Thanks to the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, I was recently introduced to a fun, yet educational series on YouTube called Brief Bible Blunders. I think this should be required viewing for any inerrantists out there!
Here’s a video I saw posted on Facebook from YouTube’s Betty Bowers. Pretty funny stuff overall. I like the fact that there are a lot of jokes/gags going on in this video: the scroll at the bottom, the captions, the images in addition to what the “reporter” is saying). You’d have to watch it several times to catch everything.
Sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging about religion and atheism. Does it really matter if I read and talk about religions I don’t even believe in anyway? I used to believe in God, after all, so why I don’t just let bygones be bygones, leave religion alone, and post about something a little more entertaining, like funny animal videos on YouTube! It’d be a lot cheerier, and I’m sure I’d get a lot more traffic on my blog.
Then I see something like this letter to the editor, and I remember why I blog.
This letter to the editor is why I write my blog. I saw this posted on the site of fellow atheist blogger Jason Mosler. Sure, it’d be easy to laugh this letter off as just the rantings of some religious nut. But reading it a second time, it disturbed me on a number of levels.
This is a real person, Alice, writing to a real small-town newspaper in Alaska just a few years ago (January 2007). Alice honestly thinks that:
- People who don’t believe in God should be “kicked [out] of the country“.
- The United States is based on the principle that you “must believe” in God.
- You can believe in God “any way you want“, but Alice only cites mainstream Christian denominations as examples of acceptable beliefs
- Atheists practice “evil“, although it is not explained what this means
- Atheists are responsible for the “ruin” of America and for crime being “rampant“, even “if they have never committed a crime“.
People like Alice are the reason I write this blog. Her religion has closed her mind so much that I’m sure she doesn’t even realize how hate-filled and out-of-touch with reality her letter is. For all we know, Alice is like many Christians: a kind-hearted, generous person in her day-to-day life who truly wants to do what’s right. But because her religion has taught her that people who don’t believe in her god are “evil”, all critical thought stops. She says and thinks the most horrible things because she knows she is right. Crime is up, atheists are in America, my faith says atheists are bad, so atheists are to blame and must be kicked out of society.
If Alice is like most people, she did not choose her religion growing up, but was brought up in a community that is largely if not exclusively Christian. She may never have met an open atheist in her life, but her faith has her so convinced that atheists are the cause of society’s ills that everything she sees (from currency to crime reports) serves to prove it to her. It would likely be difficult if not impossible to convince her otherwise.
We should feel sorry for Alice, for her head being filled with such hateful nonsense based on a book of fairy tales written thousands of years ago. But at the same time, I think we should also have a healthy dose of fear. We live in a society where it is still perfectly acceptable in many circles to openly hate and wish harm on people who don’t believe in God. And that is scary. There are unfortunately still people who think that Jews or Blacks, for example, should be kicked out of the country, but would a letter to the editor blaming Jews for America’s problems saying they should all be sent to Israel be published in a newspaper? Thankfully, there is very little chance of that happening. It’s no longer acceptable to openly say such things in society about most minority groups. But for some reason, it’s still okay to say just about anything you want about atheists, no matter how bigoted or unsupported it is. Many readers I’m sure said or thought “Amen” upon reading Alice’s letter.
Anti-atheist sentiment is what is “rampant” in our country these days. As long as there are people who believe that non-believers are evil and don’t deserve to be citizens, then my blog has a purpose. People need to know that religion is brainwashing good people into believing nonsense and spreading hate. There are people who strongly believe that atheists don’t deserve the same rights as everyone else, some of whom are actively trying to push their bigoted beliefs onto the country as a whole.
If even one believer sees this post and thinks about their belief, or one non-believer realizes how important it is to help change minds about atheists, then writing this blog is definitely worth it.
“There is no justice in the desert / Because there no god in Hell.”
There aren’t many songs by Billy Joel that I can say I saw the world premier of; in fact, this is the only one! My wife and I attended his concert in Chicago in Dec. 2007 and, lo and behold, he announced that there was a new song that he and a new singer named Cass Dillon would be performing that night for the first time ever, and which would be released officially the following Monday. He joked (correctly) that it would probably be uploaded by someone onto YouTube before then.
As you might guess, the song talks about the Iraq war, but focuses on the experiences of soliders, whom Joel mentioned he received a number of letters from. The song touches on the topic of religion briefly at several points. Some people may not know that Joel at least was an atheist earlier on in his life, saying in an interview in a book called Rock Stars from 1982:
As an atheist you have to rationalise things. You decide first of all that will not ask Daddy – meaning God in all of his imagined forms – for a helping hand when you’re in a jam. Then you have to try and make some sort of sense out of your problems. And if you try and find you can’t, you have no choice but to be good and scared – but that’s okay! When animals are afraid, they don’t pray, and we’re just a higher order of primate. Mark Twain, a great atheist, said it best in The Mysterious Stranger, when he stated in not so many words, “Who are we to create a heaven and hell for ourselves, excluding animals and plants in the bargain, just because we have the power to rationalise?”
Death is death, and the ego can’t handle the consequences. We should all struggle to the last to hold on to life, and religion encourages people to give up on making this life work because the supposed next life will be fairer. Religion is the source of too many of the world’s worst problems.
More recent reports show he may have become at least somewhat spirtual or religious, saying in 1994:
I still feel very much like an atheist in the religious aspects of things…But there are spiritual planes that I’m aware of that I don’t know anything about and that I can’t explain.
When I saw him in concert, he played as interludes a number of Christian Christmas songs (which doesn’t necessarily indicate anything), and Celebrity Atheist cites reports of him saying “God bless you” to people in recent years (and not after sneezes). I believe he made one or two vague mentions of God during the concert. I remember thinking at the time that I wonder if he was using it as a figure of speech (à la “Oh my God”, etc.) or literally. The song does contain a brief Biblical reference to it: “Peace on earth / Goodwill to men”.
So it’s possible Joel may have become either religious or spiritual, or at the very least has become more circumspect about his disbelief or doubt in god. But if so, it would appear from his lyrics that he and I can agree on the fact that Iraq is not a God-sanctioned war, unlike what George W. and company either sold it as or actually believed. (At the beginning of the song, Joel also includes the presumably ironic/satrical lyrics “We came with the Crusaders / To save the Holy Land” and later on, “We came to fight the Infidel.”)
With troops still dying in Iraq and 30,000 more on their way to Afghanistan, it’s sad that this song is just as topical today as it was back then.
Pat Condell ‘s latest video "Apologists for Evil" takes people to task, especially politically-correct liberals, who defend the sexism of Islam (including in the recent burqa debate ) because they are either too afraid to speak out against it or because they say that it is "racism" to criticize Islam and Muslims.
I agree with Pat Condell: standing up for women’s rights against a religion or a culture that wants to subjugate women is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not racist to support equal rights for women. It’s crazy that people would even suggest this, since Islam isn’t even a race! But it’s not the first time I’ve heard criticism of Islam wrongly linked to racism.
Expecting women to cover their faces or to obey men (among a myriad of other sexist things supported by the Quran, the Bible, or many of their followers) are misogynistic cultural and religious practices which are against values laid out by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and those held by most people in Western societies. It has absolutely nothing to do with race, since people of any race can be Muslims and people of any race can, unfortunately, discriminate against women.
A person should be able to support a woman’s right to equality and dignity without being labeled a racist. Atheists and others should not be afraid to speak out when religions, and their proponents, support things which are clearly dehumanizing or discriminatory.
I just saw a funny yet thought-provoking video mentioned on the blog Asking the God Question . The video is about the story of Jephthah and his daughter, in Judges 11. It features God talking to Jephthah and a dramatic, but biblically-accurate ending.
If you aren’t familiar with the story, you can just watch the video or see the Brick Testament version for a quick overview. The video also mentions a number of related issues in it and gives the Bible verses referenced.
Genesis 21 — EweTube
Some more great family fun here, with some ewes thrown in at the end for fun!
Sarah the 90+ year old has a boy, Isaac. She thinks it’s hilarious that she would have a son at her age, as does everyone else. That rascal God, he really knows how to make people laugh.
But Ishmael laughed at his new brother, and Sarah is outraged. Laughing at what God does, okay. Laughing at your younger brother, not okay. Sarah wants rid of Ishmael and his mom. Abraham doesn’t want to kick out his son, but God sides with Sarah on this. God tells Abraham not to worry though, because Ishmael will also become a great nation after you kick him and his mom out.
After their meager supply of water run out (how nice of Abraham to abandon his son and the woman he slept with in the desert without enough water!), Hagar the mom tries to abandon her son to die, but just can’t go through with it. Turns out though that there was actually a well of water there, Hagar just couldn’t see it until God "opened her eyes" (21:19). From then on, God followed Ishmael wherever he’d go, kind of like the My Buddy doll from the 80s, I guess. Ishmael got to be an archer!
The story of Ishmael, Isaac, and the gang, along with some other related anecdotes from the Bible, is related in Roy Zimmerman’s song Two Brothers , which you can see on YouTube.
Speaking of you/ewe, the last part of this chapter is some more business between Abraham and Abimelech, the leader Sarah and Abraham duped in the last chapter. Abimelech makes Abraham promise God won’t pull any more shenanigans on him or his ancestors. There was this dispute about a well of water, but it was nothing that seven female sheep couldn’t clear up. I would have thought five ewe would have sufficed for such a minor matter!
Genesis seems to be obsessed with saying why places and people were named as they were. Beersheba is apparently named because of the oath between Abraham and Abimelech there. To me, it kind of sounds like they had the names for these places and people and then they just made up the stories, kind of like how parents make up stories for little kids when they don’t know why something is the way it is, or how kids just make things up when they don’t understand something.
Nah, that couldn’t be the case!
Update: The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible gives a possible explanation of why Ishmael was kicked out. Maybe it was more than just laughing at his brother…