Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back again...again

Sorry for the long absence.  I have recently been feeling that this blog is a bit redundant in the world of atheist blogs and have been considering taking it in a slightly different direction.  Anyhow, I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

Regardless, this post is not about that.  This post is just another one of me complaining about something that I read.  No surprise, it was the Catholic Church that got me going again.  No one, and no organization seems to be able to get me to fly into a blind fury quite like our friends in Rome....or in this case, Toledo, Ohio.

Perhaps you have heard about it already, but there is an attempt in progress by the Church to rebuke the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for not being vocal enough in attacking issues that the Church frowns upon (please read the second half of that sentence in the voice of Sam Eagle).  It is definitely worth noting that the LCWR represents 80% of American nuns.

Anyhow, today on NPR there was posted an interview with Bishop Leonard Blair of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo.  Bishop Blair is the dude in charge of the above mentioned rebuke.  I would like to go on the record as saying that Terry Gross is an excellent interviewer, and that if you have the time please listen to this story in its entirety.  It is almost 50 minutes long so you need a good chunk of time to check it out.  I listened to the whole thing with my mouth hanging agape as Bishop Blair said things like the following in response to the fact that women are not represented in the theological decision making of the church:

Well, I would say that the interpretation of theology is a work of not just bishops but also theologians. There have been great saints, women saints and men, who have contributed tremendously to our theological understanding, and I'd be the first to admit that in the past women were not represented so much in theological faculties and things like that, and now they are.

The problem with this is not that these women's ideas did not make a contribution to Catholic theology (which is nuts, by the way), but that they had no say in whether or not it would become Catholic theology.  That was decided by the menfolk.  These saints and theologians had no vote on the matter.  Anyhow, there were many such moments, and if you can stomach it for an hour, I recommend listening.  I felt like I was losing my mind.   I kind of enjoyed it.  If you don't have that kind of time, please watch the following video instead while thinking misogynistic and homophobic thoughts (the effect will be about the same):

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fun with Bible quotes! Version 1.0

Here is some fun. This one comes from 2 kings 2:23-24.  

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

That is The NIV. King James is even more fun:  

23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. 24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Does anyone else think that sounds like something written by Danny McBride? Gotta love the OT...unless you take it seriously, then that is some scary shit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I read today about an atheist blogger that has just converted to Catholicism.  Twisted, I know.  I first came across it at Blag Hag on Freethought Blogs.  I then went to the blog itself and read through her post and the comments and her responses.  I recommend checking it out here.  It is very interesting.  This is the first I have heard of an atheist converting (reverting?) to a religion.  I mean, I am sure it happens, I just haven't seen it before myself outside of the occasional guy who says he was an atheist demon summoner.   Anyhow, looking at it, I think I agree with her atheist friends that her problems started when she decided to be a virtue ethicist.  Looking for absolute morality will get you every time.  I actually think that believing in absolute morality is a dangerous thing in a very real sense.

If you go, check out the comments; the ones she has replied to anyhow.  Reading their arguments, I really feel like the "mysteries" of religion, the things that make the religious go, "whoa!", really are what you get when a rational person seriously attempts to wrap their brain around a concept that makes no sense.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The religious life

Every so often you hear about one of these "right to life" bills or "personhood amendments" being proposed in some state or other.  Every so often I write about it.  They are something that really annoys me.  Basically, these folks believe for some twisted reason that a human is a human from the moment that the sperm penetrates the egg.  You know conception.  It is a silly notion for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many eggs never implant.  They believe this because they think that this moment is when the soul is ever so gently inserted by god.  Anyhow, I would like to look today at another reason why I think that these bills based on the teachings of a certain religion are a bad idea.

Let's imagine I have decided to form a new religion.  There are many mysteries that we could delve into.  We could talk about how it has been know to make grown men weep and yada yada yada.  But the core of the religion, I shall call it Identificationalism or IDism for short, is that your soul comes from your name.  In fact, you don't just have one soul.  You have many souls.  For instance, if you are a computer programmer, the title "head computer programmer" would be one of your souls.  If you are a gamer, your gamer tags and what not would be other souls.  All the titles and names and nicknames that you receive become souls, and all of these souls add up to one bigger soul that is your given name.  But there is more!  Your family also shares one, let's say, oversoul that is your family name.  This is the soul that is immortal.  There is an even bigger soul/name as well that belongs to and is shared by the church as a whole.  That soul is god.  You can imagine that apostasy would not be very smiled upon, as removing a name from the church rolls would have a direct negative effect on god (assuming there is only one in IDism).

In IDism, let's imagine that there is a strict rule about naming children before they are born.  They believe that if a child is named before it is born and for some reason it does not make it to term, then that soul will be damned forever.  The tradition is that the child is named exactly one month after it is born.  They see this as a way to make sure that the body fully enters the world before the soul is implanted, just to avoid any accidental damnation (incidentally, Google spell check has just informed me that damnation is uncountable.  The things you learn!).  Thus, on the day of the child's, we'll say, monthday there is a big ceremony with the family and the priests and the church members.  It is considered a very happy occasion.

You can probably see where I am going with this.  Basically, the believers of IDism would believe that life begins at monthday.  They are taught from early childhood that until babies are given a name, they are only hollow shells made to look like people.  In short, they are not human until given a name.  If IDists were in the majority and laws were based on their religion, not only would all abortions be legal, but infanticide as well.

This is a pretty extreme example, but I see no reason that, if IDists existed, we should not give any less consideration to their idea that souls are implanted when children are named, than we do to Christians who believe that souls are implanted at conception.  This is trouble with souls.  They are are 100% undetectable.  The truth is, even if souls existed, and I would be very surprised to learn that they did, we would have no idea when they enter a body.  The Christians could be right, the IDists could be right, or some other religion that believes souls enter a person before conception could be right.  This is yet another reason why I think that this subject should be determined outside the authority of any religion.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Petty barbarian snarkiness

Cruising through Facebook today I came across a post talking about what is important in life.  Someone immediately posted:  "God, Family, Friends, Work, all else. That is the right order!"  Lest you think I am being too petty, I will say that it isn't that bad of a list.  Naturally, I disagree with at least one item.  I hope it is obvious which one I am talking about (Really?  You put an invisible person that you cannot prove exists above your family??).  I also think that "work" should sort of move around on the list depending on what you are doing.  

Anyhow, I am posting this here because I really wanted to write,  "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women." but didn't because it would violate my Facebook policy of not pissing off my nearest and dearest.  Regardless, it is a quote best appreciated in an Austrian accent:

Anyhow.  I am done being mean for now.  That is good.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Total Recall

I am sure I am the only one to think of that title...

Anyhow, looks like today is the day of the Scott Walker recall election.  I admit I am a bit nervous.  If he pulls it off it will be a huge win for plutocrats everywhere.  Seriously, I don't know how people can possibly vote for someone who is in favor of gutting the middle class.  More than that I am sick to death of people going after union employees using the tired and faulty logic that their own job sucks so why should anyone else make a decent living for a hard days work.  Don't even get me started on how badly teachers are being treated in all this (or by all means do if you want to get an earful).  Anyhow, Scott Walker has become an icon of that particular way of thinking, so come on Wisconsin!  Do the right thing!  Get rid of this guy!  I'll be your best friend!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

How I Became a Liberal

It may be a surprise to some to learn that I once considered myself a conservative.  I come from a conservative family.  Growing up, Ronald Reagan was our hero.  I was too young to understand anything about politics, but I had a great childhood and I had confidence in my parents and there reasoning (I still do actually, my mother is racing to the left at the moment).  I continued on my conservative bent on through college; fighting off the revelations of reason I was receiving.  As we got into the thick of the Bush administration, and I began to lose arguments badly, I backed off a bit and changed my views to "moderate, with right leanings".  This was really the beginning of the end for my life as a conservative.

 I fought the good fight, but at the end of the day, none of the ammunition that I was provided with by right wing ideology was doing the trick.  Those who I was debating held the high ground on almost every issue.  I began to realize that things I was arguing for weren't convincing me either.  When faced with that kind of cognitive dissonance it seems that the only options that one has are to change your mind about some things or plug your ears and double down.

Ironically, it was a theology professor of mine who told me that an extremist is someone who when they get lost, drives faster.  I am not sure where he got the quote, but it stuck with me, and has always reminded me that we cannot be afraid to change our minds when the facts don't match our world view.  And that is really why I have become the godless liberal I am today, no matter how I tried, I couldn't make reality fit the image I had had of it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Creeps

I just came across this list from the Southern Poverty Law Center at This Week in Christian Nationalism over at Freethought Blogs.  I read through a lot of the profiles.  I don't believe in supernatural monsters; it's these guys that give me the heebie jeebies.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Unco expertise

Someday I think I am going to make something up, just for the heck of it, to see if people will believe it.  Something like, "Want to cure everything that has ever plagued you?  From gum disease to bowl cancer to depression all you have to do is ingest 30 pounds of corn husks a day!"  Then, I will say something like, "big pharma doesn't want you to know about this."  or "The CIA has known about this technique for years, but you know, the CIA.  CIA!"  Finally, I will slap on a "wake up, people." or "Open your eyes."  I haven't decided which, but I sometimes think it would be helpful if I had more face or more palm.  Perhaps both.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bad Art

One thing I find fascinating about art is how subjective it really is.  Two people can look at the same picture and see two different things.  Anyhow, I few weeks ago I was watching the Colbert Report and he talked about this guy Jon McNaughton.  I was able to find a couple of his works online.  The common theme seems to be Obama's deep and unrelenting hatred for America as symbolized by the Constitution.  Subtly is not really one of this guy's strengths as an artist.

Nevertheless, subjectivity can still creep in there.  For example, regarding the piece One Nation Under God shortpacked has quite a different take than McNaughton's clearly spelled out vision.  I think my (least) favorite part of the original is McNaughton's description of the immigrant in front who is stunned by the freedom of religion flowing from Christ.  Really though, it is hard to choose when there are so many things to dislike.  This painting is like what you would expect from an artist whose parents were David Barton and Thomas Kinkade.  You know: crap.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wade in the Water

I have been reading this morning about a TED talk that was not put on the website because the topic was of a partisan nature.   I would like to start off by mentioning that I definitely respect TEDs efforts to not be partisan.  I have also not seen this talk (I am at work now, or I would try and find it or a transcript of it), so I cannot really say much about it.  This censorship may be a gross injustice to the speaker, or perhaps the talk was a hack job full of pigeon holes and ad hominems, or more likely it is somewhere in between.  I can't really say. 

Here is my question, how can one reasonably stay non-partisan when one side clearly rejects reason? For example, global warming is a partisan issue much of the time.   Basic human rights are also often a partisan issue.   Once again, I don't want to accuse TED of too much, and I do admire people who try to remain above the fray of politics, but if you are afraid to ever wade into those waters, you run the risk of losing the ability to say anything at all.

Update: I watched the talk. You can find it on YouTube.  I didn't see anything scandalizing.  Interesting, yes.  Scandalizing, no.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Does Not Equal: Part 1

Embryos != Persons

Small Government != Government telling people who they can marry

The feeling in your "heart" != evidence of anything but your opinion

Science != a religion

Mysterious != Magical

Any others would be appreciated...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Douchery of North Carolina

Well, after not having anything really relevant to write about yesterday, we have a outrage double header today. First, as I posted below, the Republican party is hard at work weeding out anyone with half a brain (or ability/desire to govern).  Now, I find out that North Carolina has passed their discriminatory anti-gay marriage amendment.  I am not sure what they call it, but I will tentatively name it the "There is something that I don't understand and therefor it is wrong and protect the family somehow American patriot amendment."   What a load of horseshit

Two things.  One: it is totally ridiculous that we can decide by a majority vote what rights people in a minority will have.  Not only is it ridiculous, it is scary; very, very scary.  Clearly, if you are not presently in the majority, you have no rights.  You may have privileges, but no rights.  What you thought were your rights were only the good will (and I use the term loosely) of the majority.

Two: Gays and Lesbians were already (profanity omitted) prohibited to get married by North Carolina law.  This isn't defense of marriage, they are on the offense.  Offense of marriage.  That does sound more like what is going on here.

Anyhow, I will leave you with this little thought...first go here and look at the picture.  Next, go here and watch the video.  Apparently, the golden rule applies in traditional marriage.  /snickers 

The Madness of Indiana

I do not always agree with Richard Lugar.  In fact quite often I disagree with the senator from my home state. However, I am sad to see him go out like this as I do have a great amount of respect for him and his willingness to make compromises to get things done.   In a time when more and more politicians are acting like that kid in the store whose parent is not going get them the toy they want, Senator Lugar always seemed to carry himself with dignity.  

With that out of the way, the republican party has lost its mind.  I am not saying they are crazy (we have known that for years).  I am saying they are being idiotic.   This upcoming election is going to decide who controls the hotly contested Senate, and Dick Lugar was a sure thing.  Don't get me wrong, Mourdock has a good advantage in perennially red Indiana, but now Donnelly is actually in the race.  Factor in that Mourdock now looks like he just took out his own grandpa and, who knows, Donnelly might just win it.   Thanks for the opportunity, dorks!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Back again

Alas, vacation is over.  Back to work, and I suppose I should get back to blogging as well.  Anyhow, I haven't really come across that many fresh outrages recently that I wanted to write about.  Maybe I am just getting numb to them.  I did happen upon a fun piece over at Project Reason.  Apparently, the world economy will utterly collapse this summer, and people who believe this will be transformed into superheroes or something.  It is not as much fun as a real end-of-the-world-doom-love-in, but it is fun nevertheless.  After all, the semi-apocalyptic group is led by a guy named de Jesus.  And nobody fucks with the de Jesus.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Two sides my ass.

I just saw these cartoons over at NPR.  They reminded me of an oft heard mantra about there being two sides to every issue.  Without saying which side is correct, when I looked at these toons, I realized that there is at least a little truth to the statement.  That is to say, there is a right side and a wrong side.  They simply can't both be true.  Therefore, one side is complete bullshit.  I believe that this applies more often than some would have you believe.  All points of view are not equally worthy of consideration as some of them are blatantly false.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Reality wins again!

I just read this post at Bad Astronomy. It looks like an interview with the president of anti-vaccination organization, AVN, has been pulled from American Airlines' inflight video programming and magazine after a swift outcry from concerned netizens. Three cheers for science and the Internet!

Friday, April 20, 2012

On the many side effects of cat scratch fever...

Ted Nugent, if you weren't aware, is a scary individual. Politifact has his recent speech at the NRA convention in its entirety. If you see him coming, run.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gut reaction

I read this article today on an antivax website.  I didn't like it.  It suggests that we should always follow our gut instinct.  I think that this is terrible advice.  I am not saying that we should never trust our instincts.  In fact, in day-to-day life there are many situations where following our gut is perfectly fine.  The problem is that often in our lives our gut instincts about things are simply wrong.  Especially if you have a complex decision to make, the correct decision is often something that is counter-intuitive.  In my life, going with my gut has often worked out fine.  Other times it has been disastrous.  My point is that if you are making an important decision, it is a much better idea to carefully weigh the pros and cons and base your choice on the data.  I know that it is very hard to remain rational when we are faced with difficult circumstances (I have failed that test myself a few times) but I honestly think that at those times it is most important to keep our wits about us. 

Sorry, a bit obvious, I know, but I can only facepalm so much without getting this stuff off my chest.

Also, the author of the above-linked article is in favor of homeopathy, which, while I accept that some people get comfort from the counseling, is really just water and sugar pills.  If you have a serious disease or want serious prevention, go to the experts.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Catholic Church cannot be trusted with children

The Catholic Church is pretty unbelievable.  It would be hard to make up some of weird shit that they have pulled.  Whether it is direct child abuse, more child abuse, or child abuse involving mutilation, they have a remarkable ability to create scandals involving children.  Just yesterday, I read a new article about Spain's baby stealing scandal that lasted from the 1950s until the 1980s.  It was carried out by nuns who told new mothers that their babies had died and then proceeded to give the babies to families that the church found more suitable.  I wish this was a lie.  It is so fucking evil, I have a hard time believing that I read it in Time magazine and not the plot of some bad horror movie.  I am not sure at this time if the Catholic Church could do anything that would make me say, "surely, the church would never do that!"

Given all of this, it shows some pretty amazing cojones for this organization to still tell women what to do with their bodies, particularly in the area of procreation.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Information overdose

I just bought a used computer to use as DVD player for the TV in my living room. It struck me last night that I now have in my apartment six devices that can access the Internet. That means that even if I trained myself to surf the web with both hands and both feet, I would still have two web portals for any guests who drop by. /connectivity level up.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All your uterus are belong to us II.

Whenever I hear about personhood amendments I feel like I am going crazy. How little do you value human life to consider a single set of 46 chromosomes to be the same as a real live person who has feelings, desires and dreams. A person who can hear and smell and taste the world. A person who has fears and worries and pain. Someone like, say, the woman this lucky set of nucleic acids find themselves in...

Sunday, April 8, 2012


This weekend I found myself embroiled in a debate on Facebook with an Anti-vaccinationist.  Well, "found myself in" is perhaps the wrong term.  I kind of started it.  It is one of the issues that I really have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about.  Anyhow, things stayed surprisingly civil.  I found it interesting that in the midst of our back and forth, my opponent included a link to Google Scholar about the risks of vaccines.  I was surprised because looking through several pages of the abstracts and conclusions, I could not find a single study that suggested that vaccines are dangerous or that they should be avoided. 

He also dropped this bomb on me: you can cure autism through a special diet of "clean food".  I told him to look up the Baloney Detection Kit.

Rock on.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Comments on the internet often horrify me.  What horrifies me more are the comments that are removed.  As though the comments that are up are the ones that made the cut.  *shivers*

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A thought experiment

I love reading Free Inquiry magazine.  The writers offer up some very interesting perspectives. However, interesting as they may be, due to a pretty busy schedule (and my recent obsession with Call of Duty) I am about a issue behind on my reading.   Last week I was on holiday, though, and was able to do a bit of catching up.  One of the articles I read was on the dangers of human genetic enhancement.  It was an interesting article in which the authors brought up, what I think, are some valid concerns about the subject.   It also got me thinking.  What if, instead of modifying a persons genes to make them a kinder person, some diabolical parents altered the genetic code of their unborn child to make him a bloodthirsty and hateful killer.   Furthermore, after that child is born his parents raise him to believe that violence is good and killing is even better.  When he eventually goes on a murderous rampage, is he really to blame?  I want to say no.   He committed the crime to be sure, but he was only doing what he was given a strong instinct to do and what his parents taught him to do.

Assuming that up to that point he had no interaction with anyone but his parents, would he qualify for the legal definition of insanity?  (Not knowing right from wrong)

Now I want to try and muddy the waters a little bit.  This time let's imagine that the child is taken from his (disturbed) parents just after he is born.  He still has the genetic modifications that are meant to make him a killer, but this time he is given to a loving adoptive family.  The loving adoptive family do their best to give him a solid upbringing.  Nevertheless, one day the young man still goes on a killing spree.   Where does the responsibility lie now?  He knew right from wrong this time, but his natural instinct to kill won out (I am assuming that this is a strong instinct in this case).  Would it be fair for us to condemn him given what we know about his genetic make up?  It is not as clear cut as the first case, but I still feel that we cannot.  I don't think it is really much different from a person being forced to kill against their will, which is to say, by another person's will (in this case, the original parents'). 

Now to confuse things more, let's get rid of the original parents' genetic modifications all together, but due to genetic chance alone, our young man is still born with the same genes that his evil parents were going to give him that would make him a killer.  He is still given to the adoptive parents and still given the loving, nurturing upbringing and still eventually goes postal.  Now the biological parents are absolved of this massacre; clearly, they had no control of him or his genes.  I don't think the adoptive parents are to blame at all in either scenario as they did their honest best for him.   So the blame clearly rests solely on the young man's shoulders.   That doesn't seem right either.  From his perspective his life has been exactly the same as it would have been in the second scenario.   The only actual difference here is that in the one situation his genes were designed to be that way and in the other they were a product of random chance.  In both situations, he had no control over his disposition at all.   So can we condemn him for it this time?  On deep consideration, I want to say no.

So what can we do? We certainly can't have a bunch of crazed killers running about.  So we have to separate the killers from society.  Which is pretty much what we do now.  However, I would posit that given what I have discussed here, the emphasis of that separation should be on rehabilitation instead of punishment.  The question is when should the person be locked off from society and rehabilitated.  In this thought experiment I have I have included a person that has an irresistible urge to kill.  Someone who no amount of nurturing will help.  If you have such a person and somehow know it, it would seem that the time to remove them from society is as soon as possible, before they hurt anyone.  That isn't really fair to the person, but then it isn't really fair to lock them up for something they were predisposed to do either, and this way we save the lives of his victims.  In reality, however, I am sure no case would be so cut and dried, and we could never know how certain a person would be to commit a violent crime.  Still things like this are what make me a) a determinist and b) a person who questions our traditional notions of justice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RNC: Obama at war with women.

For the RNC to release this video about Obama's "war on women" at this particular moment in history defies any scale of irony that I am capable of comprehending.  Seriously.  The KKK might as well release a video about Obama's war on black people.  

 Right.  It doesn't help that the video is barely coherent.  I feel I my brain has just experienced a trans-cranial ultrasound.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hello! Sorry I has been a while since I have been on here. It's now the end of the school year so things have been a bit hectic. That, and I just got a new big TV which has made playing video games suddenly feel like a high priority.

Anyhow, if you haven't been trapped in a media-less void for the last month you now know who Joseph Kony is. Perhaps you knew about him before, or perhaps like me you knew about the LRA but didn't know his name. Regardless, we all know now. I am not going to discuss the video. It has been discussed thoroughly across the interwebs. What I find strange is the backlash against the video. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not claiming that the video is perfect or even tha it presents people with the best course of action. What surprises me is two things. First, and most annoyingly, is the condescension from people who already knew about it. As if knowing about and wanting to do something about atrocities in other parts of the world are only cool if it is done by a small group of people with ironic fashion sensibilities.

Second, I think that people (read: experts) in their zeal to point out the problems of the video have been missing a real opportunity. Namely, now that millions of people know about this guy and the LRA, there will presumably be many more resources available to people that want to do something about them. So rather than running around shouting at concerned people and telling that they are doing more harm than good, why not tell them what they can do?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Facepalm. Hard.

Dear Atheists,

Please stop existing.  This just defies comprehension. 

Monday, February 27, 2012


Hey!  I am really excited about this.  I am going to coin a new word!  Well, a quick Google search reveals some other instances, so perhaps it will just be a new definition for a word that is already in use.  Regardless, it is going to rock!  Ready for it?  Here we go: Nazidiot.  Pronounced "not-sid-iot".  Bam!  Definition: a person who cannot tell the difference between someone who is a Nazi and someone who is not.  Now please take my fun quiz to see if you are a Nazidiot.


1.  Is this a Nazi?

2.  Is this a Nazi?

3.  Is this a Nazi?

4.  Is this a Nazi?

5.  Is this a Nazi?

6.  Is this a Nazi?

If you answered "yes" to any of questions 1-5, I am sorry, you are a Nazidiot.  Please seek professional help.  I know what you may be thinking: "Hey, I thought you didn't like Glenn Beck."  True, I don't, I really, really don't; but, guy's not a Nazi.  Crazy?  Arguably.  Annoying?  Definitely.  Nazi?  Nope.  Please enjoy this new addition to (or new addition to a new addition to) the English language!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All your uterus are belong to us

I wanted to write a blog entry about how invasive these "small government" conservative types are.  But Stephen Andrew at preempted and outdid me with this wonderful piece.  Well said, sir.  Well said.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I recently read this heartbreaking article from Rolling Stone magazine when my friend posted it on Facebook.  I am not going to discuss it really, I don't think there is much that I can add, it is really gut wrenching stuff.  After reading it, I posted on my friends Facebook link that, "Focus on the Family is pure fucking evil".  I stand by that statement, but I realized that other than attacking to civil rights of homosexuals, I didn't know what Focus on the Family was all about.  So, I popped over to their website.

It truly is an impressive monument to face-palmistry.  Naturally, the first place I went was to the marriage section, hoping for some nice red meat.  I was not disappointed.  Looking over the list I immediately spotted the "sex and intimacy" section.  If you mouse over that link it will bring up a list of topics ranging from "understanding your husbands sexual needs" to "God's design for sex."  The latter goes on to explain that, "For Christians, sex is a big thing because it's a big thing to God."  I am sure that the creator of the universe, the Alpha and Omega, gives a crap about your sex life.  Not only does he give a crap, he probably disapproves.  Notably missing from the sex and intimacy section was anything on understanding your wife's sexual needs. 

Anyhow, like I said, there is a lot to kvetch about over at Focus on the Family.  I could go on, but why spoil your fun.  Check it out.  Warning: you might want to have a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster on hand.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Atheists have a bad reputation for being angry.  Just the other day I was talking to a friend and the subject of religious fundamentalism came up.  About ten seconds in, my friend brings up that he can't stand atheists, they are so angry and always trying to force their views on other people.  I listened patiently for a while before revealing that I was an atheist.  That was fun to watch.

Truthfully, I have not met any "angry" atheists.  I am sure there are some people out there who are angry most of the time and also happen to be atheists, but the great majority of atheists I have met have been fun and genuinely caring people.

All that aside, today I am an atheist who is angry (correlation only).  The source of my anger is Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  The pink ribbon people.

Before I go further, I would like to say that I have nothing but respect for the foundations efforts in the battle against breast cancer.  What I can't respect is there decision to cut their funding for breast exams to Planned Parenthood, an organization that always seems to be at the forefront of women's health issues.

I also don't buy their reasoning.  According to a statement on Komen's website in response to the furious reaction of so many to this decision:

To support this new granting strategy, Komen has also implemented more stringent eligibility standards to safeguard donor dollars.  Consequently, some organizations are no longer eligible to receive Komen grants.


We regret that these new policies have impacted some longstanding grantees, such as Planned Parenthood, but want to be absolutely clear that our grant-making decisions are not about politics.

So why is it that Planned Parenthood no longer meets Komen's eligibility standards?  Apparently, Komen's board decided last year that they wouldn't support any organization that was under official investigation.  As it would happen, Planned Parenthood is under investigation by Representative Cliff Stearns of Florida.  He is an anti-choice Republican, and as you know, Republicans hate Planned Parenthood (my irony meter flipped out when I read that he is also trying to increase privacy protection for Americans).  According to this article, the president of Komen, Elizabeth Thompson, didn't know of any organizations other than Planned Parenthood that would be affected.  So it seems that to act surprised and say that they are just following their standards that they hold everyone to is a load of crap.  It seems far more likely that this restriction was put in place specifically to distance themselves from Planned Parenthood.

The faux-surprise expressed in that statement is also irritating in that if it were genuine it would mean that Komen, a $400 million charity, lacked any sort of PR savvy.  How could they not expect a backlash to cutting funding for breast cancer screenings from someplace like Planned Parenthood that is constantly under attack from forces that are virulently (and inexplicably) against proper women's healthcare.  How are people to believe that this was not Komen caving to bullying from these anti-choice groups.

Anyhow, that is my little rant for today.  Planned Parenthood is accepting donations directly for breast cancer screening.  There are also some nice petitions to sign.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fun with selection!

Today I thought of an easy and fun way to understand the process of selection in evolution.   I believe it would be a good way to teach children about evolution and a good response to anyone dragging out that tired old metaphor about the parts of a jumbo jet coming together randomly.

Just to cover my butt, I am sure someone else has come up with this idea before, but a quick google search didn't reveal anything.  If you know someone wrote about this before me, please let me know so I can attribute it to them.

Anyhow, here is what you do:  get five dice.  Rolling all five dice at once, try and get the same number on all five on the same roll.  This is unlikely to happen.  According to Wolfram Alpha, the odds of getting the same number on all five dice on the same roll are 1 in 1296.  Now try getting not just five of the same number, but five of a specific number, say one, on the same roll.  It is not going to happen unless you are very very lucky.  

Now let's change the rules a little.  Now, when you roll all five, any dice that come out a one you can set aside.  Roll the remaining dice and set aside the ones.  Repeat until all the dice show a one.  As I am writing this, I gave it a try and it took 14 rolls to get all of the dice to show one.  This is in keeping with the numbers I got earlier when I did this same thing eighteen times.  The average number of rolls was between twelve and thirteen (five was the lowest and twenty-two the highest).  

So in a fairly small number of rolls through the mechanism of selection, we are able to accomplish something that would otherwise be very improbable.  

Anyhow, I am sure you have heard of similar examples.  I just thought this one was fun because you can actually do it.

What is Japanese for "Bullshit"?

...Because I think I have found some.  Rather, it has found me.  This booklet appeared in my mailbox today.  Disclaimer: I can't read Japanese, so I don't really know what this booklet says.  It could be some seriously profound stuff.  That would surprise the hell out of me.  Regardless, my BS-o-meter went straight into the red when I saw this cover design, and the words "The Imperishable Laws" written across the top.  But let's look inside, don't judge a book(let) by its cover, right?  What is in here: 
That's right, UFOs!  Man, I wish I could read this.  Say, what is that mysterious shadow in the lower right-hand corner?  Bigfoot?  Nessie?  iPhone 4?  

So, who are these people and what do they believe?  See for yourself.  

Just thought I would share.  May the blessing of El Cantare's UFO be upon you...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NPR addiction

If you didn't know, I am a bit of an NPR junkie.  I have been for years.  I get a lot of my news from them, but I also love all the little off beat stories they do that people are always making fun of them for.  Anyhow, I just watched this interview with Terry Gross from Fresh Air and I have to say that she rules.

Friday, January 20, 2012

How is your state doing?

I was perusing through some articles (as usual over at NPR) and I came across this article, which did not make me happy at all.  I read through it and it looks like last year was a great year to be anti-choice.  The thing about the heartbeat really went off the deep end.  I mean, what does the heart have to do with personhood (and I don't even want to talk about personhood amendments now)?  Why not elbows?  Or nostrils?  But none of this is new, and most of it wasn't even news to me.  What did catch my eye was the American's United for Life Life List.  It is a list ranking states in how much they restrict women's reproductive freedom.  Those that restrict it the most, as you can see, are labeled: Best States.  Those that restrict it least: Worst States.  No qualification to that at all, just best and worst.  Screw that.  My home state of Indiana sadly scored a "Most Improved Over 2011".  *Sigh*

Monday, January 16, 2012

I am sorry your feelings are hurt.

I would like to relay to you a situation that I find myself in from time to time.  It is after dark and I am walking down a quiet street towards the train station/grocery store/bar/etc.  In front of me is a woman and for whatever reason my pace is faster than hers.  She knows I am behind her and although she continues on her way, I can tell that she is uncomfortable.  Should I speed up to pass her as quickly as possible?  Should I maintain my current speed to avoid adding to an uncomfortable situation?  Or should I slow down to put some distance between us?  Crossing the street is also an option.  Regardless, we have an awkward situation.  For her because she doesn't know my intentions, and for me because I don't like making her feel uncomfortable.

If you follow many atheist blogs, you have undoubtedly heard about the concept of Schrodinger's Rapist in the last few months.  If by chance you have not it is, as I understand it, the idea that in many settings, because a woman does not know a man's intentions, she must assume that he is a potential rapist.  I have wanted to write on this topic for some time in support of people speaking out against rape, but had a really hard time getting my thoughts together.  I think I understand my hold up now: it really does bother me when a woman considers me a rapist.

I grew up in a family where women vastly outnumbered men.  For the first ten years of my extended family life there were no other male members of my generation.  Because of that, I have from early childhood always enjoyed close friendships with members of the opposite sex.  Furthermore, I find the idea of rape to be utterly despicable and have long been committed to gender equality.  Given these factors, it really does hurt my feelings to be considered a potential rapist.  Well, after all of these weeks of deliberation, I have come up with a solution to my hurt feelings: get over it, Mike.  Man up.  (Sorry for that one, blame it on The Book of Mormon musical)

I actually do think it is unfair that many men, despite having no untoward desires or being as gentle as a butterfly are thought of and perhaps treated by a strange woman as a potential sex criminal.  It isn't fair.  It's not. They didn't do anything wrong.  But you know what?  Life isn't fair.  And there are a lot of things out there a whole lot worse that being treated suspiciously by a stranger.  One of those things is being raped by a stranger (or someone you know for that matter).

According to the U.S. census page there are about a hundred thousand reported cases of forcible rape each year, and as I understand it, the vast majority of rape is not reported.  The census, as far as I am aware, does not collect data on hurt feelings.   In other words, rape is a real and serious threat.  Hurt feelings; not so much.   Furthermore, rape is something that men rarely have to worry about, so we can't really know how a woman feels around strange men.  I can tell you though that if I was walking down a street at night and I knew every stranger I saw had a gun I would be afraid of being victim of violent crime.  Whether I really had anything to be afraid of is irrelevant since I didn't know the intentions of the armed strangers.    I don't care to explain that metaphor in greater detail, but I think the point is clear.

So in short, to the guys out there who, like me, are upset at being considered a potential sexual predator, I ask you to remember that rape is a lot bigger of a problem and a lot more psychologically damaging than hurt feelings.  Until we live in a world where rape is either non-existent or so statistically insignificant that it can no longer be considered a major problem, let's try to work towards that world and suck it up.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Like Jason on the slopes

Oh snap! It's Friday the thirteenth! You know what that means...tomorrow is Saturday and I am going snowboarding. Yeah!

More special privileges for the church

I read this article over at NPR this morning.  Perhaps you have head of it.  It involves a Lutheran school teacher who was asked to resign and was then fired essentially for having narcolepsy.  The teacher sued for discrimination and the case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of the school on the grounds that she was a minister was therefor not protected by anti-discrimination laws.  

I think this ministerial exception to anti discrimination laws could be argued both ways.  For example, if a person was a fully qualified, say, Lutheran minister working for a church, and at some point that person lost their faith but continued to perform his or her duties as a church leader as well as anyone else, should that person be let go?  I would have to say no, but I could see how someone could make the case that the minister should be fired.  

What I find disturbing about this case, however, is how loose and fast religious organizations are allowed to play with this power.  This is not a case of a rogue minister trying to convert the kiddies to devil worshippers or worse (gasp!) atheists.  This is a case of an employee who got fired for a disability, and the reason given was that she led the kids in prayer and therefore the law could not prevent the church from discriminating against her on account of her disability.  I wonder (I really don't know) do any other organizations have this option?  Or is it just for the religious?

I really don't know whether to be enraged by this church stomping on its employee's rights or whether I should be experiencing schadenfreude and saying, "That's what you get." Regardless, I shouldn't feel surprised.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

War on religion

I just read this article over at NPR.  The irony burns.  It burns!  Just check out this line:

"I believe the greatest threat to religious liberty is the clash between religious liberty and LGBT rights," [Mathew Staver] says.
Staver says as rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people make gains, religious conservatives are having to set aside their convictions. A Christian counselor was penalized for refusing to advise gay couples. A court clerk in New York was told to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite religious reservations. A wedding photographer was sued for refusing to shoot a same-sex wedding. Staver says these people aren't trying to impose their religious views on others.
"What people of faith don't want to do, however, is be forced to participate in something that literally cuts to the very core of their belief."
What a crock of shit.  I'm sorry, this is not a zero sum game.  There is no law impugning the right to not get abortions, and there is no law impugning the right to not get gay-married.  Grow up people.  

Xmas vacation is over

I am back from my Xmas holiday in the States and will resume blogging for real shortly.  One highlight of the trip was picking up the Book of Mormon soundtrack for my mom.  I figured it would be raunchy but I wasn't ready for it as I was listening to it with my mom on the way to the dentist.  She didn't care for it, but I loved it.