Christians are in decline while Unaffiliated are rising fast.

goodnewseveryoneThe folks at the Pew Research Center are back with another study of the religious landscape in the United States and it’s not looking good for Christians

America’s Changing Religious Landscape | Pew Research Center.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

Specifically speaking, since the last time they came out with this report in 2007 the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian has dropped nearly 8 percentage points from 78.4% to 70.6% in 2014. That’s still a majority of Americans, but if this trend continues it won’t be that long before that’s no longer the case. Meanwhile, the Unaffiliated — a combination of atheist, agnostic, and “nothing in particular” — has jumped from 16.1% to 22.8% making it the fastest growing group. That works out to around 56 million people.

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxthis group — sometimes called religious “nones” — is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.

The number of people self-identifying as Atheists has doubled from 1.6%  to 3.1% and Agnostics are another 4%. That may not sound like much, but there are now more atheists in America than there are Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, or Jews.

PR_15.05.12_RLS-00

While it’s true that the “nothing in particular” folks make up a majority of the Unaffiliated and many of them still consider themselves spiritual in some way, they’re on the decline as more and more of them come to accept the designation of Atheist or Agnostic.

As the unaffiliated have grown, the internal composition of the religious “nones” has changed. Most unaffiliated people continue to describe themselves as having no particular religion (rather than as being atheists or agnostics), but the “nones” appear to be growing more secular. Atheists and agnostics now account for 31% of all religious “nones,” up from 25% in 2007.

The main driving force in the increase of the Unaffiliated is generational replacement. Older religious folks are dying off while the younger generations just aren’t taking up religion like their parents did, but it’s not the only factor in play.

In addition, people in older generations are increasingly disavowing association with organized religion. About a third of older Millennials (adults currently in their late 20s and early 30s) now say they have no religion, up nine percentage points among this cohort since 2007, when the same group was between ages 18 and 26. Nearly a quarter of Generation Xers now say they have no particular religion or describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up four points in seven years. Baby Boomers also have become slightly but noticeably more likely to identify as religious “nones” in recent years.

As the shifting religious profiles of these generational cohorts suggest, switching religion is a common occurrence in the United States. If all Protestants were treated as a single religious group, then fully 34% of American adults currently have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. This is up six points since 2007, when 28% of adults identified with a religion different from their childhood faith. If switching among the three Protestant traditions (e.g., from mainline Protestantism to the evangelical tradition, or from evangelicalism to a historically black Protestant denomination) is added to the total, then the share of Americans who currently have a different religion than they did in childhood rises to 42%.

By a wide margin, religious “nones” have experienced larger gains through religious switching than any other group. Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) were raised in a religious faith and now identify with no religion. Some switching also has occurred in the other direction: 9% of American adults say they were raised with no religious affiliation, and almost half of them (4.3% of all U.S. adults) now identify with some religion. But for every person who has joined a religion after having been raised unaffiliated, there are more than four people who have become religious “nones” after having been raised in some religion. This 1:4 ratio is an important factor in the growth of the unaffiliated population.

The study goes on to mention that interfaith marriages are more common now than they ever have been before and a large part of that is because there’s plenty of Christians out there who are marrying people in the Unaffiliated group.

There’s a lot more detail in the full report which is worth reading, but the upshot of it is that this is an ongoing trend for the better part of a decade that shows no signs of slowing. Given the huge number of Christians out there making an ass of themselves over things such as gay marriage — or making wedding cakes for gays — I fully expect the trend to continue.

Here’s a few more highlights that made me smile:

  • Although it is low relative to other religious groups, the retention rate of the unaffiliated has increased. In the current survey, 53% of those raised as religiously unaffiliated still identify as “nones” in adulthood, up seven points since 2007. And among Millennials, “nones” actually have one of the highest retention rates of all the religious categories that are large enough to analyze in the survey.
  • The percentage of college graduates who identify with Christianity has declined by nine percentage points since 2007 (from 73% to 64%). The Christian share of the population has declined by a similar amount among those with less than a college education (from 81% to 73%). Religious “nones” now constitute 24% of all college graduates (up from 17%) and 22% of those with less than a college degree (up from 16%).
  • The Christian share of the population is declining and the religiously unaffiliated share is growing in all four major geographic regions of the country. Religious “nones” now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007), 22% of the population in the Midwest (up from 16%), 25% of the population in the Northeast (up from 16%) and 28% of the population in the West (up from 21%). In the West, the religiously unaffiliated are more numerous than Catholics (23%), evangelicals (22%) and every other religious group.
  • More than a quarter of men (27%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 20% in 2007. Fewer women are religious “nones,” but the religiously unaffiliated are growing among women at about the same rate as among men. Nearly one-in-five women (19%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 13% in 2007.

One thing that’s clear is that the increase in the number of atheists and agnostics who are speaking up about their lack of belief is having an impact in changing minds. I suspect that our numbers are actually higher than this study says as a lot of the “no particulars” are probably atheists or agnostics who are “in the closet” for whatever reason. Hell, I’m willing to bet there’s more than a few self-identifying Christians/Muslims/Jews/etc. who are really closeted atheists and agnostics. That makes standing up all the more important.

So keep up the good work,everyone. We’re making a difference!

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.

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.

Jesus Christ tells man to steal an ambulance. Man complies.

Jesus Christ, what a kidder. Whether it’s drawing crude artworks of himself in bakery products or telling folks to do something really stupid, he can’t seem to stop yanking people’s chains.

His latest jape was to convince some poor idiot down in Houston, Texas that he should steal an ambulance:

Jesus was my co-pilot! And co-conspirator! And the brains behind this operation! It's all his fault! Really!

Jesus was my co-pilot! And co-conspirator! And the brains behind this operation! It’s all his fault! Really!

Suspect arrested: ‘Jesus Christ told me to steal an ambulance’.

The Houston Fire Department said the ambulance was stolen from 2121 Main Street near West Gray Street around 10 a.m.

The ambulance was recovered about 30 minutes later at Waugh and Gray Street, where it crashed into a 3 Men Movers truck.

“I was upstairs working and I heard a loud bang,” said Randy Bingham, a witness. “I’ve never seen an ambulance involved in a collision like that, especially the way that it happened.”

[…] “Lord Jesus Christ told me to steal the ambulance,” he told a KHOU 11 News photographer.

The article is brief and doesn’t mention where Jesus told the man to take the ambulance or what he was supposed to do with it once he got there, but when the Son of God tells you to do something then, by God, you do it.

No word on who the suspect was or what they’re doing with him, but I suspect he’s probably undergoing psychiatric evaluation right about now and therein lies the point I’m about to make for the upteenth time: Why would anyone who believes in God automatically assume this guy must be crazy to think Jesus would tell him to steal an ambulance?

definitionofreligionThe Bible contains several examples of God instructing his followers to do some pretty crazy things like drag your kid up the mountain and slit his throat and build a big fucking boat and load up two of every kind of animal because I’m about to piss all over humanity’s parade like you’ve never seen before. Sure, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for God to ask some random dude to steal an ambulance, but it probably didn’t make a lot of sense to folks watching Noah at the time either. Who are you to say God didn’t command him to steal an ambulance? How would you know God didn’t demand it? What kind of divine punishment will you be bringing about by stopping this guy from stealing that ambulance?

That’s the problem with saying you buy into the nonsense in the Bible. You lose all credibility in situations like this where someone lays claim to acting on divine instructions. You can’t prove that his isn’t. You can’t know for certain that whatever stupid thing he claims God demands he do isn’t something God wanted him to do. If an action dictated by God is good by the very nature of the source then punishing him for stealing the ambulance would be wrong. How can you justify it given the nature of the stuff that God has asked people to do in the past?

Woman attempts to beat Jesus into another woman.

face-palm-JesusA woman by the name of Margurite Dawn Haragan of Boise has taken a novel approach to converting a Jewish lady to Christianity. Instead of wasting hours giving testimony and preaching from the Good Book, she opted for the more expedient approach of simply beating the shit out of the poor woman until she agreed to convert:

Prosecutors: Jewish woman beaten, harassed in conversion attempt.

“The defendant was banging on the front window yelling at her that she better believe in Jesus and she was not going to leave until she did believe in Jesus,” Ada County Prosecutor Dave Rothcheck said. He said the victim, identified in court only as “A.G.,” opened her door to tell Haragan to leave and to write down her license plate number.

That’s when the suspect slapped her in the face and dragged her to the ground by her hair, Roscheck said.

“The defendant began kicking the victim in the stomach and thigh area,” he said. “During this time the defendant was screaming at the victim that she better accept Jesus or she would not let up.”

Eventually the victim did agree to convert to Christianity and, true to her word, Haragan stopped stomping on the victim’s neck and let her go. Despite her success, Harragan has since been arrested and is facing two counts of malicious harassment that will be considered a felony due to it being considered a hate crime. She’s facing up to 5 years in prison for each count and is cooling her jets in jail thanks to a $100,000 bond.

But it’s all worth it because she managed to save at least one soul from going to Hell for believing in a false religion. I’m sure Jesus will have a special reward for her once she makes it to Heaven.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Canadian Resurrection Edition

There’s a passage in the Bible (Matthew 10:7-8) which reads as follows:

As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge.

Among a particular segment of Christians there is the belief that this means that anyone, so long as they truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, can do as Christ did and raise the dead. You can find all manner of Christians making this claim including no less than Pat Robertson of the 700 Club.

No, really, see for yourself:

So it’s amazing that we don’t hear news stories like this one more often:

Hamilton family left corpse upstairs for six months expecting resurrection.

Peter Wald, 52, died “probably around March 20th” last year, according to the agreed statement of facts read out in court Monday. He’d suffered from diabetes and his left foot had become infected. But he had refused to go to the hospital and believed God would cure him.

He went into a coma, she says, and days later she noticed his stomach bloating and signs of rigor mortis on his forehead.

She then left him – his body covered with two blankets, his head with a toque – in the bed and padlocked the bedroom door.

Kaling sealed in the door and the vents with duct tape to protect her family from the smell of the cadaver. And then for six months, life went on and they prayed for their dead husband and father in the bed upstairs as they awaited his return.

Yes, this is a real church sign.

Yes, this is a real church sign.

You’d think after a couple of weeks they’d give up, but that’s the amazing thing about faith. If you have enough of it you can keep hoping for something that’ll never happen for years on end. Hell, Christians have been waiting for Christ’s return for over 2,000 years when he promised he’d be back within the lifetime of his disciples.

Wald’s body was finally discovered by Sheriff’s when they showed up to evict the family for defaulting on their mortgage. Needless to say it wasn’t in great shape after laying around for so long and having rodents feasting on it.

“It’s an extremely sad case…she truly believed her husband was going to be resurrected from the dead, even after six months,” said assistant crown attorney Janet Booy.

[…] Kaling – who has no past criminal record – had her sentence suspended and was put on 18 months of probation and ordered to seek counseling around the “public health concerns” of the incident.

“Your belief that your husband would resurrect is not an issue,” Superiour Court Justice Marjoh Agro said at her plea Monday.

I’d dispute the idea that her religious beliefs aren’t an issue. This woman allowed a body to decay in her home possibly creating a health hazard not just for her and her children, but the neighborhood in general, specifically because of her religious belief that her husband would be resurrected by God. She may not have had criminal intent, but that doesn’t mean her beliefs weren’t the cause of the issue.

And, like any other good Christian, this utter failure on God’s part to answer her prayers has in no way shaken her faith or her belief that raising the dead is a thing people can do:

But she still believes strongly in resurrection, and says there have been many “documented” cases of it around the world. Her faith was not shaken by the legal consequences, she says.

“In fact it has cast me more at the mercy of God, because He is the ultimate judge.”

It’s not that there isn’t a God to grant her the power to raise her dead husband after not granting the husband’s prayers for a cure, it’s just he works in mysterious ways/has a Grand Plan that didn’t include bringing the dead guy back.

The good news is she’s at least sensible enough that she says she won’t try something like this again. Of course a lot of religious nutcases say that and end up doing it again because the prospect of pulling off their own little miracle is just too tantalizing to pass up. See any number of stories of people refusing medical treatment for their kids and nearly killing them in the process who tell the judge they’ll never do it again only to do it again and have the kid die on them.

Christian news site finds Chemist who doesn’t believe in Evolution.

whystilldustFor all the talk Christians engage in about faith and how believing despite a lack of evidence is part of what it means to be a Christian, there’s quite a few of them out there that will jump at any chance to quote a scientist — any scientist — who might provide some argument in their favor.

So it is that the folks at Christian News Network came to publish the following article: Renowned Chemist Says Evolutionists Do Not Understand the Origin of Life. In it they describe Rice University professor Dr. James Tour as follows:

Dr. James Tour is a well-known professor at Rice University, specializing in chemistry, nanoengineering, and computer science. Over the last 30 years, Tour has authored over 500 research publications, and he was recognized as one of “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by TheBestSchools.org. Tour has also received awards and recognitions from the American Chemical Society, Thomson Reuters, Honda, NASA, and others.

Clearly he’s a Big Deal, though I’m not sure why anyone thinks getting an award from TheBestSchools.org is worth bragging about as it appears to be Yet Another College Ranking website that’s popular mostly among religious institutions.

Still, that’s not the point! Awards! He’s gotten several awards for knowing that of which he speaks! Clearly then we must take him seriously when he says things like:

“I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist,” Tour said, “if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules.”

Well, that depends. Has Dr. Tour actually studied evolution? This is an important question because the article then goes on to say:

Despite his experiences and expertise, Tour admits that he does not understand how evolution could account for life’s existence.

Here we run into the first problem: Evolution doesn’t try to account for life’s existence — that would fall under abiogenesis and is a separate field of study — Evolution just describes the processes that take place after it showed up.

But let’s get back to that question I asked a moment ago. Has Dr. Tour spent any time studying the Theory of Evolution? The article seems to indicate that he hasn’t:

“I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you,” he says in the video. “Is it okay for me to say, ‘I don’t understand this’? Is that all right? I know that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand anything about organic synthesis, but they understand evolution. I understand a lot about making molecules; I don’t understand evolution. And you would just say that, wow, I must be really unusual.”

Right up front he’s admitting he doesn’t understand the theory. Though don’t lose faith in him just yet:

However, Tour says he is not the only one who does not understand how life could have arisen through natural, unguided processes.

“Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science—with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners,” Tour stated. “I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public—because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said—I say, ‘Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?’”

The answer he inevitably receives, Tour explained, is: “no.”

“Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go, ‘Uh-uh. Nope.’” Tour said. “And if they’re afraid to say ‘yes,’ they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.”

Oh my goodness! Someone who doesn’t understand Evolution knows other people who aren’t studying it that also don’t understand it! That surely must prove it’s a lie, right?

Well, no. Not really. It just means Dr. Tour and some of the other scientists he hangs out with don’t understand the theory. The fact that he seems set on it explaining the origin of life, which the theory doesn’t do, would probably go a long way to explaining his lack of understanding.

The article is based roughly on an hour and a half lecture Dr. Tour gave in late 2012 on the subject of Nanotech and Jesus Christ at Georgia Tech which you can watch on YouTube by clicking here.

I don’t dispute that Dr. Tour knows his organic chemistry and is clearly an expert on nanotech, but that doesn’t mean he’s an expert on Evolution or should be expected to know much about it. The Christian News Network article also goes on to quote from one of his blog posts in which he pretty much says his understanding of Evolution is, at best, as a layman. Here’s the big the article quotes:

Fair says there is an important distinction between microevolution and macroevolution—the former is clearly observable and repeatable, but the latter has never been witnessed.

“From what I can see, microevolution is a fact; we see it all around us regarding small changes within a species, and biologists demonstrate this procedure in their labs on a daily basis. Hence, there is no argument regarding microevolution,” he wrote in a blog post. “The core of the debate for me, therefore, is the extrapolation of microevolution to macroevolution.”

There’s an important bit from the very start of the entry, however, that they decided to leave out:

Assuming that I have something significant to contribute to the evolution vs. creation debate, many ask me to speak and write concerning my thoughts on the topic. However, I do not have anything substantive to say about it. I am a layman on the subject. Although I have read about a half dozen books on the debate, maybe a dozen, and though I can speak authoritatively on complex chemical synthesis, I am not qualified to enter the public discussion on evolution vs. creation. So please don’t ask me to be the speaker or debater at your event, and think carefully about asking me for an interview because I will probably not give you the profound quotations that you seek. You are of course free to quote me from what is written here, but do me the kindness of placing my statements in a fair context.

Dr. Tour considered this important enough that he placed it at the very start of his blog entry. He goes on to say that he’s often cited as a proponent of Intelligent Design and he’d really wish people would stop doing that.

I have been labeled as an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent. I am not. I do not know how to use science to prove intelligent design although some others might. I am sympathetic to the arguments on the matter and I find some of them intriguing, but the scientific proof is not there, in my opinion. So I prefer to be free of that ID label.

The rest of his blog post outlines a couple of the issues he has with macroevolution and why that makes him skeptical of it and, overall, it’s pretty reasonable. He does go on to claim that there is some persecution of scientists who express skepticism of macroevolution, but refuses to cite specific examples of such.

What’s interesting to me about the Christian News Network article is that it’s author, 

I’m not sure why Mr. Haley seems to think that finding a scientist who is a Christian and who has doubts about a scientific theory he doesn’t personally study should be newsworthy. There are lots of them out there. Hell, the field of Engineering is rife with creationists for some reason. The fact that these people are out there isn’t evidence that the theory is false. It just shows that people who haven’t studied it much may have trouble trying to understand it.

On picking the right battles.

jesusr-no-runningSo there’s been a couple of news items recently about restaurants causing an uproar by offering discounts to customers displaying their religiosity. In one case Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, NC was offering a 15% discount to customers they saw praying before eating their meals.

The owner claimed it was more about public displays of gratitude than religion, but the receipts did list it as a ‘praying in public’ discount, which makes that claim seem a bit dubious. That said, it was never officially advertised and was handed out entirely at the discretion of the service staff for years before a pleasantly surprised customer posted a photo of their receipt with the discount to Facebook and it went viral. It wasn’t long after that the the owner was contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation — a group I support — with a letter informing them that the practice was a violation of the Civil Rights Act. The owner ended up deciding to discontinue the discount despite a lot of offers of free legal representation and visitors to the diner are now greeted with the following note:

“While you may exercise your right of religious freedom at this restaurant by praying over your meal to any entity or non-entity, we mush protect your freedom from religion in a public place. We are no longer issuing the 15% praying in public discount. It is illegal and we are being threatened by a lawsuit.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor told News & Record that the group didn’t threaten a lawsuit, but a lawsuit “would not have been off the table.”

She added that it’s illegal to “charge an atheist more than a Christian.”

Now the FFRF has contacted Bailey’s Pizza in Arkansas for offering a 10% discount to people who bring in church bulletins:

Sent earlier this month, the letter alleges that Bailey’s owner, Steven Rose, is discriminating against patrons who have not attended church.

“The law requires places of public accommodation to offer their services to customers without regard to race, color, religion or national origin,” wrote FFRF representative Elizabeth Cavell.

Bailey’s, which opened last month, also allows patrons to write Bible verses on one of the restaurant’s walls.

In an interview with local media, Rose denies that the discount violates the Civil Rights Act, telling CBS affiliate THV11 that the discount “has nothing to do with excluding anybody.”

“It’s not specific to any church. It’s another way to bring people in and make them feel welcome,” said Rose.

“I offer discounts to others too — like college students, teachers, military, police and senior citizens.”

Now, technically, the FFRF is correct in that both of these policies violate the Civil Rights Act which includes religion as one of the criteria that public businesses cannot discriminate on and offering discounts for public displays of religiosity or church bulletins is a form of discrimination. Steven Rose disagrees and is vowing to fight the FFRF if they sue saying that if atheists really want the discount they can just download a church bulletin off of a website and bring it in and no one would question them on it. Which, yeah, you could do if you don’t mind dishonestly misrepresenting yourself to knock a few bucks off your pizza. I don’t think atheists should be forced into essentially lying to a business just to net a discount.

So, yes, I think the FFRF is right that this is a violation of the law, but I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to pick a fight over it. I don’t really care if religious folks get slightly cheaper food from a particular restaurant. If anything, it just makes me want to avoid that restaurant.  If they don’t mind alienating part of their potential clientele then so be it. Atheists in general, and the FFRF in particular, already take a lot of shit for fighting battles over displays of the Decalog and crosses on government property and I think those are worthy fights to be had. I’m not sure the extra ill-will we get from forcing a restaurant to cease offering preferential treatment to religious people is worth it.

That said, I would be sure to make it known to the owner of any restaurants that I did visit that had such a policy that I find it disappointing and wouldn’t recommend folks eat there as a result. Maybe that would make them rethink it and maybe it wouldn’t, but there’s plenty of places to eat that don’t discriminate to choose from. If their goal was to make people feel welcome and I don’t feel welcome, well, they failed in their goal.

One of the neat things about having had a blog for 13 years is that you can figuratively go back in time and see the person you once were simply by browsing through the archives. I was 34 when I first started blogging and back then I probably would’ve been right there with the FFRF decrying this as something that should not be! It’s an injustice against my people and will not stand!

fuckloadingfailI don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and just don’t have the energy I did 13 years ago, but these days my reaction to hearing about eateries like these was “meh.” It seems like you hear about this sort of thing every week now and it seems like a huge waste of resources trying to fight each one.

There’s also the fact that religious belief in America has been on a downward trend for some time now so it’s a problem that’s likely to take care of itself by the end of the century:

Every piece of social data suggests that those who favor faith and superstition over fact-based evidence will become the minority in this country by or before the end of this century. In fact, the number of Americans who do not believe in a deity doubled in the last decade of the previous century according to both the census of 2004 and the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2008, with religious non-belief in the U.S. rising from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2001. In 2013, that number is now above 16 percent.

If current trends continue, the crossing point, whereby atheists, agnostics, and “nones” equals the number of Christians in this country, will be in the year 2062. If that gives you reason to celebrate, consider this: by the year 2130, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christian will equal a little more than 1 percent. To put that into perspective, today roughly 1 percent of the population is Muslim.

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

So let them have their little discounts if they want them and save those resources for the bigger fights. Consider it a consolation prize as they’re headed out the door. Hell, if anything, this sort of thing does more harm to their cause than good. This sort of subtle discrimination only contributes to their downfall because it reveals them for the bigots they are.

Feel the Christian Love: Rick Wiles says Ebola “could solve America’s problems” with gays and atheists.

Rick Wiles, for those of you who have blissfully never heard of him, is an end-times preacher who is always on the lookout for signs that the apocalypse is about to start. He is so full of Christian love for his fellow humans that he recently expressed on his “Trunews” program that if Ebola were to break out and become a pandemic in the United States, why, that might be the best thing ever to happen.

No, really:

“Now this Ebola epidemic can become a global pandemic and that’s another name for plague. It may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming,” he said. “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”

“If Ebola becomes a global plague, you better make sure the blood of Jesus is upon you, you better make sure you have been marked by the angels so that you are protected by God. If not, you may be a candidate to meet the Grim Reaper.”

via Rick Wiles: ‘Ebola Could Solve America’s Problems With Atheism And Homosexuality’ | Right Wing Watch.

jesussavesApparently being a believer in Jesus Christ is all you need to protect yourself from Ebola. Nevermind the fact that the two Americans — Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol — who were trying to help deal with the outbreak in Liberia only to end up contracting the disease are, themselves, Christians. Perhaps they just didn’t believe in Jesus hard enough. 

Wiles is so scared of atheists and gays and people who fuck more than one person and people who film themselves fucking more than one person and people who, for whatever reason, decide not to go through with a pregnancy that he gleefully imagines them being wiped out by one of the more horrible viruses you can die from while his flock of True Believers™ are protected by the magic sky fairy.

This shouldn’t be surprising considering that he’s also pushing a conspiracy theory that President Obama might use this an excuse to give people an ineffective vaccine and then force them into FEMA CAMPS!

Wiles was speaking with evangelist Augusto Perez about how the spread of Ebola in West Africa has implications for the End Times. The two speculated that the American government may exploit the outbreak in order to grow the size of government and require people receive a vaccine.

“Obama would claim executive powers to mandate that every human being in the United States be vaccinated,” Wiles said. “They could use the panic to stampede hundreds of millions of people in this country to be vaccinated, in fact billions worldwide, they could stampede the world to receive to a vaccine against a deadly virus and nobody knows what is in the vaccine.”

– See more at: Rick Wiles Links Obama To Ebola Outbreak

Alas, Ebola isn’t the plague Rick Wiles hopes it will be. While the virus is definitely dangerous and often fatal, it’s not easily transmitted from person to person. It requires direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person which is why healthcare providers have to wear those fully enclosed hazmat suits you see on TV.

Yes, it’s killing a lot of people in West Africa, but that has more to do with how poor the healthcare system there is combined with superstitions of the people who live there and the rituals they have for handling dead bodies. Much like Rick Wiles, a lot of people there are buying into conspiracy theories that Ebola isn’t real and that their loved ones are being kidnapped for various reasons including cannibalism. So they’re hiding sick individuals and, in some cases, breaking them out of hospitals putting themselves and everyone they come into contact with at risk:

In recent days crowds gathered outside clinics and hospitals to protest against what they see as a conspiracy, in some cases clashing with police as they threatened to burn down the buildings and remove the patients.

Amadu Sisi, a senior doctor at King Harman hospital in the capital Freetown, from which the patient was taken, said on Saturday that police found her in the house of a healer.

Her family refused to hand her over and a struggle ensued with police, who finally retrieved her and sent her to hospital, he said.

“She died in the ambulance on the way to another hospital,” Sisi said.

not_driving_behind_youThis is what ignorance and fear does to people. Rick Wiles is guilty of his own brand of ignorance and fear and he’s foisting it onto his audience. He’s really no different than the “backward” people in West Africa who do stupid things like the above. Instead of cannibalistic doctors it’s the U.S. Government using “chemtrails” to weaken us and a dangerous vaccine to intentionally infect us with a horrible disease so they can round us all up in FEMA camps. He doesn’t say what happens to us then. The FEMA folks probably eat us. It wouldn’t any stupider than anything else he’s said.

This is the sort of brain damage buying into Gods and demons causes to otherwise rational human beings. If you’ll accept the outlandish things the Bible says happened as being true then there’s nothing anyone could tell you that would be so egregious that you’d have any reason to doubt the validity of it. Believing Obama is out to intentionally infect people with Ebola is easy when you buy into the idea of a talking snake causing the downfall of mankind.

If it’s too much to ask these idiots to throw off the shackles of these ridiculous beliefs can we at least ask that they try not to be too happy about the horrors they expect the rest of us to suffer at the hands of their “loving” God?