Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zeus

Once upon a time there was a fatherly sky God.  He was worshiped by all the people in the land. Sacrifices were made to him, words of wisdom attributed to him, and miracles performed by him.  The land that worshiped this god would go on to become one of the most powerful and influential cultures the world had ever seen.  Indeed the learnings from this land became the basis of law, math, science, philosophy, religion and democracy.

The land was Greece.  The god was Zeus.

Today Z is for Zeus.

No one worships Zeus anymore.  In fact if you ever hear someone say they do you might think the person was telling a joke.  To the vast, vast majority of Jews, Christians and Muslims the thought of Zeus' dimity or worship status is unthinkable.  

Yet.  There is it. Out there.  We still  have some temples standing to the ancient Greek gods.  Constellations are named after the heroes and monsters of Greek myth. There are cities that still stand that were named for them (Athens anyone?), the greek gods were worshiped then, but no longer.

The Bible never mentions them.  The creation myth in Genesis never takes them into account.  Yet to 1000s of people they were real.  More real than some desert god who's story seems to have grown out of the myriad faiths of the area.

Zeus is not real because no god is real. 

I have mentioned in the past that I had read "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths" as a child.  They mentioned how Zeus was not longer worshiped and had died.  That was quite the paradigm shift for my young mind.
It dawned on my that gods didn't die, because they were never alive to begin with.  They are all just stories.

There is a saying in the atheism movement, "We believe in one less god than you."  Think of all the gods you don't believe in and maybe you will see we are closer to same opinion than you think.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Young Earth Creationism

The religious right does a lot of things to piss me off.
The denial of human rights to other not like themselves, their near blind hatred.

But the thing that gets under my skin the most is their complete denial of of science.
The worse of the lot are today's topic.

Y is for Young Earth Creationism

According to Wikipedia, Young Earth Creationism is the belief that the Earth is only about 6000 years old and all life was created in the Biblical 6 days.

I should not have to mention that is notion is completely insane.

Yet this special brand of stupidity is widely followed and believed by plenty of people these days.  It was on the decline, but in the Theocracy that they want to make America, they are on the rise.
Now normally I wouldn't care about what a bunch of lunatics have to say, but when they want to infect schools and children's minds.

It still happens. Just have a look at Tennessee.

The evidence against the Young Earth creationists is so overwhelming is almost like talking to a Flat Earther. But at least the Flat Earthers know they are crazy.

Creationism links at Pharyngula

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for X-Xtians

One of the big features in the Atheism movement is the wide variety of "X"s in it."ex-christians", "ex-jews", "ex-muslims", "ex-catholics" (they do ID themselves that way).

You know what I don't a lot of? Ex-Atheists.

Sure they are out there. But you never really hear bunch about them.  When one does happen it seems to be big news.  Sure there are far less Atheists than the faithful, but our numbers are growing.

I myself am not an X-christian.  I have never considered myself a christian in my life.  I have been a deist (breifly), an agnostic, but mostly I have been and remain an atheist.
In the 30+ years I have talked about this with people I have yet to hear a rational argument for belief.  And yes, I am well aware of Pascal's Wager.  Frankly if god can be fooled by a bit of mental 3-card Monte, then he is unworthy of worship.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Why Am I an Atheist?

Sorry for the abbreviated post today.  I have been out of town for work and didn't get a chance to write something proper.

Today is W and the question I get asked a lot "Why are you and Atheist?"

Everyone wants to assume it is because I had a bad experience with religion.  Not so, my atheism help me see religion as bad.  Other people assume it is because I am "Angry with God".  No. That is why people become Satanists.  I can't be angry at something that does not exist.  I might as well be angry at the tooth fairy (which as far as my kids go, is me).

I am an atheist for a very, very simple reason.

There is no God.

The is nothing to support it, there is nothing to prove it and the so-called infallible word of God, the Bible, is kludged together from various books, writings and myths of other people and times.   Sure the faithful will say "it is because they are all true" but they can't be.  Read them and you will see that there is no way that this can be possible.   To quote Penn Jillette the best to read if you want to be an Atheist is the Bible.

You can read about my discovery of my atheism here in three posts, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
PZ Myers also is running a series on his blog as well with people coming out as atheists, Pharyngula - Why I am an Atheist. They are interesting reads.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Victory

V is an odd one for this blog.  Over at my other blog, the Other Side I have been talking about Victorian era games.  So I have an embarrassing of riches over there.

Here I started thinking about the battle/fight/whatever of atheism.  I see reports on atheist blogs about how our side is "winning" (damn Charlie Sheen has ruined that word) and I'll see the same on Christian blogs.

So I have to ask, what is "Winning" or more to the point how will either side know they have "won".

V is then is for Victory.

Victory for me personally would be to see an Atheist President elected to office.  Look how long it took us to get an African American President. We still don't have a woman president.  So, how long will it be before we get an Atheist one?

A really long time I am guessing.

I am not concerned with "stopping" Christians or Christianity or any other religion.   I don't expect them to end in my life time.  Nor would I want too since that is antithetical to what I would want for myself.  But I do want to get to a point where scientific discourse happens without having someone bringing up religion or belief.

What are the Victory conditions for the Atheist movement?
How do we know if we "won"?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Unicorns, Invisible Pink Unicorns!

What if I told you I believe in something.  Something you can't see. But you have to believe in it, cause I do and  I faith it is real.

I believe in the Invisible Pink Unicorn.
Not only is She invisible, she is Pink!  That is how awesome She is.
She can do wondrous things.  Like the other day I went to make coffee and I was all out of Blue Mountain coffee all I had was Columbia. So I cried out I was being oppressed so I prayed for more and you know what? There was some in my basement pantry!  The Invisible Pink Unicorn provides!

Now you make think this is silly, where upon I cry out "Don't mock my faith!".

But seriously.
It is silly.  There are no unicorns. Invisible, pink or any combination of the two.

Just as there is no God.

Most of the arguments I have heard for god are just as lame as the ones for the Invisible Pink Unicorn or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Sagan's Invisible Dragon.   People can claim all sorts of things, but that does not make of them true.
Now lest you suspect I am part of logical fallacy here, yes just because one is not true doesn't imply the others are not true.  The IPU is independent of the FSM who is independent from God.  But in science they are all the same because they can't be observed, measured or otherwise quantified.

You can no more prove to me God exists than I can prove to you that the Invisible Pink Unicorn does.

To quote Carl Sagan, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Frankly god has shown any of that.
To re-quote Christopher Hitchens, "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."  So if I want you to believe in the IPU then I had better cough up some evidence.  If I can't (and it had better be good evidence) then you are free not to believe me.

And I will do the same.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Neil deGrasse Tyson

If Carl Sagan has an heir apparent then it is astronomer and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I don't quite know as much about him as I do Sagan or even Stephen Hawking, but I have watched him on TV (PBS' Nova) and seen a number of his interviews to know that this guy is smarter than rest of us.  He is a staunch advocate for science and the teaching of science in our schools.  In one interview I saw him give on C-SPAN he told a congressional committee about how important science education is, not just to raise child to be scientists but also to understand the world we live in now.

Tyson is a bit more of an atheist than Sagan was, but he still considered himself agnostic.  Many though hear him talking and assume he is an atheist.  In truth if he were define himself as anything I think "Scientist" would be his preferred label.  He is a staunch opponent "Intelligent Design"  calling it an impediment to science education.

Among his books that are my faves (which I have not finished reading) are "Death by Black Hole" and "The Pluto Files".

I am looking forward to learning more about this guy and reading more of his work.

And to be honest, this graphic that appeared everywhere on Facebook a while back explains it perfectly.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Carl Sagan

Growing up as an atheist in a predominantly overwhelmingly christian town was not an easy task.  I was already at a disadvantage of being small, asthmatic, a science geek and a Dungeons & Dragons player.  Add to the fact that I didn't believe ANYTHING that was being told to me didn't help (it was also why I left the Boy Scouts, but is for another day).

What made it all better though was the fact that I had discovered "Cosmos" on PBS and Dr. Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan was not an atheist he was agnostic.  For while there I was also agnostic, mostly due to his arguments for it, but also because he was the scientist I wanted to be.

He was eloquent, intelligent, and it seemed to me, a polymath on many many subjects.    He had his own personal issues (married a three times) but I never felt that this got in the way of what he was to me; an example of an intelligent, good person that had no need for a god in his life.

Since Cosmos first aired and I watched it on PBS, I have seen it a half a dozen more times and read the book twice.

Sagan was until Hawking one of our best scientists turned authors to get science into the popular press.
He has written a number of books but these are my favorites.
The Dragons of Eden, Broca's Brain, Cosmos, Pale Blue Dot, and The Demon Haunted World.  Outside of Cosmos my favorite one is Demon Haunted World.  A book that is just as true today as it was nearly 20 years ago.

I never became the scientist like Carl Sagan, I became a different sort.  But it was Carl Sagan that showed me that there is wonder in the natural world, there is beauty in the universe and even in the human spirit and none of these ever needed a god.

Monday I want to talk about Sagan's heir apparent.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Religion, and Atheism isn't one.

Why is religion of any sort given preferential treatment in this country?

If someone tells you they have a deep and profound relationship with their god/goddess/saint/whatever they are more than likely treated with respect.
If someone tells you they have a deep and profound relationship with the Flying Spaghetti Monster or an invisible pink unicorn then they are treated like they are crazy.

What I am asking is why are they not both treated the exact same way since they are acting and believing the exact same way?

Religion is the only aspect of our society where you are encouraged to believe, talk about and spread complete and utter bullshit.  AND it is considered rude to even consider thinking differently.

The Constitution of the United States is rather clear on this point:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
So no preferential treatment to religion, but no impediment to practicing it either.  That is fine and I am not here to debate Constitutional law or the wisdom of our Founding Fathers (I happen to think they got it right).
Except churches get tax exempt status and the religious faithful are not locked away for believing in utter bullshit.

While I do tend to agree with Hitchens that "religion poisons everything", unlike him I don't care what people actually do in their own homes or churches for that matter.
I think religion is nothing more than a complex set of superstitions at best or a cleverly evil means of controlling the population at worse.

Atheism, for the record, is not another religion.
To quote Bill Maher "Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sexual position."

(btw this is the same video where he unbaptizes Edward Davies)

A person can be a theist and not even be religious.  
But atheism is not on the same continuum of regions,  it is by definition completely off of the continuum.

Being an atheist is easy to do really, there is simply put no evidence what so ever for God.
But if hard evidence did show up, like Bill Maher, says then we have to change our minds.  Those are our rules, you caught us.  See how easy that is?  But so far no evidence has happened and it has to be evidence where there is no other plausible natural explanation.

What would it take for you to change your views?  What sort of evidence would you need to to change your current religious or theistic view-point?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quackery

Quack science, quack medicine, it's all voodoo.

A lot of stuff gets passed off as a miracle cure these days.  I can understand the desire; a loved one is sick and you will do anything to make them better. Grasp at any straw, take any chance just so you are doing something.  But that doesn't mean it will work.

Along with Atheism I have long held a very, very skeptical belief in all forms of "Alternative Medicine".

Here are some of the things that people will do instead of thinking.  A lot of it comes from people's unclear understanding or out right ignorance of the way the body or science works.

"It's Natural" lots of claims are made that something is good for you because it is natural.  Plutonium is natural, all sorts of poisons and toxins are natural.  All of them will kill you.  Tylenol is not natural.  I am sure as hell going to grab one or two of those when my next headache comes around and not chew on some willow bark.

"It's Ancient/It's Eastern" you know what else is ancient? Driving out demons from a body instead of the disease.  You know what's also really old, leaches.  Sure their maybe something to some old remedy (chicken soup won't cure your cold, but it will make you feel less bad).  But just because something has been done the same way for thousands of years doesn't always mean it works better, it just means no one has had the chance to find a better way.

"Aromatherapy" and "Homepathy" man this stuff is pure bullshit.  There is no science what so ever behind any of this.

"Vaccines cause Autism" this might be the worse of the bunch.  We were so close to eliminating diseases that have plagued humankind since the well dawn of humankind.  And an idiot doctor and a Playboy centerfold have nearly undone it all.  Well not completely, but there is no established link between vaccines and Autism.  Not even weak correlation data (and remember kids, correlation is not causation). And just so we are clear here is the group saying there is a link:  Jenny McCarthy and scared parents.
Here is the group saying there is no link: the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Medical Toxicology, the Canadian Paediatric Society,the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Food and Drug Administration,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the European Medicines Agency.
I am sorry, but I don't care what Jenny and her band thinks, that is some powerful backing.

I could go on and on, but I need topics for the future.

Look I have no love for the drug companies.  I worked as QMHP for a while and I felt that the psychiatric staff were only giving the patients the drugs the drug company reps were selling to them at the time. It's big business.  But that doesn't mean they have it wrong.  Tamoxifen for example works.  There are tens of thousands of other drugs that also do what they say.

Not knowing though how to choose or how to find out is where science in our schools is failing.  Not through their own faults, but due to lack of funding or stupid "teach the controversy" tactics.

I'll save magic for my games and science for the real world.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for PZ Myers and Pharyngula

I am going to state this up front.  I like PZ Myers. I like that he is confrontational, I like that he tells it exactly as he sees it. I am glad he doesn't take shit from the religious right (even when he gets death threats - stay classy Christians), and I LOVE that the mascot of his blog is a Crocoduck.

That doesn't mean I always agree with what he is saying (but more times than not I do).
I read his blog, Pharyngula, every chance I get.

PZ Myers (and I always say "P Zed" since that is how I first heard him introduced by Richard Dawkins!) is a professor of biology at University of Minnesota Morris.  His area of study is evolutionary developmental biology.  He is also extremely critical of Intelligent Design, Creationism and the sites that promote them such as Answers in Genesis and the Discovery Institute.

Currently he is running a series of posts entitled "Why I am an Atheist" and it is great reading.
But I am not a big fan of the Friday Cephalopod. Actually I don't mind it, but cephalopods are weird.

I like knowing that PZ is around to say the things I would want to say myself, but don't have the audience or the background to say it.  He is a professor of biology after all. My background is Education and Stats.

PZ is certainly one of the more interesting, thoughtful and learned voices in modern atheism today.  I am looking forward to his new book coming out. (for just the crunchy Science bits)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for On the Origin of Species

"On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" or as we most often call it "The Origin of Species" is the magnum opus of Charles Darwin, it is also the subject of today's "O" post.

When "Origin" was published in  1859, Charles Darwin had already made a name for himself as a naturalist, scientist and writer.  It is not too much to state that this is one of the most important pieces of scientific literature on the subject of biology ever written. It is not the first book on evolution ever written, but it certainly was at the time the most well known.  It is also not without flaws, which the anti-evolution crowd are quick to point out.  But reading the text today, I get a sense of amazement over Darwin's observations.  Observation is still the first, best tool in science.

It is also interesting that the whole "man came from apes" flap that this book supposedly caused is not even in this book.  Human evolution is only a very small part of it.  Fully half the book is about domestication of animals.  How over generations we (as in Humankind) took the wolf and domesticated it into the dog we know today and indeed all the various breeds we know today.  That's evolution at work.  Sure it was faster than natural selection, but natural selection works on a time frame of millions and billions of years, not just thousands.

There are a lot of things people think this book is, but really isn't.  It is not a justification for slavery (the bible does that. It does not cover the origins of life, only how today's species may have come about from others.  It does not say "We come from apes" or anything of the sort.  Darwin does ask why haven't the apes evolved to the intellect of man yet.

Remember this was 1859.  DNA had not been discovered yet and the proper means of fossil dating had not been developed yet (radio-carbon dating was still 90years away).  This was not the first text, and it certainly wasn't the last.

This book is a absolute classic of scientific inquiry and though.  One I feel is on par with Galileo's "Dialogue" (which he spent the rest of his life under house arrest for because of the Church) and Newton's "Principia".

Great science has always been treated poorly by the church and the faithful.  They answer the questions that until now had been the sole proprieties of the clergy and gods. Darwin was never jailed or excommunicated, but his work is still pilloried today by the fearful and the ignorant.  Do yourself a favor and read his work for yourself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

NCMEC Charity

Still not feeling so good, but I woke from a nap to read my emails and found this.

DriveThruRPG is hosting another charity drive.  This time for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Here is the information from their site.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and DriveThruRPG has partnered with several publishers to raise funds for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Click here to make a donation to this cause and get rewarded with a bundle of products from DriveThruRPG and our publishers

For more information about National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, visit

This is a more than worthy cause and for 25 bucks you also get some great games.

N is for Not Feeling So Well

Not feeling too well today.

If I post an "N" post today it will be later.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Morality and Religion

One of the arguments I often hear from the faithful is that without religion where would get morality.  People need religion to act good.

I have thought about this for a while, and something about this argument never really made sense to me.

The bible is under the best of circumstances only a few thousand years old.  Or rather the texts that lead to the modern bible which it self is less than 2,600 years old.  What governed morality for the 2+ million other years before that?
Simple. Religion does govern morality.  It may codify it, but it did create it.

Today M is for Morality and Religion.

This is a topic I have wanted to investigate.
So instead of talking to religious experts I instead have been talking sociologists, social psychologists and trying to find some evolutionary biologists.

It seems (and please keep in mind I am only in the Research phase) that morality was a system that developed around the same time as civilization.  As we learned to live in groups, we learned to live together.  Behaviors that were positive to society were rewarded, behaviors that were not, well were not.

We know the Code of Hammurabi comes from around 1770 BCE, the earliest parts of the Bible, the Torah, from only around 600 BCE. So that gives us1,000 years of coded morality before the Bible was even written.
Then that is not even counting the civilizations since 3500 BCE.

So where did morality come from in the 2,000 years humans were living together and writing about it before the Bible was written? Or the nearly 2 million before recorded history?

We can observe tribal cultures around the world now, especially ones that do not have easy access to modern humans. Thee cultures have behaviors that are considered moral, but they don't read the bible or have access to the christian religion.

What of these earliest humans? We can't observe their behavior.  They are long since dead and left very few traces behind. We can however observe chimps, our closest biological relative, and especially Bonobos which a complex system of governing their sexual behavior.

This leads to a probable hypothesis, that morality evolved along with humans as a means of social interaction.  Put Freud aside we can say humans are predominately good and gravitate towards socially acceptable behaviors.  Altruism and socially accepted behaviors then have a genetic base, where the humans that had these genes were give more chances to breed and pass their genes on to the next generation.  Something we can see today, right now in Bonobos.

Richard Dawkins covers this a bit in his book, The God Delusion.  But I think I should read more on it.  Another name for me to check out is Matt J. Rossano and his book "Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved".

Afterall, secular morality tells us that slavery (even sexual slavery, Exodus 21:7) and beating your wife or children are all wrong, but the Christian Bible tells you these things are ok.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Logical Fallacies

If you are going to be an atheist the you need to be prepared to have to argue your point of view.
It's not exactly fair really, the religious and the faithful get to believe all sorts of bat-shit insane things and never get called on it, but we have to defend every inch of territory we have.

That's ok with me though, see as an atheist I have science and logic on my side.

But if you are going argue logic, be sure you know what you are talking about and how to do it.
Thanks to Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist (the guy who sold his soul on eBay) I now have a link to share.

A link to the larger one is here:

I have seen each and everyone of these used in arguments against me before.
Here is an example of it being used to combat the Anti-Same Sex Marriage speech of Cardinal O'Brien of the President of Bishops' Conference in Scotland.
Click for larger or go here:

You can do similar things to the speeches of most of the religious.  In fact you could even make up cards and play logical fallacy bingo!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kidding...

as in, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Here is a bit of news out of Tennessee where they are boldly going to the 19th century.

"Tennessee Governor Allows Creationism Bill To Become Law"

So in Tennessee teachers are now required to mention a "debate" that doesn't even exist in science.
People will argue about "teaching the controversy" but there is none.  No one with any bit of scientific background that isn't blinded by faith thinks there is any other plausable theory other than evolution.

It is not because scientists are closed minded or because there is a vast scientific conspiracy but because no other theory fits the data better.

Yet these bozos in public office keep trying to shove their Dark Ages beliefs down the throats of students because they are in power.  You know who else is like that?  The Taliban.

Any time someone places religion above science in our schools we all lose.  But none more than the children.

I could go on and on about these idiots we have in public office. But here are a few news clips and blog posts: (not a public official, but funny)

These are all just from April.

Look. If we are to move forward as a nation and as a species then we need to keep this crap out of our schools.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Penn Jillette

I have been a fan of Penn & Teller for a very long time.  I recall watching their act on David Letterman when they let loose all these live cockroaches and trying to catch it anytime I heard they were on.

I love their show Bullshit! on Showtime (it is one of the reasons I still have Showtime to be honest) and generally speaking I find them entertaining.

Penn Jillette though is quite entertain on his own.  Plus he is a quite vocal atheist.
That is why he is my subject to for J.

Penn is an interesting guy.  He never smokes, drink or does drugs.  He claims that there is enough in the world now that could cloud his perceptions he wants to be able to always trust what he sees, hears and thinks.  Extreme? Maybe, but more power to the guy.

He has his own You Tube channel, Penn Point, where he takes letters and gives his opinions (and shamelessly shows off his iPad).
He does have a few talks on Atheism, here, here and here which is cool.

I do want to read his new book, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales.  The book looks great and he promises it is a fast read.  Give the stack of stuff I need to read I might wait till it is out on audiobook (June 5, 2012).

Penn will be the first to admit he doesn't know something or even that he might not be the best person to speak for atheists since he is not a scientist and he says "fuck" a lot.  But maybe that is why he is a good  spokesperson.  Don't get me wrong, he is not subtle nor is he even for the beginner atheist, but he is worth the time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Interesting

I had an "I" post for today, but I scraped it in favor of this one.
(BTW if you want to know, it was I for Inquiry as in Center for Inquiry.  Go on over to their site and learn more).

No today is now "I for Interesting".
Interesting as in how it is interesting behavior I am finding on some blogs here in the good old A to Z Challenge.

So I am visiting many of the blogs in the A to Z Challenge and I am leaving a link back to both of my blogs.
I try to say something insightful in my posts, and I assume others are as well, so I read their posts with the same  care.  I only leave feedback on about half the ones I read.  When I do I leave my link back.

I have been noticing that writers, horror folk and gamers will post my feedback rightaway and they will visit my blogs.  Not always both, but they do.

When I leave my link back on Christian or religious blogs, my feedback often (very often in fact) will languish in some "Waiting to be approved" queue. I know they have been seen by the blog author's since I can see they have visited my sites.  But yet there it is out there, where only myself and the blog owner can see it and no one else.

Are they afraid that their readers will come to my site and be "cured"?  What gives?

Now to be be fair, I really don't care.  It's their blog, they can do what they like.  I am not trying to change their  minds (which is also why I am not posting the links).

Now I WILL publish every post put to this blog.  in fact everything is on auto-approve anyway.
And unless your post is spammy or abusive I am also not going to delete it.

See I think the best way for someone to discover their own atheism is to read about atheism.  But the next best way is to read about religion.  The best way to stay religious then is just don;t read anything.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Hitchens

I did not discover Christopher Hitchens till very recently.

I had read his book "God is Not Great" and it will go down in my personal history as the last book I ever bought at Borders Bookstore.  I enjoyed the book.

One of my favorite things attributed to Christopher Hitchens is the use of "Hitchens Razor".

"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."

That got me into some trouble with my Facebook friends.  They didn't like the fact I could dismiss their hard held beliefs as nonsense.  Even when that is exactly what they are.

It is one of the reasons why this blog now exists.

I plan on reading more Hitchens someday.  Just have a stack of stuff to work through first.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Greta Christina

I told I was going to be fast and loose with the letters....
So G is for Greta Christina.

Greta's blog was one of the first Atheist blogs I began reading.  I enjoyed her wit and what she had to say. Of course all the while I am learning more about atheism from another point of view.

I rather like her new book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, want to get back to reading it here soon.

I could go on about her, but maybe it is best just to read her blog.  She does a far better job than me!

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Faith

What is faith?
Why do some have it and others do it?

Not faith in people, but faith in gods or religion.

If I say I believe that I have an invisible friend that looks out for me and I talk to, but you can hear or see then you have some options on what to do with me.  First, if I am preschooler then you are likely to laugh, and play along with me.  If I am an adult though you are looking to make sure I am current on all my meds.
That is until you add Faith into the mix.
If  have a deep faith in something, then I can make all sorts of claims.  I can say anything I like, believe it and expect you to believe it too.  Why? because I have faith in it.

Now. Does any of this make sense?

Why should a firmly held belief be given the same weight in this country as carefully reasoned scientific data or theories?

For faith I have been reading up on the Outsider Test For Faith, that is can you use the same scrutiny on your own faith as you would use on an outsider.  It is an interesting concept and one I think everyone should be this introspective.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Evolution

Why is it that Evolution is such a sticking point with both Atheists and some* of the faithful?
* Now I know that vast majority of Christians say they are fine with evolution.  Even the last pope before this one said that evolution was the mechanism in which species grow.

But yet then I read data about how 54% of Americans don't believe it and some even advocating young Earth creationism?  It boggles the mind.

In southern states this is still a contentious issue, and I am not just talking about the Scopes Monkey trial here, I am talking about school boards just last week still fighting to take evolution off school curricula or put the horribly misnamed "Intelligent Design" on.

Here is the deal. The Theory of Evolution is one of the most supported bits of scientific inquiry there is.  There is evidence for it in biology, chemistry, geology, and genetics.  If it failed to make predictions or describe the data in any of those areas it can be thrown out. But it hasn't.  To be a scientific theory it must falsifiable, that is it must able to be proved false. If a complex animal is discovered in the fossil record that can't be explained then evolution has a problem.  The deal is that this has never happened.

Yet there are still groups out there that doubt it's claims.  Many seem to think this is an either/or option.
I recall a conversation I had some time ago with someone I had considered intelligent.  He said he didn't believe in evolution, he believed in God.  I had not realized that they were mutually exclusive.

I could go on and on about evolution here, but this is not Wikipedia. Nor am I Richard Dawkins.
I am though an educator and blogger.  So I take it to you, my audience.

What do you all think?  Have you ever run into controversy about evolution in schools? Either yourself or your children?  For the Christian readers here, how do you reconcile evolution with your faith?  I suspect the vast majority of you do, you are just so quiet about it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Richard Dawkins

Continuing on my series of people that have influenced me of late.

D is for Richard Dawkins (and also Douglas Adams; I am a bit loose with how I do my letters)

Very few scientists have had the chance to touch the public consciousness like Richard Dawkins.

I became aware of Prof. Dawkins via my interest in Doctor Who and Douglas Adams.  Back in the day I was a huge fan (still am) of Doctor Who and one of my favorite characters was the Time Lady Romana II.  I had known that Lala Ward was friends with one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams.  I had heard sometime later that he had introduced her to Richard Dawkins (And how Dawkins and Adams had own two of the very first Macintosh computers in England).  I learned more about Dawkins and I wanted to read his books.  I only got the chance recently  and I read The God Delusion and the Greatest Show on Earth in rapid succession.

Dawkins is well spoken, eloquent in his descriptions and explanations. He is also quite strong in his Atheism, though on his own rating scale he gives himself a 6 on  spectrum of 1 to 7, with 7 being "Absolute Atheism, no chance what so ever of a god".  I put myself at something like a 6.9.

Because of his views he is often attacked by Christians and others. Apparently unable to attack his views they resort to ad hominem attacks on the man himself.

I still have quite a bit to learn, but I am looking forward to reading his books The Devil's Chaplin and The Selfish Gene.

If you are at all curious about the scientific basis of atheism then you can do much worse than reading Dawkins.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Church

It might come as a surprise to some readers here or my other blog, but I actually used to go to church.

After I "became" an Atheist as age 10, I still went to churches.  Mostly because at age 10 to 12 I didn't have any choice in the matter.  I did go to sunday school, vacation bible school and I was in the Boy Scouts.

The trouble is sending an Atheist to church  really only helps them solidify their point of view.
I have mentioned before that whenever I'd take my questions to church people I was told "not to ask questions like that", and when I did get answers it was obvious to me even then that they no idea what they were talking about.

I asked about Noah's Ark once.  I must have been about 11 or so.  I asked them about how could an boat the size they described hold all the animals we have today.  The answer I got was "well we don't know how big it really was", to which I said, "Yes we do, it says so right here. Dimensions in cubits." which got me a "Well we don't know how big a cubit really is." and I countered with "yes we do.  I looked it up in my encyclopedias at home."  and that of course got me the "we are not talking about that now."  I never even got to my question about fish and how salt water and fresh water fish could survive in the same ocean.

Later in Sunday School (I was at least 12 then and really turning into a young atheist jerk by then) our teacher told this horror story about a snake named Sin.  Frankly the story didn't scare me at all. I thought in fact it was stupid.  But what bugged me most about it was how much it insulted my intelligence and it was clearly designed to be a scare tactic.

We stopped going to that church.

My mom dragged me to another church in hopes that would work.  I decided to take a paper route job that had me working on Sundays.

When I was on summer vacation years later making spare money for college, I worked at Southern Baptist Church as a janitor.  Never have I seen such a hypocritical bunch of human beings in my life.  Oh, and I caught the married pastor having sex with the married organist in the baptismal. No kidding.

I made a habit of going to churches with my friends and even checking others out on my own. Just to see what the deal was.

I found that while for the most part the people are nice and decent and even a few struck me as very bright, for the most part they knew very little of their own religion or holy texts and even less about science.

I think all Atheists should (and I am sure most have) attend a church service and talk to the people there.  If you don't come out of it more convinced that your (our) point of view is the correct one, then let me know, I will be very, very surprised.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Blag Hag

In addition to talking about topics related to atheism I want to talk about the voices out there talking about these things.

For B that has to Blag Hag, AKA Jen McCreight.

Jen, and you can read more about her here, is one of the first atheism blogs I came across.  So she really shaped my earliest opinions on what an atheism blog should be.  From her it was an easy jump to P.Z. Myers, Greta Christina and Hemant Mehta (all of whom I'll talk about in future posts).

What I like about Jen is she is funny (one of her first posts I read was her field trip to the Creation Museum)  and yes, she doesn't seem to get that, but that is fine.  I get a kick out of her rants, mostly because I wish I had said the things she is saying first.  Her blog is sex friendly and she describes herself as a "pervy nerd".  What is not to like really?   But beyond all of that Jen has some really good things to say and she is really intelligent.

I like that she doesn't always see eye to eye with the Big Names in Atheism(TM). Elevator-gate for example.
So far I have not found myself disagreeing with her much, except for maybe a different point of view.

I have enjoyed reading her blog for the last year or so.  What she does isn't exactly what I have in mind for my own blog. but I am sure glad she out there!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Atheist

Hello and welcome to the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I am doing this here and at my other blog The Other Side.
This is the first post of my series of posts on Atheism, Skepticism, Free thought and the freedom you get from not believing in magical tales.

Today's letter is A. So I wanted to talk about Atheism.
Atheism, as the name implies, is the non-belief is gods, God or any supernatural agency in the world.

I am an Atheist.

There are degrees of atheism, I am probably at the farthest end of the spectrum.  For years I was quiet about what I believed, or rather didn't believe. 

These days I am no longer silent.

Atheists are not bad people, far from it really.
Atheists are not evil. Many, myself included, are very active in charities, activism and trying to make the world a better place.
Atheism is not another religion.  It is pretty much, by definition, the exact opposite.

If you want to know more then I suggest sticking around here this month as I talk about all these topics, I'll also point you in the direction of others that are more knowledgeable and eloquent than I am.