Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Bill Maher Tweet

Bill Maher, famous for his anti-religious outlook, got into the Tebow mania by tweeting a less than complimentary comment about the Broncos blowout loss to the Bills. Allow me to quote Bill:

"Wow, Jesus just f***ed Tim Tebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere ... Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler 'Hey, Buffalo's killing them.'"

I think it precisely captures the stupidity that some Christians have been throwing around that Jesus is helping Tim Terrific win football games.

No one but Tim, backed up by strong defensive efforts, helped the Broncos win. But sooner or later an unbalanced team gets nailed. You need both defence and offence playing a full 60 minutes to be a championship football team. You can't rely on the defense to always hold while the offense fritters away three quarters. Or worse, like Saturday, hands the other team four picks.

Still, I think Tebow has demonstrated that he deserves a chance to play in the NFL.

In the meantime, no one seems to be paying a lot of attention to what Cam Newton has been doing. Put a few more quality players around him and shore up the Jaguars defense and they're going to be unstoppable.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Proof, Evidence and Christianity

People throw the words "proof" and "prove" around somewhat carelessly. The fact of the matter is that technically, outside the realm of mathematics, it is pretty much impossible to prove anything.

For example, can you "prove" that the sun rises in the east? No, technically you can't. The most you can do is demonstrate that throughout all of recorded history it has risen in the east and the odds are pretty good it will rise there tomorrow. As a matter of fact, the odds are so good that not to accept the conclusion "the sun rises in the east" would be somewhat irrational. But, still, technically, it cannot be proven to 100% certainty.

So much for technicalities. Let's talk about practical day to day existence. Most people would consider something "proven" if not to accept it as true would be irrational like not accepting the conclusion that "the sun rises in the east" is irrational.

But we're still really talking about probabilities. You can't "prove" to 100% certainty but you can get pretty darn close.

Now let's consider evidence. Evidence is anything that you believe increases or decreases the probability of something being true. When you present evidence to someone, the critical issue is how credible is that evidence.

This is where most Christians miss the point. They always claim they have lots of evidence for God, Jesus and Christianity. The problem is that none of it is terribly credible.

The most credible evidence is physical evidence. It's hard to argue with finger prints, DNA, blood, burn marks etc. The reason for this is physical evidence doesn't change and it is very difficult to forge or modify.

Next in credibility is documentary evidence because again, it doesn't change over time but it's much easier to forge or modify.

The least credible evidence is human eye witness testimony and the further away you get from the original source, the more it degrades. As a matter of fact most courts will not accept evidence which it even only once removed. It's called "hearsay" and is usually inadmissable."Hearsay" is still evidence, but very, very weak evidence. In addition, if the witness has a known agenda then the evidence is virtually worthless.

Here's the problem with all of the Christian's evidence. They have no physical evidence. They do have some documentary evidence in the Bible but (1) the authorship of the bible is unknown and anonymous testimony must always be viewed with suspicion and (2) with the possible exception of the Gospel of John, all of the testimony is at best "hearsay" and all of the gospels, including John, have an agenda. Paul I dismiss as so far removed from the events as to be completely worthless and the epistles attributed to Peter are considered by most reputable scholars to be forgeries.

The problem with John is even if it was written by the Apostle John, it was written so long after the events, and is so different from the Synoptic Gospels, it can't be considered credible. It is a known fact that human memory changes over time.

That leaves us with, at best, second and third removed hearsay which is basically useless.

So what about the "prophecies?"

I have to be honest that I just don't find the so-called prophecy passages terribly compelling. Most aren't even prophecies. Just passages that happen to be similar to some gospel event. The others are either clearly backfits after the fact or cases of heroic exegesis, reading into the passages something that simply is not there.

What about the "would the apostles be willing to die for a lie" argument?

Well, the word "lie" implies knowing something is untrue while claiming it's true anyway. It's not hard for humans to delude themselves into thinking something is true and then be willing to do ridiculous things to support or demonstrate their faith in that delusion. The apostles were ignorant peasants. That they deluded themselves into believing something doesn't surprise me. It is telling that no educated intellectuals accepted Christianity in it's earliest stages. That only came later when Christianity had managed to acquire some power.

So when Christians say they have lots of evidence, they do, None of it is very good though and none of it, in my opinion, justifies accepting Christianity as true.

The Religious are Ridiculous

Saudi Arabia is a Theocracy. If you want to see what Fundamentalist Christians would like to see here if they have a chance, just look at Saudi Arabia.

In it's latest idiocy, a 60 year old woman was executed for practicing Sorcery!

From the description it sounds like she was either daffy or a bit of a con artist. She would convince the ignorant that, for a fee, she could cure illness. Sort of the same way Christian faith healers convince the flock here.

If she really believed it, she was mentally ill; if she didn't, then she was a crook. Either way I'd say that execution by beheading for something NO ONE can do is barbaric.

Bears Dismiss Tebow

Apparently the Bears weren't impressed with Tim Terrific's 13-10 come from behind miracle victory. Maybe not, but he did manage, with a lot of help from his friends, to whip your butts when it counted didn't he?

Actually, more credit needs to be given to the Bronco's defense. This is football and if your offense stinks up the field for three quarters, then your defense kept you in the game. It's not likely Tebow would be working miracles if instead of 10 points or so down, the Broncos were 30 points down.

Still, you have to acknowledge that he continues to manage the near impossible week after week even if last Sunday it was more a case of the Bears losing it and one hell of a field goal kicker putting through 59 and 51 yarders in the clutch.

But here's the point, a player like Tebow makes EVERYONE play better. If you believe in the guy then the defense just keeps saying to itself "all we have to do is keep it close" and once Tim's gets started, everyone gets pumped up.

Morale and determination win lots of victories even when the edge in talent is on the other side. I can't explain it, but I damn well know it's true.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Now That's Ridiculous

I hadn't actually witnessed any of the Tebow magic. I'd just read about. Now I've seen it with my own eyes and I think I need to get them checked.

Through three quarters, nada. Only 3 completions in 16 tries and trailing the Bears 10-0. Then the 4th quarter begins and look out! It's super Tebow.

First Tim Terrific leads the Broncos on a touchdown drive and scores with 2:08 remaining to make it 10-7. That 8 seconds is significant because the Broncos get a free clock stop at 2 minutes.

The onside kick doesn't work. That takes the clock to the 2 minute warning and then I assume the Broncos called their last timeout on the 1st down play because I joined the game with 1:55 left, it was second down and the Broncos were out of timeouts.

Let's translate that 1:55 into football time. That's 115 seconds and you get 40 seconds on the clock after each play. That means before 3rd and 4th downs you can eat away 80 seconds and it's not unusually for a running play to take 7 or 8 second so this game is just about over.

Assuming the runner stays in bounds that is.

Marion Barber is an experienced and a good running back. On second down he got the call to stretch out a run wide and chew up clock. All he needed to do was stay in bounds. Incredibly, that's what he didn't do.

By going out of bounds, the clock stopped. The Bears failed to convert on 3rd down and were forced to punt back to the Broncos with 35 seconds left.

That's were things got a little spooky. Denver's field goal kicker had a career long of 59 yards. Guess how far the Broncos manged to get? Just enough for a 59 yard attempt which was of course good to tie the game at 10-10.

The Bears won the toss to start overtime (nothing like a little drama) and marched down the field to a 3rd down on the Bronco's 38. That's a long 55 yard field goal but the Bears still had one play left. They gave the ball to the same Marion Barber who popped through the left side and looked like he was heading for a big gain when a Bronco defender managed to jar the ball loose.

Needless to say the Broncos recovered. They moved into field goal range thanks to a circus catch or two and put the game away with another 50 yard plus field goal.

If I was a Bears fan I'd be pulling my hair out. You can't make this stuff up. No one would believe you. I never saw anything like it. There are certain truths one learns to take for granted in football. Games just don't end like this. Or at least they didn't before.

I feel sorry for Barber. Talk about a double set of goat horns. This is really starting to be a lot more than interesting. This is simply incredible. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Bachmann is an Idiot

I know that’s not a big surprise to anyone but she’s dumber than I thought.

I was watching a town meeting video with her discussing both Gay Marriage and prayer in school. Let’s start with Gay Marriage.

Her position was that the law allows marriage between a man and a woman and therefore allowing marriage between individuals of the same sex would be a “special privilege.” After all, gays are free to marry individuals of the opposite sex just like heterosexuals. The problem with this argument is you can use it to justify any law that is unfair. No one is questioning what the law says; the point is that the law is wrong. You could justify laws that prohibit interracial marriage with the same argument.

Marriage includes the right to marry someone to whom you are sexually attracted. If your sexual orientation is to the same sex, then you are prohibited from doing that if Gay Marriage is not legal. So it's not a "special privilege," it's a comparable right to heterosexual marriage.

In the second half of the video Bachmann addresses school prayer. She states that she would eliminate the Department of Education (DOE) which she claims would somehow then let local school boards decide whether or not school prayer should be allowed.

Where the hell did she get her law degree?

Here’s the deal. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed in 1965 as a part of the War on Poverty and was amended and reauthorized in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative of the Bush Administration. NCLB has an almost unbelievable 621 sections. Sec. 9524 relates to school prayer and states “The Secretary shall provide and revise guidance … to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and the public on constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary schools and secondary schools, including making the guidance available on the Internet.”

Now the secretary and the DOE aren’t making the rules, they are just providing a summary of the current state of the law. Sec. 9524 goes on to state “The guidance shall be reviewed, prior to distribution, by the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice for verification that the guidance represents the current state of the law concerning constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary schools and secondary schools.”

Get it? The DOE is simply providing, in layman’s term, guidance on the current state of Constitutional Law. The executive department is not making up the rules, the judiciary is, and eliminating the DOE isn’t going to change things one bit.

The last guidance was issued in February of 2003 and provides the bottom line on school prayer as follows, “The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment requires public school officials to be neutral in their treatment of religion, showing neither favoritism toward nor hostility against religious expression such as prayer… the First Amendment forbids religious activity that is sponsored by the government but protects religious activity that is initiated by private individuals.”

“Students may pray when not engaged in school activities or instruction, subject to the same rules designed to prevent material disruption of the educational program that are applied to other privately initiated expressive activities. Among other things, students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray or study religious materials with fellow students during recess, the lunch hour, or other noninstructional time to the same extent that they may engage in nonreligious activities.”

Again, it needs to be noted that the DOE is not making up the rules. Rather it is enforcing laws (the ESEA and NCLB) passed by congress and legal directives established by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The only school prayer related activities that are proscribed are school or teacher promoted prayer. The school and the teacher are extensions of the state and as such are restricted by the Constitution in the same way any other government agency is restricted. They must be neutral. They cannot encourage nor discouage prayer. They certainly cannot prevent a student from praying on his or her own time.

If Bachmann doesn’t know this then she’s a bigger idiot than I thought. If she does know, but is simply saying what the under 80 IQ Republican base wants to hear, then she’s dishonest. Either way, having her as even a second tier candidate for the Presidential nomination of a major political party is an embarrassment.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Text Book Calls Creationism a Biblical Myth

Now here’s the shoe on the other foot.

A text book approved for use by the Knoxville Tennessee school board describes Creationism as a “Biblical Myth.”

This has at least one parent up in arms and the man has demanded that the book be banned. So far at least the school board has pretty much ignored him. Fox News, on the other hand, provided him a soapbox to stand on. You’d think there might be a few more important things for Fox to focus on wouldn’t you?

So what’s the deal here? Now a “myth” need not be false but I think most people would interpret the text as stating that the bible account is untrue. The domino effect is once you declare Genesis wrong, then the bible is not inerrant and therefore the bible is not the word of god.

This implication directly contradicts conservative fundamentalist Christian teaching. The fact that it happens to be accurate, and Christians have their heads up their asses, is irrelevant.

It’s irrelevant because the Constitution requires the state to be NEUTRAL with respect to religion. Not only can’t the state promote religion it can’t be hostile to it either. One can imply that Genesis is allegorical by stating the facts and conclusions of science about the age of the universe or evolution but the state is prohibited from deciding which religious tenets are true and which are false.

As crazy as it sounds, the text book has stepped over the line and the “Biblical Myth” claim should be removed in the next revision. Banning the book is a bit much. Christians are always ready to ban books they don’t like which is why they cannot be trusted to uphold democracy.

Interracial Couple Banned

A Baptist Church in Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couples from becoming members of the church.

The issue came to a head when a long time member showed up with her black fiancĂ©e. The church claims it will promote “greater unity among the church body.”

As I’ve said for a long time, scratch a fundamentalist Christian and you’ll find a Jim Crow, KKK adherent underneath the outer skin of respectability.

The people who are today denying gays equal rights are the psychological twins of those that supported segregation in the 1960s and before that slavery in the 1860s. If you give them a chance, they’ll be quite happy to roll back all of the progress made in the last 100 years.

In other words they’re complete assholes that you don’t come to an accommodation with, rather you do everything possible to eradicate them from the face of the earth.