Convicts for Christ

Tonight, we were out in Waikiki and passed a group of men handing out pamphlets. One was shouting as loud as his voice would permit about JESUS and SIN. I had this conversation with a man who had a cross of red duct tape on his t-shirt:

man: [Something about Jesus. He died for my sins or loves me, or something.]
me: Jesus isn’t real.
man: What do you believe in then?
me: Have you seen the Avengers? I believe in Loki.
man: *snickers* But that’s fiction.
me: You’re telling me my god is fiction? Your god is fiction.
man: Well, is there written record of him?
me: YES! Loki is well documented in Norse mythology and there are writings about him which date back to pre-christian times.
man: …

The conversation went on far longer than this, but the rest was textbook and circular. He had nothing to offer me but Pascal’s Wager (repeated at least 8 times), the 2nd law of thermodynamics, “matter can’t arise from nothing”, “0 does not equal 1”, an appeal to authority, an appeal to large numbers, and something about “look at these wonderful things like love and babies”. Basically, arguments that Richard Dawkins rips to shreds in The God Delusion. I’ll leave you with a quote that I think got him to at least consider why he believes in his particular god and no other.

When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

— Stephen F Roberts

Faith Healing

I’m not sure how to feel about religious parents who deny health care to their children.

If we ignore for a minute the suffering of these children, the majority of whom have treatable illnesses with good prognoses, we see that these actions are bad for the survival of the meme. Fewer surviving children => fewer people who can be indoctrinated => fewer people to spread the faith healing religion.

Maybe it would cause less suffering overall to ignore them and let time take its course? How many people do you suppose will have to lose a young family member before no one practices the religion anymore?

I briefly considered the possibility that they may be gaining some evolutionary advantage by refusing medical care. Now I’m not so sure, since many of the deaths I’ve read about were caused by one-offs (e.g., tumors) rather than strongly heritable diseases.

petra anderson

yet another horrible thing being called a miracle. an innocent woman got shot 4 times while watching the dark knight rises premiere, including once in the brain. but because that shot happened to not cause any brain damage, it’s a miracle!

why do miracles so frequently have this pattern? horrible thing X happens, but because of Y, it was not as horrible as it ultimately could have been: miracle!

conveniently, we ignore the fact that a 6-year-old girl was shot and killed in the same shooting. the pastor who who blogged about this “miracle” responds in the comments about the little girl, saying “I gain some peace because my worldview tells me the six year old is now experiencing heaven, full of life and love.” life on earth is supposed to be nothing compared to the afterlife in heaven. so is it such a miracle that petra anderson survived? can’t have it both ways.

all door boarding

just a few days ago sf muni (the public transportation system) began a policy of all-door boarding of busses. i experienced just one unintended consequence of the new policy today. a homeless man boarded the bus without paying and asked people repeatedly “can you spare some change?”

he asked me at one point. so i responded
me: do you believe in god?
him: yes, i believe in god.
me: wrong answer.
him: can you spare some change?
me: not for you.
him: (mumbling) what’s believing in god got to do with me getting some change?

the woman sitting next to him suddenly had a handful of change to give to him, despite denying his request minutes earlier. perhaps she also believes in god. do i get credit for her donation? right after she gave him a handful of coins, he asked her “can i also have a dollar?”

they already get free health care. i don’t get near as good a deal. ironically, it’s because i am employed. someone should write a book about the homeless people of san francisco.  it would read just like that kids’ book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

miracles

i want nothing to do with them. i have never heard of a really good one, have you? miracle (like tragedy) has become meaningless with overuse.

usually, a “miracle” is when something horribly, catastrophically bad happens to you, but then it turns out not being quite as bad as originally estimated. like, when your anencephalic child doesn’t die within hours of birth, but holds on for 2+ years. or when you’ve sustained 2nd to 3rd degree burns on over 70% of your body from a car crash and you manage not to die. or when you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic cancer and given 3 months to live, but end up suffering for 6 months before finally dying.

other “miracles” are banal things that any reasonable person should expect would happen, given the circumstances. like, someone who is regularly having unprotected sex becoming pregnant.

even the miracles of the christian bible are just meh. yay, more bread and fish! probably wouldn’t have touched the stuff in the first place, but now we’ve got more. any god worth worshipping would have a better imagination than me, so a miracle by such a god would be at least as awesome as a real live dragon. but no such awesomeness has ever been documented.

Loki is my god

I promised a full entry back here about Loki.

He was certainly the most interesting character in the movie. Maybe that’s because he was brilliantly portrayed by classically trained British actor Tom Hiddleston. Eton and Cambridge? Excuse me while I swoon.

There’s something sweetly vulnerable and human about him and his desire to prove himself and out-do his golden boy brother, Thor. He’s honest about his desire to control humans. Not having to think — just accepting god’s word and god’s plan — is what comforts many religious people. Loki claims this outright. Maybe I want to take a vacation and let him make my decisions for me. It might be refreshing.

True story: a few weeks ago, I prayed to Thor for cookies, and I got them. (Thank you, Thor!) I haven’t tried asking Loki for anything, but knowing his desperation to compete with Thor, I should be able to ask for a whole bakery and get it.

Kansas and contraception

This is the conundrum with attempting to protect religious freedom. Pharmacists in Kansas may now refuse to fill prescriptions that they believe may lead to an abortion. “Belief” is important here. They can refuse to sell Plan B and not worry about losing their jobs even though Plan B doesn’t actually cause abortions.

The most important aspect of freedom of religion is that no one, not even the government, has the power to interfere with the religious beliefs and practices of anyone else. This is why atheists are upset. Whose beliefs are more important? Why should the beliefs of pharmacists and doctors trump the beliefs (or lack thereof) of their clients? Especially in a case like this, when the outcome probably has a much more profound impact on the life of the client?

A pharmacist should not be able to force his* religious beliefs on his clients. Think of any other profession. A waitress, for example. Let’s say an Orthodox Jewish waitress gets a job at Red Lobster then wants to refuse to serve diners who order items that aren’t kosher. Would the government ever pass a law to protect her job if she chose to do that? No, because it’s part of her job. A necessary part of her job that she knew about when she applied to work for Red Lobster.

It is just as absurd to allow pharmacists and doctors to refuse to perform necessary duties of their jobs due to religious beliefs when they knew all along that those duties would be required of them.

But there’s some good news! Plan B is apparently available for purchase online, and Amazon ships to Kansas. Better stock up. You’re welcome, much beleaguered women of Kansas:

* As always, gendered pronouns for notational convenience only.