Posts Tagged 'Fundamentalism'

Debate: Atheism is the New Fundamentalism

I just finished watching this debate live online, and it was a lot of fun!

I had a bit of a hard time following the actual debate because I was also reading the #iq2atheism Twitter feed at the same time, but I’m going to post my brief take on the debate now, and when the recording of the debate is posted I’ll try to go into more detail. (follow me on Twitter @EnlightningLinZ)

The motion was “Atheism is the New Fundamentalism”.

Arguing for the motion: Richard Harries (former bishop of Oxford), and Charles Moore (former editor of the Daily Telegraph)

Arguing against: Professors Richard Dawkins and A C Grayling

The arguments for the motion were pathetic. They didn’t even argue for the motion. They didn’t define fundamentalism, nor did they provide examples to show why they think atheists are fundamentalists. Instead, it was just a run of ad hom attacks against Dawkins and atheists in general, as well as several uses of Godwin’s Law.

Grayling was a teddy bear, whose main point was that he was also a-pixie and a-father Christmas, but only needs to speak on his a-theism because of the influence of religion in the world. How is that fundamentalist?

Dawkins was, unless I missed it, the only one to actually define “fundamentalism”, and with his definition alone destroyed the motion. I can’t remember exactly what the definition he used was at this point (should have taken notes!), but I’ll be sure to talk about that in my follow-up post on the debate.

Dawkins made his case very effectively, but there were a couple of moments that stood out in the twitter feed.

One was his quoting of Vic Stenger: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”

The second was his response to the question “Are you saying that there may be a God?”…

Dawkins: “There may be a leprechaun.” Which prompted me to do this…

Thunderf00t Converses with Ray Comfort

Pearlist (Physical evidence and reasoned logic supporter) youtuber Thunderf00t, and Creationist Ray Comfort recently sat down for a conversation. It’s really long, but touches on some interesting subjects so if you want to watch you can take a look here.

I always have mixed feelings about these discussions between, because it’s hard to see whether they accomplish anything. Neither is going to change the other’s mind, and Thunderf00t, by sitting down with Comfort, is in a way giving him credibility.

I thought it was an interesting discussion, and I found it easier to watch than most between creationists and non-creationists, mostly because it didn’t turn into a shouting match.

Here are some observations I made during the conversation:

  • Comfort starts off by poisoning the well, saying he thought Thunderf00t goes by that name because he “likes stomping on Christians.”
  • Thunderf00t drives in the fact that he doesn’t know everything, he doesn’t know why we’re here, but Comfort asserts that he does know. Comfort doesn’t seem to understand the difference between knowing something and believing something. Comfort even goes as far as to say that statistics show that more people believe in an afterlife. That may be true but the popularity of an idea doesn’t make it true.
  • Comfort reuses his tired old anecdote that if you see some writing somewhere you know it was put there by a person, therefore looking at the universe, you have to think that it was put there by something intelligent. I like Thunderf00t’s answer to this, and that is that we can deduce that a person created the writing because we have observed people doing this before, so it logically follows. So far we have no evidence that would suggest that an intelligent being created the universe, so it isn’t reasonable to assume so.
  • Comfort is always using special pleading.  He asserts that he knows the answers because god has shown him the answers, for example at 4:30 “He’s made everything clear to me.” Comfort’s use of logical fallacies such as this one throughout the conversation make it extremely difficult to have a reason-based discussion.
  • At the transition between parts 3 and 4, Comfort quotes Penn Jillette, and completely misunderstands the quote. It’s kind of hilarious and really pathetic.
  • In part 4 my desire for Thunderf00t to really go after Comfort is somewhat satisfied when he criticizes Comfort’s street preaching techniques. Watch this video for an example. It’s really dispicable how he makes people feel guilty, and then puts them in a position where they want to prove themselves to him. Comfort’s style of preaching is just plain mean, and he clearly makes people uncomfortable.
  • In part 6 Comfort really falls into his preachy rhetoric. He’s pretty pathetic to watch throughout the conversation, as he is always trying to change the subject while Thunderf00t is making a point, and when all else fails he starts quoting the Bible and talking about sin and the ten commandments. So sad.

I think Thunderf00t did well at driving in the point that what Ray Comfort is doing is retarding the advancement of human knowledge. He is claiming that the Bible has all of the answers, and thus discouraging people from free inquiry. Comfort is unable to see the world outside of the framework of the Bible, and I suppose doesn’t want anyone else to be able to either.

I think the kicker is in Part 7 at about 7:33, Comfort says “All you need is an overactive imagination to believe in evolution.” Replace the word ‘evolution’ with ‘god’ and it sums up Ray Comfort’s beliefs. In fact, believing in evolution does not require a lot of imagination because of the wealth of evidence to validate the theory.

Comfort seems to think that everyone needs some kind of god to have faith in. Throughout the recording he says that Thunderf00t’s god is evolution or science or time. But when one uses physical evidence and reasoned logic to form ones body of knowledge, faith is not necessary.

Ray Comfort Unconvinced that Evolution is True…Surprise!

I subscribe to the Way of the Master newsletter because it gives me some good laughs. Today I got a great laugh but I was also saddened because people are probably patting Ray Comfort on the back for spewing this crap.

Comfort is a well-known creationist, and along with his sidekick Kirk Cameron, he uses things like the banana and the coke can to “prove” there is a god and that evolution is a LIE AND YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!!!

Moving along…Comfort decided to go and visit the Smithsonian to lookRay Comfort Smithsonian at their display on evolution. So far so good, it’s great that he’s taking the time to consider the evidence for evolution. The mounds and mounds of good evidence. But I guess considering the evidence wasn’t on his agenda because this his summary of the visit:

I spent a few days in Washington D.C. and took the time to visit the Smithsonian Museum, particularly to see their exhibit on evolution. After some searching we found it …the crowning glory of the Smithsonian Institute’s evolution display–a family of hairy dummies looking like a cheap window display at a Halloween store. It was underwhelming. I had a similar experience in Paris’s “Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle Grand Galerie De L’Evolution.” The French also had exhibits of thousands of God’s creatures, and tried to justify the name of the museum by displaying one copy of Origin of Species and a stuffed monkey with a “Lucy” sign on it.

God bless,

Seriously? The Smithsonian’s display didn’t look real enough, therefore God.

I can’t wait to read about PZ Myers’s visit to the Creation Museum.

I Hate Religion

I do, I hate it. Those are some strong words, but I truly experience hatred for religion. I don’t hate people who are religious, in fact I love many people who are religious. I don’t hate the believers, I hate the beliefs.

I’m watching an episode of the Tyra show right now (it’s a guilty pleasure, so sue me), and she has a lesbian couple on whose religious family does not want to attend their wedding. Bride-to-be Juliana’s mother Lia is vehemently opposed to her daughter’s relationship based solely on her religious beliefs.

Lia is clearly heart-broken because of her daughter’s homosexual relationship. Why wouldn’t she be? She thinks that her daughter is going to hell. That’s a scary thought, and you can see the terror in her face.

The only reason Lia believes that her daughter’s wedding is a mistake is because she has been indoctrinated to base her morality on some book, not even a good book, written thousands of years ago by goat-herders.

Religious beliefs lead to irrational, black and white views of right and wrong. I cannot think of any reason why two consenting adults who are in love with each other shouldn’t be able to get married. Yet the Bible says it’s wrong, so gay people continue to be discriminated against.

Look no further than the comments section of this Tyra show episode for examples of how irrational beliefs breed hatred:

I am so dissapointed in you………….May you rot in Hell!! It may have boosted your ratings but you should be ashamed of yourself!!! -Straight Mom

Tyra, I am a Christian, and it sounds like you may have been at one time. I am very disappointed in you I guess for pushing this christian women to attent a gay wedding even if it is her daughter. God is first. Gayism is an abomination in God’s eyes. This is an unforgiveable sin. Murder is forgiveable. If you have read the Bible you would know this. -Corinna

Tyra – I understand that you have to listen to all your guests and their situations, but the segment on gay marriages is just WRONG. I don’t care how many ways you twist it, it’s a sin against God. In Leviticus 18:22, it clearly says “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin”. Not just a sin but a DESTESABLE SIN. It just can’t get any clearer than that. So when gays say they are born that way, they are saying that God made a mistake and we know God does not make mistakes. The Lord says “You must obey all my laws…Leviticus 19:19. For the daughter to sit there and cry begging her mom to go against her beliefs, is asking her to go against what God has commanded. -Deej

Tyra, you dummy this is an ABOMINATION!! Do you know God said you cannot enter into heaven with this?? It’s against His nature. Yes, there are other sins, but this you cannot go to heaven with, Tyra. -Sharon Taylor-Hamilton

There is a tendency in our culture to think that religious belief should not be criticized, but I think this needs to change. When these beliefs are a barrier to someone’s rights, the beliefs should be ridiculed.

Thankfully not all of the comments on this episode are like the ones I posted above. Some people know what’s right:

If they really loved their daughter and accepted her for who she is, there wouldn’t have to be a decision to make. -Ashley

I hope that people can eventually look past their beliefs and realize that gay marriage is not only beautiful, but that it’s right.

Creation Museum in my own Backyard

So I was reading nutbar Eric Hovind’s blog, and was shocked to see that he had listed a creation museum right here in Winnipeg! I had no idea that there were young Earth creationists so close to home. So sad.

The C.A.R.E. Ministries Museum of Creation is located in the Oxford Bible Church. According to the C.A.R.E. Ministries website, the people at this church are “real Christians”. You’ve gotta love the tendency of Christians to only call people who believe their brand of the religion “real Christians”.

C.A.R.E. (Christian Apologetics Research and Evangelism) was founded by John Feakes, who told the Winnipeg Sun in 2003:

I think human history is a lot more interesting than what the textbooks are teaching. People are only getting one way to look at things, and we don’t think it’s the best way. What we want to do is say “Here’s the data, how would you interpret it?” We don’t want to brainwash anyone the other way either.

I guess Feakes thinks saying things like “The creation model states that God created all the plants and animals, and that evolution by natural selection is really a hopeless explanation for the complexity we see in the natural world” is just presenting the data.

My favourite part of the website is his Grand Canyon display. Feakes thinks that the Grand Canyon is evidence of the flood. Feakes lives in a place that floods every year in varying degrees. I wonder how he reconciles with himself the fact that he doesn’t live in a canyon.

Winnipeg 2009

Winnipeg 2009

Winnipeg 1997

Winnipeg 1997

Winnipeg 1950

Winnipeg 1950

I’m tempted to visit the museum to get a laugh, but I have a feeling I would be the only one there along with a creepy guy who has a completely warped view of human history.

Update: Jesus Camp Kids, Where are they Now

My last post on the Jesus Camp kids was a bit of a disappointment, it was hard to find anything about them. But I managed to dig up this, which is about Levi. Here are some exerpts:

Last Sunday when I met up with the pastor and his family, I knew full well that I wasn’t the only one whose life had changed within a few short years. When I first met the pastor’s son Levi, Levi was 10 years old and virtually indistinguishable from every other 10-year old boy, except for the tail on the back of his neck and his unwavering conviction that Jesus has called him to be a missionary in India. This time around, when I introduced myself to Levi, who didn’t remember me before, I knew I was in the presence of a movie star…sort of.

The Levi that I’m talking about is Levi O Brien and the pastor that I’m talking about is Pastor Tim O Brien. The church I am referring to is Rock of Ages, the spiritual family of Levi and Rachel, two of the child stars featured prominently in the documentary film Jesus Camp.

Before I give my impressions of the O Brien Family and the Rock of Ages Church, let me start off by saying there were several aspects of the film that concerned my wife and I. In the film, Pastor Tim’s wife Tracy teaches her children the literal six- day creation theory as if it were the only possible interpretation of the creation account in Genesis, implies that Global Warming is a left-wing conspiracy, talks about America being a Christian nation in a manner that many secular Americans and even a good number of Christians would consider naïve. My wife and I also felt that much of the political activism in the film was inappropriate for children who were too young to understand the complexities of the issues they were dealing with (such as 6 and 7 year olds placing red bandanas around their mouths and protesting the evils of abortion). The most disturbing aspect for me was the filmmakers’ portrayal of evangelical Christians as a monolithic entity that by definition votes Republican and supports the Iraq War.

You wouldn’t get this impression from watching Jesus Camp, but the O Briens have absolutely no interest in turning the U.S.A. into a Christian theocracy. During the potluck after the service, Pastor Tim shared with me his views concerning the pursuit of earthly power to advance the Kingdom of God and referred me to other preachers who were also speaking out against the national and political idolatry often associated with the Christian right. Pastor Tim’s wife, Tracy, was even more forthright in her views. Given her comment in Jesus Camp, I was surprised to hear her say that she agreed with me on my points that much of what constitutes as American Civil religion is based on the founding myths of the early pilgrims who believed they were establishing the Kingdom of God by settling the New World. Tracy also shared with me how she has come to realize that the Constitution is not a religious document, that much of what she learned about American history as a child was candy-coated, and that the founders of America, though they were brilliant, were fallible just like the rest of us. To my surprise, Tracy went on to tell me that, although she loves politics and considers herself a conservative, she hasn’t considered herself a Republican in two and a half years!

As far as the O Brien children, I don’t think I can stress enough how normal they are. Levi is now 15 years old and still dreams of living in India as a missionary in the near future. He loves to read books on history and has a part in a theatrical production in cooperation with other home schooled kids in the area. As much as I appreciate Levi’s authenticity, I think the proof of the normalcy of the O Brien children isn’t so much with Levi, but with Luke. With Levi’s passion for ministry and his Jesus Camp fame, you would think that Luke would be the bitter younger brother starving for parental approval (if indeed the O Briens were the stereotypical domineering type everyone seems to think they are). Not even close. Evangelical haters may be disappointed to hear that Luke is a happy, well-adjusted 14-year old kid who loves Jesus, loves his parents, and wants to chase tornados when he grows up. With his long hair, I told him he looked like he could be one of the characters from the movie Twister. This drew laughs from mom and dad.

Do the O Briens want to kill Harry Potter? Actually no. Jesus Camp viewers may be surprised that the O Briens actually let their children read the Harry Potter books and watch the movies. Do the O Briens want capital punishment for homosexuals? No they don’t. They believe homosexuality is a sin, but it’s no worse than other sins, such as pride and greed. Do the O Briens want to overthrow the government? Again, the answer is no.

The problem with our media saturated culture is it’s far too easy to draw conclusions based on images and 15 second soundbites, especially when the images and soundbites are divorced from their broader context. In today’s pessimistic culture, it’s hard to believe that children can be passionate about their faith and even harder to believe that human beings can behave so strangely in a religious meeting and retain their intellect. But just because it’s hard for people in the post-modern West to accept the strange behavior associated with revivalism, that doesn’t means this type of behavior is all that unusual. Not only is American history filled with examples of religious revivalism, much of the non-Western world today experiences manifestations associated with religious ecstasy on a regular basis.

Jesus Camp may have frightened American critics, but I bet if I showed the film to a group of Africans or Brazilians, they’d likely jump for joy and shout hallelujah. This isn’t to say that I don’t have my own reservations when it comes to unusual behavior associated with religious revivalism. I just happen to know that, from a cultural and historical standpoint, the skepticism in the modern West against behavior associated with religious phenomenon is culturally and historically unique-not the other way around. Trust me. Neither Levi nor Luke is the next Ted Kazinski. You can sleep soundly tonight.

Thanks to Aaron Taylor (who wrote the above)



Hip 2B Holy

TV documentary airing tomorrow (Monday, May 25) at 9pm central. Sounds interesting, I’ll be watching:

The Protestant Christian movement has never gripped Canadians with the same force, but as a Global TV documentary airing Monday reveals, evangelical Christian groups are emerging here in surprising places – and even more surprising numbers.

Aside from re-igniting discussions of morality and belief among predominantly young Canadians, the movement uses aggressive online proselytizing, dropping pop-culture references and making a concerted effort to be as acessible as possible. For instance, the documentary introduces viewers to the Connexus Community Church, a church in Barrie, Ont., that holds its services at a local multiplex movie theatre, and uses the Internet and Video on Demand to reach its congregation.

I have several friends and family members who are involved in these types of churches, so I’m interested to see what conclusions this program draws from its look at the movement.

Jesus Camp Kids, Where are they Now?

I’ve just been watching Jesus Camp, a documentary put out in 2006 following a group of children as they attend “Kids on Fire Summer Camp.” If you haven’t seen it I recommend taking a look. The filmmakers have done a good job of being impartial. There’s no narration or Michael Moore style “gotcha” moments. They just present what they saw, and it’s a very disturbing picture that’s painted.

The  children attending the camp appear to all come from fundamentalist Christian backgrounds. They seem to be just immitating what their parents and ministers do in the way they talk about their beliefs.

Scenes at the camp itself, when Pastor Becky Fischer is preaching to them, are the most disturbing. The poor kids are constantly being told that they’re sinners and you can see the fear and the pain on their faces. The organizers of the camp create an ideal environment for brainwashing: Fischer yells loudly, she’s very repetitive, there’s ominous music, chanting into microphones, people are screaming and crying. It’s scary.

Summer Camp Fun

Summer Camp Fun

I found myself feeling very sad for these children. They’ve been brainwashed their whole lives, as evidenced by a scene in which one young boy is being homeschooled by his mother, who wouldn’t send him to public school I guess out of fear that he would learn some real facts? He is reading from a Creationism in Physical Science textbook, and one of his lessons is that global warming is a hoax because the Earth’s temperature has only risen by 0.6 degrees. Great job mom!

So I was wondering where these children are now. I did a google search to find out and unfortunately it didn’t come up with anything specific about the kids. If anyone knows anything please let me know. It’s only been three years so maybe I’m jumping the gun on looking for a “where are they now”. I’m curious as to whether the filmmakers have any intentions of revisiting some of the kids and churches and people featured in this movie. Like Trekkies 2!

One thing I did find out was that the camp featured in the movie has been shut down. Great news!

Camp director Becky Fischer commented to Christianity Today: “Christians go after me because of doctrinal issues, whereas the world is going after me because they think I’m another Adolf Hitler.”

She added: “They’re accusing me of raising a Christian jihad.”

Is it just me or was she not clearly calling for a Christian jihad? I’m sorry I don’t have an exact quote, but I seem to recall her waxing on about how she wishes that Christian children would have the same passion as extremists in other religions. I hope the land the camp was occupying can be put to good use with a camp that allows kids to have fun, feel good about themselves, and even learn something.

I just added an update to this post here…

Another update:

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