Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Sister Bret, Order of the Bleeding Heart of Perpetual Skepticism

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Reflection #10

We call what is happening right now “the present” because it is like a gift: you have no control over what it will be and it rarely turns out to be what you wanted.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Dudes: Affair

Wednesday Word: Stonar

Stonar: one’s ability to detect cannabis smokers

Between the Lines

My wife commented yesterday that as she was researching local politicians for the upcoming election, she was put off by how prominently politicians displayed their religion in bios.

And it got me thinking… why? It’s true, politicians flaunt their religion. It’s part of their brand, their image, and sometimes even their policy. Why?

Well, I came up with some theories. The first is the simplest: people are more likely to vote for someone like themselves. If you are representing a predominantly Lutheran district, you start going to the Lutheran church. I assume that is how it’s done.

Another reason is that hiding one’s religion may seem suspicious. People want to know they aren’t electing some atheist, after all. I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions, but I know that most of the Protestant sects are very wary of Catholics, and I pity any Muslim running in a predominantly white, Christian district.

This got me thinking… why? Why does any of this matter? Is it simple bigotry?

Well, yes and no. Yes, because it is bigotry, but no because it is not simple.

Politics in America today relies on dog-whistle tactics. Everything you need to know is written between the lines. Sometimes it’s not so subtle, like when Rand Paul hoists an assault rifle in the air and says that the founding fathers gave us the second amendment, also known as “Plan B.” Usually, it’s glossed over in a vague deluge of meaningless drivel.

“I’m very pro-family [anti-abortion], and I go to church every week [I hate gays]. I believe we need a return to the constitution as it was originally intended [black people shouldn’t be president]. I support our troops and vow to get tough on terrorism [I’m funded by the military industrial complex]. We need jobs [let’s not tax the rich]. I’m not a professional politician [I have no idea what I’m doing]. I represent you [if this is a commercial on Fox News].”

It’s a fun game to play, figuring out what all the codes are.

But what on Earth does religion and all of these issues have to do with each other?

Well, one has to realize that religion is a serious influence upon one’s overall view of the world. There are many religions in America that believe in determinism, for example. This means that they believe in fate, that everything happens for a reason, and it was destined to happen since the formation of the universe.

It seems like a cosmic and deep thought, and it can be, but the brutal conclusion many of these believers in Providence come to is thinking that people who are different are marked that way by God, and are therefore evil or inferior.

On the flip side, some believe that through God and prayer, all things are possible, so if you fail in life, it’s because you’re a horrible person and you deserve it. These Christians believe everyone is the master of their destiny, and because they are not bigots, they often shut out the notion that anyone could be unjustly discriminated against (by, perhaps, that other group of Christians).

Nearly every Christian denomination condemns abortion, but many people are not fervent about pushing their belief on others. Only the most fundamentalist believers seek to impose their views on everyone, so saying you’re “very religious” or that you “work closely with my church” may imply that you take your faith… ahem… very seriously. Some might say too seriously…

The same goes for homosexuality. There are lots of liberals opposed to gay marriage, because this particular issue really seems to creep uncomfortably up the thigh of all the Christian faiths. I think the first one to cave in and support homosexual marriages will cause a mass exodus.

There’s also a lot of constitution talk, and it could mean any of a number of things. Mostly, it’s an empty bullshit phrase, like “pro-family.” Like there’s any candidate out there going, “I hate the damn constitution, and fuck families!” Really? Why not say, “I like to breathe and imbibe liquids. I eat, three times a day. Chew, swallow, chew some more. At night, I like to sleep. In the morning, I wake up, brush my teeth, jerk off in the shower, and start my day, like everyone else.”

Stating the obvious is a clear sign that the real issues are not something this candidate wants to publicly discuss. With today’s “gotcha” media, anything you say can (and will) be repeated, so if you slip up and say something that reveals how stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, angry, violent, apathetic, aloof, or just downright unelectable you are, everyone will find out. The nerve of the damn liberal media, repeating what people say and write…

What cracks me up is all the conservatives talking about jobs. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. The guy has cancer, give him some breathing space. What Republicans really mean when they talk about “creating jobs” is cutting taxes to the rich, which doesn’t do anything except line the pockets of wealthy hedge funds investors, because that’s were the rich put their money, not in more jobs. On the contrary, when the rich get money, they purchase labor saving devices and “efficiency experts” to fire people, so that the company is more efficient and the rich get richer.

But hang on a minute, Republicans have been saying the government can’t create jobs… maybe they mean that Democrats can’t create jobs, but Republicans can break the laws of political possibility (why not, they’ve pissed on the Constitution and defied the Geneva Convention, what’s one more broken law?).

Then there’s the old stand-by, the “political outsider.” When Democrats do it, they’re inexperienced, but when Republicans do it… they’re rogues. “Isn’t a rogue a dishonest person?” Well, at least they’re honest about duping you.

You wouldn’t get your cavity filled by a dentist who says he “graduated from the school of life.” You wouldn’t get a vasectomy from a urologist whose “enthusiasm more than compensates for her lack of experience.” You wouldn’t have your taxes done by an account who “completely redefines math.”

So why would you elect someone who has no real qualifications? There are only two professions where some people would advertise how little experience they have: politicians and prostitutes. Uncanny…

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pithy News 10/23/10

People wore purple in honor of homosexuals who are driven to suicide by an intolerant society. Upon hearing of the movement, Purple jumped off a bridge; his parents, Red and Blue, said they didn’t even know he was gay.

WikiLeaks documents show that the US looked the other way while detainees were tortured and murdered. To be fair, it was hard to watch and there was some really good stuff on TV (have you seen “Modern Family?”).

The Chilean miners are finally out. While they are wildly popular, hipsters insist they were much better when they were underground.

Glenn Beck claimed that evolution is a myth because he has never seen “a half-monkey, half-person yet.” In related news, Glenn Beck does not believe in mirrors, because he has never seen one.

Saturday Reflection #9

There are no people who are “ahead of their time,” only observant individuals who are part of societies trapped in the past by tradition.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cover-Up > Crime

Catholics take the whole priest abuse thing very personally. There’s no mystery why they’re so offended when people mention it, but… just because they act offended doesn’t mean what is happening is any less atrocious. In case you are Catholic and you don’t see what the problem is, let me try to explain how the whole situation looks to someone who isn’t affected by cognitive dissonance.

It’s not about what percentage of priests are abusing people, or even that it happens at all. To be honest, I expect some people in every profession to do bad things from time to time. I expect some bankers and investors to rip people off from time to time. I expect some restaurants will have hairs, condoms and fingers turn up in their food occasionally. I expect teachers to sleep with students, police to beat minorities, pilots to fall asleep at the controls… not often, but I know for a fact it will happen at some frequency.

I don’t like that any abuse happens, and I believe that the most important thing is to catch a criminal and make them face justice, even though I also support leniency in punishment. Letting someone get away with it encourages repeat offenses and copy-cat crimes.

When I hear in the news that a priest molested a child, I don’t think, “Oh, those Catholic priests and their busy hands.” I don’t even think about it. What shocks and irritates me is that the Catholic church systematically hides abuse, shuffles priests around geographically, and hires lawyers to intimidate and discredit victims.

The game they’re playing isn’t, “Let’s traumatize people,” its, “We can’t let people find out we had priests who abused children.” The problem is, the cat’s out of the bag, prayer doesn’t cure pedophilia, and the empirical result of these tactics is the creation of additional victims.

But you know what? Intent means very little to me or most people. Intentions can’t unrape children. You know what could have prevented some of those abuses? Turning your pedophilic priests in to the authorities.

Honestly, I find the cover-ups to be worse than the crimes, and I’m not alone. It doesn’t matter what the scenario is, either. Companies have a faulty products, but they don’t warn people because it would hurt sales and it’s cheaper to handle the lawsuits when they happen. The government has shielded from justice police and armed forces who abuse their power and hurt innocent people.

Look, shit happens. When you run a huge operation, mistakes occur, and occasionally an individual employee does something batshit crazy. I don’t blame the organization for the crazy person, but I condemn anyone who would shelter a criminal, regardless of the inevitable and irrational backlash that will ensue.

A little school in Colorado named Columbine didn’t do anything to deserve being forever associated with a tragedy that occurred there, but can you imagine the outrage if it had all been swept under the rug? It’s almost impossible to imagine, but events more deadly than Columbine occur in Iraq and Afghanistan on nearly a daily basis. I can’t wait for the WikiLeaks documents to come out…

But I digress. I’m completely divorced from any previous prejudice I might have had for religion. I don’t look upon religion with disgust or anger; I just don’t want to be harassed. Most of the time I forget it’s there, and it’s only a problem a few times per year, kind of like herpes. And like herpes, religion isn’t going anywhere.

If we stop mindfucking each other, the sickness of religion might stop spreading… ugh, I’m such a philosophical prude. Okay, go out and commit cognitive coitus, but at least don’t psychologically screw your kids… that’s just wrong.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are You Done With That?

I apologize ahead of time that this isn’t going to be a funny post. I will give it a shot when I find an opening, but this is one of the least funny subjects I can possibly imagine.

You spend a very finite amount of time on this Earth. Very finite. Our human lifespans are short by any comparison to geological, astronomical, or recorded human history. Each of our lives would not even constitute the thickness of an eyelash on a timeline of existence that stretched around the Earth’s circumference.

What’s the point? Even though we’re here such a short time, every moment seems to count for quite a lot. Maybe not so much in the middle of our lives, but each second really becomes important towards the end.

One thing that has always silently bugged me about religion is that it gets people to do irrational things. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s true. Even saying “Bless you” after you sneeze is completely stark-raving ludicrous. I haven’t done it in years, and I still rarely ever get sick (I chalk it up to limiting my interaction with other people, and a raging case of germaphobia).

But really, it’s harmless when someone says, “Bless you” to me when I sneeze in public. I know their intentions are good, but more importantly: it doesn’t hurt me or anyone else. If the custom was to punch you in the sternum when you sneeze, maybe I’d be on a crusade. As it stands, it’s no skin off my back.

There are irrational things that religion causes people to do that aren’t so harmless, however. Now, I know religion is only a disseminator of ideas, ideas which can be accepted or rejected on an individual basis. For example, I know that plenty of religious Christians don’t oppose gay marriage, just as I know atheists who oppose gay marriage (for fascist “survival of the fittest/it ain’t natural” reasons).

The point being: you can’t get rid of religion and expect ignorance to follow on its coat tails. The very act of forcing people to abandon their religion is, in my honest opinion, a religious act. Iconoclasm and forced [de]conversion are two of the tell-tale ritual practices of a militant religion. Atheists who support or adopt these tactics are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

So, keeping in mind that I oppose forcing anyone to do something they don’t want to do, I have a question: why doesn’t everyone donate their organs after they die? It’s a rhetorical question, because I know the two main reasons. Both these reasons are just empty arguments that hinge on an underlying (and unfounded) paranoia.

The first and obvious reason is the religious one. Many religious beliefs hold the dead body as sacred and needing to remain intact. Many Jews believe to this day that your body will be resurrected with the coming of the Messiah. This is why Jews are buried so quickly: they are not embalmed, so they have to go in the ground quickly. Some people who lose a body part (finger, toe, limb, etc.) will hold onto it so they can be buried with it after they die.

Look, I can’t pretend to tell someone they are not allowed to believe that kind of nonsense. I’m not the thought police. But let me ask a question to my Jewish readers (and I know I have some who wander over from my wife’s blog): what of those lost in the Holocaust? Is your God so cruel that the charred and mutilated remains of Jewish Holocaust victims have been prevented from experiencing the kingdom to come?

I’m just asking. It seems pretty ridiculous to me, but what about religion isn’t?

I can’t do a damn thing about religion’s part in this. I can try to reason with an individual who is thinking of not being a donor, but I can’t change a faith I have nothing to do with. But there is another argument: the organ thief paranoia.

I have actually heard an atheist use this as his reason why he willfully would not be an organ donor, and it sickened me as someone who, at the time, was planning to work in the healthcare profession. I still find it completely ridiculous, but I’ll dutifully present and refute it anyway.

Some people think that if you are a donor, that EMTs, doctors, nurses, or really any healthcare provider would purposely kill you or let you die so that they could harvest your organs. Now, I’m not saying this would never happen, but I would also like to point out that there is nothing preventing them from doing so as it is, even if you are “not a donor.”

Basically, if someone wants to kill you and use your organs while you are in a vulnerable situation (like going into surgery or while unconscious), it’s going to happen and you’re properly fucked. Get over it people. The odds are so remote that this will happen to you, however, that I dare say you might be better off worrying about meteorites falling from the sky and hitting you in the temple.

No one has ever explained to me how selecting “not a donor” on your driver’s license would ever prevent someone from stealing your organs, and unless doing so activates some sort of forcefield around your abdomen, I think it’s going to remain a useless decision.

I would love it if every state made everyone a donor by default, but that you could opt out. As it is, you have to often ask specifically to be a donor when you get your driver’s license. Many states don’t even ask, “Do you want to be a donor,” you have to know that you must volunteer. If anything, they should make you look at pictures of people on the waiting list for a kidney before letting you opt out.

I’m really sick of living in a “volunteer” society, where things only get done by those who volunteer to do it. We end up short changed, impoverished, and callous. I don’t understand why anyone would be so selfish that they would demand to hold onto something they don’t even need at a time they aren’t even around anymore.

They say “You can’t take it with you.” The truth is, you can, but what you’re taking is someone’s precious last years, months, days and hours on Earth, and you’re taking them not for yourself, but for the bugs that will gorge on you in the grave. What’s more important than saving the lives of other people? Apparently feeding worms.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Word: Psychadelick

Psychadelick: a large block of LSD infused salt kept in the barns of Hippies

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Reflection #8

Do they have internet in heaven? If not, is it really heaven? If so, why don’t dead people update their FaceBook pages?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mythical Interview: Faith

GINX: Today’s interview is a less conventional deity. Everyone has heard of her, but most people don’t think of her as a being unto herself. She’s here today to set the record straight. Please welcome my guest, Faith.

FAITH: Hello, Ginx.

GINX: I have to know, what is with the dog.

FAITH: Well… I’m blind.

GINX: That answers my next question about the sunglasses at night… I thought maybe you were a Corey Hart fan.

FAITH: You’re funnier when you aren’t trying so hard.

GINX: Little hostile…

FAITH: How do you think I should feel about you? I thought you were going to introduce me as “ye of little- ”

GINX: Hey, I never said Faith doesn’t exist, I just don’t call on you personally.

FAITH: Oh, I noticed.

GINX: Hell hath no fury…

FAITH: Don’t bring my cousin Hel into this, she’s never even heard of you.

GINX: Okay, let’s go with that, Gods love genealogy. What’s your family like?

FAITH: Well, I have two sisters. All three of us are blind. My younger sister, Justice, is actually someone you have evoked.

GINX: I’m a huge fan of her work.

FAITH: We’ll see if you appreciate her verdicts after your body falls lifeless.

GINX: Um, what about your other sister?

FAITH: My oldest sister is Love.

GINX: Let me guess, she’s blind?

FAITH: Legally, but that lucky bitch can still see shapes and shadows, so she gets around a lot easier.

GINX: So Love is the favorite, I take it.

FAITH: She gets all the attention. All the gods adore her, and most of the goddesses for that matter, and she even has Hollywood wrapped around her finger…

GINX: Yeah, Love is pretty popular.

FAITH: Everything has just been handed to her.

GINX: Ain’t that always the way?

FAITH: I wouldn’t know, but I’ll ask Justice the next time I see her.

GINX: When do you think that will be?

FAITH: Probably at the next Catholic priest court case, so not long from now.

GINX: Now who’s trying?

FAITH: Why am I even talking to you? You don’t respect me, you claim to have nothing to do with me.

GINX: I do consider myself to be faithless.

FAITH: And yet you trust others.

GINX: That’s different.

FAITH: Right. Do you know what my dog’s name is?

GINX: No clue.

FAITH: Trust.

GINX: Is that a coincidence?

FAITH: Hardly. Trust isn’t even independent of me enough to warrant being one of my children. Trust heels to me.

GINX: Well, you’re blind, so it seems like you’re following Trust.

TRUST: (opens mouth and pants)

FAITH: Oh, please.

GINX: I’m just trying to point out that the two of you rely on each other, and I can like your dog without liking you.

FAITH: Well, then I’ll tell you what, I’ll go, and you can finish the interview with the dog.


FAITH: Where’s the exit?

GINX: It’s behind you to your left…

TRUST: (sits)

GINX: Well, looks like I’m gonna have to carry the conversation, huh, pal?

TRUST: (scratches behind ear with his hind leg)

GINX: Come here, boy. (Ginx scratches behind Trust’s ear) I have two dogs, myself. I never really gave much thought to whether there were divine pets, let alone seeing-eye dogs for blind gods. I suppose that makes sense, as much sense as anything about the gods makes, anyway.

I wonder if it’s better to be a dog to a god than to be a human… what am I saying, it’s better being a person’s dog than being a person, I mean, unless you’re Michael Vick’s dog. Is Faith a good master, boy? Does she scratch you behind the ears? And under the chin?

FAITH: Yes, she does.

GINX: Get lost leaving my humble abode?

FAITH: I realized I couldn’t go far. And honestly, how long can you talk to a dog?

GINX: You’d be surprised.

FAITH: By what, someone who lacks faith only confiding in those who can’t speak?

GINX: You know what? I’m faithful to my wife, does that count?

FAITH: Marital fidelity… I suppose I should count it, considering how rare that is these days.

GINX: Why do you suppose that is?

FAITH: I imagine because it’s easier to have faith in something you cannot see than in someone you have to see daily.

GINX: And why is that?

FAITH: Maybe it’s easy to take someone for granted who is always around.

GINX: That’s a depressing thought.

FAITH: And everyone wants to get some strange.

GINX: Hmm…

FAITH: Come on, you never think about other women?

GINX: I told you, I’m faithfully married.

FAITH: Other men?

GINX: Really?

FAITH: I just don’t believe you never think about other people.

GINX: Well, I watch porn, but my wife knows and certainly doesn’t care.

FAITH: Oh, she cares, she’s just not telling you.

GINX: If you say so. Clearly you know more about the woman I married than I do.

FAITH: This interview is over. Come on Trust.

GINX: I apologize to my readers, that couldn’t have been very fulfilling. I wasn’t anticipating that Faith would be so stand-offish and aggressive. Maybe I should have guessed as much. I’ll try to screen my guests a little better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sit, Kneel, Pray, Good Boy!

According to the wild speculation of some scientists, animals are physiologically capable of experiencing spirituality. It’s not too wild, I’ll run you through the logic:

Brain research has indicated which regions of the brain are active during spiritual experiences. As it turns out, they aren’t the complex portions unique to human beings, they’re in the rather primitive areas shared by most mammals.

Perhaps what I found most interesting was an observation I had never heard before. Researchers have seen:

chimpanzees dancing with total abandon at waterfalls that emerge after heavy rains. Some of the chimps even appear to dance themselves into a trance-like state, as some humans do during religious and cultural rituals.

[Jane] Goodall wondered, “Is it not possible that these [chimpanzee] performances are stimulated by feelings akin to wonder and awe? After a waterfall display the performer may sit on a rock, his eyes following the falling water.”
I dunno, this has me looking at my pets differently. I hope they don’t see me as a god, because that is way too much pressure. Plus, they’ve seen me naked… awkward…

But, we’ll probably never know whether there’s a chimpanzee religion, or perhaps some form of feline philosophy, or even a canine moral imperative. While we share the same region of the brain that process religious experience, our furry friends lack the brain regions capable of communicating such things.

Which is just as well, because humans have enough mysticism as it is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What’s Up?

I started posting on Skeptical Eye a while ago, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on it here. Basically, I have some criticisms and I don’t think it’s polite to air them on a blog that I was invited to be a contributor for. You aren’t supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth… but this horse ain’t got no teeth.

First of all, SE is run by a guy who is an “anarchist.” No, those quotes aren’t nice… let’s use Anarchist with a big “A,” whereby “anarchy” is what a country descends into when it becomes lawless and “Anarchy” is what a country ascends to when it no longer needs laws.

As a philosophical concept, Anarchy is all well and good, but it requires a sort of gradual evolution of governance. I believe a country that practices socialism can ascend to anarchy, but not a greedy capitalist oligarchy. You can’t skip a step. Anarchy’s success lies in the need for a population that will willingly and spontaneously help others, not one whose mantra is, “What’s mine is mine.”

But beyond the irreconcilable differences in political structure, I have several other problems with the basic ideals of Skeptical Eye. For one thing, the posters play the same tired old tunes popularized by right-wingers everywhere.

They all rail against the MSM (that’s “Main Stream Media,” for those of you who aren’t fluent in bat-shit-crazy). And yet, oddly enough, a good number of the posts are nothing but cut and paste stories from well established right-wing news sources, and there’s a healthy helping of Faux News clips from YouTube.

Look, if you’re going to pretend to be unbiased, you have to get your news from sources that are not overtly ideological. I don’t watch Keith Olberman, nor would I post a video of his. I don’t go posting every other clever thing Jon Stewart of Stephen Colbert says. I don’t read the Huffington Post. I don’t even read that… SomethingKos or whatever it is that the liberal kids are reading these days.

Cutting the strings from liberally biased media has allowed my ideology to grow and evolve beyond the stale, pre-packaged, mass-manufactured trash that Democrats sling. Right-wingers and anarchists would do well to wean themselves off of Fox News’ nipple. If they do, maybe they can finally take some baby steps in a new direction, instead of just being an unwitting mouthpiece for the pseudo-Libertarians, aka Republicans.

Which reminds me… SE is run by someone who hates intellectual property. This makes sense for someone who rarely writes his own stuff and usually just fills his blog with conservative talking points borrowed from others. I would call it lazy, but it’s actually more whorish, because SE has ads.

And boy are the ads hilarious. SE uses Google advertising, so keywords from the site trigger certain ads. A criticism of Christine O’Donnell yields her bright, smiling face asking for donations in the sidebar. Criticism of religion results in Bible Study College opportunities in the top bar. Criticism of banks… yep, you guessed it. Pretty much everything you try to criticize will get its respective ad displayed.

It has never occurred to me to stop posting on the site. I just appreciate the soap box and the ability to get my writing torn apart by packs of rabid right-wingers. Too often, I think liberals shy away from competition, from adversity, from criticism… really from anything difficult. I want an ideology tempered in fire, and that means taking some heat.

To top it all off, most days I honestly feel like I’m done talking about religion. “Anything But Theist” is more or less obsolete to me. What more can I say? “Religion is full of shit,” what else is there? More importantly, what does it matter? Religion only matters to the religious, and all of the “problems” I have with religion are ultimately political ones which are argued either for or against in non-religious terms.

It’s times like these I wish I hadn’t renamed my blog a year ago and completely retooled it to be centered on atheism. Oh regrets… do you ever stop piling up?

So, in the coming weeks, I may or may not start another blog. If I do, I’ll probably do what I did last time and transfer all of my posts to a new location while leaving the old site up as an archive (so old links keep working). Or maybe I’ll keep this one as-is and just start posting more here, even though it won’t usually be about atheism.

It’s a tough call… abandon a blog that no one reads but which I can convince myself is doing okay because I have 70+ followers (more than I ever expected), or start over and force myself to build my [non-]following all over again.

For all the shit I talk about SE, it’s just nice to have your ideas read, and we atheists are just not dedicated. It’s not in our nature to get passionate and fired up and to stay motivated and active in a community.

Atheist blogging goes like this: post some stuff, no one reads it, comment on other people’s blogs, they comment on yours, and if you both agree… you never talk to each other again. If you disagree, one person makes fun of the other person’s mom and their comment gets deleted… and you never talk to each other again. It’s really discouraging, and it’s not surprising that most atheists burn out quickly in the blogosphere.

I have a lot of steam left in me to write, and religion will probably always be a passion of mine, but how many times and in how many ways can I really say, “I know more than religious people?”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday Reflection #7

In the garden of philosophy, falsehoods are not weeds, but attractive flowers which bloom beautifully for a time, until its petals fall away, it wilts, and inevitably dies. Truth is nothing like a flower. Rather, truth is a weed that takes root and returns, season after season (despite the wishes of the gardeners).

Tattoos and Booze

I don’t have any tattoos, and I never even thought about getting one for more than a few minutes. Then again, all the alcohol I have ever drank in my life would barely fill a kitchen sink. I sometimes wonder if the two are related…

Even though I don’t drink, I am very permissive of drinking. I would never sever my ties with someone because they drank, nor would I probably recommend they stop (with some troubled exceptions, which might warrant a verbal jab now and then). The same goes for tattoos. And while we’re at it, we can throw in piercings: I have none, but I’m indifferent to other people doing so.

Out of curiosity, I googled “anti-tattoo campaign.” To my mock surprise, the first few relevant hits were religious. Oddly, PETA also got some highly ranked hits, though they were in favor of tattoos [“Ink, Not Mink;” almost clever].

Why is it that the only people who seem interested in whether other people get tattoos or piercings are religious?

This sort of gets to the heart of why religion rubs the faithless the wrong way. There aren’t atheist group out there telling people what they can do to their body. There’s Christian (and for that matter Jewish) groups organized to discourage tattoos, piercings, alcohol, Harry Potter, masturbation… the list goes on for days.

Atheists pretty much only organize in opposition to one thing, and they do it so rarely that it’s news when it happens. So imagine our frustration when we see religious people are out creating roadblocks for people trying to live their lives differently.

Look, I could pull some argument out of my ass about how tattoos spread Hepatitis. I could parade out the horror stories of regrettable, misspelled tattoos of ex-wives’ names on your forehead. I could even quote mine dozens of intelligent people speaking negatively of tattoos.

None of this really means a damn thing.

The test of legislation is this: if non-consenting people are not physically affected by an action or its consequences, then that action ought to be legal. Emotion, regret, and moral outrage are not factors.

I am a heterosexual, monogamous, married, non-tattooed, unpierced, non-drinking, white man. I lack one thing that keeps me from being a Republican, and it’s not being a jackass (I most certainly am one). It’s a love for freedom, liberty, and [way more than those two heaping piles of horse shit] a person’s right to live their own life.

If you ever feel motivated to tell other people who are not hurting anyone how they ought to be, I suggest you try some good ole fashioned not givin’ a shit.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Last Great Human Mystery

In these times of the human genome being mapped, perhaps for the first time in history we seem to know more than we don’t. Sure, we don’t know what causes autism and people are still dying of heart disease, cancer, botched plastic surgeries… but just go with it, this is the premise of the blog post.

The biggest remaining mystery has to be: what happens after we die?

This is a classic bullshit exercise, because we’re all acting from a position of ignorance. Let’s face it, no one has any inside knowledge on this, since we’re all alive.

“But what about people who have near-death experiences?”

Near-death experience? Would you count it if you “near-lost” your virginity? Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, my friend. Oh, and near-misses, I guess those are bona fide misses (I suppose they’re really “near-hits”). I don’t want to know what happens when doctors revive you. If I wanted to know about near-death experiences, I would ask an expert, like Courtney Love.

“She’s still alive?”

Yeah, I’m as shocked as you. You know what they say: the good die young.

So anyhoo… what happens when you die is tough, but so is, “What happens in people with dementia or in deep comas?” I mean, I took anatomy, so I have a cursory understanding of what is physically happening, but people want to know: is that it?

I would say yeah, unless you can somehow repair the physical damage. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that there is some ephemeral storage method for maintaining our memories that is apart from our physical being. Our lives and experiences are fleeting stories written in sand just above the water line at low-tide.

So then perhaps another way of looking at the mystery is to ask: What is the experience of dying like?

I’m sure if you’re bleeding on a sidewalk and slowly dying, it’s not too pleasant until shock kicks in. Once one loses consciousness, it’s anyone’s guess. If you’re in a hospital, I imagine the cocktail of drugs you’re on makes feeling anything difficult. If you pass in your sleep… it’s peaceful, but I wouldn’t want to leave like that. It’s like breaking up with existence via text message.

Cicero wrote, “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living,” and I agree. Our best hope for existing eternally as fragile mortals is to be remembered. I really believe that having your ideas recalled by others is not only close to immortality, it is literally deification.

What are we but ideas? Are we the sinewy meat that plods through life? We are the heart that beats tirelessly without a thought on your part? Are we the scars we have accumulated, or are we the lessons learned acquiring them?

Cicero also said, “Even if you have nothing to write, write and say so.”

Perhaps it was impossible in the past, but these days nearly anyone can become a published writer. If you have access to a public library, you have all the resources you need. I’m glad to live in a time when it is so easy to share ideas.

Though it is depressing if you look at it too literally… then you see all of these blogs as nothing but pre-emptive, digital tombstones. Total downer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saturday Sunday Reflection #6

At times I am haunted by a past that lacks any real ghosts, so I cannot imagine the nightmares of those who have witnessed true horror.
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