Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
“And why does this same God tell me how to raise my children when he had to drown his?”
― Robert G. Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses
Let me go on the record (for the nth time), that it’s ridiculous that all these idiots are getting puffed up over specific renditions of a fucking fairy tale:
Darren Aronofksy's Noah could be banned across large swaths of the Middle East and parts of north Africa for contravening Islamic rules on the depiction of prophets, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The fantasy epic, which stars Russell Crowe as the biblical patriarch, has already been refused a licence by censors in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt could well follow suit, with Jordan and Kuwait also expected to outlaw the film on religious grounds.
"Al-Azhar renews its rejection to [sic] the screening of any production that characterises Allah's prophets and messengers and the companions of the Prophet [Muhammad]," said one of Egypt's leading Sunni Muslim institutes in a statement. "Therefore, al-Azhar announces the prohibition of the upcoming film about Allah's messenger Noah – peace be upon him." The institute, which is influential but does not have the final say on censorship, added that the movie "contradicts the stature of prophets and messengers ... and antagonises the faithful".
Noah is currently due to open in Egypt on 26 March, two days ahead of its US debut. The film has already caused controversy amid reports that US fundamentalist Christian groups were dismayed at Aronofksy's decision to produce a loose adaptation of the Bible story rather than a literal retelling. Studio Paramount, which is desperate to court religious filmgoers, last week issued a statement making clear that the movie is not intended as a direct translation.
Aronofsky famously gave up final cut on Noah in return for a $160m budget. But he nevertheless appears to have convinced executives to show his version of the film in cinemas, rather than the reported half a dozen alternative cuts put together by the studio in an attempt to keep churchgoers happy.
"The controversy is all about the unknown and about the fear of people trying to exploit a Bible story," Aronofsky told Variety this week. "It will all disappear as soon as people start seeing the film."
The director of Black Swan and The Wrestler hinted he was likely to return to smaller, more intimate movies after the travails he has faced bringing Noah to cinemas.
"I love big movies and small movies and television," said the film-maker. "I love storytelling, but I'm not going to make another [nine-figure-budget film] tomorrow. I need a break."
Oh wow. So let’s get this straight: religious idiots are carrying on about details and accuracy in a demonstrably unproven fairy tale? There is absolutely no evidence that the ‘great deluge’ ever occurred (a few stories in different cultures doesn’t count – it only proves that interesting stories travel, and/or that our ancestors didn’t know how to interpret fossils), let alone any proof that all the animals across the world inexorably marched to the Middle East, nor that any of the people involved in this ‘event’ actually existed. In fact, I find the show ‘Gilligan’s Island’ to be far more accurate and realistic than any campfire stories told by some Israelite shepherds centuries ago.
It’s well past time our species outgrew these kindergarten nonsenses. Religion is Man’s effort to force his own shadow upon the universe.
Till the next post, then.
You know Fred Phelps. You loathe Fred Phelps. You despise everything he stands for, like his family members’ infamous protests at soldiers’ funerals with their awful “God Hates Fags” signs. They’ve been a symbol for many years of the religion-based animosity against the LGBT community — to the point that they’ve been labeled a “hate group” and even the most fundamentalist Christian groups denounce his church’s activities.
Nate Phelps (below) is Fred’s son and a former member of Westboro Baptist Church. He left the church, and therefore the core of the family, in 1976 when he was 18 years olds and has since come out as an atheist, but he still keeps in touch with some of his extended family members, many of whom have also escaped from the church.
Tonight, on Facebook, Nate posted this:
I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.
I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.
I just got off the phone with Nate and he confirmed what he had written. The rumors had been flying for several weeks, he said, but after a conversation with some of his fellow “excommunicated” family members, he found out that the rumors were true. He elaborated on that final line, too, saying that the Phelps family is now blocking anyone who is no longer with the church from seeing him, including Fred’s sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews.
Why was he kicked out of his own church? Did he have a change of heart near the end of his life? There’s no definitive answer to that and Nate has heard different things (so any explanation is pure speculation right now).
In any case, it appears that Fred Phelps doesn’t have much longer to live. While some may rejoice at that, Nate’s tone over the phone was anything but happy. He’s losing his father. A father who dedicated his life to spreading hatred and made the lives of so many others so miserable, but a father nonetheless.
What will become of Westboro without him? While I would like to say it’ll disappear entirely, that’s unlikely, at least in the short term. My guess is that Fred Phelps, mostly due to his age (he’s 84), hasn’t been an integral part of the church’s activities for quite some time. Those responsibilities have long been delegated to other members of the church, mostly to daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper. But without the founding figurehead in place, we can at least hope Westboro becomes less relevant and eventually obsolete.
If there’s any solace to be found in this story, it’s that many of Fred’s thirteen children and extended family members have escaped from his indoctrination — 20 of them have fled since 2004, according to one report, with three-quarters of them under the age of 30. It’s uplifting, in a way, to realize that even people who grow up under the most vile of belief systems can end up respectable and tolerant and kind and wonderful.
Indeed, several of those former church members, including Nate, are LGBT-rights activists.
In the meantime, we’re all left debating whether it’d make a larger statement to picket his eventual funeral or ignore it and turn the other cheek.
(Thanks to Richard for the link)
Here’s an interesting concept for a debate: Get two scholars to debate “Jesus of Nazareth: Man or Myth.” Oh, and they’re both atheists.
Ah, racists…simultaneously so smug and so stupid. One racist white guy wrote in anonymously to People of Color in European Art History with a slightly leading question:
Can you explain why Europeans were much more technologically advanced than the indigenous populations of Africa? I mean, these cultures hadn’t even invented sewage systems, which is something the Romans were able to design and implement in 800-735 BC (a long fucking time before "the white man" colonized it)… I mean fuck, without "the white man", they would probably still be in the fucking bronze age.
Go read the answer. You’ll learn more about brown people’s ancient plumbing, at a time when Europeans hadn’t quite figured out sanitation, than you ever knew before. Flush toilets in the 18th century BCE, elaborate hydraulic systems in 3100 BCE, pressure inverted siphons in 1600 BCE, while Europeans’ most sophisticated approach to sewage was dumping their chamber pots in the street.
Last night on Real Time, Bill Maher took on the Noah movie, evolution, and religion in general (with “Cosmos” producer Seth MacFarlane sitting next to him for bonus points):
Skeptic Dr. Karen Stollznow describes a psychic reading given to her by a stranger that was eerily accurate:
Pete paused as he connected to the other side. “Did your grandmother pass?” he asked. “You tell me,” I replied. “I have your grandmother here,” he decided. “She died about 2000.” I was surprised as this was correct. Still, I thought, it could be a lucky guess. I asked for her name. “I’m getting that she has an “r” in her name somewhere.” This is correct although vague. “R” is a very common letter and Pete couldn’t expand on her name. He continued, “She’s an intelligent lady and she likes to talk. I can’t keep up with her chatter!” My grandmother was an intelligent woman and she did like to chat, but this still wasn’t evidence of a paranormal connection.
I didn’t provide any feedback to Pete but asked him if he was seeing anything else from my grandmother. There was yet another long pause. “She said something about looking behind the wardrobe.” This was an amazing “hit”! These had been among the final words spoken by my grandmother. I was admittedly impressed with Pete’s reading, but suspicious at his accuracy…
There’s an explanation, of course. There’s always an explanation.
(Image via Shutterstock)
The main premise of the article is revealed in the short blurb under the title: "On the 60th anniversary of the double helix, we should admit that we don't fully understand how evolution works at the molecular level, suggests Philip Ball."The worst thing about the Nature article was the misuse of the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. The second worst thing was the "revelation" that genes are regulated by regulatory sequences as if that was a new discovery. (He mentions the ENCODE results.)
What nonsense! We understand a great deal about how evolution works at the molecular level.
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What comes to mind when you hear the word “Separatists”?
Something militant? Something evil? Though it technically refers to a group seeking independence (from their country, for example), we usually only hear the term in violent contexts (like in the image below, with the destruction caused by a “separatist” group).
Take a look at examples of the word in print:
The government-run Xinhua News Agency described the Kunming train station assault as a “premeditated violent terrorist attack” and identified the perpetrators as separatists from China’s restive Xinjiang region.
ETA, formed in 1959 during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco to fight for Basque self-determination, said in 2011 it would collaborate with the international group of monitors led by Ram Manikkalingam, a former advisor to the Sri Lankan government on negotiations with the Tamil Tiger separatist militants.
Mr. King’s video showed the Russian separatists hurling bricks and fireworks at a small number of participants in the anti-war rally, before breaking through police lines to beat the unarmed demonstrators.
At least 11 people, mostly soldiers, were killed and several injured in an attack allegedly carried out by separatist militants on a military facility in the southern Lahij province, security sources said.
Like I said: This is a word that often describes violent groups — people willing to injure or kill in order to achieve their goals.
So why is Glenn Beck‘s website “The Blaze” using the word to describe the Freedom From Religion Foundation?
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist group, sent a letter to Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper this week, complaining over his involvement in a Christian ministry called Prayer Force United — and taking aim at sectarian prayers that the group claims are a part of staff meetings and events.
The Greater Sacramento Chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist group, will post billboards in Sacramento on Monday, carrying messages like, “I worship nothing and question everything,” “Studying the Bible made me an atheist” and “Reason. Equality. Doing Good — all without gods.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist organization, first wrote letters to local leaders last year telling them that a lawsuit would result if the crosses remained on government property, The Herald-Star reported.
Starnes reports that it was the Freedom of Religion Foundation (FFRF), a church-state separatist group, that sent a letter to officials. It’s unclear if two separate letters were sent by the ACLU and the FFRF, but this would not be the first time that the two groups have intervened simultaneously on a First Amendment issue.
As far as I can tell, that leaves us with two possibilities:
The generous one is that editor Billy Hallowell is using the words “separation” and “separatist” as synonyms.
The conspiratorial one is that Hallowell knows the difference and also knows that his readers probably don’t — so it’s a way of linking FFRF, a group right-wingers already don’t like, to a kind of group that right-wingers would actively hate.
Either way, the word portrays FFRF as even more of a bogeyman than usual (rather than as defenders of the Constitution). Considering the number of threats the folks at FFRF get on a regular basis, it’s not just a rhetorical flourish; it’s downright irresponsible to be doing it.
I’ve urged Hallowell via email to change his word usage, assuming he’s treating it as a synonym for “separation.”
There are a whole host of scientists who want to overthrow the Modern Synthesis for a variety of other (stupid) reasons. Most of them have no idea that the Modern Synthesis has (or should have) been replaced 40 years ago.
Here's another example from last week's issue Science (March 7, 2014). Susan M. Rosenberg and Christine Queitsch have an article entitled "Combating Evolution
to Fight Disease" (Rosenberg and Queitsch, 2014). They begin with ....
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It wasn't just people, animals and trees that were affected by radiation exposure at Chernobyl, but also the decomposers: insects, microbes, and fungi.
Read more of the article here.
As English schools consider downgrading practical science, John Baruch points out that other nations are rushing to include more.
Read more of the article here.
Robot fish could one day be enlisted for undercover science missions.
Read more of the article here.
However, you either believe in God or you don't. That view could change in the future. A religious person might become an atheist or an atheist might be swayed by a religious argument and become religious themselves.
For example, I'm technically an agnostic-atheist. I just don't bother with the agnostic part because I want to de-stigmatize the word 'atheist' and I don't want religious people to misinterpret my stance on belief and think I'm merely an agnostic. I also know the word 'atheist' is offensive to some religious people. Frankly, that is even more reason to use the word when describing myself.
I do hope there comes a day when the word is no longer necessary. Just like it's not necessary to describe yourself as an a-unicornist or a-dragonist.
Enjoy the video!
What is it about Chicago that draws celebrity anti-vaxers? We already have Jenny McCarthy and now we have Kristin Cavallari (reality show star and wife of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler).
We didn’t vaccinate… You know what, I’ve ready too many books about autism… There is a pediatric group called Homestead — Homestead or Homefirst; Now I [have] pregnancy brain, gotta confuse them — they’ve never vaccinated any of their children, and they haven’t had one case of autism. And now one in 88 boys is autistic. That’s a really scary statistic… The vaccinations have changed over the years, there’s more mercury and other…
(It’s Homefirst. And it’s founder has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and investigations.)
To her credit, host (and former MTV VJ) Kennedy politely tried to push back against Cavallari’s ignorance, but it didn’t go very far because they quickly moved on to the next topic: legalizing marijuana (Cavallari regained her senses on that issue).
It’s not that I’m shocked to hear the star of “Laguna Beach” say something idiotic and dangerous, but considering they spent the beginning of that segment talking about how the Cavallari of a decade ago was a “baby” (who was presumably less wise than she is today), it’s apparent that she has a long way to go. Until then, she’s putting her own children — and all the children they come into contact with — at risk. It’s irresponsible parenting as well as a safety hazard.
Meanwhile, Jenny McCarthy is just setting us up with this tweet the other day:
What is the most important personality trait you look for in a mate? Reply using #JennyAsks
— Jenny McCarthy (@JennyMcCarthy) March 13, 2014
Top of my list: Someone who doesn’t believe in endangering our future children.