Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Atheism 101

Hello students! Welcome to atheism 101 where I, your brilliant instructor will attempt to teach you some basic facts about atheism. But first, what is atheism?

Atheism is a disbelief in gods. Quite literally an atheist may say, “I don’t believe in God.” However this usually means that they don’t believe in any gods, just like all the other gods a Muslim or Christian doesn’t believe in! Atheism on its own doesn’t mean anything else except a lack of belief, this does not mean they know there is no God, they just don’t believe.

However, they could be a Gnostic Atheist, meaning they don't have a belief in God, but also know there is no God, just like how many Theists will say they know there is a God. However, most Atheists are Agnostic Atheists, meaning that they just don’t know for sure. This is usually the case for Theists since most believe faith is tantamount in importance.

So now when someone says they are an Atheist you know what they mean by that statement, and you can now press whether they are Gnostic or Agnostic Atheists! Good for you!

This is a picture of the Four Horsemen, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. This title wasn’t necessarily chosen by them but it fits in the Christian community who deem them as such. Of course, Jennifer Hecht, and Susan Jacoby were writing mainstream, atheistic material long before these guys, but since they were women they probably weren’t chosen by Christians to be the Four Horsemen.

Many people believe that these men are the de facto leaders and prophets of atheism, as if it’s a religion! This is an obvious stance of ignorance because if anyone listened to these four men they would realize that they do not agree on plenty of things, and in the DVD, The Four Horsemen, they actually argue back and forth some. They all may be more confrontational than the average atheist, but they certainly are not prophets.

And I must point out that Atheism is not a religion! This is absurd! Religions are belief systems that worship or revere a superhuman being or entity, particularly gods. In Atheism you can certainly assert that it has a belief system, but its belief is that there are no gods. This is the antithesis of religion, the prime opposite. Atheism a religion, please.

Atheism has its roots go back as far as religion! The most concise writings we have go back to the Indian subcontinent where Buddhism and Hinduism led some to not believe in gods, though they could still believe in the supernatural. Diagoras, Euhemerus, and Epicurus are all major atheist figures from classical antiquity as well. Before the bulk of the Bible was written there were writings denouncing the gods.

This will conclude Atheism 101. It should be noted that there are many other facets to Atheism, such as its rich history of great thinkers, the role of science, the theory of evolution, the debate on morality, and whether or not religion is good for the world!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I am an Ex-Mormon

It would seem that the ex-Mormon campaign guy may come and meet some people in our group sometime in the ambiguous future. I'm still not sure I'll get in the video or not. I've been accepted to UofU again, and this time I can afford the change of location, tuition, etc... and I am now a state resident. So goodbye BYU!!! I don't know what that means for my blog though. I should probably state something like, "just left BYU" in my title or something. Who knows.

Either way, if you somehow haven't heard about the Ex Mormon ads, it's kind of a reply to the Mormon ads campaign from last year. Except these are people who all left the church. Not necessarily atheist or anything, just postmos. Here's the Youtube link and then the actual page. The guy seems pretty cool, I guess he's from Canada, and he obviously has learned how to do good interviewing/recording/editing to make his videos cause they are high quality. If you somehow didn't know about them, then enjoy the links.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TBM Email Part 3

This is the closing of the 1st email from a TBM to an Atheist Friend, not me. I highly recommend at least skimming parts 1 and 2 so you can understand why I am getting annoyed by this part. Also, fyi, TBM stands for True-Believing Mormon, or True-Blue Mormon. Some people have mentioned they don't know what that means, lol.

Finally getting to the closing of this email:
I don't expect any of what I've written to convince you of anything, nor am I trying to. I'm certainly no scholar; what I've written above is my crude attempt to paraphrase CS Lewis, GK Chesteron, and other 20th century thinkers.” – I don’t think there is a single statement here that he actually believes.

Logical and secular arguments can never give one a belief in God-.” – No shit Sherlock, that’s why we don’t believe in God! Lmao!

but they can expose the logical fallacies of atheism.” – Which were what exactly? Given his email it was that atheism claims to know how every electron acts, that morality is kaput, that the great thinkers were actually Christian, and that pride is at the root of all atheism … oh, and immorality is at the root too. How the f*** are these logical fallacies? I would be more cordial if I was talking to this man face to face, but at least when I sit here, copy and paste the convo, then reply to his comments, and I can’t help but think of how ridiculous this all is.

And this is why God is always possible to know, but atheism is impossible to ever know. David Hume wrote, as he was dying-” Atheism is impossible to know … I think that’s why people admit a level of agnosticism to their atheism. I’m betting he’s a Gnostic believer. And then David Hume on his deathbed … how typical. Of course you can find statements about his deathbed on Christian sites alongside other statements, even for big-time atheists. Hume did say, quite blatantly that he did not believe he would be immortal, nor wanted it, but that he was approaching annihilation. Hume did not retract his atheistic views.

You write that I should be happy for you, but I am afraid I cannot be happy for you.” – Right there, bold and clear. An obvious sign of religious authoritative brainwashed indoctrination is when someone says they don’t believe in your God and are still happy, and you either don’t believe them, or can’t be happy for them. At another point he even asserts that the atheist friend is still miserable, so she’s not even truly happy. Bruce, a friend, had a similar encounter when a person he knew said, “you[atheist] will be so miserable you won’t even know you’re miserable.” … Let’s allow that to sink in a little, okay?

If you were to marry, why would a husband feel compelled not to cheat? Prototypically, Sartre the liberal, and Ayn Rand the libertarian both consciously cheated on their spouses multiple times.” – Oh those moral arguments again, you trickster you. Of course our atheist friend here will only marry another atheist, Mormon-think right there. Being that there aren’t that many atheists in the world we actually marry outside of our ‘religion’ fairly often. And how do you unconsciously cheat on your spouse?

And what does cheating liberals have to do with atheism? Now being liberal means atheist too? Or that you’ll cheat? Like Newt Gengrich [sic?] hasn’t ever cheated on anyone, or that Catholic priests didn’t abuse children, or that Joseph Smith didn’t cheat on Emma! Or have sexual congress with at least 32 women other than his wife. Lol. Or that bishops in the LDS church sometimes get a little too friendly with Relief Society Presidents or those little kids they have to interview, all alone, for 30 minutes. And on this whole bad marital relations argument, let’s not forget that time and time again it seems atheists have a much lower divorce rate than almost any theist group (I believe Catholics actually don’t divorce very often either.)

The cold logic of atheism gives no reason why they shouldn't. Such is the morality brought about by determining it based upon one's own intellect and reason.” – So we shouldn’t use intellect and reason to help in determining what’s best for the human race or how to live ethically? This is a logical fallacy, probably several, first most likely an ‘Is-Ought Problem,’ and definitely a ‘False Dichotomy.’ Who said that logic and intellect and reason can’t help someone to understand that living with a spouse in a happy and fulfilling relationship should be nurtured and sustained for future happiness, fulfillment, and support? Is that not reasonable!? Is that not logical?! Is that not using your intellect to say ‘oh, I have it good and I’m content … should I go cheat on my spouse or should I keep things going the way they are and try to find ways to make it even better?’

What an idiotic statement. Things like this just make me more annoyed with all the morality arguments thrown at me. I’m so glad that this is the generally the type of argument you get from theists so that I don’t have to actually think half the time when I’m answering. Saying just about anything will be more intelligent than what I’ve just read and replied to. In fact, I award this person no points for his irrational thoughts.

Our Atheist Friend did reply to the pride question with taste, “What about the link between pride and mormonism? Goodness, you could replace "atheism" with "mormonism" and your argument would be just as effective.” – You earn a point atheist friend!!!

Atheist Friend, “I think you still don't quite understand what atheism is.” – Point!

Maybe this is what he thinks atheism is.

Atheist Friend, “You are obviously a very happy mormon; many people are very happy Muslims, or Buddhists, or atheists.” – True, but Mormons don’t believe that. Many actually don’t as nearly all of my TBM friends that know I don’t believe have said so and are simply following the BoM Alma teachings along with statements made by General Authorities even at the last Gen. Conf. You have to be a very liberal Mormon or doubter to admit that people outside the religion are truly happy.

And that wraps up the first email. There actually is a second, but I may avoid that one for the sake of seeming too mean to the poor TBM. Or rather, I already typed up my replies because his second email completely goes off the deep end into absurdities and I couldn’t resist. I must warn you, dear readers, that the second email is considerably worse. So much worse that I sum it up in nearly half the space as the first one.

For now, though, I will take a break from replying and do other posts till I feel like copying and pasting again. Thanks ya'all.

TBM Email Part 2

Wherein I state my presumptuous opinion on this crazy guy's email.

This no longer has much to do directly with Christian morality but I’ll continue my dissection of an email to a friend from a ‘former(?) friend’. I had last replied to his comments on morality within atheism, and truly it deserves more of a reply, but I get tired trying to explain why atheists can still be moral and I’ve written about that or related topics all over my blog. Plus in reading ahead he will bring up morality again and again so we'll be dealing with it several times.

This is not an email sent to me, but to a friend. The format is I write what he wrote, and then reply. I am only taking out parts of the email and trying to keep both person's identities secret. Please understand that I don't intent for him to read this at any time. This whole process has been for me, and on some levels has made me realize a few things about my own arguments. I'll post this in parts and hopefully have things to say here and there in between, but as of now, here's part 2!!!

Have you considered the historical record of atheism?” – Oh great, wonderful way to start off right?

It is not a coincidence that the most murderous, barbaric regimes of the 20th century were all atheist. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Deng, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Mengistu.....” – Okay. And my first retort, ‘and religion has a long history of being peaceful?’ Besides the fact that religions generally are organized based on combining a new brotherhood to wage holy war against the ‘others’ and nonbelievers. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all had separating factors at their birth, stating how they were better, and that God would (eventually) crush their enemies, leaving the texts a little open as to if the members should actually do the crushing or not.

Lenin seems to have been an atheist. Stalin actually went back and forth and on his bad days believed in God. Hitler not only used religion, namely Christianity, but he even wrote in his journals as late as WWII about his beliefs in God. He was crazy, not atheist, and I don’t wish to say that he was a Christian either. Mao was an atheist. Deng seems to have been similar to Hitler – he may have had atheistic comments about God but also had very theistic comments about believing in Heaven and being guided by supernatural and holy means. Like Hitler, he was probably crazy. Pol Pot was probably an atheist, Idi Amin seems to have been a racist Muslim, and I can’t find anything on Mengistu’s supposed atheism except on Conservapedia and other Christian sites.

(On a side note, did you know that a lot of ‘death bed’ conversion stories of famous historical people can be traced back only to Christian sites denouncing the religion of atheism? It would seem our liars for Jesus could be at work again with some of these people.)

And so with this, why does it matter that they were atheist? Hitler hated Jews due to his bad logic, Idi seems to have been one of the most racist men ever alive, Stalin and these two may have actually all believed in a specific God through most of their lives. Deng should be included as well. At least half this list were not truly atheists, at best agnostics, maybe agnosticism leads to violence, right! To quote one site, “If atheism is frequently but a reaction against human abuse by religion, then in itself such disbelief may not be the cause of malfeasance."

Have you considered the link between pride and atheism?” – This is just to prepare you.

To declare atheism is to maintain that by one's own intellect one has explained every single muon, tachyon, and photon in the entire multiverse. Is this not hubris? By what basis do we have to believe that man/woman, who has existed on earth for some 40000 years, and in 'civilization' for but 5000; man/woman, who lives for about 80 years on this earth; what basis do we have to trust our intellect and 'reason' as the final basis for reality? This is to make the fatal assumption that human reason is all powerful.” – This is irrefutable. Okay, nvm, it’s not. First, I don’t claim to be able to explain every single muon, tachyon, photon, neutron, electron, or even the Tron movie but I also don’t see how this matters! Unless you believe God has to be the answer for every unexplained thing, action, or occurrence, and then it’s just a God of the gaps argument. What a stupid argument. Since when does the average atheist claim, “there is no God and I can explain string theory and that supports my claim! Suck it!” Maybe that last part, but I’ve never heard an atheist say that ‘because of gravity, therefore, no God.’

He seems to have forgotten his point in the middle, and gotten his facts wrong. We have not changed in any significant ways except to support a cooking diet, for almost 250,000 years. And our brains haven’t really changed at all. I guess I would also need to know his definition of ‘civilization’ because we’ve had farming communities for roughly 10,000 years and before that roaming nomad communities for much longer. Writing also would be older than 5000 years, I’m not sure why he uses these numbers. Also, it’s a pretty recent development in our history for the average person to live to be 80, and this is still not the case in parts of the world. So really I help him by saying that half the earth’s population (in history) never got past infancy, and fewer got past 30.

Lastly, on this, how does atheism claim omniscience and omnipotence? Being that he’s religious and would probably use the terms to describe an ‘’all-powerful’’ God and that he just applied that phrase to atheism … I think he’s just talking out of his ass by this point. This paragraph was not thought out very well.

You have said you read and prayed about the Book of Mormon, and have not felt anything at all, and thus you conclude there is no God. … Is it then perhaps reasonable, for one as intelligent and so capable as yourself, to have to read the Book of Mormon more, or continue to pray and humbly wait upon God for an answer in His time? … The promise is that if we humble ourselves, sincerely study and pray, then we will be answered and we will know.” – Probably one of the most bigoted statements I ever hear from TBMs. I also do not think the atheist friend ever claimed that they stopped believing simply because their prayers were never answered, including the heartfelt sobbing ones late at night. My issue with Moroni’s promise is that it doesn’t leave any room to be wrong. Basically if you don’t get an answer it is your fault due to sin or pride. And if Moroni is wrong then he can never be called out on it. Also, the question doesn’t leave room for error, the answer you’ll get, according to the scripture, is that God is real and Mormonism is true. There is no room for ‘God said it wasn’t true’ or ‘I didn’t get an answer.’ Obviously, according to this guy here, you could live to 25 and still not have an answer, and it’s probably because you are prideful. Obviously he thinks his friend is prideful for leaving Mormonism behind and for not receiving answers to her prayers.

That will be it for this post. The epic ending of the email will come up next time, as well as some of our atheist friend’s replies. Of course, there is a second email as well ... which truly saves the best for last. This will only get better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Christian Morality and TBM Email Part 1

Subtitle - Irreligiosophy exchange, the psychology of morality, and part 1 of an email exchange with a TBM.

First I'd like to link Irreligiosophy and their recent emails with those Evidence 4 Faith people and Kirk the wonder child. For any fans of the podcast you should really take the time to go through the email that Kirk sent out. Truly a wonderful piece of literature.

Also, the new episode on Reasonable Doubts is another masterpiece in my mind. Dr. Professor Luke Galen gives a presentation on morals and where they come from and how does religion influence them. Galen gives a very balanced presentation and asserts that we have intuitive morality. I've viewed morality as an evolutionary aspect for a while now, but he lays out the argument, facts, and studies and examples very well. He also asserts that religion may not actually have very much influence on people's morality.

I wrote a literature review for a writing class on morality and found with my 3 dozen studies or so (I believe it was 33 actually, though I only used about 13 in my paper) that people may say one thing, but act another way altogether. That, people may voice their ethical systems and beliefs, but don't live by them. Often this is the case in findings in studies that people report a moral system to live by and then don't live by it. Galen quotes several studies and examples pointing out the same thing. Religion may influence a person's perspective and attitude, but not their behavior. To make sense of extreme examples, though, Galen points out studies that show the affect authoritarian cultures and organizations have on people, which is much more concise and a much higher correlation. So moderate religion and religious beliefs may not actually be that bad(influential) at all, but authoritarian religions may very well be.

Like the 'Profiles of the Godless' episode, I highly recommend this one ('Religion and the Roots of Morality').

Lastly, I wish to bring an example forward of one of those people who feels a need to debate with their friends when they find out said friend no longer believes in Mormonism or is atheist. Almost everyone in the group has an example similar to this in the group, or at least a similar example (not as extreme as the following one). And I'm betting for every one of these guys there's 10 more who don't get so vocal but just quietly delete you from their Facebook friend list. Forget our loving and fun friendship we had, you don't believe anymore so you're of the devil and no longer my friend.

"I only write and share because this is the most precious thing I know." - I think Galen would say that authoritarian religion would make someone say something like this as a prelude to the most ridiculous, conceited, and unfriendly email so far from people I know who get these.

"I'm not challenging your intellect, or your ability to come to your own conclusions. But I would want to ask you a few questions about your conversion to atheism." - 2 things. You definitely are challenging this person's intellect (which is high, mind you). And second, for any lurkers out there, never use the phrase "convert to atheism" that is not only a paradoxical statement, but a dumbass statement to boot. In the very least say "you deconverted from _ _ _ _ to atheism."

"Have you considered what many eminent thinkers hold to be the intellectual impossibility of atheism?" - I think we can slightly understand what he is trying to say here. But what thinkers exactly? Most often when an 'eminent thinker' was brought up in a class they were never Mormon, generally not religious, and sometimes downright atheist. 93% of the science academy right?

"Atheism is a belief that there is no God. ... Therefore, atheism can never be more than an act of faith." - Religious lingo for sure, from Alma most likely. I prefer the word agnosticism. I also use the word atheist because I don't think I have to conjure up a supposed entity who created everything and then doubt it to have a clear conscience on being 'fair.'

"If you're going to choose a faith, then why not choose God?" - Pascal's wager has been proven to be bad reasoning. The biggest issue, of course, being that if you decide to believe in a god, which one do you follow?

"The fact that many, if not most, of the most brilliant minds in the course of history (Newton, Godel, Kant, Einstein," - STOP! Thank you for pointing out that these great thinkers all said they believe in the God of Christianity! I never realized that, actually, wait, oh, nvm. Whenever Einstein is thrown in the list you can bet that they follow Christian sites or have taken some kind of LDS perspective class on the 'great thinkers.' Even Gant (psychology/philosophy at BYU) corrects students who say Einstein believed in God.

"Have you considered the inevitable moral corollary of atheism? If there is no God, then there is no absolute law. Why should an individual not murder another individual if he could get away with it? Why should a male not rape as many women as he could get away with? In the end, why should you not behave in the most hedonistic way possible? Life is meaningless, so what reason would one have to live in any way that doesn't result in the highest amount of dopamine and norepinephrine levels in their brain? One could say, "I choose to do that which is good for me, and to help others." But what is good? Without the Divine Absolute, there is no good, no evil, no beauty. And why should you help others? That is an old Judeo Christian teaching. It can be true if you choose it to be, but with a flick of your wrist you can make it false. There's no real reason other than a whim to believe you should 'help others.' " - And I admit that morality is a tricky area, but seriously?!

I haven't heard this a 100 times before.

This does deserve an honest reply, but I think the short answer is that he answers his own questions. If God makes the rules then it isn't absolute, it changes. If the rules exist outside of God then how did we come by them in the first place? He also points out that maybe we would do good things because they make us feel good and rewarded. Again I offer that religion and authoritarian tyranny is not a good ethic system, that we have examples of secular nations getting along fine, with actually better results than America, and Galen in the Reasonable Doubts episode points out how morality is different for the nonreligious and the religious - atheists in particular do kind acts more 'on a whim' than theists, and actually in higher numbers.

Lastly, religion does get it's morals from us. Morality is a combination of nurture and nature, and though not absolute it has correlational and causational affects on how we act, feel, think, and react. I'm pretty sure the human race has an understanding of how to make the world a better place, but habits are hard to break.

That's all I'll do for now. The email only gets better. I actually had a nice email exchange with one of my lurking theists but it was pretty cordial and he is postmo so I'll keep that private for his sake.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gender Studies, Gays, and Religious Discrimination at YBU, er, BYU!!

I finally feel I should update people on what is going on at BYU ... in general.

I could do separate posts on these as there is enough information floating around, but I'm betting some of you have already gotten wind of these, and I'll supply some links.

So first, BYU is treading down the line of getting better and being douchebags over gays and LGBT people at BYU still. For anyone who didn't, somehow, learn about the Cary Crall letter, then here's USU Shaft's post on that. They cover that nicely. I've actually met Cary and he seems like a cool guy. He also did a minor awareness or public display of supporting gays again just this last week. Some students tried to set up the display through BYU, asking permission, but of course BYU told them to wait, wouldn't get back to them, and then said to not do it. Something about not doing things like that on reading days or something. Yeah. Either way Cary and friends went out and did it anyways. I would've done it if I had known.

I'd also like to remind people of the USGA meetings every Thursday on campus (Understanding Same-Gender Attraction) in which there are many advocates of trying to help bigoted people understand homosexuality. Also Brad Carmack, who I've mentioned before, is heavily involved with this group and even has a book out about the topic.

Moving on to more douchebaggery by BYU I'm sure most people know how they got rid of their Women's Studies programs an such. But the latest news through the grapevine is that BYU is also shutting down the Gender Equality club, or something like that. It may in fact be Parity, which seems right. Either way I heard BYU is getting rid of that as well, and the reasons behind why are fishy. This of course is not completely reinforced knowledge however, and I haven't found out anything else online about BYU trying to get rid of the club, but to pull a phrase by one friend, "Basically I expect BYU to act in the shittiest way possible, and that way I'm never surprised by what they do." So I'm betting that the club is being shut down and we may hear more about it in the coming weeks.

Last, it seems BYU isn't completely bad, at least on some levels, as they published this article about religious discrimination. It seems BYU students are getting more and more aware of the fact that if LDS students change religions they are kicked out. I confirmed this with the non-LDS chaplain, but we agreed to keep our conversation private so I won't say more. However, other people are talking, mostly on post-mo discussion boards though, such as reddit and postmormon but at least people are being made more aware which could lead to eventual changes in the future. Again, Brad made a short video outlining the issue as well.

I honestly hope YBU will start changing it's policies on things. So long as they discriminate against women and men who want less sexism in the world, women and men who through genetics and environment are homosexual or bi-sexual, and then LDS students who stop believing and are honest about their unbelief, I don't think BYU will look any better to the world, and that they will slowly loose support by their own students and the membership of the church. The church isn't really moving fast enough in it's changes and is driving wedges between those middle-ground supporters and itself. A lot of people become more and more antagonistic towards BYU after having gone there, especially if they are involved in any of these three issues, which makes up literal hundreds, possibly thousands, of the current student body.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Videos Are My Way of Saying I Have No Time to Post Today

But I wish to post something, it's been 4 days! So here's some short videos, that I hope will make you laugh (I picked out funny ones). And even if you've seen them before, they'll make you laugh again.

Note: Embedding seems to have disappeared so here's some links.

Family guy presenting evolution and Carl Sagan for Rednecks.

Mormon Jesus

And here is a cool little video I found. It puts together a Catholic commercial, a spoof, and then an amateur atheist video that is pretty good.

Commercial Collage


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Atheist Books - The 4th Segment

Finally returning to my atheist book list. I'm a little behind, the first one listed here is from way back in June when I originally read it, lol. Either way, here is a small review and impression I got from 3 more books you'd be likely to find on the Atheist shelf of Barnes and Noble.

Atheist Universe

Written by David Mills, Atheist Universe is one of those montage type pieces. Looking back I don't remember much from it ... so it must not have been that eventful. Actually this book is one of those more militant ones, where the subtitle is "The thinking person's answer to Christian Fundamentalism." This book takes the layman's scientific approach, talking about how the Bible and science don't match, and how intelligent design is stupidity at it's best. The author focuses on Christian doctrines and takes some of the shallower approaches to deeper theological problems and claims. It is an easy read, entertaining, but pretty shallow. It is probably a nice book for someone 'new' to atheism looking for an overview of the New Atheist culture. It also offers a nice overview of the debate about God. But if you're looking for something deeper then this probably is not it.

Letter to a Christian Nation

My first Sam Harris read, and definitely one of the smallest of the atheist books I have. LTACN also is essentially a short overview of the New Atheist arguments, and highlights many of the arguments made by Sam Harris and the other four horsemen. It is specifically written to America, hence the title, but is it probably the best 'little' piece out of the books I've read so far. Harris gives his arguments cleanly and succinctly, doesn't pause to ramble, and covers his argument in less than a 100 pages. My version was also updated with a more recent afterword. Harris is probably the most unique one out of the four horsemen, he not only takes a different approach than Hitchens or Dawkins, but he differs with the others more than they do amongst each other. Dennet probably would be the second most different. Dawkins and Hitchens (also the two most famous and public [marketing] happen to be most similar ... possibly due to marketing schemes.

The Greatest Show on Earth

Richard Dawkins said he should have written this one years and years ago, but here it is now. This one came out more recently and is focused on giving the evidences for religion. So far this is my first and only Dawkins book I've read (now I just have to read one by Dennet) and I enjoyed his personal and humorous writing style. He lays out the whole case for evolution, starting with the simplest definitions and working up to teaching us about the inner workings in biology. Reading this book will make you feel like you took a small credit class on evolution. With that said, however, I did find 'Why Evolution is True' by Coyne to be a better book on why evolution is true and why creationism just doesn't work. I still recommend this one, but if you had to choose I would recommend reading Coyne's instead. Even Dawkins refers his readers to Coyne's book on several occassions within his own work.

I actually have some more books, but I need to finish one of the three I'm reading now so that I'll have another three to post. I have been taking time off from books, especially atheist books, for months now and I'm starting to get a craving to read again, so maybe I will. I hope some of you readers appreciate the little reviews I put up, I hope some of you find good books and podcasts from the things I post.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

More Funny Videos

Related to atheism. I am just posting these to make a post, essentially. But also because I hope some of these will be new to people and will make you laugh. Out loud. So spread the laughter.

And yes, this is satire if you didn't notice. Don't worry if you didn't, half the other viewers thought it was real too so you're not a complete idiot! :)

Some good ideas there. I forgot I even favorited this one. Glad I rediscovered it.

And yes, gay marriage will lead to duck f******.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Links(Bomb) Pertinent to the BYU Atheist

I just want to get one story in particular out there, that's cool, but I also wish to link a couple other interesting tidbits of informania.

First is this little study on liberalism, atheism, IQ, and male sexuality. Kanazawa (who may have a good record for study methods but not conclusions) confirms what we already have known for some time, that non-believers are more liberal and smarter than population averages.

What I enjoy about this study is that men are surveyed as being more exclusive with sex. My only guess is that men who are more sexually active generally have shown to be more loyal and monogamous in their sexual relationships, though they may have several relationships in only a few years. I don't really see anything new in the study that I haven't already seen elsewhere, but it's nice to have a lot of similar results all coming from one study. It should be noted that Kanazawa has a habit of finding correlations and making theories from these that are stretching reality a little bit though. Again - good with methods, maybe not so much with conclusions.

Another link I should post is this little blog by a BYU student who has a nice following and is an ally for equal rights in nearly every sense. This is an article dealing directly with the BYU policy of kicking out former-LDS students. Brad also has a book on homosexuality from a straight student's perspective. He may be setting himself up to get in trouble, and I may not always agree with him, but he definitely has some good points and is making a name for himself.

Finally, this awesome link posted by the token feminist of our happy valley group. It seems atheists are beginning to organize en masse in high schools around the country. I am all for this. I get sick of hearing that organizing atheists is like herding cats, but it's so true. Definitely not an easy task. The article claims that the number of atheist clubs in high schools has doubled in the last few months. Only to just over 20, but the SSA is planning on doubling that number again. The Secular Student Alliance is also what will be helping out with the UVU group some people are starting.

The article is a nice and fair little thing, giving some wonderful quotes, like:
“If they don’t accept Jesus Christ as a savior, they will definitely go to hell."
“My reaction is faith in Jesus Christ is not at all logical."
"There were board members who were concerned that the epic poem[Gilgamesh] included a few sexual passages." - cause we all know the Bible doesn't have anything like that!
or this personal fav. - Last fall, Breane Lyga joined both a Christian club and the atheist club. Some Christian club members thought she was doing it for a goof. Others wondered if she was a spy for the atheists, but Breane said she was just confused.

“I was kind of agnostic,” she said. “I wanted to get both points of view.” She talked with Mrs. Harrell and Mr. Creamer, two of her favorite teachers. She weighed the pluses and minuses. Around Christmas she stopped attending the Christian club meetings.

Bringing it up again, high schoolers right now are claiming to be 25% non-religious. A massive amount higher than any previous generation. Obviously many of these students will be in flux for religion, but when it comes to atheism or the like generally there isn't much flux. Most professed atheists today turned to atheism during college, or high school. Then it's all downhill from there, though it seems reaching about 50 and getting the kids out of the home also leads to a peak in deconverting to atheism. Atheism has a good retention rate. If it's truly the work of the Devil then, again, he beats God hands down. (sarcasm, please).

Either way, I think it's great that high schools will be having more atheist clubs. I think statistical studies are wrong in their outlooks on belief and religion. I think more and more high school and college students will stop believing and won't return to church and that the secular community in America will become over a quarter of the US population before 2050. But that's just me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why Religion Isn't Good

Long post, I apologize.
A couple days ago I met a wonderful new person in the group and got into a small discussion with her. During the conversation we came to the point of whether or not religion is good or bad. She thought that it was inherently good and nothing seriously wrong, especially Mormonism. I disagreed, but didn’t have a chance to really explain, or felt that I had really thought it through. Either due to it being late in the evening and a lack of sleep, or that there were several conversations I was wanting to be a part of, we left it at that. But since then I’ve been thinking it over and decided to write it all down.

First, though, I need to explain that I don’t believe religion to be inherently bad. Certainly there are bad things about it, but I cannot say it is a root of all evil, the prime cause of suffering in the world, or that it makes good people worse. I only have to think back a year or so to when the LDS church paid my rent for two months, one month being from my bishops personal finances. For the church I’ve paid tithing in the thousands, so a little back is not a big deal to my conscience, but the bishop going out of his way, that was a big deal. I hated the fact that he had done that for me, and when I paid him back the next month, I paid with interest and told him to keep it. The moral of this is that I know firsthand that religious institutions, and religious people, are capable of doing fine things and being inspired by their beliefs to do so.

But, now that I’m done prepping the pillow, time for the hammer fall. First, religion is exclusive, and you would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. Christians won’t be accepting of Muslim beliefs, and vice-versa, Buddhists can’t even accept others beliefs. They have the possibility of accepting each other, but beliefs are out of the question. A Christian is not going to say that a good and righteous Muslim actually has it all correct. A lot of Christians will say he is still going to hell, Mormons would say he is still going to spirit prison and may not go to any higher heaven than the telestial kingdom.

Furthermore, some beliefs are in complete contradiction to each other. It is truly an ignorant belief that all religious views are just spokes on the same wheel. Most holy texts condemn the unbeliever or those of other faiths, some to death. Some have one God, others more, Christianity has the ambiguously numbered trinity God. They all have different ways of how to be saved. Even reaching Nirvana is not possible without holding some very Buddhist beliefs and practices. You can’t believe in Christ and be saved by Allah or be reincarnated in Buddhism. To mix beliefs is also to piss on the same beliefs and statements of the religions that exclude others.

Being inherently exclusive, religion then molds the way for opposition, sometimes violence. This is true of both Islam and Christianity, both of which have violent histories. By making a group an ‘other’ it makes it easier to treat that group as less than human. Differing beliefs work in this way, but also differing practices. Christianity has a history full of Christians attacking other Christians. The Westboro Baptists are a shadowy example of a more violent past. They also are a great example how some people should be sterilized.

Religion generally has been a tool by those in power, some aware of what they were doing, others using it by blind faith. It has led to an increase in wars, famines, epidemics, murder, sexism, racism, and plenty of other conditions common to man. The only reason religion would not be evil, is because any dogmatic organization can lead to these same problems. Faith, which generally is blind, always holds the risk of good people doing bad things. Religion is not necessary, but it certainly has and still helps these things to occur.

The example given in conversation was the LDS church. Being that most atheists in Utah are ex-Mormon there will always be those atheists who despise the church unjustly, and those who still hold it high on a pedestal in a delusional way. I shouldn’t even have to explain how homosexuals, women, conditioning, and lies apply to the LDS church.

The LDS church heavily suppresses women, and discourages anyone from discussing the problem openly, especially feminist views. It is possible that the last decade will lead to the church being more open, as so many women begin to leave the church and while others talk more openly online about their dissatisfaction. The LDS church, like Islam, was revolutionary for women when it came into the world, but like most religions, Mormonism clings to the past, to old views and ethical standards, that no longer fit in the present world, and only seem to damage the majority who do follow them.

In a similar thread the church is an epitome of conditioning, the nice psychology term for brainwashing. The amount of recovery some ex-Mormons have to go through, the intense amount of thinking that must be changed, and the view that you could not survive outside of the church and that you could never be happy, are clear signs of a cult-like organization. The only reason Mormonism isn’t a cult (anymore?) is because it is so big and tries to get its members to be a light unto the world, therefore putting them in it (but not of it). Luckily most members learn how to function in the world with non-LDS persons. However, this type of conditioning will lead to suffering as you are continuously faced with depreciation, falling short, and never being good enough. You can't live in the world and then be told to believe in things that just aren't true or live by standards where you will always fall short.

Homosexuals are one of the strongest examples of why the LDS church is not an overall good presence in the world. I have already written about where Utah stands in relation to gay teen suicide rates; generally over 3 times the national average, sometimes leading the country. Or how the LDS church has approached homosexuals in the past, how it still approaches them today (as to why the APA looks down on the church and one reason why BYU has struggled to make a good psychology program in the national eye.) Simply look up any of my old posts about this through the 'LGBT' word, go to the USGA meetings, or ask some of my friends - the church's practices with gays is killing them.

Lies and sins of omission are also common. The church refuses to acknowledge the plight of the homosexuals in Utah, or the statistically disproportionate amount of homeless teens in Utah, where 2/3s come from LDS homes. The church has a strong history of hiding odd doctrines, and burying evidence that is not faith promoting. The papyrus scrolls dealing with the Book of Abraham are one clean example of how the church deals with things that ‘may be true but not useful.’

Though I use the LDS church as my example, also because of the conversation, this applies to essentially any faith. It is rare where we hear a friend or family member say that “beliefs and church are important, but friendships and family are more so.” Generally it is only those who don’t have such strong faith and devotion, or those who doubt, who will continue to be friends with those who are of the complete opposite in their outlook on the world, religion, or God. If not, then you better have strong skin to be told you're going to hell in nearly every conversation.

Religion has been a prime motivator for bad in the world. However, it is possible that the root of the evils in the world simply comes from inside each of us. I refuse to say that getting rid of religion solves our problems. Likewise, you cannot say that religion is the reason there is good in the world, most likely it is only a motivator, and I am unsure whether it is a prime one or not. Regardless, religion brings about good and bad, but in my experience it causes a lot more harm. The doubter will be hurt simply because of their lack of faith, while the believer will hold views that will lead to hurting others.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


So some updates on my exciting life! I'm pregnant for one! No, wait, I mean my gf is pregnant! Oops, sorry again. One of my gfs' friends is pregnant, or maybe several. Not several gfs, but several of my one single gfs' friends who are girls. Okay, gonna stop having fun now.

Really, I guess the group for Utah Valley now has an open group on FB to attract new people. Most people aren't even in it, lol, but I think it has found some new people who searched for it on FB. I think it's a good idea overall. I don't think it will have the amazing dialogue, tons of video and picture postings, and all that jazz that the secret group will, but it offers an online location for fellow non-believers in Utah Valley who are on FB. It's already gotten to 40 people too (some overlap obviously) but I think it's all a good sign.

I'm also aware that in the next few months the atheist groups may try to find people in or around St. George to try to start a group down there. I have a friend down there and other groups know people too so it may be possible to start one. Once I'm at UofU I also plan on helping out a lot more with SHIFT and hopefully help to start some random hang-out parties or activities. Right now SHIFT has the discussion meetings, sometimes book reviews (which I like a lot), and a lot of involvement from the school (such as lectures and inviting people like Dan Barker) but I'm not sure they have anything like Godless Coffee in the other groups. I'm feeling a fire to try to pull out all the college-age atheists and postmos up here and try to form a community like down in Provo.

Lastly, I am now on the Board with U-COR (Utah coalition of reason) and am planning an internship with them. I'm am ubber excited, a little intimidated, but excited nonetheless. I think U-COR has good potential to become the umbrella corp-er-organization of Utah for all the secular communities. I think I will feel very rewarded if I work with them.

Here is a link to U-COR. Feel free to hang out at their site. It will take some time to get non-profit status so I'm not sure how many events there will be in the next few months, but I think they plan on keeping everyone informed on events that other groups post as well.

It's Gen. Conf. weekend. I don't think I have any desire to watch any sessions, but I'm keeping tabs on the talks to see if there's any interesting ones. This is simply a little update on what's going on in the life of jdog, (what a silly name) and hopefully my next post will be funny, exciting, or revolutionary!

ps: How come people who search for "byu orgy" and "byu jerk off party" or "hot boys jacking off byu" ... keep coming to my blog? ... Oh, it could be because I write out what they search for ... hmmm.