Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

It is funny about Halloween, the older you get, the less fun it is. Until you have kids and then its fun until the kids turn self-conscious -I’m a year or two away from my youngest son's self-conscious phase. Then Halloween becomes less and less fun until you get grandkids – I’m not quite there yet.

This year was like last year, and the year before. We attended a community party in Cerritos, complete with a live band, games, and a haunted house. It’s great fun for the kids.

This shot is of my aunt as she works a community fair booth. The three sisters (all witches with $1 witch hats), work the booth every year in support of a local Filipino American social organization. The whole family turns out in support.

Marginal Utility: The Dreadful Dick Dawkins Part I

Drek of Marginal Utility has an interesting take on a Dawkins book review found in the New York Times.

Yet, in saying all that, I think I can still object to the recent book review on Dawkins' work published in the New York Times. This review, written by Jim Holt,** is quite frankly negative. Okay, that's an understatement: it's actually rather vicious. In the viciousness, however, it's fairly clear that the reviewer simply doesn't like Dawkins' message and wishes he'd just keep his atheism to himself. This, and this alone, is really what I have a problem with. Religious persons of all stripes are permitted, and often expected, to try and convert their friends and neighbors. Often they are rewarded for conspicuous displays of piety and religion acts as a sort of human capital. So, I consider it a bit absurd for someone to be condemned not merely for taking pride in their own religious views, but for simply doing what everyone else does already: doubting the gods of others, and giving voice to that doubt.
Source: Marginal Utility: The Dreadful Dick Dawkins Part I

I am always interested in finding a new atheist (Drek was unknown to me), and then reading and processing what he or she has to say. In this case, the dissection of Jim Holt's book review was fun to read, informative, and insightful. But it also troubled me...

This morning I spent a great deal of time with my son driving to and from, and to and from, his school. He forgot an important assignment, so we repeated our drive twice. During the drive he talked about two friends who don't celibate Halloween for religious reasons. Apparently, his friends don't believe in a god that prohibits fun things like Halloween or video games, which places them in conflict with their parents. We talked about god again. He was concerned that his belief in god in some way offended me. He asked about what it would be like if the tables were turned. If I were a Christian and he an atheist. Would I still be as tolerant of his beliefs. I answered that self-determination is an important concept and that I hoped that I would stick to it. Only... In retrospect, I understand that to be a Christian comes with the obligation of spreading the word, and therein lies the problem. I don't feel the obligation to spread the word as an Atheist, but I would as a Christian. Perhaps spreading the word is the right thing to do?

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Did Focus on the Family just break the law?

I found a good blog post on the unlawful lobbing efforts of James Dobson and Focus on the Family. It is yet another example of how a supposed values based "Christian" organization lies about its intentions. Dobson has a long history of abusing his tax exempt status. The example sited at Blue Bayou is the latest example of Dobsons continued contempt for the rule of law. Nothing matters in the pursuit of power - values be dammed.  

I don't think, however, you have to be an expert to be able to tell that a recent email that the group sent to its members in Maryland about their Senate race has a very clear message about who to vote for. That violates the spirit, if perhaps not the letter, of the law.

Source: Blue Bayou: Did Focus on the Family just break the law?

Disclaimer: I did not use the word evil in reference to James Dobson or Focus on the Family in this post. I in no way intend to influence the reader as to the state of Dobson's evilness or his intent to cause great harm to our nation. I leave it up to the reader to determine for themselves if James Dobson is actually evil or just intellectually dishonest and a poor representative of Christianity. I'll just stick to  the facts.

nah... I still think he's evil, EVIL I tell you.


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A transitional fossil

San Francisco - An Oregon scientist has discovered an ancient bee thought to be 100 million years old and almost perfectly preserved in a block of amber, the journal Science is reporting in its upcoming issue.

Source: Scientist abuzz over 100 million year old bee

A 100 million year old bee, part wasp, part bee... ID - you have some explaining to do


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Canman repose

Fall in Long Beach CA. We know it's Fall because the homeless rest in the sun. It was 87 degrees.

This photo was not shot by me. I was negotiating an important taco purchase at the time. I saw the canman, handed my Nikon to Kenny, and said "shoot that" (pointing at the canman). Kenny, a good photographer in his own right, responded, "You're intense dude".

Ya - intense. That's me.

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Glass Worms on Mars

Oh baby...  is this real?

The Official Martian Glass Worm Appreciation Page

- or -

Glass tube on Mars 

Or just another example of nutball thinking?


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black and white and bleak all over

Damn - LA can be so ugly. I guess it is a good thing I like ugly. In color, everything except the cars would be gray. Is color illegal? When it comes to bridge work, I guess so. That is one reason I like graffiti.

It's a mellow night here in SoCal. Live is good. The music is playing loud - I'm listening to Wilco sing Jesus, etc.

Voices are scared
Singing sad sad songs
Two two chords
Strung down your cheeks

Oh to write like this... eventually. I have the inspiration sitting right next to me.

Front Toward Enemy

A friend has started blogging. I respect his intellect. Since I've known him, he has migrated from Atheist to Agnostic to Deist. Some would think that I would have a problem with this, but I do not. Unlike the "New Atheist" movement, I am not evangelical about atheism.  The concept of atheism should be self evident to those who are ready for it. If your intellectual process leads you to deism, or even belief in the Christian Gods, so be it. I will only speak out when fundamentalism becomes an issue.

My deist blogging friend is finding his voice now, and it is a powerful voice already. He takes on Wired's "The Church of Non-believers" in a recent post.  

The New Atheists tend to define the ideological conflict as being between the Brights and the Dims, the Rationalists and Superstitious. Dawkins has argued that parents should be forbidden from teaching religion to their children. I would tend to define the most important ideological divide as being between the Relativists and the Absolutists. Between those who believe that we should live and let live and Those Who Know What’s Best.

Source: Front Toward Enemy

I would like to encourage the Atheist community to drop in at Front Toward Enemy to read the post. Leave your thoughts, start a dialog, or even better, post and link. FTE is on to something - Is the New Atheism movement fundamentalism by another name? Does the position of moderate religion enabling fundamentalism ring true? Does Dawkins call to do away with all religion make any sense?

I've always been a skeptic. Skepticism lead me away from Christianity, and serves to keep me safe in the marketplace of ideas. Something about what Dawkins and Harris is selling bothers me. The skeptic in me says question this too.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Inspiration in art can come from many sources. I find inspiration in nearly everything. Sometimes I see a odd rock set in concrete and think about the possibilities for weeks. Sometimes I see the works of other artists. And sometimes initial exposure to art sets a creative process in motion that nothing will ever stop. This is true for Ansel Adams's Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941. (I cannot display the picture at Deep Thoughts even though I own a copy because the Adams Image Trust are lawsuit nazis, so follow the link to see the image.)

Moonrise is my definition of the perfect photograph. It has inspired me since I first saw it as a young man in the 70s. It continues to inspire me to this day. I was fortunate enough to view an original last weekend. One is on display at the collectible moment, photographs in the Norton Simon Museum.

I went to the show expecting to see photo's collected by the museum in the 60s and 70s. Finding my favorite photograph on display was a special surprise. Once again, I was inspired, and humbled.

Manual Alverez Bravo

Image by: Manuel Alvarez Bravo

The show held other great works. Inspiration can come from anywhere. I found a new photographer, Manuel Alvarez Bravo. A Mexican artist with an eye towards the surreal. How I missed a gifted photographer like Bravo mystifies me. It reinforces that I am always learning, always looking for something new or unknown.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo

Image by: Manuel Alvarez Bravo

The collectible moment runs through Febraury.  


What is spirituality anyway?

Saito Sobrius asks the question - Are you spiritual?

I keep coming across the notion, mostly in American writings, that although many people no longer regard themselves as religious, still they stress the importance of spirituality. I have a problem with spirituality. I don't know what it means. And I'm pretty sure nobody else really does either.

Source: Salto sobrius: But First -- Are You Spiritual?

Funny - I ask this question of myself. I answer it no - not spiritual. Sometimes I get all emotional in response to art, music, beauty, logic, or even the smile on my wife's face. But, these are far from spiritual. They are emotive responses to outside stimulus. I don't get spirituality. I never really have.

The fun part of Martin's post is in the comments. Nobody knows what spirituality means, and since Martin ain' from around these parts, his interpretations of Americans use of the term spirituality are interesting.

The Science Pundit said...

Salman Rushdie said it best when he suggested that the word "spirituality" should be banned from the English language for 50 years.

Right on! I equate spirituality to religion. I equate spirituality in atheism to waffling.  There is no God, the is no soul, no spirit, no metaphysical world. Only here, now.


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Support New Atheism - or not

Deep Thoughts is not about religion, it is not about Atheism, it is not even about the cult of personality that drives much of our world. Deep Thoughts is about Fundamentalism in all forms. True, I am an out of the closet Atheist and I actively promote atheism as an alternative to fundamentalism and religion. However, converting the religious peoples of the world is not in scope so to speak. I have no desire to change the faith of my religious friends or relations. Coexistence and tolerance seems a reasonable objective. Supplanting all religions with science and atheism seems more like evanagelical fundamentalism.

Care of CotG #53 we have  Phil for Humanity's take on New Atheism. It looks like Phil falls into the "supplanting religion" family of Atheism.

As a result, the world's intellectuals are slowly moving away from traditional atheism towards New Atheism for the betterment of mankind. Unfortunately, most of the world's population is too set in their ways to convert easily. New Atheists should instead concentrate on converting two types of people. First, it would be easiest, through direct reasoning, to convert agnostics who are already closest to atheists. These are the people who are our scientists, engineers, doctors, and professors who are already educated in the scientific discipline. Second, the next generations of children are still open minded enough to embrace science and reason instead of religious superstition. Science classes in schools should teach that science and reasoning are the opposite of religious faith. This will help break the cycle of children who are brainwashed at a very early age.

Source: Support New Atheism « Phil for Humanity

I must admit that my position is based on a weak intellectual exercise. I have not read Dawkins yet, and I have only just finished Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation. So, before I come down in strong opposition to New Atheism, I must do my research, read, think, and discuss this with the people in my life who I deeply respect. At this point, I'll have to say, I'm not aligned with the New Atheism movement.

A short story for consideration:

I know a Christian family well. They are happy, well adjusted, caring and giving. They embrace science in a way that would make most secular people scratch their heads in wonder. For them, science describes the physical world, religion describes the metaphysical world, when there is a conflict between the bible and science, science wins. The love each other and their community, they serve humanity through charitable works, donations, and direct involvement with the lives of people who need help. They are even open to discussion and have evolving attitudes on social issues. We don't agree on all issues, but the common ground is large. Why would I want to change these people? Only an intractable fundamentalist philosophy would prompt me to do so. I would rather focus my energy on the evil that is James Dobson.

A closing thought:

One of the things that bothers me about New Atheism is that it appears to be a reaction to Christianism. New Atheism appears to be opportunistic in that it is timed to take advantage of the disillusionment many religious people are feeling now that the full range of President Bush's inept evangelical fundamentalism is coming to light. Does anyone else see this as a possible motivating factor in the movement?


Carnival of the Godless #52 is up!

Carnival of the Godless #52 is up at Skeptic Rant. It's the Halloween edition and promises to be an interesting read. So pay a visit, read a few articles, level a few comments, link to the jewels or the dogs, and absorb a few new ideas.

a man without GOD is like a fish without a bicycle

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Tennessee homophobic fundies boycott Wal-Mart

...boycott ends when fundies realize they can't find everyday low prices on pork rinds at the Piggly Wiggly.

but seriously...  

Pastor Carol Jacobs says the church had been spending thousands of dollars at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club for supplies but won't do so anymore.

Source: 365Gay.com - Tennessee Church Starts Wal-Mart Boycott over gay support

It really is a symbolic gesture, because, a couple thousand dollars to Wal-Mart is like a single leaf to a tree. It ain't going to matter. I was intrigued by their motivation - Why was Pastor Jacobs so dead-set against selling gay oriented products? Hell, what are gay oriented products anyway? I've never even thought about it before. I suppose there are gay products, I mean, I'm fat and Wal-Mat sells stretch pants; not the good George Forman brand, but the cheep ass Chinese knock off brands. I digress...

Pastor Carol has done research. He knows what gay products are better than anybody... well better than anybody who's not already gay I suppose.

Randy Sharp, AFA's director of special projects said he did an online search of Walmart.com  using such terms as "gay," "lesbian," "transgender," "bisexual," and "gay marriage".

"They'll come up with hundreds, sometimes even thousands of products relating to homosexuality [and promotion of] the agenda of the homosexual community," Sharp told Christian publication Agape.

Source: 365Gay.com - AFS: Avoid Gay Friendly Wal-Mart

Running the risk of exposing myself to "gay influence", I conducted the same experience. Using the term "GAY" Wal-Mart returned:

Using the term "LESBIAN" if found: (oh please be the L-word, please)

Using the term "TRANSGENDER" I found:

I gave up at this point. It was pointless. Wal-Mart is selling mainstream gay themed products, none of which will find their way on to local store shelfs unless they sell in sufficient numbers to warrant a stocking program. And contrary to the fears of Pastor Carol Jacobs and his flock of sheeple, no gay conversion kits were being sold.

So, Wal-Mart online is acting much like any other online retailer and selling products its customers demand. Whoopdeedoo! No story here. Move along.

I put fundamentalist nutball into Wal-Mart online - it returned no products. Maybe Pastor Carol Jacobs should shop elsware.

Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Country Ruled by Faith

I found an interesting artilce on Bush and his evangelical adminstration by Historian Garry Willis. It confirms a feeling I have concerning Bush - I think he will go down in History as one of our worst Presidents, all becuase he's an ex-alcoholic bad boy who found Jesus, but seriously misunderstood the message.

I found Willis's article via Red Blue Christian. An excellent Christian blog full of thoughtful and enlighted content. A post called "Do Evangelicals Hate Science?" led me to A Country rulled by Faith. Give it a read. I think It is worth a few minutes of your time.

Bush promised his evangelical followers faith-based social services, which he called "compassionate conservatism." He went beyond that to give them a faith-based war, faith-based law enforcement, faith-based education, faith-based medicine, and faith-based science. He could deliver on his promises because he stocked the agencies handling all these problems, in large degree, with born-again Christians of his own variety. The evangelicals had complained for years that they were not able to affect policy because liberals left over from previous administrations were in all the health and education and social service bureaus, at the operational level. They had specific people they objected to, and they had specific people with whom to replace them, and Karl Rove helped them do just that.

Source: The New York Review of Books: A Country Ruled by Faith

The connection is music

I had a duh moment yesterday. I realized Sean Prophet of Black Sun Journal was The Sean Prophet of Elizabeth Clare Prophet fame. As an occasional reader of his outstanding blog, I was a fan of his intellect but wondered about where he was coming from. Once I realized the connection, well... things made a little more sense.

Sean writes an outstanding post on the power of music and roll of the band Rush in an important moment in his life:

So I had a little time one night while I was packing. No one was around. I guiltily grabbed my headphones to listen to the prohibited music, all in the name of research, of course ;-) and popped in Power Windows. It had been a few years since I had listened--really listened to this music. I was overwhelmed. It was like a dam burst. I was even able to hear "Territories" in a different way, as a plea for peace and enlightenment. Next I moved on to Hold Your Fire, and was moved to tears listening to this song...

Source: Black Sun Journal - Rush 'Saved' Me (And My Kids)

Music saved Sean. It's been an important force in my life, as it is for many people I know and love. I appreciate Seans story - it is powerful and reminds me of why I like blogging. I connect with humanity, a small sliver of humanity in this case, but the connection is no less real. I share this connection with Olly of 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish. Olly connected me to Sean with a powerful affirmation of his own.

I’ve never had an idol. I’ve never had someone that I felt was worthy of that kind of brainless respect. What I have had are guides. My guides are Robert Plant, Trent Reznor, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and John Lennon. My guides are Frank Herbert, Issac Asimov, Allen Ginsburg, and J.R.R. Tolkien. They are Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Picasso.

Source: 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish - A 'Rush' of Emotion from Sean Prophet

I don't follow sports, I'm not into TV or pop culture. I don't have a idol either. Instead, much like olly and many other people I know, I find inspiration in art, music, and the written word. Photography can move me to tears, paintings cause me to loose track of time, a book is a world of its own to explore, and music helps me keep it all together. Sublime, DMB, Collective Soul, Buckwheat Zydeco, David Bowie, Ben Harper, John Lee Hooker, John Lennon, Benny Goodman, SRV, Cat Stevens, Robert Johnson, Weezer, Green Day, Lyle Lovett, Brent Lewis, Thievery Corporation, The Crystal Method, The New Pornographers, Arty Shaw, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, The Decemberists, Johnny Cash, Matisyahu, Zazen Boys, Imogen Heap, James Blunt, my friend David Odeegard, and the great Bob Marley. This list goes on and on, as does the inspiration.

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The hijab, and what wearing one means

This article came in to my news filter because of Hatem Bazian. He's an official nutball because he is on record with his desire to bring violent insurrection to America. In this case, he is simply speaking in favor of wearing the hijab. Nothing insidious here, right?

The Quran, in general, talks about dressing in modesty,"...

"One reference (in the Quran) is to cover the bosom, as the Quran suggests that the hair was already being covered at that time. Covering is important so that women are protected — to prevent the turning of heads. But this is also found in other religions. For example, those visiting the Vatican must cover their heads in modesty as well."

Source: Inside Bay Area - The hijab, and what wearing one means

The message is subtle, but it is real. The message is "good" Muslim women must be covered to remove temptation from men. Because, with being covered, whatever evil transpires, is at least partially the fault of the woman. The concept is un-American.

And, least we forget that the article quoted above is about a murder. My sympathies go out to the family of Alia Ansari who was brutally murdered on the streets of Oakland. Her death was senseless, but it appears to be random. I hope it was not related to her religion.

On the other hand, politicizing Ansari's death by speculating that she was killed because of the wearing a hajib is transparently dishonest. Writing a newspaper article in favor of "Wear a Hijab Day" is pandering to unsubstantiated Islamic persecution fears and their desire to spread the faith. Using a Ansari's death to further Islamic attempts to cover women head-to-toe is ghastly and blatantly political. The politics of Islam is just as disquieting as the politics of right wing fundies.

Links to other Hatem Bazian posts on Deep Thoughts:


Friday, October 27, 2006

Soda paper cigar

I smoked my lunch at Joe R's in Long Beach today. A Punch. I sit outside with John. We watch and smoke as the world rolls by. I hold my camera close and wait. Subjects soon walk by. Soda-Paper-Man collects cans and old newspapers. He walks a regular beat. And... he's rather odd. I watch without commenting. He would not meet my eyes.


A young couple with two stroller kids walk up to the smoking chairs. They light up a spliff and a cigar. The smell is intoxicating. Nobody cares. They speak Spanish mostly, the young mother complains about breastfeeding. The kids seem mellow.

I can watch people all day.

Nutball Alert: Dani of Generation x-pose

I came across another Christian fundie nutball by chance. It has been awhile since I've spent any time looking for crap this this. When I find a fundie site, I must always look close to make sure somebody is not pulling my leg. That's not the case here. Nutball Dani knows the TRUTH! - because the bible tells her so. So, from within the narrow framework of her twisted world view we are offered textbook fundie arguments against.... atheism, gay rights, abortion rights, research, and science. All articulated without regard to scientific truth - only her fundie world view. In her own words:

I am a wife and a homeschooling mother of three beautiful girls. I am on assignment from God to be a good helper to my husband and to train up my children with the Fear and Admonition of the Lord! My beliefs are radical, oftentimes offensive, and fundamental to the core. Everybody SEEMS to know how I appear to be, however, only FEW know who I TRULY am. Chances are, you’re either going to LOVE me or HATE me. It takes a special breed of inquiring minds to read this and want to stick around for more. I invite you to search my site, read, enjoy, disagree, debate, give your opinion, call me crazy or tell me you hate me. I am here to share the Truth to an entire generation trained not to notice and blinded by lies. Please leave your comments - I love to hear what others are thinking! **My life verse ===> "Have I now become your enemy by telling the TRUTH?" - Galatians 4:16

So, turn off your brain, take a stiff drink, and descend into the abyss of pseudo-intellectualism where you will read:

I don't know what to say here. Her intractable stupidity is mind boggling. Why is this woman allowed to homeschool her poor children? Oh yes, we live in America - that's right.

Can we at least prevent her blog from being seen outside the US? it makes us look... dumb.

I will close by quoting the bible, well no, not the bible actually, how about a quote from Robert Heinlien?

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Source: Elise - Heinlien specialization is for insects

Specialization is for insects - and fundies.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

I took some time off this evening to read the latest book by Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation. At 96 pages (soaking wet), I was able to read it this evening and fit in some family time in the form of Star Wars Battlefront with my son, and dinner out with my wife; in other words, no blogging, but lots of family time.

It's late here on the west coast now, the family is asleep, and I feel the need to write about this extraordinary little book. Let's start with a look at what another reader has to say:

Sam Harris fearlessly describes a moral and intellectual emergency precipitated by religious fantasies–misguided beliefs that create suffering, that rationalize violence, that have endangered our nation and our future. His argument for the morality, the honesty, and the humility of atheism is galvanizing. It is a relief that someone has spoken so frankly, with such passion yet such rationality. Now when the subject arises, as it inevitably does, I can simply say: Read Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation.”

Source: Amazon.com: Letter to a Christian Nation: Books: Sam Harris

It is hard to compete with reviews like this. I don't have the big words necessary to write a compelling review. I can tell you why I like the book though. It is an honest and straightforward confrontation with religion that will make honest people stop and think. Maybe, just maybe, the relentless logic of Harris's argument will reach the moderate religious audience it is meant for. This thought gives me hope.

Many of these arguments have been around awhile, some have been updated to reflect current circumstance. All are devastating. I need to think long and hard about if I agree with Harris on his position that we must move past religion. I have always felt that religious belief is ones own business.

I've been accused of being evangelical, but the truth is, I am not evangelical about atheism, not even with my own children. I have always held that it is better to teach a child to think and then allow the to make their own choices about what to believe. It seems only fair. To do otherwise would turn me into the Evangelical nutballs who I despise.

Harris's book is written for moderate Christians, yet it also calls out to Atheists to confront religion and the religious. To stand on the sidelines when the fate of civilization is at stake seems irresponsible. Yet, this call lacks authenticity. Harris's reliance on the either/or argument structure does not allow for the gray areas where most of us live. I'm all for calling Christians to account, but telling a person what to believe is wrong.

I recommend the book. It is a good read and easy to digest in one sitting. I doubt that the faithful will be swayed by Harris's arguments. However, those who are not as confident in their faith may well find the book a powerful motivator for Atheism. The arguments make sense. I've used many of them over the years - mostly in defense of my atheism. I have never talked another person out of their faith, nor would I want that responsibility.

I can see copies of this book making its way into a few Christmas stockings this year. I have so many Christian friends (and so few atheist friends), it seems only natural to spread the word in a non-evangelical kind of secular gift giving way. Know what I mean?

I'll write an in-dept review in a few days. I need to think about these concepts more.

***updated 10/27/06

Other Reviews:

R.I.P Coach Gordon K. Ackerman

My High School basketball coach passed away on Sunday, October 22. I have many memories of Coach Ackerman, some good, some bad, most involved running lines until I puked. He liked to make us run.

Born May 20, 1924, in Corvalis, Oregon, Mr. Ackerman served in the United States Navy during World War II and was later a math teacher and coach of the varsity basketball team at Artesia High School until his retirement in 1986.

Source: The Friday Flyer, October 27, 2006 - Article: In Memoriam: Gordon K. Ackerman

My best memory of Coach Ackerman came from when I was an underclassman playing on the J.V. squad. We would scrimmage against the varsity team at the end of our early morning practice sessions. Coach Ackerman would tell his team that for every shot I made, they would run an extra set of lines. I routinely made 15 or more shots. The varsity squad ran and ran and ran. Coach Ackerman would admonish his team after each basket to play like men. My brother-in-law, who was dating my little sister at the time, provided special motivation. I loved to see him run.

At the end of a weekend practice near the end of the season, Coach Ackerman pulled me aside and told me I was the best pure shooter he had ever coached. A year later he said the same thing at our awards dinner. He was being nice - I was a damn good shot, but the rest of my game was just average.

R.I.P Coach


Abandoned meat

In what can only be described as religious morality gone insane, a Muslim “leader” in Australia blames women for sex attacks by likening immodest dress as abandoned meat that attracts voracious animals. Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali was referring to a vicious gang rape when he made his comments.

In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders, Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were not entirely to blame.

While not specifically referring to the rapes, brutal attacks on four women for which a group of young Lebanese men received long jail sentences, Sheik Hilali said there were women who "sway suggestively" and wore make-up and immodest dress ... "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years".

Source: The Australian - Muslim leader blames women for sex attacks

So… the rapists were not at fault? Have they no self control? Of course, the answer is that is Islam, self control is not part of the theology. Removing temptation is a central tenant. So, if a woman fails to remove the temptation by choosing to appear in public without a veil, she’s asking for the rape. This twisted logic would paint the poor unfortunate Muslim rapists as not in control of their own lust. Perhpas they should not have been judged so harshly. Perhaps probation would have been a better idea.

Muslim logic:

In the religious address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, Sheik Hilali said: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?

"The uncovered meat is the problem."

Oh really? Are Muslim men cats? Because, last time I checked, cats did not know the difference between right and wrong. Men on the other hand, know the difference between right and wrong. A rapist knows what he is doing is wrong. Hell, men should know that eating abondoned meat is not a good idea. Would a Muslim man eat abondoned bacon?

Note to Muslims: It is NEVER the victims fault.

Questions for consideration: Why is it that Muslims choose to remove temptation over exhibiting self control? How is is possible that an Atheist can clearly see the moral ramifications of "blame the victim" thinking when a religious person cannot?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mojoey bait - the good stuff

My friend feeds me interesting stuff via del.icio.us tags. He calls these morsels mojoey-bait. He's so damn funny, and right. I can rarely resist what he offers. Like this short link to a movie about Jim Jones and Jonestown. 

It gives me chills to see the man again. He was a real monster, evil incarnate. My encounter with him as a youth was brief. It left a lasting stain on my soul that nothing, not even time, has healed. 28 years later.... I still have unsettling dreams.


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Herding the Sheeple

James Dobson is a man I watch closely. He has access to a wide audience of willing listeners who lap up his words as if he speaks with the moral authority of God himself. He is political, motivated, well funded, and most troubling , he seems hell bent on establishing a Christian theocracy in America through whipping up the irrational fears of true believers. His targets are usually those who are too weak politically to mount an effective defense, like gays and teen mothers. Fortunately, Dobson seems to have been hoisted on his own petard.

I found a list of reasons why people who follow Dobson are called "Sheeple".

As chairman of the $145 million-a-year propaganda organization Focus on the Family, Dobson is the ultimate puppet master, giving conservative members of Congress marching orders in exchange for votes from his flock. …

By manipulating religious teachings, Dobson represses his followers with a reactionary societal code: Get married, stay married, procreate and – most important – donate your money to Focus on the Family.

The more his listeners believe, the more easily they can be exploited. That explains why many of those listeners – hardworking middle-class people who are struggling with bills or caring for elderly loved ones – vote against their own interests.

Instead of voting for the party that created the 40-hour work week, workers compensation, and has been pushing for universal health care, they vote for the party of James Dobson: members of Congress who for nine years have refused to increase the minimum wage above $5.15 an hour, yet accept automatic pay raises for themselves each year. …

There is no proof that Democrats knew about Foley’s lurid instant messages, but two Republican congressmen, John Boehner of Ohio and Thomas Reynolds of New York, have publicly stated they told House Speaker Dennis Hastert about it months ago.

So wouldn’t a person of strong moral values at least chide Hastert for his inaction?

Nope. Not when you are a puppet master of members of Congress who use the name of God to pass laws that take away civil rights in exchange for campaign contributions and the promise of votes from the flock. A man of real moral values would urge Congress to increase college Pell grants, expand work training programs, and offer struggling working-class families subsidized day care.

Instead, he vilifies gay people as people who are destroying marriage. Dobson talks about having a pro-life agenda, but never speaks out against the deaths of more than 2,700 American troops in Iraq, or against capital punishment, which is really a euphemism for state-sponsored murder.

The sad part is the sheeple don’t see the hypocrisy and don’t realize they’re being used. [links added]

Source: Atlantic Free Press - Hard Truths for Hard Times - Herding the Sheeple, Voting on Justice

Sheeple - I like it.

Carson Ugly #26 - Bovine Love

The Carson natives decorated the area around Calis Park with signs of their love and apprcieation for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department. The graffiti covered every wall an open space in view, including the barbque. Four different cops drove by during my lunch hour to check out the tribute. They could feel the love. Carson must be the best damn city in the country.

This was most likely the work of the bloods gang "Calas Park Loks" - but everyone knows this is my park! Fat old white dudes rule.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

The Jewish Atheist joins the blogroll

A new Atheist themed blog has joined our Atheist Blogroll. It's called the Jewish Atheist and features interesting new material for your reading pleasure.

This is your brain on God - looks at a series of comments posted on Pseudo-Polymath. It's fascinating.

Richard Dawkins has lost my respect - well the title speaks for itself, but here is the reason.

Regarding the accusations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, deplorable and disgusting as those abuses are, they are not so harmful to the children as the grievous mental harm in bringing up the child Catholic in the first place. --Richard Dawkins, as told to Emily Hourican, in The Dubliner. Via Mark.

Young earth creationism Vs. old earth creationism - is a comparison of these two concepts with Naturalistic Evolution.

What can I say, a interesting new blog is like finding a undiscovered book in your library.

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Science Friday - Religion and global warming

The October 20, 2006, Hour One edition of Science Friday focused on two issues: 1. Science as an Election issue, and 2. Religion and Global Warming. Of the two, I found the discussion surrounding Religion and Global Warming fascinating. Ira's guests discuss a growing green movement within the church. It appears that some Christians are interpreting their mission to include enviornmental stewardship. The blurb below describes the whole show.

As the election season moves into its final weeks, campaigns across the country are heating up. In some states, the debate topics are to be expected -- the war in Iraq, the economy, taxation, and jobs. But in some places in the country, science may play a role in deciding the outcome of electoral races. In Missouri and New Mexico, the politics of stem cell research are a major issue in closely-run races. In this hour, we'll take a look at science topics such as stem cells, alterative fuels, and the environment as election issues.

Source: October 20, 2006, Hour One: Science as an Election issue / Religion and Global Warming

Both issues are of interest to the atheist community. Science as an election issues deals with "sound science" and the need for greater accountability, while Religion and Global Warming deals with changes in mainstream religious philosophy that can help move the focus away from issues like gay rights. Science Friday is not an atheist broadcast, but it feeds the skeptical component many of us find necessary to help confront decisions based on religious superstition.

Science Friday is available as a podcast via iTunes for free. Back issues are included and easy to access.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Creationist Lies and Blunders

I came across this collection of Creationist and iD "lies and blunders'" while doing research into an unrelated topic. The author states:

This site is dedicated to debunking a variety of falsehoods being propagated by creationists. Many are going to be outright lies though cases of glaring incompetence will be examined as well. My goal is not to be a mere nitpicker. But rather to emphasize falsehoods which very little excuse can be made especially ones that make a difference in the evolution/creation “debate.

Source: Creationist Lies and Blunders

He takes on some interesting subjects:

My approach is less academic. If approached by a creationist, I respond with "you guys are nutballs" and turn up my music.

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Let the smear begin

David Kou appears to be the real deal. A Christian that cares about helping people. A Christian with ethics and character. A Christian with a powerful new book that I intend to read. I've watch the press glob on to Kou's story. As a skeptic - I'll wait until after the facts are in before I pronounce any kind of judgement. The press on the other hand, they've jumped in with both feet. I don't blame them. Kou is saying something that I have long suspected; Bush and his posse are power mad and two faced.

I expected the counter attack to come from the religious right, and it has:

The assaults have already started coming in from the White House’s conservative allies. Christian evangelical leaders James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Chuck Colson were to quick to criticize Kuo while defending Bush.

In the latest attack, an article entitled “David Kuo: An Addition to the Axis of Evil,” Jason T. Christy, the publisher of The Church Report (and once nominated to head the Bush-friendly Christian Coalition), lobs many of the accusations that Kuo predicted:

Source: Think Progress - Prominent right-wing activist Smears Kuo as member of "Axis of Evil"

There are over 140 comments at the source of the quote I use above. When I was reading articles for this post, I found that Think Progress had captured my thinking as well as I could. But the comments were icing on the cake that I cannot provide. They are entertaining and worth a few minutes of your time. I'll leave you with another quote:

Questioning the faith and motivation of this administration is wrong.

That’s quite disturbing.

Source: Comment by Ugh — October 16, 2006 @ 3:42 pm


Dobson's fall starts with empty seats

James Dobson and Focus on the Family has had to cancel two stadium events because of low ticket sales. Note to Dobson: When Christians stop coming to your rallies - it may be a sign that they don't like you any more. Perhaps you should back off on all the gay bashing?

Focus on the Family has cancelled two of their “Stand for the Family Events” scheduled to be held in giant auditoriums in cities across the country — moving them instead to much smaller venues and in one case to a local church where the admission will be free of charge! Talk about desperate.

Source: DefCon Blog » Blog Archive » Stand For The Family Events Bomb


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Sam Harris - Bad reasons to be good

Sam Harris writes another powerful OpEd for the Boston Globe. This time he asks why do Christians have so many bad reasons to be good.

...Most Americans appear to believe that without faith in God, we would have no durable reasons to treat one another well...

Unfortunately, religion tends to separate questions of morality from the living reality of human and animal suffering. Consequently, religious people often devote immense energy to so-called ``moral" questions -- such as gay marriage -- where no real suffering is at issue, and they will inflict terrible suffering in the service of their religious beliefs.

Source: Bad reasons to be good - The Boston Globe

Harris goes on to compare Christian charitable work with the same work provided by secular organizations.

Many pious Christians go to countries like Sudan to help alleviate human suffering, and such behavior is regularly put forward as a defense of Christianity. But in this case, religion gives people bad reasons for acting morally, where good reasons are actually available...

There is a significant difference between Religious and secular charity and aid. Religious aid often comes with a moral strings attached.

...In Africa, for instance, certain Christians preach against condom use in villages where AIDS is epidemic, and where the only information about condoms comes from the ministry.

I don't subscribe to Harris's religion is the root of all evil approach. Yet, I find myself drawn to the logic of his essay's. He is quickly become the voice of Atheism in America today.


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Inspiration for the atheist

Erich Vieth of Dangerous Intersection offers How to love going to church: a guide for atheists.

Given my beliefs, most people would be surprised to hear that I sometimes go to church to be inspired and energized. What’s my secret? I go to church when no one else is there—I like to go to empty churches. When nothing else is going on other than one’s own breathing, meditating, thinking and writing, going to church can even be exhilarating.

Source: Dangerous Intersection » Blog Archive » How to love going to church: a guide for atheists

Erich write a thoughtful post on how atheists (like me) rebel against attending church services, yet find inspiration and a spiritual connection in the grandeur and beauty of cathedrals. Chartres Cathedral in France is a good example. I've visited it a dozen times. I've taken hundreds of pictures. The place draws me back. I'll go again at my next opportunity. The connection to human history is overwhelming.

I do not spend much time or energy thinking about what goes on when people gather in these holy places to worship. I instead stand in awe at a choir screen that artisans labored 500 years to produce, or gaze at the sublime beauty of the sun permeating an ancient stained glass window. I find inspiration wherever I look.

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Born Again by Kelly Kerney

I do not often read works of fiction about 14-year-old girls coming of age. In fact, before Born Again, I have never do so. I picked up the book on accident. It looked like a nonfiction work about fundamentalism, so I snagged it while standing on line. When I noticed the book was about Mel, a 14-year-old fundamentalist, who is struggling with her faith, I nearly returned to the book. My wife made of me. I felt like a dirty old man for even reading the first chapter. I was wrong. Born Again hooked me in a way that only happens when I encounter great fiction. I read it slowly. I did not want it to end.

Born Again is Kelly Kerney's first novel. Kerney was raised in a Pentecostal church. She manages to construct a rich world of conflict, open lies, and conformism that binds poor Mel to her faith. I identified heavily with Mel. A few her stories could have come from my own childhood. A short synopsis follows:

What happens when a Bible Quiz Champion takes on Darwin? Mel, a faith-filled Pentecostal, has the chance to escape Slow Rapids, Indiana, by attending academic summer camp. The only catch? She has to read forbidden tomes like The Origin of Species . So she forges the permission slip, promising God she’ll bring him a lost soul in exchange.

Mel conscientiously uses her Biblical expertise to argue Darwin’s theories, but meanwhile begins to realize that her parents, her pastor, and her church aren’t what she thought. She zealously battles demons every day—lascivious heathens at school, the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog, her backsliding brother and sister. But now, suddenly, she must also conquer the doubts of her own heart.

Source: Harcourt - Born Again by Kelly Kerney

The conflict between blind faith and reason carries the novel. Watching Mel navigate Darwin while rationalizing her sinful behavior seemes genuine. Her struggle lent authenticity in a way that helps the reader realize that this story could be true and could be repeated by children all over the country.

I recommend Born Again to anyone who is interested in the social paradox of fundamentalism. The novel delivers a meaningfully look at the mind set of true believers, their motivations, and the intractability of their faith. Plus - it's funny.  Read it and enjoy.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

HDR attempt 3

Let's just call this one a do over. I planned this shot well ahead of time, yet I screwed it up good. I did not capture a wide enough dynamic range. I moved the tripod during my bracketing attempt, and I hurried because of passing traffic. I'll try again in a few days.

This is what passes for a river in my neighborhood. It's a branch of coyote creek. At one time it was real. Now it just smells bad and attracts graffiti.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Jesus Would Be Ashamed Of You

This is interesting - a collection of misguided religious protest signs. The author has an interesting perspective. Right wing evangelical nutballs are wasting their lives.

 It's time to take back Christianity from such insanity. It's time to get back to being the loving children of God that we all have within us. Put down the pickets. Cancel the vigils. Put away the fiery rhetoric of hellfire and brimstone. Relax. Be a nice, caring person for a change. Calm down. God doesn't measure you against other people. He has love enough for everyone. You don't need to point angry fingers at people you think are unworthy hoping God notices!

Source: Link to Jesus Would Be Ashamed Of You


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A secular versus atheist society

The Guardian asks makes the statement; "A secular society, yes, an atheist society, no". I am not sure I understand the argument. Are they really expressing a desire for an atheist society? or is the desire a secular society? An atheist society seems unrealistic. One cannot dictate the beliefs of others.

A secular society on the other had, would have room for religion, but would not tolerate rules or laws forced on society that are based on religion or a religious tradition, like wearing the veil

The Guardian states:

Toynbee is right to argue for a secular state, but not if she means an atheist one with no room for religion. Britain remains to some extent a religious society. The 2001 census recorded over 75% of people identifying with a religion, mostly Christian. The Church of England says that 40% of the population attend a Christian service at Christmas each year. Even if the religious were a minority, that would not justify state atheism.

Source: Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | A secular society, yes; an atheist society, no

The Guardian seems to be confusing concepts here. It does not matter what the mix of religion in relations to each other or atheists. What matters is that no religion will get to force their beliefs on society. The Guardian's statement seems alarmist. Reading deeper I found that the guardian was actually supporting my point.

It is here that choice can play a role. Toynbee is concerned that by emphasising a woman's choice to wear a veil, women's rights are being undermined - since veil wearing is an example of "covering and controlling women", representing an ideology in "most cultures and religions the world over" from which "Western women have struggled hard to escape". Toynbee ignores the fact that equality of choice is a powerful and radical two-edged sword. It means not only that a person has a right to dress in a certain way (subject to the requirements of work and perhaps even common sense), but that they have a right not to dress in that manner.

The main issue seems to be one of allowing women to wear the veil, or outlawing it. As an American, I read something like this a think - "What the hell are they thinking?" it's a free country, if women want to wear the veil is their own business. There are limits of course, public safety is one concern, I'm sure there are others. The U.K. is different, very different. Libertarians would be up in arms over this issue here.

In the end, I scratched my head , what does this issue have to do with Atheism? Nothing really, but it got our attention.


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In favor of "Tempting Faith"

Former Counsel to the President John Dean writes a compelling analysis in favor of the accuracy of "Tempting Faith".

There's really no reason, then, to think Kuo has any hidden political agenda. He's admitted his disappointment in the Bush Administration. And he's sought out the best forum possible -- a book where he can set forth the details of how he believes Bush and his aides are politically manipulating Christians -- at the best time, to call attention to his inside knowledge to those who share his beliefs. His agenda seems to be the simple one he claims: To convey to his fellow Christians how much he feels the Bush White House has let them down.

Source: David Kuo's Book "Tempting Faith" The Author's Agenda, the Authoritarian Behavior He Reports, And the White House's Response

Without reading the book it is hard to tell if Kou's story has a ring of truth to it. From everything I've read and heard in the press - the story rings true. I've got to get a copy.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

BallDroppings = gamecrack

This little game is crack. I wasted an hour (that passed like ten minutes) playing my balldropping instrument. What a blast.

BallDroppings is an addicting and noisy play-toy. It can also be seen as an emergence game. Alternatively this software can be taken seriously as an audio-visual performance instrument. Balls fall from the top of the screen and bounce off the lines you are drawing with the mouse. The balls make a percussive and melodic sound, whose pitch depends on how fast the ball is moving when it hits the line. This delightful application allows experimentation with sound and vision which will compound and intrigue you. Whether you are an adult or child, scientific brainbox or avid gamer. It doesn't have a plot, no heroine, no villain. It has no guns or alien beings. It is simply time to get creative, and those who are creative will love this.

Link to BallDroppings

 I bet my world is better than yours!

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Evangelical asshats

Sometimes the evangelical do gooders simply piss me off. Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council had this to say about Condi Rice swearing in a openly gay Mark Dybul to an Ambassador level post global AIDS coordinator.

"We have to face the fact that putting a homosexual in charge of AIDS policy is a bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse," says Sprigg. "But even beyond that, the deferential treatment that was given not only to him but his partner and his partner's family by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is very distressing."

Source: American Family Association - AgapePress news

Fox in what henhouse? I don't even get it. It is as if Sprigg were suggesting that having a gay man in charge of AIDS policy would in some way be a bad thing - simple because he is gay. I really don't get it. Spriggs makes no sense. Sprggs goes on to criticize Condi Rice for being nice to Dybul and his partner. Is being nice a crime? Or, is Spriggs just pissed because Rice's actions in some way legitimatize human treatment of gays and lesbians? Either way, Spriggs position is asinine. Why would you treat somebody any other way than nice, unless.... you are filled with hate.

The last paragraph is the most damaging.

Dybul, who was confirmed by the Senate two months ago but was just sworn in due to scheduling conflicts with Secretary Rice and Mrs. Bush, is the nation's third openly homosexual ambassador. The other two no longer hold their positions. According to news reports, in all three cases the men's homosexual partners held the Bible on which the oath of office was sworn.

Why is this important? Are evangelicals the only people allowed to hold the bible? is the bible a no gays allowed holy text? The hypocrisy inherent in this quote is off the scale. These people are so out of touch as to be ridiculous. And... they might not be "Christians" at all.

Mark Dybul - Good luck in your new job, with people like Sprigg on your ass, you are going to need all the luck you can get - and help from the league of atheist bloggers!


Only in Texas: Affable Atheist's expunged from the Democratic Party

Baylor University student and Atheist (now there is a contradiction) Justin Mueller, the Affable Atheist, got himself kicked off Democratic candidate Chet Edwards political campaign for desecrating the American Flag. I'm not so sure this Justin cat is playing with a full deck. He's in Waco - strike one. At Baylor - strike two. and... Burning flags as an out of the closet atheist - strike three! Justin is lucky - they kill people for less in central Texas. Justin - I travel to Waco from time to time. I hang out at Crickets, shoot some pool, and talk about my love for Jesus. You see, I want to make it back to the sanity of Los Angeles.

This is from his blog:

I have little to say to the RoT folks, since I know they troll this blog now. You've got your ammo, and I'm sure you will be having a continuously great time abusing it, as if it actually meant much of anything concerning the candidate I worked for. I am a student of Political Science stuck in a state that abhors questioning, independent thought, and anything more "radical" than absolute allegiance to nationalism and the right-wing church of hate. Call me a "loon" all you like. At least I know what I stand for, and I am not going to compromise that just to keep from being lampooned and targeted by people like you.

Source: Affable Atheist's Xanga Site - So, I've been expunged from the Democratic Party

Right wing activist are hunting for the Affable Atheist. I predict a short future at Baylor for young Justin:

Justin then on September 11th, the anniversary our nation was attacked…posted the picture of the desecrated flag, and wrote this “Speaking of which, here is the result of the arts and crafts project I mentioned earlier”. He then showed the picture found in the post below.In a separate post, Justin, who is scheduled to graduate from Baylor in 2008 shows pictures of himself with alcohol bottles, and says:

“Also, Baylor is helping instigate a fresh surge of alcoholism, and is sparking in me a newfound respect for my Germanic culture and the river of liquor that sustains it"

Source: Right of Texas

They are coming for you Justin.

I found another...

...atheist themed blog that is. I have a new hobby. I spend 10 or 15 minutes of each day cruising for Atheist blogs. I found one today. Queer Visions of Freedom is the blog of a self described naturalist humanist skeptic - I think he might be gay too. The blog author, Seamus7, wrote a post calling on agnostics and free thinkers to be "atheists" about their non-believes. I found his blog via Stumble.

While we cannot absolutely disprove the existence of Unicorns, Gnomes, Mermaids, Zeus, Aphrodite, Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Boogey Man, etc. and must remain technically Agnostic about them, it is okay to proclaim oneself an Atheist when discussing such things. Most people do so easily. Thus, it is intellectually okay to proclaim one's Atheism when it comes to any of the popular supernatural beliefs of today. Just do it.

Source: Queer Visions of Freedom: Atheists come out! Stop tip-toeing around as an agnostic.

Welcome to the blogroll Seamus7.

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