Coming back

So, it has been a really really REALLY long time since I’ve written a blog post.

I’ve tweeted, commented, Facebooked and been active in the meat world for things I’ve cared about.

I have progressed a great deal in my commitment, education and practice of photography.  Again, in the areas I feel passionately about.

I’ve committed time, money and energy to things that I feel are important and tried to give back to people who have given me so much.

I don’t feel I’ve been idle, but I feel like I should be writing more.  So, I’m going to do that.  Not cover the intervening time, that would be a fools errand.  I’m just going to get back to posting.  Maybe long, maybe short.   Maybe about Atheism, Skepticism, Photography or family and friends at any given time.

I reaffirmed my “out” Atheist status again,

Lacking belief in fairy-tales is, hopefully, the least interesting thing about me.

I hope to make this true.


Gods Love

I recently made a couple of posts on Twitter with the tag #godslove.  I’m sure that surprised anyone that knows me.  I thought I would outline the genesis of this and explain why I would be posting about gods love, given my feelings about theism.

There’s a traffic light on the corner of Old Annapolis Rd and Columbia Rd. where I sit almost every morning on the way to work.  At that particular corner is a church. This church has a sign where the pastor conveys important messages to the public, generally explaining how our lives are governed by an entity whose presence can only be known through… yes, the pastor’s teachings.

This past August I was confronted with the following message every morning for two weeks:


Every day I had to read that.  Every day thinking about all the pain, suffering and misery there is in the world.  All the times that random happenstance takes a life or, worse, leaves one in unending suffering.  Not just people, all the times animals are left by the side of the road to gasp their last.

Is this about anger with god?  Of course not. I don’t think there is such a thing.

So, why do I care?

Because this particular bit of hypocrisy smacks me in the face every time a plane crashes and some moron thanks god for their life, implicitly stating that those that perished were due their god’s wrath.

The people who did not go into the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001, the ones who moved away from New Orleans before Katrina and any number of others who feel that they were owed some particular grace from the universe while others suffered or perished.

Every day for two weeks.

I hatched a plan.  I would periodically tweet how gods love actually worked.

“God so loved the people of The New Orleans area that on this day in 2005 he sent them Katrina #godslove”

“God so loved America that he sent his faithful to destroy the WTC and Pentagon on this Day in 2001 #godslove”

The second one definitely sparked a little more, ahem, interest.   Some people were very passionate about their god not having anything to do with the terrorist attacks.   I have to give my friends who had a visceral response to this quite a bit of credit, not only did they respect me enough to reply but they listened to my explanation.

As much as my explanations satisfied my friends of my position (and my compassion without the benefit of their beliefs), I think the folks at Mr. Deity are much more eloquent and funny.

Since I didn’t accumulate any new enemies and the interactions with my friends ended positively, I will continue to point out the failings of gods love and mercy.


Is it a full moon or something?

Yeah, I know, nothing special really happens during a full moon other than bright nights but there seems to be something in the air.

Maybe it’s the Presidential transition, the holiday season or people just taking their minds off the recession but there seems to be more attention being paid to issues of god.  The crazies seem crazier and those defending reason and the real world seem to be pushing a little harder.

I’m not complaining, mind you. Let’s put our cards on the table and see where it takes us. It is so hard to make progress on something considered taboo.  So, here are a few samplings of the rumbling maybe they’re portentous maybe not.

Kentucky’s department of Homeland Security to look to god first BY LAW.

By law, god (which one??) is acknowledged as Kentucky’s first line of defense against terrorism and must be mentioned in all documents.  Crazy and embarrassing if you’re from Kentucky.  The law is a few years old and it really hasn’t been followed too closely by the people in the Homeland Security department of the state of Kentucky, but it is still on the books and there is a state senator pushing for compliance.

Freedom From Religion Foundation erects sign along side nativity scene in Olympia, Washington legislative building.

Actually an expansion of a tradition the foundation has been carrying out in Wisconsin for many years, the signs recognize the winter solstice and  bear quotes denying gods and religion.  (full disclosure: I’m always a little giddy when my donations cause a stir!)

Witch Doctor arrested after admitting to killing 110 children.

The Witch-Children of Akwa Ibon

In a horrific tale of scape-goating and superstitious ignorance,  self-styled Bishops merge christian and indigenous beliefs to sow hysteria for their own advancement.  It is most often defenseless children that are accused of possesion and witchcraft with the families paying for exorcisms to relieve what they believe is bad luck brought on by these children.  If the exorcism does not “succeed” the children are turned out from the family or killed outright.

Pedophile priest resigns

A horror that has become so common that it risks being considered trite and boring, a Catholic priest has sent pope Benedict his resignation after admitting to molesting boys in his parish.

As I said, just a sampling.


Movie Review: Religulous

Bill Maher knows he’s right about religion.  He does.  He knows that the world would have a net improvement if we scraped off the superstition-based philosophies that hold sway in society.  It’s just that he sometimes becomes less effective at selling it when he shows that and this movie is, above all else, about marketing that idea.

Truth be told, I agree with him in principle.  The question is not whether he’s right, though, it is whether he created an effective and entertaining vehicle to market the fact.

My wife, and I, went to see Bill Maher’s new movie Religulous on opening day.  This is particularly interesting because it was her idea and she’s Catholic.  It was an early show, so we didn’t expect the attendence to be high, it wasn’t.  There were about a dozen people in the most popular multiplex in town.  That was OK.   My disappointment?  No protesters.  I really wanted them.  Maybe when they make a movie called “All Religions are Stupid and Should be Abolished”  I’ll get my protesters.

So, you know what you’re going to get, right?   Bill Maher making faith and people of faith look silly.  Yes and no.

The movie is a mix of interviews and ruminations.  All of it is peppered with movie clips that are, at best, hilarious.  Sometimes the clips are a little too biting, too denigrating.  Enough to make an avowed rationalist cringe a bit.

Where did Maher go to ask questions about religion?  Where didn’t he go?  Israel, Rome, England, The Netherlands, The South and Washington D.C.   He visited a trucker church, a mosque, the Vatican and a Jesus theme park.  He spoke to priests, ministers, lay people, Jesus impersonators and Jesus (well, he thought he was Jesus).

We was definitely most effective when he was questioning sincerely and listening to the answers.  I think he found the men at the trucker church earnest and endearing. He treated them well and got great stuff in return.   His interview with Senator Mark Pryor from Arkansas was excellent, he let Senator Pryor express his own views.  (He seemed like an decent guy, who just bought the wrong bill of goods.)

Not so effective was his time with an anti-zionist Jew who met with Ahmedinijad and was in clips hugging the nutty Iranian President.  I was left feeling there was a great deal to the interview we didn’t see.  Certainly, there wasn’t enough to justify Maher’s curt reaction to him.  This was one of the segments where, even if you agress with Maher, you’re left feeling like he was acting a bit dick-ish.

There were some very funny subtitles during other interviews which reminded me of “The Word” segment from The Colbert Report.  Those were funny and informative.  Very effective.

Surprisingly, other than not allowing him an official interview in the Vatican, the Catholics came of pretty well.  This might be due to Maher’s Catholic upbringing which was discussed in personal reminiscences with his mother and sister.  Father Coyne, former head of the Vatican observatory, was typically eloquent, knowlegable and reasonable.  Also, there was a very amusing and liberal priest who was interviewed outside the Vatican.  Clearly, he didn’t represent the Vatican’s policies, but he was funny.

Maher closing argument was well thought out and delivered poignantly.  Punctuated with imagery of violence, it was effective and moving.  I thought it was perfect.

So, how was Religulous?  It was good.  It could have been great.  Bill Maher is funny and he has a clear message to deliver.  It is mostly well delivered.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the unbiased, graceful delivery that would be most effective at getting people of faith to listen.  He’ll be preaching to the faithful.  They’ll enjoy it, as I did.

My wife enjoyed it as well.  We talked about the movie afterwards.  I think it is definitely a conversation starter.  She commented that it was amazing that this movie was made and in pretty wide distribution.  We thought that was a pretty hopeful sign.

“We need more people speaking out. This country is not overrun with rebels and free thinkers. It’s overrun with sheep and conformists.” – Bill Maher


May 1st: National Day of Reason

The Naional Day of Reason is held on the first Thursday in May to coincide with the National Day of Prayer.

Sure, it was established to counter the National Day of Pretending to do something useful but it is the way it is observed that makes it cool.  Instead of a day of protesting the waste of public funds for politicians et. al. (OK, that happens too) , the preferred way to spend the day is in service.  Yes, actually doing something good not WAITING for some invisible friend to get it done for you.

So get out and give blood (that is what I am going to do), volunteer, plant a tree, donate time or money.  Be a good HUMAN!

Admiring his crops, a farmer asks his friend how his corn grew so high.

In reply his friend told him, “I have to give God all the credit. I pray every day before and after I go to work the fields”.

“That’s amazing!”, the farmer said, “What happens when you don’t go to work?”


CBS Sunday Morning: Weird Juxtapositions

CBS Sunday Morning, in general, continues to be the epitome of excellence in television. This particular Sunday morning, April 27th, they aired an excellent piece on Jeremy Hall. Jeremy Hall is a soldier in the U.S. Army who in his second tour in Iraq faced persecution from fellow soldiers and superiors for his lack of superstitious beliefs. This persecution necessitating a personal body-guard and, eventually, a trip stateside. The reporting on this subject was up to Sunday Morning’s high standards.

Following the commercial break, the next piece was a commentary by Ben Stein. Yes, Ben Stein, mouthpiece of the creation science supporting documentary Expelled. Mr. Stein was commenting on the situation with the polygamist cult in Texas. He likened the state assault on an institution that was illegal and immoral to the Nazi’s. I find it particularly heinous that Mr. Stein associates anyone with whom he disagrees with Hitler’s Nazi party. As he did with evolution proponents in Expelled. Further, Mr. Stein appears to feel that the state of Texas should continue to turn a blind eye to the persecution of women and children as they have for decades.

In both cases it points out the responsibility of the state, actually the responsibility of all of us, to provide for the safety and well being of the minority. In the case of Jeremy Hall and others like him, the military as an instrument of the people of the United States has a responsibility to represent the people of the United States. All of them. Even the 16% who don’t believe in a supernatural deity. The state of Texas, after many years of turning a blind eye, finally took its responsibility seriously for the children of FLDS church. By bringing those children out of that corrupt society, where adult men can take young girls as their brides and women have little or no rights, they have fulfilled the promise of our secular society.

“The laws of humanity make it a duty for nations, as well as individuals, to succor those whom accident and distress have thrown upon them.” –Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1807. ME 11:144


Added to Atheist Blogroll

I’ve added “Something to Say” to the Atheist Blogroll.

This was not done through any desire for self-promotion or aggrandizement.  It is just a little bit of giving back to a community, or movement if you will, that has provided me with a much needed sense of belonging.  Through the Internet and the many blogs, podcasts and resources available I’ve come to the realization that I’m not alone.  Far from it, I am part of a thriving community that is no longer silent and isolated.

If only to say, “I’m here too”, I thought it was important to be listed.  Please visit one of the sites in the sidebar under “Atheist Blogroll”.

“The genius of any slave system is found in the dynamics which isolate slaves from each other, obscure the reality of a common condition, and make united rebellion against the oppressor inconceivable.” — Andrea Dworkin (1946 – 2005), American Feminist and Author


The World Ends in 2012! Can I have your stuff?

In the last couple of days I’ve heard people mention the belief that the Mayan Calendar foreshadows the end of the world in 2012. They Mayan culture is long gone, why has this meme come to the surface now?

Well, there have been a spate of news articles about the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012. The quesion, as posed by USA Today, “Does Maya calendar predict 2012 apocalypse?”.

If you hit looking for books and such on the subject you get quite a variety with titles like, “The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies and Possibilities” and “The Mayan Code: Time Acceleration and Awakening the World Mind”. Some might dismiss this as typical New Age bunk, but there is always a portion of the credulous who will have anxiety after learning of apocalyptic predictions.

What makes the Mayan apocalypse any different from The Millenium, The Great Disappointment of 1844 or any other prediction of the end of the world? Well, I think it has a lot to do with some of the mystique of Pre-Columbian Meso-American cultures like the Aztec, Inca and the Maya.

Honestly, when you hear someone speak of the Maya, what is the first image that comes to mind? Is it of an long lost advanced civilization with lost knowledge we have yet to recover? Is it of ancient astronauts?

The Mayan culture was extensive and advanced, but it seems unlikely they had any prescient knowledge of the end of the world. I think it would be great if we could ask them. Unfortuntely, this advanced culture with foreknowledge of the end of the world collapsed over a thousand years ago.

So, if you are convinced the world will end in 2012…. Can I have your stuff?

“The End of the Universe is very popular, people like to dress up for it, Gives it a sense of occasion.” — Douglas Adams in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”


The Out Campaign

I’ve chosen to advertise my support for Richard Dawkins’ “Out Campaign” on this site. I was initially reticent to do this. But I have changed my mind.

I originally felt that The Out Campaign and the stylized red letter ‘A’ was the kind of ostentation required for a philosophy that cannot stand on its own merit. Seriously, while it seems to be quite necessary to repeatedly avow devotion to a chosen superstitious life philosophy, it doesn’t seem to me that the same protestations are necessary for attempting to base your life on reason. Shouldn’t this be the default? Thus leaving spirits, magic and other nonsense to the fringe. Why should it require advertising?

Well, in a time when there indeed seems to be religious test for the office of President of the United States, I can comfortably say there is a real need for this kind of grass roots marketing of reason and I am happy to be part of it.

“But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1782)