Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Are Atheists Inherently Immoral?

"solaphyde" said:

I would not argue that atheism = immorality, but rather
non-morality. That is, conceptually. However practically, because atheism =
non-morality, it leads to immorality. If a Cardinal abuses small children, then
only a theist can hold the Cardinal accountable and say what he did was really
wrong. An atheist cannot consistently do this simply because they do not have a
standard of right, thereby knowing what is wrong.

As the Peanut's Bible would say: Oh, goodeth griefeth.

Atheism is neither immoral nor amoral. Morals and ethics exist independently of whether or not you believe in a Deity or Deities who will smite thou with a stick if thou does something immoral. That's not morality. That's just fear of retribution.

Indeed, most atheists or other seculars that I know are more moral and ethical than theists, because they have thought about whether an act is inherently immoral or unethical, rather than worrying about whether it conforms to a set of laws set down a heck of a long time ago by men who who heard voices.

Indeed, moral or immoral?: I read an article in, IIRC, The Atlantic written by a guy who was a secular Jew. As a kid, he had gone to a yeshiva and argued Talmudic law with the best. At one seminar, an observant Jew who was also a medical doctor treated non-Jewish patients on the Sabbath if it was an emergency. He said that he thought it was moral to do so because, although a Jew is prohibited from working on the Sabbath, God's injunction to save life is more important than not working on the Sabbath.

A rabbi stood up and berated him for treating Goyim on the Sabbath under the admonition to save life, because a Goyim's life is not as important as a Jew's life. (I kid you not. I remember the arguement very well.) However, one could treat a Goy patient on the Sabbath if one did it because one did not want to damage Goy-Jew relations.

Later, the rabbi apologized for his statement because, and again I kid you not, there were Goyim present at the seminar, and his statement was damaging to Goy-Jew relations, and because Goyim are not supposed to know the laws of God that a Jew follows so well. The rabbi should have berated the doctor in private.

Now, is that rabbi moral or ethical? Beyond his quibbling about why one should save the life of a Goyim who is, after all, only a Goyim, how about his attitude toward all of us who are not Jews? Is that moral?

Again, like too much baseless self-esteem leads to bullying, I think too much self-aggrandizing religion leads to immorality by inculcating a callous and uncaring attitude.

TK Kenyon
Author of CALLOUS: A Novel, a story about free will, neuroscience, fate, Schrodinger's Cat, and the End of Days.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Amazon Leaps Ahead!

Amazon has jumped the gun and is offering my new novel, CALLOUS, for sale ahead of its May publication date ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1601640226 ) . When RABID was released last year, Amazon sold out and even sucked dry its wholesaler, so they had to backorder the book from the distributer and it took a couple weeks to get the fresh meat.

If you want to read CALLOUS any time soon, muscle your way to the head of the line and snatch a copy from some milquetoast's virtual shopping cart now!

TK Kenyon

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Five Worst Catholic Cardinals re: Clergy Sex Abuse

For all those believers who think that atheism leads to immorality and crime, let us not forget that the Catholic Church is guilty of widespread concealment and even fostering of child sex abuse.

The following press release by SNAP (Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests) today listed the following five cardinals as the most complicit in concealing child sex abuse by the religious. In this, they are accessories after the fact because they concealed a crime rather than reported it to authorities.

Five Worst Catholic Cardinals
  1. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago
  2. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles
  3. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston
  4. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston
  5. Cardinal Edward Egan of New York

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago
-- In August 2005, Fr. Daniel McCormack was questioned by the police because of abuse allegations. Two months later, the Chicago lay review board recommended that George suspend McCormack. George refused, kept silent and let his chancellor promote McCormack. Three months later, police arrested McCormack again. During those last few months of his active parish ministry in Chicago's inner city, McCormack molested at least three boys, the district attorney said. (One of the children, prosecutors say, had been assaulted "on an almost daily" basis.)


McCormack has pled guilty to child molestation.

Later, records obtained by victims' attorneys showed that in 1999, a school principal reported accusations against McCormack to archdiocesan officials. Nothing was done.

Adding insult to injury, five high ranking church officials closely involved in this fiasco have since been promoted. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/01_02/2008_01_24_Hogan_TheCardinal.htm

The female veteran school principal (who was the only archdiocesan staffer to call the police) has, however, been fired. Church authorities refuse to say why. http://reform-network.net/?p=606

-- While the McCormack case has received some attention, George has displayed shocking callousness, recklessness and secrecy in other, post-2002 cases. Perhaps most notably, within months of the adoption of the so-called 'reforms' in Dallas,
George knowingly and secretly let a convicted predator priest (Fr. Kenneth
Martin) work in the archdiocese and live, part-time, with George in George's
mansion. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2003_03_02_Falsani_PriestsCase.htm

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles
In 2005 or 2006, LA church and school officials were questioned by police about current child sex abuse allegations against John Malburg. Malburg was a Catholic high school principal from a politically prominent family. The archdiocese didn't suspend him. They told no one about the investigation. Six months later, Malburg was arrested and criminally charged. Parents asked church officials "Why didn't you tell us? Why didn't you suspend him?" Cardinal Mahony's PR man told the LA Times "Law enforcement told us to keep quiet." The next day, in the LA Times, prosecutors said they never made any such request. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/11_12/2006_11_19_NBC4_ArchdioceseChurch.htm , http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2006_11_17_Hong_CorruptionTarget.htm

In just nine months, police say, Fr. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera, sexually assaulted at least 26 boys in Los Angeles.

In August 2007, long-secret church records about Aguilar were publicly disclosed. According to the New York Times, the documents showed that then-Msgr. Thomas Curry "tipped off" the accused pedophile priest who then fled to Mexico to avoid criminal prosecution.(An LA district attorney said Curry "facilitated" Aguilar's flight.) Aguilar went on to molest kids in Mexico later. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/09_10/2006_10_21_McKinley_AccusedPriests.htm

Curry is now one of Mahony's auxiliary bishops. Despite public pleas to discipline Curry, or at least speak out about Curry's irresponsible secrecy, Mahony said and did nothing.

· For years, Mahony stayed secretly let an admitted child-molesting cleric live in his archdiocese (in a picturesque religious complex overlooking the ocean), despite the cleric's being wanted on criminal charges in Canada. In 2005, when SNAP and others demanded that Mahony and his colleagues turn Franciscan friar Gerald Chumik to law enforcement, he let Chumik move from Santa Barbara Mission Church in Santa Barbara to Missouri.

For 14 years, Chumik has been a fugitive from his native Canada.

SNAP leaders believe this needlessly put children at risk and is a clear violation of the much-touted Dallas Charter which all American bishops adopted in June of 2002.

Elected district attorneys rarely feud in public with powerful religious figures. But in October 2005, (more than three years after Mahony pledged "openness" about child sex abuse and cover ups), Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said "Three years ago, I urged Cardinal Mahony to provide the fullest possible disclosure of evidence of sexual abuse by clergy. Despite two court rulings ordering full disclosure, Cardinal Mahony continues to claim 'confidentiality privileges' that no court has recognized." http://da.co.la.ca.us/mr/archive/2005/101205a.htm?zoom_highlight=clergy
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston
In November 2007, a victim reported having been sexually abused by Fr. Stephen Horn between 1989 and 1993. DiNardo found him credible and suspended Horn. The Cardinal, however, kept the allegation and his determination secret from parishioners, police and the public for two months, despite US bishops' repeated pledges to act quickly and openly with credibly sex abuse allegations. Finally, in mid-January, DiNardo disclosed his action. (The delay gave Horn, a credibly accused molester, ample opportunity to fabricate alibis, destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, or even flee the country, as some pedophile priests have done.)

Part of DiNardo's secrecy and delay occurred in the weeks between when the Pope announced that DiNardo would be named a Cardinal (October 2007) and when DiNardo was promoted amid much pageantry (November 24). Some Houston Catholics have speculated that DiNardo didn't want the news of Horn's crimes to 'rain on (DiNardo's) parade.'

Weeks ago, SNAP wrote DiNardo, urging him to explain and apologize for his secrecy. SNAP has urged the cardinal to visit parishes where Horn worked and emphatically beg victims and witnesses to come forward, get help and call the police. He has not responded to either the letter or the request.

When he was a bishop in Sioux City Iowa, DiNardo similarly mishandled the Fr. George McFadden case in Iowa, only disclosing the allegations against this predator priest long afterwards.)

Beginning in the 1990s (and likely longer), Sioux City church officials knew of repeated charges of child molestation against McFadden, an admitted abuser, dating back into the 1960s. (DiNardo was Sioux City bishop starting in 1997.) For at least five years (and even later), DiNardo had the chance to disclose McFadden's hurtful actions to police, prosecutors, parishioners, and the public, and to keep McFadden from other vulnerable children. He stayed silent.

According to the Des Moines Register, "The confessed child molester continued to hear confession and say Mass daily over the past decade at the Cathedral of the Epiphany, Sioux City's largest Catholic church.) http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2002_06_23_Rood_ChurchSecrecy.htm

McFadden is accused of abusing more than 25 girls and boys in dozens of civil lawsuits. Despite his alleged 'treatment' and 'retirement' in the 1990s, he continued to function as priest until 2002. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2008_01_14_Kever_PriestRemoved.htm , http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/01_02/2008_01_14_Quinn_ChurchOfficials.htm
Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston

Last month church officials disclosed that, for the second year in a row, O'Malley is in violation of the US bishops' child sex abuse prevention policy. Much in the policy is meaningless public relations, SNAP is convinced. But O'Malley's breaking one of the proven, practical requirements that help prevent abuse: training kids how to avoid or stop being victimized.

Roughly one in five Boston Catholic children is not receiving this training. Every child is supposed to receive it. Worse, O'Malley tries to dodge responsibility for this clear, egregious refusal by blaming pastors and parishioners.

But O'Malley's had six years to persuade colleagues to weaken the national abuse policy, devise alternative programs, or get on board (and get his employees on board). He's done none of these three steps.

Nor has he disciplined a single individual for flaunting this national requirement. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/03_04/2008_04_11_Hamm_AbuseVictims.htm

In a 2006 case with disturbing parallels to many of the hundreds of Boston pedophile priest cases, O'Malley moved very slowly and gingerly against a prominent Catholic hospital official who faces multiple allegations of sexually harassing employees.

A high ranking human resources official at the hospital "accused O'Malley of improperly interceding in the investigation to help (the accused), giving him advance notice of the probe, providing him with an adviser, and telling of the reprimand before consulting with the board," according to the Boston Globe.

The cardinal's actions ''have made a mockery of the investigation. It is nothing short of shameful," she wrote. "Perhaps most troubling" was what she called the ''near absence" of concern for the women complainants that she said was shown by the church hierarchy. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/05/21/omalley_reprimands_caritas_chief/

Cardinal Edward Egan of New York

Less than two months ago, the New York Post reported "The former principal of a prestigious Catholic high school who resigned amid allegations of inappropriate images on his work computer was allowed to stay on the job for nearly five months after a priest wrote the New York Archdiocese accusing him of serious misconduct."

In 2003, Egan became the first US prelate to refuse to say mass for the devoutly Catholic, hand-picked, distinguished lay panel chosen by bishops to look at the church's child sex abuse crisis. According to the New York Times, Egan also "interfered with" and prevented the US bishops' 'watchdog' on clergy sex cases from speaking in his archdiocese.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Speaks Out, Obliquely, Against Religious Extremism

In the Wall Street Journal (April 14th,) John D. McKinnon wrote about Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the US and his speeches here. He also noted that the Pope spoke out against extremism:

A major theme of Pope Benedict's papacy has been the importance of reason and
faith coexisting. Reason without faith, he has said, leads to empty materialism, while faith without reason leads to extremism, as in parts of the Middle East.


Pope Benedict also has spoken out against intolerance in the Islamic world, provoking a violent backlash in the Muslim world with a 2006 speech in Regensburg, Germany. On Easter he baptized a well-known Italian Muslim in a ceremony that drew renewed criticism from parts of the Middle East. "The pope understands the danger of radical Islam," said a former Bush administration aide.

The Pope is right. (And there's a sentence I thought I might never write.) He's taking a huge personal risk of angering the Islamists by telling them that it is wrong to kill people merely because they are angry.

I support Pope Benedict XVI in his valiant stance against irrational extremism.

TK Kenyon
Author of RABID and CALLOUS: Two novels about science and religion, with some sex and murder.

Jesus Gives Evolution a Big Thumb's Up!

In this funny pic at Wired , Jesus gives "On the Origin of Species 2", a Photoshop endeavor, the holy thumb of approval.
Image: A great many people contributed to photoshopping the book's cover, placed in the hand of Jesus by Bucfan57105.
If only the devout were so accepting of the original Darwin discoveries.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Atheists' Gospel: Quotes

"The only church that illuminates is a burning church"-- Buenaventura Durruti

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Atheism Primer: Illness, Suffering, and Grief

I was asked recently how atheists account for and deal with such issues as illness, suffering, and grief. Here's my go at it:

Illness can be caused by pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, each eking out their own existence in this world, or it can be a natural by-product of the fact that our bodies are mortal animals, evolved from other animals, and are still links in the evolutionary chain.

Mutations, the cause of genetic illnesses, are also the source of variability. If your particular mutation had given you the ability to jump extra-high to escape predators, or nowadays to sit in an office chair for 15 hours without developing blood clots, then your genes may have been more represented in the next generation.

It's unfortunate when one person is damaged by deleterious mutations, but one must remember that evolution does not work on an individual level. Evolution works on the population level and is defined as the change in gene frequencies in a population over time.

Some genes that were previously very adaptive are now less so and even damaging. Examples: the cystic fibrosis gene, if you have two of them, causes CF. If you have one CF gene, you do not have CF, but you are freakishly resilient to typhoid and cholera. Having one sickle cell anemia gene does not cause sickle cell trait but does confer resistence to malaria. Personally, the genes that control my immune system are especially vigilant, and this was probably beneficial even a century ago. Now, however, with the advent of antibiotics to cure whatever bacteria ail me, my white blood cells are bored, and they tend to pick out random proteins in my body and produce antibodies to them, causing various autoimmune diseases.

Pain is an adaptive response to the environment. Fire is pretty, but playing with it hurts. Thus, people do not play with fire and cause large, open sores on their body. These breaches of the skin would soon by colonized by bacteria and the organism would die. People with genetic mutations that render them unable to feel pain sustain damage to their bodies, terrible damage, and generally die young. Thus, pain is an excellent adaptation and protective mechanism and is highly selected for.

Suffering, on the other hand, is a more intricate subject. We suffer because we are smart enough to. We recognize problems and ideal situations that do not or cannot exist.

Even suffering and depression may be evolutionarily adaptive. I've read papers (here's one, http://www.biopsychiatry.com/depression/evolution.html , though this is not the one I read previously,) that noted that depression is not unique to humans and may be a catalyst for changing maladaptive behavior. I have had some depression problems in my life, and I note that at the end of these I either was hit with a new autoimmune disease (and there's excellent evidence for an biochemical basis for depression mediated by inflammatory cytokines, so this makes sense, and see above for examples of biology and disease,) or I changed my life in major ways. The depressions were responsible for very positive changes that have ultimately made me very happy and helped me contribute to the world. I would not consider changing any of the decisions that were based in depression that have led me to my life, now.

On a personal philosophical note, while it may be difficult to remember at the time, suffering and obstacles are a chance to learn and to grow. You can choose what you want your life to be and how to react.

In a previous workplace, a particular woman was nasty to me while I was dealing with a major autoimmune thing, sniping behind my back, silent treatment, everything you would expect from a 13-year-old girl, not a 26-year-old woman. I thought about it, and I realized that she was a very sad person and had significant maturity problems. I exercised compassion. On a day-to-day basis, it was difficult to maintain equilibrium and be compassionate toward her, realizing that she was quite nuts, but I had chosen to deal with my autoimmune thing as quietly and privately as possible and I didn't want to compromise that, either.

Dealing with the autoimmune thing itself was easier: it's just something that happened. It was not personal. It's just a factor that I deal with as expediently as possible without recriminations toward myself or others. I'm also short. These are merely facets of my human body. They are not a punishment. I had no choice in the matter. I have a great choice, however, in my reaction to them and how I allow them to impact my life and my happiness.

Grief is another issue, especially grief caused by the death of a person that you loved. Grief is directly proportional to love. Serial killers feel no grief because they feel no love for other people.

Without getting too Tennyson on you, grief must be borne to have love in your life, and love for friends and family is worth the grief that comes afterward. As we are mortal, you have two choices: experience grief or die first.

TK Kenyon

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Atheists' Gospel: Bertrand Russell

"Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor all their own."

-- Bertrand Russell, What I Believe

Thursday, April 3, 2008

British Muslims planned to blow up 7 planes

This is why you can't carry a bottle of water onto an airplane anymore.

"It would have caused a civilian death toll on an 'almost unprecedented scale' and a 'global impact'."

They planned to do it in the name of Islam -- yet peaceful Muslims have made little outcry to disavow Muslims of this hateful, homicidal theology that the peaceful Muslims say they reject. What's worse, law enforcement and governments ignore that the terrorists planned all this in the name of Islam due to the hate spewed in many of the world's mosques.

It must be noted at this point that some American mosques are a different caliber than most overseas mosques. Some have worked with the FBI to ferret out terrorists and terrorist wannabes in their midst, while others have been raided by the FBI. ( link link )

As we've said before: God doesn't kill people. People who believe in God kill people.

From the Daily Mail:
A British terror gang plotted to use liquid explosives to blow up transatlantic passenger jets in mid-flight, a court heard today.

Eight men planned to smuggle bombs disguised as soft drinks on to flights from Heathrow to the United States and Canada and detonate them on board, Woolwich crown court was told.

It would have caused a civilian death toll on an "almost unprecedented scale" and a "global impact".

The gang allegedly targeted seven flights operated by Air Canada, United Airlines and American Airlines. [...]

Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said they had planned, "all in the name of Islam", to carry out a "series of coordinated and deadly explosions" and were "indifferent to the carnage" that would have been caused. [...]

"At the very least" seven planes would have been targeted, Mr Wright said.

The jury heard that the gang planned to smuggle components of the homemade bombs on to the flights as "innocuous hand luggage".

The court heard the bombers intended to use hydrogen peroxide and mix it with a product called Tang, used in soft drinks, to turn it into an explosive.

They intended to carry it on board disguised as 500ml bottles of Oasis or Lucozade by using food dye to recreate the drinks' distinctive colour.

The detonator would have been disguised as AA 1.5 batteries. The contents of the batteries would have been removed and an electric element such as a light bulb or wiring would have been inserted.

A disposable camera would have provided a power source.

"These items would have the capability of being detonated with devastating consequences," said Mr Wright....

Atheists' Gospel: Quotes

"Doubt is the beginning of wisdom."
--Clarance Darrow, Scopes Trial, 1925

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


"If men were immortal, they never would have come into the world."

--Galileo, 1632