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Pat Condell on the movie, Fitna

As you can imagine Pat Condell has something to say regarding the Dutch movie, Fitna. I had previously posted on the subject and even provided the video links to it, which are now removed from YouTube, cowards. 

 Here’s the Youtube video.

Found via FriendlyAtheist

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Filed under: Internet, Religion, , , , ,

Geert Wilder’s Fitna (strife) released

Something that continues to fascinate me since hearing of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s life is Dutch politics. In recent weeks a “right-wing” Dutch politician, Geert Wilder, has produced a short film, called Fitna (the word strife in arabic). It portrays Islam in a rather negative light. Actually it’s pretty blunt about the problems with Islam within a democratic, pluralistic society. Ok, fine, it’s actually a bit Michael Moore in its portrayal of Islam. Like Michael Moore’s filmmaking, the truth is all in how you tell the story, or put that story together. Each individual part can be true but when put together it may not tell the whole picture.

Geert Wilder’s Fitna, basically says that Islam is a religion of hate. One could certainly make that argument (and he does) but I wonder if his approach, a) won’t change anybodies mind and b) will likely get him killed. Of course, if a muslim kills him it only goes to reinforce the point, but still. As a film, it’s more like a PowerPoint presentation. The Hirsi Ali/Van Gogh film, Submission Part 1, was much more artisticly done.

Here is the only English Version link I could find, http://www.liveleak.com/e/7d9_1206624103, and WordPress doesn’t let me embed from there (at least I can’t figure it out).

Edit: Ooh, originally it looked like YouTube were going to be a bunch of chicken shits (like Network Solutions) but here it is.

Double Edit: Guess what? YouTube are a bunch of chicken shits. These videos don’t work anymore, I’ll see what I can do to get them from BitTorrent and then post them for good. Ah, Google Video to the rescue (ironic that Google Video has it but YouTube, owned by Google, won’t play it).

Filed under: Atheism, Internet, Religion, , , , , , ,

Don’t be a Dick

I need to rant and since none of my family knows about this blog (except the wife, who will yell at me for posting this) I feel safe in ranting about them. This is specifically about a family member who has become religious and recently joined the Catholic Church.  We’ll call him Dick (seems appropriate).

1) We (and most of my wife’s family) recently attended Dick’s confirmation in the Catholic Church. It was 3 freakin’ hours long but we were there to support him so that’s not my issue. My issue is that at the end of the service (which did I mention was in hour 3 @ 10:00 at night) they were doing communion. Dick’s brother, a practicing Protestant, went forward to take Communion and was BLOCKED from attending communion by Dick, because he wasn’t a Catholic and therefore unable to take communion*.

He was BLOCKED from taking part in a ritual affirming the divinity of Jesus and therefore in some small part BLOCKED from his own god, simply because he was “Them” and not an “Us”. What kind of arrogant, assbaggery is involved in Dick’s thought process. He later justified it by saying he stopped his brother because of how much “reverence the Church has for communion”. Oh, that makes sense… WTF? What does that even fucking mean?

Needless to say Dick’s brother was pissed but he blew if off and chose not to make a scene during Dick’s special day (all 3 freakin’ hours of it, not sure if I mentioned that).

2) Second, another Dick story. Since I’m venting I might as well let it all out. My wife was speaking with Dick on the phone about their father. Somehow in the conversation Dick thought my wife was talking about me (little ole’ heathen Skeptigator) being depressed, instead of their father. Dick proceeds to tell my wife that he can understand why I would be depressed since I don’t believe in God and therefore don’t have any reason for living my life. He actually said that, wait, let me bold that, ok done. Again my question stands, what kind of arrogant, assbaggery is involved in Dick’s thought process?

You know, Dick, if YOU don’t have a reason to live your life without an imaginary dictator in the sky, fine. But don’t tell ME I don’t have a reason for living my life, OK?….Dick. I have a gorgeous loving wife, and 2 of the most beautiful children on the planet (that’s an actual established fact).

You can pin a lot of this arrogance and Dick-ish behavior on Dick but let’s be honest. #1 is built-in to many religions, not the least of which is the Catholic church. So in all honesty Dick was being intellectually honest in his blocking of his brother’s access to their supposedly shared god. #2 is way too common among the masses. I’ve seen this exact statement made in other places but never thought it was more than hyperbole. How naive am I? Oh and to the religious who read this, most of you don’t comment but I do get emails. Before you tell me that this is not “True Christianity” or Dick isn’t living a Christ-like life, at least, read Matthew 15:22-28. I know the apologetics and I don’t buy it for a second, a dog is dog, the translation is correct, even if you take dog = pet approach it’s still an insult showing Jesus preference was to the Jews (or again just the disciples, depending on apologetic).

 * I understand that there are rules for allowing non-Catholics to take communion, some kind of blessing or something, either way, it’s not the point.

ETA: Credit for the updated title goes to hoverFrog.

Filed under: Atheism, Religion, ,

The true meaning of Islam, Submission Part 1

Since I just posted on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel I thought I would provide a link to the short film that her and Theo van Gogh created, called Submission, Part I. It is a damning commentary on muslim attitudes towards women. The video was so inflammatory that it ended up getting Theo van Gogh killed.

If you read Infidel this short film will have so much more power for you. You will also have a better understanding why this film pissed off so many muslims (the truth hurts).

Filed under: Atheism, Internet, Politics, Religion, , , , ,

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel, A Review

Now that my work and a number of side jobs have slowed down in the last week or so I have been able to work my way through the backlog of books that I have been itching to read. My latest book was Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel.

Wow, wow, wow. I am utterly blown away about this book. I read it in two evenings and obviously couldn’t put it down. I was so engrossed in this other world. And let’s be honest she came from an entirely different world that Westerners like myself could hardly dare imagine.

There are a zillion reviews of the book so I’m not going to bore anyway with the same review, here’s the NY Times review. I actually don’t want to talk about the usual things that a reviewer might such as genital mutilation, refugees, immigration politics, islamic fundamentalism or honor killings.

I do want to talk about something that stuck out to me, the almost total lack of coverage in the U.S. of what was happening in the Netherlands over the last 5-7 years. We have been wall-to-wall coverage of WMDs and Iraq and Iran and Iraq and Britney Spears and Iraq and Eliot Spitzer and Britney Spears and Iraq and the 2008 elections. During all of this there was this major shift in Dutch politics, political upheaval surrounding Islam and a significant and growing muslim population in the Netherlands.

For years, the Dutch supported (and continue to support) a large refugee population, many from muslim populations. The Dutch went out of there way to accomodate the muslim faith of these refugees, but in that accomodation and tolerance they also facilitated the same isolation and lack of integration that inevitably plagues a large immigrant population. Even worse this immigrant population harbored a cultural hatred for the very country and Western culture that was signing their welfare checks. Here’s a rather lengthy quote from the book,

In those days, especially in Labor Party circles, people were always positive about Islam. If Muslims wanted mosques and separate graveyards and ritual slaughterhouses, such things were built. Community centers were provided. Islamic fundamentalist ideas were swelling in such centers, but Labor Party people usually dismissed this as a natural reaction. These immigrants had been uprooted, they said; they were clinging temporarily, to traditional ideas, which would gradually fade away. They forgot how long it had taken Europe to shake off obscurantism and intolerance, and how difficult that struggle was.

When Somalis told me they didn’t want to live in gaalo neighborhoods, I knew they wanted to avoid contact with the ungodliness of Holland. But Dutch officials always saw it as a natural desire to form a community. When Muslims wanted their own school, I saw it as forcing children to obey ideas unquestioningly; the Dutch saw no harm in funding them. When satellite dishes began bristling from every apartment in municipal housing projects, tuned to Moroccan and Turkish TV, my Labor Party colleagues saw this as a natural desire to maintain contact with home.

But with the dishes came preaching, indoctrination. There were door-to-door preachers passing out cassettes in most Dutch cities… Most migrant neighborhoods had shops selling traditional clothes and carpets and tapes, DVDs, and books on how to be a good Muslim in infidel territory. When the number of women wearing headscarves on the street became impossible to ignore, my Labor Party colleagues thoght it was only recent immigrants, who would soon abandon the practice. They failed to realize that it was the second generation, who were rediscovering their “roots,” brainwashed by jargon I recognized: tawheed, kufr, the evil Jews.

Unfortunately at the same time that the U.S. was bombing Iraq back into the Stone Ages, the Dutch people were being confronted with a culture seemingly still stuck in the Stone Ages right in their backyards. And Ayaan Hirsi Ali played a significant role in bringing this other culture into the light, and to borrow the metaphor, evil cowers from the light.

I won’t go into the details but Ayaan tried to convince the Labor Party that there were things happening in this muslim population that were completely and utterly outside of the moral values of the Dutch culture that harbored them. Ayaan eventually got herself elected to the Dutch parliament where she was able to bring these issues into the public square.

One issue that Ayaan wanted to bring to the light were the honor killings that were taking place in Holland every year. And here’s the important lesson, instead of posturing, politicking or going on an endless “trust me it’s happening” campaign she did what any good scientist or skeptic would do. She was able to get 2 of the 25 Dutch police precincts to simply document how many murders were considered “honor killings”. This was significant because previously the police weren’t allowed to document that information for fear of “stigmatizing” a population. After a mere 6 months or so, 11 girls, many teenagers, were documented as having been killed as a result of an honor killing. 11 girls in 6 months from only 2 of 25 precincts. This horrified the Dutch people.

The Dutch people were being confronted with the reality that their religious tolerance which had worked so successfully with the native Catholic, Protestant and Secular populations was utterly failing them. In one respect they were maintaining the value of religious tolerance while unwittingly withholding the value of individual liberty and freedom from women and children.

Ayaan Hirsi realized that the only way to bring freedom to half this immigrant population was for the Dutch to actually pursue integration. Not necessarily forced integration but at least stop funding so many of the self-segregationist policies that the Muslim community was creating, such as separate Muslim schools. She also later on convinced the Liberal Party (which could be loosely compared to Republicans here in the States but that would be unfair to the Liberal Party) to provide separate residence papers to women brought to Holland by legal immigrants, it wasn’t easy but she sold it by,

“…talking about the women themselves brought to Holland by men they barely know, after arranged marriages, beaten until they ended up in the hospital, but who cannot file for divorce because if they did, they would have to leave Holland and return to their families, where they would be punished. The motion was passed by a majority of the parties in Parliament, although we had to do without the Christian Democrat’s vote. (So much for brotherly love.)”

Ok so that last part might have been a cheap shot but they so deserved it. I admire her restraint.

 And perhaps most disturbing of all is that there was little if any coverage of any of this here in the States. I remember Pim Fortuyn being shot and killed but he was portrayed as some kind of xenophobic, right-wing, neo-fascist. That guy was more liberal than Hillary Clinton. I am sorry I didn’t know any of this was going on. I am the typical Ameri-centric citizen after all.

I could go on and on (and it looks like I already have) but I did want to leave you with some more information.

Here’s Christopher Hitchens thoughts on the Dutch treatment of Ayaan (her citizenship was revoked while still serving in Parliament, seriously, I couldn’t possibly make it up)

Interview with Ayaan at ReasonOnline.com

Lengthy article over at the Washington Post

and, of course, her personal website.

Filed under: Atheism, Politics, Religion, , , , , , ,

The Atheist Market in Fort Wayne, IN

I’ve been sitting on this USA Today article, Americans freely change, or drop, their religions, for a couple days now. I’m not really sure what to make of this survey. Part of me sees the statistic that atheist/agnostics make up about 4% of the U.S. population and see that in a pessimistic light. Just to put that number in perspective if you take the total population of the city of Fort Wayne, IN (where I am located) with a population of about 215,000 (500,000 if you include the Metro Fort Wayne area). This means about 8,600 of my fellow Fort Wayners are atheist/agnostic, about 19,000 if you inclulde the whole Metro area.

One of the statistics for Indiana particularly is the number of unaffiliated people. And of course the number of unaffiliated people is the whole point of the article. I wonder how many of them would simply declare atheist/agnostic if the social pressure to believe in God were removed. I think all these things in the hopes of understanding what percentage of those people would participate in an atheist group, like Freethought Fort Wayne. I don’t really have any stats on what is the likely percentage of any group to actively participate in a group of some kind. For example, let’s say that any given grouping of people will have 20% of its members actually participating in groups. Let’s say there are 1,000 people in a given area who self-identify that they are Bird enthusiasts so it’s reasonable to assume that the most members of an organized, self-identified group of Bird enthusiasts would be 200 members. Your job as the the Bird Enthusiast evangelist is to get your group to that magic 200 number. If for example you advertise or whatever and you can only ever get 75 people to join then you know that you are doing something wrong or missing a whole target group of about 125 people. But without that 20% number how could you ever know that 75 people isn’t supposed to be the max number.

It’s easy to say there are 8,000-20,000 potential members of an atheist/agnostic group in the Greater Fort Wayne Area and let’s be honest if you state that you are “unaffiliated” and not simply agnostic then you are very, very unlikely to join a group that self-identifies with atheism since you can’t even fill out an anonymous survey and say you are atheist. What percentage of those group members would be willing to actively participate in a group,  1%? 2%? 10%?

Part of me holds out hope because even with a 1%-2% participation rate that creates a pool of 80-400 members. Can you imagine that 80-400 possible members in Fort Wayne, imagine the potential pool of candidates in Indianapolis with 4 times the population. Actually I could probably find out the membership of CFI- Indiana and reverse calculate and estimate of what Fort Wayne could draw, I’ll re-edit when I get that information.

Filed under: Religion, , , , ,

The Ultimate Infallible Cop-Out

As is being reported around the web, The Pope in his infallible wisdom is asking the faithful to pray that the Lord will root out pedophiles from the clergy. I can barely contain the anger I feel at the utter infallible stupidity of this. Gee, I don’t know, you infallible moron, why don’t you listen to your sheeple when they say, “Hey I think my 8 year old is being molested” and when 5 more people come forward and say the same thing. Hmmmmmm….. There might be something to these accusations.

Oh, I know why don’t you read the Philadelphia grand jury report that tells you EXACTLY how the priests did what they did, and the disgusting bishops who let them get away with it. I know what you could do how about punish no one, move around the bishops responsible for allowing this behavior to continue, oh wait, you’re doing that.

 Cardinal Hummes said that the aim was to put a definitive stop to a scandal that had damaged the image of the Church and forced US archdioceses, including Boston and Los Angeles, to pay millions of dollars in compensation to the victims. He said that the scandal was exceptionally serious, although it was probably caused by “no more than 1 per cent” of the 400,000 Catholic priests around the world.

Well I’m glad that it’s only contained to no more than 4,000 priests worldwide by the Catholic Church’s own esimate, I’m sure they aren’t being conservative in their numbers or anything. I’m also glad that the Church’s focus is on limiting their liability for compensating families because it’s really difficult to save face when you keep handing over gobs of cash.

The next thing you know some moron politician in a drought-stricken area will pray for rain. Sorry, this news item hit me at the end of a bad day.

Filed under: Religion, , , ,

Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Ok, I swear I will stop with all of the religious posts. I get on a kick sometimes and can’t stop. I swear this this the last one.

Instead of reading something weighty like Dawkins or Hitchens, I decided to take something a little more light-hearted. I chose to finish by religion-binge with Christopher Moore’s hilarious book Lamb: The gospel according to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

Surprisingly my first impression of this book is that it is not nearly as sacreligious as it could have been. In fact, unless you consider someone telling a fictional tale of Jesus’ missing years (from birth to about 30) as sacreligious in and of itself, then I would dare say that Christopher keeps the Jesus of Christianity intact.

Let me start by giving a brief synapsis of the book. Levi bar Alpheas (aka Biff) is risen from the dead by an angel into modern times and ordered to write a new Gospel of Jesus (Joshua’s) life. Biff has a unique perspective since he was Joshua’s best friend and was by Joshua’s side from 5 years old until his death on the cross. Biff tells his story filling in a number of the “blanks” left in the Gospels since most of the disciples/apostles that wrote the Gospels and beyond only knew Jesus from the time he started his ministry at age 30.

This book is absolutely hilarious, these are just 2 examples that had me laughing out loud (I think I might have scared the guy next to me on the plane).

 This excerpt takes place when Joshua and Biff are traveling to the East in search of the three wise men so that Joshua can learn how to be the Messiah, they are about 15 years old and are just about to meet the first wise man, Balthasar,

“I’m Joshua of Nazareth, ” Joshua said, trying to be casual, but his voice broke on Nazareth. “And this is Biff, also of Nazareth. We’re looking  for Balthasar. …

“Balthasar is no more of this world.” The dark figure reached into his robe and pulled out a glowing dagger, which he held high, then plunged into his own chest. There was an explosion, a flash, and an anguished roar as if someone had killed a lion. Joshua and I turned and frantically scratched at the iron door, looking for a latch. We were both making an incoherent terrorized sound that I can only describe as the verbal version of running, sort of an extended rhythmic howl that paused only when the last of each lungful of air squeaked out of us.”

and then again, after leaving Balthasar they have just been accepted into the Buddhist monastery of Gaspar where they have been given a list of all the rules they must follow, stripped of their identity and been assigned numbers, Joshua is Monk Number 22 and Biff is Monk Number 21, they are being given their first assignments lessons,

“Monk Number Twenty-two,” Gaspar said to Joshua, “you shall begin by learning how to sit.”
“I can sit,” [Biff] said.
“And you, Number Twenty-one, will shave the yak.”
“That’s an expression, right?”
It wasnt

I don’t know how funny these passages translate when taken out of the book but I’m laughing just thinking about Biff shaving that yak. Ouch.

Anyway, I hope you get a chance to read the book, it delves into a lot of Eastern philosophies, like Buddhism and Yoga that you can find evidence of in the New Testament. This book actually makes Jesus seem a lot more human than many in Christianity ever get a sense of. He fears, he laughs, he get angry, he cusses (ok that one might bug people), he is curious about sex, he loves, he feels guilt, he’s human and in this book unlike in the real Gospels, you get the feeling that Jesus actually understands what it is like to be human, not some holier-than-thou God/Man that no one ever has the hope of ever of even coming close to. 

Filed under: Religion, Reviews, , , , , , ,

Atheism: The Case Against God

I have FINALLY finished reading George Smith’s seminal work Atheism: The Case Against God. I say finally because this book is a very substantial work and I don’t recommend you read it while you are sleepy because I could barely get 3 pages into it before nodding off.

When you read this you will clearly see that a lot of the ideas captured in this book have found there way into the books of the “New Atheists”. What isn’t touched on in this book is fundamentalist Islam (I think that might be redundant). Clearly this book is a product of it’s time 1978 I believe. Christianity is clearly the default theistic religion that George Smith atheistic beliefs attempt to counter.

I have spent several weeks chewing through this book which is unusual for anyone who knows me since I am a very fast reader. It took so long becuase I had to reread several sections to really understand what he was trying to say or how he was attempting to connect several different concepts together. The book is clearly written by a philosopher and I think he does a good job of writing this to the lay person but there’s only so much you can do with the subject matter.

If you are looking for the philosophical underpinnings of Sam Harris’ book End of Faith or a more in-depth treatise on atheism that Dawkins or Hitchens’ books don’t go then this is your book.

Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Reviews, , , , , , ,

End of Faith & it’s little cousin

I completed reading Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation several weeks ago but found that it was very short (only about 100 pages) and that if I wanted to better understand Harris’ position I should read his longer and more in-depth book End of Faith.

End of Faith definitely has more meat than it’s little cousin. I especially enjoyed his discussions regarding the ethics of torture. Often when I read articles or interviews with Sam Harris he mentions yoga or meditation. He clearly finds value in this and mentions it regularly and End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation are no exception.

Both of these books have been on my list for quite some time and I have finally taken the time to read them. They are well worth a read if you enjoy Dawkins and Hitchens, his books have the same tone and essentially the same kind of content.

If you are looking for a Reader’s Digest version of End of Faith read Letter to a Christian Nation.

Filed under: Atheism, Religion, Reviews, , ,

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