The Improbability of God

by Richard Dawkins:

Much of what people do is done in the name of God. Irishmen blow each other up in his name. Arabs blow themselves up in his name. Imams and ayatollahs oppress women in his name. Celibate popes and priests mess up people’s sex lives in his name. Jewish shohets cut live animals’ throats in his name. The achievements of religion in past history — bloody crusades, torturing inquisitions, mass-murdering conquistadors, culture-destroying missionaries, legally enforced resistance to each new piece of scientific truth until the last possible moment — are even more impressive. And what has it all been in aid of? I believe it is becoming increasingly clear that the answer is absolutely nothing at all. There is no reason for believing that any sort of gods exist and quite good reason for believing that they do not exist and never have. It has all been a gigantic waste of time and a waste of life. It would be a joke of cosmic proportions if it weren’t so tragic.

The War is Lost

The Pentagon’s latest quarterly “progress” report to Congress on Iraq is a grim tale of a lost war. The Pentagon told Congress what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and propaganda organs such as Fox “News” never tell the American public, namely:

1. The Sunni-based insurgency remains “potent and viable” despite spiraling Sunni-Shiite violence and beefed up US forces.

2. Since the last report three months ago, Iraqi casualties from “sectarian clashes” – the Pentagon’s euphemism for civil war – have soared by more than 50 percent.

3. From May when the new Iraqi government was established until August, the average number of weekly attacks increased sharply to 800.

4. Since the previous report, Iraqi daily casualties have jumped by 50% from 80 per day to 120 per day. Currently, Iraqis are dying at the rate of 43,800 per year from violence.

The Iraqi government cowers behind the fortified walls of the “Green Zone.” On August 31, the Kurds in the north took down the Iraqi flag and replaced it with the Kurdish one. Most of Iraq is ruled by Shiite and Sunni militias. Conflict between them has forced 160,000 Iraqis to flee their homes.

Who is going to tell Bush that the war is lost?

The Dwindling Zoroastrians

From the NY Times:

BURR RIDGE, Ill. — In his day job, Kersey H. Antia is a psychologist who specializes in panic disorders. In his private life, Mr. Antia dons a long white robe, slips a veil over his face and goes to work as a Zoroastrian priest, performing rituals passed down through a patrilineal chain of priests stretching back to ancient Persia.

After a service for the dead in which priests fed sticks of sandalwood and pinches of frankincense into a blazing urn, Mr. Antia surveyed the Zoroastrian faithful of the Midwest – about 80 people in saris, suits and blue jeans.

“We were once at least 40, 50 million — can you imagine?” said Mr. Antia, senior priest at the fire temple here in suburban Chicago. “At one point we had reached the pinnacle of glory of the Persian Empire and had a beautiful religious philosophy that governed the Persian kings.

“Where are we now? Completely wiped out,” he said. “It pains me to say, in 100 years we won’t have many Zoroastrians.”

Can You Go To Jail For A Plot Involving Imaginary Weapons?

From DefenseTech:

In 2005, Ronald Grecula, a would-be inventor, hatched a harebrained plan to build a fusion bomb that violated the laws of physics. He was arrested in Texas after he pitched the idea to undercover FBI agents. The bomb, Grecula said, used light to activate a hydrogen-chlorine solution, which somehow produced fusion. Hmmm.

Dutiful journalists ran the idea by scientists, who were dubious that the scheme could destroy city blocks, as Grecula claimed. (The fact that Grecula was nutty doesn’t mean he was original, by the way. The idea of a light-activated hydrogen-chlorine engine appears to be first imagined by Robert Scragg of West Virginia.)

Result: Grecula, who pleaded innocent, has been in jail since May of 2005. New charges have recently been added to his indictment.

Now, over in the United Kingdom, three suspects were recently let go after a British court rejected claims that they broke the law when they allegedly attempted to buy something called red mercury, a nasty substance rumored to be, among other things, fuel for a dirty bomb. The best thing about red mercury, however, is it doesn’t exist. And the whole plot was set up by a tabloid hoping to score an expose of terrorism.