In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic: There is no such thing as 'true' religion

…ISIS has an extreme and fundamentalist interpretation of Muslim doctrine. But in exactly the same way, dogma about the immorality of abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, and divorce have become part of Catholicism. They are theological interpretations of scripture that appeal to some people’s sense of morality. Others disagree. Whose faith is “truer”?

In the end, there is no “true” religion in the factual sense, for there is no good evidence supporting their claims to truth. Nor are there “true” religions in the moral sense. Every faith justifies itself and its practices by appeal to authority, revelation, and dogma. There are just some religions we like better than others because of their practical consequences. If that’s what we mean by “true,” we should just admit it. There’s no shame in that, for it’s certainly the case that societies based on some religions are more dysfunctional than others. Morality itself is neither objectively true nor false, but at bottom rests on subjective preferences: the “oughts” that come from what we see as the consequences of behaving one way versus another.

By all means let us say that ISIS is a strain of Islam that is barbaric and dysfunctional, but let us not hear any nonsense that it’s a “false religion.” ISIS, like all religious movements, is based on faith; and faith, which is belief in the absence of convincing evidence, isn’t true or false, but simply irrational.

Everyone who is religious picks and chooses their morals from scripture. And so, too, do religious apologists pick and choose the “true” religions using identical criteria: what appeals to them as “good” ways to behave. The Qur’an, like the Bible, is full of vile moral statements supposedly emanating from God. We cherry-pick them depending on our disposition, our politics, and our upbringing.
In the end, there is no “true” religion in the factual sense, for there is no good evidence supporting their truth claims. Neither are there “true” religions in the moral sense. Every faith justifies itself and its practices by appeal to authority, revelation, and dogma. There are just some religions we like better than others because of their practical consequences. If that’s what we mean by “true,” we should just admit it. There’s no shame in that, for it’s certainly the case that societies based on some religions are more dysfunctional than others. Morality itself is neither objectively “true” nor “false,” but at bottom rests on subjective preferences: the “oughts” that come from what we see as the consequences of behaving one way versus another. By all means let us say that ISIS is a strain of Islam that is barbaric and dysfunctional, but let us not hear any nonsense that it’s a “false religion”. ISIS, like all religious movements, is based on faith; and faith, which is belief in the absence of convincing evidence, isn’t true or false, but simply irrational.

Jerry Coyne. 2014.

(TitleWhat is a “true” religion?)

The Sacred Texts of Various Religions

There’s quite a few, to say the least.

And you know your particular book is the true one because you must have evaluated the truth claims of all of the others and weighed them against the evidence. Right?

Either that, OR you were just raised to believe in one and to be ignorant of all the others…

Richard Dawkins is Right About Islam, And Everyone Knows It

…There is no part of core Islamic belief that’s liberal. If you do anything good, it’s not because it’s good inherently - it’s because an all-powerful tyrant says so and will slaughter those who defy Him: Basically the same moral origin as fundamentalist Christianity, only with scriptural examples of militant political religion by the central spiritual figure and his followers. God is not good in the Islamic framework, but “Merciful” - i.e., one who is malevolent but restrains himself if you are obedient. And the concepts of “peace” and “submission” are thus considered identical…

…Where religion is about controlling people, Islam is nothing but control - except in the few places where people are allowed to unleash their violent passions against designated scapegoats. All other competitors for passion are strictly regulated or prohibited: Women, alcohol, art, music, everything. Christianity is less explicit on these subjects, and where it is, Christians mostly ignore it because (a)most of them know it’s crap, and (b)people who say it’s crap aren’t targeted for murder, dismemberment, or imprisonment….

…Texas evangelicals can only fantasize about the level of fear, ignorance, and conformity that people are born into in the Islamic world. I find it infuriating that someone in another part of the world could be exactly like me in their minds, but if they spoke the scientific / curious / inquiring thoughts that have been going through my head since childhood, they would be endangering themselves and their families - possibly facing danger from their families….

carpediamn asked
I saw the video you posted with ISIS, and I just wanted to tell you that that is not Islam. Islam does not allow for killing people based on religion, and strictly tells us that it is our obligation to protect people of other religions and to not damage any places of prayer, even non-Muslim. ISIS is not muslim, it's an extremist religion. Don't let them make you look at the rest if Islam badly. What they are doing is disgusting and is in no way justified in Islam.

Well, they have their Islam and you have yours. As for the “true” Islam, that doesn’t exist. Every religious believer thinks they have the right view or they would have a different one. And maybe these actions are not justified in your Islam (and your fellow humans thank you for that), but their Quran contains verses such as these below which, meh- could go either way I suppose.

If only there was a way for god to deliver a message of love and tolerance that wasn’t steeped in violent hyperbole. But since Yahweh got his start in the role of war god in a polytheistic pantheon, it’s not all that surprising that he would slip into homicidal metaphors now and then…


Quran (2:191-193) - And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief] is worse than killing

Quran (4:104) - And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…

Quran (8:12) - I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them

Quran (8:15) - O ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. (16)Whoso on that day turneth his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey’s end.

Quran (9:5) - So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.

There seem to be at least 104 more of these.

ISIL/ISIS Propaganda Video

Every sentence that falls out of this imbecile’s face is preceded with the qualification “insh’allah…” (God willing) and is punctuated with “…humdallah” (Praise God). Every sentence.

It gets just a little bit repetitive. I picture this Allah character going, “ALRIGHT! For fuck’s sake, I get it!”

I’d blow my fucking brains out if I had to listen to this shit all day. Or more likely, they would do it for me, once I tried to tell them how idiotic it is.

Fox News’ No. 1 fear: Atheists

In a recent online video for Crossfire, CNN political pundit and self-proclaimed atheist S.E. Cupp claimed conservative atheists are “better” than liberal atheists, and said she does not believe the “myth” that conservatism is “hostile” to atheism. “In fact, I’d go so far as to say conservatism is far more intellectually honest and respectful of atheism than liberalism has been,” she said.

Wait, what?

Cupp says she believes it is atheists who are disseminating “the idea that they are somehow disenfranchised or left out of the political process,” but that has not been her experience as a conservative.

Now, CNN is not Fox News, but she acts like she has never heard of the Republican Party’s media arm: Fox News.

For the past few years, Fox News and its right-wing talking heads have waged a relentless war on atheism. Their annual war on Christmas spoof-ganza is their reverse victimhood effort to convince viewers that America’s godless community is coming to take away your toys and your right to say, “Merry Christmas.” In other words, bah humbug.

Comparing atheists to Dr. Seuss’ Grinch is one thing, but on Wednesday Fox News host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asserted that Christianity should be kept in schools because Islamic militants in Iraq were persecuting Christians. Ipso facto, atheists are as dangerous as al-Qaeda, which is exactly what they want their conservative audience to believe without Fox News having to actually say it.

After reading a select few comments from viewers who accused atheists of demanding to have more rights than Christians, Hasselbeck connected the situation to violence in Iraq. “You know, in light of what’s going on in the world and the persecution of Christians right now, how close do we want to get to eliminating religious freedom in the globe?” she asked.

It’s so accidently Orwellian it’s almost adorable. Or more likely she was reading from a script handed down to her from the string-pullers high above. The only way she could’ve been less subtle was if she said, “Some people say atheists are terrorists.”….

..On Fox News, Obama is coming for your guns; Madonna is coming for your straight kids; immigrants are coming for your jobs; liberals are coming for your way of life; and atheists are coming for your Bibles..

…Since atheists represent such a small percentage of the population, and an even smaller percentage of both the conservative base and the network’s audience, it’s a no-brainer to blame the decline of American civilization on atheists who wish to take away school prayer, rather than talk about problems whose solutions require a pro-government response i.e. safety nets, regulation, workers’ rights, and environmental protection.

Cleverly, Fox News conflates atheism with big government i.e. secular government officials want to take away your religious freedom. The narrative becomes: atheists are bad, the government is atheists, and therefore the government is not part of the solution, the government is the problem….

Islamic State: What do young British Muslims think about ISIS and the Caliphate? BBC News

Man Gets 80 Lashes For Electricity Blasphemy


BEIRUT: Islamist militiamen in Syria’s Hama province have publicly lashed a man for committing blasphemy when he cursed the electricity situation, pro-opposition websites said Tuesday.

The accused, identified as Mutasim Dahrouj, was removing illegal connections to the electricity grid in the town of Latamneh, Hama, when he uttered a standard curse, which translates literally as “may the religion of electricity be damned” (yilaan din al-kahraba).

The court ordered that he receive 80 lashes, have his head shaved and be imprisoned for three days.

A video on YouTube purports to show the man being punished, and displays copies of the Shariah court paperwork connected to the case. A commentator on YouTube objected to the punishment, noting that “electricity doesn’t have a religion.”

(Source: dailystar.com.lb)

Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?

The Yazidi religion is often misunderstood, as it does not fit neatly into Iraq’s sectarian mosaic. Most Yazidis are Kurdish speakers, and while the majority consider themselves ethnically Kurdish, Yazidis are religiously distinct from Iraq’s predominantly Sunni Kurdish population. Yazidism is an ancient faith, with a rich oral tradition that mixes with Islam some elements of Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion, and Mithraism, a mystery religion originating in the Eastern Mediterranean. This combining of various belief systems, known religiously as syncretism, was part of what branded them as heretics among Muslims. While its exact origins are a matter of dispute, some scholars believe that Yazidism was formed when the Sufi leader Adi ibn Musafir settled in Kurdistan in the 12th century, and founded a community that mixed elements of Islam with local Zoroastrian beliefs.

…Yazidis began to face accusations of devil worship from Muslims beginning in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. While the Yazidis believe in one god, a central figure in their faith is Tawusî Melek, an angel who defies God and serves as an intermediary between man and the divine. To Muslims, the Yazidi account of Tawusî Melek often sounds like the Quranic rendering of Shaytan—the devil—even though Tawusî Melek is a force for good in the Yazidi religion.

“To this day, many Muslims consider them to be devil worshipers,” says Thomas Schmidinger, an expert on Kurdish politics the University of Vienna. “So in the face of religious persecution, Yazidis have concentrated in strongholds located in remote mountain regions,” he adds.

Islamic Extremists Now Crucifying People in Syria—and Tweeting Out the Pictures

The jihadist group so radical it got kicked out of al Qaeda has apparently hit a new and shocking low: It’s allegedly crucifying its enemies.

breakingnews:

Christians in Iraq flee militants as onslaught continues
BBC News:Islamic militants in Iraq have captured Iraq’s largest Christian town causing thousands to flee the group which has declared itself an Islamic State
Photo: File photo of Islamic State militants (AFP)

breakingnews:

Christians in Iraq flee militants as onslaught continues

BBC News:Islamic militants in Iraq have captured Iraq’s largest Christian town causing thousands to flee the group which has declared itself an Islamic State

Photo: File photo of Islamic State militants (AFP)