Monday, July 16, 2007

How do you explain...this?

I'm a bit late jumping on this story, so I'm betting most of you have already heard about this. But it's just too... juicy. A door-to-door salesman in Florida was struck by lightning from a cloudless sky, nearly killing him. Paramedics found him not breathing, and without a pulse, but were able to revive him. Or at least, somewhat. The man is currently (as of about a week ago at least) in a coma and recovering. Hopefully he will make a full recovery, and finish raising money for his religious education, because I'm sure he's got some big questions right now.

Because, see, did I forget to mention? He was selling religious books at the time he was struck by lightning. Oh, the irony!

First, yes sometimes lightning does strike from cloudless skies. This isn't a divine miracle, but rather a natural event known as "positive lightning" that is understood scientifically. But if you believe in an active, personal God, then everything is caused by God, right? So what did this poor man do wrong? Was God afraid of him making it to divinity school?

But wait, he was revived. So even though God was able to kill him for a moment, human beings were able to pull him back to life. (Uh oh! Sounds like humans are getting too big for their britches, God's gonna have to do another Tower-of-Babel smack-down!) Not only that, but if they used defibrilators, then the paramedics were really fighting fire with fire. So God throws down his electricity to kill a man, and Man volleys back with their electricity to revive him. Sounds like we're out-divine-ing God's bolts from heaven.

The leader of the man's religious group is quoted as saying, "It's difficult what happened, you know, but what can we do? Things happen in life, but we still believe in God." That's a pretty level-headed response, I suppose their particular group doesn't believe in the "everyone's a sinner, we've all got one foot in hell and the other in purgatory!" point of view that my wife and I are observing so much here in southwest Virginia. Aside from that last phrase "but we still believe in God" that would be pretty much what I would say in such a position.

But it's that "but we still believe in God" that really caught my eye. I wish I knew the full context, because this was probably a response to a question by an interviewer. But it's still interesting that he jumps right to that. Because, I would think, a bolt-from-the-blue event would actually lead many people to even stronger convictions.

But then again, I could just be wrong. One of the larger churches in the next town over from mine was once struck by lightning and burned (not completely, but there was a significant fire). Nobody seemed to think there was a particular message there. I wonder what the opinion would have been if, say, lighting had struck down and burned a Walmart? Or one of those evil evolution-teaching schools? The story might have sounded a little different.

update: A brand new story to add a little perspective to the above -- "close to 2,700 lightning strikes were reported in Washington and Oregon on Friday and early Saturday, sparking 212 fires." All in all, I find it easy to understand how a more primitive society would be quick to make assumptions on the divine nature of lightning. In this case, it must be all those heathens in Washington!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Gaming Religion, eh?

I'm no hard core gamer, but I do enjoy video games and can appreciate hard core gamers. I guess that's why one of my favorite web comics is Ctrl+Alt+Del, which stars a couple of hard core gamers. Ethan is a somewhat delusional gamer with an active fantasy life and occasional moments of brilliance (for instance, he built a sentient robot out of an XBox). Lucas is much saner, and while still an avid gamer is more sensible and usually bails his best friend out of the troubles he lands in. It's a funny, well-drawn, and wrll-written comic.

Sometimes, though, two aspects of my life will juxtapose for a while. And for the last couple of weeks, CAD and atheism have done just that, with a storyline full of criticism of the ironies of religion. I'll spare you a dry synopsis of the comic and just give you the ticket right into the beginning of the sequence.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Round Up

My schedule is finally getting back on track -- I might be able to go a night without working until 3 a.m. soon! It's been too long since I've posted though, so I want to do a round up of some good bits since my schedule has decimated my free time.

Religion, Politics, and the End of the World
A debate in four parts between Sam Harris and Chris Hedges. Unedited audio or edited video available here.

Creationism Bullsh!t
Atheist Perspective spotted the always-excellent Penn & Teller doing a Bullsh!t episode on Creationism. This pair is always worth watching and listening to!

The "Is God ... Great?" Debate
Christopher Hitchens and Chris Hedges, one on one. Zombie Time has a video and photo recap of the evening.
OK, let's be frank: Hitchens absolutely mopped the floor with Hedges. It was an embarrassment, really.

Hitchens tends to do that....

Anonymity: Shielf of the Atheist Blogger
vjack describes his struggle with anonymity -- one which I constantly reflect. The post got it's start with Hemant Mehta's criticism of anonymity. Which I also agree with. Hence my own struggle. Much of vjack's reasonings for maintaining anonymity are also my reasonings. In his #3 reason he states:
I believe that my ability to do my job would be jeopardized in many ways by professing my atheism. I would not be fired, but it would become much more difficult to do my job well. I would face increased alienation, a loss of credibility, greater hostility, etc. Because most of my co-workers and many more of my students are Southern Baptists who take their religion very seriously, I simply cannot expect that they would be tolerant of atheism.

This is my primary reason for anonymity -- except that since I work (more or less) as a freelancer, I have little faith (pun intented) that my clients would stick around. Some of my biggest clients are Nazarene. I consider it work politics.

Incidentally, why do you think it is that a large percentage of the atheist blogs that I read are written by teachers? I'm starting to feel left out....

The Sun Revolves Around the Earth
... or so 20% of Americans believe. This is a politically-minded post, but it says a lot about an atheist's position too.

For the democratic process to run properly it necessitates the voter to have some knowledge of what he is voting on. For it to work properly it requires voters to cast their votes based on an educated opinion.


There is a reason why people are fighting so hard to get creationism taught in the public schools along side evolution as a scientific alternative.Like I said, it hit me. And it hit me hard.Americans, on top of not having a clue what a cell is or what radiation is or even that the Earth revolves around the Sun are letting religious leaders dictate to them what to vote on issues that would take knowledge of basic scientific fundamentals, because I am assuming that they are assuming that since these religious leaders are supposedly moral and ethical “authorities” they should be qualified to figure out where we stand on these scientific issues, but who is to say that they even know these basic scientific concepts?

This speaks on many levels about how so many people are uneducated on what atheists even are, and why some people believe in creationism.

It's all about the easy answer. School tells them one thing. It's based on evidence. It makes you think. Some parts deal with math. Some even scarier parts deal with physics and chemistry and other sciences. There are a lot of unknowns. Then the church tells them another thing. It's simple and straightforward. You just have to believe a few things that are clearly stated. It's an absolute, too, if you have enough faith it will answer every single damn question you've got.

So if a person hasn't even been taught enough to know that the earth revolves around the sun, who do you think they're going to be more likely to believe? It's clear there is a bigger problem here, lying under the surface of religion.

Nice photo.