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Sunday, December 11, 2005
 The so-called "War on Christmas"

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
Bill O'Reilly and other conservatives are continuing to spread the 50 year old "War on Christmas" myth. They claim that "secularists" are trying to undermine the Christian roots of the Christmas holiday, by using phrases like "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", etc.

First of all, as an atheist I can tell you that I, and my like minded acquaintances, am perfectly happy with Christmas. I have always celebrated Christmas and will continue to do so. I say Merry Christmas and I have a Christmas tree.

The irony is that so much of Christmas isn't Christian in the first place. That the "War on Christmas" crowd complains about the use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" is also quite ironic because the word "holiday" comes from "Holy-Day". "Holidays" used to all be "Holy Days" in the Roman tradition.

First of all, virtually every part of Christmas comes from "pagan" tradition, not Christianity. About the only part of Christmas that is "Christian" is the name.

The date of Christmas comes from the Roman celebration of Natalis Solis Invictus, a.k.a. Saturnalia. The holiday was a celebration of the rebirth of the Sun God after the winter solstice. This was the major holiday in Rome, and it was co-opted by Christians who lived in Rome because it was a traditional Roman celebration. Once Christianity became the religion of Rome the holiday became officially adopted by the Christians.

That's just the beginning. All of the following traditions come to us from "pagan" (pagan just means non-Abrahamic) culture:


  • Christmas Trees
  • Mistletoe
  • Poinsettia
  • Holly
  • Wreaths
  • Exchanging gifts
  • Elves
  • Santa Clause
  • Bell ringing
  • Caroling
  • Yule log
  • Fruit Cake
  • Magical reindeer
  • Winged angels


All of these aspects of Christmas are originally from the winter solstice celebrations of various "pagan" cultures. So as you can see, Christmas was never very Christian in the first place.

Additionally, after the Protestant Reformation most Protestant groups, especially those from England and early America, rejected Christmas as a pagan practice.

Christmas was actually made illegal in many American colonies by the Puritans and Pilgrims. Where it wasn't illegal it was still not popular.

Christmas didn't become a nationally recognized holiday until after the Civil War.

As much as Christians now lament the "commercialization of Christmas", it was actually the commercial interests that made Christmas popular in America in the first place. In the late 1800s department stores and other businesses are the ones who made Christmas what it is today. Christmas in America has ALWAYS been highly commercial, largely secular, and mixed with a wide variety of cultural traditions.

The other irony is that guys like Bill O'Reilly are really complaining about the effects of free-market capitalism. They complain about the fact that Christmas has become too commercial and that terms like "Happy Holidays" are becoming more widely used.

Well, Christmas is so commercial because we live in a capitalist society, which Bill O'Reilly claims is God's gift to mankind. Which is it Bill, are you pro-capitalist or anti-capitalist?

Likewise, terms such as Happy Holidays are being used because corporations want to include as many people as possible and not be exclusive. It's another product of a free-market system. As a company do I want to market only to Christians, or also to Jews and people of other faiths (since just about every culture and religion celebrates around this season)?

Don't forget that many of the country's major department stores are based out of the major cities like New York and L.A.

These cities tend to be much more cosmopolitan than "red state America", and thus the people who set policy for these department stores are much more sensitive to multiculturalism.

Why is our country run by multiculturalists from the "blue states"? Because of free-market capitalism. Free-market capitalism is both liberalizing and centralizing. The free-market tends to move towards inclusiveness and new ideas. Capitalism tends to centralizes economic means and power. What the conservatives are really railing against with their "War on Christmas" rants is free-market capitalism.

Why don't people like Bill O'Reilly and other Christians just come out and admit that they are anti-capitalists?

At any rate, as an atheist I am perfect happy and comfortable with Christmas, as well as Christian Christmas carols and nativity scenes. I mean, since all the nativity scenes are built wrong anyway, what is the harm?

All nativity scenes are anti-Biblical, since the Bible says that when the wise men (the Bible doesn't say how many wise men) visited Jesus he was living in a house and was a young boy. The Christian nativity scenes just prove again how little they read their own holy book. It seems that Christians can't get anything right about their religion and few of them have any knowledge of it. Maybe a good Christian activity for Christmas would be to read the Bible and try to find inspiration for their Christmas celebrations there, where they can see that there is no such celebration in the Bible and that all of their traditions are either wrongly practices or are pagan traditions.

All the while, I will happily sing Christmas songs, and decorate my Christmas tree, and enjoy the holiday season.

There is no war on Christmas. The reality is that Christmas never was what the Christians claim that is was. It was never a Christian holiday in the first place, and it was made popular in America BY commercialism, not as a religious holiday.

Merry Christmas!!!


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:16 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, November 20, 2005
 Democrats, the Bush admin, justifications for war, etc.

Topic: Commentary
As I am sure everyone knows, the Bush administration has been heavily defending its use of "intelligence" leading up to the war. They continue to claim that they were looking at all of the same intelligence that everyone else was, and that everyone who voted for the war came to the same conclusion that they did, because the intelligence at the time indicated that Saddam had weapons, weapons programs, etc.

Furthermore, the Democrats have responded by claiming that they didn't really have "all" the "intelligence", insinuating that if they did have all the intelligence they would have voted differently.

Shame on both parties.

Yes, it is true that the Congress didn't have every last drop of information that the President had, but they had more than enough information to know that the Bush justifications for war were bogus.

I know for a fact that any reasonable person could see that the Bush justifications for war were flawed before the war started, because I took the time to document the Bush justifications for war before the war started, which led to the creation of this web site.

When President Bush made the statement that the Iraqis were trying to buy uranium from Africa in his State of the Union Address I was flabbergasted, because I, a normal citizen, who only had access to publicly available information, already knew that the uranium story had been refuted.

There is no possible way that I could have known that the uranium story was false and Bush didn't know that it was false, no possible way. All you had to do was read the news to know that half of what Bush was saying was false before the war even started. Granted, you couldn't find the information in the mass media, but there were news sources that carried the information.

Every major claim that the Bush administration made about going to war based on a threat posed by Saddam Hussein was proven false BEFORE the war started.

Where were the Democrats on this at the time? They were cowed by public opinion is where they were. They didn't want to be called unpatriotic, anti-American, "extreme leftists", terrorist supporters, etc. during the height of Bush's approval, when every major news organization was running programs calling "Hollywood liberals" traitors to the country because they opposed the war. The Democrats were afraid of getting the "Dixie Chick" treatment.

Now, I can forgive the Democrats for this, but they need to admit it, instead of doing what many of them, like John Kerry, are doing and falsely claiming that the only reason they voted for the war was because they didn't have all the intelligence and they were mislead.

Bull crap! Yes, the president was trying to mislead them, but they had the information needed to see that he was wrong and they failed to act. They should admit that they voted for the war because it was popular instead of doing what John Kerry is doing, which is further distorting the facts to make it look like they couldn't have known better.

The Democrats are now just as guilty as Bush in trying to cover up their tracks and perpetuating lies and distortions about how we were pushed into this irresponsible war.

The truth is that the Bush administration was pushing, and the Democrats were too weak and afraid to stand up to him, and that's how we got into this war. Yes, the Bush administration is mostly to blame, but the Democrats must take some of the blame as well, because they were too afraid to stand up for what was right at the time.

Shut-up, fall in line, get behind the leader. That's all they did, and now they are trying to have it both ways.

To be honest, I think that the American public would gain much more respect for the Democrats if they would just admit that they were wrong and that they bowed to public pressure. Becoming a partner in the crime of distorting the historical record is no way to be a part of the solution and to oppose the Bush administration. Their approach leaves them fighting with one hand tied behind their backs, because they can't bring the best evidence to light, because the best evidence will show that the Democrats had enough information to know that the justifications for war were false before the war started.

For references to claims made by the Bush administration that were known to be false prior to start of the war see:

The Bush administration has repeatedly lied to support the war


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:28 AM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Saturday, November 5, 2005
 Understanding the Issue of State's Rights

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
With the nomination of judge Sam Alito to the Supreme Court by George Bush much is being discussed about his "judicial philosophy". In these discussions the issue of State's Rights often comes up with commentators stating that his position on State's Rights is one of the aspects that defines judge Alito as "a conservative".

"State's Rights" is actually neither a "conservative" nor a "liberal" issue. In all of the comments I have heard on the State's Rights issue from sources ranging from NPR to the New York Times to MSNBC to FOX News, none of the commentators, including supposed Constitutional experts, seemed to have any understanding of why the issue of "State's Rights" has been interpreted as a "conservative" vs "liberal" issue. In fact, several went on to give explanations of why interpreting the Constitution in such a way as to reserve rights to the States is "conservative", while all of them failed to address any of the real history of the issue of State's Rights.

Having said that, I will now explain why the issue of "State's Rights" as been interpreted as a "conservative" vs "liberal" issue.

First it is important to note that there is nothing inherently "progressive" or "conservative" about at which level laws are made, State or Federal. The laws themselves are what are either progressive or conservative.

The reason why conservatives have generally advocated for State Sovereignty is that the Federal government has generally been more progressive than certain State governments, especially in the South. There are several different major times when these issues were very significant.

When the United States Constitution was written there were major conflicts between the interests of the State governments and the Framers of the Constitution. The Framers of the Federal Constitution were liberal progressives who spent a lot of time and effort making sure that there was division of powers written into the Federal Constitution and that there were many protections for individual rights written into the Constitution.

The Framers, especially James Madison, viewed many of the State governments as oppressive. While the Framers took great care to dilute power at the Federal level, many of the State constitutions were written to concentrate power. Many of the States were like small kingdoms.
That most of us carried into the Convention a profound impression, produced by the experienced inadequacy of the old Confederation, and by the monitory examples of all similar ones, ancient and modern, as to the necessity of binding the States together by a strong Constitution, is certain. The necessity of such a Constitution was enforced by the gross and disreputable inequalities which had been prominent in the internal administrations of most of the States.
- James Madison from letter to John G. Jackson, Dec. 27, 1821

Besides, some States have no bills of rights, there are others provided with very defective ones, and there are others whose bills of rights are not only defective, but absolutely improper; instead of securing some in the full extent which republican principles would require, they limit them too much to agree with the common ideas of liberty.

...

I wish also, in revising the constitution, we may throw into that section, which interdict the abuse of certain powers in the State Legislatures, some other provisions of equal, if not greater importance than those already made. The words, "No State shall pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law," &c. were wise and proper restrictions in the constitution. I think there is more danger of those powers being abused by the State Governments than by the Government of the United States. The same may be said of other powers which they possess, if not controlled by the general principle, that laws are unconstitutional which infringe the rights of the community. I should therefore wish to extend this interdiction, and add, as I have stated in the 5th resolution, that no State shall violate the equal right of conscience, freedom of the press, or trial by jury in criminal cases; because it is proper that every Government should be disarmed of powers which trench upon those particular rights. I know, in some of the State constitutions, the power of the Government is controlled by such a declaration; but others are not. I cannot see any reason against obtaining even a double security on those points; and nothing can give a more sincere proof of the attachment of those who opposed this constitution to these great and important rights, than to see them join in obtaining the security I have now proposed; because it must be admitted, on all hands, that the State Governments are as liable to attack the invaluable privileges as the General Government is, and therefore ought to be as cautiously guarded against.
- James Madison, Introduction of the Bill of Rights (1789)

The colonies were ruled, after all, mainly by governors that were appointed by the King of England, at least at some point in their history. The State rules were often very protective of their powers and it took great work to get the States to cooperate and allow things like free trade between States etc. Many of the States wanted the ability to use tariffs on interstate trade as a way to fill the State coffers, etc.

Furthermore, there was the issue of slavery. Most of the Federal Framers wanted to abolish slavery, but many States made it known that they would not give up slavery in order to enter the union. Basically, slavery was a deal breaker issue for the Southern States. In order to get around this issue the Framers decided to adopt this concept of how State's Rights were originally interpreted.

The Framers didn't want slavery and they didn't want the Federal Constitution to be supportive of slavery, yet they knew that they also had to allow it in order to make the new government work. The solution was to leave slavery issues mostly out of the Federal Constitution and state that any rights not granted in the Federal Constitution defaulted to the States. This put the "responsibility" for slavery on the shoulders of the States.

The Framers wanted the Bill of Rights to overrule State law, such that the States would not be able to pass any laws that contradicted the Federal Constitution, and we also know that the Framers wanted the Federal government to have more power over the States than what it had because they saw the Federal Constitution as more protective of liberty than many of the State constitutions, some of which they considered to be dictatorial in nature.

Nevertheless, the slavery issue had them in a bind, so they had to allow more States rights than what they thought prudent in order to absolve the Federal Constitution from responsibility for slavery. The way States rights were interpreted was like a nod and a wink to the States to say "we don't like slavery or want to support it, but we know that we can't stop you from having it, so as long as the Federal Constitution doesn't say that you can't, then you can assume that you can."

So, from that point, the proponents of slavery were the major supporters of "State Sovereignty".

The next major conflict between State's Rights and the Federal government again relates to slavery. The Civil War. The Southern States said that they were succeeding because their State Sovereignty was being usurped by the Federal Government.

After the Civil War the 14th Amendment was passed, much to the chagrin of the Southern States. The 14th Amendment did what James Madison wanted done originally, extended the power of the Federal Constitution over the States.

The actions of the Federal government were seen negatively in the South, where the Federal government was the one that forced Reconstruction policy on the South that the Southern States didn't want, like allowing blacks to vote and own property, etc. Again the Southern conservatives complained about "State's Rights".

This continued on.

In the 1940s anti-lynching laws were passed by the Federal government and "forced" onto the States.

In the 1950s the Federal government forced the Southern States to integrate their schools and other public institutions, again usurping "State's Rights".

In the 1960s the Federal government put an end to the Jim Crow laws in the South with Federal legislation.

It is from these acts that the conservatives have come to defend "State's Rights". On all of the really major issues in American history, the Southern conservative States have tried to hide behind "State's Rights" in order to defend their own abuse of State power to oppress minorities and regulate society. The Founding Fathers detested this abuse of State power, and its a major reason why the Federal Constitution was written in the first place, instead of just keeping the Articles of Confederation.

The liberal Founders wanted to ensure that they created a secure Constitution that would guarantee rights to people and protect freedom, because they knew that many of the State constitutions did not protect freedom, indeed they abused power.

Now, whether a policy is set by the State or the Federal government is not a "liberal" or "conservative" issue. Who sets the policy has no impact on the effect of the policy, other than making it regional or national. The policy itself is what is either liberal or conservative. It is just the case that in the history of the United States the Southern conservatives have often found themselves at odds with the Federal government, and thus they have been supporters of "State's Rights", because that served their cause at the time (or rather it failed to serve their causes because they lost on every count).

If the policy that the Federal government seeks to enact is conservative, however, then the conservatives will want Federal law to trump State law. There is every reason to believe that if a bill were signed into law that made abortion illegal nationally that the far-right would support Federal law overruling State law such that States could not even make it legal if they wanted to, just like States cannot make cocaine use legal even if they want to.

So, I find all of this talk of how "State Sovereignty" is a conservative characteristic quite absurd. There is nothing inherently conservative or liberal about State Sovereignty. If a State passed laws that made gay marriage legal, allowed public nudity, made recreational drugs legal, and required that all public officials be atheists, and then the legislators argued in favor of State Sovereignty they wouldn't be considered a conservative just because they were favoring State's Rights.

Likewise, the fact that conservatives have been the ones trying to stop progress by hiding behind State's Rights doesn't actually make State Sovereignty a conservative issue.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:05 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (9) | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, November 5, 2005 9:37 AM EST
Saturday, October 22, 2005
 We are Just Seeing the Tip of the Iceberg

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
The Bush presidency is an absolute disaster. The worst part is that we actually have no idea how bad it really is. We have recently learned about the incompetence of Michael Brown as director of FEMA, but how many more Michael Browns are there still at work in the administration? We do know that George Bush has made more political appointments than just about any other president in history. He has put his friends and relatives into positions of power throughout the government and these people have no real experience or ability to do the jobs needed.

Even worse, however, are the competent people that he has put into government positions, for they have been busy dismantling and undermining our government institutions for the past 5 years. The Environmental Protection Agency is a prime example. This agency has been turned from an agency that is used to protect the environment into an agency used to help corporations exploit the environment at the public expense.

The budget deficits that have been reported are really nothing compared to the full extent of the debt that is being created by the Bush administration. The National Debt is now $8 trillion, and the 2005 budget deficit is projected to be $319 billion.

This doesn’t really tell the whole story though, because the Bush administration has completely wrecked the government, and the cost to repair the damage that he has done could easily be in the hundreds of billions as well.

This has been one of the most secretive, if not the most secretive, administrations in the history of the country. At the same time the Bush administration has engaged in the most significant restructuring of the federal government since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.

Where is the oversight? There is none! The press? Yeah right, the press isn’t doing any investigative reporting, they just “report” on press releases. All the press does is sit there and wait for government agencies and corporations to send them information; they don’t go out and get any information. If the press is reporting on this government as good as they reported on Enron, as I suspect that they are, then we will be in for a huge surprise when a new administration comes in and pulls the covers off the works of the Bush administration.

Other government agencies? Yeah right, all of the dissenters are continuously silenced by the Bush administration.

No telling what kind of nonsense and destruction is taking place within our government institutions, and from the little we have been able to learn, what is taking place is ill conceived, poorly done, counter productive, or is an act of dismantling.

When Bush leaves office we will find that the government he has left in his wake is going to be one that is even more bankrupt than what anyone has yet reported.

What really needs to be done, aside from impeaching Bush for deception in leading the nation into war and incompetence, is that an independent audit of the federal government needs to begin right now! This won’t happen of course, but what will happen is that the next administration that takes office is going to face monumental challenges and will likely have to spend its entire time just repairing the damage done by Bush.

I honestly don’t see how the Bush administration can stay in power of three more years. The level of incompetence that has been publicly exposed at this point is extremely troubling, and what is even more troubling is that we are likely only seeing the tip of the iceberg.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:30 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, October 29, 2005 10:51 AM EDT
Monday, October 17, 2005
 Regarding Good Night and Good Luck

Topic: Commentary
The Movie: Good Night, and Good Luck

I saw Good Night, and Good Luck last night and I was disappointed with the film. For one thing the sound track has a highly annoying background buzz that goes on throughout the movie, which is supposed to make it sound like an old movie, but to me it was just a complete distraction and created unneeded tension.

I don’t care for those types of techniques, because regardless of whatever artful quality there may be to it, its impractical. When art gets in the way of utility that’s a problem. There were many elderly people watching the movie and I can imagine that it made it quite difficult for them to hear and understand, especially when the talking was low.

Moving on to the screenplay itself, I didn’t care that much for the movie because I feel that it comes far short of being a good historical account of the McCarthy era, yet it also failed to have much of a dramatic storyline as well.

In other words, the movie is really only about McCarthyism, but it doesn’t really give a very full account of McCarthyism, so, to me, it was like the worst of both worlds. It was less informative than a documentary and less entertaining than a drama.

What caught my attention most in the whole movie was actually a small address from Eisenhower towards the end. What struck me, however, was the irony of the fact that what Eisenhower said was completely wrong. The statement Eisenhower made was the following:

"Why are we proud? We are proud, first of all, because from the beginning of this Nation, a man can walk upright, no matter who he is, or who she is. He can walk upright and meet his friend - or his enemy; and he does not feel that because that enemy may be in a position of great power that he can be suddenly thrown in jail to rot there without charges and with no recourse to justice. We have the habeas corpus act, and we respect it.


The statement was presented as Eisenhower saying the “right thing” and condemning McCarthy’s tactics by pointing out how “un-American” McCarthy’s tactics were themselves.

However, this statement reflects one of the biggest problems in all of American society - the American inability to honestly address or even comprehend our past. What Eisenhower said sounded good and noble, and when he said it he was doing so to condemn judicial injustice, which is a good thing, however it is not true that every man and women has known justice in America, and the even greater irony is that grave injustice existed in America at the very time he was making that statement.

To say that from the founding of the nation all men could walk upright and be proud of who they were and face their enemies is to completely ignore the reality of slavery and Native American genocide. As he made that very speech there were millions of blacks in America who were not walking upright and proud of who they were, and they were not able to face their enemies.

One of the major problems with white society in America has been the continuing inability to really understand the full history and full nature of American history and society. To reflect positively on American society of the late 1700s as if everything were well and good is to completely ignore that 20% of the population of the country were slaves at that time and that hundreds of thousands of Natives were being systematically disenfranchised and exterminated.

On a message board about this movie a self-described conservative was talking about how he supported capitalism and opposed communism because the Founders were capitalists, which isn’t even true. Capitalism didn’t even exist when America was founded and the Founders were almost all slave owners whose wealth was generated on the backs of slaves. I consider most of the Founders to have been good people in bad times, but for this conservative to idealize the economic roots of America only goes further to show how out of touch Americans really are with our own history and the realities of our own society.

I just found it ironic that George Clooney put the clip of Eisenhower in the movie to make a statement that the actions of McCarthy went against the “history of freedom” in “our great nation”, but in reality all it did was show how deluded we really are, because what was said wasn’t even true in the first place, it was just one more example of the depths of American mythology.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:07 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2005 10:19 PM EDT
Saturday, October 1, 2005
 Evolution, Education and the Inquisition

Topic: Commentary
The "Intelligent Design" case currently being tried in Pennsylvania courts is being billed as Scopes II, but in reality it's more like the Inquisition because the trial isn't about the facts, it's about protecting certian beliefs. Just like during the Inquisition, even the defenders of evolution are trying to protect themselves by claiming that the teaching doesn't contradict "the faith".

Interestingly, the promoters of "Intelligent Design" claim that ID is not a religiously based view, and that it is a scientific "theory". In reality it could only be considered a scientific hypothesis at best, but nevertheless the questions and comments in the trial keep going back to religion anyway.

The climate is so religiously hostile, in fact, that the supporters of evolution are bending over backwards to present evolution as compatible with Christianity.

The Miami Herald reported:

Faith and reason called compatible
"An expert witness who has sharply criticized the teaching of the 'intelligent design' theory of life's origins testified Tuesday that faith and reason are compatible."

"'I believe not only that they are compatible but that they are complementary,' said Miller, who earlier told the court he was a practicing Roman Catholic.

Miller also backed off a statement in a 1995 biology textbook he co-wrote that said evolution was 'random and undirected.' Miller said he missed that reference by a co-author and that he did not believe evolution was random and undirected."

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Court test is near for 'intelligent design'

"But Americans in general, and conservative Christians in particular, are much less convinced.

In a recent survey,... 64 percent - supported the teaching of creationism along with evolution."

"[Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State] said that for students to be told that 'evolution is true and your silly Bible stories are false would also be unconstitutional.' Religion, in either a positive or negative manner, has no place in a science classroom, he said."

"The American Scientific Affiliation, an organization of scientists who are Christians, does not support or oppose intelligent design, said executive director Randall Isaac. He said a false choice had been created in the debate over evolution, making it seem that one cannot believe both in evolution and in God.

'You don't have to pick between one or the other,' Isaac said. 'Evolution is very important to be taught in the schools. But we really need to ensure that a public school doesn't denigrate anyone's religion.'"

Actually, this is the problem with the American education system. The problem with American education is that we have taken the position that we can only teach in a way that does not contradict anyone's religious beliefs, yet the history of progress is the history of knowledge over religious belief.

America is now the most religiously diverse country in the world. People here hold all number of different, and often absurd, religious beliefs. To claim that our education system shouldn't "denigrate anyone's religion" is to completely give up on the purpose of education.

The purpose of education is to teach people what is true and help them understand the real world. If someone's religious beliefs contradict what we know about the real world (as virtually all religious beliefs in the history of mankind have done) then we have to be able to teach them, and be able to prove to them, how and why their beliefs are wrong. If we fail to do this then we fail to educate.

Indeed we have failed to do this in America, and this is the primary root cause of the demise of the education system in America.

After World War II the United States was able to become the world leader in education because of our vast resources and the fact that every other major country in the world was in turmoil. What we never did in this country, however, was provide our children with a consistent worldview. In America we teach our children a disconnected collection of facts, and we do it in a way that no real conclusions about life can be drawn from the facts. We actually go out of our way not to provide our children with a worldview out of "respect" for everyone's different and independent worldviews.

The result is that Americans are growing increasingly disconnected and feeling increasingly lost. Americans try to wield secular knowledge within a religious framework, and ultimately this results in not making sense of either the religious world or the real world.

Looking at the other countries of the world, however, we see a consistent pattern. All of the most well educated countries in the world are also the least religious.

A study released on September 27th showed that the United States of America is continuing to fall behind other countries of the world in education. CNN reported that top performers in education include Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium.

U.S. world position in education slipping

Below is a graph of the most atheistic countries in the world. As you can see, Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada and Belgium are also among the most atheistic countries in the world and America has the least atheists out of the top 50.



This isn't a coincidence. As science and human knowledge continue to progress the United States is going to continue to fall farther and farther behind in education unless Americans are able to embrace non-religious worldviews that correspond to the facts and reality of the world around us.

Furthermore, research has shown that the countries in which evolution is most widely accepted are also the countries with the lowest rates of social dysfunction. Crime, abortion, murder, poverty and teen pregnancy are all lowest in the most atheistic countries where evolution is fully accepted and people have atheistic worldviews. Not only do these countries have better functioning societies, but they are also advancing in education, technology, and understanding at rates that are leaving America farther and farther behind.

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

To contradict this fact many people will claim that America still has the most advanced research institutes and universities, however the fact here is that the majority of scientists in America are atheistic and the majority of grad students in the fields of science and engineering come from Europe and Asia.

Right now over half of the grad students in engineering in America are here on visas from a foreign country. America cannot produce its own scientists and engineers because we don't provide our children with either a school system or a culture that is capable of actually giving them the knowledge and understanding needed to excel in the sciences.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 2:51 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, October 2, 2005 8:21 AM EDT
Monday, September 26, 2005
 Regarding March of the Penguins and the Conservative Interpretation

Topic: Commentary
March of the Conservatives: Penguin Film as Political Fodder

Having a degree in biology and a lifelong interest in the natural world, when March of the Penguins came out I immediately wanted to see it. I didn’t get the chance right away and ended up reading about “conservative” interpretations of the film prior to seeing it. Based on the conservative interpretations I assumed that the film was a Disneyfied inspirational pop-movie that glossed over real life and followed some kind of script.

Upon watching the movie I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was quite a good documentary. There were a few issues, such as the anthropomorphizing of the elements with statements about how the winter would “do everything in its power” to destroy the penguin’s eggs, which of course is not true because the “winter” is not conscious. The portrayal of sea lions and albatrosses as “the bad guys” misrepresented reality as well; both of those animals were doing just the same thing that the penguins were doing, acquiring food to feed themselves and their offspring.

Nevertheless, the movie was good overall. The more I watched it the less I could understand what conservatives saw in it and how anyone could interpret it as “supportive of intelligent design”. In fact, it was one of the best films I have seen designed for a popular audience that illustrates the concepts of evolution and survival of the fittest, as well as depicting the harshness and impartiality of nature.

According to conservatives, March of the Penguins is "the motion picture this summer that most passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing."

First of all, the film clearly states that the penguins are monogamous for only one breeding season, which is hardly any surprise given the harsh conditions that they live in. Being monogamous for one season is barely being monogamous first of all, but secondly, the idea of looking to the animal world to affirm human values is a clearly un-Christian act. Indeed it goes against the entire Christian system to look to the animal world as a model for human life, that’s a major aspect of the Christian belief system - man is set apart from the rest of living things and our values, supposedly, all come from divine revelation.

Secondly, the movie demonstrates over and over again how social behavior is a product of the material conditions that individuals live in. The penguins are monogamous each season because of the need for a close bond to ensure that the many steps needed to raise the child are executed. This is a product of the harsh conditions of the environment. This is also why monogamous sex is much less common in more plentiful environments. This has direct implications for understanding American society in our land of relative plenty as well.

Thirdly, all life is about sacrifice and child rearing, of course. Duh. This is so basic an observation I have to wonder if these Christians have even spent much time outside observing nature. We all know that having children is a requirement of life; I think that’s pretty basic.

The Christians go on to say that the movie affirms the beauty of life and has a pro-life message. I find this particularly odd because clearly the majority of the mates fail to successfully raise a baby to maturity. This is the case in all natural systems. The vast majority of organisms that are ever conceived will die or be killed before they reach maturity. There is no compassion in nature. Nature “kills” the eggs by freezing them to death quickly if they are dropped for more than a few seconds. The babies die from exposure to weather, or if either of their parents dies or gets killed or gets lost or decides not to return, etc. The also babies get eaten by predators.

Yes some survive, of course, but the majority die cruel deaths. Is there any fairness to this? Where is the pro-life agenda exactly? Nature is deadly and harsh. If God designed this nature then why is it so harsh and deadly? We as human beings have done a lot to overcome many of the pressures that naturally kill our children, but we still have instincts that drive us to have sex in the same ways that we used to prior to our technological advancements. Yes, 200 years ago, and certainly thousands of years ago, people had to have sex on a constant basis just to have 10 or 15 kids with the hope that 4 or 5 would survive to adulthood to take care of them so they wouldn’t starve to death when they got to old and too worn-out to work themselves.

We no longer have those issues, and now, in fact, overpopulation is a growing problem. Why can’t conservatives understand this? It seems pretty basic to me.

Animals rarely limit their own births because nature is so harsh that most babies die before they grow up. Is this an example of “intelligent design”? Why did the all-loving God create a world so harsh that most organisms die before they reach maturity?

As for sacrifice and trials and tribulations, Christians claim that sacrifice is a path to heaven for people - that trials and tribulations are tests for our soul. But they also claim that only humans have souls and go to heaven, so why would the fact that animals have to endure sacrifice be an affirmation of God - it is a contradiction of Christian belief not an affirmation. Christians also claim that people have to sacrifice because of original sin, so why exactly are these penguins sacrificing then? "Maybe" sacrifice is a part of all life and a part of the overall struggle of life that all living things on earth, including people, have in common. Yes, and that’s a direct contradiction of Christian belief in the uniqueness of humanity.

The most astounding phenomenon documented in the film, however, was when a female penguin’s baby died and she tried to steal another mother’s baby. Upon attempting to take the baby from the other mother the rest of the group banded together to drive off the offending mother and protect the victim.

This is a direct example of the evolution of morality. Many people puzzle over so-called “morals” and the human “moral code”. Christians claim that our morals are a code that was given to us by God through divine revelation, yet here are animals exhibiting a primitive example of morality.

This is because morality is a social code. Morality has evolved among all social animals because behaviors that are detrimental to the social group are selected against through evolution. Groups that don’t take action against individuals that engage in behavior that is detrimental to the group will go extinct. Protecting others is a way of protecting the group and ensuring overall survival. This is how “morals” evolved, and the phenomenon documented in March of the Penguins is just one more example of social animals that display moral behavior - evidence against the Christian claim that only humans can be moral because we have a soul and that our morals were given to us by God through divine revelation.

It’s quite amazing that Christians would try to look to nature and animals as role models for human behavior. That is a distinctly anti-Christian view. This is what Christians killed millions upon millions of pagans for, yet here they go taking up paganism.

It’s even more amazing that Christians would try looking to animals to reinforce their belief in monogamy, heterosexuality and “intelligent design”.

Every mode of sexual reproduction imaginable exists in nature, from asexual reproduction (organisms that just divide without any sex at all), to the raw release of gametes into the open (like fish and some plants and insects and corals and others), to animals that have orgies, animals that have completely indiscriminate sex, animals that are semi-monogamous (like the penguins) and truly monogamous animals (which are very rare).

In the most human-like animals on the planet, the apes, there is no monogamy and there is homosexuality. Apes are known to engage in orgies, incest and gangbangs, as well as sodomy.

When it comes to homosexually, the behavior has been observed in practically every known animal that has been observed for any period of time. Amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals all exhibit homosexual behavior. The claim that homosexuality is “unnatural” is completely without basis in fact. In fact there are even animals that change sex after they reach adulthood. Every bizarre freaky thing that people are into sexually is reflected in the natural world. There isn’t any sexual activity that people have engaged in that other animals have not engaged in also.

So, in short, unless these Christians all mistakenly saw a different movie, I have no idea how they saw March of the Penguins as an affirmation of conservatism. I saw the movie as a portrayal of how harsh the natural world is and how much we share in common with other animals due to our common evolutionary ancestry. It also reminded me of how little attention people pay to the lives of animals and how human behavior can so easily destroy animal life even though animals work so hard to survive. It also reminded me of how capitalism and the drive for profits can so easily lead to extinction and devastation when we don’t take time to learn about and care about the animals that we share this planet with. This movie spoke about nothing “conservative” to me; it was a complete refutation of the entire “conservative” worldview in every way, which is no surprise because I feel that way every time I come in contact with nature.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:11 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (9) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, October 2, 2005 8:15 AM EDT
Monday, September 12, 2005
 A Historical Outline of Modern Religious Criticism in Western Civilization

Topic: Announcements
A Historical Outline of Modern Religious Criticism in Western Civilization

This article takes a look at the history of religious criticism in Western Civilization since the time of the Protestant Reformation.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:41 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (7) | Permalink
Monday, August 29, 2005
 Regarding Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science

Topic: Commentary
A recent New York Times article, Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science, basically portrays non-religious scientists as a group without any answers to "life’s really big questions."

Little else can be expected from a popular commercial periodical I suppose. Indeed media that is market driven by consumer choice does not challenge those consumers on the part of their beliefs, it instead seeks to cater to the beliefs of the consumers and reinforce the notions that make the broadest part of the consumer base comfortable.

It is for this reason that we can never really expect a market driven system to impose reality upon a public that does not want it. In the market system the public gets what the public wants, and so when the public wants belief, belief they will get, regardless of the facts.

The most pernicious statement in this article, in good literary form, was saved for the last. The article offers as its parting shot the claim that science will never answer "the big questions."
But he said he believed that some scientists were simply unwilling to confront the big questions religion tried to answer. "You will never understand what it means to be a human being through naturalistic observation," he said. "You won't understand why you are here and what the meaning is. Science has no power to address these questions - and are they not the most important questions we ask ourselves?"

This statement is particularly galling perhaps because it is so widely believed, and so fundamentally wrong.

Over the centuries many different claims have been made by a variety of different religions. Time and time again these claims have been proven false. There is not any religion on this planet that has a track record for "being right" about anything.

At this point religions have been able to cling on to things which have not yet been proven, or which can never be proven because they are not testable claims.

The only real questions that people claim remain "unanswered by science" are what people call "the big questions."

The real question is, however, why would a system that has proven incapable of answering even the smallest of questions be trusted to answer the biggest of questions?

Yes, there are "big questions", that people have been asking for a long time. The "faith based" approach to answering these questions has been simply to shoot straight for the final answer, i.e. the ultimate prize. Its an undisciplined approach that basically tries to bypass all the intermediate steps and go straight for the "top".

What we have learned over the centuries, however, is that this approach fails to produce answers that can be validated as true.

Religion holds the false promise that you can answer a question without actually doing any work to discover information, but rather that you can just automatically know the right answer, or that the answer will be provided to you "supernaturally."

Hey, it takes a long time to answer "the big questions" right, and that may take many generations to do, so who wants to wait around on that? Religion provides instant gratification.

Science, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach. Science has taken the often slow, tedious, and hard work approach to answering questions, but the results are astonishing. Science has been finding answers to questions that no religion has even asked, much less answered.

In every case that science has come up with a different answer to a question than religion, science has been proven correct.

Is the earth round or flat?

Well, it took thousands of years to prove the answer beyond the shadow of any doubt, but when it was finally proven the answer was provided through naturalistic observation. Of course the Egyptians knew that the earth was round through naturalistic observation thousands of years ago, but this wasn't known by everyone, and they could only prove it indirectly, through measurements and mathematics, but when we made it into space and took pictures of the round earth, that was definitely the ultimate proof.

The Bible claims that the earth has four corners.

What is the nature of the universe?

Virtually all religions have claimed that "the Earth" is the center of the universe. Many religions have even claimed that the homeland of a specific people is the center of the universe. The vastness of the universe has been understated by practically every religion, because, of course, people were basing their religions on what they could readily observe at the time through careless observation. If they actually had divine wisdom they would have known better.

How can we cure disease?

Practically all religions, including Christianity, have claimed that disease and sickness are the result of evil spirits or are punishments sent from God to afflict the wicked. For this reason, as recently as 300 years ago, the Puritans and Pilgrims of the American colonies believed that sickness was a sign of immorality and indicated that someone has sinned. People were blamed for getting sick, as if it was something that they brought upon themselves. This was bolstered also by the fact that almost all of the Native Americans died of diseases so the Pilgrims and Puritans saw this as proof that they were vile heathens and that their death by disease was the work of God, killing the unrighteous.

"For the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so as the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess."
- John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Likewise, Christians who believed in a world created for people, could not imagine that their God would create organisms that would plague and devastate humanity to such a degree.

Through naturalistic observation, though, we have learned that the religious beliefs about disease and sickness have all been fundamentally wrong. We have answered the question of why people get sick through science, and learned how to prevent it. Something that religion, in thousands of years of practice, never achieved.

What is the cause of hallucinations and strange behavior, such as uncontrolled spasms?

The "answers" provided by religions have generally been that this is caused by evil spirits or possession by "The Devil".

People who had problems like schizophrenia or Turret's syndrome were often killed or tortured by religious people in attempts to drive out the evil spirits or to simply to get rid of the evil host. Just recently a nun in Romania that had schizophrenia was crucified by priests after repeated attempts to drive the evil spirits out of her through years of torture.

Religions have taken hallucinations as "real" and meaningful. People with hallucinations have believed that they were ghosts or visions of God or visions of angels, or whatever for centuries. We now know how the brain works, and that what we perceive is really just a model of reality "inside our brain", and that this model of reality can be corrupted, i.e. it can include images that are not a product of the senses, like the images we see during dreams, except this can also happen while awake as well.

Religions used to tell us that people's behavior was governed by their soul. We now know that people's behavior is governed by the physical processes of the brain. If you introduce chemicals into people's brain it changes their behavior.

We have answered all of these questions through naturalistic observation, and debunked the beliefs provided by religion.

There may be some questions that cannot be answered through naturalistic observation, but why would anyone put faith in an ideology that has proven incapable of answering any questions at all?

The idea that the "religious approach" to answering questions is going to be right about "the big issues", when it has proven to be wrong about lesser issues, defies even the most basic reason.

Furthermore, no new answers are going to come from religion. Religion is what it is - it has made its claims. The only way that any "new answers" can be provided by religion is if there are "new" supernatural events, i.e. if God comes down to Earth and gives out some new wisdom. The basic premise of religion is that people can't figure anything out, we have to be told by God. So, in terms of answering questions, either they have already been answered by religion, or we are waiting until the next message from God.

The only other option that we have is naturalistic observation. Even the use of science to try to verify religious claims is still the use of science.

To say that naturalistic observation isn't going to provide anwsers means that the only way these anwsers could be provide is either by existing religious texts, which one would assume are based on "divine wisdom" imparted by God (meaning that we already have the anwsers), or by some new supernatural events.

Religious leaders have opposed the major achievements of science since the beginning, and claimed that anything that contradicts a claim made by religion will undermine the social order. When it was discovered that the Earth revolved around the Sun, instead of the other way around, the Church opposed this teaching, and claimed that it would make morality obsolete by "contradicting God."

Nevertheless, morality has actually improved since that time. We no longer deem is acceptable to torture and kill people because of their beliefs. We no longer strip women of equal rights. We no long deem slavery acceptable, and the humanity with which we treat people has increased, and we now think that everyone should be given an education and the opportunity to succeed (not just the priests and nobility).


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:57 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, August 29, 2005 11:11 PM EDT
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
 New Pope Points Fingers at Others (As Usual)

Topic: Commentary
In his a recent speech to a Jewish audience Pope Benedict XVI tried to strengthen ties with the Jewish community. He did so, in typical Catholic fashion, by first blaming anti-Semitism on the Church's traditional scapegoat: paganism.

The Pope stated:

In the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry.... This year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, in which millions of Jews - men, women and children - were put to death in the gas chambers and ovens.

It is quite preposterous for the Pope to claim that anti-Semitism is "born of neo-paganism". It is well documented that anti-Semitism is born of Christianity, indeed of Catholicism!

It is also impossible that any Pope would be unaware of the history of anti-Semitism within the Catholic Church, or be unaware that Hitler was raised Catholic and proclaimed himself a Catholic throughout his life, and that anti-Semitism had been a part of German society going back to the conversion of Germany to Christianity when the Catholics killed all of the pagans.

In case the Pope or other Catholics have forgotten, however, here are some reminders of the facts:

Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

This line in the Bible, when the Jews sentenced Jesus to death, has been used to justify the persecution of Jews since the birth of organized Christianity.

Jews had been persecuted by Christians in Europe for over 1,000 years prior to the Holocaust. The desire to "exterminate the Jews" was hardly anything new, and had no origin in paganism or neo-paganism. What is really so troubling is that the Pope was holding a talk to try to make amends with the Jewish community and he wasn't even able to do it honestly, he had to point fingers at the old Catholic scapegoat of pagans and blame "neo-paganism" for the origins of anti-Semitism, when he knew full well that the Catholic Church is the origin of anti-Semitism. Did he apologize for the role of Christianity in anti-Semitism? Of course not.

Its good that he wants to make amends and that he is speaking out against anti-Semitism, but it is horribly dishonest to put the blame for anti-Semitism on "neo-pagans".

For more information on the history of anti-Jewish activities see:

Jewish Persecution Timeline
Jewish History Timeline


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:51 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2005 7:39 AM EDT

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