Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We've Moved to LibraryGrape.com

After countless hours here at Compendium of Religious Evil, I have set up shop at a new home.

Please check out my new blog at LibraryGrape.com (for background on the name, check out the About page here).

The new blog will focus on a wider range of topics, including including politics, atheism, religion, technology, physics, literature and other assorted themes that cross my mind.

I hope you'll join me over at my new digs.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Christopher Hitchens on Sarah Palin

Here's a gem of a quote from a recent article by Christopher Hitchens on Sarah Palin (read the whole thing, it's positively delectable):
With Palin, however, the contempt for science may be something a little more sinister than the bluff, empty-headed plain-man's philistinism of McCain. We never get a chance to ask her in detail about these things, but she is known to favor the teaching of creationism in schools (smuggling this crazy idea through customs in the innocent disguise of "teaching the argument," as if there was an argument), and so it is at least probable that she believes all creatures from humans to fruit flies were created just as they are now. This would make DNA or any other kind of research pointless, whether conducted in Paris or not. Projects such as sequencing the DNA of the flu virus, the better to inoculate against it, would not need to be funded. We could all expire happily in the name of God. Gov. Palin also says that she doesn't think humans are responsible for global warming; again, one would like to ask her whether, like some of her co-religionists, she is a "premillenial dispensationalist"—in other words, someone who believes that there is no point in protecting and preserving the natural world, since the end of days will soon be upon us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Study Fails to Equate Religious Belief with Superstition

Another good-natured riposte to Andrew Sullivan, a man I respect for his political commentary. In a short post referring to a study conducted by Baylor University (a Baptist theological institution, mind you) that examines whether people of faith believe in certain superstitious notions such as astrology, he makes a self-defeating reference that needs to be explored. He wrote:
"Bill Maher attacked people of faith by making fun of those who believe in guardian angels. But according to a new study, non-believers are far more superstitious than believers." (emphasis mine)
This is a false comparison that relies upon his flawed representation of what superstition means. Superstition is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as "an irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome." Whichever way you want to look at it, it is hard to make an argument that a belief in God (not to mention a resurrected Jesus and burning bushes) is not fundamentally "an irrational belief that an object, action, or circumstance not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome".

From this, shouldn't all religious believers be deemed 100% superstitious due to their irrational belief in an unknowable God? With that in mind, his final sentence becomes nonsense. 100% superstition is unarguably a larger figure than the 31% of non-believers identified in the article from which his source quotes.

By the way, Mollie Hemingway, the source from which Sullivan draws his conclusion, makes a similar mistake in her article:
"Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama's former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin's former denomination, did." (emphasis mine)
I think you see where I'm going with this. To get to her conclusion, Hemingway relies on another false comparison involving the definition of the word paranormal, which means: "beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation." Again, it is hard to make the argument that a belief in God is not "beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation." Thus, religious people who believe in God (especially of the Pentecostal variety) are, as a defined group, necessarily 100% believers in the paranormal. 100% belief in the paranormal by religious believers is, again, a much greater percentage than the 31% of non-believers identified by Hemingway.

P.S. I wonder to what greater proof Sullivan owes his religious faith than an ardent ufologist or believer in healing crystal pyramids? Just asking...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A World Without Theism?

A reader at the Daily Dish replied to the atheist that I replied to yesterday. It's a really great read and I agree with most of his/her points (any emphasis mine):

To me, atheism is a scientific argument with moral ramifications. Theism is a theory that cannot be reasonably defended within the paradigm our natural world. Just like no scientist would give any consideration to people claiming that the sun revolves around the earth. It's not matter of ridicule. It matter of understanding hypothesis, observation, and conclusion. While this angers many religious folk as somehow condescending, most atheists like Dawkins are simply saying that based on our knowledge of the scientific method, one cannot argue that the world was created in seven days, or that water turned to wine, etc., etc. There is no malice intended. There is only frustration at the number of people who can selectively relax their notion of scientific rigor to allow for these supernatural beliefs.

Personally, I can understand anti-theism, and in many ways support it. The reason has nothing to do with superiority or snobbishness. It pains me in my heart to see the death and destruction that religion has caused throughout history. It gives me anxiety to look at my one-year old son and think that he'll be brought up in a society that doesn't see any link between the erosion of critical thinking and the increase in religiosity. People seem to need figures like bin Laden, Koresh, Hubbard, etc., so they can point fingers and proclaim them to be religious fanatics or "wackos". It makes the average moderate Christian/Muslim/Jew/Hindu feel better about their faith. As if the suspension of scientific thought that they exercise has absolutely nothing to do the extremism that is built on the same principle. I am not trying to lump everyone into the same group here, I'm just attempting to explain how a scientist views this general line of thinking as major threat to society. The slippery-est of slopes.

I sincerely believe that most atheism is spawned not out of hate and elitism, but out of love. Atheists like me have simply lost all faith that religion can exist without being used as a tool for justifying war and subjugation. If it could, even scientists that cringe at the thought of accepting supernatural beliefs would probably learn to coexist peacefully with theism, given that many beliefs system also catalyze acts of great compassion. But in the end, I'm torn as to which notion is more naïve and idealistic: a world without theism or world in which theism does not lead to human suffering.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


A disgruntled milquetoast atheist has this to say of antitheism:

The new atheism has made its challenge, then. And here is my answer. I don't believe in God, in any meaningful way. I am not a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Jew, or whatever else you will. In questions of public policy I feel religion has no place, and rational discourse has to rule. I don't want religious artifacts in the public square, I don't want creationism taught in public schools, and I don't want any religion privileged in any way by government. I am, in most every way that matters, a natural ally of atheism.

But atheism has expelled me. It has expelled me because it has in its heart contempt and loathing and fear of the other. So I reject it. I don't reject all atheists; many atheists are uninterested in ridiculing the religious-- they simply want to be left in peace, and not have religion forced on them or on the law. That, to me, is a principled atheism, and one I am happy to coexist with. But this new atheism, this anti-theism, has only contempt at its heart, and I reject it as thoroughly as it has rejected me.

I respectfully disagree.

In a nutshell, when faced with something evil, the proper reaction is revulsion and contempt.

In my opinion, milquetoast atheism (which is happy to let religion perform its daily evils upon us) only holds any validity if you accept as your fundamental premise that religion is ultimately innocuous.

As I have written about on this blog for months now, in my opinion, religion is NOT innocuous. It causes untold amounts of suffering and subjects us to evil acts every day.

As an antitheist, I believe that religion deserves our contempt. If this has the effect of "rejecting" people that are fine with tolerating religion, then so be it.

Update: Dealing with the precise subject matter of the atheist-in-question's remarks, I don't see why he/she thinks they are being rejected from the broader atheist movement.

As noted in this post, an atheist is "Someone who denies the existence of god". Antitheism goes one step further, generally being defined as "Active opposition to the belief in the existence of a God". From this, we can see that antitheism is a smaller subset within the larger construct of atheism.

Based on the above, the broader atheist/non-antitheist movement would be (and likely is) happy to have the writer within its fold. It's the antitheist subset that would not be comfortable with the writer's dangerous religious apologism.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Christian Group Says Hitler Never Killed Homosexuals

Some lovely Christian organization wants you to believe that the Nazis didn't kill homosexuals. There truly is no depth to which they will not sink. On the July 10 episode of the "Christian Worldview Network":
In today's program Brannon exposes that lie that Hitler killed homosexuals. Even a homosexual writer admits that is false. Some of Hitler's inner circle were homosexual and bi-sexual. The Brown Shirts started as a homosexual and bisexual organization. Brannon also reveals how the SS officers were desensitized. Many of the SS were "Christians" that went to church and some were even installed in ceremonies in churches. Evangelical pastors from other countries even praised Hitler at the beginning. The church of Germany was weak prior to Hitler coming to power and the weak pulpits make the church no obstacle for Hitler. Is the American church in the same condition?
Seriously, f**k these ignorant a**holes.

Here's some facts:
Upon the rise of Adolf Hitler, gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians,[1] were two of several groups targeted by the Nazi Party and were ultimately among the roster of Holocaust victims. Beginning in 1933, gay organizations were banned, scholarly books about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, were burned, and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered. The Gestapo compiled lists of homosexuals, and they were compelled to sexually conform to the German norm. An estimated 1.2 million men were out homosexuals in Germany in 1928.[citation needed] Between 1933-45, more than 100,000 men were registered by police as homosexuals ("Rosa Listen" or "Pink List"), and of these, some 50,000 were officially sentenced. Most of these men spent time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of the total sentenced were incarcerated in concentration camps. It is unclear how many of these 5,000 to 15,000 eventually perished in the concentration camps. The leading scholar Ruediger Lautman however believes that the death rate in concentration camps of imprisoned homosexuals may have been as high as 60%. Homosexuals in camps were treated in an unusually cruel manner by their captors, and were also persecuted by their fellow inmates. This was a factor in the relatively high death rate for homosexuals, compared to other "anti-social groups".

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Need for Militant Antitheism

Here's some interesting nuggets from an email exchange I had recently on an Atheist listserv:

I responded to this email from one Tyler:
Not all religion is malicious. Childish, illogical, and bad on the extreme, but not always evil. Besides, what can we do against the vast majority? We can spread knowledge that Atheism is an option and is a justified position (in the Richard Dawkins way). That's pretty much it. And seriously... "go to religious websites and engage the enemy". Really? I mean, as funny as it would be to tear down their set-in-stone beliefs, wouldn't we just be painting a bad image of atheism? I'd rather keep our number of enemies lower, and try to foster better relations with more people. Here is a potentially superior list-

Elect atheists to Senate and House
Elect atheist president
Have that president appoint an atheist Justice

A lot harder, I know. What we need to do is work toward acheiving all three of those. This means all of us have to actively try to make most religions comfortable (enough) with us. If we can do the first two things on that list, we've already won the war on religion. Spreading divisive (even if true) remarks won't help reach any of these goals.
Here's my response:
Most religions (especially of the Ambrahamic variety) will absolutely never be comfortable with Atheism. Period. Full Stop. The only way Atheism will ever have greater acceptance in America is to have less religious people inhabiting it.

To your "We can spread knowledge that Atheism is an option and is a justified position": Yeah, we've been doing that for a long while. In some countries it catches on (see Scandinavia). It won't here for a variety of reasons.

Hitchens, Dawkins and (especially) Sam Harris are part of the much more militant antitheism movement and embody the only way we can ratchet back the religious insanity in this country. This is by aggressively refuting their magical thinking and refusing to accept religious appeasement (i.e. oh, religion is fine as long as you're outwardly pleasant and not bombing things). Too many of us get distracted by noticeably BIG evils and forget to notice the subtle evils of moderate religious toleration that, in the aggregate, amount to a much greater mound of evil.

Photo of the Day - Jesse Helms

I was strolling around my new digs in Chicago's tony Andersonville neighborhood and came across a gallery that was having a most unusual 4th of July sale. Let's just say they were celebrating an occasion nearly as enjoyable as Independence Day:

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jesse Helms - Good Riddance

Jesse Helms, one of the most hateful bigots to hold the office of Senator of the United States of America in the last century, died today.

If he truly held the Christian beliefs he said that he did, I suspect he'll find his new home in the afterlife to be a bit warm. If the hell he believed in really is a place where you are tormented by your sins for eternity, let's just say that some strapping male African demons will be, ahem, "having their way" with him for a very long time.

Here's a sample of the hatred, fear, racism and homophobia that fed his career:
As an aide to the 1950 Senate campaign of North Carolina Republican candidate Willis Smith, Helms reportedly helped create attack ads against Smith's opponent, including one which read: "White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races."

Another ad featured photographs Helms himself had doctored to illustrate the allegation that Graham's wife had danced with a black man. (The News and Observer, 8/26/01; The New Republic, 6/19/95; The Observer, 5/5/96; Hard Right: The Rise of Jesse Helms, by Ernest B. Furgurson, Norton, 1986)

Ancient history? No. Helms remains unapologetic to this day. Forty years after the Smith campaign, Helms would win election against black opponent Harvey Gantt with another ad playing to racist white fear-- the so-called "white hands" ad, in which a white man's hands crumple a rejected job application while a voiceover intones, "You needed that job…but they had to give it to a minority."

In columns, commentaries and pronouncements from the Senate floor, Helms sowed hatred and called names: The University of North Carolina was "the University of Negroes and Communists." (Capital Times, 11/22/94) Black civil rights activists were "Communists and sex perverts." (Copley News Service, 8/23/01)

Over the years Helms has declared homosexuality "degenerate," and homosexuals "weak, morally sick wretches." (Newsweek, 12/5/94) In a tirade highlighting his routine opposition to AIDS research funding, Helms lashed out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988: "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." (States News Service, 5/17/88)

More recently, when a caller to CNN's Larry King Live show praised guest Jesse Helms for "everything you've done to help keep down the niggers," Helms' response was to salute the camera and say, "Well, thank you, I think." (Wilmington Star-News, 9/16/95)

Read More