We the People...

We the people of the United States of America were treated to a small glimmer of hope fairly recently.  The White House decided to start taking petitions online.  This meant that our voices would actually be heard much easier than before.  All one would have to do is create a petition and get enough signatures, and said petition would be considered for review.

Sounds great, right?  Well, as many of us were expecting (as skeptics), this addition to the White House website would be little more than a waste of time.

Deep within the bowels of atheist web forums such as Reddit, a couple petitions were spawned and quickly met the minimum required number of signatures.

Both of these petitions addressed secular issues.  One, a request to remove the unnecessary "under God" from the pledge of allegiance.  The other petition was a motion to remove "In God we trust" from our currency.

Who cares?  Why is this important?

It's important because our country is comprised of more than just religious people.  In fact, 15% of Americans identify themselves as not being religious.  Simply not being religious is not the opposition of religion, it's merely the neutral position.  According to the First Amendment (and Treaty of Tripoli in regards to Christianity), the government isn't supposed to make any law respecting an establishment of religion.  Thus, to include references to such an ambiguous and generic "God" goes overboard, by considering all and any gods that anyone could think of.  Yet, there would be no consideration for those who don't subscribe to any of such myths.

This is why, when thousands of people received their canned response from the White House, saying that the president supports the mention of God in our pledge and on our currency, they were thoroughly disappointed.    What's worse, is that nobody seems to have an answer for what to do when a petition fails, even when it's had enough signatures to be heard.

 Let's not forget that the mention of God in our pledge didn't come about until 1954.  It took 6 years of theists pressuring the White House to have it added.  Unfortunately, it's already taken much longer, and may take many years to come to remove it.  My only suggestion is to keep trying.

I signed both petitions.  I was one of many Americans to receive the letter you see below, twice.  Both letters were essentially the same for each petition.  They may want to consider removing the top right letterhead in future correspondence.

On a side note, according to the constitutions of the Carolinas, Massachusetts, Texas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, you have to believe in some form of deity to hold a position as an elected official.  Perhaps I shall run for governor in Maryland and declare the Flying Spaghetti Monster as my higher power.


5 Essential YouTubes (Part 1)

There's a whopping community of skeptics, atheists, and people that are just plain practical.  While many of them may not agree with each other, there's a lot to learn from these channels.  I've put together a list of some of the channels that I enjoy and find relevant.

I've considered making my own channel, but I just feel like I'd be putting a lot of effort into something that not many people would bother watching.  Plus, my only webcam is very old and very crappy.

Nonetheless, here are some wonderful YouTube channels that I subscribe to, with quick descriptions.  This is far from a complete list, so I will drop some more in later blogs.


Probably among the most popular in the YouTube atheist community, Thunderf00t is a bonafide scientist with an apparent contempt for stupidity.  He's most known for his series, Why Do People Laugh at Creationists.  While many of the videos in this series are a response to the incredible claims of another YouTuber and creationist VenomfangX, it provides material for solid rebuttals and debunkings of incredible claims.  Thunderf00t has gone head-to-head with the infamous banana man himself, Ray Comfort at least twice in person, and has even paid the hateful territory of the Westboro Baptist Church a visit.  "TF" is also a regular host of the Magic Sandwich Show, along side other prominent YouTubers, AronRa and dprjones.


Don't let the scary, long-haired, biker dude in the videos scare you -- he's one of the smartest and wittiest people on the planet.  As a parent of a Texas middle-school student, AronRa is one of my heroes.  He's attended panels with the Texas Board of Education on numerous occasions to fight the encroachment of creationism and other religious beliefs on our public school system.  AronRa has an extensive knowledge of biology, including the demonized Theory of Evolution.  I've probably learned more from him about biology than I have in school.  I've attached the first in his most notorious series, The Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism.


On the lighter side of things, DarkMatter2525's usual content consists of hilarious animations, often laced with profanity, basically bringing the absurdity of religious claims to light.  Kick back and enjoy the exploits of Yahweh and his sidekick, Jeffrey as they try to create and manage the universe, or enjoy this one below which will introduce you to a slew of additional prominent YouTube atheists.


One of the funniest channels belongs to NonStampCollector, so named because of his hobby of not collecting stamps, in comparison to his religion of atheism.  The sharp, rapid-fire wittiness, and bladder-shrinking humor make you overlook the crudely-drawn slideshow animations.  NonStamp is notorious for using the bible to fight the bible.  If you want endless examples of biblical contradiction that you can barely read through your tears of laughter, this channel is a must.


A.k.a. the Bible Skeptic, Brett is well versed in both the bible and reality.  The Bible Skeptic has video series' debunking anything from the ethics of God sending bears to maul taunting children to the existence of the  nephilim (evil giants in the bible).  These videos are split in to 10-30 minute segments for easy watching.


A Call to Rally Christians to Save the Souls of Millions

Most atheists require evidence for incredible claims before the plausibility of such claims will even be considered.  In fact, it's the very definition of a skeptic.  When someone quotes the bible and claims that scripture is evidence in of itself, most atheists won't accept it.  This is because the only thing that confirms the bible is itself.  However, Christians do consider the bible as irrefutable evidence, so I can only conclude that the following request for assistance will be taken seriously.

The following is a request to save millions of souls from damnation and, at the same time, a test that should be effective in demonstrating the existence of God.

The bible says many times that prayers will always be answered.
Matt 7:7 - Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you
Matt 21:22 - And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
John 14:13,14 - And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Now, of course, there's a problem with me doing the test myself, as I don't have faith, even according to the bible:
John 9:31 - Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
However, there are many people with at least a little faith, and those here with a very strong faith would be at an unnecessary advantage, because all you need is the amount of faith of a "mustard seed."
Matt 17:20 - And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Now, given the obligation of many Christians to spread the word of God, one would think that you're also obligated to show an unbeliever like me the way.

So, my proposition is for any Christian here to move Mt Rainier. Ever since I used to visit my grandparents in Washington, I've love Mt Rainier. It's simply beautiful. I'd really like if it was with me here in Ohio, but since we only need to perform a test, I will be satisfied with moving the mountain, say, 50 feet in any direction (except up, because I'd hate for people to be killed when it came back down).

I know that despite Jesus making very clear that prayers will be answered, that he doesn't just answer the whim and demand of everyone. You need a good selfless reason for praying for it to be answered, correct? How about saving souls from eternal torment in hell? Wouldn't that be sufficient reason?
Matt 28:19 - Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
The reason why this should work is because you wouldn't be doing this to prove it to yourself or any selfish reason, but to potentially save the souls of millions of atheists around the world, not to mention theists of other religions. Praying to move a mountain and actually have it happen would save so many souls from eternal torment, especially those who depend on logic. It would be considered by most to be conclusive evidence that prayer does work and God does exist, and that the one you worship is the only one and the right one.

I hope you understand that I can only consider anyone who takes this post as mockery as lacking faith. Additionally, anyone who says "this is impossible", obviously doesn't trust their word of God and would not be ideal to carry out this experiment. However, being that there are many Christians in the world, many of whom are exceedingly devout, I imagine that there would be many people available to pray simultaneously. This should greatly increase the effectiveness of the prayer.

I am dead serious here, but suppose I am being a smart aleck. Suppose I am guilty of mocking. Wouldn't it be worth simply doing a prayer to save millions of souls from hell, even if I don't take it as proof?  I can only see your participation as a selfless act of kindness, even if you assume I'm trying to be offensive.

So, simply put, the test is to pray to move Mt Rainier, or any mountain of your choice, using the power of prayer alone. My hypothesis is still that God does not exist, so anyone with at least a mustard seed of faith, please help me carry out this test.


God Bless the Children

Exodus 20:12
Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God gives you.

Leviticus 26:29
And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.

Psalm 137:9
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Genesis 22:1,2
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Judges 21:10
And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children.

With that out of the way, here is some suggested reading.  Yes, it's a boring research paper, but very eye-opening and on topic.


They're Made Out of Meat

The following is a story originally posted in the April 1991 issue of Omni Magazine, which I used to have a subscription to when it was in circulation.  It was written by Terry Bisson.  I thought I'd share it with you.

     "They're made out of meat."
     "Meat. They're made out of meat."
     "There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."
     "That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"
     "They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."
     "So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."
     "They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."
     "That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."
     "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."
     "Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."
     "Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"
     "Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."
     "Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."
     "No brain?"
     "Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."
     "So ... what does the thinking?"
     "You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."
     "Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"
     "Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"
     "Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."
     "Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."
     "Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"
     "First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."
     "We're supposed to talk to meat."
     "That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."
     "They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
     "Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."
     "I thought you just told me they used radio."
     "They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."
     "Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"
     "Officially or unofficially?"
     "Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."
     "I was hoping you would say that."
     "It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"
     "I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"
     "Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."
     "So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."
     "That's it."
     "Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"
     "They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."
     "A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."
     "And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."
     "Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"
     "Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."
     "They always come around."
     "And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."


The End is Nigh! (or: 2012 Simplified)

You may remember Harold Camping’s prediction better than Harold Camping himself.  Camping was the minister and head of the Family Radio network that touted May 21, 2011 as when the rapture would happen.  Well, this day has since passed, and so has Camping.  Some of his followers still insist that May 21 was merely the date God silently judged all of humanity.   

Yep, it’s already been determined who’s going to hell and who’s going to heaven when the world actually ends on October 21, 2011.  Except, I guess, anyone who’s been born since May 21.  Oh, and I guess anyone who’s converted to or de-converted from Christianity in that time.  Well, I guess it’s complicated.

There have been many predictions about the devastation of the human race or the end of the world as we know it.  I can recall a few in my lifetime, including “some time in 1998” because, 1,998 divided by 3 is 666. 

 Nothing happened.

Then there was Y2K, which had less spiritual foundation, and more paranoia of technology behind it.  Power was supposed to go out world-wide, planes would drop out of the sky, and the entire world economy would be wiped clean because we foolishly programmed our computers everywhere to only use 2-digit dates.  Before computer programmers were concerned, even Prince sang how we should party like it was the end of the world.

 Nothing happened then either.

Perhaps the star of the show, thanks to History Channel documentaries and a Hollywood blockbuster, is the December 2012 prediction.  On December 22, 2012, the world is supposed to end.  Exactly why or how, nobody seems to agree.  Reasons from planetary alignments (which there aren’t any to happen on that date), to solar flares (largely unpredictable anyway) are deemed to be the cause.  Whatever actually is alleged to cause the destruction, the date has been picked because the ancient Mayans made a calendar that ends exactly on that date, and that somehow means that it’s also the end of the world.

Only, that’s not when the calendar ends, and if it was, what would that have to do with the end of the world?

credit: bizarro.com used without permission

The Mayan calendar goes in cycles.  Similar to how we have years, decades, and centuries, the Mayan calendar (or more accurately, the Mesoamerican calendar) has cycles called tun (360 days), k’atun (7,200 days), and b’ak’tun (114,000 days).  December 22, 2012 marks the end of the 13th b’ak’tun.  The next b’ak’tun will end another 394 years after, on March 26, 2407.  Hopefully we’ll be smart enough that far in the future to know that any paranoia over that date is also hype.

Now, this Long Count calendar is also a base 20 (vigesimal) calendar.  Today we usually count using base 10 -- that is we count from 0 to 9 and start over in the tens with 10 to 19, and so on (we call it decimal).
The b’ak’tun is the largest cycle of time on the calendar, but only goes up to 20, before starting over in a new cycle, which, I personally haven’t found the word for.  Regardless, if this was the end, the 20th b’ak’tun won’t happen until July 11, 4378.   
So if we want to assume the end of the calendar means the end of the world, we have plenty of time.  Of course, all that happens in July 4378 is the start of the 21st b’ak’tun… which doesn’t end until October 13, 4772.

In actuality, the truth is there is no “end” to the calendar at all.  It may be that’s the highest we’ve ever seen a Mayan artifact count the date, but that doesn’t mean anything.  You probably won’t be able to buy a 2013 Gregorian calendar (the one most of us use today except Muslims and some Jews) until fall of 2012. 

I suppose as long as we continue to print calendars each year, we’ll be okay.

Below are the Wikipedia articles explaining the Mayan/Mesoamerican calendar.