Monday, January 31, 2011

Christian/Atheist pre-discussion questionnaire

Christian/Atheist pre-discussion questionnaire:


Do you disbelieve in a god? [Y]/N
Do you believe that No God exists with 100% Certainty? Y/[N]

Why? [check all that apply]
[X] rejection of undemonstrated claims, parsimonious epistemology
[X] rejection of fallacious arguments [especially the argument from ignorance]
[X] specific claims demonstrated to be false
[X] Other ________________________ (see my blog, iron chariots, rationalwiki, index of creationist claims)


How are we to be saved? [multiple choice]
[ ] Grace Pre-destined
[ ] Grace Free Will
[ ] Actions
[ ] Faith
[ ] Accepting Jesus as Lord
[ ] Baptism
[ ] Other _____________________

Baptism Is?
[ ] Means Of Salvation
[ ] Outward Expression Of Inward Change
[ ] Obedience To God
[ ] Other _____________________

Baptism is accomplished by?
[ ] Aspersion
[ ] Affusion
[ ] Immersion
[ ] Submersion
[ ] Other _____________________

Please list your special Apparel requirements:

Please list your special age/belief restrictions:

Do you have to be changed into an ass for Baptism or is human form acceptable [see Apuleius]? Y/N

What are the sacraments? [check all that apply]
[ ] Baptism
[ ] Confirmation
[ ] Cannabis (e.g., Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church)
[ ] Blessing of Children
[ ] Lord's Supper
[ ] Marriage
[ ] Celestial Marriage
[ ] Endowment
[ ] Administration to the sick
[ ] Ordination to the Priesthood
[ ] Masturbation (just seeing if you are paying attention)
[ ] Ordination to the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods
[ ] Evangelist's blessing
[ ] ALL actions are sacraments
[ ] NO actions are sacraments
[ ] sacraments are FORBIDDEN
[ ] sacraments are symbolic only but allowed

Glossolalia is?
[ ] the work of the devil
[ ] The spirit of the Lord speaking through you
[ ] The confused and random firing of neurons in the brain's speech area, often brought on by drugs or rhythmic swaying, chanting and dancing
[ ] sometimes sign of mental health issues

You can drink poison and be bitten by snakes and be unaffected? Y/N

You can light bull meat that is soaking in water on fire through prayer (1 Kings 18)? Y/N

Through faith and prayer you can:
[ ] command mountains to throw themselves into the sea
[ ] command trees to throw themselves into the sea
[ ] wilt fig trees
[ ] nothing shall be impossible
[ ] cause ill patients, who know they are being prayed for, to suffer depression and fare worse when their health fails to improve

Children should be?
[ ] Seen and Not Heard
[ ] Stoned to death if they speak back to their parents too much or don't follow 'Gods' ways
[ ] spoiled if not beaten regularly
[ ] Eaten by their own disobedient parents in the end times
[ ] Treated like humans

If you believe god has ordered you to sacrifice your own child, you should?
[ ] Seek psychological help immediately
[ ] No Really! Seek psychological help immediately
[ ] saddle up your donkey and chop some wood

Causing the death of innocent children, is?
[ ] Always bad and evil
[ ] Not Always Bad (first born of Egypt, Jericho, seven tribes, Noah's flood)
[ ] Only ok for God because he has the right to take a human life any time he wants, but this isn't a relative morality standard, morals are absolute

Women should be?
[ ] treated as equals
[ ] silent and not try to teach
[ ] kept barefoot and pregnant because they are vessels of procreation

I know God is real because?
[ ] everything is evidence of God
[ ] the bible tells me he is real
[ ] I saw God/spoke with God (personal revelation) w/medication (includes cases of illness, near-death, extreme pain/suffering, emotional distress, drug use, etc)
[ ] I saw God/spoke with God (personal revelation) wo/medication or other effects
[ ] I lied about the above question because I don't want to look like a kook

Isaac is saved from sacrifice by?
[ ] God's Grace
[ ] Abraham's Faith

God commanded the the seven nations (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, aHivites, & Jebusites) to be "utterly destroyed" and shown no mercy because?
[ ] They were in the way
[ ] They occupied the lands promised to Gods chosen people
[ ] They sacrificed children to their God and, unlike with Abraham, God couldn't stop them himself (I have evidence of this)
[ ] They sacrificed children to their God and, unlike with Abraham, God couldn't stop them himself (I have NO evidence of this)
[ ] They sacrificed children to their God for which the punishment should be having all your children slain (God has a sense of Irony)
[ ] Other ______________________

Holy Communion is?
[ ] Silly Catholic ritual
[ ] Literal Body and Blood Of Christ
[ ] Symbol Of Christ's Body and Blood

The Bible is?
[ ] inerrant for all time
[ ] inerrant only in the originals
[ ] inerrant in spirit, but requires proper interpretation, which requires faith
[ ] inerrant but have become corrupted
[ ] not inerrant, but useful for knowing God

Jesus was?
[ ] an actual person
[ ] an ideal

Jesus is?
[ ] A man
[ ] A prophet
[ ] Son of God
[ ] God himself in the form of Jesus

Genesis is?
[ ] Real Science!(tm) Joe Cienkowski
[ ] A slightly metaphorical story about the Real Events which reveal God to us
[ ] A colorful creation myth which draws from Gilgamesh and other pre-biblical sources

Historical information from the Bible is?
[ ] all 100% true and accurate
[ ] mostly true and accurate
[ ] some true, some made up - hard to tell the difference

I could go on and on -- it would be amusing to put together a comprehensive set some day but it could take YEARS of work.

Add your own in the comments!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jared Loughner & Cannabis

Without fail, some people have seized on the fact that Loughner used cannabis and tried to pin the blame for his actions on his drug use.

Never mind that Loughner's problems seemed to have kicked off when he broke up with his girlfriend and had reported conflicts with his father which led to his ALCOHOL poisoning on May 15, 2006 -- as well as evidence he was bullied at school.

All evidence in cases like Loughner's is that their use of psychedelics are SELF-MEDICATION or Escapist and NOT causative.

As for the link between cannabis and schizophrenia, there is an even STRONGER link between smoking tobacco and schizophrenia (but you don't see that in the reports) But again, it appears to be used for a palliative effect. The Swedish/Stockholm studies from 1987/1989 are often brought up in this context but they never mention this one from 2007:
Schizophr Res. 2007 Jul;93(1-3):203-10. Epub 2007 Apr 25.
RESULTS: There was no statistically significant effect of cannabis use on the presence of any of the above. There remained however a non-significant trend towards more insight (OR 0.65 p=0.055 for "loss of insight") and a finding of fewer abusive or accusatory hallucinations (OR 0.65 p=0.049) of borderline significance amongst the cannabis users. These were in the hypothesised direction. There was no evidence of fewer negative symptoms or greater family history amongst cannabis users.

CONCLUSION: We found few appreciable differences in symptomatology between schizophrenic patients who were or were not cannabis users. There were no differences in the proportion of people with a positive family history of schizophrenia between cannabis users and non-users. This argues against a distinct schizophrenia-like psychosis caused by cannabis

Correlation alone is NOT causation (for example, 100% of schizophrenics have consumed water) but it needs to be more forcefully stated because laypersons simply do not understand this in the more subtle cases (especially those where prejudice exists). The evidence is that they seek out cannabis AND TOBACCO because they find relief in the effects.

More Links and Resources:

More details on the story here:

Reports on his drug use:

Called 'habitual user' despite report he stopped in 2008:

and he was BULLIED (who didn't see that one coming?):

Loughner was also the victim of bullying on more than one occasion.

In September 2004, police were called to Mountain View High School after Loughner was "stuck with a pin – a stolen type needle, in the cafeteria," according to official reports.

2038 is the new 2012...

2038 is the new 2012...

Unix is based on daemon's and Unix is often represented by a symbol of a demon:

The 32-bit representation of time in Unix runs out in the year 2038 (some systems have moved to 64-bit, but many will not).

99942 Apophis (ancient Egyptian spirit of evil and destruction) is a 350-meter asteroid that was spotted in June 2004 and is on course to impact the earth.
Moreover, we found out additional dates of impacts of Apophis, especially in 2038

Bonus points for anyone who can spot the biggest problem with the above citation.

And I received further confirmation of this theory today: XKCD: 65 Years. Clearly, there is a correlation here.

Something From Nothing

It is often derisively claimed that 'atheists' believe that something came from nothing (despite the fact that "creatio ex nihilo" has been Catholic dogma for centuries).

Of course this is utterly ridiculous because what atheists actually believe is that theists have not met a reasonable burden of proof for their claims -- atheism itself doesn't proclaim to KNOW anything about the origin of the universe.

But as I see it, There are only two options that have been put forth:

(1) In the beginning there was absolutely and truly nothing, not the vacuum of space, not time, and NOT god but truly NOTHING. And then out of this absolute NOTHINGNESS sprang the SOMETHING that now constitutes ultimate reality. This SOMETHING may be our universe or it could even be a precursor that existed for mere moments or even unimaginably vast amounts of 'time' before our current universe.


(2) There was NO beginning. Whatever "is" is, is eternal (take that Bill Clinton). And by that I mean that ultimate reality must be SOMETHING and that something would have to be eternal. That SOMETHING may or may not be our spacetime.

Neither option can really be said to be 'more likely' since we have absolutely no frame of reference from which to judge such things. We can go on our own intuition but even extremely well-educated and intelligent individuals could disagree.

I am actually partial to (2) despite constant assertions by theists that atheists "must" believe that something came from nothing. In my view of (2), Universes sometimes spring quantumly from the eternal void (in a similar fashion to virtual particles) with a relatively infrequent intensity that unleashes something along the lines of the proposed quintessence ( ) which causes a rapid, inflationary period in the early burst of energy that prevents the normal quantum collapse. [note that the void in this case is NOT the vacuum of space]

In this model our universe sprung from the void as an energetic fluctuation so violent it created its own spacetime. The remainder of the energy twisted into nanoscopic vortices which have continued to whirl for billions of years, twisting into ever heavier particles through gravitationally powered fusion and then exploding again and again until enough of their energy was spent that the earth could form out of the fiery violence and then cool to the point where organic chemistry could continue the dance at an ever finer pace, with ever more detail until, in a sense, we have crystallized out of the substance of the universe.

I see no need in all of this for a personal, theistic god, who bothers to answer poorly conceived, ignorantly vile, and conflicting prayers; who watches us pathetic humans with a critical eye jotting down every time someone masturbates for later retribution on their 'soul'; who creates us with a flaw, damns us for having it, and nearly destroys us. And then for a small band of relatively ignorant humans to claim that THEY know the mind of this god and THEY know this gods Will and Wishes, and that they are now his authority on earth over all others... And then, to ice the cake, after many claimed millennia of this god being AT THEIR SIDE (winning battles, slaughtering first-born, Engineering great vessels, flooding the entire Earth with an unimaginable quantity of water which then disappears, turning water into wine (I thought yeast did that), we're supposed to believe that just because we have scientific methods now that this god has gotten shy and gone completely undetectable?

I believe that we are responsible for our own actions and that we are held accountable to our human morals by society. There are 'right' and 'wrong' actions for humans but these moral concepts are creations of human brains and derive from our ability to formulate fairly accurate predictions of behaviors and consequences for actions.

If it were absolutely wrong to murder then it would have been WRONG for god to command Abraham to murder Isaac. And yes, I know god cheated in the end but it was STILL WRONG for god to have commanded it and it's wrong for people to consider this a work of any moral authority when it repeatedly commands murder, genocide, infanticide, genital mutilation, rape, and many other horrors and NEGLECTS to mention anything about things such as microbes.

But in the process of evolution humans have acquired a sense of empathy and compassion because having those allowed us to operate more effectively as a social group which has allowed us to survive. And we have, therefore, collectively agreed that murder is not one of the things we want to tolerate. And thankfully we have moved past the more ignorant "morality" of the bible. For example, we no longer force a virgin to marry her rapist or force him to pay a bride price to the father. Those things were NEVER moral, NEVER acceptable, and NEVER divinely commanded. They were the unfortunate laws of the time. Thank GOODness we have moved past them.

Human morality is constantly shifting, and changing, and adapting to the situation.

3000 years ago murdering other humans en masse was justified in THEIR minds. They were, in a sense, protecting their own. It wasn't morally right by todays standards but THEY didn't have much of a problem with it (although I'm sure the hundreds of thousands of people who were murdered probably objected). They also had little or no compunction against enslaving their enemies. Or beating them, sometimes to death.

And then things got really twisted up in their minds. They decided that, with their 'newly' found moral senses, they would make laws. Laws like, if your child is disobedient you can stone them to death. Laws like, women should be silent and subservient to men. Laws like, how much you can charge when you sell your daughter into sexual slavery. And Laws about taking slaves from your conquests. By ANY modern standard, these are immoral and primitive codes. EVERY modern Christian (sect) cherry picks through the Old Testament books and decided, based on nothing more than their own innate, modern sense of right and wrong, which of those codes they will decide still apply and of those which they still accept they redefine the appropriate punishments for them (very few modern Christian sects still hold to stoning people to death although they DO still exist).

And a few Islamic cultures (and other religions as well) also still practice stoning to death. They consider these actions moral, not just moral by human standards, but ORDERED by god and thus RIGHT by definition that CANNOT be questioned. Anyone who dares to question this authority is also Stoned to Death of course.

And even if modern Christians do not generally stone people to death they still follow this same kind of ignorant logic to equally ignorant conclusions about what is morally right because THEY believe it is ordered to be so by their "god" (because it is written in a book, written from 3500-1800 years ago approximately). And they ironically consider Themselves persecuted when challenged or asked to justify these beliefs.

Don't get me wrong, certainly not ALL christians nor ALL muslims are bad people (not even most of them) but they ALL support systems that are corrupted, violent, and by modern standards, evil. They also teach falsehoods, that even they don't claim to know directly or have ANY direct proof, as the truth. It IS folly and it SHOULD be unacceptable in this day and age.

If you really must believe in some kind of nebulous supreme power that is just fine with me. Be Deistic (god exists and created everything but is letting things run their course and has no influence over us and doesn't judge us) or Pantheistic (god is essentially everything, god is the universe and the laws of physics) or whatever floats your boat.

But PLEASE stop trying to claim any kind of personal and direct authority over others on the basis that you claim to know what this being might want from us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Beware of false prophets

Matthew 7 enjoins us to "Beware of false prophets / Ye shall know them by their fruits"

Have we not had enough of the festering fruits of the world religions?

Are they not ALL heavily evidenced of internal corruption?

The jewish people (allegedly, according to the testaments of Moses) committed genocides clearing the land of Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And destroying all other nations that would stand in their way. There is much evidence of wars and skirmishes and little evidence these genocides actually happened but I'm sure back in those uncertain days it was comforting to know that an all powerful being was on your side in a conflict nonetheless (Deutronomy 20:10-17).

Then comes the anointed one which Christians claim to follow, with his message of Peace from Matthew 10.

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Doesn't sound like the Jesus most people talk about, selective memory perhaps?

And then, around 312, Constantine, facing Maxentius who had revolved against him and held the majority Pagan support with a large military force, turned to a sect of Christians for political and military support. Defeating Maxentius, Constantine then began what was to become a century’s long effort to eliminate any book that was considered unacceptable to the new doctrine of the church. At that time, it is believed there were up to 600 books, which comprised the work we now know as the Bible. With a new religion and a new Rome the future of the Christian faith would be set forever in bloodshed of those they opposed.

Christians have had many excuses over the hundreds of years since then.

Maybe they were following the Edict of Milan?
Maybe they listened when Pope Innocent III said "the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord...As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ's death set free..."?
Maybe the Roman Catholic Papal bull, "Cum nimis absurdum" which required Jews in Vatican controlled lands to wear badges, and be confined to ghettos?
Or maybe they followed in the footsteps of Catholic Christians who massacred of Jews in Nemirov, Polonnoye, Tulchin, Volhynia, Bar, Lvov, and elsewhere?

But everywhere Christians have gone, bloodshed, violence, torture, and brutality followed.

Sure, in the past 100 years or so the uglier aspects are better hidden in modern parts of the world (less so in those areas still wracked with sectarian violence).

We're not AS evil now is really the best they can claim. Or "well I'M a good person". Ok sure, you might be -- even a million of you might be good people. But the leaders of the churches to which you give money are generally NOT and religion is still the cause of much harm and suffering in the world.

You can keep your beliefs (if you can keep them to yourself) and you can keep your religion but you really need to put a STOP to the nonsense parts.

Islam is a weak point in my knowledge base. But I know there are many verses in the Qu'ran that are USED to justify hatred and violence -- sure, just like the bible you can throw up fluffy re-interpretations of those verses. You can absolutely be a good person (just like the Christians above). But what you can't do is claim your religion is free from a violent, bloody and questionable history. And I would absolutely not wish to belong to many of the nations with Islamic-based governments. I really don't need to know more than that to reject the religion BUT!!! if you have proof of any of your claims of miracles I am all ears.

However, I HAVE seen many of the claims of "advanced scientific knowledge in the Qu'ran" and they are all utter bullshit. Most are so incredibly laughable they are not even worthy of legitimate discussion. So you can just skip right past those and save your breath because I won't respond to such complete nonsense - it is a waste of time. If you want to be that credulous go right ahead. I can point out verses in Harry Potter that talk about a ring and say LOOK! It means Loop Quantum Gravity! That is literally how ridiculous those claims are.

So I say the "rotten fruit" should be thrown out and let the extremely few good seeds in there grow.

YouTube - Great Minds: Richard Feynman - The Uncertainty Of Knowledge

YouTube - Great Minds: Richard Feynman - The Uncertainty Of Knowledge

Quote from video:

You see, one thing, is I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and then many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask, "Why we are here?" and what that question might mean.

A truly brilliant mind that understands the inherent limitations of knowledge.

On Compromise

This post is a bit dated now but this was in response to the uproar over Obama compromising with republicans over taxation.

There is, unfortunately, no perfect formula that defines exactly how much tax each person should pay. There are really only ideological trends on this issue. But I think we do the entire process a bit of a disservice when we over-react to compromises on such issues. There are issues that we shouldn't compromise on (e.g. constitutional rights) but tax rates seem like the wrong place to draw a hard line in the sand, to me anyway. There just seems to be so many more critical issues to address in the shorter term.

To me, this rigid ideological thinking is the fundamental problem with religious thinking. Once you buy into a fixed set of beliefs you risk forcing all facts to fit that model.

Avoid ideological traps, try not to think that every conservative opinion is automatically invalid. View the options as a spectum whenever possible, and really consider the merits of each one. And some of these issues are extremely deep and complex, some have no perfect answer but require a balance between different harms and benefits to be struck -- and different people can legitimately place values in different areas. Try to identify the REAL harms and benefits (not just imagined ones) before coming to a conclusion.

I do not believe the common retort that all government is inefficient while companies are magically efficient. The Government is made up of the people of this country, the same as companies. And where there are gross inefficiencies in government We The People are to blame and we should DEMAND those issues be fixed. This is just a clearly fallacious argument. And having worked extensively in the private sector I can tell you there are vast inefficiencies there, even in competitive markets.

I do believe (rather strongly) that competition is an absolutely wonderful tool but not all problems are nails (if I may mix an old metaphor). There ARE areas where monetary competition leads to corruption or other negative outcomes. And a persons basic health needs should NOT be held for ransom for a profit motive.

Debunking Christianity: My Responses to a Christian Scholar

I really enjoyed this blog entry over on John W. Loftus' blog:

Debunking Christianity: My Responses to a Christian Scholar