamentalism persists on a large scale into the 21st century, but the fact that huge numbers of Christians, Jews, and Muslims have managed to reconcile their faith with the 21st century gives me hope. I mean, any sort of just God would want us all to get along with each other, nu?

Random true story. This young to-be-famous-someday author was waiting for a boat one fine day. Standing on the dock next to him was a “slip of  a girl” in his words. And in one of those impulses humans have, he pushed her off the dock. He was instantly mortified, he didn’t even know if she could swim. Moments later, she came to the surface, and flashed him a beautiful ear to ear smile. He immediately thought “My God, that’s the woman I’m going to marry someday.” And he did.

Random science. Or random nonsense science as the case may be. A book was just published that claims to re-examine Velikovsky’s theories. The interview at the link is fascinating. This man has carefully cherry picked a host of scientific mysteries and uses them to support Velikovsky’s whack-job idea that Venus was ejected from Jupiter in historic times. I wonder if he’s a con-artist, or does he actually believe his theory? I am going with “he believes it.” Lately it’s become very clear to me that there is an amazing similarity between the thought processes of those people who fiercely believe in “alternate” theories, from Creationism to Velikovsky to the Electric Universe. All of them appear to be absolutely convinced that theirs is the only possible explanation and there is a conspiracy among mainstream thought to suppress their version of reality. Then they carefully pick and choose whatever little bits of whatever that “support” their theory. Sometimes these things fade with time, like the Face on Mars nonsense, and sometimes they don’t, like Velikovsky apparently. To be fair, I tried to read one of Velikovsky’s books once. It was one of his later books where he tried to support his theories using only “modern” scientific data. I didn’t get far, because it quickly became clear that the man had obsessively read several centuries worth of geology books and papers, and carefully selected the paragraphs, sentences, and sentence fragments that, taken out of context, supported his “theory.” Um, any theory could be “proved” this way. It also should be noted that Velikovsky was motivated by religion, he was very much trying to prove that the events of the Old Testament were literally true. It was nonsense when he wrote it, and it’s nonsense now.

Closing. Well, no war yet. America’s foreign policy in the Middle East does seem to be unravelling though. Whether by accident or design, the recent anti-Islam movie has proved to be a lightning rod for anti-American sentiment. And the USA has created a lot of anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world since at least 1953 when the USA arranged a coup against the democratically elected government of Iran and installed the Shah in its place. There have been some positive points in US policy in the region, like in 1956 when Eisenhower told the British, French, and Israelis that the USA would not stand for their invasion of Egypt and acquisition of the Suez Canal. It’s pretty much been downhill since, and took a nose dive after 9/11. Compound that with an increasingly government/corporate compliant media, and we have created a situation where the USA is wildly and justly unpopular throughout a vast swath of the Muslim world, and the vast majority of Americans are not only clueless, a lot of what they do “know” abut the situation is simply wrong. On the plus side, if Romney gets elected, we’ll be able to dispense with further foreplay and proceed directly to World War Three. That will be some fun blogging.

(Once again the above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I don’t know where it comes from, it appears to be a picture of something stuck to a wall. That’s how images like this were disseminated in the old days. Say, the 1990s. If one wanted to post this image in say, the building next door, a copy of it had to be carried by hand to the next building! Hard to believe, eh?)

Written by unitedcats

September 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm

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