Music For the Endtimes

I made a custom playlist soundtrack for tomorrow’s apocalyptic nightmare:

(click image to enlarge)

More on the ‘Rapture’

Less than a week to go, kids!

Found this wonderful video from The Thinking Atheist. Enjoy!

Rapture!!!

THE END IS NIGH!

Or at least, that’s what we are told by the more fanatical Christians these days. Street preachers, billboards, and a smattering of messages spewed over the internet are declaring that May 21, 2011 is the day of rapture. This is supposedly the day when Christians who make the ‘saved’ list will be lifted into heaven to start their eternal life at Jesus’ side, while the rest of us unrepentant sinners will be left behind to suffer natural disasters of every variety and await the true end of days, which will supposedly occur this coming October.

May 21, 2011? Shit! That’s a week from tomorrow!

So where did this idea come from? Doesn’t the Bible mention something about how nobody will be able to predict the second coming? Well, the primary proponent of this idea is an evangelical Christian named Harold Camping. Mr. Camping is a co-founder of Family Radio Worldwide, an evangelical media outlet. Camping has held a focus on calculating exactly when the Bible predicts Jesus’ return for quite some time now. He once predicted that the rapture would occur on September 6, 1994, but that date came and went without incident. Camping justified his error by claiming that he neglected to include the Book of Jeremiah in his calculations. Now, he says that May 21 is THE day, and that THE BIBLE GUARANTEES IT.

In fact, FRW made a series of videos on Vimeo in several different languages (English version can be seen on their website) proclaiming this to be true.

How did he come to this conclusion? What ‘calculations’ are behind this idea? Well, I’ll let our friends at FRW explain in their own words:

What proof is there for the date of May 21, 2011?

The date May 21, 2011 was derived solely from evidence found in the Bible. Mr. Camping saw God had placed, in Scripture, many important signs and proofs. These proofs alert believers that May 21st of 2011 is the date Christ will return for His people and begin a period of the final destruction of the world.

What signs precede the Day of Judgment?

Jesus warned of several spiritual signs, such as the complete degradation of the Christian church, the devastating moral breakdown of society, the re-establishment of National Israel in1948, the emergence of the ‘Gay Pride Movement’, and the complete disregard of the Bible in all of society today as direct evidence of His return.

What is the Timeline of History?

The timeline of history is God’s predetermined timetable for the unfolding of God’s Gospel program for this world. In other words the length of time between the day God created this world in 11,013 B.C. and the day he will destroy it in October 21, 2011.

The discovery of this information built the foundation for what God would later reveal from the Bible as the date for the end.

Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 is the culmination of five decades of intensive biblical study by Mr. Camping and other bible teachers who have discovered the same biblical data.

And there we have it. Convinced? Ready to liquidate all your assets and wave this world goodbye? You know, if you’re planning on getting rid of all that extra soon-to-be-useless-anyway cash, you could send it my way. You know, to help make a humble atheist’s life a bit more enjoyable before the worldly torments begin.

But let’s face reality here, folks. This rapture business is bullshit. Always has been. There is no such thing as god and there will be no final judgment. There is no evidence to support this idea. None. Zero. Anything that people have tried to present as evidence for the supernatural has not only been shown to require a certain degree of circular or otherwise twisted logic, but has been thoroughly refuted by ever-growing mountains of stronger evidence. I cannot be more direct on the matter.

That said, we happen to live in a world and a zeitgeist where a vast majority of people do indeed believe in a god or several gods, along with a host of other supernatural entities. Many people really are taking this rapture business seriously, such as the man holding the sign in the photo above. Other examples might be Kevin Brown and Brian Haubert, who have been working to spread the message of the rapture in recent days. To quote a recent article from NPR News, Brown and Haubert explain:

On May 21, “starting in the Pacific Rim at around the 6 p.m. local time hour, in each time zone, there will be a great earthquake, such as has never been in the history of the Earth,” he says. The true Christian believers — he hopes he’s one of them — will be “raptured”: They’ll fly upward to heaven. And for the rest?

“It’s just the horror of horror stories,” he says, “and on top of all that, there’s no more salvation at that point. And then the Bible says it will be 153 days later that the entire universe and planet Earth will be destroyed forever.”

Most Bible scholars note that even Jesus said he had no idea when Judgment Day would come. But May 21 believers like Haubert are unfazed.

“I’ve crunched the numbers, and it’s going to happen,” he says.

Haubert says the Bible contains coded “proofs” that reveal the timing. For example, he says, from the time of Noah’s flood to May 21, 2011, is exactly 7,000 years. Revelations like this have changed his life.

“I no longer think about 401(k)s and retirement,” he says. “I’m not stressed about losing my job, which a lot of other people are in this economy. I’m just a lot less stressed, and in a way I’m more carefree.”

He’s tried to warn his friends and family — they think he’s crazy. And that saddens him.

Those poor men. They have drank the Kool-Aid. I was kinda joking when I said the thing about liquidating assets earlier, but for some people they really are going that far. That’s what makes me sad, that people will be so willing to buy into this kind of absurdity so completely. I feel bad for them. What will happen when May 22 comes around and their rapture has not come to pass? Will they plunge into remorseful embarrassment? Or will they cling to the notion of the rapture and frantically re-calculate their prediction? I suspect that Camping will opt for the latter. As for everyone else, who knows? Time will tell. In any case, it will not be a fun day for these people.

To end on a slightly more lighthearted note, here is the Huffington Post’s top 21 reasons May 21 is not the end.

Death And Burial Of Osama bin Laden

Like most Americans who are old enough, I very clearly remember exactly where I was and what happened on Tuesday September 11, 2001. Until that day I had never heard of Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. Instantly, these became household names. Thousands of people died, many more were injured, many are still today suffering from health consequences, all from a singular terrible act led by a man claiming to be carrying out the will of Allah.

And then, of course, came the wars. Thousands more are dead and wounded, including countless civilians overseas. Too many people have experienced horrors beyond what words can accurately describe. We have longed for an end to this horrible conflict for years, and there has thus far been not so much as a hint of any kind of resolution.

Today is May 7, 2011. It is nearly ten years after the attacks on New York City and Washington DC. Last weekend, on Sunday May 1, American Navy SEALs invaded bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which was ironically located embarrassingly close to a Pakistani military academy. The SEALs stormed the compound and shot bin Laden in the head, directly above the eye. I have heard reports that he used a woman as a human shield as a final defense, but these reports are conflicted and I hesitate to say any more on that particular matter.

This whole scenario seems terribly familiar in a way. US special forces storm a terrorist compound, deftly taking out terrorists while avoiding civilian casualties, executing the primary target with a single dramatic bullet to the head… in reading about all this, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve played this video game before.

And then, of course, there was the equally dramatic burial at sea. This was done in accordance with Islamic doctrine. Supposedly it is very important for a body to be laid to rest within 24 hours after death. Given this, plus the government choosing not to release the photograph taken of bin Laden that apparently portrays his fatal head wound in graphic detail, I fully expect conspiracy theorists to be drawn to this like flies to shit.

In any case, Osama bin Laden is now dead.

Here is President Obama’s announcement speech, delivered on Sunday evening:

Personally, I was initially glad to hear the news. But then, almost immediately I felt guilty for feeling as I did. I was actually delighted at the death of another person. Granted, this was a person who did monstrous things to a great many people, but it still felt wrong to me on a fundamental level that I should rejoice in hearing of someone’s death. All things in their appropriate contexts, I suppose. I was certainly not one to jump for joy in the streets as so many Americans did, but nevertheless I do recognize this event as an overall good thing for both the United States and the world.

The question now becomes, what happens next? This is by no means the end of Al-Qaeda, and given the opportunity, I fully expect them to retaliate. Still, I am hopeful. Killing bin Laden has shown the world that the US doesn’t  fuck around with these things. Obama’s administration has shown its muscle, first with taking out the Somali pirates and now the world’s public enemy #1. I see this event as not the end of America’s current conflict in the middle east, but rather the beginning of the end. It is a tremendous step in the right direction.

Cheers to President Obama and the military personnel who carried out this mission.

Atheist Barbie

Found this to be somewhat amusing… it’s Atheist Barbie!

Can Science And Religion Co-Exist?

For a long while now I have argued that science and religion are bound to inherent conflict simply due to their respective natures. There are, of course, several scientists–many accomplished scientists in fact–who identify themselves with a particular faith. As an example, I recently saw a two hour video recording of Ken Miller lecturing on (the collapse of) intelligent design at Case Western University in northern Ohio. It was a wonderful presentation on what evolution is, the history of the conflict between evolution and creationism, and how it pertains to education in Ohio. However, there was one aspect of Miller’s talk that I found to be more than a little bit disquieting, and that was his proclamation of Roman Catholicism. The lecture event even opened up with a Catholic priest leading a prayer. I can’t help but wonder how such an accomplished biologist and proponent of proper science education can internally reconcile these two things, science and Catholicism, in his own personal life. An audience member asked about this issue during the Q & A session, but Miller offered little to no reasoning to justify his position.

It’s a curious thing, taking such efforts to hold on to religious belief, despite knowing that its teachings and doctrines are false.

But then, I found the following open letter from biologist and author Jerry Coyne posted on his own WordPress site addressing why it is no only acceptable for scientists to criticize religion, but in many ways it is essential to do so:

Dear comrades:

Although we may diverge in our philosophies and actions toward religion, we share a common goal: the promulgation of good science education in Britain and America–indeed, throughout the world. Many of us, like myself and Richard Dawkins, spend a lot of time teaching evolution to the general public. There’s little doubt, in fact, that Dawkins is the preeminent teacher of evolution in the world. He has not only turned many people on to modern evolutionary biology, but has converted many evolution-deniers (most of them religious) to evolution-accepters.

Nevertheless, your employees, present and former, have chosen to spend much of their time battling not creationists, but evolutionists who happen to be atheists. This apparently comes from your idea that if evolutionists also espouse atheism, it will hurt the cause of science education and turn people away from evolution. I think this is misguided for several reasons, including a complete lack of evidence that your idea is true, but also your apparent failure to recognize that creationism is a symptom of religion (and not just fundamentalist religion), and will be with us until faith disappears. That is one reason–and, given the pernicious effect of religion, a minor one–for the fact that we choose to fight on both fronts.

The official policy of your organizations–certainly of the NCSE–is apparently to cozy up to religion. You have “faith projects,” you constantly tell us to shut up about religion, and you even espouse a kind of theology which claims that faith and science are compatible. Clearly you are going to continue with these activities, for you’ve done nothing to change them in the face of criticism. And your employees, past and present, will continue to heap invective on New Atheists and tar people like Richard Dawkins with undeserved opprobrium.

We will continue to answer the misguided attacks by people like Josh Rosenau, Roger Stanyard, and Nick Matzke so long as they keep mounting those attacks. I don’t expect them to abate, but I’d like your organizations to recognize this: you have lost many allies, including some prominent ones, in your attacks on atheism. And I doubt that those attacks have converted many Christians or Muslims to the cause of evolution. This is a shame, because we all recognize that the NCSE has done some great things in the past and, I hope, will–like the new BCSE–continue do great things in the future.

There is a double irony in this situation. First, your repeated and strong accusations that, by criticizing religion, atheists are alienating our pro-evolution allies (liberal Christians), has precisely the same alienating effect on your allies: scientists who are atheists. Second, your assertion that only you have the requisite communication skills to promote evolution is belied by the observation that you have, by your own ham-handed communications, alienated many people who are on the side of good science and evolution. You have lost your natural allies. And this is not just speculation, for those allies were us, and we’re telling you so.

Sincerely,
Jerry Coyne

What a wonderful piece of writing this is! I think that it illustrates the point quite clearly.

What this issue really boils down to is the dichotomy of what religion has to offer in terms of understanding truth as opposed to science. I’ve heard several people make the argument that science and religion are simply two different methods of seeking out truth. If I were a less mature person, I’d be inclined to accept this seemingly peaceful explanation… but I’m not. In light of critical inquiry, I must challenge this idea.

How does science go about seeking truth? Through the scientific method. Hypotheses are formed, ideas are tested, data is collected, results are shared, tests are repeated, and the process repeats. The system that science utilizes is self-correcting in that ideas that don’t fit with data and observations are discarded without hesitation, even if they had previously been accepted. To be a good scientist is to live in strongly disciplined professional humility. Science is continually improving our understanding of reality. The knowledge and insight that science has provided humanity, even in merely the past 150 years or so, is nothing short of staggering.

Now, what does religion offer to the quest for truth? In a word, nothing. Religion offers explanations for why things are the way they are, but then leaves it alone. Another term for this type of rationality is ‘superstition’. Tests and experiments are not performed, and old ideas and practices are only set aside when they become socially unfavorable (i.e. witch burning, to cite one example). Rather than supporting their claims by empirical evidence, measurable observations and experimental data, religions instead focus on either apologetically attempting to justify these claims or simply ignoring the issue altogether under the banner of faith. Moreover, religions will use fear–the fear of an ever-watchful and judgmental god or eternal torment and despair in a mythical land called hell–to keep their followers in line. This should be plainly obvious to anyone who is brave enough to take a step back and see these institutions as they truly are. It is in this way that religion has served as a fantastically effective means of population control throughout the ages. This is in no way a means to discover truth. Religion is many things, but a tool to understand the nature of reality it is not.

‘One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.’ -Bertrand Russell, from Why I Am Not A Christian

Christopher Hitchens: Address to American Atheists

Renowned author and steadfast atheist Christopher Hitchens was recently forced to cancel his appearance at the American Atheists convention due to his esophageal cancer. He wrote to them the following letter, as was published on P.Z. Myers’ blog Pharyngula [link]:

Dear fellow-unbelievers,

    Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion. It is these forces among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstitition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency. 

      That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private. 

    Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations. 

       As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend and uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary between Church and State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege. Believe me when I say that I am present with you, even if not corporeally (and only metaphorically in spirit…) Resolve to build up Mr Jefferson’s wall of separation. And don’t keep the faith.

    Sincerely

Christopher Hitchens