Archive for March, 2009

Hindu Exorcism

jindalBobby Jindal, the supposed right-wing equivalent to Obama, takes his religion a bit more seriously than his Democratic counterpart. To wit: he’s an exorcist.

It was the mid nineties, and young Bobby (real name: Piyush) was still in college. He was having a prayer session with a friend, whose name has since been vigorously withheld and today can only be reprinted in quotes: “Susan”. One thing led to another, and soon “Susan” was making the room smell like sulfur and doing all those irritating things girls generally do when possessed by the devil. Bobby did what any god-fearing Indian American would do: round up a group of friends and slam a Bible in her face. Nevertheless, “Susan” attempted an escape:

She suddenly leapt up and ran for the door, despite the many hands holding her down. This burst of action served to revive the tired group of students and they soon had her restrained once again, this time half kneeling and half standing.

This was of course due to the fact that she was possessed by Satan and not because a fanatical group of students were holding her against her will. But Bobby and company didn’t let up, they held the bible to her face some more, then made her read passages from the book in order to prove her loyalty. Ironically, nearby fraternities used similar initiation procedures too.

In the end, Satan did leave “Susan”. Either that, or she blacked out during three hours of what could under nonreligious circumstances be described as “assault” or “torture”. But the experience has stuck with Bobby through his rise to power. Now we know why he hates volcano monitoring: he thinks it’s really a means of communicating with the devil.

This raises another interesting point. Bobby’s parents were Hindu, and young Bobby didn’t see the light o’ Jesus until high school. But were his exorsist tendencies cultivated entirely during his brief time as a Christian? Not necessarily. Some Hindus believe that humans can be possessed by evil spirits:

Hinduism accepts a fact of possession being possible, so there are procedures to remove spirits as well. They are of three kinds: Vaidika (based on Atharvana-angirasa), Tantrika (based on Agamas: Shaiva, Shakta & Vaishnava) and Shabara (folk traditions).

hindu exorcismThere’s even a gallery of photos from a Hindu exorcism. Neato! This is not to say that Bobby’s parents necessarily practiced this kind of exorcism. But it could mean that even though Hinduism is not as rigid as Christianity, and some Hindus have gone so far as to say that atheism is a subset of Hinduism, it fosters a spirit-based outlook. Couple that with a few years of hard Catholicism and you’ve got a recipe for an exorcist.

Hopefully the mature Bobby won’t have to perform as many exorcisms. But we can rest assured knowing that he’s keeping us safe from bullet trains to Sin City, and of course, sulfurous volcanoes.


Pastafarian Transtubstantiation

pastaaaaaaForget Catholic Transubstatiation, Pastafarian Transubstation is where it’s at. Those Catholics want you to think crackers turn into Jesus, and we all know Jesus was no cracker. Nor was he a honky.

No man, cook up a plate of pasta, and as you eat it, it’ll totally turn into the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Think about it: spaghetti is already 1/3 of the FSM, all it needs to do is fly and be a monster. Not only is it holy, it’s delicious. Can I get a r’amen?

Boobs From God: Salma Hayek’s Miraculous Mammaries

hayekThis may be a bit lowbrow, but I can’t resist. Here’s a bit of good news for all you ladies considering plastic surgery: save your cash and go to church! It worked for Salma Hayek. As a teenager, Hayek prayed for bigger boobs:

“My mom and I stopped at a church during a road trip we were making from our home in Mexico. When we went inside, I prayed for the miracle I wanted to happen. I put my hands in holy water and said: ‘Please God, give me some breasts.’ And he gave me them! Within a few months, I developed a growing spurt, as teenagers do, and I was very pleased with the way I grew outwards.”

There ya go: God exists because of Salma Hayek’s boobs! Not only is this a miracle of the highest, C. S. Lewisian order, it’s also a fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:14: “and my people will be filled with my bounty.” Certainly cleavage is a more compelling argument than, say, the ontological argument. But unfortunately, even Salma Hayek’s boobs aren’t enough to convince me of the existence of God. However, if I were to inspect them, my mind might change. God, make it happen.

Photo: Anthony G Moore,

Best Spam Ever

Those of you familiar with WordPress know that they pride themselves on their spam comment blocker. In fact, they pride themselves on it so much that they’ve given it its own hip i-name: “Akismet”. This name attempts to replicate trashy internet chic nomenclature like “Google” or “Hulu”, but ends up sounding more like the name of a haunted Native American burial ground. Nevertheless, Akismet has saved my own ass-kismet from a number of spams, first a bogus ring of “Christian Singles” websites and now this slightly disturbing but thoroughly entertaining chunk of rubbish:

I have to make it public. It’s suppose to be secret, however most people in Austin, Tx knows about it. The police department has machine that can read your mind.

They has machine? Maybe Austin’s police department is run by the guys from All Your Base Are Belong to Us.

It can also change the way you feel. Sexual impulses, anger, and causing you to feel fear paranoia, basically anyway they would like to feel.

The Austin PD would like to feel “fear paranoia”, anger, and sexual impulses? I hope this is going into their police reports.

This means it can cause a girl or boy to feel sexual.

Oh, so this whole mind control crap is just a porno mag?

So sexual that they will have sex with strangers. This is just like rape. This is just one crime they commit with this machine. A machine that can read someone’s mind will be used to violate everyones civil rights. Ideas and secrets about company will be stolen by their competition with ease.

So the Austin PD is in competition with “company” now? I hope they don’t put them out of business.

People will be spied on in there homes, without a warrant. (this means someone will be able to watch you during intimacy without your knowledge.)

That’s kinky.

There are a lot of people all over the United States knowing about this machine and the police department being able to use it. Start thinking about how the government has given the police department a weapon to commit not only one of the biggest civil rights violations of all time, but to commit war crimes such as rape and interrogation without the knowledge of the victim.

I bet Dick Cheney has one of these mind control gizmos sitting on his gun rack, right next to the gun he shot his best friend with.

I know it is hard to believe…

How perceptive you are.

…however if you happen to know someone in the police department, just ask if they have this machine.

Because if they did, they’d certainly tell you about it.

After that, I would also like people to think about how we are able to get the government to stop letting the police department violate civil rights and commit war crimes against there own citizens.

I don’t think I can find the words to describe how awesome this post is., IP address, you rock.

Logos and Ethos: Justifying Lunacy

moon cheeseWhat if your best friend swore to you that the moon was made of cheese? You’d probably tell him politely that such a belief seemed highly unlikely. But what if he told you that his cheese belief meant alot to him, and he found your inability to share it offensive and saddening? What if he told you that if you valued him at all as a friend, you too would believe in a cheesy moon?

The Greeks referred to “the topics of rational argument or the arguments themselves” as logos. On the other hand, “the character or disposition of a person or group” was refered to as ethos. Instead of using arguments based on logos (precursor to the modern word “logic”) to convince you the moon is made of cheese, your friend is making a plea from his own ethos. This is also a technique that religions and belief systems have used for centuries to promote themselves.

Is the moon made of cheese? By any reasonable standard, we can say that it is not – but there are a few unreasonable standards kicking around too. Humans have walked on the moon and brought back rocks. And if the moon really were made of cheese, its orbit of the earth would be longer, and besides, that lunar buggy wouldn’t have had such good traction. These are logical reasons to believe the moon is made of rock-like material and not cheese.

It makes sense to use logic to decide whether or not objects have certain physical properties; your friend may want you to believe the moon is made of cheese, but his assertion has nothing to do with the physical realities of the moon, and you have no good reason to assume that his emotions relate in any way to the moon’s geological makeup. He probably was a bad friend anyway.

The assertion that a god exists is a statement of physical reality. Most people think their god is not a physical entity, but in order for him to exist he must manifest in our universe in some way. Apologists for the existence of a god often point to unusual events and offer them as evidence of the actions of a god. But these actions invariably have more plausible explanations that don’t involve a god at all. By any logical standard, a god is either immaterial and completely passive in this universe, or he doesn’t exist at all.

However, many people use an emotion-based standard to determine whether or not a god exists. “When I believe in a god, I feel happy. Other people I see are happy because they believe in a god. If I stop believing in a god, my friends and family will become unhappy. Therefore, a god exists.” Some religions, such as many forms of Christianity, claim that their God is love. Since love exists, their God must exist too.

Atheists and other secularists are generally not swayed by this reasoning. This is not to say they can’t use emotion-based reasoning where it is appropriate: in choosing friends, business partners, or lovers. They may also have strong emotional reactions to things they perceive as beautiful, such as a sunset, or ugly, such as a Jonas Brothers concert. But they recognize that using emotional reasons to justify belief in physical realities is not a good thing to do. Otherwise, we’d have all kinds of cheesy beliefs.

With Friends Like God, Who Needs Enemies?

god The lord is eternally merciful. Unless you disagree with his teachings. Then he’s a real asshole.

For most of your life, God does an exceptionally good job staying hidden. So good a job that some people don’t even believe he exists. But don’t listen to them! For if you do, you’ll soon learn that after you die, he quickly un-hides himself. Surprise! And guess what? Turns out the only thing he wanted you to do during your measly little life was to believe he exists, although, y’know, thou shall not kill or whatever too. But mainly, believe in God.

If you murder a bunch of people but you still believe in his holiness, it’s chill. God’ll radio his omnipotent bouncer, St. Peter, and have him let you into a totally awesome place. But if you don’t believe in him, don’t be surprised if God goes Mr. T on your ass and knocks you straight into hell, a place with lots of lava and no fire extinguishers.

If that sounds unfair, it isn’t. God knows that all crimes from murder to cow tipping deserve equal punishment: burning forever in hell. Makes sense to me! But even if you manage to live your life without doing anything wrong, you’ll still go to hell, because some girl ate an apple a million years ago, and guess what? God’s decided it was your fault. Any questions? Take it up with Satan.

But if you just believe in him, God’ll let you into heaven. Isn’t that nifty? Hey, what was that rustle outside that I used to think was either the wind or a rabid squirrel? Oh my God! I think it’s God! He’s just touched me, and I’m feeling so religious, I’m going to go out and steal a car. God’s got my back, and I know that no matter how much I screw up down here, I’ll always have an invitation to that great keg party in the sky.

Atheism and Secularism

Atheism is simply a lack of belief in any gods, and the fact that atheism in it of itself is a nonbelief has its advantages and disadvantages. Unlike religious people, atheists don’t automatically have any positive beliefs in common. This is an advantage in that good atheists cannot legitimately be linked to the bad actions of bad atheists (though there have been plenty of attempts to link them illegitimately). An atheist criminal must have at some point constructed a positive belief justifying his actions, and this belief is by necessity not atheism. On the other hand, religious criminals will often justify their actions through an interpretation of their religious teachings. Others who hold those teachings to be true must answer to the fact that, at the bare minimum, some number of their positive beliefs are shared by criminals.

But identifying with a group that shares only a negative belief has its disadvantages as well. It’s very difficult to organize around what you don’t believe in, and while it would be nice not to have to organize, the disciplined spread of misinformation about atheists by religious groups leaves the atheists at a disadvantage. Faced with this, atheists must organize or continue to accept their role as social outcasts. And while the onslaught of religious oppression against atheists creates temporary cause for unity, uniting around no more than what we don’t believe will lead to disunity later on. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, I think that we the people who don’t believe in gods should aim higher to create lasting change.

One way to do that is to adjust our message. We need to build a coalition that includes not only atheists but non-atheistic agnostics and deists, and the way to do that is by focusing on a more important question than simply whether or not gods exist: are gods or supernatural forces the driving forces in our lives? Atheists can easily answer no to this question since they have no belief in gods to begin with, but agnostics and deists, who in some cases are resentful of the invasive nature of religion, may find common ground with atheists and unite to create changes which benefit us all. We need to promote the concept of secularism, that regardless of whether or not gods exist, our lives should run on the basis of input from the natural world and our interactions with other people. Although this is a positive belief and thus not necessarily associated with atheism, it is something most atheists can agree with.

I am both an atheist and a secularist. In a way, atheism resembles a “sect” of secularism, with agnostics and deists forming different sects. But if all secularists set aside their minor differences and work together, we can make the world a better place for secularists. And, if we accept that a world with less oppression and exclusion benefits us all, a better world for secularists is a better world for everyone.


I’m starting this blog as an outlet for my thoughts on religion, it successes, shortfalls, and how I get along without it. As an atheist and secularist, I often get accused of only believing in “cold logic”, to which I respond, “What’s so cold about it?" Just because I think critically where where religious people don’t doesn’t make me cold, immoral or unfeeling. I’m not anti-religious per se, though I feel some religious practices do get a free ride where they shouldn’t. The main reason I’m an atheist is that I think a life lived on secular priciples is a better way to live. In reading this, you’ll probably see plenty of ideas you’ve heard before, and hopefully a few you haven’t. With any luck, you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and we’ll both be better off.
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism
(image: happy human)

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