Anyone who claims to be psychic isn’t, and although there are some people out there who genuinely believe they have “the gift,” there are many others who know full well they’re lying to people.
All posts in Secular
As someone who cares about science, and in particular, as someone who cares about facts and getting things right, there are two main facets of “popular knowledge” regarding the theory of evolution that drive me crazy.
The Christmas season is filled with platitudes wishing you good cheer. When shopping this time of year, many people tell me to have a “merry Christmas.” A couple of years ago, I decided that “secular season’s greetings” made for a humorous response to Christians attempting to foist their beliefs upon absolute strangers.
At the time I said that I would probably never say the phrase to anyone, and although I have yet to say it, I’m certainly tempted every time someone I don’t know wishes me a merry Christmas.
Morah and I are going out shopping today, and my goal is to say it to as many people as I can who feel it cogent to disregard that some people may not believe the same superstitions as they.
Last month, the Spokane Secular Society (formerly the Spokane Atheists) elected me president of the organization. It’s definitely an honor, but the position carries with it a certain number of less-than-desirable duties.
For example, I am in charge of determining where and when we meet. To date, we’ve been meeting on Sundays – a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod toward the fact that we know none of us will be in church. And although that has worked out well so far, every other secular group in Spokane does pretty much the same thing. On top of that, we’ve been meeting at the house of our vice president, which although free, can’t accommodate more than about a dozen people.
My new goal is to find a place in Spokane that:
- Is centrally located (downtown is ideal)
- Has parking (there should be a lot of it, and it should be free)
- Is inexpensive to use (again, free is ideal)
- Can accommodate about 50 people
Can anyone think of an adequate venue?
Today was a big day for me with regard to Spokane’s secular organizations. As some of you know, I’m the organizer of the Spokane Atheists Meetup. Today was our second meeting, but we were also invited to attend the Inland Northwest Freethought Society‘s June meeting.
Remember Secular Sunday X, where I talked about former Lutheran pastor Ray Ideus and his lawsuit against the city? Ray was at the INFS meeting (wearing an awesome T-shirt that said, “Atheist, and proud of it!”) and he’s a really nice guy – although, I didn’t bring up my argument against his lawsuit, so perhaps he’ll change his tune at some point in the future (but I doubt it).
From the 2 atheist meetings I attended today, I can tell that a major shift is about to take place in Spokane: secular groups are preparing to hit the scene in a big way. The past few years have seen many abuses by religious groups that are bad for our country. They have attacked our personal freedoms and managed to wedge religion into aspects of public life that the constitution clearly says must remain secular.
We know that this is going to be a David and Goliath situation (ha!), but we all recognize that we cannot remain silent while our constitutionally guaranteed right are trod upon.
I saw this on Digg today and it made me laugh. Not the kind of laugh that says, “Oh, ha-ha, what a funny embellishment on the truth this is.” No, it was the kind of laugh that says, “Oh, ha-ha, this is what an entire third of the world’s population believes. Holy shit, we’re all screwed.”
Before you start flaming me, saying that not all Christians believe in the absurdity of Intelligent Design, perhaps your voice would be better raised against Intelligent Design than against its dissenters – especially if you’re a Christian and you don’t believe in the absurdity of Intelligent Design.
I just read an article about a Notre Dame professor who determined that the star of Bethlehem mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew may have actually been a supernova.
His discovery is the result of research into whether or not the mysterious star actually existed and why it was so bright. As it turns out, about 2000 years ago, Kesteven 75 went supernova in the constellation Aquila, which viewed from Babylon or Persia after midnight would have appeared, “in the East.”
To say that this is the star of Bethlehem is pure conjecture, though, since no one is quite sure when Jesus was born – best guesses put his birth as early as 8 B.C. – and there were multiple astronomical phenomena around that time.
This article seems to be part of a growing trend to prove that God is real by proving that events in the Bible actually happened. Astronomer Phil Plait commented on the article saying, “why do people who believe in miracles try to back them up with science, negating their entire premise?”
We’ve long known that certain events described in the Bible took place. Time and again, science has proven aspects of the Bible to be true. But just because a story contains an event that actually happened doesn’t mean that the entire story is true. That would be a bit like saying 2 + 2 = 5 is true, because 2 and 2 are both numbers, and so is 5.
The mentality that God can be proven through science is what Intelligent Design is all about, and it shows that atheism is a legitimate threat to Christianity. That Christians now feel the need to prove their faith on atheists’ terms is exactly what’s wrong with modern religion. Christians are being taught that tangible evidence can support faith, which is simply not the case.
What’s wrong with taking it all on faith? If you believe in God, if you believe in miracles, if you believe what the Bible says, what does it matter what other people believe? Isn’t believing in spite of contrary evidence kind of the whole point? Isn’t God supposed to test your faith by sending people like me to tempt you?
I think the best way to sum this all up is to point out a comment in the original article. Someone going by the name “Ted” wrote, “why try to find justification? Either you believe in a comforting faith or you face reality with your own moral compass.”
Every year on December 25th we celebrate Christmas. Well, perhaps you don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do, along with over half of the population of the world. One popular sentiment is that, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but that’s not exactly true.
The Bible doesn’t go into specifics about when Christ was actually born, but in the year 221, Sextus Julius Africanus (how’s that for a name?) published a history of the world entitled Chronografiai, which named 25 December as the official date of Christ’s birth. As was the case back then, no real evidence was necessary to make any statement true, so everyone just jumped on board.
When evidence is brought into play, it’s still a tough sell (which is pretty much always the case with Christianity). December 25th is nine months after March 25th, which was the date of the vernal equinox (on the Julian calendar), which was the fourth day of the creation of the world (on which there is light), and therefore, an appropriate day for Christ’s conception.
Another idea, and one that is much more likely, is that the Christian church “borrowed” the day from the Pagans. The Romans had this awesome week-long holiday in mid-December called Saturnalia, which basically consisted of getting drunk, getting naked, cantillating, and gambling. Saturnalia was celebrated from the 17th through the 24th, and honored Saturn, the god of agriculture. The poet Catullus described Saturnalia as the, “best of days,” and with all that partying, I’m sure he was right.
On December 25th, the Romans celebrated Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, which translates as, “the birthday of the unconquered sun.” Wait, the unconquered sun? Don’t the Christians have an unconquered son? Even The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the Sol Invictus festival has a “strong claim on the responsibility” for the date of Christmas. Many Christian writers pointed out that the apparent coincidence between the dates is awfully convenience, and even Saint Cyprian made light of it, saying, “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born Christ should be born”
It’s also interesting to note that, for a long time, the celebration of Jesus’ birth was observed on January 6th, the date of his baptism.
The traditions of Christians and Pagans that are celebrated at this time of year have more in common than just the dates.
Christmas trees have been the subject of much debate in recent years, and the banning of Christmas trees in the Seattle-Tacoma airport a few years ago left a sour taste in the mouths of many Christians. I don’t have any problem with Christmas trees, since the practice is a Pagan one. Germanic tribes in pre-Christian times would sacrifice 9 males of each species (how this was accomplished is beyond me) at the sacred groves every ninth year. There were many important trees, one of which was Thor’s Oak. In 723, Saint Boniface (then called Winfrid) was doing missionary work in Germany. In a rather dramatic display, he called upon Thor to strike him down if he chopped down the oak, which he proceeded to do. When the tree was felled and Boniface stood unharmed, the locals agreed to be baptized.
Boniface is credited with inventing the Christmas tree, because after felling Thor’s Oak, he pointed out a small fir tree growing in the roots of the oak and said, “This humble tree’s wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the center of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide.” At first, Christmas trees were hung upside-down from the ceiling — a practice that is becoming popular again today. Martin Luther is credited with turning the tree right-side up and adding lights.
Other Norse traditions celebrated by Christians are the burning of a Yule log, the hanging of mistletoe and holly, the eating of Christmas ham, and stuffing Christmas stockings. Even elements of Santa Claus predate Christian Christmas celebrations.
I’m not advocating for Christians to stop celebrating Christmas; after all, what Christians are really celebrating is the birth of Christ (at least, that’s what they’re supposed to be celebrating). What I am advocating is for people to know the real history of their beliefs and traditions, and not to simply accept what other people say as the absolute truth.