Thursday, February 28, 2013

Get your Mrs. degree here

According to this Yahoo article, Walla Walla University in Washington state, a Seventh Day Adventist school, is known as "Western Wedding University." The school's chaplain actually wrote on the campus ministries web page: "The ways to get involved are endless, we just want to see you engaged (in ministry or to someone of the opposite gender :-), remember we aren't called Western Wedding University for nothing."

The evangelical emphasis on early marriage is perhaps not surprising; even evangelicals realize that young, healthy people are going to have sex, sooner or later-- probably sooner. But it's unfortunate (from my atheistic point of view) that kids feel compelled to rush into early marriage in order to keep themselves "pure" till marriage. Few of us are lucky enough to meet the person we really want to marry so early in our lives. There's nothing wrong (from a logical, secular standpoint) with dating various people, and even having sex with them, until we meet the person who really suits us. There's nothing wrong with dating one person and marrying him/her if you know s/he's the one, either-- but I hate to see people forced into early marriage due to societal pressures. The old expression "marry in haste, repent at leisure" comes to mind.

Robot moves like a human

Apropos of nothing except the fact that I like robots, here are some cool pictures of a humanoid robot in development. It supposedly moves more like a human than most robots (which are described to have "break-dance" style movement). It also has big blue eyes:-).

Guilt about sex

This survey shows that the religious are four times more likely to feel guilt about premarital sex than the secular, and much more likely to feel guilty about using pornography. Yet another reason to embrace secularism-- most of us are going to do these things anyway, so why be burdened with guilt??

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My brain will go on

Here's a study showing that your brain cells can live at least twice as long as your body. Of course, they have to be implanted in another living body to do so, so we're not talking an endless, peaceful existence in a perfect golden afterlife... but maybe eventually we can all look forward to an eternal life as a brain stored in a nice Mason jar. Sounds like paradise!

"Privatizing the truth"

Doonesbury has a great flashback today, mocking creationism. The funny thing about this series is the not-so-subtle suggestion that those profiting off non-science like creationism aren't really believers themselves, but are cynically exploiting those that are. This is something I wonder on a regular basis-- does Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, really believe the nonsense he spouts? Do the pastors of megachurches really believe in God and the literal truth of the Bible, or do they just see their parishioners as a source of endlessly flowing cash? There's no way to tell, but when you think about how much money these enterprises pull in, you really do have to wonder.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Broadcasting Jesus to the world

This church in Chesapeake, Virginia cracks me up every time I drive past it. (Alas, I couldn't get a picture without the power line in the way.) To me, it looks like Jesus on a satellite dish. And here I always thought he was crucified on a cross!

Lightning strike proves the existence of God!

A comment here, on an article about same-sex marriage, amused me. As "proof" of God's existence, the commenter mentioned a lightning strike on the Vatican on the same day the Pope resigned, and added:

Now, in my life, I have never ever heard of the Vatican being struck by lightning. That, neanderthal, was a sign from God and not one of anger. Why wasn't it an act of anger as we are speaking of lightning? Because the bolt did no damage. That strike was a sign of God's love and approval of Benedict's strict adherence to Christian orthodoxy.

Out of curiosity, I looked it up, and yes, there is indeed a photo (thought to be genuine) of lightning striking St. Peter's Basilica that day. But if you read the article, you'll see that the photographer waited patiently for two hours through a thunderstorm, hoping that he might get a cool image. If you look at Wikipedia's images, you'll see that the Basilica "dominates the skyline of Rome"-- i.e., it's the tallest structure around. This means that in a thunderstorm, it's the most likely target for lightning. Admittedly this never seems to have been photographed before-- but that doesn't prove it's never happened before, but rather that no photographer has had the patience to wait before, or has been lucky enough before. It's an interesting coincidence that it hit on the same day that the Pope resigned, but of course we wouldn't have heard of it at all otherwise. The fact that it's gone viral is a good example of confirmation bias-- people want to believe God cares about the Pope, and therefore anything affecting the Vatican naturally must have to do with God. But if the Roman gods were still a competing religion, it could be seen as an expression of displeasure by Jupiter just as readily.

In short, this is a highly unconvincing argument for the existence of God. In any event, if the best way God can show his power is to strike the tallest structure around in the middle of a thunderstorm, he hardly seems to be worth bothering with.