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Episode 8: Partial Transcript

April 11, 2013 1 comment

by Noah Lugeons & Heath Enwright

Sponsor:

This week’s episode of the Scathing Atheist is brought to you by Mitt Romney’s new brand of baking soda, Mormon Hammer.  Guaranteed to keep your fridge as free of odor as it is of alcohol, caffeine and gender-equality.  So send one of your wives to the store and tell them to look for the whitest baking soda on the shelf: Mormon Hammer.

And now, the Scathing Atheist…

Intro:

It’s Thursday, It’s April 11th and bananas are my worst nightmare.

I’m your host Noah Lugeons and from climatically-schizophrenic New York, New York, this is the Scathing Atheist.

On this week’s episode,

  • A Louisiana legislator tries to teach kids about religious freedom by taking it away,
  • We’ll use the word “fuck” more times than there’s any real need to and
  • My wife and my best friend will join me for the most disappointing threesome of all time.

But first, the Diatribe…

Diatribe:

“How Hubble Saved My Soul”

I rejected religion at an early age.  My parents were religious but they weren’t church-goers and they only made a half-ass attempt to brainwash me.  I can’t tell you exactly when I out-logiced religion, but my earliest atheist memory is at the age of 8 when my 3rd grade teacher settled an argument between me and some other kid by affirming that there was too a god.

Now, I’d say I was proud of that fact, but atheism is nothing to be proud of.  Outsmarting a book that starts contradicting itself in the second chapter isn’t very hard.  And, as I proved for many years after rejecting my parent’s faith, you can be both an atheist and a gullible dipshit simultaneously.

See, I didn’t do the whole religion thing, but I was every bit as irrational in my puerile new-age hippy tie-dye, goatee, anything goes, neo-pagan spiritualism.  I dismissed all the doctrines, but I still had a soft spot in my brain for ancient wisdom.  What’s more, I wanted magic and eternal life.  I just wasn’t willing to get them from a church.

So I alternately identified myself as a Wiccan, a spiritualist, a Thelemite or, my personal favorite, a Pangeantheologist.  I read books on witchcraft and Kabbalah and chakras and high magick and low magick and herbal magick and color magick and chaos magick and shamanic magick and Enochian magick.  And I read the I Ching and I read Tarot cards and I read runes and I read palms.  And I read Aleister Crowley and Raymond Buckland and Donald Kraig and Israel Regardie and Peter Carroll.  And I went to pagan communes and I met gurus and I went on silence retreats and I danced naked around bonfires and I called upon ancient spirits and I invoked undines and deep down I knew the whole time that it was a load of shit.

The cognitive dissonance wasn’t that hard at first, because I was getting laid.  But it got harder and harder as I learned more and more about this stuff.  There was never any substance.  It never made any more sense.  There were never any deeper secrets and there were never any results.

My friends would all say, “Oh, you’ve gotta meet this guru” and when I do, I figure out five minutes in that he knows less about what he’s talking about than I do after reading three books on the subject.   I would get together with some coven for a big communal spell and I would happen to catch them on one of those rare nights when nothing happened at all.  Or worse yet, you would know the ceremony was over when the most gullible jackass in the room says, “Did you feel that?!”

And as I’m going through this whole five year acid trip of the soul, something else was happening too.  And even though I wouldn’t realize it for a quite a while, it was steadily eroding the foundation of my bullshit; I started to see the images being returned from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Like practically everyone, I fell in love with these images as soon as I saw them. I was fascinated and I couldn’t possibly see enough. I wanted to know more about what they were and the incredible universe they revealed. But more than that I wanted to know how we got them and what they meant.  It was slow and sometimes painful, but that was the origin of my love for science.

Somehow underpaid, uninspired public school teachers had failed to instill any real appreciation for something as fascinating as everything in my developing mind and it took seeing the universe in this scale for me to truly appreciate the wonders of human curiosity.

But it sure made that cognitive dissonance harder.  After all, if science said what I believed was bullshit and they could back it up with pictures of the entire fucking universe, who was I to disagree?  How could I cocoon myself in some arrogant worldview that places humanity in the center of it all when there were things like the Hubble Deep Field Image to contradict me?

Even the young religions had a multi-century head start on science when it came to this whole “heaven” thing and they were happy to tell you what it was like and who was in charge and how you could get there, but they never managed to take pictures. We never glimpsed the earliest stars through the power of herbal supplements. We never saw a cloud of dust four light years across through proper breathing techniques.  We never saw galaxies forming with color-infused water.  The methods and practiced that all my hippy gurus promoted had been around for centuries and sometimes millenia, and yet knowledge of their deep and mystical secrets had never managed something as stupefying and eye-opening as even the lowliest of Hubble’s observations.  And yes, I’m talking about the blurry shit before they fixed it.

Sure, you eat enough mushrooms and get in a sweat lodge, you’ll see all the bright lights and pretty colors Hubble has to offer, but there’s nothing there.  Just like every other silly little spiritual distraction, there’s nothing there.  It’s all empty, hollow, meaningless, unsatisfying, Chicken Soup for the Brain drivel.  It demands that you suspend your disbelief even to the point of suspending your own senses.  It demands that you practice for years at something you can’t actually get better at.  It demands that you nod along with every stupid post-modernist notion some yoga instructor blurts out because you don’t want to be the only one at the party wearing incredulity.

But science, as Carl Sagan said, brings the goods. The appeal of all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo was rooted in my desire to be part of something larger, but when I glanced at the universe through the eyes of a space telescope, I saw that science was offering me something larger than any new-age guru could dream of. And what’s more is that it was real; tangible; provable. Unlike the “truth” offered by faith, science demands nothing in return.

And that’s how Hubble saved my soul.

Headlines:

Joining me tonight for headlines is my fidus Achates, Heath Enwright.  Heath, are you ready to, um… I don’t know, feed us?

In our lead story tonight, the state of North Carolina decided to declare a state religion last week, then the ether wore off and they wondered who that lump in the bed was and where that tattoo came from and what the fuck they were thinking.

This story starts in Rowan County, North Carolina (go Mustangs!) where a lawsuit threatened to stop county commissioners from opening their meetings with a prayer.  They had two choices, one was concede, give up the prayer and not look like stupid assholes.  The other was to try to rewrite the constitution.

  • They were trying to invoke a silly little idea that I remember my 10th grade history teacher asserting.  The idea is that the constitution only forbids congress from establishing a religion, not the individual states.
  • I’m not sure if there’s any real constitutional ground for that argument but I’m skeptical and so is North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, who killed the bill once the national media started to make a stink about this.  Which suggests to me that somehow North Carolina legislators didn’t realize that people were gonna make a stink about this.
  • And that’s why we need watchdog groups.

LEAD STORY: The North Carolina State Religion: http://news.yahoo.com/could-north-carolina-actually-declare-state-religion-130700725.html Follow Up : http://www.goddiscussion.com/108691/north-carolina-house-speaker-kills-bill-that-would-have-allowed-the-state-to-create-a-state-sponsored-religion-in-violation-of-first-amendment-to-the-constitution/

And in “I’ll see your state religion and raise you twelve pounds of raw bat-shit” news, Louisiana State Representative Katrina R. Jackson has proposed a new bill that would force students to recite the Lord’s Prayer along with the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

With an inspiring effort to yet be the most destructive Katrina in Louisiana’s history, Representative Jackson attempts to justify the bill with some of the most Orwellian language since Orwell.  She actually says:

  • “Students shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner.”
  • The recitations shall be conducted so that students learn of America’s great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Louisiana state rep proposes a prayer-in-school law: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/05/louisiana-state-representative-students-should-learn-freedom-of-religion-by-reciting-the-lords-prayer-every-morning/

And following up on a story we covered back in episode 4, the big Jesus picture in Jackson, Ohio is coming down.  You’ll recall a flurry of defensive posturing by the school board, who insisted that nothing on heaven or earth was going to make them take down their beloved Jesus pitcher.

Well, it turned out that all it took was an insurance company deciding that Jesus was a liability.  And this goes to show you how heartless we atheists are.  They tried to compromise.  They offered to take the picture down from the Middle School and put it up in the High School but that wasn’t good enough for those secular humanist jackoffs.

But I do think it’s worth pointing out what a signpost this really is.  It doesn’t take too many successful lawsuits by atheists to convince insurance companies to pull the plug on shit like this before it ends up wasting a truckload of taxpayer money.

Follow Up: School in Jackson Ohio agrees to remove Jesus painting: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/03/the-giant-portrait-of-jesus-is-finally-coming-down/

And in more shameful news, a new poll finds that 13% of Americans think that Obama is the anti-Christ.  Many of our listeners will have already heard about this survey, as we’re not the only media outlet that found that number interesting.  In addition to that statistic, the study also found that:

  • 20% of Americans believe that childhood vaccines are linked to autism,
  • 9% believe that fluoride is added to the water to control our minds,
  • And 4% believe that shape-shifting lizards secretly control our government.

I find some of those numbers hard to believe and I hope that there was a lot of the “these questions have gotten so stupid I’m gonna start fucking with the interviewer” effect in it, but the fact that David Icke’s lizard theory is even well known enough to be included on the survey is plenty of evidence of some horrible failures in public education.

–          I’d still be ashamed if only 13% of people believed that there would be an anti-christ.

Studies show that 13% of Americans think Obama is the anti-Christ: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf

And sometimes you’re combing through news sources and you see a headline so promising you know it’s gonna make the show even before you read the article.  A headline on the Christian Newswire caught my attention the other day.  It said, and I quote, “Stephen Hawking Solves Bible Creation Mystery Proving the Bible Accurate”.

And basically what we’ve got here is every bit as stupid as what you expect when you read it.  This apologist Paul Hutchins is trying to employ one of the Muslim apologist’s favorite tactics, the one where you say, “look at all the science that my book of bullshit predicts.”

This is kind of a dubious tactic in my mind, since all but eight words of the bible are contradicted by science, but nevertheless, he’s trying to say that the creation account in Genesis is in keeping with our current beliefs about how the planet formed.

Now, I’ll give him the credit of saying that he does get there, but he asks for a few huge favors when it comes to interpretation, including but not limited to:

–          When the bible talks about 6 days they just mean “6 unequal periods of indeterminate time”

–          When the bible says “Let there be light” what they clearly meant was “Let the sun transition from a protostar to a main sequence star.”

–          When it talks about god making the sun 4 days after making day and night, they meant that he made the sun visible through the cloud of pre-solar system planetary fragments.

 

  • He keeps talking about how these things “correspond exactly” to the Genesis account.

Stephen Hawking Solves Bible Creation Mystery Proving the Bible Accurate (I shit you not, that’s what the headline says): http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/2911771800.html

And finally tonight, The Foundation Beyond Belief has announced is 2nd quarter beneficiaries.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Foundation Beyond Belief, it is a most excellent secular charity that gathers donations in the name of atheism and then distributes them to a number of deserving charities.

Basically, they do all the hard work of confirming that none of your charitable dollars are going to support one of these half-charity/half-proselytizing funds.  Which is helpful if you’ve ever wondered exactly how much of the money you gave to the Salvation Army was spent opposing gay rights.

The five charities selected for this quarter are:

  • The One Acre Fund
  • The Innocence Project of Texas
  • T’ruah
  • Bernie’s Book Bank
  • And Trees, Water & People

To learn more about these charities and all the news items discussed on this episode, be sure to check out the shownotes at Scathing Atheist (dot) com.

Foundation Beyond Belief Announces its 2nd quarter beneficiaries. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/03/foundation-beyond-belief-announces-q2-2013-slate-of-charities/

That does it for headlines tonight.  Heath, appreciate your help as always.

And Heath, please stick around.  When we come back, Lucinda Lugeons will join Heath and me for a little Bible study.

Skit:

Writer:  Hey chief – Did you get a chance to look at the draft I sent you of “The Bible”?

Editor:  Oh yeah the fictional allegory book . . . I looked it over . . . Why don’t you have a seat.

W:  Sure, how did you like it?

E:  (Sigh) I didn’t love it. I’m just a little worried people might take some of it literally.

W:  Come on, seriously? The stories are absurd. How could someone take them literally?

E:  Well… whenever the scripture department releases something, readers tend to get a little too carried away.  Remember the shit show after we printed the Torah? Which actually brings me to my next concern . . . and if I’m way off base here, I’m sorry . . . But it seems like you pretty much plagiarized the entire Hebrew Bible for this first half. Is that what you did?

W:  Listen, the Jews are not a very litigious people, so it’s not look they’re gonna sue us. But maybe I’ll add a few footnotes to properly cite the direct quotes.

E:  Don’t get me wrong, that thing’s way overdue for a sequel, but do we really have to reprint the whole first book with it?  That’s gonna cost a pretty shekel.

W: I’ll be honest, I had a little bit of writer’s block, and I couldn’t seem to get the ball rolling.  I added some stuff though.  Judith, Wisdom… um… Maccabees…

E:  Yeah, we might have to trim that part.

W: Are you sure?

E:  Not really no.  Look, I understand borrowing from it, that’s not a huge problem.   It’s not like a religious text is just going to pop into your head, divinely inspired, ready to print.

W: Right, I’m not just gonna find a bunch of golden plates with the words of god etched into them.  So I did some research, and the Torah had a lot of stuff very similar to what I was looking to write myself. One god, omnipotent vengeance scenarios, get really mad at any future religion that also likes the Middle East. It just made sense as a jumping off point.

E:  Okay let’s circle back to that. Open up your copy to the Leviticus section.

W:  I’ve gotta stop you right there. I know what you’re gonna say. That was a really weird time for me. I had to stone my 4th concubine AND 3 slaves to death that month. Lots of mixed emotions. And my normal guy was out of town, so I had to call this delivery service I never used before, and I’m pretty sure they laced the frankincense with something crazy.

E:  Listen, it’s understandable. I’m thinking maybe just a little disclaimer at the beginning. Novelty purposes only, or something.

W:  I really think you’re underestimating the intelligence of our readership. It’s not like a giant population the world over is going to get swept up in some sort of crusade to make sure everyone agrees – word for word – with my little book here.

E:  I guess you’re right. I’m probably being paranoid. I just had one other concern . . . Why all the hate against gays?

W:  What?

E:  All the anti-homosexual passages.

W:  Where are there any anti-homosexual passages?

E:  Right here in Leviticus. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.” Then later in Romans and again in Jude.  It seems like you’re at least tacitly allowing the lesbian stuff, but still…

W:  I thought it was clear that this section was tongue in cheek. I guess I really didn’t sell the sarcasm. And I wasn’t even talking about the sex part, just the lying in bed after. Nobody wants to see 2 men cuddling. That’s just faggoty.

E:  And what’s with all the Yoda talk, and the weird numbering. You really think people are going to refer back to this one book, line by line, and need reference numbers? Normal page numbers, like every other book, should be just fine.

W:  That was a software issue. I wrote the thing in Aramaic, and when the word processor translated the characters over to Times Old Roman Latin, a bunch of random numbers showed up by accident.

E: Okay, let’s skip ahead to this “New Testament” part.  I get what you’re going for here and I like the idea of god having a kid in the sequel, but that whole part seemed way off to me.  The first four chapters just seem to be telling the same story over and over and none of them agree on the details.  It’s just weird.

W:  Yeah, I started off with a “choose your own adventure” concept in mind but eventually I just slapped everything together in that opening chunk.

E: (Big Sigh) Look, I’m gonna be perfectly honest with you.  Religious texts are hot right now and the epic poetry division hasn’t had a best seller in centuries.  There’s a lot of problems here, but we’re probably gonna roll with it anyway.

W: Good to hear.

E:  Do you have anything in mind for the sequel?

W:  I’m thinking illiterate, child raping warlord on a flying horse.

E:  Not bad.

Calendar:

It’s time for the atheist calendar portion of the show where we set aside a few minutes to talk up some of the great atheist and secular meet-ups going on around the country and around the world.

We’ll start off with a Skepticamp event in Essex County, Massachusetts on April 13th.  Runs from 9:30 to 4, has some really interesting topics lined up and ends out with a Skeptical Trivia event that should be a lot of fun.

http://skepticamp.capeannskeptics.com/?page_id=45

On April 20th we have the South Dakota Conference of Reason in Sioux Falls.  And I know that people who live in and around South Dakota have a lot of choices when it comes to atheist conferences, but this one should be worth the drive.

Facebook Page for conference: https://www.facebook.com/events/214700748667522/?fref=ts

On the 27th of April there’ll be another Skepticamp event in Denver with an equally impressive slate of topics including a pretty promising talk on pseudo-astronomy, woo in women’s health and teen atheist outreach.

http://skepticamp.org/wiki/Skepticamp_Denver_2013

And finally in Atlanta we’ve got a three day skepticamp conference starting on the 3rd of May and running through the weekend.

http://www.atlantaskeptics.com/skepticamp/

And how could I not mention the fact that the Brisbane Atheists are hosting a Pirate Party for their monthly meet up on April 30th.  I’d love to go just to find out what pirate-speak sounds like with an Australian accent.  And incidentally, if any of my Australian listeners want to settle that mystery for me, feel free to send an audio clip.

http://www.somewheretothink.com.au/events/pirate-party-australia-brisbane-monthly-meetup-2013-04-30/

That’ll do it for the calendar this week, but I want to remind everybody listening that if you’re involved with an atheist, skeptical or secular event that could use some publicity, let me know.  Also if you’re aware of any good online resources for such events, let me know about those as well.  You’ll find all the contact info on the contact page at ScathingAtheist (dot) com.  And remember, we’re weekly now so I need all the help I can get filling this segment.

Outro:

I had a couple of quick announcements before we close out the show.  We’ve been putting a few segments of the show on You-Tube so if you want to share one part of the show with somebody who might not be able to make it through the whole show, check out our You-Tube channel for some bite-sized pieces of The Scathing Atheist.

We’ve also added a donation button to the website so if you were anxious to give us money, you could do that.  Those donations are tax-deductible, but unfortunately that’s only for residents of Tatooine, Mordor and the magical land of Hyrule.  The rest of you still have to pay your taxes.

We’ll have the long version of the Holy Babble segment up on the extras page on the website soon so be sure to check that out.  Wanted to thank everyone who’s made their way over to iTunes to leave us a five star review.  Gotta thank Lucinda and Heath for helping out tonight.

And I want to give a big thanks to George Hrab for both providing the Farnsworth quote to start us out and for entertaining the shit out of my wife and I last Friday night.  The guys an incredible musician so if you’re a fan of the music, find an opportunity to watch him live.  It’s an incredible experience and I’ll have links to all his upcoming events on the shownotes for the page.  He also has a really fun podcast that I’ll link to as well.

http://about.me/georgehrab

http://www.geologicpodcast.com/

That does it for tonight, but if you want more be sure to check out our erratically published blog, follow us on Twitter @Noah (underscore) Lugeons, like us on Facebook, subscribe to us on You-Tube, listen to us on Stitcher and give us money.

If you want to learn more about the news items and events discussed on this program, check out the shownotes for this episode.  If you have any comments, questions or death threats you’ll find all the contact info on the “Contact” page at Scathing Atheist (dot) Com.  All the music used in this program was written and performed by yours truly and yes, I did have my permission.

Podcast Reboot

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

It worked for Batman, James Bond and Star Trek so we figured we’d give it a try ourselves.  The podcast has been revitalized and reissued with a brand new episode one.  It will be available on all the major platforms within a few days, but if you’d like to beat the crowds, you can subscribe by pointing your pod-catching software here.

The format is new, with 30 minute biweekly shows and, depending on the response, we’ll keep ourselves open to upping it to weekly shows.

Of course, if you just can’t wait, you can listen to the podcast here:

Autoplay (NSFW)

God’s brother Mikey

by Noah Lugeons

Not many people know the story of Mikey. The less ambitious of the two brothers, Mikey was gifted with the same omnipotence as Jehovah but found himself less inclined to direct it in any meaningful way.

On the first day, Mikey was playing a video game. His omniscience had already seen all the video game consoles that the future had to offer and despite the vastly superior graphics of later systems, he still preferred the old school gameplay of the Nintendo Entertainment System. At the time that God interrupted, he was playing Ghosts and Goblins, a game that required omnipotence to beat.

“What the fuck is that?!” Mikey asked, shielding his eyes as the door swung open.

“I call it light,” Jehovah said excitedly, “I’ve got a whole plan… heavens, seas, animals… it’s gonna be crazy.”

Mikey reluctantly paused his game and followed his brother outside. A pair of sunglasses (the first pair, to be exact) phenomenized in his hands and he donned them as he glanced up at God’s creation.  “Whatever,” he said dismissively, “I’m going to bed.”

On the following morning, Mikey awoke violently as water splashed onto his face. “Now what?!” he grumbled as he stormed outside through knee-deep liquid. “What the fuck are you doing?” he called out as he swung open the door.

“I call it water. Don’t worry,” God said with a passive wave, “I’m going to create solid ground next.”

“Well can you hurry the hell up? It’s kinda hard to sleep with all this churning and rolling.”

“Yeah, I should be done with the ground tomorrow sometime.”

“Tomorrow! Why tomorrow?”

God waved his arms in a sweeping gesture, as though to convey the enormity of the project at hand. “I promise… I’ll get to it as soon as I can. I’m still separating all these seas.”

Mikey rolled his eyes and a canoe (the first canoe, to be exact) phenomenized before him as he made his way back to his bed. He tried creating a stable platform on which to sleep, but it churned with the waters and he was ripped back to consciousness each time a splash of the cold liquid splattered onto his skin. He tried a few more constructs before eventually settling on a large enclosed space that would roll comfortably amongst the new waves.

He slept through the day and awoke on the following morning with his enclosed structure blissfully beached on steady ground. He stretched and a cup of coffee appeared in his throat. He considered seeing how Jehovah was doing, but he almost feared whatever monstrosity might await him outside so he remained inside his boat and played a few games of Mario Kart. Later he phenomenized a pizza and a bong and before he knew it, he was asleep again.

On the fourth day he finally came forth from his protective encapsulation. He stepped on to the upper deck of his refuge and glanced down. “Yo, Joey!” he said, calling to his brother.

“My name’s Jehovah,” he muttered.

“Digging that big orange ball of flame… it’s nice. I’d have put it a little higher up, but hey, that’s just me.”

“It actually rises and falls back over on that side. It moves kind of slow. I’m trying to get it to exactly 24 hours but it’s a pain in the ass.”

“How close are you?”

“I’m within a minute.”

Mikey shrugged. “Close enough.”

That was often Mikey’s solution to a conundrum, but God decided that in this instance he was probably right. “I like your ark,” he remarked as he took in his brother’s improvised shelter. “I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

“Loving what you did with the sky, little bro,” he said as he climbed down from his perch. By the time he reached the sandy shores a beer had appeared in his hand. “Little white patches floating by… nice touch.”

“Clouds, I call ’em. You should see it at night. I did stars and everything.”

“Nice,” he said as he cracked open the beer. “So what are you planning with this whole thing?”

God smiled and Mikey could tell by his expression that his brother had been dying to lay the plan out since this whole thing started. It had taken a few days for Mikey to take the bait and he could tell immediately he was in for a long story. He phenomenized a chair and sat back as he drank.

“Well… I still gotta finish the moon, but then the next couple days I’m working on animals.”

“What the fuck are animals?”

“Little living, sentient things that’ll eat each other and compete for limited resources. It’ll be fun to watch.”

Mikey wrinkled his nose. “Sounds like a pain in the ass. Are you gonna take care of all those things? You know… take ’em for walks and stuff?”

“Nope. They’re on their own in a cruel world, bro. But hold on, I haven’t told you the…”

“Wait… a cruel world? Why would you create a cruel world?”

“Cruelty will act as a lesson about the vastness of my power. I’ll creating suffering so that they can enjoy bounty in its absence.”

“That doesn’t make a lick of sense.”

“No… it does. See, you can’t have good without evil.”

“Yes you can,” Mikey said, finishing the last swallow from his beer, “You’re omnipotent, remember? You can have anything you want.”

“Anyway, don’t worry about it. That’s not even the best part. I haven’t told you about ‘man’ yet.”

Mikey caused his sunglasses to reappear just so that he could slide them down his nose and glance skeptically from behind them. “What are mans?”

“Men.”

“Okay, what are mens?”

“No, man, but when you pluralize it, you say ‘men’.”

“See, that doesn’t make any sense either.”

“I work in mysterious ways, Mikey.”

“Whatever… fine. So what are ‘men’?” he asked, forcing an overly sarcastic emphasis onto the word.

“Okay… this is so cool… They’ll be like little versions of us. My own image and everything. And I’ll give them free will and I’ll stick them in a garden paradise…”

“Well that’s nice of you…” Mikey started, but Jehovah wasn’t finished and simply spoke over him.

“… but I’ll put a tree in there with really delicious fruit on it and I’ll tell them not to eat it and when they do… and you know they will… anyway, when they do, I’ll curse them for all of eternity.”

Mikey offered only a glacial blink.

“And then I’ll fuck with ’em for a few centuries and totally remove myself from their world. And if they don’t believe I exist after that, I’ll condemn them to spend eternity burning in a fiery pit.”

“What’s a fiery pit?”

“It’s something I’m going to create just to be a miserable ass place to spend eternity in.”

A long moment passed as Mikey tried to absorb all this information. Several times he started to speak and then realized he lacked sufficient words to express his disbelief. He looked into his brother’s eyes and saw the hint of madness he’d always suspected was there.

Finally, he responded with a single syllable, the only syllable that seemed remotely appropriate under the circumstances: “Why?”

“Because I want them to see how awesome I am,” he answered with a straight face. “They’ll love me or they’ll burn in hell in an unending orgy of tragic pain for all of time. It’ll be great!

“Dude… you’ve lost your fucking mind. I’m sorry to just lay it out there like that, but you’re fucking crazy. That’s the weirdest shit I’ve ever heard. Seriously… I should create mental asylums just so I could lock you in one.”

“Go ahead. See if you ever figure out how the tides work, dick.”

God turned his back on his brother and Mikey retreated to his ark to play some more video games. It would be centuries before he came out again and by then, his brother had so irrevocably fucked up his experiment that he’d simply given up on it and moved on to a new project.

Mikey shrugged and went back inside to play some Gears of War.

Thus ends the gospel of Mikey.

90% of Americans Believe in Space Fairies

June 3, 2011 3 comments

by Noah Lugeons

In surveying the national tenor, one could be forgiven for believing that the atheists are gaining ground. While it might seem in some areas that reason is outweighing superstition and secularism is encroaching on stupidity, the numbers would like to respectfully disagree.

In a recent Gallup Poll, more than 90% of Americans still believe in god despite the fact that in the same survey, 100% of them had no evidence upon which to base this asinine assumption.  What’s worse is that among the remaining 9% or so, only about a third were willing to go as far as to say they were “convinced that god did not exist”.  4% of the total took the fence-riding position of an agnostic atheist (“I don’t believe in god but I don’t have the guts to own it”) and 2 % actually said they had “no opinion” on the existence of god.

Gallup has been running these religion surveys for upwards of 70 years now and the total number of non-believers has been remarkably flat in that time. It looked for a time like atheists were gaining ground, but in truth this was a surveying error.  When Gallup recently amended their survey to include a question about belief in a “universal spirit”, a solid eighth of all Americans are willing to sign on to that option.

So is this good news or bad news?

Well, the trend lines are a bit tricky but one thing is certain: organized religion is losing ground.  The number of people who express an actual “belief in god” has been in steady decline for more than a decade. But not all of these gains are going to the atheist camp. Many choose to reject bullshit specifically but not in general. This growth of the “spiritual” movement has been rapid enough to all but wipe out any gains atheists might have seen in the past 50 years.  In fact, as recently as 2008, Gallup’s research showed a reversing trend line.  The number of professed atheists actually dropped by almost a full percent which, perhaps coincidentally, was almost exactly the same percent gained by the more Unitarian belief.

The saddest finding is under a category where Gallup asks respondents about the certitude with which they accept god. They allow for 5 potential answers:

  1. Convinced that god exists
  2. God probably exists, but I have some doubt
  3. God probably exists, but I have a lot of doubt
  4. God probably doesn’t exist, but I’m not sure
  5. Convinced God doesn’t exist.

In the results of this question we find that as many as three-quarters of Americans are unwilling to even entertain doubt that god exists. Officially, 73% were counted in that 1st category with only 3% selecting the correct answer offered at the bottom.

Of course, our perception of this is often colored by where in the country we live.  Those in the West (where atheism and “spiritualism” are at their highest) might be tempted to dismiss the findings altogether while those in the South are likely shocked to find so much rationality in the country.

The issue, of course, is a lack of devangelism. Atheists are too damn nice and too willing to pretend to be “agnostic” about the existence of god. Hell, 2% of respondents were so on the fence that they couldn’t even call themselves agnostic and instead chose “no opinion”. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone more sentient than a potato could have no opinion on the existence of god, but nobody ever went broke overestimating the vacuousness of Americans.

The ACLU: Banner Banners

by Noah Lugeons

Gotta love the ACLU.

The ACLU announced yesterday that they would be filing a lawsuit to force a Boston area school to remove an explicitly Christian banner from the school’s auditorium. Apparently just pointing out that the law expressly forbids it hanging there wasn’t enough to convince the school, who voted to keep the banner up when the same issue was brought before them last year.

The ability of Christians to play “repressed” never fails to amaze me. In a nation where virtually every position of power in the government is controlled by a Christian, every president through our nation’s history has been Christian (unless you believe Bradlee Dean) and Christianity enjoys a cornucopia of privileges not granted to other faiths, still the holier-than-me of the world will claim oppression whenever they are expected to play by the same rules as everyone else.

Keep in mind that when atheists put a harmless sign on a bus with the pussy-footing message of “There’s probably no God”, the Christians get apoplectic. They sue, they protest, they write angry letters to the editor and eventually vandalize the signs. This is their reaction to a message so watered down it’s drowning. This is their reaction when we simply say “by the way, we also exist”.

And yet, somehow in the miswired mind of the faithful, it’s perfectly okay to indoctrinate the children of atheists (not to mention Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and those of any other faith). So much so that it will require action by the courts just to get them to stop flaunting their majority in a way that is expressly forbidden in the Constitution.

I’m okay with Christians claiming oppression, but shouldn’t we at least get the joy of oppressing them first? If they were complaining because they were being fed to lions, I would completely understand that. I’d also be on You-Tube searching every derivative of the words “Christian”, “Lion” and “Disemboweled”.

I’ll never understand how the Christian brain manages to overcome the inherent paradox of saying that they are being treated unfairly because they are being treated the same way as everyone else.

By the way, I double checked… there are no You-Tube results for Christian, Lion, Disemboweled. All for the best… it might have been a video of CS Lewis’ Jesus allegory getting ripped open.

We Need Towel Day Carols

by Noah Lugeons

Today we celebrate Towel Day, one of the greatest of secular holidays. This is a day we set aside to remember the works of the great Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and the less often cited but no less hilarious Dirk Gently series.

Adams was pivotal in my personal trip toward atheism. I had already lost by belief by the time my cousin gave me his tattered copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I was about 12 at the time and it was the first time I’d seen religion unapologetically lampooned in a work of fiction. It was the first time I’d seen anyone treat religion the way that I always saw atheism treated. It was the first time in my short and limited experience that I felt like it was okay not to believe in god.

The atheist thread runs deep in all of Adam’s works and he was an outspoken atheist and skeptic throughout his public life. His works continue to inspire and amuse and while it is hard to call such a recent work timeless, it is harder to imagine a day when analogies like:

“The ships hung in the air much in the way that bricks don’t”

will cease to be funny.

In addition to inspiring me to embraced my disbelief, Douglas Adams is also the person that inspired me to write. He sparked a lifelong passion that has done more to define the person that I am than anything else.

I will carry my towel with pride today.

I’m too late this year, but I’d like to put out an open call from the wide expanse of the interwebs (or the laser-narrow portion that reads this blog) for plenty of Towel Day Carols for next year. I can’t imagine anything that would be a more appropriate tribute to the life and works of Douglas Adams than a bunch of sacrilegious, sarcastic songs about a bullshit holiday celebrating towels.

I’d like to close this brief tribute with one of the most atheist appropriate quotes that one could find in Adam’s writings:

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Harold Camping: 3rd Time’s the Charm!

by Noah Lugeons

This is why I’ll never understand the faithful.  Harold Camping predicted the rapture would happen on September 7th of 1994.  When that didn’t happen, he predicted it again in 2011.

So let’s try to get beyond that first. You fail in predicting something as grandiose as the fucking rapture, you shouldn’t be qualified to guess weight at a carnival from that point forward. If a scientist predicted the end of the world and then it failed to pass, nobody on this planet would listen to anything that scientist said again but to mock it.

But religion doesn’t work that way.  Harold Camping got a mulligan.

And it wasn’t even like his followers were slightly less credulous the second time around. It would be easy to say that after being burned once you’d at least accept the possibility that he was going to come up short again this time. But if you look at the results from this latest failure it seems that if anything, their faith in their leader increased. At the very least their financial support grew if the national advertising blitzkrieg is anything to judge by.

From my rational, atheistic point of view it seems like the idea of going out to witness the end of mankind again would be a red flag in itself. But not for these unquestioning Camp-ites. They are doubly sure this time because they were wrong the time before.

Different year, same result. No rapture. And Camping gets a mulligan.

That’s right. Camping has spoken. Turns out that the rapture did occur on Saturday. I figured as much… as though he might suggest that us linen-wearing, indiscriminate meat-eaters weren’t good enough to be spared, but he chose the more “loving Jesus” approach to the whole thing.

Camping’s explanation for why the rapture failed to happen is simple. Jesus reappeared and took a look at humanity and his big-old Jesusy heart just couldn’t bear to put us through all that torment. But have no fears, Camping isn’t backing off from his original October deadline for the actual end of the world. He’s just saying that Christ didn’t have the heart to rapture his loyal followers up to sky-candy land. Seems that this pang of conscience didn’t extend to not actually killing everyone and sending the vast majority to an eternity of suffering in Hell.

I’m sure Camping lost some of his flock, but if even one person is still clinging to the ramblings of this deranged old kook it is one too many. Come to think of it, I feel the same way about Jesus.