Monday, January 29, 2007

Homegrown music from the OC

As my friends and family know, I'm a big music fan. I can't sing or play an instrument myself, but I can listen with the best of them. Lately I've been spinning a CD my wife brought home from a coworker named Jeremy Troutt. I can sing most of the songs by heart now, even without the music. I don't know what it is, but this self produced collection of 9 slightly odd songs has hooked me. I'm a fan.

I've asked my wife for over a month to secure permission to post two of my favorite songs at Deep Thoughts. I got the nod today, so here we go.

Jeremy is a member of the Gold Rush.

  • Rick Gutierrez - Drums, vocals
  • Dave Macias - Guitar, vocals
  • Jeremy Troutt - Vocals, Guitars

My first impression was that they could benefit from a good producer. I'm going to turn my musical genius friend, Dave Odegaard, on to them later in the week. Who knows, maybe something will happen for these guys.

Two songs stand out as great examples of self depreciating humor rapped in catchy melodies with memorable hooks.

Just like me, is a song about a man who wants a uncomplicated woman (don't we all). The song's lyrics remind me of the complicated wordplay often heard in a They Might Be Giants tune. I think the songwriter has a gift.

03 Just like me.mp...

I want a girl that's not that hot
and I don't get along with very well

I want a girl who's just like me

I want a girl that's not that smart
When she wonders around men don't look at her

Sudoku, a song about a complicated woman, well kind of anyway, is just a blast. I laughed the first few times I listened to it. Now I sing along with it when it plays in the car. This song also shows an interesting mix of self depreciating humor, lyrical complexity, a catchy rhythm. Sudoku is hard to classify, They Might be Giants comes to mind again, but so does the Decemberists.

04 Sudoku.mp3

I met a girl from Tokyo
A harajuku girl you know
She wore a couple tops with a couple more on top

She said that I should see Japan
but that is not in my life plan
I asker her name, She said that it was sue

Spend a few moments listening to this songs. Visit the Gold Rush at their myspace site and offer words of encouragement (or criticism if you've had a bad day). I think these guys will appreciate some feedback.

On another musical note:

I put together a yearly compilation disc of my top 12 songs for exchange with a group of friends. It is an IT Geek thing that I participate in with a few other friends who are into music. The competition for best compellation is fierce. in 2005 I showed poorly. We are due to exchange or 2006 disc in a few weeks. My was inked - done, until I heard Sudoku. For those of you who participate in this annual right of geekdom, I hereby claim Sudoku as mine!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Left hand with a Ruger P89

I like to shoot. I don't do it often, but I enjoy it immensely when I have the time to visit the range. I shared a lane at Insight with my bother-in-law today. He's a shooters shooter. The man has a sharp eye, a large collection of handguns, and the ability to hit anything he points his gun at. I'm a poor shot with a pistol at best. At 20 feet I can hit near a saucer sized target. I say "near" liberally too, because my shot can be anyplace on the paper. I picked up a few pointers today. big pointers in fact. It turns out being left eye dominant and shooting right handed is a problem. I am right handed, but I do everything that requires skill with my left hand except write. For those of you who have seen my handwriting, all I can say is, I love my computer.

With some help from my brother-in-law, I switched to shooting left handed. It was hard to adjust since I don't have as much strength in my left hand. The difference in my accuracy was remarkable. My first group was all in a small group inside the target. The next group with my Ruger P89 was even better. I shot a few more groups and did well, and then my strength failed and I drifted down and left.

I'm happy with my improvement, but pissed that it took 25 years to figure out how I should be shooting. I see more practice ahead.

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Evolving in Kansas: Phred Phelps on Philm

Evolving in Kansas has a good post on a new student Documentary on Fred Phelps called "Fall from Grace."  

The new documentary, "Fall From Grace," done by a KU student filmmaker, was screened tonight at the wonderful Screenland Granada theater in KCK. It takes a close look at a band of people most of us would not think could possibly exist except on some sick reality TV show.

Source: Evolving in Kansas: Phred Phelps on Philm

If the filmmaker K. Ryan Jones happens to read this - please put your documentary up on YouTube. Please....

 

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Chris Hedges - the Christian Right Hurts Democracy

Via Talk of the Nation, January 25, 2007 - Author Argues Christian Right Hurts Democracy

The son of a Presbyterian minister, Chris Hedges warns against a radical minority within the Christian right. Hedges talks about why he believes the right is eroding Democracy in his new book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

I listen to NRP everyday; Morning Edition and All things considered offer a good alternative to talk radio. I scan Talk of Nation each weekend to see who they have on the show. They seem to cover many prominent religious and atheist personalities.

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Christian fascism: the theology of despair

Via  Greater Metropolitan Rainforest - a post on Christian Fascism. It gives me hope.

I think all movements have their time, and I think the time for this particular movement is already winding down. Religion will always be with us, and I think that a certain spiritual revival will be consistent in this country but that people will eventually embrace more positive aspects of their faith, or drop out completely. I think the megachurch leaders are their own worst enemies; that much money and power flowing through them is inherently corrupting.

 "winding down" - I like the thought.

Greater Metropolitan Rainforest is posting on another great article, The Radical Christian Right is Built on Suburban Despair by Chris Hedges.

Millions of Americans live trapped in soulless exurbs which lack any kind of community, leaving them feeling isolated and vulnerable. Without alternatives for their social despair, they flock to demagogues promising revenge and a mythical utopia.

I like the premise that what drives the Christian Right is despair. It helps explain the hate. 

They hated this world. And they willingly walked out on this world for the mythical world offered by these radical preachers, a world of magic, a world where God had a divine plan for them and intervened on a daily basis to protect them and perform miracles in their lives. The rage many expressed to me towards those who challenge this belief system, to those of us who do not accept that everything in the world came into being during a single week 6,000 years ago because it says so in the Bible, was a rage born of fear, the fear of being plunged back into a reality-based world where these magical props would no longer exist, where they would once again be adrift, abandoned and alone.

Chris Hedges is the author of American Fascists, The Christian Right and the War on America. A book on my reading list (which is 20 books long at the moment).

Metafilter has a thread tracking Chris's article. I'm a big fan of Metafilter, but I have a problem with some of the nutball liberals. They tend to post some bizarre stuff.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Orcinus - Fiat Lux, Indeed

I came across this interesting article posted at Orcinus regarding the University of California's decision to reject students who attended Science classes where Intelligent Design is taught.

"Teach what you like, it’s all fine with us. But if you put ID in your science courses, we will not accept those courses as adequate for admission to our campus."

I had lost track of this over the last year. It is good to see that reason prevails.

 

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A Nation of Laws

What do you say to somebody who wants to impose their own legal code on top of your nations legal code? In the States we say "put it up for a vote". As if Stoning women, female genital mutilation, or throwing acid at unveiled women's faces would ever make it to the ballot in the first place. The jackass that suggests the legislation would be run out of town. Apparently, some in Canada are taking a more assertive approach. If you don't like our culture, don't live in our community. The Village of Herouxville in Quebec is the first to step up.

"The Muslims who wanted to impose Sharia, had they known that we do not stone women here, maybe they would not have come"

Source: Dhimmi Watch: Quebec village bans stoning of women, veils, and excision

I feel the same way about Sharia as I do about James Dobson's attempts to legislate morality. Both should be opposed rigorously.

 

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One reason I lost my faith

In the 70s, my Youth Pastor, Walt Pitman, attempted to show me the evils of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven by playing in backwards while trying to convince me of the "real meaning" of the song. Dumb bastard, it had the wrong affect. Christians nutballs of that era, and apparently Christians nutballs of this era, give way to much credit to the creative genius of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones.




"To me it's very sad, because 'Stairway To Heaven' was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music." - Robert Plant

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Year of the Pig pisses off Muslims

  

I thought the deal with Islam was that you were not supposed to eat pork. Why would a centuries old cultural tradition suddenly piss off Muslims?

The imam of the Taipei Grand Mosque complained to Taiwan's foreign minister for sending him a greeting card for the Chinese New Year showing four pigs, a newspaper said on Saturday.

After receiving the New Year card, Imam Ma Hsiao-chi pointed out to the Foreign Ministry that the card was offensive to Muslims, the Liberty Times reported. Muslims do not eat pork and regard pigs as unclean animals.

Source: Muslim Imam Objects To Year Of Pig Greeting Cards - World News

Memo to Muslims - animals, especially bacon producing animals, should be holy.

 

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A funeral

I attended a funeral for the father of my cousin and long time friend Neil yesterday. I was struck by the outpouring of love and caring expressed by the family and friends who attended the standing room only memorial service. The passing of my friend's dad was a sad event. I can't help but feel better for attending the service.

The priest was especially on target. He spoke about his experiences as a child and his fear of "God the Policeman", who was always ready to send unbelievers to hell. Yet he became a priest because of the message of love he found throughout the bible. I could tell he believed it.

I am particularly desensitized to funerals. I always feel like an observer. It has nothing to do with my lack of faith. You see, as a young man, I participated in the USAF Honor Guard for one six month period prior to mustering out. I attended 4 to 5 funerals a day, 6 days a week, for six months. I was taught to pull my feeling in so as to not intrude on the emotional experience of those who are there greave. 25 years later I still feel like an observer.

Neil - I offer my condolences to you and your family. I could see your pain and your strength yesterday. It moved me.  The beer is on me the next time we meet.

 

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A fascination with social networks

Social networks, and specifically social networking tools, are an ongoing fascination for me. Most of what I do for a living is project management, so understanding the dynamics of social interactions on a cross functional project team tends to occupy a great deal of my time and mental effort. A dysfunctional social network will translate to delays or even a project failure, which is not a good thing.

I'm always on the lookout for new tools because there are few good tools available in this area. I tend to use Viso or my old faithful quad pad to do the job. When a news filter I have setup hit on Mapping New Testament Social Networks, followed by a second hit from a religious filter I have setup, well I could not resist.

The map below shows the social network of Jesus in the New Testament and is a good example of a social networking visualization. 

The article highlights the use of Many Eyes as a data visualization tool. To quote the site:

Many Eyes is a bet on the power of human visual intelligence to find patterns. Our goal is to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis. Jump right to our visualizations now, take a tour, or read on for a leisurely explanation of the project.

Frankly - I could waste my whole day at Many Eyes, but I'm not going to - I'm not. I swear.

 

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Vjack - 50 Most Influential Christians in America

I missed this in my weekend reading, but it is worth a few minutes. The always interesting Vjack at Atheist Revolution points out that some of the big hitters in the fundamentalist movement are just as influential as we see them to be (despite what believers claim).

With that out of the way, lets look at the list. I'd like to start by drawing your attention to numbers 5, 37, and 40. Here we have three well-known Christian extremists: James Dobson, James Kennedy, and Jerry Falwell. I highlight this because I repeatedly hear from Christians that these individuals do not represent their views, that they are every bit as horrified at what these men say and do as I am, and that these men have little resemblance to "real Christians."

Source: Atheist Revolution

 

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Through a Glass, Darkly

An article by Jeff Sharlet for Harper's Magazine which looks at how the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history. It is a fascinating read.

We keep trying to explain away American fundamentalism. Those of us not engaged personally or emotionally in the biggest political and cultural movement of our times—those on the sidelines of history—keep trying to come up with theories with which to discredit the evident allure of this punishing yet oddly comforting idea of a deity, this strange god. His invisible hand is everywhere, say His citizen-theologians, caressing and fixing every outcome: Little League games, job searches, test scores, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the success or failure of terrorist attacks (also known as “signs”), victory or defeat in battle, at the ballot box, in bed. Those unable to feel His soothing touch at moments such as these snort at the notion of a god with the patience or the prurience to monitor every tick and twitch of desire, a supreme being able to make a lion and a lamb cuddle but unable to abide two men kissing. A divine love that speaks through hurricanes. Who would worship such a god? His followers must be dupes, or saps, or fools, their faith illiterate, insane, or misinformed, their strength fleeting, hollow, an aberration. A burp in American history. An unpleasant odor that will pass.

Source: Through a Glass, Darkly (Harpers.org)

 

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Love me or I will Kill you

Dennis Diehl writes an interesting essay on the true nature of coercive religion.

Boy does this little bit of encouragement say reams about the either/or mentality that goes with many fundamentalist teachings. So here is the lesson for the day evidently. EITHER I love Jesus, which I assume means confess him, promote him and do everything he is thought to have said and taught, or burn, not just up, but FOREVER in hell. Whoa moma, what a choice and even better, what a reason to love Jesus! Obey out of sheer fear of annihilation. Spirituality doesn't get any better than this!

I need a better reason. The fear of eternal damnation in hell offers no incentive. I don't believe in hell so why should I love you? I've never been a fan of the "love me or I will kill you" approach, nor do I like the "obey me, or submit to me" approaches espoused by some of our religious brethren. If you want my love - leave me alone.

 

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The Dilbert Blog: Atheists in Jail

Atheists are not living up their potential.

Have you ever wondered what percentage of prison inmates are atheists? It must be a lot, given that non-believers have no moral center and spend most of their days robbing, and killing, and sodomizing farm animals. That’s what you do when you have no morality.

Source: The Dilbert Blog: Atheists in Jail

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Opting out of Jesus Camp

Maud Newton write On Jesus Camp (and going to one) for newcritics.

Kids are growing up and opting out, just as my sister, stepsister, and I did.
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Islamic political correctness

I am a skeptic by nature. When I read about groups claiming "negative public image" damage because of popular music, movies, or other media, my BS filter kicks in. Take that case of the Islamic Human Rights Commission claim of a damaged Islamic public image.

A report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission argues that films as diverse as The Siege, a portrayal of a terrorist attack on New York starring Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, the Disney film Aladdin and the British comedy East is East have helped demonise Muslims as violent, dangerous and threatening, and reinforce prejudices.

Source: From Aladdin to Lost Ark, Muslims get angry at 'bad guy' - Guardian Unlimited Film

And here all the time I thought it was homicide bombers, hijackers, and decapitations that were driving the negative public image. It would be a better idea if Muslims showed signs of dismay and outrage at acts that actually damage their image. Like the nutball who blew himself and 26 innocent bystanders up in Iraq yesterday. Or the Muslim nutballs who kept 102 Sudanese Christian slaves.  Or the Indonesian Muslim Militant who admits beheading young Christian girls. Or the BBC reporter gunned down by Muslim extremists in Riyadh. You see - I read these reports every day. This is what forms my opinion. Actions speak louder than Aladdin.

I checked out the website for the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Their focus is exclusively on "being the victim". In their eyes, Islam can do no wrong.

 

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18 Unconvincing Arguments for God

Via the Friendly Atheist, 18 Unconvincing Arguments for God.

August Berkshire, the public relations representative for Minnesota Atheists and Vice-President of Atheist Alliance International, has put together a simple, concise list of “18 Unconvincing Arguments for God.”

Number 3 is my personal favorite because I hear it the most, and what can you say? So they talked to god...

(3) Personal Testimony / Feelings - This is when you are personally having the revelation or feeling that a god exists. Though you may be sincere, and even if a god really does exist, a feeling is not proof, either for you or for someone else.

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The Bright Revolution

Will Moredock writes an article for the Charleston City Paper supporting the growth in Atheism. It is worth a read.

Yet in the midst of this plague of religiosity, one can feel a subtle but strong current moving in the opposite direction. Atheism is more popular today than it has been in many years, making the covers of major magazines and appearing on bestseller lists.

I love this line:

Atheists may get a bad rap, but in the age of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, religion has gotten a bad name as well, and some say that there is a straight line between the moderate religious observances of billions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews and the kind of fanaticism that threatens the very foundations of civilization.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Metacrock's Blog: Some Problems With Atheism

I don't want to say mean things about atheists, it's just that I'm compelled to because they are so damn unreasonable. If they would just see that what I believe is true and what they believe is of the devil...

I wouldn't say such disparaging things about atheists if they didn't pull such sneaky tricks. Now of course I don't mean all atheists. But there are atheist fundies just as there are Christian fundies, and there's an atheist atheism of the gaps kind of argument. The atheist fundie fools himself into thinking that his view is totally empirical and demonstrated by science but "nothing in Christianity is objective...

Source: Metacrock's Blog: Some Problems With Atheism

Fudie is such a bad word. It should only be used on the religious.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Paranoid Christian rants - on coffee

I don't buy into the whole postmodernism philosophical thing. So when I stumble across a Christian blogger who declares postmodernism a concept from our past, and then goes on to lament the coming scourge of secularism, science, and atheism, I tend to hit the next blog button. However, this guy was even more depressing than most, so I stuck it out. It was a mistake. Apparently the next few years for Christians are going to be bleak, what with science explaining faith, thought crimes, and atheism declaring all religion evil... pass the cool-aid please.

The Science of Faith - Science has, in the past steered away from non-empirical areas of faith. But under increased pressure to explain the unexplainable, scientists are moving quickly to provide a framework of reducing faith to 'scientific' components. Science must do this to restore the lost power from the rise of postmodernism and rejection of a naturalistic modern progression....

Source: on coffee

 

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Islamic Prejudice in UK

An undercover reported busts Islam Cleric preaching hate in the UK. Islamic groups try to downplay the problem. It is an interesting read.

For last week’s “Dispatches” program on Britain’s Channel Four, a reporter with a hidden camera entered Birmingham’s Green Lane mosque (which has won praise from Britain’s Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed) and other leading mosques in Britain. He found they preached Islamic supremacism, hatred of Jews and Christians, and the subjugation of women.

Source: FrontPage magazine.com :: Islamic Prejudice, Islamic Denial by Robert Spencer

My favorite Islamic Fundie quote "You have to live like a state within a state until you take over.”

 

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Zeus called up from the minors

Zeus was retired centuries ago when his followers liked Jesus's hairstyle a little better. Zeus has been hanging out in history books and making the occasional appearance in a epic historical movies. Life in the obscurity of minor league religions is over for Zeus, he's been called up to the majors by a group of modern day pagans.

A clutch of modern pagans honored Zeus at a 1,800-year-old temple in the heart of Athens on Sunday — the first known ceremony of its kind held there since the ancient Greek religion was outlawed by the Roman empire in the late 4th century.

Source: Modern pagans honor Zeus in Athens - Yahoo! News

Hey pagans, if you are looking for Thor, he's hanging out at my place doing guard dog duty. I'll sell him to you for $800.

 

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Hookah boy

I smoked a hookah on Thursday evening with my Egyptian friend Paul and a few other coworkers. It was a first for me and had been on my "things to do before I check out" list for a long time. As a long time cigar smoker, I found the experience interesting. The inhaling was new, it reminds me of hitting a bong (not that I ever), except I was smoking apple flavored tobacco. My friend Paul and I passed the hose around while drinking fine single malt scotch and telling stories. He brought his hookah along on our business trip just so I could try it. He had purchased it while visiting his family in Egypt on his last vacation. It was an authentic Egyptian hookah, and beautiful too. He promised he would give me one as a gift when his cousin visits in a few weeks. I think I'm going to like it.

Meme - Five things about me

I've been tagged by olley at 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish for the Five Things About Me Meme. I hate these things, but what can you do? (besides return the favor.)

About me #1 - Jobs

I've had a few jobs. I used to repair airplanes. I had an A&P license and could do just about anything to an airplane, including rebuilding a whole section of the plane - Only I SUCKED at it. I moved on to engineering configuration management, which evolved into manufacturing operations and planning - I did these things well. I even have an APICS certification. My next career was in software development. I founded a company with a few other people which developed software for Macintosh computers. After a few years I moved on to consulting, which did not last long because the fourth company I worked for offered me a chance to run their manufacturing operations. Somehow, I picked up some system operator skills on an HP3000 running software called MANMAN, so after I was left my operations job I accidentally moved into IT with a small aerospace manufacturing company. IT stuck - only I don't really do IT anymore. I am more of manufacturing systems expert with a heavy dose of project manager mixed in. I'm good at this type of work. I've developed and implemented complex capacity and planning systems, and I've worked all over the world in the process. (next up is China.)

I'm working on my next career move now. I've always wanted to be a writer. My first real article was published just last month. I have a deadline for my next article in a few days.

oh - I forgot photography. I worked as a wedding photographer for a few years too.

About me #2 - Marriage.

I've been married for 26 years. I married a girl I met just before graduating from high school. The short version - I needed help to pass a test and she was the smartest person in school. I walked to her desk and looked at her closely for the first time and thought she was beautiful. I said to myself, "well this is the girl I'm going to marry", and I did.

We married young - eloped actually. It was a disaster, but we stuck it out. I've been happily married for over 26 years and have two wonderful sons and three loveable totally hyper min pins.

About me #3 - Food

I am an adventure eater. I will eat, or at least try to eat, just about anything. Two food are off the list, lima beans, and snails. Lima beans are just gross, I've always hated them. I won't even eat other food if it has touched a lima bean, yuck. Snails on the other hand, I love snails, but I've been struck horribly sick after eating them twice; once in Mexico and once in China. Both times caused great gastric distress. So... off the list (except when in France).

Some of the weirdest food I have ever eaten; Balut, dinuguan at puto (worst tasting food ever), kimosui (eel liver soup), head cheese (need I say more?), and some kind of soup made with Sheep's eyeballs. oh, and for some reason I've had live eel served in sake and live minnows served in a chili paste, both were excellent.

About me #4 - Fatness

I am a big man. I'm 6'2" and weigh about 385 at the moment. I've been trying to loose weight most of my life, but I have never actually made a dent. I'm on a program that works now. I drink liquid protein for most of my meals, and follow up with one real meal a day. The weight is coming off slowly and I feel much better than I used to. One day I will be skinny. But no worries, because I am the size of an NFL lineman, only really stupid people give me any grief.

I have a suspcision that About Me # 4 is related to About Me # 3, but I'm not really sure.

About me #5 - Poker

I hate to write about this next one because it will seem so trendy. I love poker. I play whenever I can. I love playing now because so many other people are playing too, and most of them play poorly. It is easy to find a good game now. I usually win. Not a lot mind you, but enough to make me feel like a winner. I've played for over 25 years. I prefer it to other types of gambling. I can remember when they were closing the poker rooms in Las Vegas. I would have to hunt for a game. Now everybody has a poker room. I played poker at Pechenga on Friday night for an hour or two with a couple of buds from work. I won $50, woohoo!

I am going to tag a long time blogger or two, and some newbies. I tag J.D. Crow, Rick's Radar, Ron's Rants and Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant.

 

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have few personal heroes. MLK is one of them. IMHO he is one of the greatest Americans who ever lived.  I did not get a chance to do my normal MLK reading yet. I like to read his "I have a dream" speech. It helps keep me centered.

Few historical people have had a greater impact on my life. I grew up in a household that reviled him, yet I found his message to be true. We are closer to being one people now. I don't know if the process will ever be complete. Politics, poverty, and religion separates us from our true potential, but the days of hate and lynching are behind us.

My children are biracial, the thought alone would have caused a scandal when I was a child. By the time my sons have children, race will matter even less. We are all free Americans now. Heck, we might even have our first black president in just two years.

I can only hope.

Jordan LeDoux rebuts something

Everyday I walk into a room full of my friends and co-workers with the knowledge that as an Athiest I am alone. Everyday I am confronted with their irrational religious beliefs. I don't care what they believe - I never have. I believe in nothing.

I will talk about religion with anyone. Normally, we don't discuss science because many people would not know science if it were a big shaggy dog that had just bit them on the ass. Religion offers many opportunities for discussion that science does not. So yes, I will chat about the vengeful nature of a loving god, or the fact that Jesus became divine a century or so after his death. Because in my book, religion, all religions mind you, is made up.

Jordan LeDoux responded to a small post I made concerning a post he recently wrote. In his response, he tries to play fair. But right away states atheism is a religion, and that atheist are simply unreasonable folk. We writes well, yet annoys the fuck out of me.

This behavior is not unique to Christians, or actually, even to theists. As you probably noted near the beginning of the post, I dignified atheism as a religion. Indeed, atheism follows many of the same psychological principals that plague many religions: there are those who believe it because it is what they have proven to themselves to be true, and there are those who deny everything. Just like Christians, there are militant atheists, evangelical atheists, smart-ass atheists and what I like to call "magician" atheists. These are the atheists who inflict their beliefs on other using a lie they know to be false, but a lie so carefully constructed and so subtle, that only a truly vigilant intellectual would notice. Their closest Christian counter part would be the sensationalist healing preachers. These "pastors" use clever tricks and the power of suggestion to provide short term results for their claims. Just enough to convince other people.

Source: Jordan LeDoux: There Is Only One Policy: Deny Everything

So here is the deal Jordan. I can't describe the physical world without science, so science science science is all I have. The metaphysical is a figment of your imagination. I can talk freely about what you believe, because you and your ilk talk and write about it ad nauseum. If your holy book is full of death, deceit, destruction and lies, then rewrite it and I'll stop talking about it. If your history is full of murder, politics, discrimination, wars, repression and hypocrisy, then perhaps you should listened to your history. Something is wrong on the good ship Christianity. Any time your kind gains power, my kind heads for the lifeboats.

It's not that I'm complaining. You see, its a numbers game. There are so damn many of you religious types and so few of us athiest types, that the teams are unbalanced. Billions to millions does not even come close to qualifying the advantage your team has. I've been an atheist for over 25 years. To this day I have only met 4 other people who will say they are atheists publicly. Four people! It used to be five, but one became a theists.

Yet, you continue with the angry Athiest crap. What did you call it? Magician Atheists? Those of use who rely on science to explain our world are pigeon holed as magicians? I can't prove that your god does not exist, but I can tell you the earth is older than 7000 years, or explain germ theory, or even apply scientific methods to study metaphysical assertions made by religious people. Does the water at Lourdes cure the sick? Science says no, but it does a possible job flushing toilets.

You talk about xenophobia. It strikes a cord. Only you need to look in a mirror. Atheist are not xenophobic, they are the antithesis of xenophobia. They seek knowledge while turning their backs on superstition and dogma. I cannot be convinced of the truth of your religion because I have no faith, no believe in the spiritual world, and no inclination to take the flights of fantasy necessary to believe in your god. It's not xenophobia - it is like trying to describe what I know to be a photograph as a painting, not matter how well you describe the painting you see. I see a photograph.

And one other thing...

Just like their Christian counter parts, magician atheists work by misrepresenting science, (hear me out on this one, please all you reasonable atheists), and making a house of cards out of science as inconclusive as spiritual healing. Healing through the power of prayer, or by divine intervention is spotty at best. There are no predictable ways for it to occur, nor no way to effectively measure it, making it difficult to apply to the scientific method. This puts it outside of acceptable science. Something which is inconclusive because you cannot eliminate unknowns is not science.

Spiritual healing, by prayer or divine intervention, is not science. The only thing science can do is validate the efficacy of the spiritual healing process. Science can study prayer to determine if it has a beneficial outcome for the sick. (btw - it has been done - no impact found) As an intellectual exercise, it might be fun to once again prove that prayer has no noticeable affect on healing, but what a colossal waste of time. As an Athiest, I would laugh at the notion - we should spend whatever energy we have on trying to heal the sick through the application of modern medicine. Praying for the sick or studying the affects of prayer, is a fools quest.

Just look at Pray for Katie. The poor girl was prayed over by millions of the faithful while her cancer treatment was halted by religious fanatics. Now she has cancer again. Is this science? nope - just religious stupidity.

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Yahoo! Answers sans religion

That's right. The folks at Yahoo! Answers did not include a category for religion in the master category list. The godless secularists must be running the show. Woohoo!

Some religious questions make it past this ingenious fundie filter.

 

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This is dumb: Saudis to Ban the Letter ‘X'

Is the NY Sun a real newspaper? Because, if they are not pulling my leg, this story ranks as one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

The letter "X" soon may be banned in Saudi Arabia because it resembles the mother of all banned religious symbols in the oil kingdom: the cross.

The new development came with the issuing of another mind-bending fatwa, or religious edict, by the infamous Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the group of senior Islamic clergy that reigns supreme on all legal, civil, and governance matters in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Source: Will Saudis Ban the Letter ‘X'? - January 15, 2007 - The New York Sun

How do you ban a letter anyway?

 

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pizza, Pesos, and Hate Mail

My wife has been on me to stop writing so much about fundies. So this post is a nod to my lovely wife, who is always right.

At times I travel a lot. I've been to Europe, Mexico, and China on business several time. I spent a year in France back in 99 and it looks like I'm going to spend three or four months in China soon. I don't like to travel on business, but It is part of the job so I do it.  I am self relent. I normally grab my camera and go exploring. People and other cultures are interesting. It has been harder to travel now that Bush has the world thinking we are the modern incarnation of the Roman empire. People ask too many questions about the big ticket items like the war or politics, they used to ask about Los Angeles. It used to be different. People, especially the French, gave me crap just because I'm American, now... It's different.

I've come to realize something over the years. It's all about money. And money is, well, it is just money. Dollars and Euros can be spent anyplace, Pesos are another matter. I was in an airport in Germany on a layover once, I bought French water with Mexican pesos, and breath mints with Hungarian forints. Later in the day I purchased souvenirs with euros and dollars. I've repeate this process wherever I travel. I does not matter if I'm in the airport or in a bar. In China, I once paid for three beers with a 1 Euro coin and 1 dollar in quarters - the change was gven in yuan. The bartender did not care. Money is money, she could change it or spend it just as easily as I could. Apparently, the color of your money only matters in America.

Pizza Patron, which is headquartered in Dallas, recently decided to accept pesos for transactions at all 59 stores in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and California.  When I first read the story on Digg, I smiled. It is about time we start thinking beyond our borders. If Pizza Patron serves a customer base that is 60% Hispanic, then their customers might just have a pocket full of pesos. In the back of my mind I thought - but Pizza Patron is in Texas. That cannot be a good thing. Of course, I was right. Hate mail soon followed.

"This is the United States of America, not the United States of Mexico," one e-mail read. "Quit catering to the damn illegal Mexicans,"

Source: My Way News - Texas-Based Pizza Chain Accepts Pesos

I don't know if it is our collective arrogance, stupidity, or just a lack of common decency, but my fellow Americans can be embarrassing. Hate mail? what is next, drive by's? Its just money folks. When you put it in the bank, it all spends the same.

I carry a valise for my passport and whatever currency I've collected in my travels. I'd like to think that spending money wherever I can is not a matter of national pride, security, or racial aversion. What does it matter If I pay for a slice of Pizza with Pesos or dollars?

Which reminds me of a story. A friend and fellow traveler told about being burglarized at a gym. He had $20 dollars and about 80 euros - the thief took the dollars. What a moron.

There is a PIzza Patron in Wilmington - not a good area, but close enought to where I work that I plan to visit soon. I'll bring my pesos.

Pizza Patron
Wilmington
223 West Anaheim St
Los Angeles, CA 90744
United States

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

What Jefferson really thought about Islam

Via Slate and one of my favorite writers, Chrisopher Hitchens, writes about the american history of Islam, religion, and Jefferson.

The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Source: What Jefferson really thought about Islam. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

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How many people did God kill in the Bible?

 Hint - it is way more than one.

Feed the Muse: Slate Magazine - Political Cartoons

Love them political cartoons - especially the Stem Cell ones.

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Feed the muse: Such a Different Hong-Kong

I've often wanted to do something like this. Even for something as simple as the view from by back door. The quality of light in LA changes depending on the day and the time of year.  

 

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Fundie Quote - Frosty Hardison

Speaking in reference to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

"The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

Source: Federal Way schools restrict Gore film

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fudie Quote - Michele Fletcher Richardson

This is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard.

“The United States is playing David to the Middle East’s Goliath,”

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Evangelical General Fired

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has fired Evangelical nutball Lt. Gen. William Boykin. We all remember the national embarrassment of William "my God is bigger than your God" Boykin. I'm glad he's gone. This guy scared me.

Gates thinks Boykin did too many things in too many places. And as we now know, without enough troops.

 

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Canadian Fundies think yoga is a religion

Cause... you know, they put there hands together and stuff.

"There's God and there's the devil, and the devil's not a gentleman. If you give him any kind of an opening, he will take that."

Source: B.C. school yoga classes slammed

Of course, the school is using yoga as a from of low impact exercise for fat kids. It's not the spiritual yoga that is practiced in India as part of Hindu Philosophy. Yoga as practiced here, is a western bastardization which is stripped of all spiritual meaning. It's just another form of exercise, like jazzercise. Fundies can be so dumb.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Um, whatever....

Christian sex toys. Well,whatever blows your dress up.

Providing a safe, non-pornographic place to shop,For all your Christian Sex and Romance needs, While keeping Christ at the center of your marriage

Source: My Beloveds Garden Christian sex - HOME Christian sex toys

Monday, January 08, 2007

No Atheists in the U.S. Congress

Not a one! 6 claim no affiliated. I think that means they are into something new age or maybe scientology.

The religious breakdown for the 535 members of the 110th Congress.

Catholic 155; Baptist 67; Methodist 61; Presbyterian 44; Jewish 43; Episcopal 37; Protestant nondenominational 26; Christian nondenominational 18; Lutheran 17; Mormon 15; United Church of Christ 7. Eastern Orthodox 5; Christian Science 5; Assemblies of God 4; Unitarian Universalist 2; African Methodist Episcopal 2; Buddhists 2; Evangelical 2; Seventh Day Adventists 2; Christian Reformed 2; Disciples of Christ 2; Church of Christ 2; Congregational Baptist 1; Anglican 1. Reorganized Mormon 1; Quaker 1; Church of God 1; Muslim 1; Evangelical Lutheran 1; Church of the Nazarene 1; Evangelical Methodist 1.

No affiliation 6.

Source: Catholicism Top Faith in U.S. Congress

Here is my mix and match choice for a relifion, Reorganized nondenominational Evangelical Church of seven Othorox buddists.

On another note - why does this matter?

 

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Militant Atheists have a verbose foe

RJ Eskow has thing for militant Atheist. I a painful essay on The Huffington Post, Eskow enlightens us with 15 questions for militant atheists. If you can make it through his painfully long post, read the 300 or so comments for more enlightenment.

I've been asked why I write about those I call "fundamentalist atheists," given that they are few in number and far less politically powerful than Christian fundamentalists. My answer is fourfold: First, I critize Christian fundamentalists quite a bit. It's one of my primary "missions," and it led me to debate Islam with Sean Hannity and Gary Bauer on Fox Radio. (See Dobson's Choice, The Evangelighouls, The God Gulag, and The Republichristians, just to name a few. I also write a lot on the contradictions between conservatism and the teachings of Jesus, but that won't win me any points in this argument!)

Source: The Blog | RJ Eskow: 15 Questions Militant Atheists Should Ask Before Trying to "Destroy Religion" | The Huffington Post

I will not go so far as to say I am in Eskow's camp. I don't think challenging others to ditch their religious beliefs is worthy of my time, so I have this much in common with him. It is a pointless dream meant to stir up controversy and press coverage. But Eskow misreads the militant atheist crowd. Far from doing away with religion, they seem intent on something far more threatening - at least to a theist, magnetization. If religion looses its importance in society, it might as well be considered dead. This is the fear that runs behind Eskow's rant. He fears magnetization. Don't we all?

 

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What Scientologists Actually Believe



I don't consider Scientology a religion. It's more like a mind control cult.

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Lies, so many lies

Dare2sayit is attempting to mislead its readers by claiming Dump Michele Bachmann has started campaign to pollute libraries with anti-Christian books.

The anti-Christian blog http://dumpbachmann.blogspot.com/ has recently begun to pressure local libraries into purchasing the book American Facists (sic), the Christian Right and the War on America, by Chris Hedges.

Source: dare2sayit: Anti-Christian blog pressures libraries

I've been reading DB since the 06 elections. I don't really know if the site is anti-Christian. I doubt it. They seem more focused on exposing how poorly Bachmann actually represents her constituents because of her fanatical focus on religious social issues.

American Fascist is on my reading list. Now it on my read and donate to the library list. DMB is calling for activism. It is a call I can answer. The book is not anti-Christian. It exposes the dominionist's movement for what it really is, a blatant power grab.

DMB answers the question "Is opposing Michele Bachmann anti-Christian?" 

Michele Bachmann, Pat Robertson, Lou Sheldon, Fred Phelps, Bob Enyart, Jerry Falwell et al do not speak for all christians. In fact, many christians in mainstream congregations believe that Michele Bachmann and this other assortment of charlatans give a bad name to christianity.

The enemy of our enemy is our friend. DB writers may be Christian, but their heart is in the right place. Domoinism will ruin our country and they know it. Fighting it at every turn is the right approach. I encourage my fellow atheist and free thinkers to read DB and help promote their message.

 

The New Christian Right Leadership Network

Chip Berlet writes about the Christian Right and their hopes for regaining political power in 07 and 08.

Who will be setting the agenda for the Christian Right in 2007? Several groups would like to assume that role, although they will have to figure out exactly what happened in the 2006 midterm elections and how to ensure that White Christian evangelicals vote the Christian Right party line in 2008.

Berlet profiles the actions of Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, James Dobson and Focus on the Family, and Gary Bauer and the Americans United to Preserve Marriage. Make no mistake, these groups understand their loss of political power and are focused on regaining influence in 2008. All are in my news filter under the tag "bad religion".

 

So You Want to Make Your Own Christian Videos?

Phil Vischer, the man behind Veggietales, has a blog. Over the last few months, I've read several of his posts. Phil is dedicated to bringing Christian themed entertainment to children. From experience, I know his video's are popular with young children. His new focus is on helping others create faith based content.

About a year ago I got an email from an excited young potential video producer with a burning question for me:  “When you made your first VeggieTales video, did you burn the DVD’s yourself, or did you hire someone to do that for you?”   Very politely I pointed out to the young would-be producer that, firstly, when we made the first VeggieTales video, DVD had yet to be invented.  Folks were buying VHS cassettes, and there were enough VHS duplicators competing for work that there was no reason for anyone to duplicate their own VHS cassettes.  Secondly, I pointed out that he was asking the wrong questions.

Source: » So You Want to Make Your Own Christian Videos?

This post got me thinking. What video's are available for children with a science or skeptical theme? I view the battle for young minds as a real challenge for the atheist and free thinking community. There must be some resources available, or at least an opportunity to produce something that can compete with the well funded competition. Relying on commercial content does not guarantee the quality of the content.

Any ideas? - Bill Nye the Science Guy is cool, so is Junior Skeptic. there must be more. It sound like I've found another project.

 

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Kings Discount Store - LA

Feed the Muse: Rene Magritte

 MagrittePipe.jpg (JPEG Image, 670x519 pixels)

I had a chance to visit the Rene Magritte exhibit at LACMA recently. I found the experience uplifting. I was not a fan of Magritte's work, but then again, I was not really aware of it either. I must recommend the show. I experienced a wide range of imagery which prompted me to re-evaluate my own artistic endeavors.

The show runs through April - Read about it below.

NOTHING WILL QUITE PREPARE YOU for the setting of LACMA's astonishing new show featuring the works of RenĂ© Magritte and thirty-one contemporary artists. As Suzanne Muchnic wrote in the Nov. 12 Los Angeles Times, “John Baldessari, a pioneering conceptualist represented in the show, has designed an installation intended to turn the galleries—and visitors' experience—upside down.

Read more...

 

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Friday, January 05, 2007

for pastor brad

I came across an upublished sermon MLK gave at Temple Israel in Holloywood. 

Temple Israel of Hollywood has had many milestones in its 80 years as a Jewish cultural landmark in our city. One that bears special significance this month, however, occurred on Friday, Feb. 26, 1965 , when the synagogue's Rabbi Max Nussbaum welcomed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to share the bimah with him and to offer a sermon.

Source: JewishJournal.com

Dr. Martin Luther King is a hero of mine, a hero to my son Michael, and an inspiration to my pastor friend Brad. Enjoy:

Part I (27 minutes)

Part II (14 mnutes)

 

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A bullet in the head

Further proof that religion is dangerous. Call for peace in Gaza and you will end up with a bullet in the head. 

Unidentified gunmen shot dead a Muslim cleric after he delivered a sermon in the Gaza Strip on Friday calling for an end to fierce factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah, hospital officials and local residents said.

Source: Cleric gunned down in Gaza after plea for calm | Top News | Reuters.com

It does not matter if you are a man of god or an international aid worker. There is a certain type of death wish associated with religious fanaticism and the lust for power. It corrupts. It turns religious people into self righteous monsters. But I digress.

I've been calling for religious moderates to speak out against extremism. This cleric did just that. They don't give the cleric's name. He was a bit player unaffiliated with either faction. To me he is a hero. He took a stand for peace and died for it. I want to know his name.

To the un-named cleric - thank you.

 

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Jordan LeDoux: Why It's Cool To Be Anti-Christian & Anti-Religion

A fascinating read. 

On the Internet, the average user is younger than the average individual, but most religious and spiritual arguments take place on social networking sites or message boards, the types of website's that are overwhelmingly dominated by younger users. It follows then that one of the things contributing to the abnormal distaste for religion online is that younger people feel more strongly about disliking religion and/or Christianity than other demographic groups, and that these websites only exasperate this.

Source: Jordan LeDoux: Why It's Cool To Be Anti-Christian & Anti-Religion

Jordan is a Christian playing defense in a game where he has a 50 point lead. He's subtly perpetuating the "Christianity is under attack" myth. He starts his argument with his assessment that Internet users are in general younger, and that younger Americans tend to be unchurched. Well...  that's a nice thought, but I don't think it will hold up to close scrutiny. Epically when one considers the ratio of Christian to Atheist blogs is above 500 to 1.

 

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A Christian response to the Blasphemy Challenge

Christians have started posting responses to the blasphemy challenge. I'm not a big fan of the blasphemy challenge - it seems well... blasphemous. Just kidding, what I mean to say is that it seems juvenile and pointless. Just saying you are an atheist is deigning the existence of god, why bother insulting Christians? Of course, I did the same thing when I was 24. It did not seem so juvenile then.

The Christian responses have been predictable. Except for Stephen, he seems reasonable. Go figure.

Nutball Altert: Judge Roy Moore

Dominionist activist and disgraced former Judge Roy Moore files brief with Supreme Court on religious freedom.

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Jan. 5 /Christian Newswire/ -- Former Chief Justice Roy Moore and attorneys with the Foundation for Moral Law filed an amicus curiae ("friend-of-the-court") brief today in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation case arguing that the federal courts should stop giving liberal groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation special permission to sue the government on behalf of "taxpayers"—in this case, to stop President Bush’s promotion of faith-based initiatives. The brief also takes a bold position that Justice Clarence Thomas has supported, arguing that, unlike the Free Exercise or the Free Speech Clauses, the Establishment Clause itself does not protect an individual right and cannot be the basis for an individual lawsuit.

Source: Judge Roy Moore Files Brief with Supreme Court on Religious Freedom

The brief makes an interesting read. Moore in dangerous. He and others in the dominonist movement are trying to neuter our efforts to challenge First Amendment issues in court.

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85% of U.S. dioceses report embezzlements

85% blows my mind.

A whopping 85 percent of U.S. dioceses have detected embezzlement over the past five years, according to Villanova University researchers. “No question about it, it’s a large number,” said Charles Zech, director of the school’s Center for the Study of Church Management and coauthor of the 15-page paper, “Internal Financial Controls in the U.S. Catholic Church,” that details the findings. Supported by a grant from the Louisville Institute, Zech and Villanova accounting professor Robert West surveyed 174 diocesan chief financial officers. Seventy-eight responded.

Source: National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe

Of course this is possible because Churches are not subject to financial oversight like every other business in America. With no oversight, comes dirty little secrets, like embezzlement.

Unlike corporations which provide quarterly financial statements to the SEC and hold quarterly conference calls with outside analysts, the church is subject to almost no recurring outside financial scrutiny,” according to the report. Further, while “many dioceses provide parishioners with an annual financial and administrative newsletter, which provides a highly summarized view of the cash flows for the year and the results of social and spiritual programs offered by the diocese -- many other dioceses do neither.

Shining light into dark places is the only thing which will correct this situation. It's time religions institutions loose their protected status.

 

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Richard Dawkins - "What if you're wrong?"

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John Waxman likes to...

Let's just say John has needs 

John is a humble, homely, semi-literate 31-year-old virgin with healthy urges but no prospects. Due to his cultish fundamentalist upbringing, John is wracked with guilt every time he pumps the soap dispenser. John sent a letter, excerpted below, to A Woman’s Concern hoping for some understanding or absolution:

He turns to A Woman's Concern - we all know A Woman's Concern. It it the headquarters for far right anti-abortion activity. Eric Keroack, the new deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Heath and Human Services, used to run A Woman's Concern. Keroack thinks contraception is demeaning to women. But what about masterbation? D.A. Kolodenko wants to know.

John, Masterbation is not mentioned specifically in the bible. I remember reading james dobson’s book as a teenager about puperty and reading his words that masterbation is not a big deal. There’s no clear cut do or not do. However Jesus does say that we as men should not lust because its like commiting adultry with a woman in our hearts. Lust comes down to this—an overwhelming desire for something sinfull. I think the question would be is it possible to masterbait and not lust? … I think Satan will do everything he can to get you to act out sexually before your married and then everything he can to get you not to have sex with your wife after Marriage…. I can’t tell you where the line is between exploration and habit obsession. —Nathaniel.

Source: San Diego Citybeat - A man's concern, by D.A. Kolodenko

(Nathaniel needs to use spell check.)

So, no abortion, no birth control, no masterbation... I am pretty sure Bush made the wrong decision putting Eric Keoack in charge of anything. He is out of touch with reality yet he is in charge of reproductive health care cervices to low income women.

 

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Why Do Atheists Care About Religion?

Via Truth On God

 

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Confronting Islam in Minnesota

Common sense is on the move in Minnesota. Islamic Taxi drivers have been denying service to passengers if they have dogs (even service dogs) or carry  alcohol. Muslims feel they are participating in sin if they transport alcohol. Dogs are simply unclean.

At a meeting Wednesday of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), airport staff members asked the commission to give the go-ahead for public hearings on a tougher policy that would suspend the licenses of drivers who refuse service for any reason other than safety concerns.

Drivers who refuse to accept passengers transporting alcohol or service dogs would have their airport licenses suspended 30 days for the first offense and revoked two years for the second offense, according to a proposed taxi ordinance revision.

Source: Tighter airport cab rules proposed

The airport commission is taking the right approach. If drivers don't want to treat passengers by acceptable American standards, they can find a new job. Some people might object, but think about it. If they refuse to carry passengers with alcohol, they can move on to more severe forms of discrimination. What if Muslims decide that transporting single unaccompanied woman were wrong, or what if  they determine Jews were unclean? It is a slippery slope, but it could happen, and the thought is scarry.

 

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