Atheism & Other Faiths

Posted August 27th, 2012 (2:50 am) || 1 Comment

A friend of mine recently quoted a passage from David G. McAfee‘s new book, Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming out as a Non-Believer. The passage reads, “…Religion is a learned behavior, unlike non-belief; all people are born not believing in a God or gods, and only come to believe in such entities once they’ve been taught the idea by others – so atheism is the ‘default’ position.”

While I don’t believe in God, at least not as the majority of western religion portrays such a being, I don’t believe disbelief, a.k.a. atheism, is the default. In fact, I firmly believe the “default” if there is any, is one of curiosity. I also believe that atheism itself a religion (at least along the line is explicit atheism).

I decided to state my opinion in response to my friend’s quote.

I’ll freely admit I was baiting him. I’ve had experience with atheists and I wanted to know if my friend would respond with an open minded debate the subject, or simply reply with a closed minded restatement of the original quote or otherwise take an “I’m just right” stance. Almost invariably atheists reply with the later, sticking to their beliefs with a faith as strong a any right-wing Christian. Seeing as this was my friend, I was hoping for the former.

I got the later. In general that atheism is not a religion, that children are unable to believe in the supernatural unless taught to by others, and that atheism is backed by science which is based in 100% provable facts. (I paraphrase here.)

As it turns out, I can’t stand arguments based on false statements. I’m also a very bad person. Or at best a mean friend. Atheists have a bible. Yes, a bible. Not a “let’s call it a bible because bibles are important” bible, but an actual “this is our scripture but we’re not calling it scripture because we’re atheists” bible. Atheism is a solid belief system, and thus a religion. It may not be a religion that believes in the supernatural, but not all do. I’ve also done research into studies which demonstrate children have an inherent belief of the supernatural. But it’s the comment about science that really bothered me. Almost all of modern science, at least in the realm of explaining the fundamentals of how the universe works, is theoretical. So, we don’t know. Not knowing is less that 100% provable.

I decided to state my opinion in response to my friend’s reply.

I received an insult in reply and was told I am no longer friends with my friend.

As much a I’d like to console myself that all I’ve lost is a radical religious fanatic (or if one prefers, a closed-minded fanatic rather than religious), it seems I have precious few friends still in town and I’m finding the loss of another over something so trivial a bit stressful.

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Pay Cuts

Posted July 15th, 2011 (5:12 am) || Comments Off

From time to time those people we elect to represent us government get together to discuss money, particularly how much the government is responsible for collecting from the population it governs and how it will then spend that money once collected. It seems that during this times, at least as of late, a lot of discussion revolves around the specific topics of tax cuts and social security benefits. Now, I don’t really want to talk about that specifically. I’m not an economist and I can barely balance the budget of my own household let alone that of an entire nation. Instead I’ve like to take a moment to focus on some of the reactions I see others having to them.

One such reaction I keep seeing, over and over again, is the suggestion the whole of congress should take a massive pay cut. The reason for this is that it should, somehow, enable government to simultaneously not raise taxes while continuing to fund programs such as Social Security. In fact, I’ve seem some suggest that a pay cut to members of Congress would make up the difference of savings that would be made if we cut the pay of our military personnel.

I’m a little confused about this. How many members of Congress to these people think we have? How much do these people think they’re getting paid? Let’s look at some numbers. There are currently some 535 members of Congress. A rough estimate of their annual pay is $100 million. Wow, sounds like a lot, right? Well, how many military personal are there? Currently, about 1.5 million (active duty). That works out to something like an extra $60 per year, per soldier. Wow. And that’s not taking into account the 1.5 million in reserve duty. Does it still sound like a lot of money? Look at it this way, if we upped and gave every member of our military (active and reserve) a pay cut of $30 a year (would anyone even notice?), we could buy a back up Congress. That’s how little we pay our government. We can practically buy another one with the spare change we find in couches.

So where could we get some more money? I vote taxes. I love taxes. I always pay my taxes. Taxes are awesome! Taxes pay for the police to protect me (debatable, but maybe if we paid them more), for the fire department to rescue me, for the state to educate me (again, debatable, but again, maybe if we paid them more). Taxes bring us parks and stadiums and public works and roads and the fix the city should something really, really bad happen). Hell, if we all paid more taxes, think of all the other cool stuff we could get! Health care, public transportation, housing.

Sure, sounds like socialism, but I like economic competition. I propose we all pay so much in taxes that everything we need is provided for us. Food, clothing, shelter, medical care and the ability to get to point A to point B if you don’t mind standing in line first. Then, anything you get paid from having a job (that’s left after paying taxes) can be spent on upgrades. Want a better house, or better food? Get a better job! Simple and fair and still (kinda) capitalism. The difference is the the have-nots still have something. Of course we’d have to make poverty illegal to make sure everyone works. If you don’t get a job, the government will lock you up in a prison/factory. This would rid us of illegal immigrants stealing the jobs we won’t do anyway because prison labor will be cheaper.

So no more talk about saving money by not paying our government! Or something… I may have missed my own point somewhere.

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A Bedtime Story for Parents

Posted July 2nd, 2011 (3:58 am) || Comments Off

“Go the Fuck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach (illustrated by Ricardo Cortés) is a parody of children’s bedtime story. It is a humorous and exaggerated example of the frustration any parent feels when their little one won’t fall asleep. I recently came across an article on cnn.com regarding the book and some of what I read disturbed me.

The full article can be found here: (http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/27/zacharias.kid.book/)

The general gist of the article seems to be along the lines of demonstrating the book isn’t funny because in the real world there are neglected children and parents use the word “fuck” a lot. I’m sure I’m not giving the author (Karen Spears Zacharias, author of “The Shelter of Mockingbirds: The Murder of 3-Year-Old Karly Sheehan.”) proper credit, but at least I’m presenting her writing for what it is.

Zacharias, in my humble opinion, doesn’t seem to understand the point of humor, and may not have a properly developed sense of what is funny. She quotes an expert on child development (Dr. David Arredondo, founder of The Children’s Program in the San Francisco metropolitan area) as saying “Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos.” You know something? I can’t imagine it.

Can you imagine anything you’d reasonably expect or desire a Jew, black person, Muslim or Latino to do because they were Jewish, black, Muslim or Latino? Well, can you imagine it without being racist? I can’t. How is expecting your child to go to sleep, and being frustrated he won’t, akin to racism?

Zacharias goes on to say Mansbach’s book “accurately portrays the hostile environment in which too many children grow up.” What? Show me such an environment. The problem here is there is no such environment to be founds within reality. An episode of The Family Guy more accurately portrays an environment (hostile or otherwise) in which children grow up.

Okay, so “far too many” parents say “fuck” and “bullshit” and other such obscenities. I’d question that. I’ve looked into this and I have not found a single American family that did not use such language. Sure, there are some that don’t use those words specifically, but they have words which mean the same thing and they use them.

I’d agree the book “Go the Fuck to Sleep” is not intended for children and it would be bad parenting to use as an actual bedtime story. Not because of the “message” it may send, but because as a society we have deemed the language used without to be inappropriate. But is it demeaning to children? Not at all.

I do think Zacharias sums up her article quite well by implying parents should be more like the parents in “all those beautifully illustrated storybooks.” Sure thing, let’s all get right on that. I’m sure we’ll all be ideal parents by modeling our behavior after the parents of Rapunzel and Cinderella.

And we lived happily ever after.

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My Phone Is Gay

Posted June 25th, 2011 (7:09 am) || 2 Comments

Welp… it’s been a more or less fucked up month.

My cousin, Mark, moved up from Yuma. We’re giving him a play to crash while he looks for work and then saves up enough cash to get his own place. I haven’t seen Mark in… maybe 10ish years. Maybe more like 15. My only solid memories of him are from our grandparents house at Christmas, which was nearly 20 years ago. Funny thing is it turns out that’s his most solid memory of me too. I’m sure having the whole week on film (and recently put on a DVD) has nothing to do with it. Upon getting to know him, I’ve found Mark to be a great guy… meaning he’s an introverted gamer like the rest of us. He’s also motivated and hard working, or at least I get that impression as he got a job within a week of moving in and has already secured his own transportation to and from work.

After Mark had time to settle in (more or less), in came the visiting relatives. Aunt Jill (Marks’ mother) and my godmother, Sherry, came to visit for a few days. Well, Sherry for a few days, with Jill coming up for a few hours. I never really got to know Sherry. She’s my godmother, which in my family means Mom really liked her around the time I was born. Seems she really likes her now too, and the two had a blast playing Scrabble and other games old people play and I’m no good at.

Father’s Day came and went, though Jacob had to be reminded it was here. He’s me son and I love him, but I have to wonder sometimes.

The car’s front brakes went out, but fortunately a friend of ours was kind enough to assist in fixing them (thanks Shane!). Unfortunately when the back brakes went out a week later, we would find our friend missing some necessary tools. I’m not sure what we’re gonna do on such short notice, but hopefully they’ll last long enough to figure out how much it will cost to get them professionally done.

I washed DeAnna’s phone with the laundry. Turns out cell phones don’t take well to water… Who knew? The good news was that one of our phones was due for one of those free upgrades T-Mobile offers its customers periodically. The bad news was T-Mobile changed it’s policy a few months ago and there is no such offer anymore. The best they could due was sell us their cheapest phone for around $60. That sent us into a spin of frustrating, leading to checking out the options for changing carriers, which also lead to us finding out T-Mobile wanted to charge us up to $200 per line to break our contract. That wasn’t going to happen, so we started to look for used phones on Craigslist and eBay. As it turns out, the friend of ours that can fix front brakes had some trouble with his old phone (from T-Mobile) and was happy enough to pass it along to us. Now we’re back to three working phones, with one of them being a smartphone!

Oh yeah, and NY passed it’s Okay to be Gay thing. I’m pretty sure it’s not called that, but apparently it’s now not illegal for a dude to marry a dude there. According to the fine print it also looks like it might not be legal yet either, but it’s a step in the right (or left) direction. In either case, I’m putting up a happy rainbow desktop image on my new phone to celebrate gayness. I suppose I should find an Adam Lambert ring tone or something too…

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Gift Cards – Revisited

Posted December 8th, 2010 (4:57 pm) || 2 Comments

A few years ago, I posted how much I hate Gift Cards. Well, I feel it’s been long enough that I should send out a friendly reminder about how much they suck and why you should never buy one. Ever.

Okay, maybe not ever, but pretty damn close to never.

Gift cards signify an intent to give something, but without any of that thought, effort or care that usually goes into giving someone something. It’s a simply way of saying “I don’t know you well enough or care enough about you to gift anything meaningful, but for some reason feel I should get you something anyway.” They are also a handy way to hand out prizes for contests or parties.

Gift cards remind me of the scene in Dead Poets Society where Todd has receive a desk set for his birthday, the very same desk set he received the prior year. The same desk set he never really liked, likely said as much, and will most like receive again next year. Todd may have well as got a gift card.

Despite how evil and heartless giving gift cards are, I feel I should provide a few instances where it is not really evil or heartless to gift one. First, is when you are gifting to someone long distance. Gift cards fit into an envelope, preferably along with some sort of heartfelt well wishing card, far more easily than most things. In this instance make sure the gift card is for a store you know for certain is of personal interest to the recipient. You department store card will do here. Find a specialty shop you know the recipient has an interest in, or if you know then well enough you are certain they will enjoy once introduced. Also, only do this for children ages 8-18. Any younger and they likely haven’t developed a proper sense of shopping, and any older and you might as well send cash (or a check).

Another instance is when you have already provided a suitable gift (or several) and just want to sweeten the experience a little. Again, this is best suited for children, not adults. Children like getting gifts. It’s fun. Adults like getting gifts too, but tend to appreciate things they’ve personally earned rather than something they picked up with free money (and more easily resent being told where to shop). Two good examples here are stocking stuffers at Christmas, and attaching one to a gift only useful with something else added in, such as a video game console (card can be used to buy the games).

EDIT: I left out restaurants! Gift cards for restaurants (real restaurants, not any place with a drive thru) are “real” gifts. Such things are no different than taking someone out to eat, or otherwise providing a meal for a family that isn’t yours (or just a household that isn’t yours if it really is your family),  only you don’t have to come along. /EDIT

There are a few times when you might think getting a gift card would be okay, but it really isn’t. One such time is when you are part of a random gift exchange. Maybe you are buying a gift and you have no idea who will receive it, or you know who will receive it but you know nothing about them. Sounds like a job for gift cards, right? Wrong! Would you really like to open an envelope at a party and find you’ve been given a piece of plastic which suggests you shop for you own gift? Worse, maybe you hate that store. Instead buy something neutral, or go for the wacky gag gift. A box of fancy chocolates or elegant cookies would do, so would anything “artsy” which could include anything from an original painting to a unique sculpture picked up at a curio shop. If you are at a total loss, get a tiki mask. I swear everyone I know who owns one of of those has  put it up. There is no such thing as a tiki mask collecting dust in the back of a closet.

Once again, it’s the thought that counts; if you don’t do any thinking, your gift doesn’t count for anything.

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