Monday, January 31, 2011

Music Monday: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

If Nine Inch Nails raped Blondie, the child would probably sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. An at times pounding collection of punk rock, electronic, and pop, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the best bands to add to a driving playlist. With simple song lyrics that are never simplistic, you’ll probably find yourself singing along at the top of your lungs after a few listens.

Their material covers a broad spectrum, from the rock clichés of sex, drugs and lost love to the heady realm of art, religion and revolution. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a prime example of how new bands are mixing what worked before with what people are interested in now.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Pin
Uploaded by jesus_lizard. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Reflection #15

Statistics can be misleading . For example, consider the fact that, statistically, the average American has slightly less than one testicle.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pray for Understanding

I have been corresponding back and forth with a Christian for about a week through e-mail (I read all the e-mail sent to me, and I often reply back, though I don’t often get re-replies). I asked if they mind if I post some of the e-mails on here, but have not yet gotten a response. The last I heard from them, they simply sent me a link to this site, which I think is tantamount to a brush-off.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need permission, but this person was polite and well-meaning, and I have no interest in making our private conversations public unless they condone it. Our exchange was largely one of them presenting me with tired clichés and my replies, but at times you could tell this person was truly trying to think of something interesting and personal to say just for me.

Regardless, I do want to focus on one particular aspect of Christianity that I think most atheists can relate to: the complete emptiness of prayer.

I’ll be honest, I have never talked to atheists about prayer, but I suspect that most have had the same experience as myself. Personally, I got nothing from prayer. I got nothing from prayer when I was raised Catholic and I did rosaries, I got nothing from prayer when I knelt down next to my bed before I went to sleep, I got nothing from prayer when protestant friends invited me to prayer circles, I got nothing from prayer when I prayed desperately while alone and searching.

Please don’t misunderstand me. To my knowledge, I have never prayed for anything. I was taught that asking for material possessions or for something to happen or for “a sign” is not how prayer works. I was taught (and I believe this is probably the predominant view) that prayer is communion with the divine.

Now, I was never expecting a full-blown conversation, or even for words to pop up in my head from an unknown source. In fact, I don’t even know what to expect. I guess I was hoping for some kind of intangible feeling, some sense of higher power or greater purpose, or something about it just feeling “right” or “good” or even “holy.” At the very least, I expected to feel something other than what I felt while praying, which was alone.

Even in large groups of people, praying has a way of making me feel completely and utterly disconnected. I can meditate with the best of them (since this is the goal of meditation; to remove oneself from where ever you are), but prayer completely eludes me. I have read thousands of accounts on the experience of prayer, and yet I have come to the conclusion that I am either incapable of experiencing what people describe, or that these accounts are lies/exaggerations.

When trying to explain this to Christians, I get the same, tired old spiel. I hear how I’m doing it wrong, and always an invitation to try it again. It kind of reminds me of talking to stoners. If you tell a pothead that getting high doesn’t really do anything for you, they tell you, “You must be doing it wrong.” They then invite me to toke up and do some inane thing like watch a movie or eat something unusual or listen to a horrible band (FYI: if a band only sounds good while stoned, they are equivalent to a person who is only attractive when you’re drunk).

Now, I have long abandoned prayer as something I am simply incapable of. I’m not opposed to prayer, and if you think you figured out the magical formula, detail it for me and I’ll give it a whirl (why not, I have time). But from what I understand about the burgeoning field of neuro-theology, there is evidence that certain individuals are genetically pre-disposed to being able to experience prayer.

I have no interest in looking up anything at the moment, but in years past I have read many articles about brain scans done on individuals who were either praying or meditating or going into trance. One particular thing I remember about those who prayed was that people who did pray often experienced stimulation in a portion of the brain that implied they recognized someone was watching them or was nearby. There are literally people whose brains are telling them during prayer that they are not alone, and I suspect that the reason prayer “works” for these people is that they have managed to trigger this brain response.

I wouldn’t bother trying to discuss things like this with Christians, because I don’t think they even believe in brains (they think with their cholesterol clogged “hearts,” after all). Still, it is interesting that religion has managed to exploit this induced state of schizophrenia in order to provide a nearly irrefutable proof to those capable of experiencing it.

Think about it… if someone explained to you a way to hack your brain (which is basically what you are doing when you pray), you might be inclined to listen to other things they have to say, especially if they work the whole thing into an elaborate folktale. I’m sure the healing power of religious ceremonies also seemed damn near miraculous before we understood the placebo effect.

As science delves deeper and deeper into understanding the true mechanics of how the universe and our bodies work, I have a feeling that religion doesn’t have a prayer (just don’t call this prediction a prophecy).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Ever… #2

You ever position your hand while taking a shower so that water appears to be coming out of your finger, then pretend to yourself it’s magic or that you’re Poseidon or a foutain, etc.?

Top Ten: Countries That Sound Like a Disease or Disorder

10. Wales
9. Botswana
8. Madagascar
7. Burundi
6. Croatia
5. Maldives
4. Belarus
3. Malaysia
2. Burkina Faso
1. Micronesia

Monday, January 24, 2011

Discussion: Pain

What was the most painful thing you ever experienced (not counting birth or kidney stones)?

Music Monday: Beck

Everyone who loves 90’s music is familiar with Beck’s surrealistic debut single, “Loser.” This iconic piece of alternative rock nostalgia was arranged, written and recorded in about six and a half hours with only minor studio polish months later.

Born Bek David Campbell, Beck’s talent as a multi-instrumentalist blended with his eclectic taste and willingness to mix genres not only on an album, but within the same song, have resulted in one of the most arguably diverse music catalogues of any single artist in history, save only the likes of Frank Zappa.

Since this is a blog which focuses on religion, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it when it comes to Beck. Raised as a scientologist, Beck has been very private about his beliefs, and began his career by focusing on his Jewish heritage on his mother’s side (though he never practiced Judaism). His religion came to the forefront in the 2000s, when his 9 year relationship to designer Leigh Limon ended in 2000.

Beck then wrote most of the songs for his amazing 2002 album, Sea Change, within a week of the break-up. Not longer after, he began dating the twin sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi, Marissa, who was a fellow Scientologist. They were married in early 2004, just before the birth of the couple’s first child.

Subsequent releases by Beck contained much more obvious references to Scientology and it’s teaching, particularly 2006’s The Information and 2008’s Modern Guilt (for example, the song “Volcano”).

Recently, Beck has embarked on an ambitious project called “Beck’s Record Club,” which organizes single-day recording sessions with other musicians where the goal is to sit down in the morning and record an entire classic album in new and imaginative ways by nightfall. The first albums to get this treatment were The Velvet Underground & Nico and Songs of Leonard Cohen. They have also covered entire albums by Skip Spence, INXS, and Yanni. [A video from the INXS recording session has been at the bottom of my blog for the past month.]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Reflection #14

A good leader is the first to find out he is wrong. A great leader is the only one to find out he is wrong.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Political Views

It occurred to me that I have never written a clear explanation of my political views. Rather than being a manifesto, I would like to put forth a sort of political mission statement which defines my views as plainly and simply as I can. This is also the first dual post which will go on both Skeptical Eye and Anything But Theist that I have ever done, as I think the content of it would be useful if posted for both audiences.

While I consider myself a liberal – a far, far left, though non-extremist liberal – I’m not a Democrat. I hate Obama, and hate is a strong word. Frankly, I wouldn’t care if he died and Joe Biden became president (he’s just crazy enough for me to like a little bit). But this shouldn’t be about who I like and dislike, or making shocking statements that can be construed as thinly veiled threats.

One thing I was reminded of recently was that many liberals hate capitalism. I do not. While I’m not a functionalist, I see a need for free enterprise just as I see a need for government, which is why I’m not an anarchist. Don’t get me wrong, I think I would rather live in a socialist anarchy than under cronyism, but capitalism and democracy need not devolve into an unhealthy relationship between the wealthy and the governing.

To this end, the very system we have today could, I believe, be solved with simple but stringent regulation on both business and government. I’m big on regulation, especially when it comes to business and government. When it comes to individual people, however, I couldn’t possibly oppose regulation any more.

I think the role of the government regarding individuals is to defend personal liberty, not enforce social norms. Gay marriage ought to be legal, and marrying your horse ought to be legal, too. Yeah, I said it. Get the fuck over it. Is the world going to end if some psycho marries an animal? Chances are he was going to fuck it anyway, so who cares? There are so much worse things done to horses, but remember: nay means nay.

I believe every drug should be legalized for purchase by adults over 15. I think you should be allowed to apply for adulthood at 15, for that matter. This may seem confusing or foreign, but I think that those who are willing to accept responsibility for themselves at 15 ought to be legally allowed to apply for adult status before 18.

I believe in strict gun control, though people should be allowed to own firearms. I don’t have any specific rules I believe in here, because I think it ought to be up to a community to determine what restrictions are in place, from the state down. If a state wants to ban handguns, that’s their choice. If a city wants to ban high capacity magazines, that’s also their choice. If you don’t like it, move somewhere else. I’m sure you’ll always find the gun you want in Texas, and if that’s too warm, try one of the Dakotas.

Not only do I support abortion, I advocate for infanticide. Why? Because I don’t see anything wrong with killing something during a stage when no one on Earth has conscious memory. I would say a good cut off for when you can’t kill a baby is when they can talk. Words or sentences? What if they’re mute? All valid concerns, but I think it’s best left to the individual mother. Oh yeah, the mother should decide, not the father. Maybe a safer cutoff would be to say “When you apply for a birth certificate,” and make some arbitrary limit, say a few months or a year, though I would prefer just leaving it to individual discretion.

I’m a huge supporter of a Palestinian state, and I view Israel as a human rights catastrophe. Some days I think that maybe they can live side by side with the Palestinians, but other days I can’t forget the fact that they manipulated colonialism through sympathetic pity over the Holocaust to oppress the Palestinian people and murder 1.5 million of them. So, I border on supporting a two-state solution and simply kicking the Jews out completely.

Now that I’ve lost the attention of all of my liberal readers (and the very religious conservatives), time for me to alienate those on the right. I think the tax rate on income over $500,000 should be over 75%. I think churches should be taxed. I think private charities ought to be highly regulated and forced to spend a very high percentage of their income on actual services, not administrative fees, or else face taxation. Inheritance should also be heavily taxed beyond a certain point (I have no specific amount in mind, but I would say anything above six digits should be taxed as income).

Basically I love taxes… except sales, property, and corporate tax. If your income is going to be taxed, your money shouldn’t be double taxed by taxing you again when you go to spend it or for simply owning property, and income earned by a company ought to be used to pay those who work there and grow the business.

I think the money we spend on the military should be used in education, and the money currently used for education can be the new military budget. We have too many smart bombs and dumb kids. Wars can be supported democratically through the purchase of war bonds, which will ensure a rapid loss of funding for unpopular military activity.

There is no excuse for our continued wars of aggressive occupation, and our treatment of not only foreign prisoners, but also domestic criminals is frankly reprehensible. Part of this would be solved by various other policies I mentioned (ending the drug war, cutting corporate ties to government), but it is worth mentioning on its own.

I think strict environmental controls need to be in place, and should be funded by the government. Maintaining our habitat is the responsibility of the government, in my view, not a company’s. Business cannot be expected to be concerned about protecting the citizenry. This means it ought to be up to the government to provide business with the tools it needs to lower pollution of all kinds.

I believe it ought to be illegal to import a good that would have been illegally produced if it had been made in the same way in America. In other words, if people are paid 17 cents a day to make something, it should not be imported. If its production does not meet environmental standards held in the US, it should not be imported. This would prevent jobs from leaving the country and maintain social justice on a global scale by preventing the current system of international corporate exploitation.

I see the government’s primary duty to be to protect and serve its citizens, and I see healthcare as a basic human right. I see welfare and unemployment benefits to be more necessary now than ever, though I feel the government could also do more to provide job opportunities and training to those who are in poverty. However, there will always be people who are incapable of working (either temporarily or permanently), and there should always be a safety net for these people.

That just about covers the main things, except what I consider the most important of all: everyone should feel they are free to stand up and speak their mind. Censorship is perhaps the greatest crime a government can commit (and the rudest thing an individual can do), because people who are not free to voice their opinions and grievances are well on their way to losing every freedom they enjoy.

Overall, I would say my ideology is based on the concept of social justice and equal opportunity. I believe it is best for humanity if all people with ability are provided the means of achieving their full potential, whether they are born into a rich or poor family. I shudder to think of how many great minds have been held down in bodies born into a situation that doomed them from the start.

And that’s what I believe.

Advice For Idiots #1

Out of mouthwash? Try bleach. It kills germs and keeps your teeth sparkling white.

Just moved to a new area and don’t know where to buy drugs? Ask a cop, they know where the dealers hang out.

Has your wife stopped having sex with you? Call up her sister, it’s close enough.

Using your fireplace to stay warm in the winter? Remember to shut the flume, to keep the warm air inside.

See a hot girl on the street? Ask if she swallows.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hating Grace

I keep a lot of religious blogs in my list of blogs posted in the sidebar for so many reasons. It’s the fair thing to do, and quite often I find that religious people have very interesting things to say about religion and even non-religious topics. But secretly, the main reason is to provide me with material.

You see, reading a post by a Christian does something to me. If you’re a Christian and reading this, you can’t really compare it to you reading something written by an atheist. I know this, because I used to be religious.

No, for me, reading a Christian perspective piece can never get personal. It’s not enough to actually make me angry, but it’s enough to make me want to at least present a correction, after which I can be on my merry way knowing I at least provided an alternative view.

If you want to know what I mean, read this:

I love the Wizard of Oz. Sometimes I feel like Dorothy, having her house picked up by a hurricane and flung from her home in Iowa to the far off land of Oz.
See, it’s not enough to make you angry, but it’s enough to make you say, “Wow, this person is really dumb… maybe they just made an honest mistake or they wrote this early in the morning. I’ll leave a comment pointing out Dorothy was carried not by a hurricane, but by a tornado, and she lived in Kansas, not Iowa.”

I suppose most people would just laugh and move on, but that just isn’t my personality. It’s not that I’m rude and nosey in general. I won’t correct the grammar of the person standing in front of me in line at the grocery store, but if you’re posting your ideas publicly for all to see… I can assume you won’t mind some feedback.

The other day, I saw a title to a post on my sidebar that said, “Do You Know How To Get To Heaven?” I thought to myself, “Well, this might be interesting.”

It starts off with a single line of what I can only describe as pure Zen.

“There is nothing to DO.”

She then simply writes five bible verses, which are horribly out of context, and I assume she thinks they justify belief in what most theologians call the concept of “saving grace.”

Saving grace is not only bullshit (I would use stronger language, but there may be Mormons reading, and I apologize, but “poppycock” just won’t cover it) from a Biblical standpoint, but it’s also complete bullshit from the standpoint of logic, morality, ethics, reason, or however you choose to define it.

The verses themselves are as follows:

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. - Romans 3:20

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. - Galatians 2:16

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. - Titus 3:5

Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, - 2 Timothy 1:9

Therefore we conclude that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. - Romans 3:28
These are all taken out of context to be interpreted as, “It doesn’t matter what you do, if you believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness, you will be admitted to Heaven.”

The basis behind this relates to other passages which do in fact clearly state that all people are sinners and imperfect, and I believe it does, in fact, include people who have done things like murder who are truly sorry and beg for forgiveness.

But there is a major flaw here. These passages are actually saying, “Not by good deeds alone will you get into Heaven.” The implication here being, you may be a saint, but if you do not put YHWH first, you’re going to hell.

This is not only implied throughout the Bible, it is the running thesis of the New Testament. It is clearly seen in what Jesus calls the most important commandments. He states first and foremost, love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and second: love your neighbor as you love thyself.

Jesus didn’t stop with “Love God.” Jesus calls people again and again throughout the New Testament to take strong, active steps towards improving the lives of others. He is a healer, and he heals not on condition of belief in him, but out of love for all people. He lets his actions speak volumes about how he loves others, he doesn’t gather people together in a dark room apart from the world and preach from a stuffy book.

For example, the passage from Titus that she listed, in full, reads:

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; what being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. - Titues 3:5-8
You see, Christians aren’t like me. They never sat down and read the Bible, cover to cover. They don’t comprehend the idea of “context.” Rather than read the stories and digest the overall message, they have chosen instead to read what they have been told to read, in tiny, easily misconstrued snippets. Think of them as the original sound-bytes or slogans. It’s bumper-sticker theology, and it’s about as Philistine as you can get.

Not thinking that this person would be interested in a dialogue with an atheist, I decided to just leave a single line of sarcasm. When that was met with nothing but a question mark, I tried to spelled it out more clearly… sarcastic. When she left a comment on my blog asking if I was calling her an intolerable person (I wasn’t; I don’t know her and I don’t know if I could tolerate her, I just said she’s encouraging Christians to be intolerable, which she is), I decided she deserved a real answer.

So, I found some bible passages, I made my case to this blogger (in what I thought was pitch-perfect Christianese) and then waited for her reply. I don’t know if she’s offended, confused or if she can’t believe someone would go to the effort of making the kind of comment I made (I have hundreds of bible verses indexed in case of emergency, so it’s no trouble to just cross-reference “good deeds/works”), but she replied with basically gibberish, and I tried to join in to lighten the mood.

More or less, another failed attempt (at what, I don’t even know… having that planned out ahead of time may increase the success rate). I doubt she’s going to abandon that concept from her own views, but she should. Even if Christianity turns out to be right, she’s going to hell for a belief that dumb. They never mention that in Pascal’s wager… I think the biggest losers aren’t atheists, but Christians who practice it wrong and go to hell anyway. And yet, every Christian will openly admit there are people who claim to be Christian but who are not going to heaven because they aren’t “saved” or baptized correctly or a member of the right church… it varies.

Which leads me to the idea of “saving grace.” I think it’s a great concept for rehabilitating people, but it’s not a good method for preventing immoral behavior. This could be why Christians are over represented in the prison system, or why the cross is the most popular prison tattoo.

Maybe if you’re a Christian, it’s a good thing to think “Is this going to send me to hell?” before doing something really bad. Maybe that would prevent some bad things from happening, and religion could actually perform some small role in society, as a stopgap morality buffer for incredibly stupid people.

Now, I say “incredibly stupid people” with all due respect. There’s nothing stupid about believing to be true a story that includes a talking donkey (I, too, loved Shrek). There are plenty of really smart people who are Christian, I just haven’t met any of them.

So, until someone finds me the Bible verse of Jesus approaching some fishermen and saying, “Hey guys, believe in me, and just keep fishing. Don’t change a thing, just believe,” I think I’ll continue criticizing those who advocate for the disgraceful and morally bankrupt ideology of “saving grace.” Not only will it make them a better Christian, it will (most importantly) make them a more tolerable person to be around.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday Word: Naggravation

Naggravation: the seething rage that builds when someone else is bitching

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten: Movie Titles That Describe A Bad Bathroom Experience

10. The Big Lebowski
9. Revenge of the Sith
8. Failure to Launch
7. Raging Bull
6. Terminator 2
5. A Hard Day's Night
4. The Birth of a Nation
3. The Fast and the Furious
2. Blazing Saddles
1. There Will Be Blood

Also considered:

Cool Runnings
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Apocalypse Now
Max Payne
Three Men and a Baby
Chariots of Fire
To Kill a Mockingbird
Some Like It Hot
Inglorious Basterds
The Sting
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Great Escape
The Wrestler
The Exorcist
Rocky II
Die Hard II
Dr. Dolittle
The Crying Game
The Color of Money
On Golden Pond
The Lost Weekend
The Hurt Locker

Monday, January 17, 2011

Discussion: Ethnic Food

If you could eat only one type of ethnic food (Italian, Mexican, French, etc.) for the rest of your life, which would it be?

Music Monday: Lead Belly

Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, has one of the more exciting (though lesser known) histories of any musician. Born in 1888 to sharecroppers on a Louisiana plantation, his family left for Texas when he was five. He grew up playing music, honed his chops in the red light district of Shreveport, took a 15 year old bride in 1908, and then things actually got interesting for Lead Belly.

He was arrested for carrying a pistol, a big no-no for blacks at this time (1915) in the south. He was sentenced to work on a chain gang, which he escaped from. He hid out near his family’s home in Bowie County, Texas under the alias “Walter Boyd,” until he blew his cover by killing Will Stafford, who he was related to, in a fight over a woman in 1918.

Sentenced to 7 to 35 years at Sugar Land, Lead Belly earned himself a slightly early pardon in 1925 from a governor who campaigned on the promise of no pardons by writing him a religious song and impressing him with his performances. In fact, Governor Pat Morris Neff would bring guests to the prison just to hear him play.

Lead Belly was back in jail by 1930, this time for attempted murder in an incident where he stabbed a white man. While serving time in Angola prison, he caught the attention of musician and recording artist John Lomax, who was visiting the prison grounds. Recording equipment was brought in multiple times, and hundreds of his songs were recorded. After Lomax submitted a petition to the governor, Lead belly was again released just shy of his minimum sentence.

Lead Belly worked as Lomax’s driver while recording albums until music became his sole source of income. He stabbed another man during a fight in Manhatten in 1939, but mounted a successful legal defense with the help of Alan Lomax, the son of the man who helped make him famous.

Today, Lead Belly is remembered for having originally written some of the most well-known songs of the 20th century, and he is also credited with having introduced a broader, traditionally black folk music catalog to white listeners.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Today’s Horoscope

Some people are up in arms about the shift in the zodiac birth signs, but my life is finally starting to make sense. I used to be a Scorpio, which is described as determined, forceful, emotional, intuitive, powerful, passionate, exciting and magnetic. I’m not even half of those things, and none of the good ones. But, with the update, I’m now a Libra, which actually makes sense. A Libra is described as: a douche who doesn’t take superstition seriously.

Wow, maybe there is something to astrology… but wait, if I do take it seriously…

Saturday Reflection #13

Why can’t all of the religions of the world just put aside their petty differences, get together, and realize that at their core, they all have basically the same fundamental message: do what we say, or suffer for eternity.

Friday, January 14, 2011


The past few days I was in a back-and-forth with Alana at Random Thoughts of a Crazy Liberal. It was not one which I would consider ideological in nature. Quite the contrary, I suspect we probably agree on most issues. No, it wasn’t about ideology, it was about methodology. In particular, it was about voting.

Please understand, I am not telling you that I think you shouldn’t vote. You may, in fact, be aptly represented by either a hyper-aggressive asshole or a spineless puppet. That’s not for me to decide, it’s up to you. I have nothing to sell, I have no horse in this race, and I assure you: this is not an attempt to persuade.

Rather, I wish to explain something. When you vote, you aren’t voting against someone. You aren’t choosing the lesser of two evils. You are voting for someone, and you are – if you use this logic – admittedly voting for an evil.

Then again, you might like your Senator or Representative. There are some I wouldn’t mind having represent me, like Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders, but I don’t live in Ohio or Vermont.

It’s not that I don’t care, it’s not that I don’t have time, it’s not that I’m uninformed, it’s not that I oppose the idea of voting, and I’m even registered. Quite simply, if I don’t actually agree with a candidate, I won’t vote for them. I will only vote for someone who actually represents me. If I voted for a Democrat who opposes abortion, opposes gay marriage, and thinks Muslims need to stay out of our country… I honestly wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror. I would lose sleep over it, knowing I literally had a small part in making the world a more intolerant place.

This is the current reality of the two-party system. I agree with neither party’s rhetoric, I am appalled by the track record of each, and yet I am not deterred. I know new political movements will arise, and I know it will probably take some more Republican douchebaggery to actually motivate liberals to take off the gloves and stop pulling punches.

The Democrats are no more liberal than Republicans at this point, and in many ways they are worse. While Republicans come out and say how conservative they are, Democrats will lie to your face during the campaign, then bend over backwards for conservative interests once in office. At least Republicans are honest about how horrible they are, while Democrats sucker a lot of decent people into voting for them.

What good can ever come from not voting? Nothing, directly. However, when a large portion of a voting population doesn’t cast a ballot, something strange happens: new groups come out of the woodwork to woo those voters. Every time you vote, you are saying “I agree, this system works, I condone what’s going on.” Voting in the intellectually stagnant state politics is currently in is the surest way to make sure liberalism dies, but you must be willing to vote when the next big thing comes around.

Until the day there actually is a liberal on my ballot, all I can do in good conscience is publicly voice my opinion, register to vote, and be on the lookout.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Atheism and Death

I don’t think there’s any time that is more uncomfortable to be an atheist than when people have died. I was reminded of this last night when Obama’s speech delayed the beginning of “Modern Family.”

Death has a way of turning religious people into inadvertent douchebags. Even worse, people who would otherwise never mention God start getting very mystical:

He’s in a better place. She’s at peace, now. Everything happens for a reason. It was God’s plan.

Basically, because death is such an uncommon thing, we have very limited social scripts to draw from when it comes to dealing with funerals and mourners. On one hand, I understand why this is the case, on another… it’s really annoying to have to cope with both loss and someone shoving their religion in your face.

For example, sometimes political figures show up at funerals and make comments which are religiously inappropriate not only to atheists in the audience, but also the atheist in the casket:

I can’t tell people what they can or cannot say, I can only tell them what I would do if someone says something like that to me. And I can assure you, it’s not polite. I can really relate to that guy calling out the religious, especially since it was outsiders coming in to his brother’s funeral to politically and religiously capitalize on a tragedy.

I realize people don’t talk about God and heaven and the Bible when people die because they’re trying to be ideologically intrusive, but if you aren’t firm with people, they don’t get the message. They aren’t trying to annoy me, they’re just doing what they’ve been programmed to do, and it takes quite a jolt to shock them out of autopilot. Frankly, most people will get apologetic afterwards, at least to your face, because they really do mean well.

So what is an atheist to say to another atheist who has lost an atheist? How can you console someone without the risk of offending anyone’s beliefs? Rather than looking for the magic words which will bring comfort, I think maybe the best thing to say is something to the effect of… if there’s something you want to say, let me know, I’ll listen.

Then listen, without judging.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top Ten: Albums Released from 2000 to 2009

For some reason, I noticed a lot of “best of the decade” stuff leading up to the new year, even though the decade ended a year previously. Not only was I pissed off at this stupidity in and of itself, I disagreed heartily with so many of the lists I had to do my own out of catharsis. So, these are my favorite albums that were released in the first decade of this century, picked for not only containing a few good songs, but because they function as complete works of art.

10. The Dandy Warhols - Welcome To The Monkey House
9. Eels - Souljacker
8. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine
7. The Decemberists - The Hazards Of Love
6. Cat Power - Jukebox
5. Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
4. Gorillaz - Demon Days
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell
2. Franz Ferdinand - Tonight
1. Beck - Sea Change

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pithy News 1/10/11

With the New Year upon us, I look back to last year’s resolution. I wanted to read “The Secret,” and every day I visualized myself doing so, but I just never did.

Nearly one year after the earthquake in Haiti, rubble fills the streets and millions live in poverty. It’s safe to say that things are finally back to normal there.

The big news is that Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head. Doctors fear she will suffer severe brain damage and become a Republican.

In light of violent political rhetoric, Congress has declared a “War on Violence.” In related news, the heads of several legislators exploded due to extreme irony.

Music Monday: Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly has become somewhat of a rock god. The story of his death has been written about in ballads, portrayed in movies, and is the stuff of legend. The most interesting thing to me was that Waylon Jennings gave up his seat on the plane, and Buddy yelled to him that he hoped the bus he was taking broke down, to which Jennings replied that he hoped their plane would crash.

Of course… it did, bringing to an end the careers of Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper,” not to mention the pilot. To date, this is the most famous thing to ever happen in Iowa.

Holly wrote many songs that became rock and roll staples that were covered by hundreds of famous artists in their live acts and on B sides. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones emulated him early in their careers. And if you want to know why guys in the fifties nearly all looked like the nerds in NASA, look no further than Buddy’s iconic visage.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Religion In Public Education

There’s so many ways religion influences the education process in America, and for good reason. The first schools in Western world to be built after the Christian barbarism that decimated organized educational institutes in antiquity were all run by churches. The organization that used to burn scrolls, topple libraries and disband academies and lyceums began teaching their clergy Christian theology.

All Western education for a thousand years derived directly from this until the Renaissance, when exposure to Islamic and Far Eastern cultures revolutionized our knowledge and understanding, even reintroducing us to the works of our polytheist ancestors. Development of the topics we call “sciences” today began (again) at this time in Europe.

In a sense, religions have been there every step of the way when building our knowledge base up again from scratch. “Atheism” and “secularism” as concepts resembling what we know today were completely foreign to the world before the enlightenment, over two centuries later. In fact, atheism was an intellectual outcropping of religious education.

Religion has never been removed from public education. It has been steadily losing ground since public schools began, and it certainly is no longer a major actor on the stage, but it still has a speaking part.

Three classic examples from history class come to mind. The first is the myth of the pilgrims. What we’re told about these puritans is that they left England to escape religious persecution. In point of fact, this politically motivated religious group had taken over England from 1649-1660 under Oliver Cromwell, who had committed genocide on Catholics in Scotland and Ireland. They left because they had been deposed and no one liked them, like Nazis fleeing Germany for South America.

These “pilgrims” then came to America, where their wretched way of life failed so miserably, there was none who called themselves a “Puritan” a few centuries later. Their very name came to symbolize a repressed and ridiculously austere way of life. They drowned, hanged, and burned witches at the stake. No one misses them.

Before there were pilgrims, there was the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Now, everyone knows Vikings came here first, but they didn’t do much. And yes, obviously the native tribes were here first, too. But that isn’t what I’m concerned with. I hate the myth that Columbus disproved the idea that the Earth was round.

Elementary school history repeats this over and over, without making any mention of real scandals like the injustices suffered by Copernicus or Galileo. In a sense, Columbus is honored for demonstrating something that had been observationally proven since the time of Pythagoras in the 6th century BCE. This knowledge was even known during the European Dark Ages among those with any kind of education (admittedly a small percentage).

I find this nontroversy to be a distraction from the real issues. There was friction between religion and progress at times, but the spherical shape of the Earth was simply not one of them. There were observable proofs based on the angle of shadows cast by the sun at different places in the world, and those who travelled far north or south realized that there were new constellations, which implied a spherical shape.

The true paradigm shift was understanding that the Earth was not the center of the universe and that the sky is not revolving around us, but rather that we are spinning and orbiting the Sun. This disproves the Bible, which quite plainly describes a solid firmament that covers the Earth, and people went to jail and were censored for proposing this.

The third and final idea manipulated by religion that I want to address today is the idea of “Manifest Destiny.” In America, “Manifest Destiny” is introduced to kids as the idea that it was God’s will for America to expand to the Pacific Ocean. It’s basically an explanation for the violent actions later taken against Mexico as we conquered the Southwest and displaced native tribes.

Indeed, “Manifest Destiny” was an idea that was prevalent in the early 19th century. It was coined by John O’Sullivan in an article entitled “Annexation” written for a Democratic Party magazine. He believed “the Anglo-Saxon race” had divine mandate to expand our borders from ocean to ocean. He used the term more than once before it was latched onto by the Contentalist movement.

In point of fact, “Manifest Destiny” might be the root of America’s ills. Besides the racial aspect, which is pervasive in the movement, there is also an irritating idea that America is charged by God with spreading freedom and democracy. It seems like a neat idea, except the realistic end result has been our current mess of American interventionism. It is arguable that this is the moment when we started violently poking our nose where it didn’t really belong.

Plus, we wouldn’t have California or Texas… can you imagine the utopia of it?

I wrote this as sort of a response to a common conservative meme that states that public schools are “liberally biased.”

qFirst off, I notice it’s usually people who are 50 or older who say this, so it’s people who know nothing about what’s actually going on in schools. They haven’t been in one for over 30 years, and their kids are too old to be in one. Yet somehow, they’re so fucking informed on what’s going on in them… you know, from Fox News stories that cherry-pick isolated incidents that match their narrative.

I went to both public and private schools in my life, and I didn’t notice less God in public school. In fact, God was in public school every day in the pledge of allegiance. I remember not mentioning God for days during my time in private “religious” schools. In public school, kids who were different were mocked mercilessly without any supervision, be they Jewish or Sikhs or Muslim or just plain different. In private school… well, they just kick you out if you’re remotely different, so they got that covered.

I just don’t see this “liberal” stuff people are talking about in schools. The public school across the street from me had up, “Christmas Break Ends 1/5” for the last couple weeks. This controversy of religion under assault in schools is completely ridiculous. It has a very cozy place that is in no way endangered.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday Word: iPodestrian

iPodestrian: person listening to music who walks aimlessly in front of your car

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Ever… #1

You ever go to a place to eat and order the same thing so often that they repeat your order to you before you can say it?

Top Ten: Things I Laugh At Too Loudly

10. Political speeches
9. Testicular cancer
8. Pedophilia
7. Celebrity overdoses
6. Parents hitting their kids in public
5. Kids hitting their parents in public
4. Other people’s divorces
3. Trisomy-21
2. Prison rape
1. My own jokes

Monday, January 3, 2011

Discussion: Last Meal

You’re condemned to die tomorrow. Last meal?

Music Monday: The Kills

When Alison Mosshart heard Jamie Hince practicing in the hotel room above her, she probably didn’t think she would begin a long-distance musical relationship, but that’s exactly what happened. From her home in Florida, Mosshart corresponded with British native Hince for a few years before taking the plunge and moving to London.

Since their debut album in 2003, The Kills have helped prove that rock isn’t dead, it’s just not popular… but I think that’s where it’s always been most comfortable, anyway. While all three of their releases have been worthy of being truly called albums, their recent 2008 effort, Midnight Boom, was ripe with songs that get stuck in your head all day if you park and turn off the car in the middle of them.

As they continue working on their fourth album, I can only think how lucky I am that people take chances like crossing the Pacific to play music together.

Find more artists like The Kills at Myspace Music

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saturday Reflection #11

None of us are out to burn the world, we just love to play with fire.

New Year, New Format

After thinking about it quite a bit, I decided to make some changes to the blog, and not to change other things. Things that I don’t think will be changed: the name and color scheme. Things to be changed: format.

You probably already noticed I went with a new configuration for the site. I like this one better and have been wanting to change it for a while. Still too timid to mess with the color scheme, but I might be up for doing a new title banner in Photoshop later today.

The biggest change, I hope, is that I plan to use January as a sort of test for a new post schedule. Here’s the tentative line-up:

Music Monday
Tuesday Top Ten
Wednesday Word
Theology Thursday
Friday Free-write
Saturday Reflection
Sunday Comics

The new categories are not that new. “Theology” will just be a post where I force myself to write about religion. This will ensure at least one post a week is actually about the original focus of this blog. The Friday post is just a chance for me to post whatever I feel like, or nothing at all.

There will also be plenty of spontaneous content. I hope to do a Mythical Interview at least once a month, as well as a “WTF Moment of the Month” whenever it’s appropriate. I notice I had 6 last year, and I think that’s about right; I only think “what the fuck…” to myself once every other month or so. I’m not easily shocked.

So, if you have any comments or suggestions, or if you hate this idea or a particular thing I write about, let me know. Otherwise, I will take your silence to be a sterling endorsement for my decision.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...