Wednesday, December 31, 2008

4 Ṭeveth 5769: Gregorian New Year’s Eve/Kwanzaa

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Pious Frauds”: Media Backspin correctly notes Muslims trying to hold Israel to an unrealistic, allegedly higher moral standard than Ḥamas in the Arab-Israeli War.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “The Legend of Master Legend”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

3 Ṭeveth 5769: Global Family Day/Oh My! Day/Kwanzaa

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Making money at any price”:  If you can read this, thank a teacher.  As Rav Boteach correctly points out, Jewish educators are frequently undervalued, and I am certain this is correct for educators in general.
  2. “Virginity Pledge Doesn’t Stop Teen Sex”:  I am all for people remaining celibate until marriage, but at least some ways of trying to prevent premarital sex do not work. Apparently a pledge is among these, and the consequences can be dangerous.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “Nuking the Fridge: The Most Ridiculous Movie Moments of 2008”. This made me feel glad that the only movie I saw in a theater in the past year was The Dark Knight. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Monday, December 29, 2008

2 Ṭeveth 5769: Ḥanukkah, day 8/Tick Tock Day/Islamic New Year/Kwanzaa

Greetings.

Sorry about that mysterious, incomplete post some of you got in the mail. My computer did something stupid.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the weird sentence “That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is”, which I am sure one person will complain about. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy Ḥanukkah.

Aaron

Sunday, December 28, 2008

1 Ṭeveth 5769: Ḥanukkah, day 7/Kwanzaa/Pledge of Allegiance Day/Card Playing Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Tell Congress: HUNGER HURTS Hard-Working Families!”

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Servo Squirter, a computer-controlled do-it-yourself project which should be useful if your computer is ever attacked by the Wicked Witch of the West. Enjoy, share the weirdness, happy new month, and happy Ḥanukkah.

Aaron

Friday, December 26, 2008

Special weird update!

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day (while I am at it): “Ask Obama to Support the World's Poorest People”.

Late breaking news relevant to Divine Misconceptions which I feel compelled to share: “Ahmadinejad says Jesus would be on his side”: For once Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells the truth, though it is most certainly not what the title of the article is. As it is written:
"If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers," said Ahmadinejad in the message, according to Agence France Presse. "If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over."
Now, which states are the ones actually fulfilling his conditions?  Which states bully everyone else on the planet?  Which states are ill-tempered?  Which states are trying to expand its influence beyond its own borders and expand their own borders?  Which states act as warmongers, inciting people to commit genocide?  Which states occupy territory promised to another people?  Which states are responsible for a huge fraction of terrorism on this planet?  Thank you, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for admitting that most of the Islamic states, including your own, would be opposed by Jesus of Nazareth.  You probably did not intend to say this, but you put your foot in your mouth, as you have done many times before, and you have no one to blame but yourself if people laugh at you for condemning yourself.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

29 Kislew 5769: Ḥanukkah, day 5/Boxing Day/Kwanzaa/St. Stephen’s Day

Greetings.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Princess Bride Lightsaber Battle”:

And for those for whom this is not their cup of tea, I present two LOLcat pictures sent to me by Emily:
funny pictures
funny pictures
Enjoy, share the weirdness, happy Ḥanukkah, and Shabbath shalom.

Aaron

Thursday, December 25, 2008

28 Kislew 5769: Ḥanukkah, day 4/Christmas/National Pumpkin Pie Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Report details abuse of Christians”: Still Christians in Iraq are being treated horribly by their Muslim countrymen. Exactly why are we helping prop up a government which is not stopping this?
  2. About 3 years ago, I published on this blog a review by Barry of the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This movie was broadcast on television last night, and I watched it. And so having now seen it myself, I would like to make some additional comments on it:
    1. Professor Digory Kirke’s epistemology for why Lucy should be believed about there being Narnia on the other side of the wardrobe is faulty. That Lucy is the sister of the other Pevensie children, she is not lying, and she is not mad is insufficient reason. The possibility that she is mistaken is not suggested. E.g., she could be mistaking a dream for reality or have hallucinated Narnia in the wardrobe. The obvious empirical test of going in the closet far enough and checking, even just to humor Lucy, is also not suggested.
    2. The producers screwed up on depicting Narnia as being freezing under the reign of the Jadis the White Witch. The Pevensie children walk around with their coats open, their ears and noses do not turn pink, and their exposed hands do not get numb or frostbitten. We do not see fog condensing out of anyone’s breath. (Now I feel an urge to watch The Empire Strikes Back to see if they did a better job depicting cold on the frozen planet of Hoth. Wait a minute... I think they filmed part of that portion of the movie in actual cold and snow.) Add to this that much of the computer-generated imagery looks fake.
    3. The White Witch’s outfits are not only padded to hide her figure, but they look even stranger than the impression Barry gave. Her hairdos are also hideous. So much for the cliché that villains have great fashion sense.
    4. Come to think of it, how is a near-Terran ecosystem supposed to survive 100 years of continuous winter?  Terran life is geared for an annual cycle of seasons.  While it is probable that some life would survive, one would expect many creatures to go extinct.  Beings adapted for life in permanently cold temperatures, such as polar bears and reindeer, might do OK, assuming an adequate food supply.  Temperate beings might have a harder time.  Beings with life cycles linked too closely to the seasons, such as non-polar bears, would probably go extinct quickly.  Plant survival could be a serious problem, though maybe evergreen trees might make it.  Plant reproduction, on the other hand, would be out of the question; I am not aware of any plant which flowers in the snow.
    5. Aslan claims that “deep magic” defines right and wrong. This would be the most creative way of defining morality of which I have ever heard.
    6. When Peter slays the wolf Maugrim, how come there is no blood?
    7. In defense of Edmund, he appears to be terrified and acting stupidly because of it. This may not be deep or noble, but it is human. At least he does repent his stupidity.
    8. In defense of Aslan and the White Witch, the ways of deities and angels are mysterious and may well be beyond human understanding. However, the ways of C. S. Lewis are entirely within the realm of human comprehension, and as the creator of Aslan and all Narnia, he could have done a better job of setting up his world so that the rules make more sense. At least some of the oddness of the plot reflects the fact that this is Christian fiction. Given that Aslan reflects Jesus and Jadis Satan, the absence of Aslan from Narnia for 100 years reflects that Jesus did not come into the world until well after creation, and the Sacrifice of Aslan comes off as an extremely dualistic variant on the Crucifixion. That Aslan willingly allowed himself to be sacrificed is only natural; Jesus allowed himself to be captured and crucified by Pontius Pilate, even though he knew in advance he was a wanted man and had the opportunity to flee. That such behavior is suicidal is of no consequence; people who behaved in such a way in real life have been made saints by the Church.
    9. I was under the impression that not all animals in Narnia were intelligent and able to speak. Perhaps it is the stupid, dumb animals which are eaten by the carnivores.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Science Cartoons Plus Christmas cartoons. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and have a happy Ḥanukkah or whatever holiday you are observing today.

Aaron

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some job application forms are badly designed

Greetings.

This is just a bit of complaining about the job application form I just filled in. Whoever put it together did a sloppy, poorly thought out job.  
  1. When the applicant must give only one of two possible choices, it should not be possible to select both choices.  The easiest way to do this is to use radio buttons, which are a standard part of modern graphical user interfaces.  This would have saved the Web programmer the trouble of adding extra code to complain about an illogical selection.
  2. If a piece of information is required, it should be marked as such.  It is hypocritical to give the impression that a field is optional and then complain when it is not filled in.
  3. Applicants put together CVs and résumés so that all the information potential employers want is in one convenient place.  Asking applicants to fill in all that information through tedious forms and fields gives the message “We care more about making things convenient for our data bases than for human beings.”
I think that is enough for now.

Aaron

27 Kislew 5769: Ḥanukkah, day 3/National Eggnog Day/Christmas Eve

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: Free Pollard Now (a truly pro-Israel president would pardon Jonathan Pollard).

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Police probe assault on 50 "witches"”: Major rule: First, collect evidence. If there is evidence, then hold a fair trial. Only if the verdict is guilty does punishment make sense. Anything else in a situation which is not an emergency (e.g., a psychopathic killer chasing someone down the street with a sharp knife) is stands a good chance of hurting someone innocent.
  2. “US Postal Service won't send "any matter containing religious materials contrary to Islamic faith" to overseas military post offices”: Trust the Bush administration to have a regulation in violation of freedom of religion.
Today’s news and commentary:These days, around this time of year some people panic at the multiplicity of holidays, fearing that Christmas will be toned down or lost in the shuffle. (Which is pretty strange, considering that at any time of year there are bound to be multiple holidays, both religious and what pass for “secular holidays”, yet there is much less multiple holiday panic. I would also like to note that “holiday” in any compound, such as “holiday season” or “holiday tree” comes off as a way of referring to Christmas without actually saying “Christmas”, and judging from the paucity of non-Christmas holiday specials on TV compared to the abundance of Christmas specials, I doubt anyone has any rational reason to fear about Christmas being lost in the shuffle.) Today’s weird thing is a classic parody roaming the Internet of the consequences of trying to treat this time of year as a “holiday season”, “Holiday Party”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy Ḥanukkah or whatever other holiday you celebrate around this time of year.

Aaron

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

25 Kislew 5769: Ḥanukkah, day 1

Greetings.

It is the first day of Ḥanukkah, and as usual, for the sake of publicizing the miracle, I lit my windproof menorah outside last night. (This is a good way to confuse one’s non-Jewish neighbors. For those who feel self-conscious about “extreme menorah-lighting”, keep in mind that Christians tend to put up lights for the holiday they happen to have around the same time of year, too.) For a change I did not use those sealed glass oil bulbs, but instead used olive oil poured (or rather squirted with a medicine dropper) directly into the menorah. At first I used a wax wick held up with a little cork circle, but that went out too early, so I replaced it with a more old-school cotton(?) wick, which lasted much longer.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Heinlein's Fan Mail Solution”, which offers a peak into the mind of one of the people who is going to get clobbered by my Divine Misconceptions project. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and happy Ḥanukkah.

Aaron

Sunday, December 21, 2008

23 Kislew 5769: ‘Erev Ḥanukkah/Humbug Day/4th Advent

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Cure Childhood Cancer - Raise Awareness and Funding, “Ban Toxic Phthalates in Toys!”, and “Demand justice in post-Katrina shootings”.

Note:  Tonight is the first night of Ḥanukkah!

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Breast cancer gene-free baby due”: The baby in question is being grown from an embryo created through in vitro fertilization and specifically chosen not to carry a gene which carries an increased risk of breast cancer. The point of this is to deliberately not pass on a defective gene so this baby and his/her descendants will not suffer from its effects. I find it rather odd that anyone is worried about this sort of thing. As it is written:
Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "The most important thing is that people realise this is not a cure for breast cancer.
"In addition, we must not forget the embryos which were discarded because they did carry the gene.
"Moving to screening embryos for susceptibility genes, rather than inherited conditions, has broken through a barrier.
"What next? It is going further along the line which ultimately ends in designer babies."
Note that last line.  First of all, it is judging something based on its real or alleged consequences at least decades down the line.  This is not legitimate, as someone sufficiently creative might invent a line of causation between any two actions that far apart in time, thus allowing one to prejudge anything negatively.  Secondly, what, pray tell, would be so wrong with designer babies?  Parents for the most part seem to want the best for their children.  This is why parents go out of the way to do things to make it more likely their children will have good lives, such as invest a lot of time, money, and effort in educating them.  That parents would want their parents to have better genes, too, is not only unsurprising, but it is something someone has probably has already done something about using our traditional method of reproduction.  It is difficult to imagine that no one, in choosing a mate, would not have any thoughts about what sort of children would be the result of the union.  There is even a famous story to this effect:
A strange lady giving an address in Zurich wrote him [Shaw] a proposal, thus: `You have the greatest brain in the world, and I have the most beautiful body; so we ought to produce the most perfect child.' Shaw asked: `What if the child inherits my body and your brains?'
Indeed, this is something women seeking to get pregnant via donated sperm have to consider.  Will anyone dare complain about anyone who uses the traditional method of reproduction to try to produce a superior child?  And considering that it is possible to load the die (so to speak) anyway, why would taking a shortcut using genetic engineering be any more objectionable?  Yes, we might complain about parents who asked a genetic engineer to give their future child a trait which really does not matter, e.g., a specific eye color—and future genetic engineers may well try to persuade such parents not to bother with such a genetic alteration or refuse to perform it.  But what is so wrong about making children healthier, smarter, or more creative?  Why should we not try to give future generations advantages we do not currently have?

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is The Great Fruitcake Recycling Project. Enjoy and share the weirdness and perhaps a recycled fruitcake.

Aaron

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Divine Misconceptions bounty list

I, Aaron Solomon Adelman, in the search for better information, hereby declare the following bounties.  The first person to provide any of the requested data to my satisfaction will receive one (1) book from my PaperBackSwap bookshelf or the equivalent monetary value thereof ($3.95).  (I do not currently have huge resources.  The prize is about honor, not money.)
  1. Any solid evidence for the Documentary Hypothesis.  I am not looking for literary criticism, but rather positive evidence that separate J, E, P, or D ever existed.  If the Documentary Hypothesis is true, there should have been groups which did not accept the redacted Torah but clung to J, E, P, or D, as almost inevitably there would be some who did not accept the innovation.   Is there any record of any such group ever existing?  Has anyone ever heard of a group which held by a longer Torah or a shorter Torah?
  2. Empirical testing of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.  The claimant must perform a clinical trial of the methodology in The Secret according to the standards necessary for publication in a respectable, peer-reviewed scientific journal.  This includes defining outcomes in advance, a comparable control group, randomization, and a sufficient sample size.
  3. Any solid evidence of the existence of demons.  An actual demon, dead or alive, or some portion thereof, of a quality sufficient to describe in a respected, peer-reviewed scientific journal, must be provided.  This bounty carries the additional prize that the qualifying claimant also gets naming rights.  Also note that demons or other sentient nonhumans may be and are encouraged to be claimants.
  4. Theism is in principle demonstrable, since empirically demonstrable prophecy is conceivable.  However, what can an atheist do to demonstrate that no god exists?   Even if one is convinced based on the structure and workings of the universe that no material deity exists, (so far as we can tell), we are not empowered to observe anything outside our own physically reality.  Therefore, how can one distinguish experimentally or observationally between atheism, deism, covert panenthesim (immanent theism), and covert transcendent theism?
To file a claim or ask questions, please write to Aaron.

Note:  Serious claims only, please.  Anyone sending anything that smells of a joke or a hoax risks having his/her claim dissected as part of the Divine Misconceptions series.

21 Kislew 5769: Bake Cookies Day/International Migrants Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “EPA Must Clean Up Cement Kilns Now!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Why I hate movies about Jews”: This is a very interesting perspective on how Jews are depicted in Hollywood: all to often as victims and rarely if ever as positively viewed victors. Considering that the next Jewish holiday is Ḥanukkah, the historical incident that would make for a good movie with lots of action (including CGI elephants) should be obvious.
  2. “The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom”: Major rule: Do not expect everyone to believe a lie, no matter how often it is said. Claiming that “intelligent design” is science and secular does not make it so, and academic freedom does not mean intellectual anarchy.
  3. Right after I post today’s installment, I am adding a new feature to the Divine Misconceptions project:  a list of bounties for certain information.  Some problems simply do not have easy or obvious answers, and I am willing to put my money where my mouth is (so to speak) to get answers, should the answers be available at all.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is the remarkable “Hammer and Nail Art”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

19 Kislew 5769: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day/Barbie and Barney Backlash Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Save the Internet: Take Action!: Put the Public Interest First”, “Short-Sighted Oil and Gas Development Puts Our National Parks at Risk, “Tell President-Elect Obama: End Bush's Global Gag Rule”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Rancid materialism is corrupting our community”: I doubt I can improve on Rav Boteach’s rebuke against ostentation and decadence. While directed at Jews, non-Jews may well find the message relevant, too.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Blackle, a customized Google search which aims to save energy. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Monday, December 15, 2008

18 Kislew 5769: Cat Herders Day/National Lemon Cupcake Day/Esperanto Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “'The Day the Earth Stood Still' Remake Goes Green ”: If this review is accurate, then the remake contains some very disturbing moral thinking, as it is written:
    The new version of the film focuses on a more contemporary preoccupation: the threat of climate change and environmental degradation. The new Klaatu, played by Keanu Reeves, couldn't care less if we blew ourselves to bits, but would we mind not taking out the rest of the species on Earth, as well as our rare habitable planet, with us?
    I.e., a distinction is made between humans and the rest of life on Earth, with all Terran life other than humans being considered more valuable and humans being considered worthless. But humans are just as much Terran life as anything else living on the planet. Why should one species be considered any less valuable than any other? So what humans are often environmentally destructive? All sorts of animal species move around and attack other creatures for their own benefit without the least bit of worry that there will be any long-term effect. Indeed, as sentient beings, humans are extremely rare. We are the only species known to have produced civilization on this planet. And why should something so rare be considered any less valuable?
  2. “ARMENIA: Imprisonment of some 80 conscientious objectors 'not a human rights issue'”: Apparently the Armenian government has yet to figure out that the refusal of Jehovah’s Witnesses to perform military service is not satisfied by slapping a label of “alternative service” on a military program and that it is not the government’s business to dictate to anyone that any program fits their religious requirements. “You believe this” is not a convincing argument.
  3. “SC ordered to stop making religious license plates”: This was in the news over here recently. What confuses me is why anyone wants a Christian license plate in the first place. The point of a license plate is to identify a vehicle and certify that it is legally authorized to be on the road. Its whole point is to be easy to read and, when not used for identification, to be ignored. Expressing one’s religious beliefs—or putting much in the way of any design—on a license plate gets in the way of legibility and defeats its purpose. The objection that expressing belief on a license plate is a violation of church and state is also valid; it is a government instrument, and it is not the government’s place to be promoting any particular religion. My recommendation for anyone who wants to use their car as a means of religious expression: try bumper stickers or a custom paint job.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Solar System (with four rotating planets)”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Sunday, December 14, 2008

17 Kislew 5769: 3rd Advent/National Children’s Memorial Day and Worldwide Candle Lighting

Greetings.

NOTE: It is only about a week until Ḥanukkah!

Worthy cause of the day: “Help cure the #1 genetic killer of children under 2”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “GPS, hidden cameras watching over Baby Jesus”: This is not really about religious fallacies and misconceptions per se, but rather about a pointless stunt some people engage in. I say “pointless” deliberately, as stealing and vandalizing Nativity displays and menoroth does nothing to benefit anyone, unless there is a black market for stolen Baby Jesus models.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Pencil Carving”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Thursday, December 11, 2008

14 Kislew 5769: “Doctor Who: The Curse of Poor Video Transitions”

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Tell Our Next President: Fight Extreme Poverty, “Stop the Death Sentence for Prairie Dogs, Ferrets”, and “Stop Bush's Giveaway of America's Redrock Wilderness”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Doping at work and in class—Why not?”: This article reports on a paper which argues for allowing use of cognitive enhancement drugs. There is still a lot of work to be done on safety and long-term effects for many of the drugs people are already using, licitly or illicitly, but this is something which we are going to have to face sooner or later. I would like to note that people already partake of one cognitive enhancement drug completely legally and without anyone (except maybe Mormons) finding it immoral and no one considering use of it cheating: caffeine. I am looking forward to the day when better safe cognitive enhancements are easily available in order to be able to accomplish more. I have large amounts of data to deal with, and it would be extremely helpful to be able to take a pill and, say, memorize a dictionary and grammar rather than learn a language in a slower, more painful way. I would also like to note this is not cheating. Taking a pill alone does nothing useful; one still has to do the reading. And memorization of text is completely useless unless one thinks about what one has learned and figures out how to make use of it. This is roughly the same logic as many exams I have taken in which I was allowed to bring whatever reference books I wanted. Cognitive enhancement drugs may make certain parts of information processing easier, but they will never eliminate the need to actually do the work.

And yes, learning Greek is slow and painful.  The verb system seems like a horrible mess to me, there are plenty of basic words I do not know, and I still do not really understand what the particle ἄν does.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is arguably the most pointless fan video in the history of the Internet, “Doctor Who: The Curse of Poor Video Transitions”.

Enjoy (or be puzzled) and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

13 Kislew 5769: Human Rights Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Help Workers not Bank Executives”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: ““I Reject Your Reality” - Germ Theory Denial and Other Curiosities”: A scary article on bad epistemology (the study of how we know what we know). Bad thinking as described and derided therein is not limited to just medicine.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Building a Robotic Dalek Pumpkin”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Monday, December 8, 2008

11 Kislew 5769: Immaculate Conception

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Repower, Refuel and Rebuild America”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Education official's book attacked”: Thus is it written:
    A member of the State Board of Education is drawing fire from a watchdog group because of her critical views on public education in a new book she has written that advocates more Christianity in the public square.

    Board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, should be booted from the Committee on Instruction following the publication of a new book in which she attacks a public education system she helps govern, the Texas Freedom Network's president said Thursday.

    In her book, One Nation Under God, Dunbar argues that the country's founding fathers created "an emphatically Christian government" and believed that government should be guided by a "biblical litmus test."
    I am rather confused as to where Dunbar gets such an idea, considering it is well-known that many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution do not affirm any allegiance to Christianity, and the First Amendment of the Constitution decrees separation of church and state.
  2. “Atheists' sign at Capitol stolen, found”: There is some amazing atheistic hypocrisy in this. Atheists put up a sign at the Capitol saying “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” Someone stole the sign, and thus:
    Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker, said about the theft, "It was unfriendly, it was illegal and it actually underscored our point that religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds so that people are unwilling to be gracious and tolerate another point of view."
    Now, I do not condone stealing other people’s property, but I find it amazing that with a sign like that any atheist should expect religious people to be anything but hostile. One cannot slap others across the face and expect them to smile. A sign like that is just an insult which does nothing but promote pointless divisiveness. No wonder there are counter-signs, complaints, and protests. Major rule for promotion of any religion (and that includes atheism): Show people the beauty, truth, and goodness of your religion rather than trying to knock down those who disagree with you.

    Also: Whoever decided to try to promote the use of the term “Bright” for atheists, after this sign you may want to rethink that.

    Also: Considering this country’s separation of church and state, why are there any religious displays in government buildings in the first place?
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “The Well-Tempered Plot Device”. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and remember to pay for that copy of The Black Star before you burn it.

Aaron

PS: I am not expecting people and religious groups criticized in the Divine Misconceptions section to like me.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

10 Kislew 5769: Pearl Harbour Remembrance Day/2nd Advent/International Civil Aviation Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “End U.S. Ownership of Sharia Business Now”, “Repower America: 100% Clean Electricity Within 10 Years”, and “Debt Relief for Impoverished Nations”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Religion today” 2008-12-03: In short, Muslims in Egypt are regularly rioting over Christians practicing their own religion, even in private. While this unfortunately makes sense in terms of Islam—the Christians have dared to complain, and they are a convenient target for Muslim frustration—I am baffled that the United States is still giving money to a country where this sort of thing happens.
  2. “Sectarian tensions simmer over a pig in Cotabato City”:  Yet another instance of Muslims, in this case in the Philippines, going crazy over something Christians are doing:  selling pork publicly, despite no one seems to be advocating that Muslims buy or eat it.  Also worrying is the setting up of a special Muslim autonomous region in the Philippines and attempts to expand it, allegedly to help bring peace to a country suffering from a civil war.  Note that this sort of thing has not helped Israel.
  3. “Falun Gong follower's rights not breached by deportation: court”:   Thus is it written:
    A follower of the Falun Gong religious group and a failed asylum seeker did not have his human rights breached when Russian authorities deported him to China, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday.
    Considering that China is no friend of human freedom or Falun Gong, the hypocrisy of this decision should be obvious to even the most dim-witted reader.
  4. “Can menorah builds on old tradition”: This is beautiful: a creative way to promote the celebration of Ḥanukkah coupled with the practice of ṣedhaqah (denotatively “charity”, connotatively “justice, righteousness”).
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is this picture:
funny pictures of cats with captions
Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Friday, December 5, 2008

8 Marḥeshwan 5769: International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development/Day of the Ninja/Bathtub Party Day

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day: “Who will Bush pardon?”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Iran cracks down on "satanic" clothes”: I was not aware that the followers of Anton Szandor LaVey were marketing clothing in Iran. ☺ Sarcasm about the title aside, the complaint is not about LaVeyan Satanism but rather Western cultural influence in the form of clothing and hairstyles.  Labeling anything that does not meet with Shi‘a approval as “satanic” betrays a dualistic worldview where everything is split into “us” versus “them”, “good” versus “evil”, with no middle ground. As such, the West and anything associated with it, being the enemy of the Islamic world (whether we really want to admit it or not), is “evil” and to be fought by all means possible, including rhetoric.  People generally have a low tolerance for clear, definite evil (e.g., which of us would tolerate a psychopathic killer in our neighborhood?), and so the potential for danger to anyone near the borderline is grave.  
  2. “Muslim Lawyer Urges Sexist Chauvinist Pigs to Harass Isreali Women!”: I read a lot more material concerning Islam than I post here, much of it not complimentary, but this has to be among the strangest notions ever propounded by a Muslim and yet oddly credible.  Premise 1:  Israel “rapes the land” (by which I presume means that Jews had the audacity not to submit to Islamic rule rather than anything non-Muslims would consider evil) and is therefore subject to anything cruel and nasty that Muslims want to do to them.  Premise 2:  Arab men already sexually harass (or act even worse towards) Arab women.  Conclusion:  Arab men should sexually harass Israeli women.  There seems to be a subtext in this logic that it is OK for men to treat women like dirt (or even kill them over real or imagined offenses), which I hear repeated reports and complaints about, some of them in this article—something which may have its roots in the Qur’an and go back to Muḥammad, yet be difficult or impossible to justify outside of an Islamic context.  I can only wish upon anyone who would do such horrible things the sorts of things that the Hebrew Bible recounts:  Jewish men responded to violence against their female relatives by attacking the guilty party, sometimes going way overboard.  E.g., Shim‘on and Lewi killed all the males in Shekhem over the rape of their sister Dinah, there was a war against Binyamin by the other tribes over the fatal gang rape of a concubine in Giv‘ah, and ’Avshalom killed ’Amnon for raping his sister Tamar.  (Yes, I am being lazy for not looking up the verse references, but I have other things to do today.  And this is an expression of disgust towards those who would desecrate the daughters of Yisra’el, not an advocacy of any illegal activity.)
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Paper Models of Polyhedra, some of which are pointy enough to use as weapons that would make any ninja happy. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.

Aaron

Thursday, December 4, 2008

7 Kislew 5769: Wear Brown Shoes Day/Extraordinary Work Team Recognition Day

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Tell Barack Obama, Put Children's Health First!” and “Don't Let Another Bear Cub Die in Russia's Hibernating Bear Hunt”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Nigeria "witchdoctor" held over child killing claim”: Thus is it written:
    Police have arrested a man in southeastern Nigeria who said in a television documentary he had killed 110 children he believed to be possessed by evil spirits, officials said on Wednesday.
    This person ought to be very disturbing. Possession by evil spirits has never been demonstrated to occur, so he has probably killed in vain. Furthermore, his rationalization for killing is flimsy:
    "I am not denying that I am a witchdoctor, but what I killed are witches in my patients with herbs, not children," Ulup-Aya said while in detention.
    Even if the children really were possessed, he killed innocent children in order to kill the witches. Unless those possessed children were highly dangerous, this witchdoctor has to have a rather unusual moral system in order to justify killing the children along with the possessing spirits/witches. Assuming the witchdoctor is merely lying to cover up human trafficking only makes him slightly less odious.
  2. “Anti-Semitism is not the same as Islamophobia”: This article is correct: not all prejudices are equivalent.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “Top 11 Lamest Blogs”. This blog is not on that list, thank YHWH, even though at times it feels like only three people actually bother to read it. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and please consider leaving a comment occasionally.

Aaron

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

6 Kislew 5769: International Day of Disabled Persons/Special Kids Day

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased”: Evidently hallucinating dead people is normal. This would explain why belief in ghosts is so common.
  2. “The Truth about Hypocrisy”: This article correctly points out that pointing out someone’s hypocrisy does not automatically mean that person’s arguments are actually wrong. As such, this technique is for the most part a bad rhetorical device, a variation on one of the most infamous dirty tricks, so infamous that its Latin name is commonly known: ad hominem.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Of Exactitude in Science” by weird author Jorge Luis Borges. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

5 Kislew 5769: International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Free Pollard Now”, “Make Health Care Reform a Top Obama Priority”, and “Urge the Army Corps of Engineers to Protect Huguenot Park!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Man says God ordered him to ram vehicle at 100 mph”: Thus is it written:
A man who rammed his truck into a woman's vehicle on a highway early Friday told authorities he crashed into her while going more than 100 mph because God told him "she needed to be taken off the road."
I thank YHWH that both parties involved survived with only minor injuries, but I am rather confused as to what this man was thinking.  Yes, one should always obey a Divine command, but the question here is to whether this man actually received a Divine command.  Why he believed he was receiving a Divine command is not made clear.  Given that the alleged command was something dangerous, a little skepticism on his part was called for.  Please note the example of Gidh‘on (Gideon), who in Judges 6:33-40 is noted to have questioned his own prophecy.  He needed to go to war against invaders, and the potential for disaster in such a situation is obvious.  Given this matter of life and death, Gidh‘on not only asked for a sign that he would successful, which he received, but he also asked for empirical verification of this sign, and YHWH obliged him without complaint or penalty.  I can only hope others who believe they are prophets will act as rationally.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Victorian / Steampunk Star Trek Wallpapers”. Enjoy (or wonder why anyone bothered to make them) and share the weirdness.

Aaron

Monday, December 1, 2008

4 Kislew 5769: World AIDS Day/Day Without Art

Greetings.

Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Not getting the 'r' word”: This article is akin to what I discussed on Friday, accusing journalists of frequently being unaware of the relevance of religion to current events. The examples given are the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the rants of Osama bin Laden, neither of which make any sense except in the context of Islam. As I said before: Muslim terrorists themselves do not deny their Islamic motivations. Denying the connection means that one does not understand terrorists, and if one does not understand the enemy, it makes fighting them all the more difficult.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a somewhat pointless nicknack, the 12 sided calendar. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron