Sunday, October 22, 2006

He Popped the Question!

No, not that question. Concernedengineer asked the question that many combative and devout believers get around to eventually:

“I am compelled to ask: Considering the fact that you do not believe in God, why are you so obsessed with Him? Perhaps you have a clever answer ready, or perhaps you will come up with one. But before you do, do you suppose that it is possible that you are so obsessed, because you were designed to be?”

I’m in the game because of people like you, and the Pope, and Oral Roberts, and Charlie Manson, and Ronald Reagan, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, and every Jehovah’s Witness that ever walked up my driveway. I speak out against the toxic river of religious propaganda, from the endless varieties of bibles being endlessly printed, to the shitty little fear mongering tracts. Let’s not forget the “inspirational” art like the Sistine Chapel, and stained-glass windows, designed to awe and cow the viewer with majestic imagery. Breathtaking illustrations that are necessary because what they depict is not observable in nature. Then there’s the schlock art of little angel statuary and those creepy disembodied praying hands. And then there’s the satellite propaganda. All the superstition-mongering fictional portrayals of alive-dead zombies and evil spirits like Freddie and Jason and Damien. All of the realistic portrayals of pseudo satanic utter bullshit subtly reiterating the whole “magical beings with overwhelming powers locked in a cosmic battle between anthropomorphized good versus anthropomorphized evil” scam.

Religion is a scam. The motivation is money and power. This is a gold mine, and the exploiters don’t even have to get their hands dirty. It’s a pyramid scheme, and an awful lot of money finds its way to the top. Once you remove the unassailable and made-up god from the apex, then the next tier becomes the top. Here you find the cold-blooded egomaniacs, full of feelings of entitlement, showing all the traits of the belligerent and bullying alpha male. They are alpha wolves, wrapped in the sheep’s clothing of “god’s servants.” It’s the perfect cover, almost. These are the Popes, and Cardinals, and Bishops and Ayatollahs and David Koreshes and Jimmy Swaggarts and anyone else who assembles or maintains a fiefdom of followers. On the lower tiers, you have the priests and ministers and rectors and other volunteers that whole-heartedly buy into this myth and willingly resell it because they do not understand for whom they are actually working. Below that, you have the wide base of parishioners.

Now we get to the interesting part. No scam could possibly have lasted down the centuries if it was all take with no give. Anyone who openly endorses the scam gets something in return. Artisans are hired to build and renovate churches. Dressmakers, Tailors, Caterers, all get a taste at the weddings and other rite of passage events. Then there’s the burial industry with its various expensive products. Politicians are given the seal of approval as long as they proclaim themselves to be “god fearing folk”. Even the lowly parishioners get something. They get reassurance as a temporary cure for the very fear and paranoia their indoctrination into the spooky bullshit world of god and the shi-tan and angels and devils created. They get fellowship, or the filling of a primitive tribal need to belong and not be ostracized from the group. They also get an earful that tells them to fear those outside the group. They get one other thing. In exchange for their self-esteem, and independent thought, they get an all-powerful invisible father figure in the sky that, they are told, loves them. They are forever children in the tribal pecking order and never become complete and self-sufficient adults. They are told that their own inner dialogue is controlled by forces outside themselves, and hence will never trust their own judgment without hesitation and self-doubt. They never become alpha contenders and pose no threat to the real group alphas, the clergy.

One of the great ironies of this construct is that the clergy have a deep seated, mild disdain for these paranoid, somewhat delusional, and immature creatures they helped to create. They take no responsibility for the fact that their indoctrination made their followers the broken people that they are. Many of the wolves and jackals at the top of this pyramid truly believe that without their control, ordinary men and women would run amok. Far more likely, ordinary people would be far less susceptible to being made into human sacrifices that are then held up as examples of “heroes”.

If you want to understand a thing, a good first step is to observe what it does. In the same way that it is easy to ascertain that a watch is an instrument to tell time, one can observe that religion is an instrument of control. Religious indoctrination is an effective method for creating followers that can be manipulated through emotional appeal and by creating symbolic attachments. Modeling the pageantry and symbols of Nazi Germany on the church was a deliberate act to make use of the emotional triggers created by the church, and it worked well. The flashy uniforms and rituals of the US Marine Corps are designed to take advantage of the same triggers in the men and women who are America’s shock troops. Religious indoctrination creates humans that are more likely to follow a waving flag into a hail of machine gun fire.

Religion encourages uncertainty in the physical laws of the Universe, and therefore a general inability to discriminate facts from bullshit. Some Christians, for example, might believe that at any second, they will go “poof” and be assumed into heaven. If they cut a finger while using a knife, they might believe that something they did “wrong” days ago caused them to “deserve” this as a “punishment” and some external power made it happen. This is a total refutation of the laws of causality, and would be called paranoid if the external cause was attributed to a human instead of some invisible super being. The idea that magical beings can perform magical acts and contravene physical laws at a whim creates a world view where nothing is certain. If nothing is certain, then anything is possible. This engenders a mental state that will believe any assertion that is made repeatedly and with assurance. This is because the person can doubt, but that doubt can be eroded because such a person is incapable of certainty and susceptible to a strong alpha personality. This is why you can find people who whole heartedly believe in one or more of the following:

Miss Cleo really is a psychic
The moon landing was a fake
The Loch Ness Monster
The Saucer People will come and take us away
L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, and/or Jim Jones were prophets
Coffee enemas can cure cancer
Psychic surgery
John Edward really talks to dead people
Your favorite scam here, ad nauseum

My cable company transmits no less than three religious television stations, grinding out their assertions 24-7. In addition, there is a steady stream of religious/superstitious themed programming. There are religious people that believe that it is their duty to indoctrinate others into their belief system using fear and veiled threats of eternal torture in the alleged afterlife. This is called extortion and/or coercion in the secular world, and is arguably immoral. This is not even the tip of the iceberg in terms of the constant religious jabber. This is why I stand against this unending parade of bullshit, and like a certain legendary little boy, I repeatedly assert: The Emperor of the Universe is naked, and absent, and made-up.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The other day, as part of a radio interview, I heard a group of children reciting in that sing-song way that children have, “god is great, god is good, let us thank him for our food….”

A memory stirred, and then another. That chant was part of my childhood. I’m getting old, and the memory is faded. I heard that chant over and over again, and it wasn’t from Sunday School. Where was it? Television … Romper Room perhaps? Maybe some other children’s program I can’t remember. Kindergarten? Did they make us say that over milk and cookies, before all the flap about prayer in school? The memory teases me. It won’t solidify. I think to myself, “How young we were when they began their instruction, their indoctrination, their demand that we accept without question this mythology.”

And who else did we thank? No one.

Never mind the farmer who risked his annual income to grow vegetables and animal feed and livestock. He was probably praying to the god too. He might even think that the god is pulling for him every time the weather cooperates. And when the god screws his brothers somewhere else with hail or drought, well, they must have deserved it by pissing the god off somehow.

Never mind the men who risked their lives pulling oil out of the ground, or from beneath the ocean floor to run the farmer’s tractor, and other equipment. Never mind the truckers and the men who built the trucks that bring the food to market. Never mind the people at the power station, and the line workers, and the other people working to provide the electricity that runs the freezers and refrigerators and assembly lines that make food distribution on this scale possible. Never mind the biologists that create genetic hybrids to increase crop yield. Never mind the engineers that design and constantly improve all of the machinery necessary to sustain this level of food production. Never mind the parents that sell their time to their employers to pay for the food and the table to put it on. Never mind the teachers that helped all these people find and understand the knowledge to do these jobs. In short, ignore the entire vast human infrastructure that put cold milk and Cheerios in front of that kid.

Many of these farmers and truckers and biologists and other employees have beliefs and talismans of their own, and some don’t. The ones that ask their deity for protection and special consideration are just as statistically likely as those that don’t to lose their lives in an accident, but no one seems to notice that. No one that is, except the actuaries at the insurance company that make no discount for religious affiliation because no correlation exists.

A theist might argue that without the god none of the above is possible and we exist only “by the grace” of that god, which I take to mean at the god’s whim. Before I am accused of building a straw man, let me say that I have received that exact argument in response to a similar argument. I have two problems with that in the context of the discussion above. First, none of the ramifications have been explained to the four-year old that is being taught to say “grace”. The kid is left with the impression that god pulled the food out of his armpit or something. Second, it reduces the self-perpetuating ecosystem in general and the Human Race in particular to a cosmic version of Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm

Monday, October 09, 2006


It's always nice to know that someone is browsing through the archives. I recently received two very thoughtful comments on some very old posts. One of them was my assessment of Dr. Phil here. I thought this to be so well constructed that I decided to share it for your reading pleasure.

It would be bad enough if this clown actually believed what he preaches to America's ignoranti; but he does know better, and has made the corrupt, cynical, self-serving choice to pander to the misperceptions of mouth-breathing conformist peasants, thereby promulgating socially damaging misinformation on a wholesale basis. The masses' self-assured "knowledge" of things that ain't so is possibly science's biggest hurdle in contemporary Western society; those who feed that ignorance - e.g., the ambulatory sphincter under discussion - so as to personally profit from retarding public understanding, number among the genuine enemies of civilization.

Yes, I believe that's putting it about right, except for calling Phil a sphincter. Sphincters do some actual work.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I haven't done one of these in a while. I swore to myself that I would stop arguing with crazy people. This is a response to three comments by concernedengineer in my last post. I’ve been working on it for the past three days in what time I could spare. It was just too much effort to hide it in the comments section, so here it is. Concernedengineer: I give you the last word. Rebut away without further commentary from me. May the comment section give you whatever you deseve. Please do not take personal offense at my insinuation that you are crazy. We are all crazy. It only varies in type and degree.


First, thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I find them objectionable.

“You must feel pretty good and pretty wise. Apparently, you have risen above the psychological trickery that is apparently belief in the divine. So few of us have risen to such heights. But you are confident that you have a grip on reality, and that it is inconceivable that you might be deceived yourself.”

Oh must I? This might have been a legitimate pot-shot at my self-esteem, excepting for a few things you should know before trying again.
As the former victim of a class-A manipulator, I recognize the tactic.
Your credibility with me is zero.
Nothing is inconceivable. Everything else is conceivable, no matter how absurd or fictitious.

“Why do you presuppose that what you can not sense empirically does not exist?”

I do no such thing.

“You have not proven that the supernatural does not exist, so is it not a possibility that it does?”

The burden of proof does not lie with me. I am not required to prove a negative. That said, I will say that things have happened to me that I cannot explain. I believe that there are causes for these occurrences. I believe that anything that affects the physical environment is ipso-facto measurable. (This includes hallucinatory neural activity in my brain.) I do not believe that mankind has reached the end of knowledge of all possible states or measuring devices. There are things that transcend our present understanding; they are natural by virtue of their existence in the universe. I reject the concept of “super-natural” as I reject the actual existence of comic book super-heroes. I calculate the odds of being mistaken about this to be approaching the logical limit of zero.

The “reality check” comment was not mine, however:

“Do you not see the problem with this? You would have to do away with all postulates!”

I do not see how you draw that conclusion. A postulate or a theorem is formulated on the basis of what a person thinks might be true. They then set about proving it. They do not, as a rule, attempt to prove it by baldly and incessantly asserting the belief, or worse yet, belief in the unproven assertions of someone else, or even worse, by asserting or creating dire consequences for not believing their assertions without proof.

“So, do away with geometry, because Euclid's postulates are not proven.”

How much repeatability do you need? That’s the problem with living in a cartoon universe; the four billionth time someone gets hit on the head with an anvil, maybe their head will pop back into shape. It’s a miracle!

“This is scary, because people like you vote and contend for positions of political power and authority.”

We have the same problem with people like you, or perhaps people a little more like George W. Bush, who do all of the above and believe in the concepts of Armageddon and “holy war”. I don’t know you well enough yet to know if you’re scary.

One more on this and then I’ll move on. This wasn’t my idea, remember.

“The advancement of your contradictory philosophical worldview would be an epistemological hegemony.”

The author was talking about one day here. How does that compare to thousands of years of shameless and ruthless competition between every bearded mystic bullshit artist to ever point a finger and scream “blasphemer!” or “Heathen!” or “Sinner!” or “Infidel!” or any other local equivalent to ostracize those that do not play their particular flavor of the grovel game?

“I do believe that we are imitators by nature - also that imitation is the highest form of flattery. So, we should be very careful who we imitate.”

Imitation is a form of learning. If the conclusions drawn from the research I’ve cited is accurate, then it is an even more effective form of learning than was previously suspected. It is so effective in fact, that it takes place in an automatic fashion independent of willful action or mimicry. All that is required is attention. If this was all that the human animal was in terms of learning, there would be no creativity. Once one rejects the idea of divine inspiration, then the source of all art, technology, literature, and bullshit becomes exactly what it appears to be, the human mind. The apparent fact that most of these minds have been willfully tampered with does not change the source, merely the attribution.

“I dare say some people are atheists because they have imitated other confident and intelligent atheists. They are attracted to the independence of rejecting faith in God, see other people do it, and then step out in disbelief.”

This is an oversimplification. It is nice to see you acknowledge that there are intelligent and confident atheists. It is true that there is an independence that results from the rejecting of the idea that certain aspects of our “fate” and intellect are external to ourselves, and require fealty-by-proxy to priest-class handlers. You leave out the intellectual assessment that takes place in the decision process. To borrow a phrase, religion is weighed in the balance and found so very wanting as to appear hollow. On the other side of the fence, how many people “step out” in belief because of the feelings of freedom derived from not having to think for yourself?

“Once choosing their worldview, they then rationalize that worldview. Their empirical senses deceive them because their minds have become biased. "Statistics lie, and liars use statistics." It is way too easy for your presuppositions to govern your research. "Facts" become nebulous things. People become deceived and entrenched in their deception. Finally, they think they know everything, but they really don't know which way is up. But they have deceived themselves to the point of confidence.”

I suspect you know that I could make the same argument about religion and faith by simply replacing “empirical senses” with “emotions” and “research” with “belief”. Good statistics do not lie, although liars can attempt to draw the conclusions they desire. If there is a college near you, I highly recommend a statistics course. It’s a lot of work, but you will learn about sample sizes and degrees of confidence, and biased sampling, and the whole numeric valuation process will make a lot more sense. Facts are never nebulous. The idea that the earth is only 6,000 years old is total bullshit. That’s a fact. The whole reason my site is called “confusion of ideas” is that opinions and degrees of confidence in facts differ widely. You are correct in your assertion that people become entrenched in their deception. We happen to disagree as to the population of the deceived. You are told that there is an invisible anti-god that is crapping all over “creation” and deceiving everyone. Note the plug for creation neatly tucked into that ideation. I prefer to believe that the sophomoric hucksters that profit from expounding this belief are the deceivers. To me, they are the obvious choice. I absolutely do not know everything, and anyone who has been off this planet can tell you that “up” is relative to one’s own orientation. As to deceiving one’s self to the point of confidence, I think it is more like accepting a large, but less-than 100% probability as a sufficient degree of confidence. Faith, on the other hand and by definition, requires you to accept zero proof as a sufficient degree of confidence.

“We are utterly dependent on divine revelation to get a grip on epistemology.”

Oh really? Then tell me: how do you know that there are not space aliens with brain-wave radio equipment feeding you those “divine revelations?” How do you know?

“How can we elect someone into high office when the Bible says that such a person is a fool, incapable of wisdom, incapable of understanding justice, and incapable of establishing justice? It is not personal. It is simply that we believe the promises of God.”

What would the “bible” say? Don’t you really mean what the profiteering priest-class with soft, pudgy hands says to protect this grand scam? These assertions are far from proved, merely asserted. Justice is a moral concept; the alleged Jehovamagod does not act in a moral fashion. How can one possibly derive from the other? Justice is a social concept based on fairness and equality. It requires no God. Does the idea that eating oatmeal is healthier than eating sausage require a god to tell me so? Mankind defines justice, mankind makes laws. The two are not the same. Putting the god stamp on a law might have worked for the primitives, but it’s just silly now. That’s why we have secular law. To your bible quotes, I say, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” “Big Brother is watching you.” "Simon says." Simon (or Simeon), in this case is the great invisible alpha-monkey in the sky. So say His Faithful Servants, the priest-monkeys. Bah, humbug.

“That's not to say that I support Bush. I think that Bush has duped many in the Christian community. (I also think that many in the Christian community are not Christian).”

Nebulous definition is the foundation of deniability.

“But the point remains that many of us believe the Founding Fathers got it right when they implied in the Declaration of Independence that governing authorities ought to value and respect ‘the laws of nature and nature's God.’”

That’s a point I can agree with completely. Many of you do believe that. If that was your only point, you took a roundabout way to state it. I have dear friends whose faith and religious affiliation are such an important part of their lives that I would not dream of attempting to argue with them. They also do not attempt to evangelize me. They do not attempt to impose their beliefs on others either, as far as I can tell, nor do they judge and condemn on the basis of differing beliefs. They tell me about their activities in the church community, and I say, “That’s nice.”

PS: Drunken tune: I just caught your comment. Thanks! Don’t change a thing on your web site unless you have changed your mind. Political Correctness is the first step toward shame.