Aggregating Skeptical Thought

In God Indiana Trusts (even those who don’t)

The ACLU in Indiana is filing a suit against the State of Indiana on behalf of Mark Studler for offering an alternative standard or specialty license plate and yet does not charge extra for this plate. The new “standard” plates have the phrase “In God We Trust”. Read more here (FoxNews, The News-Sentinel, LA Times

There have been many reports that I have heard personally and have been written about in other places (internet infidels) of people only being offered the new license plate. If you have been a victim do not hesitate to email the Indiana ACLU at

Here are the pertinent points from the Mark Studler v. Indiana BMV lawsuit.

Indiana has a standard license plate and has historically only had one standard license. The “In God We Trust” (IGWT) plate is the first “‘no-fee’ specialty plate” to be offered by the State of Indiana.

The primary basis for their lawsuit lies in the fact that (Section 23 of the filed lawsuit)

“those who obtain an “In God We Trust” license plate are afforded the opportunity to make an affirmative statement through display of the plate without any additional cost while Mr. Studler must pay additional fees for his environmental license plate.”

Here’s one more salient point that must be made and unfortunately the ACLU lawsuit doesn’t cover this. According to The Tribune-Star, out of Terre Haute, the state is absorbing $3.69 to produce each of these plates out of the state’s Highway Fund. This is a cost that the state does not currently absorb for any other specialty plates. In fact, Indiana charges a $15 administrative fee to cover the cost of producing any specialty plate. Let me put it more simply, Indiana charges you for a specialty plate because of the additional cost associated yet does not charge the same fee for a clearly Christian-inspired plate. If it looks and smells like a government subsidy…

The Courier Press out of Evansville, Indiana interviewed the state representative that sponsored the bill, Rep. Woody Burton (R-Greenwood),

“I’m a faith-based person, anyways, and there had been so much attack on religion throughout this country,” Burton said.

Burton said the plate shouldn’t raise any “separation of church and state” issues, because its sentiment is very general and does not promote any particular faith.

“We’re not specifying any religion,” said Burton, who attends the nondenominational Greenwood Christian Church.

Umm… I hope Woody is sitting down for this mind blowing statement but you are specifying religion in general (although which religion is very thinly veiled). There is a percentage of your state that not only does not believe in your God (or wish to express that sentiment in a clearly Christian manner) but there is a smaller percentage that do not accept the existence of any god (let’s be honest it’s a very small percentage in Indiana).

I understand that that phrase is on our currency (or sometimes not) and is even our national motto. But let’s be clear about where that motto came from. It is an enacted piece of legislation from 1956 just 2 years after “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It has a very clear Christian pedigree and only an apologist would attempt to claim “we’re not specifying any religion” this is both intellectually dishonest and insulting.

Filed under: Politics, Religion

In defense of atheism

The National Secular Society out of the UK has a brief review of a new book by French philosopher Michel Onfray, In Defence of Atheism. I’ll have to pick this up when I can get a chance.

Filed under: Religion

The new old atheism

Here’s a recent editorial from the Orlando Sentinel, New atheists, ancient argument, that reviews by Richard Dawkins’ and Christopher Hitchens’ new books, The God Delusion and god is not Great, respectively. The author of the review concludes with the following paragraph and I do have to agree with him.

Dawkins seems to think that a world-class knowledge of biology (which he undoubtedly has) can make up for the complete lack of philosophical or theological sophistication with which he is afflicted, while Hitchens appears content to be clever and amusing rather than strive for intellectual profundity.

I don’t agree that Dawkins lacks “philosophical or theological sophistication” however I do agree that Dawkins overwhelming knowledge of biology does present a bit of barrier to entry for the common man. And Hitchens does appear to be content at being clever and amusing, which he is.

I just finished reading “god is not Great” and I found the book rather enjoyable and I am letting my father borrow it. Being a conservative Christian I’ll wait and see what he has to say. I don’t think he will find many of the arguments (particularly about the Old Testament) very compelling. We’ll see. I might do a review but his book has been reviewed to death already.

Filed under: Religion, Reviews

Does atheism lead to humanism?

Atheism according to Merriam-Webster Online defines atheism,

1) a disbelief in the existence of deity 2) the doctrine that there is no deity

The Skeptic’s Dictionary defines atheism much less succintly but does add,

This definition does not capture the atheism of many atheists, which is based on an indifference to the issue of God’s existence.

Why do I bring these things up? I guess this line of thought came to me after I read Nica Lalli’s book Nothing and the discussions my wife and I have had surrounding the book. The author prefers to refer to herself as a “Nothing” not an “Atheist”.  It’s actually a less confrontational way of saying the same thing which seems to fit her personality. As an atheist you often here that “Atheism is very negative. What makes you so sure that everyone else is wrong?” I like to think that what’s being asked or stated here is that Atheism doesn’t stand “for” something it’s simply a stand against or indifference toward something, specifically a god.

I have beliefs. Atheism is NOT an expression of those beliefs. I don’t define my life as an atheist and therefore have an atheistic outlook on life and go to an atheist church. I don’t do or have that because atheism is not a positive statement of belief. I think atheism is so disturbing to some people because they don’t know how to define or judge what you are.

That might not be clear enough. As an example, I was setting up a time for my oldest son and his friend to get together over a weekend and I (quite foolishly) proposed that I could come pick up their son on Sunday morning around 9 or 10. The mother asked if that would really work for me and I said, “Sure we don’t go to church or anything so it’ll be no problem. ” Of course, there was a kind of hesitant pause before she agreed and I could tell that she was processing this information. I could only imagine what was going through her head. She probably had an idea of what we were like through the fairly casual encounters we have had exchanging children and that I had just challenged that idea. I doubt she thinks we’re horrible people but you could just tell that she all of sudden had to redefine her idea or stereotype of what we were really like.

So I’ve kind of beat the what-is-atheism horse to death here (at least as I see it) that opens the next question. In fact, my wife asked this question just tonight. “What do you believe in?”. Of course, being the jerk that I am I gave the sufficiently jerk response, “Tinkerbell”. That would be funnier if you were in on a particular inside joke. I did however honestly reply that I believe in all kinds of different things but if you had to put a name on it it would likely be called humanism.

Of course, humanism is about as easy to pin down as Jell-O as far as a specific set of beliefs is concerned. But I did say that my over all belief is that humanity is responsible for its current problems, that it is solely responsible for fixing those problems and that we should use our reason and a proper scientific worldview to achieve those solutions. There are no cop-outs of personal responsibility to a diety or devil and there are no excuses or exceptions for immoral behavior.

Does atheism lead to humanism? For me yes but I don’t know if the 2 are really the same kind of thing and I’m not entirely sure humanism can be so easily defined. Atheism essentially freed me to think critically and rationally about everything. As a Christian would I have had the kind of freedom to stumble across humanism probably not because I would have already had all the answers in convenient book format. I know there are a number of liberal religious groups who would probably identify with a religious humanism (I’m thinking Liberation Theology) but the foundations of their beliefs are still supernatural.   

Filed under: Religion, Skeptic

Congressional Scorecard

I was poking around the Secular Coalition for America’s website and came across their congressional scorecard (here). They list out certain key votes and then give your representative a + for a correct vote and a – for an incorrect vote.  My house representative (Mark Souder – R) has a perfect – vote. No surprise there. He’s a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time renaming a local highway the “Ronald Reagan Expressway” and getting Reagan’s head on the dime or something.

Anyway check out your representatives and by the way you can sign up to receive action alerts on key bills and you can email your representative through their systems. Very easy and painless to do. You can signup here.

Filed under: Politics

Images of the sun

I know these have been out there for awhile but I came across this in my saved items. Couple of videos of the sun’s surface.

Filed under: Science

Information request

I’d be interested if anybody out there has ever head of the following item and had any good skeptical information regarding them. I haven’t yet found any comprehensive source. Anyway here goes

 Somebody by the name of R.W. Wetherill put forth a theory on Nature’s Social Laws/Right Action, Richard W. Wetherill has since died but his legacy/name/philosophy lives on through by one E. Marie Bothe.

Filed under: Skeptic

How to identify a Secretard

Skeptico’s blog has a great post, You just might be a Secretard if…, detailing many of the annoying things that followers of “The Secret” and it’s bastard child “The Laws of Attraction” (although apparently related must not be confused with the Law of Gravity).

Technorati Skeptic

Filed under: Skeptic

Christians and Athiests holding hands

I came across this article, Christians and atheists start a calmer dialog,  in Christian Science Monitor from May about Christians and Atheists coming together to better understand each other. It features Jim Henderson (the pastor who bought Hemant Mehta’s soul). I think one of the best points made was by Hemant Mehta (

The more work churches do for everyone, the more respect they’ll get from outsiders

Which isn’t this one of the overwhelming reasons that many atheists become humanists. Of course, one problem that others have identified is finding charities to give you time or money to without implying support for the charities underlying belief.

Technorati Skeptic

Filed under: Religion

Schirmer’s Shame

James Randi’s JREF has a great post about one of the swindlers from The Secret called David Schirmer. He was busted by an Australian TV show called A Current Affair.

Here’s David Schirmer’s rebuttal

 Technorati Skeptic

Filed under: Internet, Religion


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