Presumptions & Inferences

Since I’ll be revisiting the following four concepts in various epistemological arguments in the future, especially those pertaining to alleged miracles, I thought it would be good to introduce them now.

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My Response To Jack Waldvogel

Dear Mr. Waldvogel:

I read your recent letter to the Petoskey Public School District, and as both a native Michigander and a believer myself, I'm concerned. While I understood the point you made about Thanksgiving, may I suggest that you've possibly compared apples to oranges? You asked,

..if God can be inserted into Thanksgiving either directly or indirectly, why must we refer to Christmas Break as the Winter Holiday Break?

Granted, the Pilgrims at Plymouth certainly believed in and thanked God, but there is nothing in the concept of gratitude that necessarily entails or precludes religious beliefs, so the word Thanksgiving can effectively convey a secular purpose. Christmas, on the other hand, does not share such luxury of neutrality: the word itself contains a specific reference to a specific member of a specific religion – that not all Americans or Michiganders share.

You said,

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A Question For Any Lawyers Out There

Hi all, sorry for the decline in posts, but I’m effectively nauseated by (a)theism discussions right now, and I still want to debate computers, if nothing else, simply because they don’t get butthurt and call imply that people are losers prematurely.

So, a quick question: In some (all?) states, when two people commit a violent felony and one of them gets killed, by what logic is it fair to charge one criminal for the murder of another?

This has never made a lick of sense to me. The way I see it, if Drake and Tubbs decide to rob a store, and that store owner kills Drake – how is it ethical to prosecute Tubbs for murder? Am I missing something here? It sure feels like it.

My Thoughts On The Olympia Fiasco

Last week in a government building in Olympia, Washington, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) installed a sign next to a Christmas nativity scene that read:

At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

America has always been a place that ostensibly values religious freedom, and regarding holiday displays, the intent behind equality is that every faith should be free to celebrate their particular version of the holiday season we happen to be in. So if the tax-paying, American godless want to create a holiday for themselves based on their worship of reason or nature or whatever, that's fine, and even commendable. However, does this mean that those without faith retain the right to insult those with faith, in a government building, in a public context of seasonal celebration?

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Tax Churches For Christ’s Sake

The place to begin is by acknowledging the fact that religious exemption is not a Constitutional right, and that such exemptions are entirely the product of the legislative branch. As such, they can be amended or rejected outright, and amendment to our 501(c)3 tax-exemption laws as they apply to religious organizations is the place to start if we want to rid politics of religion.

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What If A Creationist Did This?

While reading a recent Chronicle feature by staff writer Jill Tucker, I quickly learned that Gary Healy teaches mathematics at John Muir Middle School in San Leandro, California. I also learned the teacher discovered a package of religious flyers in his mailbox one day, with a note asking to distribute them to his students.

Healy was shocked and refused to distribute the flyers, which were ostensibly for a Bible-based support group dealing with issues related to peer pressure. Tucker reported that at day's end the flyers remained on Healy's desk, so, at least for that day, Healy directly broke with official district policy, which maintains that flyer distribution for non-profits occurs on an all-or-none basis. I was really hoping to catch some crank gassing online about how this is a heroic response to an outrageous moral evil that should be addressed in the name of the separation clause, but to date I haven't found any. 

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Is Humanism A Religion?

There is debate over whether secular humanist organizations meet the criteria of a religion. Several cases have been appealed on account of the idea that secular humanism is a religion, on the premise that as such the teaching of evolution is a religious endorsement. What do our courts say? In 1987 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals noted, "The Supreme Court has never established a comprehensive test for determining the delicate question of what constitutes a religious belief for purposes of the First Amendment.”

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Eugenics

Aside from its ability to explain differentiation in the Galapagos finches, the idea of natural selection also carries implications for the future of any species. Defined neutrally, eugenics is the study of human betterment through means of gene manipulation and control, and the movement’s scientific reputation was forever tarred and feathered when Ernst Rüdin began incorporating eugenic rhetoric into Nazi propaganda and racial policy. 

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Selman vs. Cobb County

In a controversial decision virtually guaranteed to increase resentment between scientists, educators, fundamentalists and constitutional rights buffs, United States District Court Judge Clarence Cooper ruled against the Cobb County School Board on January 13th that the inclusion of a religiously neutral disclaimer sticker in school science textbooks was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. Prompted by the ACLU, Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education (GCISE) and even former President Jimmy Carter, the lawsuit, filed  by Jeffrey Selman and four other parents, is an ongoing expression of the religio-political battle raging in education, religion, science and civil liberties.

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Separation of Church And State

In 1802, representatives of the Danbury Baptist Association wrote to Thomas Jefferson inquiring about his refusal to follow in the footsteps of presidents George Washington and John Adams, who declared religiously-based national holidays of fasting and thanksgiving. Jefferson’s response referred to a symbolic “wall of separation” between religion and the state, a phrase that finds expression again and again in the debate over the extent religion should play in the public arena.

The institutions of religion and government have been noted in most every world civilization since the inception of recorded history, and for better or for worse most all societies have attempted to marry the two. Whereas Muslims and Jews, for example, both operate under systems of government that could be defined as theocratic or God-centered, one of the fundamental attractions to theoretical American democracy was its refusal to go this route: enter the outdated concept of religious freedom.

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