Rev. Eric Strachan wonders why atheists don’t believe in God.

evangelical-giraffeOver at the Pembroke Daily Observer there’s an article by one Reverend Eric Strachan in which he ponders how it’s possible that an atheist doesn’t believe in God. He starts his column by naming a number of prominent atheists such as billionaire Warren Buffet, Mick Jagger, Mark Zuckerburg, Bruce Lee, Gloria Steinem, and “Jim Gibson, the mayor of Head, Clara and Maria who sits on the Renfrew County council” who is apparently the person that started Strachan’s pondering in the first place.

It seems Strachan hasn’t bothered to find any atheists to answer his burning question, but he doesn’t let that stop him from telling us what he thinks are the reasons we don’t believe:

How come some don’t believe there is a God? | Pembroke Daily Observer.

I’ve discovered throughout the years that there are many reasons why many men and women today align themselves with people like Mark Zuckerburg and Ron Reagan Jr. I think there are many people who are atheists today because they’ve experienced human tragedy, painful traumatic events in their lives, wars, rapes, a dysfunctional childhood, abuse, the tragic loss of a loved one and they’ve simply not been able to come to a satisfactory answer to the perennial perplexing question, “If there is a loving, all-powerful God, then why would He allow this to happen to me?”

Outside of their own personal traumas, many embrace atheism today because they read of the Jewish Holocaust, see and witness human tragedies on a widespread scale, famines, genocides, ethnic cleansings and they ask themselves despairingly, “If there is a God, why would He allow such atrocities?” Together with that, there are many who fly under the banner of atheism today because at some memorable junction in their lives they have been desperately hurt, wounded and scarred by someone who professed to be a believer. Tragically the messenger has discredited the message by his/her inappropriate behaviour and the wounded one has committed the classic error that all of us are inclined to do, of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

If I had a dime for every time someone told me I’m only an atheist because something bad happened to me I’d be able to retire. Obviously I can’t speak for all atheists and it’s entirely possible that there are some out there for whom one or more of the reasons cited above is indeed why they are atheists, but for a lot of us the reason is simple: There’s no substantial evidence that any kind of God exists.

I’ve had my fair share of trauma and loss in my life. Moments of great despair when I felt hopeless and shattered, but none of that had any bearing on my beliefs in God. Back when I was a believer I attributed all sorts of things to God, but as I grew and learned I realized I had no real reasons for doing so. Near as I can tell God has never spoken to me even at the height of my belief and certainly not as I started to develop doubts.

In his article, Strachan talks of newborn twins as proof of God using the following argument:

I don’t know about you, but a few weeks ago I stood in the Maternity Ward of our local hospital and looked at a pair of newborn twins, and then the other day I held them. It was an awesome moment for me, I was in absolute awe, strangely and mutely silenced as I touched tiny fingers, beheld tiny eyes, felt skin as soft as velvet and pondered to think that what I now held in my arms, these beautiful babies, had their mysterious beginnings in a microscopic cell. Who, I ask you, but a Supreme Omnipotent Creator could engineer such a marvel? You simply cannot look into the face of a newborn and declare “There is no God!”

Sure I can. I’ve held plenty of babies in my time, not the least of which was my own daughter, and as amazing as they can be I don’t see in them any proof of God. In part because I understand how biological reproduction works and that there is no engineering involved in the process. Perhaps the Reverend would do better to study a few biology books from time to time.

I can recall someone once asking me how I could look at trees and not believe in God. I still don’t understand why they thought trees were a convincing proof. If it’s not trees then it’s rainbows or sunsets or the night sky or some other aspect of reality that they clearly don’t have a strong understanding of and thus have to resort to ‘Goddidit’ to explain the awe they feel about whatever random thing they’re awed by. The fact that you don’t understand something doesn’t mean the only answer to how it could exist is God.

If you really want to know why any particular atheist is an atheist, try asking them. Most will probably be happy to tell you and most won’t say it’s because something bad happened to them.

 

Christian Pastor has the cure for AIDS.

Baptist Pastor Steven Anderson wonders why we’re wasting so much money on research to find a cure for AIDS when he already knows how we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas. It’s really quite simple and he found it right there in the Bible. Kill all the gays. No gays, no AIDS.

No, he really said that:

And Christians sometimes wonder why so many folks think they’re the bad guys.

This isn’t the first time Anderson has said something like this — I’m sure I’ve blogged about him before — so this isn’t really news, but it’s important to remind folks that there are people like him out there saying things like this. His brain is so damaged he thinks this simplistic (if horrible) approach would work. Apparently ignorant of the fact that you don’t have to be gay, or even sexually active, to contract AIDS.

I have no doubt that should Anderson’s dreams of a Christian Theocracy in America ever come to pass that he would have no trouble sleeping at night after following through on his suggested solution. Too much religion will make you crazy and Anderson’s a good example of that fact.

A quick roundup of stuff.

wellshitSo I see the blog is getting dusty again. Here’s what I’ve been up to instead of writing stuff.

Mostly it’s been looking for a new place to live. Our lease on our apartment here in Ann Arbor is up at the end of May and, much like the last several years, the folks at Village Green are asking for a huge jump in rent for us to stay another year (from $1,010 to $1,145). We’re living hand to mouth as it is already and so we’re on the hunt for someplace new which, unfortunately, means leaving Ann Arbor. We thought we’d found a place in Whitmore Lake, but the guy they thought was leaving in May has opted to stay another year and so they don’t have any units that’ll be available before we have to move.

Now we’re looking at possible renting a manufactured house in Novi which would put me within 15 minutes of work, but they’re already finding it hard to just show us the unit we’d be renting and that makes me wonder if moving there would be a mistake. We saw a unit that someone else is renting last Thursday and they promised we could see the one we were being offered either Monday or Tuesday, but here is is Wednesday and I actually had to take the day off tomorrow to maybe see it because reasons. They have an move-in incentive of getting the first month for free, but that promotion ends tomorrow if we don’t sign up and I’m not signing up until I see exactly what it is I’m signing up for. So depending on how things go tomorrow my hunt may or may not be over.

The SEB Podcast revival is still going to happen, but I’m not sure exactly when. Dave has been busy with remodeling his kitchen out in Denver and the month of May will have Anne and I packing for the move to wherever at the end of the month. So maybe we’ll squeeze it in and maybe it’ll be June. Still, Dave and I totally plan on doing it and we may re-ask about topics depending on how long it takes us to get our shit together.

Beyond that, the weather has improved a bit as of late, but I’m still not back to walking as often as I should. I’ve made it out a couple of times with my buddy Greg, but it’s still not a routine. My weight is hovering right in the mid-280’s so at least I haven’t put back on all that I’ve lost. I thought my Fitbit had crapped out on me as it stopped syncing for several days and I got on Twitter to moan about it and the FitBit folks responded with the secret of how to do a reset on the device. It’s back to working again and reminding me that I am one lazy motherfucker.

If you stopped by SEB today you may have found it unresponsive. Seems the Varnish cache that Dreamhost puts on the account needed to have its memory settings tweaked and was killing the site for several hours. Alas, the couple of posts I had intended to write (other than this one) have since withered and died. I’ll try to post something in the next day or so.

The latest trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has hit the net.

And suddenly I’m 9 years-old all over again. For all I know the movie might be as bad as the prequels, but for the moment I couldn’t be more excited.

The three questions I try to live my life by.

ferguson1

ferguson2

ferguson3It’s actually surprising how often the answer to all three questions is “Yes! Yes, goddammit, yes!”

 

My brother-in-law is in a movie.

Aral on the red carpet at the premiere!

Aral on the red carpet at the premiere!

I married into a wonderful family that included at least one aspiring actor in the form of Aral Basil Gribble II. For years I teased him about how I was listed in the Internet Movie Database and he wasn’t. I can’t tease him about that anymore as not only is he listed (and has been for years), but he’s in a real movie with other known actors. The movie is called Dial-A-Prayer and stars Brittany Snow and William H. Macy. It’s a small independent film that was shot here in Michigan and it may just be the break Aral’s been working so hard for.

Here’s a small clip that he’s in rather prominently.

This sort of movie isn’t my normal fare as there aren’t enough explosions and car chases, but I’m happy to read from some of the initial reviews that it isn’t your typical cheesy “faith based” movie either. Reviewer Roger Moore says of it:

“Dial a Prayer” doesn’t tread the straight and narrow and reaches few predictable conclusions about Cora’s journey. But Kiley has created a pretty engrossing and somewhat moving story of a selfish, self-destructive drunk who finds, if not faith, at least the willingness to look outside of herself to try and help others and the chance to actually join the human race.

Being an indie, it’ll see limited theatrical release, but it is available on iTunes as of tomorrow. Alas, I don’t use iTunes, but I’m sure it’ll show up on one of the services I do use soon at which point I’ll be checking it out. If it shows up at a local theater I’ll have to go see it there just for the weird experience of seeing my brother-in-law on the literal big screen.

At last, my plans of achieving fame and fortune by riding on the coattails of a more successful family member are close to being achieved!

John Oliver interview with Edward Snowden.

John Oliver has been knocking it out of the park ever since he left The Daily Show to start his own comedy news show on HBO. Last Week Tonight manages to both entertain and inform and, in some ways, is a better show than TDS. Best of all, HBO and Oliver makes full length segments of the show available on YouTube so you don’t have to pay for HBO to see it.

Each week Oliver picks a topic and does a deep dive on it and this week he’s tackling surveillance and Section 215 of the Patriot Act and how we’re not having the debate we should be about the NSA and domestic spying. It’s a great segment, but it’s even better because he managed to score an interview with the man who arguably made it possible to have this debate, Edward Snowden, and he doesn’t pull any punches with his questions:

Once again I have to marvel at how a comedy news program manages to do better journalism than the supposed news channels. It also breaks things down into a context that is not only funny, but which the average person can comprehend.

As Oliver points out, part of the reason we’re not having this debate is because the subject matter is so highly technical and hard to understand for most folks. It’s doesn’t help that too many people barely pay attention to what’s going on around them. Ask them who Taylor Swift is and they can recite lyrics from her latest single, but ask who Edward Snowden is and too many don’t have a clue. These programs need to be seriously revised and given more transparency, but that’s not going to happen so long as we don’t bother to talk about them.

Finally, this gives me a chance to make use of this:

Would've been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.

Would’ve been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.

The Gamification of everything has gone too far.

bullshitmeterRemember when you were a kid and your parents saddled you with some boring as hell thing to do like mowing the lawn and when you complained they told you to try making a game out of it? Well over the past couple of years that idea has gone from being a stupid way for parents to try to get kids to do something they don’t wanna to do to being a way to motivate adults to do something they don’t wanna do. It’s called Gamification and has been used for everything from getting folks to exercise to “check in” on apps like Foursquare. Now it’s showing up on healthcare websites like United Healthcare’s Wellvibe program.

I mention this because I have UHC myself and it’s not half-bad health insurance, or at least it wasn’t until last year when the company I work for changed things so that instead of having a handful of plans to choose from we were all forced into a single high-deductible plan. I went from having a co-pay to having a $3,000 deductible and a health savings account to try and offset those out-of-pocket costs until the deductible was met. That was annoying enough, but they also introduced this Wellvibe nonsense that requires you to jump through hoops to qualify for an annual contribution from your company to your HSA.

Every year we have until September 30th to complete a number of activities on the Wellvibe website our we won’t get the company contribution to our HSA. These activities include things like watching a video to learn how to pick a Tier 1 doctor that UHC feels offers excellent service at the best price. My doctor is not considered a Tier 1 doctor because, while she is considered to offer excellent healthcare, apparently she costs UHC too much money. The problem is I’ve gone to the same doctor for over 15 years and I trust her decision making so I’m not going to switch unless I absolutely have to. Luckily, I don’t (she’s still considered in-plan), but that won’t stop UHC from making me go through an activity pointing out she’s not what they consider to be the best value.

They also have a system in place on their website that helps you to find the cheapest applicable drugs for whatever is it your doctor has prescribed. My doctor already tries to make sure we’re taking the generic equivalent of whatever it is she thinks we need so that part of the site is of limited use to me, but I still have to watch the stupid video each year and answer a bunch of questions about it with multiple choice answers. I never watch the videos because the right answer is so blindingly obvious that you’d have to be an idiot to not be able to figure it out just based on the choices in front of you. I hit play and then race through the questions and get it right before the video has a chance to get past the cheesy porno-music opening.

There’s also a health profile you have to fill out where you have to get a UHC Annual Biometric Checkup done. You print out a form and take it to your doctor and they run blood tests and report your sugar levels, cholesterol, etc. and stamp it with an Official Doctor Seal and you send it back. You cannot fill this form out yourself. Then there is a redundant Health Assessment form you have to fill out that asks for the SAME FUCKING MEASUREMENTS YOUR DOCTOR FILLED OUT ON THE OTHER FORM. I can only assume they’re checking to see if you’re lying about the condition of your health.

All of that is annoying and insulting enough as it is, but this year they’ve tried to Gamify the entire process by putting in an Xbox-style achievement system where you can earn badges and “leaves.” Logging into the site for the first time since last year when I completed the previous activities, I got a popup announcing I had earned a “Here I am!” badge and 10 leaves for completing registration, logging into, and visiting the Wellvibe homepage.

I boggled at it not sure what the hell it was, but I went ahead and did one of the activities and got this badge as a result:

wellvibebadge

Holy shit! You did something! HAVE A FUCKING COOKIE!

That’s when it dawned on me they were trying to make it into a game of sorts. Oh joy. It’s not enough that they insist on holding my hand when I didn’t need their help before, but now they want to give me meaningless rewards for grudgingly complying with their stupid requirements. I got another badge by accident when I checked my profile and saw that I didn’t have a phone number listed. It was the much-coveted “THIS IS ME!” badge earned for updating your account profile and granting 10 more leaves.

If you poke around long enough you eventually will find the “Wellville” page where you can see all the badges you have earned along with those you still haven’t acquired. It’s here where you finally found out why you’ve been earning “leaves” with your badges. It’s for your Health Tree! The more leaves you earn, the healthier your tree becomes! Isn’t that amazing?

Welcome to Wellvile. Where patronizing you has been taken to an entirely new level.

“Badges?? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!”

As you can see, my tree is in pretty piss-poor health at 14%. Some of the other things you can do to earn a badge include: Complete your first Optional Activity (if it’s optional, I’m not going to do it), print out your first “bar code scan form activity”, email your “bar code activity” (which I did last year and it nearly cost me my company’s HSA contribution because it didn’t work right), login once a week for 3 months straight (that’s so not going to happen), and — I shit you not — reset your login password. That last one is called: “I FORGOT, BUT IT’S OK!”

Fuck you, United Healthcare. Seriously. It was bad enough having to do all this bullshit for my company to put $500 into my HSA every year, but now you’re insulting my intelligence. I will never have my tree to 100% because I will not do any more of the activities on your website than I absolutely have to in order to qualify for the employer contribution. This is the sort of bullshit that if I had any reasonable alternatives I’d probably be dropping you like a hot potato. Lucky for you my company doesn’t offer any alternatives and what they do offer is considered good enough that it would cost me more to go through something like Obamacare.

Needless to say, I don’t appreciate you trying to turn my healthcare into some sort of game.

Phil Robertson uses a straw man argument to make a stupid point.

strawmancardPhil Robertson, for those of you who don’t watch Duck Dynasty, is one of the darlings of the Religious Right for his very conservatives views on everything from gays to atheists. You might of heard about him back when he got kicked off his own show for some bigoted comments about homosexuals he made in an interview with GQ magazine only for A&E to turn around and reinstate him before the show resumed filming. It had everyone on the Right in an uproar and A&E decided the show’s ratings were more important than having principles.

Anyway, he’s still giving interviews where he says awesomely stupid things. His most recent was on Friday over at “Trunews”, a Conservative Christian website run by Rick Wiles. While discussing healthcare insurance Robertson veers off into a tale of an atheist whose daughters are raped in front of him, his wife is decapitated, and his dick is cut off to make a point about right and wrong:

“I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said. “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’”

Robertson kept going: “Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’”

“If it happened to them,” Robertson continued, “they probably would say, ‘something about this just ain’t right.”

via Phil Robertson Hypothesizes About Atheist Family Getting Raped And Killed | Right Wing Watch.

The problem with this — other than it’s somewhat disturbing the sort of things Robertson fantasizes about — is it’s a straw man depiction of what atheists think. About the only thing Robertson gets right is the fact that atheists don’t think there’s a God or Gods that’ll judge the killers for their actions. To suggest that that means we don’t think there’s such a thing as right and wrong is simply not true. I’ve yet to meet an atheist who has espoused the sincerely held belief that there is no right or wrong.

It’s not difficult to come up with a moral system that doesn’t rely on edicts from God(s) to establish right and wrong. There are several different systems of Secular Morality already. Ranging from Secular Humanism to Freethinking to Consequentialism. Personally, I tend to fall in the Freethinking category, but there are aspects of Secular Humanism I adhere to as well.

On top of that, the morality depicted in the Bible is not only questionable at best, but God himself has a hard time adhering to it. At various times he’s commanded his followers to break any number of the Ten Commandments he supposedly considered so important he wrote them down for us. Apparently it’s OK to break the rules when God commands you to. In fact, if the fictional killers in Robertson’s twisted tale were acting under the orders of God I’m willing to bet that Robertson, had he some reason to believe that were indeed the case, would consider them perfectly justified in following through on them. It wouldn’t be the first time God had ordered his followers to wipe out people He considered bad (see the tale of Vengeance on the Midianites in Numbers 31: 1-47 for a great example).

religionhorriblepersonPeople like Robertson who believe that without God to tell them right from wrong there’s no reason for them not to go around killing and raping worry me. One would hope that there’s more than just a book of fairy tales keeping these people from being monsters. Considering the truly heinous things a large number of Christians are capable of in spite of their belief that God has defined an objective morality and the threat of eternity in Hell, it would be a nightmare if they could be convinced that those things don’t exist.

Every so often on Facebook I’ll see an image macro come up that says: “I am a Christian. You can ridicule me. You can torture me. You can kill me. But you cannot change my mind.” All I can think when I see it is: Given what some of you think is OK if God doesn’t exist, it’s probably for the best you’re so closed minded.

I can so relate to this.

that_one_blinking_light

Comic by: Depressed Alien