Saturday, September 30, 2006

It's the end of the worlds and gays are to blame.

For a little comedic relief here is a funny satire on the fundamentalist obsession with homosexuals.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Richard Dawkins slays faith dragon

Richard Dawkins is one of the world's most erudite thinkers and well known scientists. And now he has turned his attention to a topic of interest to this site: The God Delusion.

A review in the Economist, which can't be read on-line unfortunately, says that as Dawkins sees it "religious moderates make the world safe for fundamentalists by promoting faith as a virtue and reinforcing an overly pious respect for religion."

As an evolutionary biologist Dawkins asks why it is that something as absurd as religion continus to exist. Why hasn't it been breed out? I should note that for most practical purposes it has all but disappeared in the most functioning societies around. Only in highly dysfunctional nations such as in Africa, the Islamic world and the United States is religion a major force. But Dawkins explains, according to the review, "that religion is a by-product of mental abilities that evolved for other purposes. One form of this theory is that children are "programmed" to believe anything their parents tell them, which is quite sensible in light of all the useful information parents can share. But this system is vulnerable to becoming a conduit for worthless information that is passed on for no other reason than tradition."

There is more to the book and the review both. But you ought to read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. One thought I liked from the review is that Dawkins says that we atheists need to be more energetic in opposing the evils of relgion. As the review says: "If nothing else, his book should help bring the atheists out of the closet." I think that is happening. Atheists are sick and tired of being pushed around by religious nut cases and becoming more vocal. One great benefit for us atheists is that organized religion, especially the nutty fundies, have been so linked to the Bush Administration that his imcompetency and malignancy reflects badly on them. They sucked up to the State and now the State is making them look like idiots. A true reflection perhaps but one more obvious to lots more people today.

Religion census in UK encouraging

A religious outfit in the United Kingdom has reported their latest census regarding church attendance and faith there. They brag: "Many churches in England are in a healthier state now than seven years ago." Why? Well during the 1990s the churchs lost 1 million members. But "in the seven years from 1998-2005 only 1/2 million left, a much slower rate of decline."

Imagine a company bragging that instead of losing $1 million per year they thrilled to report they are only losing $500,000 per year instead. In 1998 they found that on an average Sunday in the UK only 7.5 percent of the population attended church on any given Sunday. Now it is down to 6.3%. And of those who do attend they are twice as likely to be over 65 years of age as the general population. So they will die off and it's not like they're going to have children at their age. So the decline should continue.

They report some churches are growing. But it would appear to be that they are growing because they pinch members from other churches. And immigrants, especially from Africa, are increasing and these immigrants tend to be more religious. Not exactly a good selling point actually as they are almost more likely to believe in witch doctors -- literally. Religion still tends to appeal to the lower income, less educated, segments of society.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Morality, life's blessings, religion. Part 7 Gonorrhea

Here is a little map I stumbled acorss doing research on other diseses. Among the information on the website of the Centers for Disease Control was this map showing incidents of gonorrhea in the United States. Now for the sake of ease I added the letter J in gold on those states which are part of our 11 Jesusland states and I put an S for secular on the 11 states we identified as being more secular in outlook.

You can open the picture in a new window to make it easier to see if you. The CDC did the colour coding of the States. What is being measured here is the gonorrhea rate in the various states. If the state has no colour, or is white, the cases of gonorrhea are under 100 per 100,000 people. If the state is in light blue then the cases of gonorrhea per 100,000 is above 100 but below 200. And if the state is dark blue then the number of cases per 100,000 people is above 200.

Remember we are testing the theory that religion makes one more "moral" and the fundamentalists equate morality with sexual abstinence and monogamy. If highly fundmentalist states practice the morality they preach their rates of gonorrhea infection ought to be much lower than the more godless states. But the opposite is true again.

Every one of our Secular States is a state with the lowest levels of infection -- including the notorious godless California. Only one Jesusland state falls into this, the lowest category. Only three states and the District of Columbia have rates of infection abover 200 per 100,000. And all the states with this high level of infection are Jesusland states. Seven of the remaing Jesusland states fall in the middle category of infection which means, that at the very least, ten of the 11 Jesusland states have gonorrhea infection rates higher than all our Secular States.

Apparently one reason they preach so much about sexual morality is because they are so much more likely to lack it. But once again the numbers indicate that belief in the Bible, Jesus and God doesn't appear to cause them to be more moral than their secular neighbours -- which is the precise opposite of what they claim the case to be.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

They're back!

Last year we posted a story about the Nazi twin singers who were whining about being misunderstood. They call themselves Prussian Blue, named after the colour the gas chambers turned after cyanide was introduced. Real cute! Well, these adolscent bigots and their brain dead parents have moved to Montana from California. They didn't like California as it wasn't white enough for them.

When the neighbours meet the family and found out what they believed they were disgusted. They wrote a letter that was circulated around the town of Kalispell. The letter said they meant no harm to the family but wanted to communicate that the community does not endorse hate.

Of course the Nazis claim they are merely "proud of being white" and they want "to preserve our race". They mean it the same way Christianists want to protect the family. Both are excuses for hate. Don't be confused these pint size bigots with pea sized brains do hate. The name they picked for themselves was picked intentionally. Prussian blue is the colour you find when cyanide mixed with the iron content of the bricks in the gas chambers where the Nazis murdered Jews.

Of course the bigots and their family claimed that the flyer against them constituted harassment and wanted the police to step in. The Nazis always love the police to step in. But the police had to explain a little thing called the First Amendment.

The girls, who can't sing and only have an audience because they preach hate to bigots, are pictured here. They are singing at a Nazi rally. By the way, a year ago when we first mentioned them they were whinning about how they were being harassed. (Right, people just pick on Nazis for no good reason at all!) They are still whinning. Not much has changed. Still talentless, still brain-dead, still cry babies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This seems to confirm our survey

In my Jesusland vs Secular States survey I used church members by denomination as a marker for fundamentalist beliefs. What I am trying to measure is how one's religion impacts on their daily living. Does being a "good Christian" make one more moral or less inclined to bad choices in life? So far the evidence is that fundamentalism goes hand in hand with other dysfunctional values.

One thing that some might argue is that my denominational marker is not particularly accurate regarding whether one is a fundamentalist. I think it fairly accurate but a bit crude and if I had the resources I'd use other sources. But I did come across one survey which seems to indicate that my denominational marker works fairly well after all. A Rasmussen national survey found that 54% of Americans "adults" believe the Bible is literally true. Amazing! But this is not 54% across the board. There clearly are regions of the country where this lunancy has reached epidemic proportions. Now only limited amounts of data are currently available to the public. But what they do discuss confirms my division fairly well.

The Rasmussen result mentions three states I identified as part of Jesusland and two states which I describe as being member of the Secular States of America. They report what percentage of residents of these states are daft enough to believe the Bible is literally true. For the Jesusland states they mention the results are: Alabama 75%, Arkansas 75% and Tennessee 68%. For the Secular States they mention two: Vermont 22% and Massachusetts 22%.

I think this survey would be an important one to use and if I expand my report I may use it. Again I should note that I used denominational membership as a marker. Obviously people who say they have no religion are secular. And people who belong to fundamentalist sects like the Baptists are not likely to be secular at all. Unfortunately there were many categories on the denomination list which were too vague to pin down. Some people belong to indepedent churches. Well those could be anything. So I excluded them from the list. I used as my main marker membership in fundamentalist denominations and those saying they had no religion. I then added the mainstream Protestant into the secular camp which is where most of them actually belong. So far the limited data made public by Rasmussen indicates this worked fairly well and that I did accurately identify the five states which I mention and which Rasmussen mentions.

Unfortunately Rasmussen doesn't allow one to buy one survey. You have to subscribe to a "season" and at $95 it is a bit rich for me for just the one survey I actually want. Damn.

By the way I criticized the humour maps of Jesusland put out by the Left because they actually mapped whether one voted Democrat or Republican and not whether one was a theocrat or a secularist. I argued that some states that voted for Bush were more Secular in nature and that Democrats should be able to win these states but that they needed to move to the center instead of being on extreme left. One such state was Montana. The Democratic candidate for US Senate is now leading there in the polls by 9 points.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Morality, life's blessings and religion Part 6 Family Values

The born again crusaders love to talk about family values. I don’t buy it for a second of course. I do value family and the family unit. I think it evolved for very important reasons. But I have to question how much these fanatics really value family. Over the years I have seen religious fundamentalism tear families apart. One relative converts and then launches a crusade against the others. She, usually, will tell them how evil they are; how their church is false, how they are going to hell, how they need to convert to her religion.

Families respond to that rather badly. Relatives stop speaking to each other. Parents will reject their own children and have nothing to do with them until they “find God.” Divorces happen, families split up, hatred incubates and grows. Yet the Christians tell us that they believe in “family values”. It simply isn’t true. Family doesn’t come first to them. Their religious fanaticism does. And just as an Islamic extremist is willing to blow himself up to find happiness in heaven the Christianist is willing to blow up his own family.

But they persist to argue that when religion grips a family it is stronger. Is this true? We can again look by checking the divorce rates in our Jesusland states and our Secular States. As I write I don’t know what the results will be and I’ll report them exactly as I find them with proper links provided, of course. In fact various studies have been done to see how religion impacts on family stability. Here is a whole page of such studies. I will have more on this after I check the state by state numbers.

The first problem I can see immediately is that for some reason the national data is good for most states but some of our Jesusland states have no statistics available. I am looking here.

I checked a second site and skipped it because it was missing this data as well. I wonder why these states are unable, or unwilling, to provide this information. We are also missing data on California that is recent. We have the 1990 figure but not the current one. I will look at what I can find. These are all for 2002. Some states are missing from the list.

Arkansas 6.2
Alabama 5.4
Kentucky 5.2
Tennessee 5.1
Mississippi 4.9
North Carolina 4.5
Texas 3.9
South Carolina 3.4
Georgia 2.5*

The statistics for Georgia are very suspicious. If a state had a consistent trend in their divorce rates I would assume it fairly accurate. But Georgia saw it’s divorce rate cut in half in a very, very short period of time. In just seven years they went from 5.1 to 2.5. Divorce, like abortion, can be tricky because of state intervention. If a state changes divorce laws making it hard to divorce then the number of divorces will go down. It they add requirements that slow down the process then divorces may decline shortly after the law is passed only to rise later as couples fulfil the requirements. The divorce rate trend for the entire country has been improving but this is a very dramatic improvement in a very short period of time.

Missing from this list is Oklahoma as well. This is critical because date from Oklahoma exists from 1995 just not from 2002. And in 1995 Oklahoma had one of the highest divorce rates in the country. It should be noted Nevada was hired but it was divorce mill. People moved there, lived there as short period to qualify as residents and then divorced. Hawaii has an very high marriage rate because people fly there to marry and Nevada does the same with divorces. Otherwise Oklahoma was the leader in divorces in the country. Even with the downward trend in all states that would imply Oklahoma has high divorce rate today. California is missing with recent data. It is one of our Secular States. But older data shows California having a relatively low divorce rate.

Even if we take Georgia at face value the missing data skews things a bit and we need to keep that in mind. Some Jesusland states with high divorce rates in the past are now missing from our list. And one Secular State, with a low divorce rate, is also missing. That will skew things to make the Jesusland states look more favorable. Instead of 22 states as in our other surveys we have only 19. Of the Jesusland states where we have current data we find the average divorce rate is 4.57. For the Secular States we have a lower divorce rate of 4.0. But since we had to exclude two Jesusland states with very high divorce rates that lowered their divorce rate average and we had to exclude one Secular State with a lower divorce rate thus increasing their divorce rate.

One way to adjust for this and get an idea of how this changed things is to actually use older divorce data that is more complete. If we use the 1990 statistics we can add California and Oklahoma back into the equation. But Louisiana is still missing. Using 1990 data from the same source we get the following:

Oklahoma 7.7
Arkansas 6.9
Tennessee 6.5
Alabama 6.1
Kentucky 5.8
Georgia 5.5
Mississippi 5.5
Texas 5.5
North Carolina 5.1
South Carolina 4.5

We don’t know where Louisiana might have come in yet. But of the five states with the highest divorce rates four of them are Jesusland states. Adding Louisiana to the mix would not have improved that . And of the five states with the lowest divorce rates all of them are Secular States. When we calculate the averages we find that in 1990 (where we have more complete data) the average divorce rate for the 10 Jesusland states where we have data, was 5.91. For the Secular States it was 4.51. That gives you some idea what excluding Oklahoma and California does to the averages. One article I read says Louisiana historically had a high rate of divorce but I’m still trying to find any number for any year. In addition it should be noted that Louisiana, through the efforts of theocrats there, have made it much more difficult to divorce. If the couple has a child separation time required for a divorce is doubling in lengthy to one year. In addition they are creating new forms of marriage that are very difficult to dissolve.

Now these laws don’t change the emotional content of the marriage. It doesn’t mean the couples are still marred in any way except legally. They don’t even have to be living together. It just makes it very difficult for them to divorce. The theocrats apparently believe that forcing people to remain legally married makes them married in other more meaningful ways. But what we are able to find is that the Jesusland states do have a higher divorce rate. The family that prays together is not more likely to stay together. We also have other information that is useful.

In 1999 a Christian research group, Barna Research, did a study finding that born again Christians were more likely to divorce than atheists or agnostics. George Barna, president and founder, said: “While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time.” But I should note that Barna got a lot of heat for this report and later claimed that Christians had the same divorce rate. But of course, if religion binds families together the divorce rate shouldn’t have been the same but better.

The original results showed that among conservative, fundamentalist independent churches the percentage divorced was 34%. Baptists, the largest fundamentalist sect in America, had a divorce rate of 29%. Mainstream Protestants, who tend to have more secular views, had a divorce rate of 24%.. Atheists and agnostics, people who are clearly secular in viewpoint, had a divorce rate of 21%.

US regions also show differences. The South, which is where the fundamentalist are strongest has a divorce rate of 27%. The Northeast which is very much more secular has a divorce rate of 19%. Associated Press, using census statistics concluded that the divorce rate in Bible belt states “are roughly 50 percent above the national average”.

Interestingly there is other data which indicates Christians are no more stable in their relationships than non-believers.

There is one other area on family relationships and morality I want to look at here. That is how many children are born to couples who are not married. Do Jesusland states do better or worse than Secular States when it comes to out of wedlock births. Here we have some data.

And here is what we find when we rank the states in our survey.

Mississippi 45.5%
Louisiana 44.9%
South Carolina 38.7%
Georgia 36.2%
Arkansas 35.1%
Tennessee 34.9%
Alabama 34.1%
Oklahoma 33.2%
North Carolina 32.8%

Texas 31.5%
MAINE 30.6%
Kentucky 29.9%
OREGON 29.7%

Of the eleven states with the highest percentage of births to unmarried couples nine of them are Jesusland states and only two are Secular States. Of course of the eleven states with the lowest rate of births to unmarried couples nine of them are Secular States and only two are Jesusland states.l Of the five worst states all are Jesusland states and the five best states are all part of the SSA. In two Jesusland states almost half of all births are to unmarried women. The average percentage of out of wedlock births in the US is 32.8%. Nine of our Jesusland states are either at this level or above it! Only one Secular State from our list is above the national average, all the rest do better than average.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Morality, life's blessing and relgion. Part 5 Suicide

Just one set of statistics for this post. It's almost 3 am and I'm tired but I wondered how suicide rates would compare between our Secular States and the Jesusland states. Off hand I don't have any idea how this would fall nor am I familiar enough with the causes of suicide to hazard a guess. So I went to this site for the state by state statistics just to see how the states rate. When I sort by suicide rate this is what I find:

13.8 Kentucky
13.7 Arkansas
13.6 Oklahoma
13.0 Tennessee
11.7 Mississippi

11.6 Alabama
11.5 South Carolina
11.4 North Carolina
11.2 Georgia
10.7 Texas
10.5 MAINE
10.3 Louisiana

I'm not sure we have found anything meaningful at all. Again the states are fairly evenly divided. Of the eleven states, from our survey, with the highest suicide rates 6 are from the Secular States and five are from the Jesusland states. Of the five worst states 3 are from the Secular States but then so are four of the five states with the lowest suicide rate.

Looking at this survey the first thing I noticed is how the states with the highest suicide rates are western mountain states which tend to be sparsely populated. They also tend to have higher ratios for males to females. I know men are more likely to successfully kill themselves than females and I wonder if this explains the high rate in these states. The chart I have above shows how suicide is far more common among men thus states with more males would have higher suicide rates all others factors remaining equal. The Mountain states tend to be mixed states when it comes to our survey. For instance Utah is very theocratic with the strength of the Mormons there. It too has the same high suicide rate.

The rates seem very regional. New England, which is very secular, has the lowest suicide rates in the country. I do see something to the idea that densely populated ares have lower suicide rates. Certainly a lot of human contact would reduce the inclination to kill one's self I would think. And when we look at the high population states of New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, California, Maryland and New Jersey they are all states with relatively high numbers of people per square mile.

I think the suicide rates have not told us anything here. Even if we average the two groups they are very similar. The high suicide rates of the mountain states of Wyoming and Montana really skew things for the Secular States in our survey but even with them counted the average number of suicides per 100,000 people is 12.5 in the Secular States and 12 in the Jesusland states.

Morality, life's blessings and religion. Part 4 Is Jesusland more moral?

I have been trying to compare the most religious states in America with the least religious states. My comparison has divided the US into two groups. One is Jesusland and the other is the Secular States of America. Using church membership statistics I have identified the 11 states that are least religious and the 11 that are most religious. More specifically I identify on the basis of religious beliefs more akin to theocracy versus people who have a more secular view of government.

For instance fundamentalists tend to be very theocratic. Anglicans tend to be the opposite. Catholics are a mixed lot but in my experience most don’t use their religion as the foundation for public policy beliefs and polls showing most American catholics disagree with the Vatican on issues like divorce is one indication. Catholics are far less theocratic than Baptists these days. To identify the Secular State we looked at the percentage of state residents saying they had no religion. If this percentage were relatively high, and if the percentage of fundamentalists were very low then the state qualified as one of our Secular States instead of part of Jesusland.

What we are not measuring is how states voted in the last election. Some of our Secular States voted Republican but I believe all the Jesusland states did though I have not verified that. I think this will turn out to be the case because we are measuring the inclination toward a theocratic state or toward a secular one. And Republicans are openly big government, theocratically inclined these days. Democrats are big government, secularly inclined. While I prefer the later to the former I don’t feel that way in any dramatic proportion. I have never supported the Democrats until the last presidential election. I just now prefer them to the Republicans. That could switch once the Republicans are rid of Bush. But I will discuss more of this in the summation

After dividing the states by their inclination towards theocracy or secularism I then looked at three measures of “God’s blessing” only to find that the secular states were better off on all three measures than the Jesusland states. Now I want to look at some statistics that indicate the moral states of our two regions. Are the highly fundamentalist states more “moral” than the secular states? I don’t know for sure. As I said I’m writing in real time basically editing only for spelling as an experiment to see if my theory hold ups. If not you will see it here yourself.

Jesusland advocates tell us that morality is intimately tied to religious beliefs. Without religion there is no morality. They are also big advocates of abstinence for everyone but married couples with marriage limited to heterosexual couples only. I want to look at the morality issues and so I am searching for stats on various behaviours. First I want to see if teen pregnancy is lower or higher in the Jesusland states. Since the states were sorted on religious beliefs only I don’t know yet how this will turn out.

This appears easy. My google search immediately turns up a report by the Guttmacher Institute on teen pregnancy trends in the US and the various states. On page 13 I find something very close to what I’m looking for: the pregnancy rate in each states for teens 15 to 19 in the year 2000. I would prefer it to be 19 and for it to be more recent but since religiosity didn’t just happen over night this should be relatively similar to the trends today. We shall see if the children of “god fearing” folk are less inclined to get pregnant or more inclined to do so. After inputting the data and sorting it here is what I get:

Mississippi 103
Texas 101
Georgia 95
North Carolina 95
Arkansas 93
Alabama 90
South Carolina 89
Tennessee 89
Louisiana 87

Oklahoma 86
Kentucky 76

Of the 11 states with the highest pregnancy rate, of the 22 we are looking at, we find that nine of the worst states are in Jesusland. Meanwhile nine of the states with the lowest pregnancy rtes are in the Secular States of America. If you look at the extremes you will see that the children of Mississippi are more than twice a likely to get pregnant than the ones in Vermont. The eleven Jesusland states have a pregnancy rate average of 91.27 while the eleven Secular States average 74.9. A rather dramatic difference.

This raises the question of abortion. I wonder how religiosity impacts abortion rates. Now this one is a bit more difficult to interpret I think because Jesusland states make it more difficult to abort in many ways. If you put obstacles in the way of abortion you will ought to have fewer of them. For that reason alone I would think the abortion rates should be lower in the Jesusland states. After all it is easy to get pregnant with state interference but much harder to abort with it. I’m don’t think what we will find will necessarily mean much but it will be interesting to see and since the numbers are on the same page of the report it is easy to do.

22 North Carolina
18 Georgia
17 South Carolina

17 Texas
16 Alabama
16 Mississippi
16 Tennessee
12 Arkansas
12 Oklahoma
11 Louisiana
8 Kentucky

It’s a bit more mixed than I would have guessed. I would have assumed the legal restrictions Jesusland stats impose along with parental control over teens would have meant the abortion rate in all eleven of the states would be much lower. In other words I would have thought that the Jesusland states would all be in the lowest have while the Secular States would all be in the higher half. But three of the secular states are clearly in the lower half. I think all we have measured is legal restrictions on abortion and not the moral climate of the young per se.

Surely one area of morality, perhaps the key area, is not what people do in the sex lives but how they treat other people. And this means measuring crime rates specifically violent crimes against others and property related crimes. We have a nice map, at the top of the page, showing us these statistics together which I have reproduced above and which can also be seen in larger format by clicking on it, it shows the crime stats on that page. The crime rates here are violent and property crimes per 100,000 population. Here are the figures with the most criminally prone states first.

South Carolina 5289
Louisiana 5049
Texas 5035
Tennessee 5002
Oklahoma 4743
Georgia 4723
North Carolina 4608
Arkansas 4512
Alabama 4452

Mississippi 3774
Kentucky 2783
MAINE 2514

Again breaking the list of 22 states into half we find that of the eleven most crime prone states surveyed nine of them are in Jesusland while nine of least crime prone are in the SSA. What surprises me is that Washington and Oregon are so bad crime wise. I was also surprised Tennessee was so bad. It does appear that increased religiosity does not prevent crime. If it did the Jesusland states should have consistently outperformed the Secular States when, in fact, the reverse is true. The averages are rather shocking. The eleven Jesusland states we survey have a crime rate of 4542.72 victims for every 100,000 population. The Secular States are 3351.8 per 100,000. I believe that means the crime rates are about one third higher in the Jesusland states.

Finally, for this section at least, I want to look at two other violations of human presented: murder and rape. Are people living in Jesusland more likely to murder and rape than their counterparts in the Secular States? At first one would think if the total crime rate is higher in Jesusland that this would hold true. It might but it might not. It could be that the Jesusland residents are more prone to theft and assault while the Secularists are more prone to murder rape. So what I am doing is looking at the most violent type of crimes only. It could tell a different story. And to find those numbers I went here.

If you want the stats by state you have to go to each state page individually. If you want to be fair you have to adjust for population size so scroll down to the bottom of the page for the rates per 100,000 which is what I am using. I am using the last statistic provided which are for 2000. I will first look at rape statistics. Are Jesusland residents less likely to rape someone?

Oklahoma 41.2
Tennessee 38.4
South Carolina 37.7
Texas 37.7
Louisiana 33.5
Alabama 33.3

Mississippi 33.3
Arkansas 31.7
North Carolina 27.1
Kentucky 27
MAINE 25.1
Georgia 24

My first view of the numbers seems to show that the distribution on rape is pretty evenly spread. Of the eleven states with the highest rape rates six are from Jesusland and five are Secular States. Of the those with the lowest rape rates six are from the Secular States and five from Jesusland. There are a couple of surprise. I would have thought California would be worse having more major cities than any other state in this survey. In fact that factor ought to make California more prone for social problems in general. But California does relatively well on rape rates while New Hampshire and Washington and Rhode Island do poorly. But in general the distribution seems fairly even split with the Secular States doing slightly better. Averaging the rates will tell us if that is the case. What we find then is that chances of being raped in a Jesusland state is slightly higher. The average rape rate in our Jesusland states is 33.1 while in the Secular States it is 31.9. So Jesusland is slightly worse off.

Murder is obviously the worst crime one can perform. So how do things stack up there?

12.5 Louisiana
9.0 Mississippi
8.0 Georgia
7.4 Alabama
7.2 Tennessee
7.0 North Carolina
6.3 Arkansas
5.9 Texas
5.8 South Carolina
5.3 Oklahoma

4.8 Kentucky

Unlike rape rates the murder rates are far, far higher in Jesusland than in the Secular States. The eleven worst states when it comes to murder include ten that from Jesusland and only one of the Secular States, California. But California has more major cities than any other state on the list including Los Angeles the largest city in the US. So one would expect crime rates to be higher there. And though California is in the worst half there are still seven Jesusland states with worse murder rates and of them only Georgia, with Atlanta, has the “big city” excuse. It appears the Jesusland folk are much more likely to kill someone than the more “godless” secularists. The magnitude of the difference will be more clear with averaging. In Jesusland, in any one year 6.76 people per 100,000 are murdered. In the Secular States the rate 2.7. That means the Jesusland residents are 250% more likely to kill someone. So much for “thou shalt not murder.”

I will point out that the statistic pages I reference have other crimes which you can use instead. So you are free to see if these trends hold true elsewhere. There are numerous ways you can refine things. I will talk more about them in the conclusions.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Morality, life's blessing and religion Part 1 The Secular States of America

This will be a very unusual article. The reason is that I will take you through the steps of writing it. And I will publish the results of the article as I discover them no matter which way they fall. I know what I suspect will be the results but I don’t know if the evidence will bear out my thesis or not. My thesis is that if we study social problems in the United States that those states which are more religious will have more problems than states which are not. This would directly contradict two ideas prevalent among Christians: first that some deity smiles upon, and blesses, those who believe while causing problems for those who don’t; secondly, that increased religiosity does not lead to more moral behaviour. By moral behaviour I mean actions that I suspect all of us can agree upon which are criminal acts that violate the life, liberty or property of others. In particular I will look at violent criminal acts. But since the Religious Right is concerned about moral issues I will see how these fair as well.

Before I begin let me explain the inspiration for the essay and the research which you will be following.

The Times of London reported that a study of the prevalence of social problems in various countries showed that “belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.”

The study looked at Western nations which were highly secular and where atheism, agnosticism or scepticism were widely held beliefs. They compared these nations to the United States where religion is practically a national hobby and the more extreme sects are prospering. But the study, from the Journal of Religion and Society, found that: “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.” They note that the US “Is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Christians, especially fundamentalists, argue that secularism, materialism, scepticism and humanism lead to moral rot. Crime is higher because of it. Premarital sex among teens is higher because of it. In general a nation experience social rot the more secular it is. If this thesis is true that other nations which are more secular should have greater rates for social problems than the United States. But the study found the opposite was the case. While every Western nation has problems it is the more religious US where the problems are the worse. Secularism didn’t lead to more problem. Religiosity didn’t lead to fewer problems. If anything the opposite was true.

One problem for this study is that it of all the Western, prosperous nations only the United States retains “rates of religiosity otherwise limited to the second and third worlds.” In other words the comparison can only be made between religious America the secular West in the rest of the world. Now what if there is another factor about America which is not being considered. What if America has more social ills due to other issues. Some might argue that the other nations are “welfare states” and this mitigates social problems. It is thesis widely held but one which I don’t believe is true at all. If anything I think welfarism compounds social ills. But it is a factor not considered by the study in question.

To get around this problem I want to look at social problems within the United States by comparing a number of states of the union. Our “Jesusland states” will be those which show a high degree of religiosity, particular of the orthodox, fundamentalist kind. In comparison we will look at the more “secular states” those with the highest rates of unbelievers and the lowest rates of orthodox Christians. All are part of the United States. All share similar cultural values and a similar history. But they are on opposite sides of the cultural divide that has been created in the last few decades by extremist fundamentalism and the Religious Right.

At this moment I don’t even know which states will be used and which won’t. You will find out in this essay as I do. (I will also limit editing to correcting spelling later so as not to change, in any way, what happens here.)

My first problem is finding the two members of Jesusland and Secular States. I want the extremes of each position so we are clearly about what we are comparing. If a state has a low number of non-believers and a high number of fundamentalists it is part of Jesusland. If the reverse is true it is part of the Secular States. Those which are more mixed will not be considered. So who is who?

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York has some extensive studies on religion in America. So I am using their research. In particular I am using the data from section 10 of the page linked to which discusses “State and Faith” and here the term “state” means by individual state. They have aa state by state distribution of membership in various religions including the category “no religion”. They look about approximately 20 of the major denominations in the United States.

Now the ones which are more fundamentalist in attitude and moral beliefs would be the following: Baptist, Pentecostal, Mormon, Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, Evangelical, Church of God and Seventh Day Adventist. The more secular churches would be Lutheran Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Jewish, Congregationalist and Buddhist along with those who classify themselves as having “no religion”.

First let us try to discern our Secular States. In alphabetical order here are the likely candidates based on a high level of respondents having “no religion” first. I will list them here and then flesh out what else we know about them.

Arizona: 17% no religion.
California: 19% no religion.
Colorado: 21% no religion.
Delaware 17% no religion
Idaho 19%
Illinois 15%
Indiana 16%
Kansas 15%
Massachusetts 16%
Maine 16%
Michigan 15%
Montana 17%
New Hampshire 17%
New Jersey 15%
New Mexico 18%
Nevada 20%
Ohio 15%
Oregon 21%
Rhode Island 15%
Utah 17%
Vermont 22%
Washington 25%
Wyoming 20%

Now some of these won’t qualify. What I want to do now is also look at how large the fundamentalist sects are within these states. A large presence of them would rule them out of the Secular States category.

Arizona: 17% no religion. The state is 29% Catholic and Catholics can be highly religious or very secular. Not a good market group. Fundamentalist sects, clearly defined, make up 17% of the population. But another 13% are in categories which could be more secular but are likely to be fundamentalist. I would guess Arizona leans more in the secular direction but it is not clear. I won’t use it.

California: 19% no religion. A third are Catholic. That doesn’t say much. For the fundie groups we find 11% of the population. Fairly low. Mainstream liberal denominations are 12% of the population. All things considered I think California is part of the Secular States of America.

Colorado: 21% no religion. Only 23% Catholic. Fundie sects total about 17%. Mainstream or liberal sects total 18%. This one surprises me, it’s not what I would have guessed myself. I would put them in the SSA.

Delaware 17% no religion. Only 9% Catholic but 19% Baptist -- not a good sign for secularism. Another 6%in fundie groups. Mainstream liberal groups are about 30%. While a bit divided when I add it all up I put them in SSA but not one of the clearer examples. Depending on how many I end up for comparison I may drop this one.

Idaho 19%. no religion. I guess I heard the West was rather secular but never gave it much though. We’ll see how it pans out though. The state is 15% Catholic and they are too ambivalent to count I think. Fundie groups make up 28% of the population. Liberal groups make up 17%. There are a number that are hard to pin down. I won’t include Idaho in either camp.

Illinois 15% no religion. Catholics make up 29% of the population. Fundie sects come to 16% of the population. Ruling out Catholics as too ambiguous we are pretty split. About 19% are in more liberal sects. But there are many who are difficult to pin down. I would say it is just inside the SSA category but too ambivalent to use.

Indiana 16% no religion. Catholics are just 20% and Fundies make up 21%. Mainstream sects account for 20%. The fundie make up is rather high and with the numbers who fall into sects we can’t easily classify I find it difficult to decide. I would guess its just barely inside Jesusland USA. Too split to use however.

Kansas 15% no religion. This Midwestern state has been the scene of many battles in the culture war. It is 20% Catholic but fundies make up about 20% as well. Liberal sects total around 22%. I think Kansas is culturally split which may explain the conflicts there over evolution. I can’t put them in either camp.

Massachusetts 16% no religion. I would guess this will be a member of the SSA but we shall see. It is highly Catholic, 44%. But Eastern Seaboard Catholics tend to be a rather liberal lot. I tend to think most Catholics in America are secularists with a vocal minority clinging to Vatican theocracy. Fundies here make up just 9% of the population. And liberal/secular sects account for 13%. Most believers here lean secular, there is a large population of non believes and few fundamentalists. A top SSA state I think.

Maine 16% no religion and 24% Catholic. Fundie sects make up about 28% of the population. Surprising for New England. About 16% are mainstream sects. I suspect they are more SSA than Jesusland but I won’t put them in either now.

Michigan 15% no religion. Catholics are 23% but fundies make up 26% of the population. Mainstream secularist sects come in around 19%. Others are split. I would guess that Michigan is more SSA than Jesusland but wouldn’t put them in either camp for this survey.

Montana 17% no religion and 22% Catholic. About 13% is fundie and mainstream sects account for 27%. I would put them in the SSA.

New Hampshire 17% no religion and 35% Catholic. Fundies make up 7% of the population. Liberal sects account for 16%. Clearly part of the Secular States of America.

New Jersey 15% no religion and 37% Catholic. About 12% cultural fundies here and liberal sects make up 23%. A member of the SSA.

New Mexico 18% no religion and 40% Catholic. Fundies are 18% of the population. Liberals are 9%. Very ambivalent. I would call it very an almost tie but probably barely in the SSA camp.

Nevada 20% no religion and 24% Catholic. With 15% Baptist it has a strong fundie component and other fundies make up 11% of the population for a total of 26%. Liberal sects come in around 12%. Very close call, too close to use, but I’d put them in the SSA barely.

Ohio 15% no religion and 19% Catholic. Fundies make up 24%. Liberal sects make up 21%. Another state very torn but the SSA should have a slight edge here but enough to use in the study.

Oregon 21% no religion 14% Catholic. About 18% here fall in the fundie camp and liberal sects make up about 16%. A very secular state I’d say.

Rhode Island 15% no religion and 51% Catholic. Only 10% fundie with the liberal sects coming in at 11%. i think it is in the SSA camp. Again the large Catholic population tends to be liberal and non believers outnumber fundamentalists.

Utah 17% non believers and just 6% Catholic. I know this one is not going into the Secular camp in spite of a decent number of irreligious. The is dominated by the Mormons who make up 57% of the population. Fundamentalists of a more orthodox kind make up another 4% of the population. Liberal sects are 7%. Not in the SSA but part of Jesusland.

Vermont 22% no religion and 38% Catholic. Fundies make up about 6% of the population. Liberal sects account for 16%. Clearly in the SSA.

Washington 25% no religion and 20% Catholic and 14% fundie. Liberal sects make up 17%. In the SSA.

Wyoming 20% no religion and 18% Catholic. Fundies make up 17%. Liberal sects make up 24%. I think Wyoming is a secular state.

States which I think are clearly enough secular in temperament to put into this camp include: California, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. The others are too ambivalent or part of Jesusland. That gives us 11 good examples of the Secular States of America. There are other states which are highly secular which we didn’t include such as Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Now a comment on the map used which is typical of the Jesusland maps which came out after the last election. Most such maps do not actually map out Jesusland at all. What they do is really chart which states voted Republican and which voted Democrat. That is not the same thing. One of the largest subgroups of Democrats in the US are black fundamentalists. And some states that are very secular voted Republican but not for religious reasons. That the Democrats are failing to reach secular Western states and some of the more ambivalent states like Indiana, Ohio and Kansas are their own fault. They want to blame all their losses on religion and it’s not accurate. Some states they lost because they can’t move to the centre on economic issues.

Morality, life's blessing and religion Part 2 The Jesusland States

Now to try and determine Jesusland states. Remember I am looking at the religiosity of each state and the kind of religions that dominate not at how they vote.

Any state with a large number of fundamentalist sects and a low number of non believers is part of Jesusland no matter how they vote. From part one we already know that Utah is clearly in Jesusland. But it is a special case. Mormons are a very weird sect of Christian and, in fact, I’m not even sure they are really Christian. They are polytheistic and have lots of wacko doctrines invented by a con man named Joseph Smith. But that is another topic. I would put them on our list of states in Jesusland. After I have the list I will narrow it down to 11 states so we have an even comparison.

We get some immediate candidates for Jesusland with the Bible-belt states. Here are some of them.

Alabama has 46% of its population attending fundamentalist churches. Even some of their mainstream sects have large fundie minorities. Definitely in Jesusland.

Arkansas is at least 54% fundamentalist. No question. Jesusland.

Georgia is 45% fundamentalist. Jesusland.

Kentucky is 43% fundamentalist. Not as Jesusland as the Deep South but still a member of Jesusland.

Louisiana is 39% fundamentalist with 28% Catholic but Cajun Catholics tend to be more orthodox than their Eastern Seaboard compatriots. Clearly in Jesusland.

Missouri has 22% of the population Baptist and there are another 8% that attend other clearly fundamentalist churches. A bit less fundie than most Southern states so we may drop it if we have enough for comparison.

Mississippi. I have no doubt where this one falls. Almost two-thirds of the population are fire-breathing fundies. This is the heart of Jesusland.

North Carolina is 44% fundamentalist. Jesusland.

Oklahoma is 30% Baptist and 12% more attend other fundie sects. Jesusland. More Southern in temperament than Western.

South Carolina is clearly Jesusland with 48% attending fundamentalist churches and a large number of “mainstream” churches being more fundie than liberal.

Tennessee is Jesusland with 45% attending fundamentalist churches.

Texas is a very conservative state but has a large Catholic population. But still Baptists make up 21% of the population and other fundie sects account for another 9% of the population. it has a relative low level of non believers. Texas seems to be on the verge of being Western America but is deeply Southern in many ways. It’s in Jesusland.

Virginia is 35% fundamentalist but is also 14% Catholic and 12% with no religion. Mainstream sects are also strong with 17%. This state is still in Jesusland but it is not clearly so.

If we exclude Virginia we have 12 states not counting Utah which is more Mormon than Christian. I’ll exclude Utah from the list and we need to drop one more state to have 11 on each side. Missouri is our best candidate for reasons outlined above. So our 11 Jesusland states will be Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

With 11 states in Jesusland and 11 members of the Secular States of America we can see how moral they are and whether God blesses them. Since all are part of the United States they should have a lot in common. And we shall see if the god-fearing states do better in various categories than the more secular states. If we find the same pattern as was found in the study mentioned in part one then I think we have confirmed their findings. If we find things don’t pan out then it means there are other issues the first study needs to consider as well. I don’t know what we’ll find yet but we shall see won’t we?

Morality, life's blessing and religion Part 3 The blessings of God

At this point I have to start finding statistics we can use for the states. This can be fun! I mean that sarcastically. We are looking at almost half the states in the Union so it’s a lot of work. I will first look at what I call the “Blessings of God” statistics. And the first one here is how blessed are the people of these states in material goods. Many fundamentalists argue that the people of God will prosper while unbelievers will not. is it true?

You will find the per capita income of the states for the last 25 years here.

I will simply make lists and allow you to draw your own conclusion. The first list is our per capita list. The Secular States are all in capital letters. I will put the names and figures into a spread sheet and sort accordingly and we shall see how things falls.

State Income per capita

Louisiana $24820
Mississippi $25318
Arkansas $26874
South Carolina $28352
Kentucky $28513
Alabama $29136
Oklahoma $29330
MONTANA $29387
North Carolina $30553
Tennessee $31107
Georgia $31121
MAINE $31252
OREGON $32103
Texas $32462
VERMONT $33327
WYOMING $36778

So from this list ten of our 11 Jesusland states fall in the bottom half of the survey when it comes to per capita income. Only the sparsely populated secular state of Montana does likewise. And of the Jesusland states only Texas, which is oil rich, falls into the top half with regards to income. If Jesus bestows prosperity on his followers he seems to be messing up. The Jesusland states are poorer, not wealthier, than the Secular States.

My next survey is not a statistical one. So if you don’t like it then skip it. It is one based on the idea that Jesus sends natural disasters and punishments on unbelievers while rewarding his own people. Is this true? I spent most my life in the US so I’m aware of which states suffer what kind of disasters. I will list the kind of disasters that hit the US now and then and their general severity in regards to damage to lives lost and property damaged or destroyed. Here are the main problems:

1. Earthquakes, with high potential damage, most low to moderate.
2. Tornados, high potential damage and frequent.
3. Hurricanes, high potential damage especially property, generally low to moderate in lives lost but high potential.
4. Flooding, moderate to high property damage, low to moderate in lives lost.
5. Drought, low to moderate property damage confined really to farmers, low lives lost.
6. Blizzards, low damage low in lives lost.

Ranking these is difficult. Most earthquakes take no lives and do little damage but they have huge potential to harm both. Yet the really big quakes don’t hit often. Tornados come frequently and kill more people than earthquakes in most years. A really massive quake could change that. So I’m going to have to go with average years not exceptional years. A lifetime risk study could be done however but is too time consuming for this blog. So here is how I rank them in severity

Hurricanes #1
Tornados #2
Flooding tied for #3
Earthquakes tied for #3
Drought #4
Blizzards #5

Now how to quantify this? I will give them 1 to 5 points. A hurricane is 5 points, tornado 4 points, flooding and earthquakes 3 points, drought is 2 points and blizzards are 1 point. Some states suffer from more than one form of natural disaster and will get multiple points. Again I will go by the typical year. Texas usually doesn’t get earthquakes or floods so even if that happens now and then it won’t be counted against them.

Of course this part is rather subjective and I admit it. Adjust it if you think necessary and see what you get if you want. Remember disaster here is natural disaster not man-made. I won’t add disaster points to Texas for George Bush or to Arkansas for Bill Clinton. Here is how our list of states turned out when sorted in my spread sheet. The state name is followed by the disaster they experience and the disaster points attributed to them.

Texas hurricanes, tornados 9
Louisiana hurricanes, flooding 8
Mississippi hurricane, flooding 8
Oklahoma tornados, drought 6
South Carolina hurricanes 5
Alabama hurricanes 5
North Carolina hurricanes 5
Georgia hurricanes 5
CALIFORNIA earthquake, drought 5
Kentucky some flooding 3
Tennessee flooding 3

MONTANA drought 2
WYOMING drought 2
MAINE blizzards 1
OREGON minor quakes, relatively safe 1
NEW HAMPSHIRE blizzards 1
VERMONT blizzard 1
Arkansas pretty safe 0
WASHINGTON relatively safe 0
RHODE ISLAND relatively safe 0
NEW JERSEY relatively safe 0
MASSACHUSETTS relatively safe 0

Our eleven least “blessed states, or most cursed by Jehovah states, include ten Jesusland States and one Secular State, California. The five most disaster prone states are Jesus states and the five safest include four secular states. The average Jesusland state has a natural disaster rating of 5.18. The average secular state has a rating of 1.18. Now notice that for Oregon I did not give them the full 3 points for earthquakes. They feel them but not being on the San Andreas fault itself they get them far less frequently than California and they are usually much milder. One could argue the rating for earthquakes should go up while the hurricane rating is lowered. The general relationship, however, will stay pretty much the same. The Jesusland states are still more prone to disasters than the secular states.

Of course I don’t think this is because some divine being is blessing the secular states. Nor do I believe it has anything to do with how religious or secular a state may be. This merely disproves the “God’s blessing” theory of Christians.

Now I have one more set of numbers I can think of, off the top of my head, that I’d like to search out for this category. That is life expectancy per state. God supposedly blesses believers with long lives, the Bible says so, Christians believe it. This also quantifies a lot of other factors such as diets, general health, health care, etc. If Jesus pours blessings on his followers his people ought to live longer than those in secularist states. So what is the average life expectancy per state? Again, I don’t know, but I’ll search for it now.

After much searching I finally found the statistics of average life expectancy on the basis of state. It is found at the site of the Centre for Disease Control here.

Here is what we find:

Mississippi 73.7
Louisiana 74.4
Alabama 74.6
South Carolina 74.9
Tennessee 75
Arkansas 75.1
Oklahoma 75.3
Kentucky 75.3
Georgia 75.3
North Carolina 75.8
Texas 76.7

MAINE 77.6

All the Jesusland states have a lower life expectancy at birth than do the Secular States. The average life expectancy in the 11 Jesusland states is 75.1. The Secular States have an average life expectancy of 77.9 years. In other words the people in more religious states die, on average, 2.8 years sooner.

One Christian web site says: “ I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find that God does want many of His people living long lives down here on this earth - and that this is a particular blessing that He can grant to us if we meet certain conditions under the New Covenant that we now have with Jesus.”

But as I’ve argued before Jehovah has bad eyes. He wants to punish sinners in the French Quarter of New Orleans but misses them and instead destroys fundamentalist churches all across the South. Here he wants to bless his people in Jesusland and instead he misses them and it’s the people in the more secular states who live the longest. Poor guy sure has trouble finding the right target. If long life, prosperity, good health, safety from disasters and the such comes from God then he’s short-changing his followers. I don't think it does. Each has other explanations that make more sense.

I will be looking at more of the supposed results from believing in a god in future postings. These first three parts I will post in opposite order. The blog page reads down so you will get part 1 on top followed by part 2 and part 3. But the other parts will be added on top as they come in. Blog set-ups are fine for postings that don’t relate to one another but if they are multipart postings on the same topic you end up with the end at the beginning and vice versa.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I don't have what it takes to be God!

If the position of deity in charge of the universe were to become vacant I guess I couldn’t really fill the job. I mean I don’t know what the big guy himself thinks about the position but I do know what his “representatives” talk about. And if the believers themselves have any idea about what they are talking about then I know I couldn’t do the job.

I just can’t get real worked up over what adults choose to do with their genitals in private. Apparently the Divine One is obsessed with this topic. He is is rather irate that some adolescent somewhere is rubbing away and enjoys it immensely. That concerns him. I’m more of the “If they don’t do in traffic and hold everyone else up it’s their own business” kind of person. Apparently my laissez faire attitude disqualifies me for the position of top god.

And there are lots of people I’m supposed to enjoy torturing for eternity. I can’t do it. I simply can’t. I’m just not righteous enough to want to inflict pain on others. I run into people all the time who don’t agree with me. I’ve never been tempted to send them to damnation forever over it. Now and then some idiot comes along and I wouldn’t mind busting his chops. But the temptation usually goes away very quickly. I’m just not vindictive enough to be a god.

There is one area I might qualify on. I like to write. I’ve even written books. Some have even been published. Gods are big into books. Of course when a god writes a book, or commissions one, it becomes a holy book. My books haven’t been elevated to that status. But I have hopes.

But even there I fall short. When I write something I say what I mean. I try not to be confusing. I don’t put obstacles in the way for the average reader to help confuse them. Sure now and then I write something that someone else just doesn’t understand but I consider that a failure on my part. I certainly wouldn’t run around talking in parables that confuse everyone and lead to a hundred different interpretations.

One time I had someone spike something I ate. I have no idea what it was and it scared the hell out of me. I sought medical help but couldn’t get a coherent sentence out for the life of me. I wouldn’t consider that a “Revelation” but nonsense. I would strive to avoid that. Of course as a god I could choose to be the best I could be.

Millions of people starve to death every year. Children are dying from diseases which are easily cured. Yet I, as the Lord of All, would have to ignore this so I can concentrate on the big issues. Instead of saving lives I have to send down judgement because two men love each other or because someone wrote a racy novel or took naughty pictures.

I would find it difficult to live up to my divine hierarchy of values. I would want to do something about the children who are beaten and murdered by their parents. I wouldn’t be telling these sadists that whipping kids is a good thing. And I certainly wouldn’t tell the kids who were victims of abuse that they are obligated to “honour” the bastard that hurt them.

My Ten Commandments wouldn’t be very divine either I suspect. I would not start out with all this stuff about “me, me, me”. If they want to have another god other than me well that’s their choice. I wouldn’t put them to death for it. If they want to waste money on graven images my view would be: they earned it they can spend it. I wouldn’t be telling them they had no choice but to honour my Sabbath day either. But I might talk about respecting the rights of others, not intentionally causing pain for anyone, really insignificant, ungodlike things such as that. You see what I mean when I say my priorities are just all screwed up.

And if one of my “people” fucked up enough to warrant my personal attention I might show up in the burning bush sort of way and say: “Cut the shit or I’m going to knock you on your arse.” Clear, to the point, and directed to the person deserving the punishment. I couldn’t pull off one of these things where I want punish the sinners of New Orleans by blowing down half the houses along the coast.

If some offensive people on the beach in Thailand got my attention I wouldn’t send a tsunami that just happens to kill over 100,000 other people along the way. I just can’t go along with divine collateral damage so I wouldn’t be a very good deity.

I just fail all across the board when it comes to qualifying as a god. I’m too humane and too human. If I want to be more godlike I will simply have to be more inhumane and inhuman like the good Christians I know.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jesus Camp

This film looks chilling to me. These fanatics are intent on taking over the world and when they do Stalin will look like a pussycat. Here is a film about a fundamentalist camp for children. Pay attention to the "war" motif that is used by these people. They are at war and we are the enemy and you know what you do in war to the enemy! It is scary to see them twisting the minds of children but then fundamentalists the world over do that. The one absurd comment that really stuck out was the son of some fundies who said he got "saved" at 5 years of age "because I wanted more of life".

A slideshow from the movie ought to appear below.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Everything was created last Tuesday!

I have to admit that operating a web site primarily dedicated to exposing fundamentalist Christians as being 1) stupid and 2) vicious is.... well, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. How hard can it be?

You can’t turn around without witnessing another stupid fundie saying something asinine or acting downright cruel. At least I know as long as these people plague us I won’t run out of material to use. It’s just hard to decide if I should cover viciousness or dumbness. Either one is a tempting choice. But since the last post was about their cruelty it is only fair to balance things out by writing about their stupidity.

The stupid doctrine for today deals with their silly theories of “intelligent design”. As usual they have to explain facts that don’t correspond with the malicious piece of claptrap they call the Bible. The Fundamentalist intellectual (sic) argues the earth is only about 7,000 years old. This in spite of rocks that are millions of years old, this in spite of star light that is now reaching earth after millions of year travelling through space. Since we know the speed of light and can estimate the distance of the stars we know how many hundreds of thousands of years it takes for the light to reach us.But the fundie says a cranky old
deity named Jehovah created it only 7,000 years ago. So why does it appear so old?

Now one response on a Christian web site simply puts it this way: “We have here an excellent example of what happens when one takes the findings of ‘science’ as being greater truth than the Word of God. Science is changing all the time. What was accepted as scientific fact becomes old myth. The Word of God does not change.” Duh!

First science typically changes as new facts emerge which put things in a new, clearer light. The Bible doesn’t change ever. True. It has all the stupid mistakes it had when it was written. They are still there as silly as ever. And the tragedy is that some people are just dumb enough to keep on believing the absurdities merely because they are old absurdities.

Now if the earth is 7,000 years old then why does it appear so much older? The fundamentalist puts his pea brain to work and comes up with a new absurd theory to add on top the old absurd theories he already holds. They have claimed that when Jehovah got bored and decided to amuse himself with a creation that he made it so that it only looked old when it was really young.

Now they don’t know if the Big J put the star light in place instantly or if he just had it travel much faster than the speed of light just to slow it down later. But in their little brains they are convinced that Jehovah made a young earth, because the Bible tells them so and it just can’t be wrong, but that Jehovah played a little trick on us by making it look old.

Now the immediate question is why? Exactly why did their god try to deceive people about the age of creation?

It would seem that he’d have a much better go off things if he created a young creation that looked young instead of a young one that was designed to deceive people into thinking it was old. Supposedly Jehovah wants people to believe in him and worship him. (Sounds just like some people I know.) But then he goes out of his way to destroy any evidence that actually might point to his existence. So he forges the facts to deceive people into not believing in him. This god has serious mental problems. He demands people believe in him. Then he manipulates the evidence so it doesn’t appear he or his “book” are true. Then he punishes anyone who concludes, based on the forged evidence he created, that he doesn’t exist.

If Jehovah is willing to create fraudulent evidence so his young creation actually appears old then exactly how young is it? I mean why assume it was 7,000 years? Maybe it’s only 1,000 years old? Maybe it was created last Tuesday?

So on last Tuesday Jehovah, tricky old devil that he is, created the world. He made the star light appear to have been travelling for millions of years when in reality it’s been around a few days. All the geological evidence he faked as well. And the Bible, claiming it is 7,000 years old? Well, its faked too. You got it. He faked the whole thing. There were no prophets, no Moses, no Virgin Birth, no Jesus, no Paul, nothing. He just had the book, like all the other forged evidence, appear out of nowhere. Along with that he faked the entire history of human kind. as well. He made the pyramids on Tuesday and just made them look old. The memories you have were planted by him. Nothing beyond last Tuesday is real. It’s all there to decieve us.

Jesus is a fraud created to cover up the fact that everything was created on Tuesday.

I suspect fundamentalists won’t like that one bit. But if they theorise a deity who uses deceit to make the earth appear millions of years old then couldn’t he also forge the evidence claiming it was 7,000 old? A god who fakes creation wouldn’t have moral qualms about faking a “holy book”.

In fact if Jehovah gets a kick out of deceiving people what if the fundamentalists have it backwards? What if the old wizard in the sky actually intends to punish those who believe in him while rewarding those who don’t? Can’t rule it out. He is apparently willing to intentionally deceive people. What if the Bible is just another one of his deceits?

Of course the best theory is this one: the earth looks old because it is old. Not hard to figure out. That the Bible says it is young is just another piece of a long chain of evidence which shows the Bible was written by fallible, ignorant men who invented a deity in their own image.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pity poor Wal-Mart

Pity poor Wal-Mart. In the age of envy anyone successful gets attacked by both the extremist on the Right and on the Left. First, ignorant socialists in Chicago went on a Wal-Mart bashing spree passing a law to force it to pay higher wages than it's competitors. A move that could well mean Wal-Mart leaving the city (which I advise they do). Of course that hurts the shoppers there who tend to have below average wages. It never stops amazing me how truly anti-poor people the socialists really are in practice despite all their rhetoric.

Now the Religious Right is going after Wal-Mart again. You may remember they were having fits because the retail giant sold copies of Brokeback Mountain in their video section. Well now the fundametalists are livid because Wal-Mart gave $25,000 to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce -- obviously a business association. Certainly not all members of such chambers of commerce are even gay. But gays to Christians fundamentalists are like Jews to the Nazis and other socialists of the past. They are a target of their frothing-at-the-mouth hatred.

It always amazes at how utterly hateful Christians become toward gay men and women. They lose all touch with reason -- not that they had much to begin with --- when it comes to the topic. Now a fundamentalits fruitcake named PeterLaBarbera is screaming over this donation. One Christian publication wrote: "he is surprised Wal-Mart would make such a deal, given the fact that so many of their customers are God-fearing Americans."

What a blithering, babbling idiot. Obviously the bulk of the customers in the US at Wal-Mart are Americans. And last I check the approximately 15 million gay and lesbians in the US were Americans as well. Not that one should brag about it these days by the way. I'm trying to convince people I'm really Canadian since the accent is close enough to fake. Is this idiot trying to imply that gays in the US are not "Americans". And unfortunately for them, a lot of gays still buy into the god bullshit. LaBarbera is apparently trying to imply that one can't believe in God or be an American if one is gay. Obviously the man has his head stuck up his nether regions.

He gets worse, of course. No surprise there. He calls the gay Chamber of Commerce "extremist homosexual activists." A meaningless term when spit out by lunatic religionists. Why meaningless? Because to them every homosexual by defintion is an "extremists homosexual activist." It is part of the demonization process that the little minds on the Religious Right need to make the world simple enough for their followers to understand. There is light and darkness and everyone not in Christianist circles is a follower of the Devil.

I wonder if these people know exactly how stupid they really are. I don't know what else to call it. It's not ignorance per se. If it were it would be willful ignorance. They go out of their way to convince themselves of the absurd and hateful things they believe. They ignore all evidence to the contrary including the many gay people who sit in the pews with them.

Of course the real shame about these hateful people is what they do to their own children. The Klan can feel comfortable about their hatred for blacks and so the Nazis can feel comfortable about hating Jews. A Klanner knows he won't discover his son is black while the Nazis know they won't come home one day to discover their daughter is a Jew. But the fundamentalists never know for sure if their own children are gay. Many, many of them are. I once knew a whole group of PKs who were gay. PK is slang for "preachers kids". All of them came from fundamentalist homes. And certainly many of the most anti-gay figures on the Religious Right in America have discovered they sired homosexual children. Phyllis Schlafly did it. So did Alan Keyes. So did Dick Cheney. And that's hardly the tip of the iceberg. I could name numerous other prominent cases.

One of the saddest such stories took place not far from where I was living at the time. Mary Griffith was a fundamentalist Christian. One day she discovered that her beautiful, loving son was gay. She and her fellow church members made his life a living hell hoping to torment into him heterosexuality. They failed. Bobby Griffith tried to be straight. He tried to understand why he was gay but he couldn't. Take this passage from the diary he kept: "I can't ever let anyone find out that I'm not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me. They might even want to beat me up. And my family? I've overheard them....They've said they hate gays, and even God hates gays, too. Gays are bad, and God sends bad people to hell. It really scares me when they talk that way because now they are talking about me."

One night Bobby went for a walk. He crossed over the highway and watched the traffic passing below him as he stood on the overpass. As a huge semi tractor trailor speed down the road he jumped off the bridge in front of it. The torment these loving Christians inflicted on him was over.

Mary Griffith was destroyed emotionally. She had believed in her church and the vile, vicious god that it preached. She was sure that what she was doing would "save" Bobby from his sins. Instead she realized she helped drive him to his death. This crises woke her from the intellectual coma that her faith had placed her in. She left the church and no longer believes in this god either. But for Bobby it was too late. The book that tells her story, Prayers for Bobby, is heart breaking. It angered me and brought me to tears.

Can't these people see what their hate is doing to America? Can't they see what there hate is doing to their own families? I fear many of them do see this and they enjoy it. They are glad another "faggot" died. They enjoy the pain inflicted on grieving families. If you wonder why I see these people as moral monsters remembers Prayers for Bobby. I'll never forget it. And it is one reason I won't give an inch to the anti-gay bigots I run across -- no matter who they are. Am I angry? You bet I am. When people are being hurt I get angry. If you don't then what's wrong with you?

Puberty and God

Nothing seems to get the believer so furious as an orgasm. In spite of their protestations to the contrary they are anti-sexual to the core. Now most people assume they are just very supportive of heterosexuality. Not quite. They restrict it so much as to condemn most heterosexual acts as well. And since they haven’t discovered a means to have a virgin birth themselves they are pretty much stuck with it whether they like it or not. It’s either that or no being fruitful and multiplying.

The largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholics, have a theology that is anti-sexual to its very core. They not only condemn all sex outside of heterosexual marriage but a good share of sex acts within marriage. Basically with them every sexual act must contain the possibility of reproduction or it is condemned. Of course that condemns most human orgasms. It also gives priests an excuse, during confession, to push their younger wards for information about their masturbatory practices.

They have a theological excuse for getting their personal jollies. And since such practices are basically universal among adolescents it is a means to manipulate youths through guilt.

Protestants were just as anti-sexual, if not more so, that their Catholic counterparts but those denominations that actually went through the Enlightenment with the rest of the world started to change their views. Well the Bible addicts got furious about that and started leaving the more humane denominations for the intellectual wasteland of fundamentalism. The fundamentalist movement and their evangelical allies have been rushing to adopt the Catholic perspective on sex.

They may condemn Catholicism and despise the Catholic Church but they are quickly adopting Catholic views on sex. They do so because of the gay marriage issue. They need to come up with a justification for their inhuman antigay bigotry. And they don’t have many plausible candidates. They can’t demand that marriage be about love since gay’s love. (Something that sends shivers up the spine of the Jesus mongers.) They can’t argue marriage is about commitment as gays can commit to one another. But they know that absent modern technology a gay relationship itself will not produce children.

And so that is the clause they jump upon. Marriage is only about children. The rest is not important. They have basically adopted the Catholic view of sexuality.

Now this brings us to the main point I want to discuss: the contradiction between the Christian view of “creationism” and their anti-sexual views.

Remember that the bulk of Christians officially believe that an orgasm outside marriage is sinful and ditto for orgasms that can’t lead to reproduction: oral sex, masturbation, anal sex, sex with condoms, etc. Also remember that the Christians have continually raised the age of consent and marriage from their historical norms. And now consider a third fact: puberty.

No one denies that puberty hits and when it does it makes the individual extremely sexually. The hormones are churning and the individual has orgasms -- lots of them typically. If they aren’t with someone else they are self-induced and certainly for the males if they aren’t self induced they happen anyway. No choice in the matter whatsoever. One way or another it will happen. And virtually all of them happen outside marriage and most without the possibility of reproduction. Since we don’t need more pregnant young girls this is a good thing.

The churches solution is abstinence. No sex. No orgasms. But orgasms are not merely a matter of choice. It’s not like deciding if you want fries with your burger or not. It is part of human nature. And supposedly their deity made it that way.

But here is the oddity. If we are created by some god then why did he push children into puberty when they aren’t intellectually and emotionally prepared for it. Even if the adults around them were rational (most aren’t) and they educated these children about what to expect the bulk of adolescents simply are not mature enough on the mental level to make the sexual choices their bodies compel them to make.

God supposedly created humans this way. He gave them adult sexual desires but gave them a childish mind to grapple with the problem. It doesn’t say much about his compassion. Nothing would have forced him to do this. After all he’s supposed to be the creator of the universe. Anything is within his power to do -- sort of.

Certainly there is nothing to have stopped him from creating humans slightly differently. He could have easily made it so that our minds mature before our genitals do. Imagine all the human suffering that would have been spared if he did. He didn’t. Why?

We don’t demand of children that they establish their career for the rest of their life when they are twelve years old. We don’t do it because we know they are not mature enough to make that decision. If we did they would all be actors, ballerinas, astronauts and firemen. In addition we’d have millions of presidents --- and we can barely endure just one.

But this god is playing a joke on us. He gives us minds that takes a couple of decades to really mature. Then he gives us bodies that can mature as young as ten years old but certainly most do by thirteen. Adult bodies with adult desires coupled with immature minds is a dangerous combination. And we see the results all around us.

Now of course as an atheist I don’t think a god had anything to do with this at all. But the believers need to ponder their own theory and explain this cruel joke of their deity.

So what did happen? Well, no designer planned us. We evolved. And evolution can be messy. A creator who knows it all shouldn’t screw up. Evolution messes up all the time. But we evolved at a time when this made sense. Consider what was happening.

For the species to survive it must reproduce. Humans need a decade or so minimum to reach a stage where they can take care of themselves minimally. During our evolution our life spans were much shorter than they are today. Modern capitalism allows us to live for decades longer than our ancestors did. When we evolved as humans an average life span would be into the early 20s and those who survived childhood often died in their 30s. Life was truly short and brutish then.

For successful reproduction to take place the humans not only had to have babies but have them live into maturity so they could reproduce as well. Today that’s easy. If you have a child when 25 you will likely be around when they marry and have children and quite possibly when the grandchildren marry and have children. Not so during our evolutionary beginnings.

If many adults were dead by their 30s the only way they could have children who would survive is to become sexually mature at an early age. It wasn’t just birth that was important but living long enough for the child to mature as well. So if they gave birth in their early or mid teens they could have a few children and raise them to maturity. If they started having children in their 20s or 30s as is common today many wouldn’t live long enough to raise the kids.

Also remember they had to work fast and be prolific otherwise we wouldn’t be here. A large number of children died at childbirth. Another large number died in infancy. A couple to reproduce their numbers need to have more than two children. It was not usual for them to five or six or seven or more. And yet, during this time period, human population hardly grew at all. The world’s “population explosion” was never due to high birth rates. We had high birth rates for most of human existence. It was caused when modern capitalism started reducing the high death rates! It was caused by our success at preventing death not by our failure to prevent births.

So during our early evolution the successful individuals, when it came to reproduction, were those who had sex early enough that they would live long enough to raise them to maturity. Late bloomers might still have children but die before the child was old enough to care for himself. Having our sexual abilities mature earlier was a means of survival for the species.

Of course the necessity for that no longer exists. But then other survival mechanisms which evolved in humans also create problems due to the success of modern life. We know that the body stores calories for famines. Yet most of us never experience famine. The result is we get fat and that’s not healthy either but it is preferable to starving to death. We diet to lose the weight. The survival mechanisms that evolved to keep us alive see the diet as a famine. So the body slows the human metabolism making it harder to lose weight. When you go off the diet the body sees the famine as being over and quickly replaces the weight with new fat in preparation for the next famine. So we see people balloon back and forth with weight. The evolutionary mechanism is counterproductive when there is abundant food supplies.

Basically the same is true for sex. Humans matured sexually earlier because it increased the likelihood they would live long enough to raise their children into maturity. But today that is not the issue. What evolved for good reasons millenniums ago no longer makes as much sense today.

Evolution at least makes sense of this conundrum. But the creationist believers have a problem. They have no choice but to conclude that a god did this intentionally. He decided to torment adolescents by flooding them with hormones giving them the sexual desires of an adult yet chose to do so before they were mature enough to deal with the issues created by these desires. A real mensch this Jehovah.


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