Category Archives: religion

Rapture doesn’t care about gay marriage

So, you know that the rapture is supposedly coming this Saturday (more on that in the next post). Most people who believe this probably also believe that homosexuality automatically gets you put on the “naughty” list.

However, the description of the rapture in Luke 17 explicitly confirms what is obvious to anyone who is not blinded by homophobia and bigotry: some gay people are good and some are bad.  How about that! Just like non-gay people. Here is Luke 17:34-35, describing how some people will be “taken” in the rapture while others will not:

I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

I’m just sayin’.

You know what, "God," I don’t negotiate with terrorists

So, do you know what caused the rash of tornadoes across the southern United States at the end of april? Something about temperature inversions and wind shear, you say?


According to the folks over at Faith2Action (via Wonkette), the problem is the trifecta of insufficient forced birth, insufficient sexual bigotry, and insufficient shitting on Palestinians:

Is God trying to get our attention?

The worst tornado outbreak in American history has left hundreds dead.   Mississippi flooding has not been this bad in 80 years.  Wildfires have swept through millions of acres in Texas and Oklahoma. 

There are a number of things that could give God reason to at least partially lift His protective Hand from America, including the millions of abortions done here each year, the flaunting of sexual sin, and our recent treatment of Israel.

Any support that the U.S. provides for dividing the Holy Land risks God’s wrath against us.  Rabbi Aryeh Spero says that a division could displace 400,000 Jews from their homes and more Christian holy sites would fall under Muslim control.

Pray that this will not happen and that many Americans will give their undivided attention to God.

Of course, this type of statement is not really news. Every time anything bad happens, from tornadoes to 9/11, there are always religious leaders who come forward to claim responsibility that “God” is punishing us for something or other.

Two things.

First, it’s interesting that “God” always seems to be punishing us for something that just so happens to be a current hot-button political issue.

Second, the punishment almost always seems to come in the form of killing a whole bunch of people who have no connection to the relevant policy decisions.

Some gay people get married in Massachusetts, so you murder a whole bunch of people in Alabama? I’m sorry, but those are not the actions of some benevolent Universe-creating deity, those are the actions of an abusive psychopath.

Now I’m not claiming that Faith2Action caused the tornadoes, but their actions in the wake of the tragedy are no different from any group claiming responsibility for a terrorist act: “A bunch of people are dead, and if you don’t do what we want, a bunch more are going to die.”

In any other context, from an abusive marriage to a hostage situation, it is clear who the bad guy is. It is also clear what you should do. You have to tell Faith2Action’s “God” to go to hell (as it were), because otherwise they’ll just be back with more demands the next time a river floods or some lunatic carries a bomb into a marketplace, and the cycle of abuse with perpetuate itself.

That’s the first rule in these situations: we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

I have an impulse to apologize to anyone who was offended by this post, but I’m going to resist it. You see, there are a lot of religious people I know and respect, but I would hope that they all see the distinction between “God” and God.

If you’re irreligious, or believe in a hands-off type of God, you probably already share my view that it is disgusting when religious leaders exploit tragedy to push a political agenda.

If you believe in a God who is a more active participant in human affairs, I hope that you were not offended by my post, although you might well be offended by arrogance and blasphemy inherent in someone’s claiming to know why God allowed these tragedies to occur.

But what if you believe in a “God” who uses mass murder to push a political agenda, and you think that you’re the one who gets to tell everyone what that political agenda is? Well, you probably were offended by this post, but I also don’t apologize to terrorists.

As opposed to the light of what?

So, most biologists are familiar with the quotation by Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” In fact, in my experience, if you go to a biology conference, there’s about a 50% chance that at least one of the speakers will introduce their talk with this line. What is typically not made explicit in these talks is, as opposed to what other light?

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I have most often heard this quotation used when the speaker is talking to an audience of ecologists or molecular / cell biologists. While both of those fields are clearly tied into evolutionary ideas, explicit thought about evolution is often secondary to other considerations, such as accurately describing the behavior of these very complicated systems on much shorter timescales (months or years in ecology, perhaps down to milliseconds in molecular biology). My sense has always been that people pull out this quotation when they get excited about an evolutionary question in their work, but somehow they feel some anxiety about how their colleagues will react. In a practical sense, then, people seem to quote Dobzhansky when they want to ask a why question. The “as opposed to what” part would be the more descriptive what, where, when, and how questions that constitutes the bulk of the work in biology.

Since this is one of those quotations that just floats around the community, what people may not know is that this was actually the title of one of Dobzhansky’s papers. The paper, published in 1973, was written as a critique of anti-evolutionist arguments by creationists. The “as opposed to what” part, then, was originally divine intervention and intelligent design.

Theodosius Dobzhansky circa 1966. Photo via Wikipedia.

The interesting thing about this paper is that it is written from the perspective of a religious man, and the arguments are more theological than scientific or sociological in nature. Dobzhansky himself was a committed member of the Eastern Orthodox Church. He argues that life is God’s creation, but that natural selection is the mechanism that God has chosen.

It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s, method of Creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 B. C.; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.

Dobzhansky then continues with many of the now-familiar arguments for the overwhelming empirical evidence supporting the fact of evolution – in the fossil record, in the patterns of diversity of life, and in the molecular similarities among all species. What strikes me as particularly interesting in the article is the argument that he invokes to defend against claims that God deliberately created patterns that resemble those that would result from an evolutionary process – for example, the claim that God created dinosaur fossils, when no dinosaurs ever existed, or that God made dinosaur fossils appear to be much older than they actually are.

He says that to claim that God arranged things in this way is blasphemous, as it accuses Him of “systematic deceitfulness.” This, in fact, seems to be the core of Dobzhansky’s argument. The evidence is so strong that it admits only two possible explanations: either evolution is true, or God is deceitful. He rejects the latter on the grounds that such a claim would be “as revolting as it is uncalled for.”

Finally, Dobzhansky winds up with a quotation from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

Is evolution a theory, a system, or a hypothesis? It is much more – it is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must henceforward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow – this is what evolution is.

He notes that Teilhard (a Jesuit priest and paleontologist) was a deeply religious man, and that his faith was not at all in conflict with a belief in evolution and natural selection. I reproduce the quote here because it kicks ass.

Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973). Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution The American Biology Teacher, 35 (3), 125-129

Welcome to the Plutocracy: Senate Edition

So, you know how it’s supposed to be harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle.* Well, two things:

     1) That’s not as hard as it seems, since a sufficiently rich man can pay to have people build him a huge-ass needle.

     2) In fact, it is not as hard as a poor man being elected to the United States Senate.

If you go to the original, you can scroll around and zoom in and stuff. If not, all you need to know is that Alaska and Hawaii fall in the puke-green colored,  greater than 1 million, but less than 3.16 million category.

This map was constructed on TargetMap using data from the Center for Responsive Politics. These are estimates of net worth, and the numbers I have used are the average of the minimum and maximum estimates. It should be noted that the difference between the minimum and maximum estimates is typically quite large.

What I find interesting here is not so much the relative numbers, but the absolute scale. Note that it is only the green states where the Senators are (on average) NOT millionaires. The red states are where the average net worth is greater than 31 million (10^7.5, actually).

Next up: The House of Representatives.

* Or, for the Lolcatarians out there, it is to fit a Great Dane into a tiny cat carrier than for a Fancy Feast kitty to go to the Ceiling (Matthew 19:23-24):

23 Den Jeezus sai to hiz desiplz, “Im teh srs, it teh sux 4 a rich kittn to go 2 teh Ceiling.24 Aiz tel yu geiz agin, it srsly moar easier 4 graet daen to fit in teh tiny cat cariur dan for fancey feast kitteh two go to teh Howse uf teh Ceiling Cat.”

Bill Zedler, champion of "academic" freedom

So, Texas is apparently worried about losing its status as most backward state. Enter state representative Bill Zedler, who is introducing a bill that will prevent students and professors from being “discriminated against” for questioning evolution. Because apparently he believes that this is NOT the exact opposite of the problem with science education.

Texas Republican Bill Zedler has a mind that was intelligently designed with an extraordinary capacity for deliberately misinterpreting facts, and with an ability to use disingenuous arguments about academic freedom to push a religious agenda. Fortunately, millions of years of evolution have also left him with a mind that is incapable of adequately disguising his transparent attempt to violate the first amendment of the United States Constitution.

I humbly submit to Mr. Zedler that he should modify his bill, expanding it to include the following:

  1. No student shall be expected to depart any university with any knowledge that supplants or contradicts any beliefs or preconceived notions they may have had upon first enrolling.
  2. No one shall be denied employment as a doctor at any university health center as a result of their disbelief in the germ theory of disease, nor as a result of a lack of medical training.
  3. Any student accused of plagiarism or any other form of academic misconduct shall be examined by panel consisting of three members of the faculty and the university ombudsman. The student shall be held underwater for no less than twelve consecutive minutes. Should the student drown, he or she shall be deemed innocent of said misconduct.
  4. Each university shall establish a quota system for tenured faculty in each department as follows. Each Chemistry Department must have no less than four (4) practicing alchemists. No less than seven (7) members of each English Department must be functionally illiterate. Women’s Studies Departments must include at least six (6) self-identifying misogynists, including at least one (1) violent sex offender.

I look forward to seeing the revised version of the bill.

Update: New post presenting my webcomic on this subject.

Venn-Diagram Guide to 2012 Predictions

So, a lot of people have been making predictions recently about how the world is going to end, or when the rapture is going to start, or what will be the new vampire.  It all just gets so gosh-darned confusing!

Never fear! I have produced this handy-dandy Venn diagram that graphically tells you what things could, conceivably happen in 2012, and which of those things actually will happen:

You’re welcome!

I can haz rapshur? Bible pwns doomsday n00bz

So, wickd preechr sez teh rapshur cumn dis May. Him sez did da calclashunz. An go on teh muzik box an sez evrywun gotta lisn 2 him kthx. But dat crazy cuz jesus sez in teh matthew book chaptr 24 dats liez:

36 “but bout dat dai or hour no wan knows, not even teh angels in heaven, nor teh son, [e] but only teh fathr.37 as it wuz in da dais ov noah, so it will be at teh comin ov teh son ov man.38 4 in da dais before teh flood, peeps wuz eatin an drinkin, marryin an givin in marriage, up 2 teh dai noah enterd teh ark;39 an they knew nothin bout wut wud happen til teh flood came an took them all away. Dat iz how it will be at teh comin ov teh son ov man.40 2 doodz will be in da field; wan will be taken an teh othr left.41 2 women will be grindin wif hand mill; wan will be taken an teh othr left.42 “therefore keep watch, cuz u do not knoe on wut dai ur lord will come.43 but understand dis: if teh ownr ov teh houz had known at wut tiem ov nite teh thief wuz comin, he wud has kept watch an wud not has let his houz be brokd into.44 so u also must be ready, cuz teh son ov man will come at an hour when u do not expect him.

Wen Ceiling Cat cummin, dis preechr no can haz cheezburger kthxbai.

Comedienne skewers false prophets

So, gifted comedienne Cindy Jacobs has set the cyberverse aflame with her dead-on satirical portrayal of a manipulative, dishonest, bigoted snake-oil salesman. You may already have seen her outstanding video, which has been circulating the past few days. In it she spins a yarn about how the recent large-scale die-off of fish and birds in Arkansas are the result of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

For those of you who are not familiar with this particular brand of irony, let me break it down for you. You see, it paints this completely ridiculous picture of God as a homophobe with tendency to lash out, where he takes out his anger about homosexuals serving openly in the U. S. Miliatry on a bunch of defenseless animals. I actually worry a bit that she may have gone too far, and that this disrepectful portrayal may be viewed as blasphemous by some.

And she nails the pseudo-logic that these false prophets use. It’s like something straight out of a Tina Fey skit. Here’s a snippet:

. . . the blackbirds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. Well the Governor of Arkansas’ name is Beebe. And also, there was something put out of Arkansas called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” by a former Governor this was proposed – Bill Clinton.

Great stuff! And there’s more. Like she’s got a whole thing on how California will be destroyed by earthquakes if Prop 8 is repealed.

Back before the 2010 midterms, she had a skit about how if Latinos would support candidates who opposed gay marriage and abortion, God would reward them with comprehensive immigration reform. More Bible humor! See, it’s just like the Book of Job. Elect right-wing candidates, and you get immigration “reform,” like in Arizona.

Even her website is hilarious. She starts off with an oxymoronic description of herself as a “respected prophet.” She then goes on to . . .

Wait . . . what now?

She’s not being ironic?