Outed as an Atheist at work… nothing happened

    Yesterday at work, in between infecting cells with virus and small talk.  I brought up a fairly innocuous conversation about having the almighty cable brought back into my home.  While admitting to mostly watching Baseball and the Science Channel, a deeply religious coworker, asked me if I thought there was life on other planets.  Another coworker chimed in that it was more likely than not and I agreed.  The religious coworker agreed also saying that God had to have added people to other places also.  I gently tried to assert that it was highly unlikely that people could have developed on other planets due to the conditions present but I also said that I usually do not discuss this kind of philosophy at work.   This is when coworker #2 gets the bright idea as to why  I didn’t want to discuss it,  I was an atheist!  I acknowledged it and religious coworker seemed surprised but not shocked.  Of course the next question was where did everything come from and I gave the obvious “I don’t know” answer. Religious coworker seemed happy with that and asserted God (of course). 
     The conversation never got heated as we discussed their Catholicism and when we spoke of Jehovah Witnesses and the Amish we happily agreed that they are obviously wrong. ūüėČ
    Now this probably wouldn’t be a good starter conversation with new coworkers, but I have expressed my overall skepticism to my coworkers for almost a year now so when the God question came up,  it didn’t have a negative impact on our work relationship at all.



Hobby Lobby Complaint Contradictions

There are many blogs and articles explaining and criticizing the Hobby Lobby decision. Instead of rehashing the legal ramifications of the case, I would like to focus on the original complaint and some of the contradictions involved in their examples of them ‘following’ their faith in business. 
1. Hobby Lobby provided Plan B and Ella before the Affordable Care Act: On page 15 of the complaint, they state that after the mandate they reexamined their insurance policy and discovered that they had already provided these birth control methods they consider to be abortion and have since discontinued.  Though they may believe that it is abortion to prevent the egg from ever being fertilized, like these measures do, that is just factually inaccurate.
2. Hobby Lobby provides birth control: On page 16, the owners of Hobby Lobby have “no religious objection” for non abortion contraception.  Yet the  bible clearly alludes to being directly against the practice.
Genesis 1:28
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.
Genesis 9:1
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
Genesis 9:7
Be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
I agree that being religious does not need to include the Bible or its text yet…
3. Hobby Lobby operates “consistent with Biblical principals”: On page 11 of their complaint, within Hobby Lobby’s statement of purpose, they state. “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a matter consistent with Biblical principles.” The example above, though weak, is one of many biblical contradictions stated in their complaint. Below are their claims of faith based principals, followed by biblical contradictions.
-Page 12, No shot glasses, back hauling of beer or liquor store taking over a lease:
Genesis 27:28
God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine.

Judges 9:13
Wine, which cheereth God and man.
Psalms 104:15
Wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
Proverbs 31:6-9
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
– Page 12,Closed on Sundays (Sabbath): The owners make this decision for their employees while the bible states:
Colossians 2:16
Let no man therefore judge you in meat and drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon; or of the sabbath days.
-Page 13, Take out ads to show people the religious connotations of Christmas and Easter. Also providing  resources and proselytizing support: These efforts will hopefully be put towards Jews since the bible directs us to:
Matthew 10:5-6
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 15:24
I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Acts 16:6
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.
-Page 14, Provide “religiously-inspired financial management classes” I’m sure the bible is full of financial wisdom, such as:
Ecclesiastes 10:19
A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is the root of all evil.
You may accuse me of cherry picking through Hobby Lobbys belief system in this blog and you would be right. This is the problem with accepting flawed beliefs systems as a viable reason to modify laws. They are free to pick and choose an array of unfounded beliefs and claim protection for them. What stops Hobby Lobby from enacting new beliefs or interpretations that will get a special priveledge in the cover of religious freedom?

Atheist / Secularist Conflation

I would say that many atheist are secularist also. Unfortunately these terms are seen as one but definitely represent fundamentally different viewpoints.

Atheist: Simply means; a person who does not believe in a god/gods.  The reasons are varied and cannot be nailed down to one point. (By the way, it is not a religion either. * insert blank stare here*

Secularist: A person who support the principals in secularism, the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. (Yes, I copied from Wikipedia)

Using these definitions, it seems obvious that they need not be applied together to an individual or group. The propensity for people to assume others beliefs based on one aspect of their personality seems to be a common trait in the human condition. (I know that I a guilty of this but I will admit this could be confirmation bias.) It suggests an oversimplification is made when assesing others when part of a group and leading to generalizations that fit the narritive already established by the one piece of information. This can be a useful shortcut in reasoning when the assumptions need to be grouped together to be true. Yet, without skeptical assesment, this shortcut becomes fallacious thinking.

Illegal Drugs In Your Skeptical Toolbox?

In my experience with skepticism, there seems to be a cultural reluctance to utilize drug experiences when dealing with issues of the mind and perception. I am going to focus on the stigma of illegal drugs and their users. Also provide examples of the perception of the drug and use as a skeptical tool.
The image of the ‘junkie’ in popular culture is a prevalent stereotype of most hard drug users. This strawman does exist, especially when it comes to highly addictive stimulants or depressants. The depiction of a morally stripped, drug zombie capable of killing on a whim is definitely a small minority and the more sympathetic and sad character of a person who’s brain chemistry has been hijacked is maybe a larger percentage but still not the whole.¬† The dichotomy of these views are missing the great ‘middle class’ of heavy addictive drugs that navigate the extremes. The hallucinogenic drugs enjoy a more moderate view as having ‘recreational’ users and is becoming more mainstream with the recent changing laws and attitudes. Unfortunately, the alternative perception attained, from these drugs, convince the credulous mind that their experiences are ‘real’ and therefore special and outside of the known world of non users.
Our society has a strange acceptance of stimulates when deemed legal or socially acceptable. Caffeine is readily  consumed and celebrated while at the other extreme methamphetamine is shunned and stigmatized. Now I am not trying to equivocate them as the same. Simply caffeine is safe to use daily and methamphetamine is not. This kind of scale is useful to skeptics when explaining how a new unregulated herbal supplement is affecting ones health. By using the studied know negative effects of these drugs to draw parallels with the seemingly innocent supplement. (Anyone remember the Effedrine abuse in the late 90s?)
Depressant/Pain Killer:
While sharing many similar addictive traits with stimulants, pain management and mind states resembling partial awareness really address motivation and bias that could be generated from physical states but expressed in their choices. (Nirvanas Kurt Cobain’s back pain became a severe heroin addiction.)
The claims of receiving ‘knowledge’ and ‘enlightenment’ seem to come mostly from the hallucinogen category. Many ‘experiences’ of altered perceptions do provide a skeptic with tools to understand our flawed perception of events and memories.¬† Many of these drugs effect our fact checking and stimulate or suppress parts of our brains that help construct our reality. When claims of strong emotional responses or sensations are put forth as evidence, many similar experiences has been replicated through these drugs. Claims of Near Death Experiences, false memories, and all sorts of emotional and physical responses from Psychics and false medicine can draw parallels with the known to be false sensations through these drugs.
While this is not an endorsement to take drugs (or not to, it is a moot point to me but I would suggest googling Sam Harris on drug use for an in depth read on the subject) to understand how they can be used to further skepticism. It is a plea to understand the wealth of knowledge and data that can truly be used when fighting pseudoscience and our flawed perceptions.

Random shit for Friday (#triggerwarning: #TheSecret #bullshit)

A tale of doing….

Noah Movie (NOT Review) Christians/Atheists Dichotomy

The new Noah movie debuted to a mix of reviews and diverse opinions within christian/atheist circles . I expected my fellow atheists to have a problem with the making of  the homicidal bible story into a movie. I found that a great deal of them (myself included) had no issue with, what we would consider a myth anyway.  One could argue that these religion based movies promote that worldview but that argument holds up as well as a correlation between committing violence and playing violent video games as an adult. Furthermore people who gather their deeply held beliefs from movies probably will be not be the audience to accept the scientific explanations of why a wooden boat made of gopher wood (whatever that is) could not possibly be built that large, on where all the water went after the flood, animal math problems or how quickly the world was repopulated by inbreeding.

The reaction of many fundamental christians (I would say that a vast majority of¬†christians are sophisticated enough to take the movie as pure entertainment) was to accuse the movie of being inaccurate(even known books 0f fiction change when made into movies) ,to being blasphemous and the ¬†National Religious Broadcasters campaign to have a disclaimer put up on its authenticity. While artistic licence has been taken with the numerous translations of the bible and the historicity of the Old Testament only has one source and that is itself (circular logic). If the¬†movie “JFK” includes a unproven conspiracy theory, I think Noah would be presentable without a disclaimer.

I grew up watching the Ten Commandments on TV, every year of my childhood and youth. My family were not church goers but held some unspecific christian beliefs, and we never discussed the realism of the movie.  I just thought it was an awesome movie, with an interesting story line. I have not seen Noah but I seriously doubt that one movie will destroy or install a belief system. Religious indoctrination or loss of faith is usually a long term process, with many factor that combine into a conclusion. So enjoy the movie, at least it will be good for a laugh.


Belief Equality Dichotomy

I have noticed a common response to criticism, of  belief systems of a  religious, philosophical or ideological origin,  is to assert  that the beliefs is equal to or just as valued as any other type  and is therefore protected from scrutiny.


Advocating protection of the belief systems will ensure a more peaceful and non intrusive society to live in. Beliefs themselves do not harm people, harm is the responsibility of the individual carrying it out. Extreme beliefs are just that, extreme and cannot be used to criticize similar or connected views. Attacking beliefs causes offence. Tolerance is only achieved though respecting ones beliefs. Intolerance of beliefs equals intolerance of said person. A persons beliefs are personal and therefore cannot be criticized without harm to the person. Challenging ones beliefs usually entrenches them deeper  into it.


It is possible to examine ones beliefs without attacking the person. Beliefs influence a persons bias and actions when interacting with others. A persons beliefs can be objectively judged as harmful. Respect is reserved for a people but not always their beliefs.  Dogmatic following of  beliefs, without evidence stunts personal growth. Challenging a person or group beliefs may cause others in society to examine their own.  Having a personal belief does not protect one from being criticized for partaking in a negative action.


I personally am a strong proponent of challenging religious, philosophical and ideological beliefs (including my own). If a belief is to be deemed valid, it is only fair to examine that belief as objectively as possible. Accepting a majority or tolerating an aggressive belief out of respect, is intellectually dishonest and only protects people with a unchallenged agenda that is enabled by our passivity. (an extreme example) Through critical thinking and debate, we have an open market for society to choose our values.  Instead of unchallenged and  uncritical acceptance of beliefs that, if were adopted, might take that right away or deem it unquestionable.

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