"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." -- Bertrand Russell

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ten Commandments Taken Down in Giles, Va

I've previously blogged about the situation in Giles County, Va, concerning hanging the Ten Commandments in the school. There's been a new development in the case that I wanted to state here. According to the Roanoke Times:
The board voted unanimously to replace the commandments with a copy of a page from a history textbook that mentions the Ten Commandments in conjunction with American government and morality. The commandments themselves do not appear on the page; they are represented by a drawing of two tablets.
I've read a photocopy of the  new document. It does detail that our system of government was influenced by Enlightenment thought and by Greco-Roman systems of government. I applaud both of those features, commonly denied by the Christian Right. Strangely, when discussing the Enlightenment influences, the document only references John Locke and Montesquieu. There are several others that would likely be worthwhile to mention -- Voltaire and Rousseau being perhaps obvious examples. Nonetheless, not everyone could be covered in the small space and perhaps this omission could be excused.

Church Apologises For Homophobic Discrimination?

It recently came to my attention via the "Gender Equality" Facebook group that a church put up a billboard in North Carolina condemning the denial of rights and inequality to homosexuals in the "name of God". Here's the billboard:

Hemant Mehta, of "Friendly Atheist" fame, is worried that this might be a meaningless gesture. Does this group still believe homosexuality is a sin? Do they support same-sex marriage?

If the answer to these two questions are "yes" and "no", Hemant says, there is nothing to get excited about here. But I think there's an additional issue worth considering. What follows is an edited version of a message I left on the Gender Equality group's page (posted here).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What God Would Fancy

A number of Christians (or otherwise religious people) are astounded at how well designed our universe appears to be for human life; that God must rather like us for making a universe like ours. Well, I don't think this is right at all; as far as I can tell, if God exists, He rather fancies diffuse clouds of hydrogen gas.

Edit: Apparently, I'm not alone in this thought. Philosopher Brad Weslake of the University of Rochester sent me this quote from J.B.S. Heldane: "The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other, for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known, and perhaps more, as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals. Beetles are actually more numerous than the species of any other insect order. That kind of thing is characteristic of nature..."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"In God We Teach" Documentary

I recently came across a documentary entitled "In God We Teach". It's absolutely fantastic and well-balanced, though I would have liked to have seen a little more information about the legal issues involved. The documentary covers the events at a high school in Kearny, NJ, involving an Establishment Clause lawsuit. The documentary is free for non-commercial use and is available on YouTube. For those who have followed a number of these kinds of cases in the past, the events will probably seem all too familiar (it's strikingly similar to what we've seen in Ahlquist v Cranston, Damon Fowler's situation last year, and the on-going litigation concerning Giles County, Virginia.) Take a look:


You can access the website for the documentary here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"But I have faith!"

I recently came across this article by Charlie Glickman. Glickman's post is about confronting religious people vis a vis their religious views and how one should properly approach such an affair. He writes that we should engage with respect to the believer, not necessarily with respecting the beliefs of the believer. I agree with much of what Glickman wrote and this is a topic that I've frequently commented on.

However, in the comments section, a user named Dawn Fortune writes:
I like the idea of challenging ideas and of challenging beliefs, and of questioning both without ridicule or shame, but I think what is missing is an understanding that matters of faith are that: matters of faith, and not all can be measured, quantified and duplicated using scientific method. Also what must be kept in mind is that faith is enormously important for a lot of people, and some traditions have doctrine that calls questioning of those beliefs an exercise in sin to begin with.
This reminds me of a common exaltation I've heard from religious believers: "But I have faith!" There are so many things wrong with this....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Giles County Revisited

In Giles County, Virginia, the Ten Commandments have hung on the school wall since April, 1999. The ACLU and the FFRF are now suing Giles County Schools, on behalf of a local anonymous resident, to have the Commandments removed. Liberty Council, a non-profit, Christian group of lawyers associated with Liberty University, are defending Giles County Schools. I have previously argued, in an Op Ed in the Roanoke Times, that there are theological, legal, and historical reasons that the Commandments should be removed. Here, I will give further analysis of the case in light of previous legal precedent. And I will explain why many of the supporters of the hanging of the Commandments are making their case more difficult for themselves. Additionally, I will discuss some developments since the appearance of my Op Ed article.