Monday, December 29, 2008

Atheist Quote of the Week 15

Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions.
~Frater Ravus

Asking questions with a constant desire for further understanding of the universe around us is what makes us human. Just because the answers religion provides seem easy and comforting does not mean that they are correct, and, ultimately, refusing to seek new evidence and learn more truth about the universe is possibly the most detrimental thing that could happen to a person, a society, or a nation. It leaves us with nothing but myth and superstition, and encourages the survival of the dimwitted and the easily led. Where would human society be if it was not for the nonconformists, the creative minds, the think-outside-the-box people, the open-minded scientists, the revolutionary thinkers, and the protesters? The minds of human beings can give us the tools to be fairer, kinder, smarter, and more innovative if we only allow people the chance to express their ideas and provide an environment where evidence and logic are required in order to make authoritative decisions. Most religions want us to blindly follow where they lead, living on "faith" and not on education. The last time we tried that, 90%+ of the people were illiterate, dissenters and people who came to unpopular conclusions were executed, and almost no progress was made for a thousand years.

Why do these people want to go back to a world of ignorance, misery, and faith when today we have a world of enlightenment, education, intelligence, equality, and reason? Faith is not worth it. Believing in some distant, invisible father-figure may make people feel less small and unimportant, but propping up insecurities is, frankly, an idiotic reason to ignore cold, hard facts in favour of being ignorant, uneducated, and insistent on forcing your beliefs on everyone else.

Scottie Washcloths!

Being a knitter herself, my mother always appreciates knitted gifts for the holidays, and this year I found a pattern that I thought was perfect: a dishcloth with a raised pattern of a scottie-breed dog on it. However, I am not a huge fan of raised patterns, and I didn't like some of the letter styles, so I downloaded some knitting chart software and converted the written pattern to an intarsia chart:

Using my altered chart, I made not one, not two, but six cloths. Then I decided to hide the less-pretty backs of the cloths by sewing them together in pairs. The result? Three thick, soft, bathroom-matching washcloths that my mom and my grandmother think are "too nice for washcloths".

Here are all six cloths:

Since my Tempting sweater project is slowly making me insane (it's the K2 P2 rib that goes on forever), it was a nice change to make projects that could be done in a day or two. I way overestimated the amount of black yarn I needed, though, so there may be some Mario and/or Luigi washcloths in my future too, just for fun.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Atheist Quote of the Week 14

What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.
~Christopher Hitchens

Probably the most common comment I get from believers when they hear I'm an atheist is, "You can't prove there's no god!" They don't seem to understand that it makes more sense not to believe in something for which there is no proof than to believe in something for which there is no proof. Concepts like Russell's Teapot and The Invisible Pink Unicorn came from attempts to explain this to people. In the absence of evidence for something's existence, it is logical to assume that it doesn't exist. It is not logical to get offended when someone takes that position, claiming that it makes sense to believe things until they're proven to be incorrect.

Imagine if other institutions functioned like that. In the justice system, people are considered innocent until proven guilty, or, in other words, it is assumed that they did nothing until sufficient evidence is presented to convince a judge and/or a jury that they actually did commit the offense in question. What if people assumed instead that, in the absence of evidence, it made more sense to assume the person had done what they were accused of and they demanded that the defense prove the negative - that is, every trial would be about proving something didn't happen rather than proving that it did. Would that make for a fair and rational justice system, throwing people in jail if they couldn't prove themselves innocent? Anyone could accuse a person of something, and the state wouldn't need forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony to convict them - if the defendant didn't have an ironclad alibi, that would be enough to convict them.

How illogical is that?

However, believers make the same sort of argument when it comes to a god. In the absence of positive evidence to convince people of its existence, they insist we should believe anyway, or else provide ironclad evidence of the negative, that this figment of their imagination does not exist. Or, they say, since there is no evidence, we can't be sure that their god does not exist. But what sense does it make to assume it is likely or even possible that something exists when no one can prove any evidence that it does? Assuming it does not exist at all is the logical position. I will freely admit that I am open to real evidence, and if some ever appears in favour of the supernatural, I may change my mind accordingly.

However, I seriously doubt that will ever happen. Centuries of science have consistently proved religion wrong over and over again, and that trend is likely to continue. Supernatural beings were once the only explanation humans could come up with to explain the mysteries of the universe. Now, there are much better explanations and I go where the real evidence and solid proof are: science, logic, and reason.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Atheist Quote of the Week 13

The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.
~Delos B. McKown

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Passing Bible Study... Without Studying

You know the Bible 71%!

Wow! You are truly a student of the Bible! Some of the questions were difficult, but they didn't slow you down! You know the books, the characters, the events . . . Very impressive!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Take More Quizzes

Well, I guess if these are my results on the "Ultimate Bible Quiz", I can now tell the nutty fundies that even though I have never read the bible, ever, not one word (well, except the nonsense people quote at me), I still have B-grade knowledge of their silly book. I can't decide whether that means their religion is way too prevalent in society (likely), or if their mythology is just way too easy to guess at (since I did make guesses on about 2/3 of the questions). I suppose it's probably a little of both.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Simply and Eloquently Put

A very kind and tactful person on Ravelry posted this and asked us to pass it on. It was the most clear and thoughtful analogy I've seen so far on the subject, so I offered to re-post it here. The following is copied verbatim from her, someone I wish could bring her wife to my country so they could enjoy the same rights that their Canadian equivalents do. Someday, in their home state of Florida, I hope that they will.

An argument has been coalescing in my mind recently, as more and more religious people are making me understand that their definition of marriage is “a specific type of union that is sanctified by God according to their beliefs.”

I draw your attention to an adoptive mother. She is not, biologically, a mother. But she is legally (and socially and practically) a mother. But none of that will ever make her biologically a mother.

Let’s say a group of people, for some reason, decided that it was patently ridiculous for someone to be legally allowed to use the term ‘mother’ and have all the rights & responsibilities associated with motherhood when they were clearly, factually, not a mother biologically. They decided that the definition of a mother was a female who had borne a child, and to that child, or children, she was now a mother. Well, that’s impossible to argue with, right? I mean, that’s the biological definition of mother.

To those religious people who believe that a marriage is any union between any one man and woman and therefore sanctified, that definition is as true to them as the biological definition of mother is a true definition. But that’s the key–it’s only one definition of mother. Legally, mother has another meaning. You can be an adoptive mother without having to call it “civil parenthood” or “nonbiological parenthood” or some other weird word whose rights were not clearly defined already and may not be recognized even if legal. You’re just a mother – a different type of mother.

So why can’t we do it this way with marriage? To be a biological mother or a legal mother you don’t have to fulfill the same criteria. It should be that to have a (sanctified according to some religions) marriage and a (legal; has nothing to do with religion) marriage you don’t have to have the same criteria, either.

The stranger who swats the cat away from eating my hair at night pointed out that in Connecticut, the reason they wound up with gay marriage was that they tried separate but equal (the civil union thang) and people weren’t recognizing it. Like, they passed a law saying they were supposed to be treated equally, but people weren’t. It’s not just a word. It’s over a thousand individual rights. That’s one definition of marriage. The one some Christians talk about is clearly another one. We don’t need another word, just like we don’t need to call someone a life parent or some other contorted phrase when they’re a mom of an adopted kid.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Atheist Quote of the Week 12

I am patient with stupidity, but not with those who are proud of it.
~Edith Sitwell

Monday, December 1, 2008

Atheist Quote of the Week 11

It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.
~Thomas Jefferson

Bye-bye Harper?

So I have been negligent in my political awareness lately and I'm finding out three days late about this.

Unfortunately, I don't have time to explain it in great detail right now, but this is the thought that is predominant for me right now:


This is exciting enough to make me feel a teensy bit better about my fellow Canadians' inability to see through the phony Harper exterior. He is too authoritarian, too unfriendly, too distant, and too wrapped up in his own agenda to bother to fix the economy. A coalition government? Not a bad solution. Dion is not threatening to the other parties, since he's on the way out, Layton is happy to have more influence, and Harper has pissed off Quebec enough that Duceppe is willing to side with them. It's an unusual set of circumstances that is creating some of the most interesting politics I've ever seen (to date, the winner for that was the floor-crossing maneuvers that passed the same-sex marriage bill, but this is bigger than that was).

The non-confidence vote is a week from today. Sometime before that, I'll explain the background of this and what it means for Canadians, as well as keeping us all up to date on the soon-to-appear Harper attack ads (seriously, doesn't this guy have any other tricks up his sleeve besides attacking his opponents' character?).

Woohoo! This time next week, Harper might be gone!