Sunday, January 18, 2015

The hypocrisy of Dianne Feinstein

Hypocrisy comes in many forms, be it the hypocrisy of the police screwing prostitutes, pastors screwing children or even politicians screwing the public. Religious types are constantly pointing out that I only highlight religious hypocrisy, and its true. I find religious hypocrisy to be the worst of the worst. But, some of the things our elected representatives do are every bit as bad as pastors who violate our trust. Like Dianne Feinstein and her husband Richard Blum who stands to earn $1 billion dollars from feeding at the public trough.
The US Postal Service plans to sell 56 buildings — so it can lease space more expensively — and the real estate company of the California senator’s husband, Richard Blum, is set to pocket about $1 billion in commissions.
$1 billion dollars… Just think about that Democrats. Feinstein does not represent your interests. She represents her own. She’s a billionaire after serving in public office. She’s played us all and we let it happen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pet Peeves

Pet peeves… we all have one. This is one of mine, unattributed source information, like this one found in a Time article. 
Religious men, even ones who regularly read about deities sanctioning violence in their holy books, don’t usually feel the license to kill, of course. In fact, you might expect the opposite. After all, religious people are more likely to do good than other people. They volunteer and donate blood more often than non-believers. They give more money to charity. In most psychology experiments they are more generous and less dishonest than atheists, and in the real world, they commit fewer crimes and abuse illegal subtances less, too. In fact, in the majority of the 39 countries polled by a 2014 Pew study, people say that a belief in God is required to be a moral person. That opinion was most common in poor regions such as Central Asia, and West Africa. But 53 percent of Americans also agree that religious belief makes you more ethical.
Really? Religious men who regularly read about deities sanctioning violence are more generous and less dishonest than atheists. What the fuck? What study says that? None of this is true.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Life lessons from a racist

When I was teen in the early 70s, I learned valuable life lessons from my grandfather. One day he showed me his Snap-on toolbox while I was spending time with him at his garage in Compton. He pulled out an odd looking wrench and told me that because he had learned how to use this new tool, he was able to take his wife, my grandma, to a fancy dinner once a month. I do not remember what he paid for the tool, but it was dear; all Snap-on tools are. He also paid for a training course and spent his free time practiced on his own cars. He was smart about business and converted a service that he outsourced to other mechanics, back in house.

He showed me other tools too, each with its own story and each offering a new service that helped put food on his table. He explained that I should get my own tool box and learn how to use the tools so that I too could take care of myself, and eventually, take care of my own family. I did not realize he was speaking metaphorically until much later. I have a large metaphorical toolbox these days and I use it all the time.

He gave me once more piece of advice, “Lock your tool box. You never know when those sneaky coloreds will come around and steal you blind.” I can still hear his voice in my head.

I knew then that he was a racist. So was my grandmother and virtually evey other adult in my life at that time. I would go my own way eventually. I left behind the racist parts of my grandfather and family, and embraced a life rich with many people, experiences and cultures. I bring this up now because I just read a story about a man and his ideas, which are mostly good, but he’s under attacked for comments he made that offended others. It turns out the man is a bit of chauvinist. My problem, as with all things these days, is that I do not see the problem with a chauvinist/racist/misogynist as an all or nothing game. Just because a man (or woman) holds an opinion or an attitude which are at odds with my own, does not mean I reject all of his ideas out of hand. Ideas stand on their own merit. I do not understand those who reject the whole over a part that is rotten, or use the rotten to justify killing the whole.

I eventually confronted my grandfather over his racism. It was hard, but he eventually softened. He had to. His exposure to better ideas left few other options.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Managing atheists on Facebook

It’s a Sunday morning here LA. It is cold for LA and raining too, so I’m reading Facebook and the news. I have some thoughts on Facebook because of a Mashable article, 5 ways to take control of your Facebook News Feed.

As a general rule, I keep a wide array of Facebook friends from within all aspects of the atheist community. I rarely unfollow, although I do so if the atheist in question is stupid. I don’t have time in my life for stupid. I don’t think many of us do. I also unfollow those who e-beg, be it people who dream of being Youtube barons or those who simply cannot pay the rent. My reasons are simple, in the case of the wannabe Youtube barons, I think it helps develop the equivalent of an atheist version of professional clergy. I’m not a fan of being an atheist first and then something else. I prefer the title of writer, photographer or project manager who happens to be an atheist. In the case of those who e-beg because they cannot pay the rent, I have no way of determining if their needs are real, so I prefer not to participate.

In some cases I unfollow Facebook friends. It usually starts with the words “Trigger Warning” and is followed by some obviously controversial topic meant to incite an argument simply for the sake of arguing and… weeding out the ideologically impure. I unfollow because I don’t want to read it, nor do I want to be sucked into the stupidity of publicly vilifying a fellow atheist over his or her position on a controversial issue.

I don’t think the atheist community on Facebook is a good place to hang out, so I rarely do. It beats Reddit though…


Saturday, January 10, 2015

I did not realize Atheist TV was still a thing

I took a break from blogging for about six months. I’m back at it now, but in a less intensive way. In the time I was gone, I kept up on things happening in the movement via reading. I was surprised today when I was reminded of AtheistTV. I did not realize it was still a thing. I had not seen anything about in the media for at least six months. I thought it came and went like all bad ideas do. But no… it’s still around and still playing re-runs of cable access TV shows.

When I first watched the channel back in August of 2014, I thought it was a premature concept. It’s still premature, but now we can also add stale. Why are the slotting low-quality video programs? I like the podcast version of the Atheist Experience well enough, it’s a good way to waste an hour while commuting around LA, but who wants to watch two talking heads while they chat up a caller? Why must I watch a show I can get via Youtube or a podcast? Why is there no new content? Why is there no original content? Why would people sit in front of their PCs to watch this via a published schedule when the content is available on demand via Youtube and other services?  It makes no sense.

When I tuned in today, I was struck by the thought that I may have watched the same Atheist Experience that last time I watched I fired up the show. I don’t think AtheistTV is a thing. I think it might have died in birth.

Center Punching for Christ

Center punching children for Christ: Because that’s how Jesus does it!

I found this on Hemant Mehta on the Friendly Atheist.


$10.5 Million JW sex abuse lawsuit

Clergy sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness church rarely make it to the press, in my opinion it is because of the insular nature of the religion. The organization is closed to outsiders, operates in secret, and pressures members to remain silent. A new lawsuit hopes to pull back the curtain on secrecy and expose the hypocrites. The Oregonian reports that a $10.5 Million against Jehovah’s Witnesses Organizations claim that leadership hid decades of child sexual abuse. 
Two people who say that as children they were sexually abused by a leader in a Hillsboro Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation filed a $10.5 million lawsuit Monday – among the first in Oregon to accuse the religious organization of hiding decades of sexual abuse.

Attorneys for Velicia Alston, 39, and an unnamed man said the Jehovah’s Witnesses leadership continues to cover up sexual abuse against children by leaders. They say it is more than a decade behind other organizations, such as the Catholic Church, that have been forced to address their problems through many years of civil litigation.

I look for failure modes in stories like this. Secrecy is one of the primary failure modes in this story. When leaders act for the “good of the church” and hide the stories and the abusers, it allows abuse to flourish. Transparency, as disruptive and damaging as it can be, allows people and organizations to start healing and also builds awareness of the problem. JW’s of the world should demand transparency. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

NPR's take on faith and David Peters

I listened to NPR’s Story of the Day podcast this morning on my drive to work. It described an former Army Chaplain David Peters test of faith. It was a fascinating story, and one I’ve heard many times before. I’d like to sit down and talk to him one day.
"The church was asking me to confess my sins, when I felt like God had done far worse things than I've ever done," he says. Like "standing by and not really doing much for the world that's full of war and conflict and despair, loss. 
"I looked at my own life and I felt that way. I'd just gotten divorced. I was just really angry at God for disappearing on me when I needed him most."
This is a common story I hear from former Christians who have lost their faith. Where is God? Why is he hiding? It resonated with me. Where is God in this mess of a world? Anyone?

What bothers me is that his original church, a fundamentalist Bible Fellowship Church, would not allow for a divorced pastor. Peters had to leave the church. They had endorsed him for service as a Army chaplain, but when he returned damaged by the experience and in need of love, his religion, in the form of his church, abandoned him. That’s when you know faith is screwed up. Believers acting in accord with doctrine, it damages so many people.

David Peters wrote a book: Death Letter. I plan to read it.

Salman Rushdie: ‘I Stand With Charlie Hebdo, as We All Must’

Salman Rushdie, a personal hero, expressed my thoughts at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo today when he said,”I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as We All Must…” His full statement is shown below:
“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.” –Salman Rushdie

I fear no religion. Fuck you Islam. Pictures tell a more powerful story than my simple words:

Via Reddit

From Paris, via Reddit.

Via Cyprien on Twitter

Via J.K. Rowling on Twitter.

Via Banksy on Instagram - this gives me hope.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Two pastors, two arrests

While reading the headlines today, I noticed two new names pop up under the category “Pastor Arrested” in my Google news filter.
Pastor James Worley of Powell Valley Church in Oregon, was arrested on 37 sex crime charges.
…including two counts of rape, 20 counts of sexual abuse, 11 counts of sodomy, one count of attempted sodomy and three counts of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct.
Pastor Thomas Wilson of Smithville Baptist Church in New York, was arrested on a charge of sexually assaulting a young girl.
Wilson is accused of having sexual contact with a nine year old girl in the village of Sackets Harbor during the spring or summer of 2008…” 
I only opened one email. I am afraid to read any more.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Pastor Richard Yeamans arrested

 Pastor Richard Yearns of  Spotsylvania, VAwas arrested for sexually abusing 2 boys ages 11 and 12. The abuse allegedly occurred while Yeamans was the youth pastor at Riverclub Church off Tidewater Trail.

See this face? Does it look like somebody who can abuse children? No? That’s because anybody is capable of this type of abuse. A pastor is just a man (or woman). There is nothing special about being a pastor. Anybody can be one. Anyone…

How well do you know your pastor or your youth pastor? Why give another person unsupervised access to your child? Why take the risk that the nice man telling bible stories to your children is not only taking advantage of young minds but young bodies as well?

Hypocrisy. Deal with it.

Discovering a new atheist

I enjoy discovering people who doing something interesting and are also Atheists. Someone who writes fiction and is also an atheist, or an accomplished athlete who is also atheist. I think it helps the cause and frankly, I’m tired of people who are atheists for atheist sake.

I found a new (to me anyway) person today. While listening to Brett Mckay’s The Art of Manliness podcast #95 on my drive home. Brett interviewed Brian Koppleman who wrote, among others, the screenplays for Rounders, Knockabout Guys, and Ocean’s Thirteen. While discussing a writing technique called morning pages, Brian tries to write three longhand pages each morning. His disclosure came out naturally and suddenly. Referring July Cameron’s the Artists Way, he said, "The book has a lot to do with spiritually. I’m an atheist.”  (37:20)

His Wikipedia page also shows that he is an atheist.

Brian Kopplemen has a podcast called The Moment on Grantland.com



Saturday, November 29, 2014

Um... what Jena Malone?

I follow photography. It's my thing. It's a lifelong hobby that brings me joy and happiness. I also follow religion and belief too. It brings me less joy and happiness, but it tends to make me think and that is okay. Sometimes photography and religion mix. Like this story about actress Jena Malone.

On Friday, Jena Malone turned 30, debuted her first solo photography show and celebrated the release of her latest film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1), which went on to have the biggest opening weekend of any movie this year (though she only appears for a few seconds). All three pivotal events make up what she calls a "crazy triangle" influenced by Saturn Return, or the life-changing astrological transition that she says she's been in the thick of for the past two years.

(via LAWeekly)

"crazy triangle" influenced by Saturn Return, or the life-changing astrological transition... Wait, what? Everything was moving along well until we took a turn towards astrology, and then the story went south.

I was originally attracted to the story because of the images. I was curious. What would the young photographer Jena Malone produce? I hoped for interesting and got what looks like photos that my mom would take while on vacation. Her show is a vanity showcase of little substance, but her life looks worse. Astrology, triangls seeds… It all feeds my thinking that successful actors are just people with access to more of everything than the rest of us. They are people with all the same kookie hangups, shallow thinking and limitations as the rest of us. Why do we treat them special? Why do we idolize them? Why do we treat a woman whose experience in photography is limited to studying photography at a Jr. college as if her snapshots of Burma are special?

My gospel is like chemotherapy

I find myself asking a lot of questions these day. One that comes to mind often is, what is the real role of a pastor? With all the negative media coverage  these days, I have ample evidence of what a pastor’s role should not be. I have precious little exposure to what a pastor's role should be. I need to fix that. If I am to highlight problems in religion, I think balance is required.

I can find nothing redeeming in the words of Pastor Earl Carter.

“I don’t hate gays, I’m just like the doctor who hates disease, I fight the disease,” Carter added. “My gospel is like chemotherapy. We try to get to the disease. And the police fighting crime, what are we fighting? Or are we making concessions for these sins?”

(via RawStory)

The words, “My gospel is like Chemotherapy” stand out. Chemotherapy is a horrible analogy and brings to mind suffering and pain. Pastor Earl Carter is saying that it is his job to bring suffering and pain to LGBT people. Does that sound anything like the message of Jesus? 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The silly notion that god does stuff for us

I read and despair… I know lots of people who think like this. 

“Even if I’m going to drop my kids off, or I need to park somewhere, I’m like, ‘OK God, you know I’m in this parking lot, you know any place you can open up for me would be great!’ I just have this relationship- I’m not dumbing down prayer. What I’m doing- it’s just part of my life.”

Victoria Osteen

The Christian notion that god listens to our silly prayers and then intervenes in the lives of people to make our desires come true makes no sense at all when one considers the concept of free will. Why do people think this way? In Victoria Osteen’s scenario, god would stop running the universe to make Mr. Nobody stop his shopping and open a place close to mall for the princess of Christian bullshit to park. I mean, wtf?

(Via Progressive Secular Humanist.)