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10 questions for Atheists February 18, 2019

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses.
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12 comments

I haven’t done one of these lists of questions for a while, especially since they tend to be so repetitive.  But Makugutu put up this list of questions, which were originally collected by Godless Mom.  It includes some different questions that had not come up before, so I’ll give them a shot:

1. How do atheists name their children, if most names have some sort of religious background?

However they want to.  I chose old family names for my kids, which also happened to be popular names in the English Renaissance.  They are coincidentally also biblical names, but that’s not why I chose them.

2. Is atheism a form of Satanism?

By definition, no.  Someone who believes there is a “Satan” is holding a belief in a powerful supernatural being, in other words, a god.  So someone who actually believes in a real Satan is a theist, just as much as any christian is.  (However, most modern “Satanists” actually use Satan as a symbol only, and don’t profess belief that there’s a real Satan out there, so those people would qualify as atheists.)

3. Why has atheism become so popular in the 21st century?

The internet.

Really, I think that’s it.  We can talk to each other now.  When I deconverted 30+ years ago, it was just me and a lot of books.  I didn’t have anybody else to talk to about it, and it took all the way til the end of college for me to finally get to full deconversion.  The internet would have helped a lot.

4. Why do atheists choose atheism?

We don’t just “choose atheism”.  People don’t wake up one morning and say “gee, I think I’ll become an atheist now.”  Some people never had a belief in a god, but others spend a long time thinking about what they believe before concluding that they don’t believe there’s a god.   Suggesting that someone “chooses atheism” in the way that they choose, I don’t know, a laundry detergent, really minimizes and disrespects difficulty and seriousness of  the thought processes that go into this.

5. Are atheists a threat to the United States?

Not in any way.  We are, however, a threat to the religious organizations that are currently holding too much power and influence in the U.S.  (I think those organizations are themselves an actual threat.)

6. How do atheists keep a positive outlook on life?

The meaning and purpose of our life is ours to decide for our ourselves!  It’s ours to create!  And every day is a precious thing to be appreciated, not a “vale of tears” to be endured.  That’s way better than any “good news” any religion pushes.

7. Why do some atheists insist that atheism is not a “group”?

Because it’s not.  People who don’t watch TV are not a “group”.  People who don’t collect stamps are not a “group”.  There are various organized groups of atheists out there, but atheism itself is not a “group”.

8. Why do so many atheists fail to understand that belief doesn’t require proof?

You can believe in anything you want to without “proof”.  If you don’t need evidence, you could believe every fairy tale and work of fiction is actually true.   But if you are concerned that the things you believe ought to be true, or at least likely true, you should have some kind of reason for belief, some evidence that points to your belief being true.  For most atheists, religious claims do not have sufficient evidence to support them, so we don’t believe them.

9. What is paramount for most atheists?

I can’t speak for most atheists, you would have to ask them.  But for me and a lot of the atheists I know, I’d say it’s making the most of the limited time we have.

10. Is it difficult being an atheist?

Sometimes.  It depends on a lot of factors.  For me where I am now, not so much.  In some cases the US people have faced expulsion from their families or shunning by their friends, or loss of work, when their disbelief became known.  In some other countries, lack of belief carries the death penalty, so I’d say that’s difficult, yeah.

 

So that’s it for this list.  Any different answers?

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No coincidence January 16, 2019

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Events, Humor.
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8 comments

I just had to write a quick post about something fun that happened recently.

My spouse and I took a weekend at a local hotel for our anniversary. (33 years!  Woo!)  One of the drawbacks to our tiny townhouse is that it doesn’t have a proper bathtub, and a long hot bath is one of my favorite ways to relax.  There’s a hotel near my office that has a whole bunch of jacuzzi suites, so we have occasionally gone there for our anniversary weekends over the past years.

Whenever I go to a hotel I check to see if there is a Gideon bible, and there usually is.  And before I check out, I’ll leave some helpful annotations in it.  Sometimes on the pages where they are recommending certain passages to read for certain concerns, I’ll add a note to be certain to check out the actual story of Gideon, or the story of Dinah, or Judges 1:19, or some other part that most christians aren’t aware of.  But I’ll always go to the first page and line through “In the beginning” and write in “Once upon a time”.

We cut our trip short this time because of way too much snow, but as we were packing up I realized that I hadn’t done my usual annotations yet, so I pulled out the bible to at least add a quick “Once upon a time.”  But it was already there!  I grinned – was somebody else doing this too?  Were there enough people not taking this book seriously that I had encountered another “fixed” bible?  Wow!

Alas, I quickly realized that the annotation was in my own handwriting.  Apparently we had stayed in the same room in a previous year.  Oh, well.  At least that shows how little used those bibles are.  The book looked brand spanking new, no wear and tear at all.  And even though the Gideons encourage people to keep the bibles if they want to, nobody had taken this one.  It was still there, pretty much untouched, for years.  I hope that someday all “holy books” can be so thoroughly ignored.

Our Lord of Inconspicuous Consumption July 3, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Responses, Wow.
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7 comments

Recently, my spouse and I were driving from DC out to Indianapolis, and decided to see if there was anything interesting to stop and see along the route.  We were going to have a whole day to make the drive, and we were thinking maybe there was a mound with an interesting museum attached, or some other educational point of interest.  So I hit the internet, to see if there was something at a good lunchtime stopping point, and I saw “Palace of Gold” pop up.  A Palace of Gold?  In the hills of the West Virginia panhandle? What the heck was this, and why hadn’t I heard of it? (more…)

The End of the World Show March 21, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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7 comments

Well, a few days after I got the ultra-impressive, extremely professionally produced Shen Yun booklet, I got another flyer for a religious event.  Full color, yes, but much thinner paper, and only four pages, so I’m going to post them all here for you.

Oh my.  The Shen Yun flyer had really professional graphics, careful layouts, and even if it was advertising a cult recruitment event, it was at least lovely to look at.  This one hurts my eyes.  Look at the cover, they’ve plopped a bunch of random images down, and then put yellow and white text on top of an image that already has a lot of yellow in it.  And I think there’s at least three different fonts.  Ow.

So let’s look at the content.  It’s inviting us to a series of lectures on “Revelation’s Ancient Discoveries”.  On the front it’s at least quite clear that this is a “Bible Prophecy Seminar” and it’s also clear that it’s free, so at least there’s that much up front.

So who is presenting this?

Join Mark Finley, a world traveler, an international speaker, for an incredible journey through Bible Prophecy.  You will be amazed that recent world events are a fulfillment of these ancient predictions.

Finley has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East to Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Turkey.  You will thrill at his clear state-of-the-art, fully-illustrated presentations that reveal the secrets of the ancient past and their meaning for our lives today!

I notice that Mark Finley is described as a “world traveler” but not as a scholar.  All you need to be a world traveler is a passport and sufficient money.  (I traveled all around southern England, but I don’t think that makes me qualified to lecture on the “Mysteries of Stonehenge”!)

So what organization is behind this?  I had my suspicions, but first I thought I’d start with the information on the flyer.  No religious denomination is listed anywhere on it.  Ah, but there’s a website listed!  revelationsdiscoveries(dot)com.  Surely there’s more information there?  No, just a single page with a link to reserve a seat, and no additional information at all.

So off to Wikipedia, where there’s a page for Mark Finley, identifying him as a Seventh Day Adventist, and a televangelist.  Which is exactly what I was expecting to find, and that’s entirely thanks to the “Oh, No, Ross and Carrie” podcast (their motto is “We show up so you don’t have to”).  They recently did a hilarious multi-part series on the lectures called “Amazing Facts” and I’ve listened to all the podcast episodes.  When this flyer arrived, my first thought was “Is this Amazing Facts?” because it’s so similar.  It had the same sort of focus on “end times”, and having exactly the right understanding of Revelation, was also free, and also was very cagey about what the organization was behind it.  Amazing Facts started with one set of lectures, but once those were completed, of course there were additional lectures for anyone who wanted the whole story.  If you look at page 3 of this flyer, it lists six scheduled lectures, but then there is a section that says “Future programs include”, so that’s the same as well.  So if you have any curiosity about what might be in a these lectures, go listen to the podcast series, because Ross and Carrie have already endured the pain of this for you.

But, I will have to say, I don’t think this flyer is trying to trick me in the same way the Shen Yun one is.  Once, when I was a kid, I went to a lecture series on Ancient Egyptian history, which was one of my hobbies back then.  The first couple were really interesting, but then in the next one the speaker went off on a bunch of “end times prophecies” nonsense, and even though I was still Presbyterian at the time, I was massively disappointed.  How worthwhile is your religion if you have to trick people into listening to you preach?  I guess I had just run into my first instance of “lying for Jesus”.  Mark Finley isn’t trying to trick anyone into listening to him blather about the bible, at least.

Except – on the back, there’s a box labeled “Children’s Program Ages 4-9” with no further information about exactly what they will be telling the children.  No.  Just NO.  Parents, even if you are interested in this series for yourselves, please DON’T subject your kids to it!

THE NO. 1 SHOW in the world? March 21, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Rants, Responses.
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9 comments

I received an advertising flyer at my office a few days back.  This is nothing unusual, I get stuff like that all the time – restaurant menus, computer sale flyers, postcards from one particularly pushy dental office.  But this time I got something different – a large ten-page full-color glossy brochure on heavy paper, advertising one theater production:


 Holy cow.  Everything about this ad is over the top with “this is the most wonderful show you will ever see in your whole life ever”.  It’s full of lush photos in brilliant color of dancers in front of vivid Chinese backgrounds.  Like this:

Testimonial after testimonial after gushing review from random celebrities and officials.  They are trying really hard, and have certainly sunk a lot of money into this ad campaign.  So what’s up with this?  Who are these people really?

The answer was in the return address: Falun Dafa.  Otherwise known as Falun Gong, a group that originates in China, but the Chinese Government considers it a cult and has outlawed it.

So I went looking to see what regular people had actually said about this performance, to see if it was overtly a push for their religious cult or was actually a nice cultural event.  When I first googled “Shen Yun” all that came up were ads for it and gushing articles raving about how wonderful it was.  Likewise, a search on YouTube comes up with trailers and other videos that are either direct advertisements or full of glowing praise for them.  So, in addition to the slick glossy brochures, this group has obviously put a lot of effort into doctoring their internet presence, and removing anything negative from the first few pages of search results.

But then I tried looking specifically for Yelp reviews.  Oh, boy, was that ever a different perspective!  I found some reviews from people who liked it, but others were so disappointed that they had walked out of the show in the middle of it.  They wrote that it was pretty, but not nearly as impressive as the advertising had let on, that many of the dances were overt pushes for their cult beliefs, that the singing performances were religious propaganda songs with lyrics like “The heresy of evolution now eclipses the Divine word.”  It wasn’t a spectacular cultural event, it was mediocre evangelizing.

How, then are they funding all this?  The brochure I got was just addressed to “postal customer” so it’s a sure bet that they mailed out massive numbers of these ads.  And the effort required to make sure that every google search returns only positive things about the group for the first few pages can’t be cheap either.  Where’s the money coming from?  Here’s one answer:Even the nosebleed seats on a weeknight will set you back $80, and the good seats are $250!  (For comparison on seat prices, the New York City Ballet is at the Kennedy Center in this same hall this weekend, and the best seats can be had for $99.00.  I didn’t find any nearly comparable prices for seats in this hall until I looked at the prices for Hamilton.  And I’m pretty sure that the audience for Hamilton won’t be disappointed by bait-and-switch preaching.)

I’ve scanned the entire brochure to a .pdf file, so if you’d like, you can get a look at all of the hype in its full glory:

Shen Yun Flyer – click here

 

You won’t believe the BEST reason for being an atheist! February 5, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Brain Glitches, Responses.
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18 comments

A while back Jim posed a question on his blog, The Common Atheist.

His request was “If each of you would share right here one of your best arguments for atheism…”

And I replied with one of my best reasons, but since it was in a comment thread I tried to keep my answer brief.  However, I think the point I was making deserves a more careful discussion.  So here’s a full post about it. (more…)

“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Deprogramming (Part 2) February 4, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Rants, Responses.
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1 comment so far

So this will be the last post in this series, I think.  It’s been interesting to peer into this world, where devoting two years of young adulthood to being an overworked salesman for a religion (at your own expense) is considered an important Thing To Do.

For anybody just joining us, a while back I found this book at a used booksale:

This is not the official LDS book of rules, this is supposed to be a helpful guide, based on the author’s experiences, and those of many returned missionaries she knew over the years. It was published in 1968, but it’s obvious that some of the advice and tips in it are from many years before that.  I’ve been looking at it chapter by chapter, and it’s been interesting to see what’s changed, and what hasn’t. (more…)

“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Deprogramming (part 1) January 14, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Responses.
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7 comments

At last we are at the end of this book.  (The 1968 guide for Mormon Missionaries, if you remember)

We’ve learned how to be a perfect Mormon robot, selling the product, living with no privacy, working incredibly hard every waking hour, not even thinking about subjects that aren’t approved to think about, and don’t forget to smile!

Now she’s finally going to talk about coming back home.

Chapter 23.  The After-Mission Adjustment (more…)

“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Fun with Beans December 30, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Humor, Responses.
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9 comments

We’re nearing the end of this book.  (The 1968 guide for Mormon Missionaries, if you missed it.)  I’m going to be quoting at length from some sections of this chapter, because it’s just priceless.

Chapter 22, Recreation

Chapter after chapter in this book, there’s been instructions about the correct way to work your butt off.  Preach, cook, preach, clean, preach, wash, preach, write letters, preach, keep a journal, preach, and most especially DON’T EVER THINK ABOUT SEX.

Just reading about what these guys are expected to do is exhausting.  So finally we get to a chapter about how to rest and unwind.  Oh – not so fast now! (more…)

No true Santaist December 23, 2017

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Humor, Rants, Responses.
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6 comments

Over on ex-christian.net, there has recently been a commenter who seems very earnest, but less prepared than most to defend what he believes.  He assures us that he knows god personally, and that he knows because he is “filled with the holy spirit”.  But of course he is unable to demonstrate this in any way, and we’ve replied to him that we also had strong feelings back when we were religious, and that his personal feelings in no way establish the truth about his claims.   He’s been asserting that all of the ex-christians were never True Christians™ because, of course, anybody who left christianity could never have been a real christian.  He’s sure that nobody who has felt what he has felt would ever change their mind.

You can read his commentary here:

http://new.exchristian.net/2017/12/love-is-not-christian-it-is-human.html

So after trying to talk to the guy for awhile, an idea for a  cartoon about this guy popped into my head, and would not go away until I drew it.  I have very limited skills with computer graphics, so I just used powerpoint’s drawing tools to create this.  I’ll put it after the break, so there won’t be spoilers for any small children who are reading over your shoulder. (more…)