Monthly Archives: July 2008

Death of a Blog

It’s always distressing to see it happen. You sign in, you blog a bit, you hit a few links on your blog roll…and it happens. You get a page saying “the author has deleted this blog.” Puts you off your stride some.

I was more than a little disappointed to find that one of my favorite blogs, Odder Stories, had been deleted. There had been no lead up post saying it was about to be deleted, it just wasn’t there anymore.  

I always wonder about the reasoning behind it. There aren’t many who actually bother to say why. One exception is Skepdude, one of my favorite bloggers, who kindly went out of his way to say that he just didnt feel he adds anything original to the blogosphere. I realize this is entirely a subjective opinion, but I disagree. He may not have been saying anything different per se, but his approach was extremely fresh. Intelligent humor combined with calm reason are in short supply here on the web, so I hope that at some point, he’ll start writing again.

 I think it’s easy to become frustrated. Blogs don’t get the kind of traffic we’d like them to have, we start reading through some of our posts with a critical eye, thinking….”does anyone actually care about this dreck I’m spitting out?” and we start to wonder if it’s really wirth the effort. My unequivocal response to that angst ridden question is YES. I started a blog not to get traffic or get recognized or get discovered….I started it to write. Isn’t that the reason most blogs are started? Because we believe we have something to say. It’s not always popular or pretty or even well expressed. And sometimes, it’s just to say it to one person. But it is always worth it.

Why We (Atheists) Owe Theists and Creationists a Thank You

So the darling man and I were watching a documentary last night about trilobites and the development of the eye.

One of the evolutionary biologists being interviewed (whose name I naturally cannot recall) mentioned that, were it not for the development of the eye, the Cambrian Explosion probably would not have been nearly as huge. I hmmm’d at this.

The documentary went on to explain that humans and other land animals share DNA with many sea cretures. I mumbled (I was tired, it was quite late) “Isn’t it interesting that even with all that shared DNA, theists still scream the house down if we suggest that we all came from a common ancestor, and it ain’t Adam?” and the SO answered “Yeah….y’know, it’s amazing how much we’ve learned thanks to the church.” I lifted my head off his shoulder and looked at him in a “you have turned green and a third eye is growing in your forehead” kind of way.

“No, really,” he went on. “Religion keeps finding these gaps and moving the goal posts and demanding further explanations, and science just says ‘okay, fine’ and goes out and finds the reasons. If it weren’t for the fact that I wish they’d just shut the hell up about what science can’t prove, I’d almost be grateful.”

Huh. I hadn’t thought about that before, to be quite honest. There is no question in my mind that we would still try to find the answers to life’s mysteries. That our inherent curiosity would push us to explore as much of our world and ourselves as possible.  But I do wonder if we’d attack it with quite the same insistence. And we don’t even have to find which questions to answer, because they do it for us! And the beauty of it is…. we end up finding the answers to questions we didn’t even THINK to ask! How cool is that?

So theists & creationists… thanks. No, really. Keep asking those questions. I get frustrated and annoyed, but …you help push the process along, you really do. I very much doubt we’ll convince many of you that you’re wrong (that’s another post entirely), but your continuing contributions to the scientific community have been, if involuntary, extraordinarily helpful.

Atheists Know the Bible.

Check it, yo:

You know the Bible 77%!

 

Wow! You are truly a student of the Bible! Some of the questions were difficult, but they didn’t slow you down! You know the books, the characters, the events . . . Very impressive!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

 

I didn’t even cheat. See what happens when you beat the daylights out of a little kid with a ruler every time her eyes stray from the holy book to look outside?

Someone on a rather frothing message board* earlier asserted with rather smug satisfaction that, as an atheist, I can’t possibly know the bible. I’m frankly a bit bored with the assertion, coming as it does every time I say something about this book in which people put so much stock. I know the bible. Well. 77% of it, anyway, and frankly, I don’t need “Jesus’ love” to interpret the passages, any more than I need the Green Man’s love to figure out Beowulf (was going to go with Odin, but I’m trying to stay regional).

Is it really considered a valid argument that one cannot understand  a text if one does not believe that text? Somehow I don’t think so. Is it valid to automatically assume one cannot read the Bible without accepting it in full? No. Atheists read and study and question the bible. It’s how most atheists become  atheists. It seems self defeating to enter into an argument with someone who has not only read something, but read it critically and then accuse them of not knowing what they’re talking about. Of course, that’s just my opinion….I could be wrong. But I don’t think so.

*I don’t want to name them, but they have this pizza on their site and use the words “left behind” a lot.

All Christianity is “Cafeteria” Christianity.

Yes, I know. It’s a blanket statement. It’s also accurate. And yes, I know….it applies to other religions, too. Not all, but many. Can I continue now? Thank you.

Here’s the thing. There is simply no way to live biblically in today’s world, AJ Jacobs notwithstanding. Don’t believe me? Okay. Short quiz. How many garments of undyed natural fibers do you own? How many animals have you killed, cut up, and burnt as an offering to god? Stone your kids when they don’t listen? Do you have kids? Did you take a lamb or a couple turtles to church the week after they were born? NO?! What’s wrong with you? Okay….something easy. Diet. Do ya like lobster? How about bacon? Cheeseburgers? All, as it turns out, an abomination and unclean.

Incidentally…the bible. That part where god says not that anyone who changes his word is curst. Of course…he says that in Ancient Hebrew in the TORAH, before Jesus even existed. That was then changed, translated, changed again to sound pretty, interpreted and re-worded into Latin, interpreted another dozen times or so, re-worded into English, and then re-interpreted to mean whatever you now think it means. Words can change so quickly, 20 years is enough for a word’s meaning to go from one thing to another. But somehow, the bible means exactly the same thing now as it did 2000 (or, several hundred, depending on your version) years ago? Nnnno.

People believe the parts they want to believe and leave off the parts they don’t like. Which means they should probably leave off telling people the WHOLE book is the word of god, and we all need to follow it exactly, when THEY can’t even follow it all themselves.  

The White House’s New Definition of (female) Contraceptives

I was all set for a Bush lame duck presidency. After all, I figured, it isn’t as if he’s done a whole lot in the past 8 years other than go to war and procrastinate. He’ll likely take a few more vacations in Crawford, do a world tour, attempt to cure the woes in the middle east….that kind of thing. But no. Once again, we are treated to the kind of stupid that usually requires years of chemically treating one’s brain to attain.

In a bitch slap to all women, the White House has defined (female) contraceptives as “abortion,” and stated that any and all community clinics who refuse to abide by this trogloditic rule will lose DHHS funding. Further, pharmacists who oppose contraception for religious reasons will be within legal rights to refuse to dispense birth control to women.

Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and my boss stated:

“Women’s ability to manage their own health care is at risk of being compromised by politics and ideology,”

I adore Cecile’s understatement. Not only will this affect women’s ability to determine their reproductive rights, it will severely limit community clinics to provide other services. Whether anti-choice activists wish to acknowledge it or not, abortion is a mere 2% of Planned Parenthood’s business. They also provide much needed low cost healthcare to children, such as the federal VFC (vaccines for children) program and CHDP (children’s health and disability program). Because of the high cost of health care, most physicians do not accept these programs, and it is left to community clinics such as PP to make sure these low income families receive the care they need. So the bill will essentially make it more difficult for the poor to access quality care.

It is doubtful that a Democratic congress would consider passing such a shortsighted, brutal law, but I urge you all to contact your congress critter immediately to ask them to vote no. Make no mistake: this is a stab at our rights as women and thinking, self aware human beings. We will not go back to a time in which we passively allowed others to decide our lives and fates.

No, near death experiences are not proof of hell.

I have a StumbleUpon account (same username, for those of you who simply CANNOT get enough of my vacuous ramblings). With my typical American attention span, it’s almost a necessity. As with this account, atheism is one of my main interest tags.

So there I was, hitting the Stumble button every thirty seconds like a lab test monkey in meth withdrawal, when I happened across this series of melodramatic grainy videos on youtube. The science employed is the scariest part of the whole thing. It’s the assertion of these “normal, everyday people” that when they experienced their NDE, they were shown hell, and afterward converted to religion. Amazing how motivating fear can be, innit?

Here’s the thing. NDE’s take place inside one’s own mind. There is no “place” you travel to. It’s been proven that oxygen deprivation can cause hallucinations. In fact, it’s been shown that the drug Ketamine can duplicate the visions and feelings experienced during NDE’s (see this article in How Stuff Works).

The fact of the matter is, a lot of it is untestable. We have no way (currently) of proving exactly what happens during a near death experience. But the scientific evidence we *do* have suggests that our own brains are essentially showing us a 3D movie. I can’t consider it “proof of hell” anymore than I can consider lights in the sky “proof of heaven.”

Oh, incidentally? The people in the comments section “witnessing” about how they showed their young children this should be smacked upside the head for traumatizing their kids. Holy crap.

“Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”

President Bush today embarrassed our country for the umpteenth time at the end of the G8 summit:

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Every time I think I can no longer be shocked by anything that comes out of his mouth, he manages to top himself.

Call me silly, call me elitist, I don’t care. I am glad we’re coming to the close of the presidency of someone you’d “want to have a beer with.” I’d rather have someone who doesn’t make me cringe every time he opens his mouth.

Rove refuses to testify. Shocked and appalled I’m not.

Karl Rove, Machiavellian slime ball extraordinaire, refused to appear before a Congressional hearing this morning based on….wait for it…executive privelege! I wish I was joking.

That’s right. Mr. Rove is so sure of his place (and rightly so, Bush isn’t going to let anything happen to his beloved Fartblossom) he’s actually stating that he is on the same level as the unitary executive and immune from such silly things as Congressional subpoenas. Enough, already. Send the Sargeant at Arms and frogmarch his ass over to the nearest available jail cell for contempt.

It must be said that it’s intolerable that a man who finds it perfectly acceptable to punish people for imagined wrongdoing considers himself above right and wrong. For over seven years now, we have forgotten the second word in the term “public SERVANT.” Mr. Rove is responsible for helping to pull down most of the foundations on which this country was built. Because of him, historians will point to this as the most disastrous presidency in our history (yes, I know about Buchanan, Harding and Pierce; all richly deserving of the term “some of the worst”….and NO, none of the Presidents since Truman fall under that category with the possible exception of Nixon, but even he was useful…opened up China).  Because of him, there is a trench deeper in this nation than has existed since the Civil war. He has put us on the path of our own destruction, and for that he deserves not an inch of leniency or mercy.

Atheist billboard in Philadelphia

Wow. I’m impressed. No, really. Here in California (especially the SF Bay area), the cacophony of religious expression is nearly indecipherable. This billboard would probably go completely unnoticed unless one moves out into the valley or north above the Napa Valley. But in PA? I adore my adopted “second home” Pennsylvania (the ex-laws are from there), but religious tolerance is NOT its middle name. Okay, I take that back. They’re plenty tolerant of religion (provided it’s a flavor of Christian that isn’t Catholic). It’s atheism and agnosticism they have trouble with. Just read some of the comments at the bottom of the article.

So I’m pleased to see the city actually approved and erected the billboard. I doubt you’ll see atheists flocking to the area anytime soon, but even this much of an acknowledgment is encouraging.

US exports to Iran increased 10 fold

It always fascinates me to see just where political rhetoric meets corporate reality.

According to figures put out by the Associated Press, our exports to Iran have increased:

from 2001 to 2007 totalled $546m (£273m). It exported roughly $146m of goods last year, compared with $8.3m in 2001, Bush’s first year in office.

Our sanctions from the hostage crisis 30 years ago are still in place. How could exports have jumped so sharply with those in place? More frightening yet, it appears that some of those exports are military in nature. This suggests that we are helping to arm a country we are currently decrying as a “military threat” and an arm of the dreaded Axis of Eeeeevul ™.

Here’s my issue. The American populace is so intent on its flag waving, we don’t really pay attention to the fact that our money is going to things that, in this example, we are supposed to be working against. Oh, we notice the federal funds going to help flood victims or Medicare or schools or “abortion clinics,” but what of our exports? What about the money sent to other countries for aid? Do you know which countries those are? How about military aid?

As vocal as I am about transparent government, I place just as much responsibility on the shoulders of an apathetic populace. We pay more attention to the voting on American Idol than we do the votes that take place in our federal legislature. We should know where our exports are going, and if they’re going to a country against which we’ve imposed sanctions, then that should be stopped, capitalism be damned. I have had it with commerce without conscience.