Monday, December 31, 2007

Please pass the Burka

As I contemplate the weighty consequences of holiday food-binging, I think how much I’d really like to hide it all under a Burka for at least a month. By the end of a Weight Watchers followed month, I could imerge again like a svelt butterfly from her cocoon. Danielle Crittenden of The Huffington Post wrote a four part series Islamic Like Me where
she wore a burka for a week during her daily life in Washington, D.C.
Actually, as many pointed out in the comments, she wasn’t actually wearing a burka but an abaya and a niqab, but the function was the same. She wandered around D.C. doing her shopping, riding on the subway, even bought a one-way ticket to New York that she had no intention of using, just so she could go through airport security. Everywhere she went, she was surprised by the lack of hostility she experienced. People went out of their way to either act indiferent to her or interested in speaking with her about “her culture”. However her final conclusion, really it was her viewpoint all along, was that such clothing was a symbol, much like the uniform of the Klan, and should be banned for what it symbolises.

I have a problem with banning symbols. I have a problem with office dress codes too, mainly because it involves forcing me to wear pantyhose which is way more torture in Arizona than a Burka. Workplace rules aside, forcing people to dress a certain way, or preventing them from dressing a certain way, all boils down to someone taking control over another. If I were in control, I’d like ban flip-flops. I don’t want to see your ugly feet and hear that fthp-fthp every where you go. I’m sure you don’t want to see me sweeze my fat-ass into a leather skirt and watch my belly jiggle over the waistband. While I have the fashion-sense not to, I still have the right. And you have the right to wear your flip-flops to the grocery store.

Is that a Twisted Sister Pin on your uniform?

Which is more important? Freedom of expression or freedom from oppression. Can we preserve both? Is it possible to protect the rights of those who want to wear the niquab while at the same time protecting the rights of those who don’t? Do we ban such attire in schools? How do we on one hand tell a child that this is the land of religious freedom while on the other tell her she can’t wear the headscarf? A girl in Canada was strangled to death by her father because she didn’t want to wear the hijab. Would she have been safe if there were a dress policy at her school that would have banned such covering? Or would that have given her father just another reason to pull her out of school? Maybe the answer is letting children wear the headscarf to school, while stressing to them that while they’re at school they can take it off or leave it on, it’s completely their decision.

Women in favor of the hijab have argued:
In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, its neither. It is simply a woman's assertion that judgment of her physical person is to play no role whatsoever in social interaction.

In Islam, a woman is free to be who she is inside, and immune from being portrayed as sex symbol and lusted after.
The second concept unfortunately leads a lot of Muslim men to believe that those who don’t cover do want to be treated as sex symbols giving them the license to harrass or rape (after all men can’t control their sexual desires, oh no). And since they don’t want a whore for a wife or daughter, they force them to cover.

Banning the symbol doesn’t erase the underlying philosophy. Women who wear the hijab, whether by choice or not, are visable. We can speak with them, ask them, “do you wear that because you want to?” Girls in school can be given a little extra instruction about rights and equality. It’s far better to have these strangely dressed females out in the world where they can be exposed to ideas than hidden away. Even if that idea is that she is wearing the hijab because she wants to and is proud of it.

Now excuse me while I go find a mu’umu’u.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Looking into the Islamsphere

The Brass Cresent Awards are out. Which will be giving me fodder for blessays for a good while I believe. I've been reading Sunni Sister for a couple months now and just started commenting. I hoping I'm opening up honest dialogue and not just giving offensive rants (it's always hard to keep that knee-jerk monster in check.)

After two days of reading, I'm already a fan of Ali Eteraz's writing (and his bio-photo is rather hot too). His writing is so selfaware of the believer mindset that you just want to push him over the edge, "Come to the atheist dark side, we have cookies."

The answer is because a devout believer needs to take his faith along in everything he does. If he didn't, he wouldn't be devout (at least so he thinks). The Islam and democracy presenter had to know - and had to let everyone else know - that he was a democrat because of his religion, not in spite of it. This is the "piety" part of religiosity that a secular humanist or atheist neither acknowledges, nor finds particularly interesting. The more confrontational might even call it a handicap, a crutch, or a sickness.

My carpool partner, who is a practicing Wiccan, and I are considering taking a Qur’an class. Her main worry when I suggested it was, "Are you going to be nice or snarky?" I'm very snarky in the car during our discussions, but I assured her that I would keep my snarkiness restrained and let whoever is teaching the class to present me with their Islam and not my poisoned opinion. Though I'm hoping we can find a class that's geared towards non-Muslims looking for information rather than already practicing or wanting to convert students.

I'd like to point out that I'm always very respectful of her hippy-dancing-naked-around-in-the-moonlight-with-other-pasty-white-WOW-players beliefs. (OK, as far as I know they always remain clothed - though I wouldn't if I were them.) This goes back to my earlier blessay regarding letting people create their own definitions of what their religion is rather than pushing on them, "This is what YOUR book says YOU should believe and I'm going to rub your nose in it." As usual, it's very difficult to resist lumping people together under a tidy label, mainly because it's so difficult to take pot-shots when they're all scattered about.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It was Cephalopodmas...

This poem should be required reading on the holiday (I'm hoping for a pop-up illustrated book next year). Though Cephalopodmas is rather more than a mouthfull than Squidmas, I guess it is more inclusive.

I had oceans of help—why, in every time zone
There were octopi, cuttlefish, nautilus too
And squid by the thousands who knew what do do.

And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger...

Even if someone could convince me that a god exists, they’d be further burdened with proving to me why he isn’t a complete fucker.

How’s that for a Christmas sentiment?

My husband and I took a trip out of town and spent Saturday and Sunday night in the camping cabins at Roper Lake. The cabins are spare, but heated, so we were comfortable in the cold with our hot cocoa and warm wine. We watched the moon come up and tried photographing it. I think we mislabeled Venus as Mars and further botched our meager astronomy, but we’re now resolved to actually learn some astronomy this year and maybe next year’s Squidmas will deliver a telescope to us. Satchmo, the most spoiled dog on the planet, played in the snow on Mt. Graham wonderfully oblivious to the fact that he was playing in frozen water (water being his nemesis.)

So why am I so bitter this Christmas morning? The town of Bylas, Arizona. If I were the Canine Goddess, the down of Bylas would be smoted. We had to drive through this dust pit to get to Roper Lake. It’s an ugly, poor desert town with only a rest area and market/gas station giving you any reason to stop. The view isn’t improved on closer inspection, but it would be if they would straighten the road so you could drive through it at top speed with your eyes closed. It was at this rest stop that I saw the dog.

This poor animal was the most pitiful thing I’d ever laid eyes on. As Satchmo was contendly peeing on every bush by the restrooms, I witnissed this sad dog walking sluggishly along the road. It’s head and tail were down. It plodded slowly, it’s body covered in dirt, it’s eyes without sparkle. It didn’t react when a truck breezed by it and stopped behind it, the truck’s occupants oblivious to the dog and heading toward the house along the road behind it. It broke my heart and I pointed him out to my husband who watched him while I used the restroom.

By the time I’d gotten out, the dog had crossed the road. Knowing my desire to rescue animals, usually when it was completely impractical to do so, my husband told me to just close my eyes and we’d pass him because there was nothing we could do. I, of course, couldn’t not look and as we pulled onto the road I saw him standing listlessly by the road.

“Oh, god, he’s standing next to a dead dog,” I cried and my husband pulled the car over.

We got out and I grabbed up a handfull of dog treats. We walked over to the dog but he wouldn’t respond to us, instead he walked away from us, over the railroad tracks. My husband checked out the dead dog, it looked to me like a young pit-bull six or seven months old. We watched the sad dog moving away from us. I couldn’t help but think that dog too was dead in a way. He was moving, but didn’t have any life. I left the cookies by the path he had taken, thinking it was one he traveled frequently when scavagening at the rest area and gas station.

Two days later, on our return through Bylas, we looked for but didn’t see the sad dog. The body of the dead dog was still there on the side of the road, opposite from the rest area and gas station. I have no sympathy for the impoverished residents of Bylas. I’m sure I lack the understanding of the hopelessness that comes with poverty. Or maybe I just lack the caring. While my heart will break for an animal in distress, it doesn’t for the humans. Humans have the ability to do something about their lives, whether or not they have the will. Everywhere in Bylas I saw people standing around doing nothing, yards filled with trash. The ignored canine corpse left rotting on the side of the road epitomizes the spirit of this town. The Canine Goddess would deliver this Chrismas morning a wrath of cleansing destruction to the blight that is Bylas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rakhat Rising

The third book to be discussed by the Nonbelieving Literati is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

When human beings are faced with certain transcendent experiences, we seem to instinctually jump to a language that is spiritual or supernatural to explain it. We reach a point that surpasses our limits of experience and instinctively reach to define the void beyond. Some will call it God, assigning intellect and purpose where there is none. For me that point beyond ourselves, that brink of space between what we know and the potential of what lays outside has no name, no purpose, no reason. All I’m left with are feelings that I lack words to adequately describe. Small words like ‘awe’ or ‘hope’ are merely the click of a pebble bouncing down the sides of well it can’t possibly fill. I have a euphoric feeling of standing at the edge of the abyss about to take flight. I get these feelings when contemplating the potential future of space exploration, such as the documentary series Mars Rising. For the religious, these are the feelings they get when contemplating the nature of god and his purpose for creation. To-may-to -– to-mah-to. What does it matter how we classify this experience?

In the case of The Sparrow, the difference in classification could be compared almost to erotomania. The characters, faced with the transcendent, songs from another world, are swept into believing their experiences were God’s will. Driven by Father Emilio Sandoz, they rapidly go from finding an alien transmission from Alpha Centauri to being part of a Jesuit missionary team traveling and making contact with them. Father Emilio:
went sleepless, unable to decide which was harder to live with: the idea that he had started all this, or the possibility that God had. The only way he could reassure himself during these midnight debates was to believe that wiser heads than his were making the decisions. If he could not put his faith directly in God, who remained unknowable, he could place it in the structure of the Society and in his superiors.
He starts the endeavor, driving it forward, and then counts on the will of God or the Jesuits when it spirals out of his hands. Even the supposedly agnostic members of the group fall prey to his contagious belief.

In the beginning their mission seems divinely driven. Impossible obstacles are easily overcome. As one character comments,
Kinda Spooky, ain’t it. Hell of a lot of coincidences. Like we say back home, when you find a turtle settin’ on top of a fencepost, you can be pretty damn sure he didn’t get there on his own.
Members of the group look to Father Emilio and see the beginnings of a literal saint. Yet reality and misunderstandings of this alien world take their toll as all but one of the naive missionaries are killed, their leaving only Father Emilio alive, damaged and gang raped and a massacre of alien tribes corrupted by concepts brought with the missionaries. Deluded into thinking that they were part of a divine plan, they falsely operated under the assumption that each step they made was blessed and guided. Instead of smallpox, the Sparrow missionaries brought vegetable gardens. As with previous missions on Earth, indigenous beings are often destroyed by unintended and unimagined consequences.

After returning to Earth, Father Emilio explains to Jesuit Inquiry,
The problem with atheism, I find, under these circumstances is that I have no one to despise by myself. If, however, I choose to believe that God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God.
The author, Russell, uses the Bible verse Mathew 10:29,
Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it
as inspiration for the book’s title. The entire story could be summed up from her perspective, as another character responds in the book,
But the sparrow still falls.

From my perspective, thinking of a future mission to Mars, I’m glad we are being guided by science and reason rather than religion. There will still most certainly be unintended and unimagined consequences, possibly even horrible catastrophic ones, but at least we will be going in with eyes wide open and in search of the truth. The sparrows that go to Mars may still fall, but at least they’ll be educated, trained, and prepared sparrows.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shame on you Trent Franks

I wanted to write a thank you to the nine house representatives who voted NO to House Resolution 847 to "Recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith" but they have blockers so that only their constituents can send emails. Then nine who I'd like to thank are:

Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Diana DeGette (D-CO)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
Pete Stark (D-CA)

Please write your representative and let them know how you feel about this vote.

As The Exterminator points out:

the House has now formalized, in whatever small way, four very scary ideas.
They're not stated explicitly, but implied, although the meanings are clear nonetheless. In the following list, the numbers correspond to the highlighted portions of the document that support each idea. (The highlighting and numbering are mine.)
Idea 1:
America is a Christian nation: 1, 2, 3, 5
Idea 2:
America was founded as a Christian nation: 3, 5
Idea 3:
Christians in America are being assailed by secularists and need support: 4, 6
Idea 4:
The United States has a mission to defend worldwide Christianity against its enemies: 2, 6, 7

So borrowing from his bullet points I've written the following to Trent Franks (R-AZ) who voted Yes:

Shame on you for voting for House Resolution 847 to “Recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.” I am not a Christian. I do not believe in the supernatural. And while I enjoy any holiday that gives me a paid day off from work accompanied by rich food and festive lighting, I don’t enjoy the constant threat against reason from superstition. The separation between Church and State is growing ever thinner and I’m saddened that you were not one of the nine representatives willing to stand up to enforce that line. America is not a Christian nation, it was not founded as a Christian nation, Christians are not being assailed by secularists -- if anything it’s the non-Christians that are being assailed -- and the United States should not be on a mission to defend worldwide Christianity against its enemies.

Only nine were willing to stand up and say “No” to theocracy. You weren’t one of them. Shame on you.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Looking for That A-Ha Moment

The Chaplain over at An Apostate’s Chapel wrote an excellent blessay (to steal the phrase from Stephen Fry) over her Stages of Grief over the loss of her faith. The Exterminator then commented

I’m always struck with the fact that there must have been an aha! moment, an unexpected insight, a sudden flash, that undermines their entire worldview

I was going to just comment, but decided I had enough content to fill my own blessay about a-ha moments. And, for me, I don’t think there was just one. Each was a nudge in a direction that led the next nudge to have greater weight. I’m sure I don’t remember them all, maybe not even the most significant ones, but there are three that do stand out:

1) An NPR interview with an amateur EVP “ghost hunter” who when asked if he was afraid, when hunting graveyards at night for voices, of what he would find replied, “I’m more afraid of what I’m not finding.” He was apparently a very honest, ethical ghost hunter who was disturbed not to be finding any voices from the other side.

2) My husband, who has a phobia about shaking hands with strangers, wouldn’t go to church with me because of this (or so he claims). I wanted to have a more “spiritual marriage” and, because I felt he wasn’t enough of a believer, went looking for things that would convince him to become one. This led to some very stimulating discussions that didn’t have the effect either of us were looking for.

3) A Discovery Channel (or similar) program regarding Jesus or the History of the Bible made on off-hand comment that there was controversy over the historicity of Jesus. It wasn’t the main topic of the show, it was one comment, an aside, one sentence – but to me it stood out like neon. I could say that it was the sudden flash The Exterminator was talking about, but if it hadn’t been for the earlier nudges, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it.

I looked through my journal. 2005 seemed to be the year that I tried harder to be more religious but I notice certain things now that may have been nudging me towards atheism. 2006 was the final slide.

George W. Bush and the “Moral Majority”. Looking through my journal I have many, many rants about him and them and Christianity and how their Jesus isn’t my Jesus.

January 2005 – took Introduction to Contemplative Prayer, my attempt to increase my relationship with god. I didn’t work very hard at it, but was non-the-less disappointed at my lack of having an immediate Teresa of Avila experience.

The Fresco by Sheri Tepper, in which an Alien species’ moral-ethical religion is centered upon a sacred fresco that is covered in soot (so no-one can actually see the fresco, but they have stories of what it depicts). Tradition dictates the events and symbols that lie hidden beneath the grime, and it is taboo to ever clean the Fresco (Publishers Weekly). And then someone accidentally does clean part of it and finds it to be contradictory to the traditional teaching.

Read Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. An alternate world where the French, a country known as Terre D'Ange, are descended from divine beings, beings that loosely mirror Jesus and his apostles. The main character is a masochistic courtesan, which in this alternate world is a sacred calling, and a spy.

June 2005 – Attended one meeting with a Charismatic Catholic prayer group. I tried very hard not to get the heebie-geebies from them and left feeling that I couldn’t delude myself enough to get whatever they were getting.

July 2005 – My uncle found Our Lady of Souplantation

He tried to get it on the news and create our own hysteria, but I guess there was too much real news going on that week. It’s the Souplantation on Mission Gorge Road in San Diego if you wish to make a pilgrimage.

March 2006 – Went to a neighbor’s baby shower. Most of the people there were from her Lutheran Church. They handed out blank bookmarks and while the girl was opening her presents, we were supposed to come up with words of wisdom for the new parents and put them on the bookmark. The only thing I could come up with is my favorite "quote", and completely inappropriate for the situation…so I wrote it down.
Don’t mess with Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with catsup.

April 2006 – is when I first start to really question god existence in a journal entry. There’s nothing in the entry that specifies exactly what brought this about though.

From here I think it takes another year for me to transition completely from belief to un-belief to fully embracing my Atheism. There was no ONE moment though. No one died. I didn't experience any significant loss or illness. I didn't want to start attending orgys or cheating on my husband. My impression has been that slowly over time, little by little, I lost the ability or desire to continue deluding myself with an answer that didn't satisfy the question.

God commands you to read this

Ok, if God had ever given me an ecstatic cellular orgasm I wouldn't be an atheist today.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Where are the Squidmas Lights?

This Saturday, my husband and I did the F.Q. Story historic home tour. It’s the only historic home tour, in Phoenix, that offers a night tour to showcase holiday lights and luminaries along the sidewalks. We fill plastic containers with wine and enjoy lookie-looing into other people homes. The wine and festive evening walk led me to a discussion with my husband about holiday displays and the horrible lack of anything other than Christmas.

I think someone is missing out on a fantastic business opportunity here. That someone is me, because any idea that would take me more than 4 hours to execute from beginning to end is not likely to happen. I’m willing to pass on this idea with the Atheosphere in hopes that some enterprising person out there will run with it and then I can be a lazy consumer.

I’ve been googling holiday light, custom light displays, light sculptures, etc. There are tons of Christian lighting displays, a good assortment of secular, and maybe just a smidge of Hanukah. Where are the Winter Solstice displays for the Wiccans? Where are the Kwanza lights? I can find Festivus polls, but really, how decorative is a plain aluminum poll in your front yard. You can’t even see it at night.

A local church has an enormous drive through light tour that ends with a three stage light display showing Jeebus rising into the clouds. We could do so much better than that. Instead of a rope light manger or Christmas train, wouldn’t it be great to have a display featuring the “Airing of the Grievances”? An “animated” light display showing the “Feats of Strength”, as the head of the household is getting wrestled to the ground?

And most importantly, where is the giant holiday squid for Squidmas?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Serving Size: One Entry

Humans love labels. It allows us to express things in short hand. I don’t say, "Yesterday I saw a domesticated bird of the genus Serinus from the canary islands that was yellow in color." I say, "I saw a canary" and, while you might not know the genus part, will understand what I’m talking about.

We use other labels to try and identify ourselves in short-hand as well. Generally, when we ask someone about their religion, their politics, or their heritage, we’re looking for areas of commonality as well as trying to avoid areas of conflict. If I’m at a dinner party and I know the person I just met is a Republican, I’ll try to avoid talking politics, unless I’m filled with wine and feeling snarky.

Now, based on a one word label, I’ve made all kinds of assumptions about this person. They’re Christian, they’re pro-war, they think Bush is doing a good job, they think abortion should be illegal, they’re homophobic, etc. All or none of which may be true for this individual. Some Republicans, I would assume, are really social liberals, but feel more strongly about being fiscally conservative (you know, back when the Republicans were the party of LESS government…but I digress.) But based on the Republican Party Platform I’ve formed certain, unfavorable, opinions. Most likely, this person hasn’t read the platform. For them, the ideal of Republican means something completely different and when confronted with certain sections of the platform, they may say, "but that’s not what I believe."

Back when I identified as Catholic, someone could assume a lot about me, incorrectly. That I believed the Virgin Mary remained a virgin the rest of her life, that the Pope is infallible, that I don’t use birth control, that I was molested by a priest as a child (oops, my bad), etc. If I were confronted by someone else wanting to argue a point of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I’d also be forced to say, "but that’s not what I believe." But it is what I was supposed to believe.

Most Christians haven’t read the entire bible. They have in their own minds a definition for Christianity that exists outside of the bible. And if you asked what they believe it would be along the lines of love thy neighbor and being a good person. Because of the fundamentalists and the extremists they’ve had to label themselves liberal or moderate.

I don’t know if any extremist has ever declared herself as such. Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins (I can’t remember which, so forgive me) said there are no moderates only failed fundamentalists. And I can see the appeal in saying so. It gives us a target to debate and it annoys us when people go moving the target by saying, "but that’s not what I believe." Damn it, sit still so I can poke you with my stick of reason!

As an Atheist, Skeptic, Freethinker, Secular Humanist, Anti-theist, and Bright, I sure as hell am not arguing for more labels. Perhaps what we need are less labels, less shorthand, and more dialogue. We shouldn’t accept a one-word answer the question, "who are you, what do you believe?" That might be where Sam Harris was going when he suggested we not self-identify as Atheist.

On the other hand I love the word Atheist. I love the way it feels in my mouth and rolls off the tongue. I admit to loving the in-your-face-ness of the word, because most of the time I’m not really interested in having a dialogue.

I am only human you know.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tijuana Memories

An Apostate’s Chapel has tagged me with my first meme.

The rules for this meme are pretty simple:

1. Describe your earliest memory for which you can recall at least three distinct details.

2. Estimate your age when this event took place.

3. Tag 5 other bloggers.

I grew up in Chula Vista, California. Chula Vista is now almost a suburb of Tijuana, but when I was there it was a very rural area. We could go down the street and pick our own strawberries. My family would go for hikes in the undeveloped areas and we’d see quail or black widow spiders. My parents were divorced when I was seven, and the house in Chula Vista was sold in the divorce, so this would be in the years before then.

We’d drive to Tijuana for dinner and there wasn’t any border crossing, it was opened when I was young though and my parents would talk about whether we were going to go “that way” which could be quicker or longer depending on the traffic, or “the back way” which, if I remember right, involved taking our VW bug down a dirt road with a stop sign that said “Alto”.

There were two restaurants in Tijuana that we’d go to. One we went to less frequently because it was the “fancier” restaurant. I don’t remember the name, but the dining was in a shaded courtyard with a fountain in the middle that was covered with carnations. I liked that restaurant because the waiter would always give me one of the carnations to take home.

The other restaurant we went to most often. It was a walk along the street (Avenida Revoluci√≥n) with really cool shops, a donkey painted like a zebra, ladies selling giant fake flowers, street-vendors with string-controlled dolls and the clack-clack of the (later to be banned because they shattered) clackers. A sudden turn between the shops and halfway down a flight of stairs took us to Cafe la Especial. They sell the best, greasiest little steamed meat tacos. The place had low ceilings and felt like a cave. The waiters would pinch my cheeks and smile at me. They had carved painted chairs, murals on the walls, and a roving musician who people would pay to make go away to the next table. We’d usually bring home a bag of tacos as well; they were so good cold the next day.

Later years, when crossing back across the border, the “back way” having been closed off I supposed, my mother would admonish me to say I was born in America and only if they ask. I don’t remember but apparently at one crossing when the border patrol asked everyone where they were born I, honestly, proclaimed I was born in Germany, which led to some explaining about my father being stationed in the Army and yes, I was really their daughter.

I still make a pilgrimage to Caf√© la Especial for tacos every time I’m in San Diego.

I’m tagging the following bloggers:


Holy Schmidt

Angels Depart

A Whore in the Temple of Reason

Why Don’t You Blog?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Peek inside the Total Perspective Vortex

I’m an addict of the science channels. Channels like Discovery, Science, History, and National Geographic probably contributed more to my atheism than anything else. I now have that Carl Sagan wonder about the Universe. My new idols are Neil deGrasse Tyson, Adam Savage and Jaime Hyneman. My husband and I are watching Mars Rising, feeling both hopeful and pessimistic that we’ll be alive long enough to see a manned mission to Mars. All of the engineering and science that is being used to go into this mission will not only benefit the lofty goal of going to Mars, but will provide advances in fields that will benefit humans here on Earth. Every day, these shows inspire me and give me that goosebump feeling of wonder that a good sermon used to.

I do not believe in nothing.

The Universe has endless paths of wonder to explore, from going within the human body, to exploring the sub-atomic level, to expanding outward and exploring the planets and the Universe. All of the science disciplines are roadmaps into these lands where here there be monsters. Scientists are the Lewis and Clark to these wonderful lands. Our guides to amazing jaw-dropping sights that are more strange than we could imagine and even hard for us to wrap our ape-brains around.

I’ve added an image to the top of my blog, stolen from The Bad Astronomer. Images like that, sneak peaks into the Total Perspective Vortex, are all the religious wonder I need.

My "god" is bigger than yours and can kick its ass.

BSG Music Gives me Goosebumps

Thanks to John Evo for telling me about this.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hollywood and Atheists are to Blame?

A "culture war" in America between religion and atheism is the underlying cause of the war on terror, political commentator Dinesh D'Souza told a crowd of about 150 people Wednesday night at Harris Hall.

…um… no… that would be completely wrong.

I’m not a political science expert (or even a novice) and my education on the subject is formed from watching the Discovery and the History Channel. And I don’t think a topic as involved as Western and Middle Eastern politics could be nicely summed up in a blog post, much less a once sentence sound bite.

But here are some of my opinions as to why there’s a “war on terror”:

In 1953, the United States decided to overthrow the democratically elected prime minister in Iran because we didn’t like him nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In his place we put in a more U.S. friendly monarch, the Shah.

Surprisingly the Iranians weren’t too fond of our puppet leader, or us, and starting listening to an active critic of the Shah and the US; Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. They had a revolution. Since we kept messing in their business, they took the US Embassy hostage. We froze Iranian assets (and have to this day, not released them.)

Saddam Hussein decided to take advantage of the disorder and started the Iran-Iraq War. Iran pushed back and then sought to expand the Iranian Revolution (or Islamic Revolution) into Iraq. The US backed Saddam Hussein (and sold some weapons to Iran as well, what the hey.) Eventually there was a UN mediated truce.

Thanks to our medaling, there is now a government in Iran devoted to eliminating outside influences.

In 1979, as a part of our Cold War strategy, we began having a war by proxy with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. When we “won” in Afghanistan, we lost interest in the country leaving it’s war ravaged corpse for the warlords to fight over.

Many Muslims from other countries volunteered to assist various mujahideen groups in Afghanistan, and gained significant experience in guerrilla warfare. Organized religious students formed into an armed movement, were backed by Pakistan, funded by the U.S, defeated most of the militias and took control of Afghanistan. “Students” by the way is the English translation of the Pashto word “Taliban”.

One of the mujahideen groups was al-Qaeda, formed by bin Laden. They fought against the Soviets and then Bin Laden went from being a hero of jihad in Saudi Arabia to being an enemy of the Saudi monarchy for his opposition to non-Muslim troops in Saudi Arabia (that would be the U.S. during the first Gulf War.) Bin Laden hates the U.S., socialism, communism, democracy, Israel, and pretty much anything outside of his particular code of Islam (including music.) He believes in an all out war against everything he hates and any innocents that are killed (there’s probably no such thing as an innocent infidel in his book) are justified martyrs in the jihad. I don’t believe we’re responsible for the creation of a monster like Bin Laden, but we are responsible or at least complicit, for creating an environment in which he could thrive.

Oh, and an “Atheist” to Bin Laden would be everyone not his particular brand of Muslim.

In one of the Bin Laden videos, he says,

“It has become clear that the West in general and America in particular have an unspeakable hatred for Islam. We have witnessed the true crimes of those who call themselves humanists and claim to be defenders of freedom. Those who lived under continuous US raids for the past months are aware of it. How many villages have been destroyed and how many millions have been pushed out in the freezing cold? These men, women and children who have been damned and now live under tents in Pakistan, have committed no sin. They are innocent. But on a mere suspicion, the United States has launched this fierce campaign.”

I don’t know about you, but if I’m living in poverty, in a country that’s being ripped apart by war, hearing about villages that are getting bombed by those U.S. devils, I’m going to think this Bin Laden guy is right. And if I live in a country that has a history of the those U.S. devils interfering with my government because they want my country’s oil and they start making air-strikes against my country, I’m not going to think I’m being liberated. The U.S. practically pushes people into terrorist training camps.

This entry has gone on way longer than I expected to and I didn’t even get into our debacle in Iraq. But really it’s all just the same shit in a different country. We mess around in other people’s business, piss people off, kill people, meddle in their governments, destroy people’s lives, and then wonder why nobody likes us. We need to learn to mind our own damn business.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Expanding My Morizons

Taking a break before pursuing the next thousand words in the NaNoWriMo challenge (I’m only 9,336 words behind schedule), I decided I needed to broaden my horizons and start reading some blogs that weren’t specifically atheist. This led me to the 2007 Weblog Awards and the Top 10 Nominations for Religious Blog which let me to Holy Schmidt.

My thanks to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I didn’t start reading her blog before, because her writing ability makes me feel like a Neanderthal smashing stones together under the mistaken impression I’m actually building something.

Then, as now, I cannot help but feel as though all these scientists hold the veritable key to the universe, and yet they are too busy jostling each other at the gate about whose key is a brighter shade of gold to bother unlocking the dang thing

My carpool partner and I have just finished listening to Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and started listening to The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. Both are excellent, and both, perhaps intentionally or perhaps not, have me feeling rather anti-Islamic. I feel I need to get a sense of what the followers of Islam, especially voluntary female followers, feel about Islam. I’ll be looking for a few blogs and I’m sure I’ll feel inspired to write about that later. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Telling People Where to Stick It

Two news stories were brought to my attention this week:
Lab employee, 24, accused of having sex with 92-year-old's corpse and Man who had sex with bike in court.

Humans love getting involved in one another's business. Especially their sexual affairs. We want to know what you're doing, who you're doing, how you’re doing it and how often. And, for some reason perhaps a psychiatrist can explain, we love to make judgments when we get the answers to those questions. Everyone has their own markers on the spectrum between "Healthy Sexuality" and "Weird Yet Harmless Fetish" to "Disgusting Perversion." Religion and society have often engrained within each of us where to put those markers.

Very few have them are on the “Healthy Sexuality” end of the spectrum.

I’d like to put forth the idea that neither case should be weighed based on “sexual morality”. In the case of the man caught having sex with a bicycle, what he does in the privacy of his hotel with his possessions is his business. Do the employees of that hotel feel the need to verify that all shower heads are being used strictly for cleaning? They’d better post a sign in the Laundry room warning not to sit on the washing machines lest people get the wrong idea during the rinse cycle. Don’t you dare slide down that banister!

The case of the lab employee is harder to argue, but I’d say the worst crime he’s committed is violating someone else’s property. The corpse didn’t belong to him. I’d like to think the second worst part of the crime, from the point of view of the 92 year old, was that he’d waited until she died. Personally, if I get to be 92, I’d like a send off from a young male lab tech before I go.

From prostitution to gay marriage to polygamy, we’re consumed as a species with trying to control everyone’s sex life. And to what benefit? Once we’ve agreed that a person has reached the age of consent, they should be allowed to do whatever, however, and with whomever (other consenting adult) they’d like. If you have religious boundaries, you have the religious freedom to stay within those boundaries. You should not have the right wrap those boundaries around the rest of us.

Follow up to Telling People Where to Stick It

Last night while we were walking the dog, I told my friend about my blog entry. He was horrified, disgusted, even angry that I could propose to justify necrophilia.

“But why is it wrong?”

“It’s wrong because IT’S WRONG.” His reaction was so visceral he could not find words to explain his feelings.

“It’s against Nature?” I asked. A disingenuous question, he caught onto it immediately.

“Oh, you can not be comparing necrophilia to homosexuality.’

Some people would.

And my purpose of the blog post, or choosing the shocking subject of necrophilia, is the same as some of my earlier posts.

Why do we believe what we believe?

Most things we believe we’ve never questioned. They’re so much a part of our psyche that even the thought that there could be a question about them causes us discomfort. It’s important for us to examine these beliefs so that they can either be discarded or justified by a more solid foundation.

I’m not on some soap box here to champion necrophilia. I’m mearly challenging myself and others to question why. What about necrophilia is so wrong it should be illegal? Is it the violation of the deceased’s concent? If the person had given their permission pre-mortem for their body to be used for sex after death, would the act be any less repulsive? Less illegal? Is it a health concern? Is there a worry of spreading disease? Is necromania a threat or a sign of some other psychosis that indicates this person is a threat to society? Is the act physically dangerous to the person performing it?

Or is it just that we think it’s gross? Nasty? Shocking? Against nature?

Listening to just a couple of the Dan Savage podcasts, I’m aware that my sexual appetites are mundane. Most things I’ve heard him talk about… well they’re “not my cup of tea”. However, people’s comfort with the act should not be the deciding factor of whether that act should be made criminal.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flying Spaghetti Monster costume

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

May you be touched by his noodly appendage

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I know love, Sir, and you are no love

This is Satchmo...

As you can imagine, he’s got a very hard life. His day usually consists of napping on the couch, barking at birds, chasing lizards out of the back yard, playing with his dad, and begging for cookies, which he gets. In the evening, we’ll drive out to one of the fields around our house that has not yet turned from cotton field to suburb development, and watch him run off the leash chasing birds, digging in holes for furry creatures, and finding any muddy patch possible to get dirty in. When we get back to the house he gets a Frosty Paws ice cream while we have dinner. A night, he sleeps in our bed, under the covers if it’s cold.

Yep, it’s a hard-knock life. Bob Geldhof should get together with some of his friends and write a song.

My point is this dog is LOVED. I’ve always been an animal lover, but loving this dog seems to have increased my love for all other animals as well, especially dogs. Watching animal rescue shows on Animal Planet breaks my heart. I dream that if I ever won the lottery, I’d make a doggy refuge for every unloved uncared for dog I had the power to rescue. If I were the goddess of dogs, Snausages would rain from the sky.

And if I had any kind of supernatural powers, people like Michael Vic would experience daily suffering. I’ve been to the medieval torture museums; I have ideas.

Maybe I am the goddess of dogs, just as I am. Doesn’t do a whole lot of good for all the dogs that aren’t Satchmo. Buster sitting in the pound, Fido digging in the trash can for food, or Poochie laying at the side of the road after getting hit by a car; none of them are going to be too impressed with me if I can’t do something to help them. I’m not waiting for them to ask me for help nor for them to do the right trick. What kind of sick fuck would do that? And it’s not that they’ve been bad or peed in the wrong spot or even bitten someone. It wouldn’t matter. I’d save them all if I could. But without action, without ability, my love doesn’t matter either.

Believers will often quip, “God is Love.” It sounds good. It’s very Hallmark. But even if it were true, it’s pretty meaningless. If there is an entity out there that loves me, LOVES ME, it’s not going to care whether or not I love it back. Looking at the world around me, if there’s an entity out there that loves us it’s obviously not very powerful and I’m not impressed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Skeptics Circle Quick Links

Skeptics Circle 71

Nothing pisses me off more

You could say I have authority issues and you'd be right. Whoever is in the White House, no matter what party, no matter even if I voted for him, I end up hating him. A visceral, bile producing hate. A large component of my knee-jerk radicalism perhaps. And I believe totally in the right of every idiot to have their say (by idiot I am referring to MYSELF - not anyone else.) Freedom of speech is perhaps the most important Freedom of them all and the blogosphere is an important part of that freedom. In the spirit of that freedom, I happily join other bloggers in reposting an article that The Society of Homeopaths was successful in getting blogger The Quackometer to pull; his post entitled The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing – an expose of how homeopaths falsely claim that homeopathy can prevent and cure malaria.

The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing
By The Quackometer

The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) are a shambles and a bad joke. It is now over a year since Sense about Science , Simon Singh and the BBC Newsnight programme exposed how it is common practice for high street homeopaths to tell customers that their magic pills can prevent malaria. The Society of Homeopaths have done diddly-squat to stamp out this dangerous practice apart from issue a few ambiguously weasel-worded press statements.

The SoH has a code of practice, but my feeling is that this is just a smokescreen and is widely flouted and that the Society do not care about this. If this is true, then the code of practice is nothing more than a thin veneer used to give authority and credibility to its deluded members. It does nothing more than fool the public into thinking they are dealing with a regulated professional.

As a quick test, I picked a random homeopath with a web site from the SoH register to see if they flouted a couple of important rules:

48: • Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority. • No
advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named
72: To avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or
in writing) implying cure of any named disease.

The homeopath I picked on is called Julia Wilson and runs a practice from the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough. What I found rather shocked and angered me.

Straight away, we find that Julia
M Wilson LCHE, RSHom specializes in asthma and works at a clinic that says,

Many illnesses and disease can be successfully treated using homeopathy,
including arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders, emotional and behavioral
difficulties, headaches, infertility, skin and sleep problems.

Well, there are a number of named diseases there to start off. She also gives a leaflet that advertises her asthma clinic. The advertising leaflet says,

Conventional medicine is at a loss when it comes to understanding the origin
of allergies. ... The best that medical research can do is try to keep the
symptoms under control. Homeopathy is different, it seeks to address the
triggers for asthma and eczema. It is a safe, drug free approach that helps
alleviate the flaring of skin and tightening of lungs...

Now, despite the usual homeopathic contradiction of claiming to treat causes not symptoms and then in the next breath saying it can alleviate symptoms, the advert is clearly in breach of the above rule 47 on advertising as it implicitly claims superiority over real medicine and names a disease.

Asthma is estimated to be responsible for 1,500 deaths and 74,000 emergency hospital admissions in the UK each year. It is not a trivial illness that sugar pills ought to be anywhere near. The Cochrane Review says the following about the evidence for asthma and homeopathy,

The review of trials found that the type of homeopathy varied between the
studies, that the study designs used in the trials were varied and that no
strong evidence existed that usual forms of homeopathy for asthma are effective.

This is not a surprise given that homeopathy is just a ritualised placebo. Hopefully, most parents attending this clinic will have the good sense to go to a real accident and emergency unit in the event of a severe attack and consult their GP about real management of the illness. I would hope that Julia does little harm here.

However, a little more research on her site reveals much more serious concerns. She says on her site that 'she worked in Kenya teaching homeopathy at a college in Nairobi and supporting graduates to set up their own clinics'. Now, we have seen what homeopaths do in Kenya before. It is not treating a little stress and the odd headache. Free from strong UK legislation, these missionary homeopaths make the boldest claims about the deadliest diseases.

A bit of web research shows where Julia was working (picture above). The Abha Light Foundation is a registered NGO in Kenya. It takes mobile homeopathy clinics through the slums of Nairobi and surrounding villages. Its stated aim is to,

introduce Homeopathy and natural medicines as a method of managing HIV/AIDS,
TB and malaria in Kenya.

I must admit, I had to pause for breath after reading that. The clinic sells its own homeopathic remedies for 'treating' various lethal diseases. Its MalariaX potion,

is a homeopathic preparation for prevention of malaria and treatment of
malaria. Suitable for children. For prevention. Only 1 pill each week before
entering, during and after leaving malaria risk areas. For treatment. Take 1
pill every 1-3 hours during a malaria attack.

This is nothing short of being totally outrageous. It is a murderous delusion. David Colquhoun has been writing about this wicked scam recently and it is well worth following his blog on the issue.

Let's remind ourselves what one of the most senior and respected homeopaths in the UK, Dr Peter Fisher of the London Homeopathic Hospital, has to say on this matter.

there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent
malaria and you won't find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so
people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this

Malaria is a huge killer in Kenya. It is the biggest killer of children under five. The problem is so huge that the reintroduction of DDT is considered as a proven way of reducing deaths. Magic sugar pills and water drops will do nothing. Many of the poorest in Kenya cannot afford real anti-malaria medicine, but offering them insane nonsense as a substitute will not help anyone.
Ironically, the WHO has issued a press release today on cheap ways of reducing child and adult mortality due to malaria. Their trials, conducted in Kenya, of using cheap mosquito nets soaked in insecticide have reduced child deaths by 44% over two years. It says that issuing these nets be the 'immediate priority' to governments with a malaria problem. No mention of homeopathy. These results were arrived at by careful trials and observation. Science. We now know that nets work. A lifesaving net costs $5. A bottle of useless homeopathic crap costs $4.50. Both are large amounts for a poor Kenyan, but is their life really worth the 50c saving?

I am sure we are going to hear the usual homeopath bleat that this is just a campaign by Big Pharma to discredit unpatentable homeopathic remedies. Are we to add to the conspiracy Big Net manufacturers too?

It amazes me that to add to all the list of ills and injustices that our rich nations impose on the poor of the world, we have to add the widespread export of our bourgeois and lethal healing fantasies. To make a strong point: if we can introduce laws that allow the arrest of sex tourists on their return to the UK, can we not charge people who travel to Africa to indulge their dangerous healing delusions?

At the very least, we could expect the Society of Homeopaths to try to stamp out this wicked practice? Could we?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas... oh my!

October 1st put me in mind of the next three months and the next three holidays. I love Holidays. My Mother was really good at decorating the house for different holidays throughout the year, which gave every month its own atmosphere and flavor. It’s a tradition that I’ve been lazy in continuing. Last year was the first year I managed to get the house decorated inside and out for Christmas, mainly because we had relatives visiting, so there was a driving need to make it festive. Without intending to, my house actually looked more Gay Pride than Christmas.

My slide into disbelief started somewhere in 2005-2006 but, looking through my livejournal, I didn’t become a full atheist until this year. This will be my first Atheist Christmas. Which leads me to, how do I, as an Atheist, celebrate holidays?
Do I need to be anti-holiday? Am I anti-religion or am I anti-dogma? Do I distain all religions equally or do I have a particular anti-Christian bent. What is my “hidden” agenda?

I have to admit to having anti-Christian feelings, particularly towards the Right-Wing “Moral Majority”. Did you ever hear the saying “the worst non-smokers are ex-smokers”? Having once been a Focus on the Family, Rush Limbaugh, Left Behind, Christian-jargon spewing zombie myself, I feel particular venom for those groups. Like Charlton Heston yelling, “Soylent Green is people”, I want to run through churches screaming, “It’s all a lie, the Jesus you’re worshiping never existed!”

That’s how I feel. But that’s also, I believe, not the appropriate way to do things. No one would listen. And I don’t want to just go from Christian-jargon spewing to Atheist-jargon spewing, even though my instinct is to do just that. I listen to a lot of podcasts about Humanism, Science, Atheism, and Skepticism. I admire many people on these podcasts; the ones who make me realize I’m reacting in an emotional way instead of a rational way. While I may want them to just tell me what to do, I would be an utter failure of a fan if I didn’t, at least, get that I need to think for myself. Think rationally not emotionally.

Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. When I think about these holidays, the things I most enjoy are the decorations. They’re fun. And with little to no effort they are, or can be, secular. Saint Patrick’s Day for most of us is about green everything, pretending your Irish, and drinking beer. We pretty much ignore the meaning of the word “saint” and I don’t think anyone really cares if someone named Patrick ever actually drove all the snakes from Ireland or not. Decorating with leprechauns for St. Pat’s or ghouls on Halloween isn’t taken by anyone as my believing in them. Anyone I care about anyway.

So if I decorate my house for Christmas, put up a tree, even put out on the coffee table the nativity scene my husband brought from Belgium, am I selling out to the Christians? My tree is decorated with Santas, Elves, Reindeer, Snowmen, and Angels; all fictional creatures. And whether that nativity was originally the story of Mithras or Osiris, does the fact that to most it’s now the story of Jesus really matter? Why should I be offended by one fictional symbol and not by any other just because many people don’t realize its fiction?

Putting energy into fighting the breakdown between Church and State because it’s interfering with Science, Medicine, individual rights, etc, is a worthy cause. Extending that energy to worrying about holiday decorations? Or bending over backwards to differentiate between my neighbor’s religious Christmas decorations and my secular Christmas decorations? I think could be time better spent enjoying the lights.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Julian, Jesus, and Sneetches

Being raised in the Catholic Church I attended years of CCD, where I learned about the Nicene Creed. However, the view of history I was presented with was this: Jesus passed the torch of his ministry onto Peter, the first Pope. The Pope is the direct conduit to God, therefore everything he tells us is the same as God telling us. Years after Jesus death, there were some differences of opinion on the specifics of the relationship of Jesus to God. It was like a sociable disagreement among friends. So the Council of Nicea came together where the Bishops prayed and received direct influence from God and wrote out the Nicene Creed and we know it’s true because God wouldn’t let his Church go on the wrong path.

If this were like the “good old days” where the Church had full control of what was printed and what was taught, I’d probably still believe this. Ironically, it was my desire to be a purer Catholic and my access to a more secular view of history that ultimately led to my Atheism.

So it was very interesting to me to read Julian by Gore Vidal, a work of historical fiction written primarily in the first person dealing with the life of the Roman emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, who reigned 360-363 CE.

Julian, before becoming Emperor, is raised under house arrest because he and his family are perceived threats, most of who are eventually “removed”, to emperor Constantius II. Unlike his father, Constantine, who favored adherents to the Nicene Creed, Constantius II was actually for the opposing doctrine – returning from exile those who’d been banished by his father and banishing, or worse, those who followed the Creed. Julian, indoctrinated to the pro-Arian viewpoint, is schooled that Jesus was alike in substance but not the same as God. Julian lives in a world where subtitle differences of belief, to my eyes, are magnified into major political battles for power that shift faster than Sneetches running through a Star-On Star-Off Machine. That the Catholic Church of today is now of the Star-On variety has nothing to do the actual validity of the Star.

While Julian rejects the Galilean religion, he fully embraces the mystery religion Mithraism. During his reign he attempts to undo the damage that the Galileans have done to the Pagan temples, returning his Empire into one of full religious tolerance (with the exception of those uppity Galileans.) At first thought, I could fantasize “if only he had succeeded” in turning the tide of Christianity’s influence on the modern world. But considering how much of the Hellenistic world the Christian world had absorbed, had Mithraism or Hellenism won the day instead, it’s hard for me to distinguish how exactly the modern world might be improved. Would we have eventually stopped the practice of animal sacrifice? Would sex be any less taboo? Would women have fared more equally? I’m not knowledgeable enough to know. We could just as easily be at war because of a President who’d been advised by an oracle as one who talks to Jesus.

Julian is an interesting perspective on the shifting nature of religious belief. The religious super-powers of today come to dominate not because of the veracity of their doctrine or the guiding hand of a supernatural being, but because of the power struggles of the past and the forced conversions that followed.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Abusing the Power of Prayer

I’m currently reading Julian by Gore Vidal for the Nonbelieving Literati which I’m not supposed to post about until September 15. Between this and the heat, I’ve had little else to inspire me to post. Until now…

Pastor Wiley Drake Calls for Imprecatory Prayer against So-Called Religious Liberty Watchdog Group

MEDIA ADVISORY, Aug. 14 /Christian Newswire/ -- In light of the recent attack from the enemies of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer. Especially against Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I made an attempt to go to them via Matt 18:15 but they refused to talk to me. Specifically target Joe Conn or Jeremy Learing. They are those who lead the attack. (You can see their press release attack at )

Imprecatory prayer, is now our duty

Now that all efforts have been exhausted, we must begin our Imprecatory Prayer, at the key points of the parliamentary role in the earth where we live.

John Calvin gave the church its marching orders from Scripture. The righteous have dominion, but only through imprecatory prayer against the ungodly.
David as our Old Testament shepherd gives us many Imprecatory prayers, and can be found to be in best focus in Psalm 109. Also chapters 55, 58, 68, 69, and 83

Like most people, including most Xtians, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what those verses are so I have to go look those up. Not to fear, I have a link to the Skeptics Annotated Bible. I’m going to limit myself to Psalm 109 since that was the first listed. It’s a doozy all on its own.

Psalm 109
109:1 Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
109:2 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
109:3 They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
109:4 For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.
109:5 And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
109:6 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
109:7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.

Let his prayer become sin… nice. How exactly do you know that it isn’t your prayer that’s become sin? I guess I’ll have to read a little further.

109:8 Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
109:9 Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
109:10 Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
109:11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
109:12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.

What did the children ever to that they should be punished as well?

109:13 Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
109:14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
109:15 Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
109:16 Because that he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
109:17 As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
109:18 As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
109:19 Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
109:20 Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul.
109:21 But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.

I’d say this god was a little thin on the mercy, what with the overkill of the smiting extending all the way to the children.

109:22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.

This is poor and needy Pastor Wiley Drake. That smile is his brave cover for the wounded heart within him.

109:23 I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust.
109:24 My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
109:25 I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.
109:26 Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
109:27 That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
109:28 Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.
109:29 Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
109:30 I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
109:31 For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.

Wow. I can see now that God IS Love and Mercy. But back to the press release…

Pray these back to God and He will answer.

Jesus in Matthew 23: 13, 15, 16, 23, 24, 27, and 29 gave us our New Testament marching orders as well.

Let us join Paul and declare anathema upon anyone" who loves not the Lord Jesus." I Cor 16:22

Church father Martin Luther, led us by saying…"If any of the enemies of God's people belong to God's election, the church's prayer against them giveth way to their conversion, and seeketh no more than that the judgment should follow them, only until they acknowledge their sin, turn, and seek God."

How to pray

Please join us, with Bible in hand, and let us do battle against the enemies of God.

I know this is a really, really long post. Assuming you’ve waded your way through all this, I just want to wrap this up with this idea. If Xtians would confine themselves to doing battle, Bible in hand, by prayer, we’d all be much happier. The whole reason for this confrontation is that Pastor Wiley Drake didn’t. He chose to break the law, using the pulpit to endorse a candidate.

“Although Drake may express his personal views on political candidates,” [AU’s Executive Director Barry] Lynn wrote to the IRS, “federal tax law prohibits such endorsements by religious leaders acting in their capacities as officials of non-profit religious organizations. The IRS has repeatedly warned non-profits not to use organizational resources to intervene in elections.

The Secret

Not The Secret, but a story based on the Secret Test of Character. What a delicious thought!

Infophilia: The Greater Good

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not Collecting Stamps

Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

My knee-jerk reaction to a quote like that is to grab it and cherish it for awhile, giddily anticipating the day a can somehow sling it out again feeling very cocky and smart. How nice to have a shiny quip that can tidily sum up something complex for the attention-span impaired. But like most glib little sayings, it has tarnished really fast on me.

For many people, that statement is true. They live their lives and rarely thinking about religion. It seems like one of those things that happen to other people and they can, for the most part, ignore it.

For me, Atheism is a religion like not drinking is to a member of AA. That’s probably a badly worded parallel, but I hope I’m getting the idea across. I think about religion and atheism all the time. I’ve been trying to remove phrases like, "Thank god", "Oh my god", and "I swear to god" from my vocabulary. I’ve become acutely aware of the implicit acceptance of most people that most other “good” people believe in a god just like they do.

Every time there’s an interview with a person who’s either just achieved their goal or gone through a horrible event, I wait to see whether or not they’re going to credit their god for either getting them through it or allowing it to happen. I heard on NPR this morning that the headline in one Bulgarian newspaper, regarding the release of the medics from Libya, was, “There is a God.” It annoyed me.

I have a friend who refuses to accept that I’m an atheist. She tells people that I’ve become agnostic and looks at it like a fad I’m going through; eventually I’ll come around to being a believer again.

Hemet, The Friendly Atheist, had a post about "What should the focus be?" Creating new atheists or getting those who are already atheists to speak out as such?

Which led to me thinking how can I speak out as an atheist without being some un-born again evangelizer. I didn’t think there was a symbol for atheists, seeing how we’re not a religion. Then another commenter on blog pointed out that Arlington Cemetery has a recognized symbol for atheists: authorized emblems

I like the idea of a passive, non-confrontational symbol for my non-belief. And I do think there is more to being an atheist than just an absence of belief in the supernatural. While the American Heritage Dictionary defines religion as:
Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe
an alternate definition is also listed:
A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

You can’t pursue not collecting stamps with zeal or conscientious devotion. You wouldn’t want to blog about it either.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Potter-flu (Spoiler free - Really)

I wonder how many people today are out with the "Potter-flu". Unfortunately I'm not one of them and though I tried really hard yesterday to read it all, I've only managed to get to page 519.

I've heard from several people, "You know {spoiler}?" Well assuming I somehow managed not to hear {spoiler} in the past few days, why do some people feel the need to then go ahead and SPOIL it for me? I, and millions of others, have invested several years of our lives in these characters. I'd like to get through the last book blissfully unaware of any plot developments until I actually read them. Now I have to try and pretend I don't know, or that there's the possibility that {spoiler} doesn't happen, so I can still be "surprised" if it does.

So if you know a spoiler, don't tell anyone. It doesn't make you appear clever. You don't get do put up a flag. I'm never going to think, "You know I would have read all 700 some pages not knowing {spoiler} until I got to it, but thankfully you told me beforehand and I was fully prepared. You're my hero."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sentient Creature Products

Every morning I go through the same ritual. I take a shower and wash, paying particular attention to the stinky bits. Dry off. Add additional deodorants to the stinky bits. Brush and gargle the food ingestion bit. Put makeup on the presentation identity bit. Make sure nothing is hanging out of the primary oxygen intake bit. Etcetera. Which made me ponder the Creationist argument; "All this is so complicated, it must have a designer."

Nightline had a Creation vs. Evolution debate awhile ago with Kurt Cameron and Ray Comfort on the Xtian side and the Blasphemy Challenge on the other. One piece of "evidence" the Xtian side used, I don’t remember if it was Cameron or Comfort, was a painting. Perhaps it was the Mona Lisa. Their argument was that if you looked at something created, like a painting, you knew there had to be a painter, or creator, behind it.

I’d like to run with this concept for awhile.

First off, a painting like the Mona Lisa doesn’t just happen. Leonardo da Vinci, brilliant as he was, wasn’t born one day and creating the Mona Lisa the next. He learned his skills as an apprentice of another artist, Verrocchio, who learned some of his skills from Donatello, who received some of his training from Lorenzo Ghiberti. Leonardo learned anatomy, performed dissections, observed and produced studies, was exposed to technical skills along with the various artistic skills from other artists. His work would have started raw and progressed as his skills grew. In other words, his work, the Mona Lisa, was his later contribution in the evolution of his own skills and to the evolution of art as a whole. It was not the first painting ever produced by anyone.

Second, a painting doesn’t do anything. I am a complex system, made up of thousands of other, smaller complex systems. Looking around at complex systems that we know for a fact have been created, were created by teams of people. They were also advancements of other simpler complex systems. Bill Gates didn’t just wave his hands and create Windows Vista. He’s got hundreds of developers and engineers that have been working for years, advancing technology from simpler operating systems. Even the ancestor of operating systems, older than DOS, the CP/M (Control Program/Monitor), was composed of other systems (the console command processor or CCP, basic disk operating system or BDOS, and basic input/output system or BIOS.)

Third, and last, I’d like to point out that even if I and my operating system were the result of designers, there is no celestial patent office around to prove who gets the credit. It might be Yahweh and Son, Allah Inc., Xenu & Co., or even Taiowa. Just because a company is popular and currently dominates the market share, doesn’t mean they created the product. It could be they bought it from Sentient Creature Products for $50,000.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Weather Underground

The Weathermen were a militant group of white college student anti-war activists who had the motto “Bring the War Home”. They sympathized with the Black Panther party and other liberation movements going on around the world. As they saw it, the world was on the brink of revolution and either you were a member of the revolution fighting oppression or you were an oppressor. Peaceful protests and sit-ins were doing nothing to end the Vietnam war or other crimes being perpetrated by the U.S. Government. When their movement changed from protest and activism to violence and terrorism, they initially sought to target and kill placid whites to wake them up. However a miswired bomb killed three of their group and the remaining members decided that the violence against civilians was the wrong tact to take. Of the twenty something bombings the group carried out, the only deaths were those three.

I was struck by the documentary, The Weather Underground, that the world described sounded very much like the world that we’re living in today. I felt sympathy for their frustration in being unable to bring about change in a world where the US was involved in the murder of civilians and the destruction of Civil Liberties. The interviews with the now much older and wiser members of the Weather Underground showed people who felt passionate about injustice yet conflicted, guilty, yet still defensive about the paths they took. As one member put it, at the time he was frustrated about what to do with all his feelings about the war and the atrocities being perpetrated and is still frustrated to this day. They didn’t and don’t know what the right answer should be.

They show us a window into how easily one can slip from being one of the good guys to one of the bad. These were white, privileged, college educated, idealistic kids who were two steps away from becoming Al-Qaeda-esque terrorists. They weren’t blowing things up because God or Allah told them to. Their frustration wasn’t motivated by poverty. They saw themselves as revolutionaries fighting for just causes. Some would say they were terrorists because they went beyond civil disobedience to outright violence. One of the members later joined another group that ended up killing police officers during a Brinks robbery gone bad and is now serving a life sentence in jail. While he feels culpable for the deaths of the officers, he also feels he’s a political prisoner who shouldn’t be in jail.

If we look at our history though, weren’t we the terrorists at one time? Weren’t we the insurrectionists? I don’t know what the right answer is about the current conflicts going on in the world, but I do know we’re stuck in the middle of the wrong one.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cosmic Forgetfulness

New Scientist talks about cosmic forgetfulness and the reincarnation of the universe.

The model showed that most, but not all, of the information about what came before the big bang gets irretrievably lost through the big bang transition. And in a perpetual cycle of big bangs and crunches, this information loss means no two universes are ever the same. Bojowald calls this "cosmic forgetfulness".

Universe mostly forgets its past during cosmic rebirth

Carl Sagan and Voyager 1 showed us that our planet is no more than "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam". Now we can see that the Universe itself could be possibly be something that is endlessly destroyed and recreated without ever being the same.

Wow. How can a little deity ever compete with that?

No longer looking forward to an afterlife, I’ve often contemplated the finality of death and oblivion, while retaining some hope that something of me continues on. I don’t remember anything before my birth, but then I don’t remember many moments of my life. Which leads me to the philosophical question “What makes me, ME?” This body of cells is completely different that the one that existed years ago. My thoughts, my feelings, my perceptions, my humor, and my passions are all different from age to age. A brain injury could remove all my personality leaving me an entirely different person or not a person at all.

Sometimes, I morn the loss of my little brother. My brother is still alive. He’s now 26 years old. But he’s not that little boy that I loved and doted on when I was 15 and he was 3. To me, they’re not the same person at all, and I miss him. Then again I’m not the same person I was at 15 either.

Religion would say that we have souls, but science hasn’t found them yet. Even if I did have something that could be called a soul, that wouldn’t mean current self, my current personality, would continue to exist. If it did, it would mean I didn’t grow any more and without growth you can’t have life can you?

I guess I’m just going to have to wait for my death to find out.

Another Atheist Blog

I used to beg God to exist. Now I’m glad he doesn’t.

I’m an Atheist and this is going to be an Atheist blog. There are an ever growing number of Atheist blogs on the internet. Most, I’m sure, have been and will continue to be better than anything that occurs here. I’m just adding my voice to the multitude in hopes that we’ll eventually drown out the superstitious nonsense that currently grips the world today.

God’s not an easy thing to give up. Who doesn’t want an all-knowing all-powerful being looking out for you? In the playground of life, who doesn’t want to say, “My big brother is bigger than you and he can kick your ass.” Then again, I don’t have a big brother, and what I’ve heard from friends who do have a big brother is that when he’s not sticking up for you at the playground, he’s tormenting you at home by pushing your face in the dirt and stealing the heads from your Barbies.

God, of course, would never do such things, right? An all-knowing all-powerful being is all about love, right? All those people who do horrible things in the name of their God have things completely screwed up and obviously don’t know what their religion is REALLY supposed to be about.

Except, they do. They’ve actually read and contemplated the words in their Holy Texts. It’s the rest of us who’ve gotten it wrong. We’ve cherry picked the ideas from the texts that give us warm fuzzies and ignored the rest, if we’ve bothered to read them at all.

Those of you long time Atheists will know all this and know it’s been said better by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Should there actually be someone reading this that doesn’t, I humbly point you in their direction. Get thee to a bookstore and buy The God Delusion and The End of Faith!

I was raised Catholic, but not until after my parents divorced when I was seven. I don’t know remember anything religious happenings in my life from before they divorced. My father is an Atheist and my grandmother on my mother’s side was possibly an Atheist as well. Maybe it was because we went to stay with Catholic friends that my mother started practicing. I do remember her telling me that she wanted to raise me with religion so I’d never feel alone in the world. She didn’t say it was because it was true.

I now think it’s unfortunate that neither my father nor my grandmother, for whatever reason, chose to oppose this new religious direction. Perhaps it was the strength of my mother’s will or perhaps they thought, “it couldn’t hurt.” Perhaps they’d never heard of Catholic Guilt.

The Catholic Church teaches that divorce is wrong. When I asked my divorced mother about it, I was informed that her marriage to my father didn’t count because they weren’t married in the Catholic Church. I remember thinking at the time that logic was sort of bending the rules and also wondering if that made me a bastard. (The Bastard was a TV Miniseries at the time and it was very titillating to learn there were bad words that suddenly weren’t bad words if you meant them in a different way.) She had another brief, non-counting marriage, before having the real one with a third man.

Years and years of CCD (what they called Catechism before that and call something else now) and I never made it to confirmation. Like all teenagers, by High School I believed I knew better than adults and told my mom I didn’t believe in God or that Jesus was his son. This pissed off my mother, but then I was only just getting started with finding things with which to piss her off. I believed religion was a crutch and religious people were nutcases. My teenage self would be horrified at some of my later religious phases.

A year or so after High School, and much family drama, I found myself without friends or family and in the Army. My solitude, my need, and a book I found in the library called Drawing Down the Moon led me into Wicca. It, and the Mists of Avalon, had me convinced that all the time I’d been praying to the Virgin Mary who I really should be worshiping was the Goddess.

You know how hard that is to admit? It’s like getting caught singing into the hairbrush in front of the mirror.

Wicca was cool and I could see all kinds of parallels between the rituals from the Catholic Church and the rituals practiced in spells. And Magik is really all about focusing your positive energy to influence the world around you. Not much different than the woo from “The Secret” or “What the Bleep”. It did make me feel incredibly cool and gothic and special. And I totally missed the point that I was estranged from my mother and was now replacing her with a Goddess?

Then I fell in love with a Baptist who feared that I and my heathen ways were going to Hell because I hadn’t accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. Man we do stupid things for love don’t we? First I went along with it because I wanted him and wanted him to marry me, and then I got sucked into it completely. I helped in my own brainwashing. I went to Bible study. I listened to Christian radio. I was led to be “Born Again” and was baptized with a full dunking in a Baptist Church because my Catholic baptism as a child “didn’t count.” My Baptist in-laws were so happy. Wow, I finally had parents who were proud of me.

And when my marriage was failing and my husband was wetting the bed because he was too drunk to wake up in the night, I bought the Praying Wife and stuck with it. Eventually the day finally came six years later that I couldn’t stick with it anymore.

And without him I didn’t go to Baptist Church anymore. I started going to Catholic Church again because I missed the ritual and non-Catholic Churches don’t feel like “real” churches. Where’s the stained glass? Where’s the incense? Where are the pews and the statues? But it was lacking in the “motivational speaking” I’d come to depend on from the Baptist side. So I retained my brain washing and listened to Christian Radio and read the Left Behind Series. I almost dumped my said-he-was-Catholic-but-didn’t-really-believe-in-it-but-believed-in-something boyfriend because, according to my Left Behind saturated mind, he was damned and going to Hell.

The rapture is imminent you know. It has been since the beginning of Christianity.

This time when love won out over everything else it luckily turned out to be the right decision.

I started to think that if only I could get back to what the Catholic Church was before it was corrupted by mankind. Back when priests could still get married and sex wasn’t a bad thing. I tried to learn more because I desperately wanted a Teresa of Avila experience. I wanted to know religious ecstasy. I thought if I could just learn more I’d be able to reach certainty and not feel like I was deluding myself.

I was watching one of the many documentaries they have on the History or Discovery Channel about the history of the Bible or the Christians, I don’t remember the specific program, but it mentioned very casually, as an aside, that there was doubt as to whether Jesus ever existed.

What… wait a minute…WHAT? I thought that the existence of Jesus wasn’t in doubt. That couldn’t be true. There had to at least have been a guy that at one time was a leader and maybe later on his message was distorted. There had to have been someone who was the Martin Luther King of his day right?

And much like described in the movie The God Who Wasn’t There, the more I looked for a historical Jesus, the more, or rather less, I found of him. This was the beginning of the domino chain that led to my Atheism.

I have friends who are praying for me, hoping that someday I’ll come back into the light. I know that they mean it out of love and concern for me. Out of love and concern for them, I hope that one day they will find their way out of the superstitious dark ages and into the light of science and wonder. My world has gotten bigger and more wonderful since the bindings of dogma have been removed.

It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W.K. Clifford