Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley: Remembering a Prick

William F. Buckley should be remembered for what he was -- an asshole conservative who legitimized being a racist bigot, by simply defending his neanderthal ideals with a charming smile, a British accent and better vocabulary than the average neanderthal.

This is the William F. Buckley I knew growing up:

(Concerning the methods used in the south to keep blacks from voting)
"The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists.

National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. . . . It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority." -- William F. Buckley, from a A 1957 editorial of The National Review titled 'Why the South Must Prevail'' (8/24/57)

William F. Buckley, in 1968, during a debate with writer Gore Vidal.

(Vidal, who is gay, called the conservative a “pro-war-crypto-Nazi,”)

"Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in you goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered"

Ah, Elegant, Erudite, and positively Buckley.

If you get a chance to see the video of William F. Buckley debating famous M.I.T. Professor Noam Chomsky on the Vietnam war, you will see how much Buckley was really mostly about using his vocabulary to skirt around issues. This debate is one that clearly shows that Buckley did not know what the issues were, and as soon as Chomsky tries to get beyond the slogans and one-liners of conservative pundits, and actually discuss the issues, Buckley tries to cut him off and stop him from explaining what the issue are. You can see Buckley trying in vain to make it sound like our invasion of Vietnam and the war was all about altruistic intentions and good will, and how we were there for only the best of mutually-beneficial intentions. Chomsky pretty much politely cleans his clock by using actual facts, reports, and statistics.

William F. Buckley -- should be remembered for what he really did -- he legitimized being an elitist, racist, knee-jerk-anti-communist, bigotted conservative, by being eloquent, graceful, genteel, and erudite.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sin, Crime, and Mental Illness.

One of the issues that is almost always lost with Christian Fundamentalists/conservatives is the issue of mental illness and it's implications for people who commit crimes while under the influence of an illness.

After discussing things like this for years, I get one of several answers from religious conservatives:

(1) People who have mental illnesses are actually possessed by the devil, and as such, made a choice somewhere that allowed Satan to take control, so they're really responsible for crimes committed while under his influence. IN other words, "mental illness" is not real; it's just an excuse for unbelievers to use to explain why people sin, or something like that...

(2) People who are mentally ill are still responsible for what they do, because even though they have less control, they usually know it, and they just need to try harder to fight it.

(3) Mental Illness is just an excuse for crimes, end of discussion.

(4) It is very difficult to determine if a person actually has a mental illness, and if they're just making it all up. I say we have to presume guilt before innocence, and have doctors determine whether they're really ill before releasing them.

In my opinion, far too many people tend to discount the concept of mental illness to the extent that they are willing to execute mentally retarded people (such as a man with severe brain damage who had the mind of a 4-year-old), and people with a documented history of treatment for mental illness.

Many people in our country are given psychiatric medication by doctors, and while under the influence of an incorrect dosage or after quitting without telling their doctor, they have an episode, and someone gets killed. Though we can trace the course of what clearly are "premaeditated" crimes, like the purchase of guns and amo, and the writing of notes or hit-lists, the over-riding factor is that these premeditations are done by people who are not in their right mind, because of their medications. These drugs alter the ability of people to think straight and make rational decisions, and far too many people are unwilling to consider the details when a horrific crime is committed under the influence of these drugs, which in many cases are legally prescribed by licensed doctors -- and they punish the people who commit crimes as though mental illness simply didn't exist, and as though the drugs mean nothing.

Which brings me to a question.

When people commit crimes under the influence of psychiatric drugs, or because they are mentally retarded or mentally ill (and thus incapable of making rational choices and decisions), should they be held responsible, just as much as a non-mentally ill person?

What about people who sin, and are mentally ill, under the influence of prescription medication, or retarded. Are they responsible according to the Bible, or do people who are incapable of understanding get forgiven?

I'd be interested in knowing what believers think about this.

(posted to Ray Comfort's Blog)

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Response to Ray Comfort's "The Evolution Debate"

Ray did research on Evolution, and found it mind-numbingly boring... Presumably because he's not well-enough acquainted with science in general past the grammar-school level to understand how science knows what it knows.

Like far too many people, Ray will look at a science book -- not even one about evolution -- and his eyes glaze over as he stares at it with a blank expression, as he tries to read it. In the end, his reaction is "This is stupid! I can't figure out how those eggheads conclude anything from this mumbo-jumbo!", and he throws the baby out with the bathwater.

People like Ray Comfort have this issue with being right all the time. They will never admit that they are mistaken, or that they said or did anything that might be embarrasing. They have to keep this phoney front of integrity up when faced with highly technical subjects that they don't know how to deal with. They either make up their own answers, and hope that nobody will question them, or they try to wait you out in the hope that you'll forget about what you were discussing.

Ray Comfort does not have the common decency to simply say that he is not a science expert, and that even watered-down, mass-consumption versions of science that we find in magazines like Scientific American, are like Greek to him. He cannot admit that he is scientifically illiterate, and so he makes up answers to questions that he doesn't know, and hopes that believers will just go along with him, and that critics will be consumed researching his cryptic answers.

It's an annyoing habit, really, never admitting that you simply don't know. There is no shame in admitting that you never really studied in or participated in science, just like I have no problem admitting that I've never actually studied music and can't read a note of it.

I wonder why this community is so full of people who can't say "I don't know" when they don't know. I mean it becomes painfully obvious to people like me when they don't know, yet they keep trying to explain their way out of the discussion as though they are experts. it would save a lot of time writing messages back and forth, if people would simply start off by saying that they don't know, then we'd know not to bother continuing the conversation.

Pat Buchanan through the way-back machine...

Remember when Pat Buchanan ran for president of the USA back in 1996? I totally forgot that I watched his campaign with a combination of snickering ridicule, and morbid fascination. I scarcely recall how I formed my opinion of the man, except that I knew he was a woman-hating fascist bigot. Now, thanks to going back to old newsgroups, I can actually trace how I formed my opinion of him and other people I've written about. I'm now cataloging my usenet postings, as part of a project to create a kind of diary of my life, so I can see where I've come from.

I Wrote this back in Feb 18 1996, in the alt.politics newsgroup. This is so we can remember Pat Buchanan at his sleaziest.


"Pat Buchanan on David Brinkley"

I never saw a man make a bigger ass of himself on a national scale, then when I watched Pat Buchanan defend himself in a no-holds-barred question and answer session with David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson, Cokie ROberts, and some other guy whose name I
forget :)

(1) Buchanan claimed that Women should be allowed to compete in the marketplace (good), but that we need to realize that they are incapable of competing against men because of their biology! He claimed that they could never achieve the same level of competetiveness and success as their male counterparts because of some unwritten biological setback, which he failed to identify or give a reference for.

(2) He claimed that black people haven't been properly assimilated into American culture, and that their subculture has a dangerous effect on the rest of American society.

(3) He claimed that illegal immigrants from Mexico are INVADING America and STEALING jobs from Americans. When it was pointed out that most of the illegals end up getting $2 an hour and getting treated like dirt, and that most are trying to escape their opressive country to look for opportunity and a better way of life, he just kept saying that they are invading the southwest and trying to turn it into another part of Mexico.

(4) He was confronted with the fact that the phone number for his Louisiana campaign office doubles as the office of the NAAWP (David Duke's National Association for the Advancement of White People, which is a well known supporter of the aryan movement and Klan organizations), and tried to blow it off, unsuccessfully, by stating that the person who campaigned for him in Louisiana was a good worker. He never addressed the issue of the association with the NAAWP, and his campaign strategist Pratt's attendence of Nazi and Klan rallies. This was his biggest weakness.

(5) But wait -- that's not all! He made a pitch for the Whacko-Bible-thumping fundies! He was asked about his views on Abortion, and claims that he would like to see Roe Vs. Wade overturned, and doctors charged with MURDER.

(6) IN addition to that, he also revealed that he wished to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools, because Evolution was a "godless, evil verision" of our origins, and that the Bible is the only truth. He claimed that "Evolution is an evil doctrine FORCED on our young people by secular humanists and atheist!"

In my opinion, Buchanan has TOTALLY SCREWED HIMSELF. He is unelectable, especially after toting the whacko-fundy line of extremist politics with a dash of insane religious views. Just his views on women and minorities make him questionable as a candidate, but his ties to Nazis and to Christian Fundamentalist insanity make him put him in the realm of Lyndon Larouche -- TOTALLY OUT-THERE!


This is from Feb 13th, 1996


"Pat Buchanon: Fascist for President"

People like Pat Buchanon scare me. Well... they don't scare me as much as they make me angry that there are more mindless Nazis-for-JEE-ZUS out there willing to buy all the "family values" propaganda of the religious conservatives out there.
Pat Buchanon's platform is "win the cultural war and bring America back to God and family values." Buchanon, in interviews, has taken the kookie-Christian viewpoint this time around (he's been running for president since I've been in grammar school), spewing forth all the paranoid propaganda which The Christian Coalition and Pat Robertson have been promoting.

Buchanon, like Robertson, believes that there is a "War against Christian values" going on in America; he believes that the government and society are officially sanctioning overt discrimination against all christians, and against their
values. He has stated that Christians are treated like second-class citizens. He has stated that America was intended to be a Christian nation, and that we have strayed from the goals of the founders.

What a load of absolute bullshit. Buchanon's ideas are founded on the sense of paranoia that Fascist-Fundamentalist preachers dream up to scare their followers into being more religious. The only reason that people like Buchanon feel that
Christianity is under attack is because many people in Politics and Media openly reject the fascist ideas that the Religious Right promotes, such as forcing "creationism" and prayer in public schools, outlawing abortions, and punishing flag-burners with stiff jail sentences (and Jesse Helms once asked for the death penalty!), and teaching "abstinance" in place of actual useful hygenic knowledge about sexuality. People like Pat Buchanon, Pat Robertson and the rest of the Christian Coalition are not under attack by anyone. They are the ones doing the attacking, and they usually attack anyone who disagrees with their paranoid solutions to problems.

But the religious nutcase side of Buchanon is not all I dislike about him. Buchanon is a protectionist. Even though NAFTA has done nothing to harm America, he thinks that it's a bad idea, and that we should impose heavy tarrifs on foreign goods, blocking anything that resembles FREE TRADE. Tarrifs mean big government, which most Americans are trying to reduce. Being in favor of such protectionism is counter to
shrinking the government, because you need a burocracy to keep track of all the taxes and tarrifs. We rejected Ross Perot in the last election, and here is Pat Buchanon repeating many of the same paranoid delusions about how unfairly we should trade without our neighbors.

Buchanan is a space cadet of a candidate, and it's no surprise to me that he got as many votes as he did in a Bible-belt state. We'll have to watch how badly he does in the northern states, where the insanity of Bible-thumping nazis from beyond
the 8th dimension is not so influential.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's in a cult?

One of the things I find amusing is reading Fundamentalist Christians declaring that "The Catholic Church is a CULT!" or that Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses are cults. IN my opinion, this is nothing more than the pot calling the kettle black.

Let's look at the definition of the word, first of all:

1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
3. the object of such devotion.
4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
6. a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
7. the members of such a religion or sect.
8. any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.

So let's look at this in more detail.

1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

Now this first definition can apply to pretty much any religious system, and doesn't really distinguish between religion and the modern use of the word, "cult".

2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.

This is sort of closer to how people use the word, but it must be stressed that "great veneration" should be "excessive veneration" to approach how modern people use the word "cult". For example, admiring Elvis is one thing, but worshipping him as a religious object is excessive.

3. the object of such devotion.

Still not close to how we use it.

4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.

Like the first definition, above, this canb apply to any religion.

5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

See #1 and #4.

6. a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.

Now this is how most modern people use the word "cult". We're talking about groups that aren't just religious, but which are extreme, and where members live outside of conventional society, often times under someone else's direction. We are all aware of the cults whose members sell all of their possessions, and move away to be with other members of the faith, in an extremely controlled environment where everyone watches everyone else.

Incidentally, there are plenty examples of this among evangelical fundamentalist Christians. Whether it's the Boston Church Of Christ, the Brotherhood, or some of the more extreme Christian Summer camps, plenty of Evangelical Christians belong to groups that are described by definition #6.

When looking at the Catholic church, only certain aspects of the priesthood, convents, and monestaries full of monks fit #6 -- rarely do you see lay-Catholics living unconventional lives under the direction of religious leaders.

7. the members of such a religion or sect.

No comment needed.

8. any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that employs methods regarded as unorthodox or unscientific.

This doesn't really apply, either, as it's seldom used.

So anyway, I've narrowed down how I, and most other people tend to use the word "cult". Interestingly, enough, unorthodox or extreme religions, once practiced by enough people, and accepted by the majority, tend to no longer be called cults. If the majority of Americans were to converted to a cult, and Catholics, Evangelicals, Baptists, and other common sects were a minority, the Cult would technically no longer be a cult, and non-cult members would then be the extremists, since the behaviors formally seen as extreme are now common place.

I would only say this to Evangelicals -- be careful of using the word "Cult" and be specific in how you define it. You need to chose your words and their definitions carefully, otherwise, you will easily include yourself in the definition.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Great Americans who were atheists, and who changed the world!

I posted this before in the Atheism Vs. Christianity Newsgroup on Google, but this will be my permanant home for it.

The following Great Americans all changed the world or made excelent contributions to the betterment of our society... and happened to be atheists.

Susan B. Anthony
Prominent, independent and well-educated American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to secure women's suffrage in the United States. She traveled the United States and Europe, and gave 75 to 100 speeches per year on women's rights for some 45 years.

Thomas Edison
American inventor and businessman who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph and a long lasting light bulb. Dubbed "The Wizard of Menlo Park" by a newspaper reporter, he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production to the process of invention, and therefore is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory. Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,093 U.S. patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. He changed the world.

Carl Sagan
American astronomer and astrochemist and a highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics, and other natural sciences. He pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He is world-famous for writing popular science books and for co-writing and presenting the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, which has been seen by more than 600 million people in over 60 countries, making it the most widely watched PBS program in history.[1] A book to accompany the program was also published. He also wrote the novel Contact, the basis for the 1997 Robert Zemeckis film of the same name starring Jodie Foster. During his lifetime, Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and popular articles and was author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books. In his works, he frequently advocated skeptical inquiry, humanism, and the scientific method.

Mark Twain
American humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer. Twain is most noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has since been called the Great American Novel,[2] and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He is also known for his quotations.[3][4] During his lifetime, Twain became a friend to presidents, artists, leading industrialists and European royalty. Twain enjoyed immense public popularity, and his keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. American author William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature." He is among the most influential and most celebrated American authors of all time.

Robert Frost
American poet. His work frequently used themes from rural life in New England, using the setting to examine complex social and philosophical themes. A popular and often-quoted poet, Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes.
He is considered one of America's essential great Authors.

Walter Whitman
American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and Realism, incorporating both views in his works. His works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.[1] Whitman is among the most influential and controversial poets in the American canon. His work has been described as a "rude shock" and "the most audacious and debatable contribution yet made to American literature."[2] As Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass (By Blue Ontario's Shore), "Rhymes and rhymers pass away...America justifies itself, give it time..."[.

Ernest Hemingway
One of America's greatest authors. Hemingway received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Hemingway's distinctive writing style is characterized by economy and understatement. It had a significant influence on the development of twentieth-century fiction writing. His protagonists are typically stoic males who must show "grace under pressure." Many of his works are now considered canonical in American literature.

Albert Einstein
The single most famous and influential scientist of all time. Einstein's many contributions to physics include his special theory of relativity, which reconciled mechanics with electromagnetism, and his general theory of relativity, which extended the principle of relativity to non-uniform motion, creating a new theory of gravitation. His other contributions include relativistic cosmology, capillary action, critical opalescence, classical problems of statistical mechanics and their application to quantum theory, an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules, atomic transition probabilities, the quantum theory of a monatomic gas, thermal properties of light with low radiation density (which laid the foundation for the photon theory), a theory of radiation including stimulated emission, the conception of a unified field theory, and the geometrization of physics.

Works by Albert Einstein include more than fifty scientific papers and also non-scientific books.[2][3] In 1999 Einstein was named Time magazine's "Person of the Century", and a poll of prominent physicists named him the greatest physicist of all time.

Steven Weinberg
Physicist. He was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics (with colleagues Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow) for combining electromagnetism and the weak force into the electroweak force.
. Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from a dozen institutions: University of Chicago, Knox College, City University of New York, University of Rochester, Yale University, Clark University, City University of New York, Dartmouth College, Weizmann Institute, Clark University, Washington College, Columbia University.

Bill Gates
American entrepreneur, philanthropist and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. During his career at Microsoft he has held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and he remains the largest individual shareholder with more than 8% of the common stock.

Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Although he is widely admired,[4][5][6] his business tactics have been criticized as anti-competitive and in some instances ruled as such in court.[7][8] Since amassing his fortune, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000. His software has changed the world.

Steve Wozniak
American computer engineer and the co-founder of Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.), with Steve Jobs. His inventions and machines are credited with contributing greatly to the personal computer revolution of the 1970s. Wozniak created the Apple I and Apple II computers in the mid-1970s. The Apple II gained a sizable amount of popularity, eventually becoming one of the best selling personal computers of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Ted Turner
American media mogul and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is best known as the founder of the cable television network CNN, the first dedicated 24-hour cable news channel. In addition to CNN, he founded WTBS, which pioneered the superstation concept in cable television. As a philanthropist, he is well known for his $1 billion pledge to the United Nations donated through his United Nations Foundation.

James D. Watson
American molecular biologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA. Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material". Won the 1962 Nobel prize for Physiology.

Isaac Asimov
American author and professor of biochemistry, a highly successful and exceptionally prolific writer best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards, and has works in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (lacking only an entry in the 100s category of Philosophy).[2][3] Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime.[4] Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time, a title many still honor. He also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as a great amount of nonfiction. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

Most of Asimov's popularized science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery.

Margaret Sanger
Sanger was a nurse and an outspoken advocate of free speech, women's rights issues, and the right of people to have access to healthcare. She was apauled by the poor healthcare, or lack thereof, in many parts of America. She advocated the idea of birth control or family planning, and faced legal action from the US government, which wrote up a series of laws that literally outlawed books on gynecology as "pornography" (See the Comstock Laws). Contrary to critical opinions, she never advocated abortions. She strictly advocated the idea that families only have as many children as they can reasonably afford to care for, and actually was against abortion. Her advocacy led to the availability of information on birth control, better healthcare for women, and the first practical birth control pill.