Monday, June 23, 2008

My thoughts on Carlin

I am very sad today about the untimely death of George Carlin. Although much of his humor wasn't my cup of tea, I still liked him and admired his irreverence. I did like his bit about the 7 words you can't say on TV or radio. Another thing I liked about him was his outspokenness about his atheism. He will be missed by many people who loved his work and his humor.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Meme

I got tagged by Oz Atheist:

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
Atheism is the lack of belief in the supernatural. I say this to stop the next question which is "Does this mean you're a Satanist?" Honest, I've been asked this recently.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
My mother attempted to indoctrinate me into the Southern Baptist religion, South Texas variety. It didn't take at all. It was stupid even to a very young child.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?

Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?
I love astronomy and gobble anything on the web about it.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
Getting them to be more enthusiastic about getting together to do something, anything.

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
I have no children, but if I did I would be disappointed but I would love and support them just the same.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
Pascal's Wager. I ask them how they know for sure that Christianity is the one true religion. Stumps them every time.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
Comparative religion should be taught in schools by an atheist.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
I love the way Hitchens crawls under everyone's flesh and flays them with big words and accurate arguments. You gotta love that British accent too!

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
My mother. She is so blindly and blissfully ignorant that it hurts to be around her. She's been fortunate that no one has yet taken advantage of her. She's so old, so happy, and so shielded from the real world that I don't bother.

I haven't been following blogs lately so I won't tag anyone else. If you feel like commenting on any of these I'd love to hear what you have to say.

The Sermon, Part Deux

To continue the saga from my last post. My cousin obviously thought I meant something else by my email so I wrote this to clarify what I really meant. I tried to be as clear as possible without hurting her very fragile Christian feelings.
I think you misunderstood my email. It wasn't unsatisfactory to me, in fact it was everything I expected it to be and more. I enjoyed it very much because it forced me to be critical about the biblical and historical accounts Dr. Caner was claiming to be true. I don't just do this to religious people, I do this to everyone. It's called critical thinking. I can hardly watch the daily news without finding someone lying or stretching the truth about something to fit their own agenda. Everyone does it but I find it more disturbing when religious people do it.

I have no intention of trashing this CD. In fact, I was going to let several of my humanist friends listen to it so we could discuss it later. I did download to it my iPod which means I can burn my own CDs of this sermon to distribute amongst my friends. In other words, I would happily mail this one back to you if you will provide me with your address. Also, I can make multiple copies if you want to give them to others. Let me know!

Again, I appreciate the time it took for you to order and mail a copy of this sermon to me. It was both enjoyable and informative.

This is her reply:
OK, Summer. I can accept that explanation. And if you care to mail it back, my address is xxxxx.

Although I felt I handled the situation well, I felt she had already decided how she was going to respond based on what she thought I was going to say. This has been typical behavior for the fundies in my family. It's so important for us to spread the news far and wide that we atheists aren't bad and terrible people, that we aren't out to burn down churches or ban bibles. Our only goals are to keep government and religion separate and to be open about our atheism without fear of harm.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Sermon

Last week a cousin writes in her family email that a guest speaker came to their church to tell them his story about how came from being raised Muslim in the United States to being saved by grace and is now a Christian. Through our various emails she said the lecture had been taped and I asked for a copy, which I promptly loaded into my iPod the moment I got my little hands on it.

It was a typical sermon by a typical charismatic preacher. He was preaching to the choir and knew he wouldn't be challenged on any of his facts. Here is what I wrote to my cousin about the sermon:
Thanks so much for the CD. I got it today and immediately loaded it into my iPod. I've just finished listening to it. Dr. Caner started out by sounding like a credible person. Unfortunately by the end of the lecture he was guilty of lying and omitting crucial information knowing that no one in the congregation was going to challenge his authority. Also he assumes the Bible is correct and the Koran is not without giving any basis on those assumptions knowing full well that no one will challenge him.

I listened to his lecture while I was working out and didn't take notes. If you're interested in more of what I thought I will gladly listen to the lecture again (he is very charismatic after all and easy to listen to). Mostly what I found flawed about his argument of Christianity v. Islam is the appeal to emotion. For example, he talks about how horrible Islam is then omits or glosses over the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity. And nobody called him on it.

Over the years I've studied Christianity a lot but never really paid that much attention to Islam. The points that Dr. Caner covered were things I already knew from the little comparative study I've done between Christianity and Islam. They are very much the same, with some differences, but the biggest difference is Christianity has gone through an enlightenment period whereas Islam has not. I also disagree with Dr. Caner about this war; I think the war in Iraq has done much to hold back this enlightenment and anger Muslims against the crusading Christians. What we should have done is continue good relations with Iraq (and Iran) and import our way of life slowly by importing our goods and services to their countries.

Thanks again, it was an enjoyable hour.

The response I got a few days later was weird. First off, when I didn't hear from her immediately I figured she was offended by my words and couldn't bring herself to email me. I'm alright with that kind of response. My religious relatives are of the very thin skinned variety and I'm not the kind of person to pull punches. As it turns out I got a reply a couple days later.
I'm sorry your found the CD of Dr. Caner's message to be so dis-satisfactory to you. If you intend to trash it, I might ask that you send it back. The demand for the CD's has been high at the church. I'm sure there are others who would find it valuable. However, if you want to keep it, that is OK too.

My first thought was "Didn't she read my email at all?"

I'll post the rest tomorrow.

More from a cousin

Lately I've been corresponding with a cousin who feels so strongly about God that she goes to other dangerous countries to proselytize. I'll write soon about my conversation with her about her religion.