Jonathan Sacks spouts apologistic nonsense for religion

An interview by Salon of Dr./Rabbi Jonathan Sacks contained the usual religious apologist drivel. Such as this quote:

Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts them together to see what they mean.

I’m a former Christian (of the Presbyterian variety) and reasonably well educated about religion in general since I became an atheist via a rational exploration of religion. In fact, my deconversion was triggered by reading Bertrand Russell in my early twenties. Religion provides meaning only in the most superficial sense. Specifically, by arbitrary decree. Notice how different religions disagree on what things mean with very little possibility of reconciling those differences. Neither is religion converging on a commonly agreed upon set of interpretations (i.e., meanings) of “things”. This is the polar opposite of science.

Then we have this gem:

I think it’s probably no accident that science grew up in cultures that were essentially Judeo-Christian.

Presumably he doesn’t include Islam in that milieu. Which is absurd given the contributions of Muslim Arabs to mathematics and science in the medieval world.

Warning, straw man alert:

I mean, somebody with a little intellectual humility does not say, “Anyone who disagrees with me is stupid.” That is fundamentalism.

I challenge Mr. Sacks to provide a single citation (twitter does not count) of a notable atheist making such a statement. You can easily find atheists like myself who have said something that stupid in the heat of the moment. But you’ll have a hard time finding such a statement by any atheist, let alone Richard Dawkins, in their writings or an interview. What we do say is that very few theists even make an attempt at providing a compelling argument that would convince a non-believer. And those that do make the attempt fall short.

Religion creates communities, and communities are essential for the moral life.

I agree that religion creates communities. Religion is especially good at creating in-groups that place every non-believer in an out-group deserving of condemnation. I disagree that communities are essential for “the moral life”. I’m a member of many communities yet base my morality on non of them.

H.P. Lovecraft on teaching the controversy

This is a fake quote contributed by commenter Lex Lata on Why Evolution Is True but it exemplifies one reason why so many of us oppose the teaching of “controversy” to pre-college age students.

“I’m not suggesting that children be exposed solely to the shuddersome knowledge of vast, entropic dimensions behind and beyond known spacetime, from which will skitter and ooze and swoop vile, deathless, gibbering, vulgar ungods that might notice humanity only long enough to devour our skins and spinal columns as they defile the very atoms of our world. I just think we should teach the controversy.”

–H.P. Lovecraft

AT&T increases my bill 70% in a single year

I sat down the other day to pay my bills. My AT&T landline bill was for $30.96. That seemed strange as it had been running between $24 and $25. So I looked at my billing history and screamed some obscenities at what I found.

Thirteen months ago I took a close look at my bill and was appalled to realize that for several years I had been paying for services (e.g., long-distance) that I didn’t need or use. So I called AT&T customer “service” (in the George Carlin sense of the word). That got my bill dropped from $42 to $18 (a decrease of 57%).

Note that I never use my landline. In fact I disconnected the sole phone a few months ago because the only incoming calls were telemarketers and I never used it for outgoing calls. The $18 was for a measured rate plan with no long-distance service. Which is perfect since I only use the connection for DSL Internet connectivity via ISP Sonic.net.

That $18 dollar bill was increased to $22 dollars the second month after I negotiated the lower rate. The extra $3.28 was for long-distance service which I neither requested, authorized or was notified was being added to my service.

There was another $3 increase (going from $22 to $25) two months after that. Apparently due to a measured service rate increase. Again with no notification other than a larger bill.

Then this month my bill jumped another $6 (going from $25 to $31). Apparently a promotional discount expired.

So in a single year my bill increased 70%. I called AT&T customer service and asked for an explanation. The representative unsurprisingly couldn’t provide an explanation. I think the rep was working in a call center in India (based on both his name and accent). I think he said my bill would be reduced $6 but he was hard to understand to I really have no idea what my next bill will be. And why it requires calling to complain to keep from being screwed is itself an obscenity.

Frankly at this point I should just take my chances and switch to a Comcast Internet only plan. It would cost me almost exactly what I’m currently paying AT&T and Sonic.net and, in theory, provide significantly faster download and upload speeds. Yes, I realize Comcast is run by minions of Satan. But they can’t possibly be worse than AT&T.

Laura Ingraham thinks worms are the same thing as viruses

Laura Ingraham, a prominent right-wing blowhard, on her radio program said

I’m just getting very confused about the nature of this enemy. Is it those scary little worms that Drudge always has on the Drudge Report? The scary little Ebola worms? Is that the real threat to national security?

This is a person who graduated from Dartmouth college. Proof positive that a college degree is not prima facie evidence the holder is intelligent. This was my comment to the article:

I sincerely hope that the professors and administrators of the “Ivy League” universities are deeply ashamed when they think of Laura Ingraham, Rick Santorum, George Bush and the other cretins upon whom they bestowed degrees. Of course I also sincerely hope to get a date with the actress who plays the wife of Nick Brody on the television series “Homeland”. I expect my hopes to be dashed upon the rocks.

Bacon is the sign of a Christian nation

According to Bryan Fischer, fundagelical imbecile (also head of the American Family Association), the selling and consumption of bacon is the sign of a xian nation. You learn something new every day. But I’m still perplexed how these cretins justify ignoring those portions of the Bible they find inconvenient (in this case Leviticus 11) while simultaneously believing we should all be forced to adhere to other verses (e.g., Leviticus 18). You’ve also got to wonder if he thinks China is a xian nation given that they consume more pork per capita than the USA and just purchased the American company Smithfield

h/t Jesus Hates Gays, Loves Bacon…Apparently

Yes, let us go to war over beheadings

A lot of Americans (of which I am one) seem to think we should go to war with ISIS (or ISIL, IS, whatever) because they beheaded a couple of Americans. If beheading people is sufficient justification for going to war why aren’t we at war with Saudi Arabia? After all, they have lopped off the heads of more people than any other country. In fact, they are beheading people at record levels. Just google “saudi arabia beheading”.

Our reticence to go to war with Saudi Arabia probably has nothing to do with the fact they control much of the oil we consume. And I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Public schools should not allow religious proselytizing

Hemant Mehta wrote about a school district that will now be supporting the distribution of Satanic literature to high school students because of their ill-advised decision to allow Christian literature. Why are school boards populated by morons? Why do school boards believe that religious proselytizing is part of their mission to educate students about reality? How can they justify excluding opposing religious viewpoints?

Here is the email I sent this particular school board today:

Subject: stop the distribution of religious material to students
From: Kurtis Rader krader@skepticism.us
To: christine.moore1@ocps.net, nancy.robbinson@ocps.net,
William.Sublette@ocps.net, kathleen.gordon@ocps.net, joie.cadle@ocps.net,
pamela.gould@ocps.net, rick.roach@ocps.net, daryl.flynn@ocps.net,
Supt@ocps.net

Why are you allowing religious groups to proselytize to students? I don’t care what religion is being promoted. Public schools should not be giving their imprimatur to a specific religious viewpoint. Furthermore, doing so is clearly unconstitutional. If you believe otherwise please justify why Islam, Buddhism or any of the thousands of other religions should not be be promoted by your schools.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/09/15/thanks-to-christians-wanting-to-distribute-bibles-orange-county-fl-schools-will-soon-give-away-satanist-literature/

Volunteering for “Science Is Elementary”

Today was my first class as a volunteer for the Science Is Elementary initiative. I, along with several other volunteers, introduced a class of kindergarten students to the world of science. It was a blast. We introduced the children to the concepts of simple geometric shapes (e.g., spheres), making predictions (e.g., how many times will a ball bounce) and recording the results of an experiment (e.g., making a simple bar graph).

I admit to a certain amount of trepidation. After all I’m a middle-age single guy with no children of my own. Would I be able to get the kids to pay attention? Could I make the lesson fun? It turns out that it’s actually pretty easy thanks in large part to the lesson plans and hands-on materials that SIE provides.

As a lifelong lover of science and learning how the world works I hope to help inspire a new generation. I encourage you to do the same. If not via a program like SIE then perhaps through something like SMART (Start Making a Reader Today).

How the world works

The British Humanist Association has created a wonderful series of videos. Including several narrated by Stephen Fry such as “How Do We Know What Is True” and “What Should We Think About Death”. Do watch them as they do an amazing job of expressing in just two or three minutes key ideas held by atheists and secular humanists.

Besides which, Stephen Fry’s narration is a joy to listen to. Much like anything narrated by Morgan Freeman.

Claiming Scott Brown is a lobbyist annoys his senate campaign staff

Scott Brown’s campaign manager is a twerp. Professor Lawrence Lessig, who is attempting to get corporate money out of politics via the Mayday.us PAC, pointed out that Scott Brown was/is a lobbyist. Colin Reed, Scott Brown’s campaign manager responded with a toothless and stupid cease and desist letter. Mr. Lessig responded.

I don’t normally get involved in such situations. But Mr. Reed’s response was so outrageous I tweeted at him:

@ColinTReed News flash for you: All sentient people consider Scott Brown a lobbyist. Sue me you twerp. http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/96883210002/wow-nastygram-from-the-brown-campaign …

I think it is important that bullshit be challenged. Especially political and religious bullshit. So do let Colin Reed know what you think of his attempt to employ 1984 doublespeak.