Saturday, September 30, 2006

Richmond graffiti and panhandling

I’m visiting my son in Richmond California this weekend. He tells me Richmond is the most dangerous city in California. It seems pretty nice to me – but I’m only looking at the new parts. I shot this truck while driving in the city.

I have a subjective measure of a city’s viability. I call it the panhandle experience. In Long Beach, I can be count on one panhandle experience every 15 days or so. Most are homeless people looking for a meal. In Richmond, in one day, I’ve had two direct experiences and one indirect.

Two bicycle riding methheads hit me up for a dollar. Both had the same line. I’m a good guy/girl, only out of work and looking for food money. They did not fool me. I traded conversation and a photo for a dollar. Both were missing teeth and had trouble focusing. I asked how old they were, both responded with 22. They looked to be at least forty.

The third panhandling experience was uplifting but unfortunately a scam. I was standing outside of a restaurant, Sala Thai on San Pablo, when I noticed a man asking for gas money at the Mobile station. He had parked his car near the pumps with a gas can on the roof. He asked anyone who walked by for “gas money to get home”. I was skeptical, but then an obviously poor woman stopped to talk to him. She offered some change, but soon changed her tune by telling the gas man to pull his car to the pump for a few gallons. The woman, a fat woman in a Denny’s waitress outfit, said “I’m a student and don’t have much money.”
The gas man said “I understand, how about a few quarters?”
She smiled as she said “The lord says he who gives shall receive”. She seemed happy to help. Joyful in fact. It was uplifting to watch.

I retold the story to my family as we left the restaurant. I pulled into the same Mobile station fill up as the gas man pulled away from the pump. He parked his car next to the pumps. Pulled a one gallon red plastic gas can from his trunk and placed it on his roof. Then…. He looked me in the eye and repeated the story he had told the kind women a few minutes earlier. I was unkind

Congratulations John and Jessica!

My long time friend and coworker John married his high school sweetheart in a beautiful ceremony Friday night in Costa Mesa. Jessica was breathtaking!

John, I wish you and Jessica a long and happy marriage.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Me too!

Sometimes I read posts and wish they were my words. Sometimes a writer captures my thoughts in a way that cannot be improved upon. This holds true for the essay Walking Backwards at Darwin's Dagger.
Now in reality there will no doubt be moments when, to save innocent lives from certain death, an interrogator may be forced to resort to torture. We might appreciate such an interrogator in the same way we would appreciate the parent who puts a bullet in the head of a pedophile, but we should no more change our laws to allow torture than we should change them to allow murder. Soldiers caught up in conflicts and wars often choose to sacrifice their lives for their country and their mission

Read the whole thing. It is worth it.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Bridge Troll Lair

I pass the bridge troll's lair each morning on the way to work. I've seen him several times. Over the last three months, his home has grown more complex. Three days ago I spotted four other trolls standing on the incline drinking coffee. They seemed excited about something. I don't know what.

Libertarians would say that private philanthropy should step in to help. Only they won't. The Government does not care. Public agencies don't venture under the bridge, it is too dangerious. At some point the police will show up and destroy this bridge roll lair. The bridge trolls will move to a new home and start again.

I want to help, but I don't know how.

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Jesus Camp

Wow, this is child abuse.

The Atheist Mama has more at her blog.

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Why do I blog?

While browsing my email this morning, I came across a question from a reader. The question read:

Why do you bother to blog you hateful tool of Satan?

I normally delete this type of email without reading them. This one skipped my cleverly constructed email filter, so I was faced with reading the first sentence. The writer "Brother Tim" goes on to describe the many unnatural things that will happen to me in hell because I choose to write a blog that criticizes his religion. At least Tim is a Christian. Muslims like to describe the many unnatural things that will happen to me if they catch me. I think that my be the fundamental difference between the two religions. Tim did not like me very much, but enough about Tim.

Why do I blog?

I started blogging to improve my writing skills. Blogging has helped my writing in many ways. I find it much easier to express myself now. I am not afraid to write. Heck, I have received so many criticism of my writing and my blog's content that I have developed a thick skin. Wring is one of those skills that improves with practice. My writing has improved. My spelling still blows.

I started blogging because I like to read. There are so many good writers in the blogsphere, and its all free. How could I resist? I can invest an hour learning about somebody or I can waste an hour watching TV. I would rather read. Where else I am going to follow the trials and tribulations of The Atheist Mama, or the newly discovered exmo blog Letters from a broad, or the many other wonderful blogs available to me with fresh content each day. Blogs are like your favorite books, except that they continue to grow each day. It is a wonderful experience to read them.

I started blogging because I am a struggling artist. My art is photography. Writing is hard enough without the added burden of criticism. Photography is even harder. It is crushing to be told that a photo of mine is ugly or unappealing. Yet, after several hundred photo's and too many emails to count, I can post photo's and look forward to the comments. I no longer have fear. Rejection does not scare me. I can turn my lens on anything now. Whereas before, I was afraid of what others might think, now I want to know what people think. I have learned that some people love my photo's, some hate them, but most are ambivalent. I'm ok with that

I started blogging to find my voice. I care about many things, some passionately. However, prior to blogging I had no outlet. My voice was muted because to use it in a family or work setting would only cause me pain. I found my voice when I started to blog. Crazy people "nutballs", religious zealots, atheism, arts, and culture, all are now fair game. My voice is strong, and only getting stronger with use. Eventually (well ,now actually), I plan to write a book.

Why do you blog?

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Urban Dictionary madness

I stumbled upon the Urban Dictionary's definition for Agnostic. It was amusing and insightful. People are.... stupid.

Someone who is not arrogant enough to think they KNOW whether God exists or not. - or - Someone who does not pretend to know what so many ignorant men are sure of.

There are many more. Is this a good idea?

The Port from a bridge

I shot this today while at lunch. The Port of Long Beach can be so depressing. Yet, for some reason, I am drawn to it.

TAG - a book meme got me

I got tagged for a book meme by KA at Biblioblography. I read all the time, two or three books at a time for almost 30 years. Here are my Answers.

1. A book that changed your life
Dancers in the Afterglow by Jack L. Chalker was a silly little sci-fi paperback that I was reading in 1979. The book became valuable when I wrote my future wife’s phone number inside the cover. The story is long forgotten. My wife and I just celebrated 26 years together. I still own the book.

2. A book you’ve read more than once
Sleepless Nights on the Procrustean Bed by Harlan Ellison. Ellison’s essay about the murder of John Lennon may be the best essay I have ever read. Also, The Lord of the Rings & the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

3. 1 book you’d want on a desert island
…any book that teaches water purification techniques. But seriously – I would have to go with The Lord of the Rings. It is such a pleasure to read.

4. 1 book that made you giddy
Giddy? WTF? I would have to say that all books make me giddy, except those that are about death and dismemberment, or books about math, or are religious tomes… OK, so not all books make me giddy, but most do.

5. 1 book you wish that had been written
Enders Game – Even though Orson Scott Card is a little whacked (thus I should have written it!).

6. 1 book that made you sob
Harlan Ellison’s Death Bird Stories (I think) contained a short essay about putting his dog to sleep. I threw an autographed hardcover edition across the room when I read it. He’s such a bastard, such an annoying talented bastard.

7. 1 book you wish had never been written
Mein Kampf by he who should only be named in comparison to right wing conservative Christian theocrats. The book was insane & millions of people died – can a book be unwritten? I actually read the damn thing while stuck in Paris one summer. I got a few looks.

8. 1 book you’re currently reading
The End of Faith – Sam Harris. It seems nice, of course, I’ve only read through one chapter. So far he’s only said “Religious moderation is the root of all evil” a dozen times. I hope the book offers something else. I mean, I get the message already.

9. 1 book you’ve been meaning to read
China, Inc. by Roderick Macleod is classic tome on doing business with China. I’ve been meaning to read it for months now. If I keep putting it off, I won’t need to read it at all in just a few short months.

I'll post my tags tonight - 1 for sure Front Toward Enemy

Housekeeping - Atheist Blogroll

I added two new atheist and agnostic blogs to Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll.

Agnostic Mom - Raising a Healthy Family Without Religion.
Abstract Nonsense - An Atheist grad student.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Neopolitan Salon

I saw this while driving through beautiful Carson California today. I could not resist a photo. It's not quite Carson Ugly. I would say, Carson odd.

I posted a few more pics to My Blind Eye and Bumper Reader.
Added to my reading list: Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma - a book about the Murder of Theo van Gogh

Islamism, Nazism, Communism, oh my

A new Danish Book by Karen Jespersen and Raif Pittelkow dares to challenge islam directly. The last time somebody did this, he died.
The book's main argument is that Europeans who ignore the threat posed by Islamists belong to a new and dangerous tribe of "naivists," a term coined by the authors. This may not sound so radical at a time when the pope has upset the Islamic world by quoting a medieval passage calling Islam "evil and inhuman" and when Islamic terrorist plots have put Europe on edge.
hmm, maybe the Pope should grow a set?

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I picked up my camera again

I picked up my camera again today. I shot with purpose for the first time in many weeks. I think I was giving my mind a rest. Or, I just lost interest for a few weeks. It happens.

I frequent a taco stand in the Port of Los Angeles. It's one of those things I like about California. There are no bad parts of town if you live here, only lots of marginal places. I can stop and eat a taco anytime and fit in. Nobody cares. I love places like this. Good food, good friends, and good times, it is what a lunch hour should be.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Las Vegas Weekend

I have only a few words to say about this weekend’s bachelor party in Las Vegas - I will never ever drink tequila again. Of course, I said the same thing in 1986.... It only took me 20 friggen years to drink more than a single shot of the poisonous stuff. – Never again! I’m off tequila.

Here is a hot tip for when you drink tequila and get hungry – no matter what you eat, you must be prepared for what can happen when and if you drink too much. For me, too much was more than one and less than… oh hell, I can’t really remember. I have learned that it is better to skip the Nathan’s hot dog with onions. Oh god, what was I thinking?

Mojoey’s Deep Thoughts for the week – Tequila and Hot Dogs = BAD.

The U.S. was not founded on Christianity

In 1996 Joel Barlow authored the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary. The treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate, June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved. John Adams, founding father and second President of the United States, signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

Article 11 clearly states that the United States of America was not founded "in any sense" on the Christian religion.

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries

Jim Walker helps put it in perspective:

Although, indeed, many of America's colonial statesmen practiced Christianity, our most influential Founding Fathers broke away from traditional religious thinking. The ideas of the Great Enlightenment that began in Europe had begun to sever the chains of monarchical theocracy. These heretical European ideas spread throughout early America. Instead of relying on faith, people began to use reason and science as their guide. The humanistic philosophical writers of the Enlightenment, such as Locke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, had greatly influenced our Founding Fathers and Isaac Newton's mechanical and mathematical foundations served as a grounding post for their scientific reasoning.

This seems like compelling evidence to me.

Hat Tip Richard

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It is just about doing your job

Chaplain Kligenschmitt, ever the evangelical activist, found that even chaplains must obey orders. Kligneschmitt's issue, which is essentially about the difference between ecumenical prayer and proselytizing ones own faith, came down to the simple issue of a solder follow orders. Kligneschmitt did not follow his orders, now he's been fined and told to go back to work. I must ask: Klegenschmitt, have you no honor? don't you realize that your duty is to service people who do not share your faith?
Such neutrality has long been a mark of the military's ministerial corps, mostly because they serve a captive audience, but also because to do otherwise would be rude. Similar rules govern prayer in all kinds of government-sponsored settings.
Of course, this would not be a headline grabbing event unless the Evangelical community made it a cause celebre. The neutrality of military pastors is under attack.
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., helped insert language into a huge defense bill - where it doesn't belong - to allow military pastors to pray any way they want whenever they want. That will, of course, force some military folks to listen to prayer that offends their conscience, but that seems to not matter to folks like Jones.

Now is the time to express your concerns. U.S. Sen. John Warner, head of the Armed Services Committee, is the right person to to communicate your contact.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

James Dobson on Abortion

James Dobson spoke in Pittsburgh in an effort to drum up support for anti-science republican candidate Rick Santorum. One of Dobson's comments caught my eye:

He accused the Republican House and Senate of "sitting on their hands" on key conservative social issues. He said they had squandered a growing public sentiment that abortion should be limited or banned.

One of my problems with Dobson is the incongruity of his stance on abortion and abortion prevention. At one extreme, Dobson preaches that all life is sacred - even leftover invitro eggs, or the potential for pregnancy represented by his opposition to the morning after pill. His position is an oversell. Dobson is against abortion but takes pro-life to a point so extreme that it cannot be supported. On the other end of the spectrum, Dobson rails against contraception, sex education, HPV inoculations, and Mifeprisone (RU486), all in the name of moder fundamentalist morality. It is as if he does not understand the no matter what we do, kids are going to have sex. When ignorant kids have sex, they do so without the benefit of contraception. The results are unwanted pregnancy, the spread of STDs, broken families, teen parents, adoptions, and worst of all, abortions. Kids are not the only one affected by Dobson's extreme positions - adults must deal with the fall out. Adults have unprotected sex, people are people, and we do illogical things impulsively and then deal with the consequences. However, Dobson actively fought the release of HPV inoculations and Mifeprisone - affecting every woman of childbearing age in the country. How many unwanted pregnancies resulted from his illogical position? How many women died because of Dobson’s crusade to prevent abortions, how many cancers did he cause by his opposition to the HPV inoculation? Most damming, how many abortions did he cause by promoting abstinence over sex education and contraception?

Abortion is one of those touchy subjects that I do not like to address. No matter what I say, I will upset friends and family. Where do I stand? My position is simple and moderate. I firmly support a woman’s right to have an abortion (I think the politically correct term is the "right to choose" – but I prefer to call it what it actually is, the right to have an abortion). However, it makes sense to reduce the number of abortions performed. Abortions are undesirable; they can be reduced in number through access to education, contraception, and when necessary, access to emergency contraception. Dobson's position - prevent access to abortions while simultaneously limiting access to education and contraception, well... it is just plain illogical. However, logic has nothing to do with it. Dobson position is religious, flawed, and dangerous.

I will not pull punches the Right to Choose team either. I will get to them in a future post. I have just one question – does it really make sense to deny parental rights so that a child can seek an abortion?

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Join Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll

The Atheist Blogroll is a service provided to the atheist and agnostic blogging community. The blogroll currently list over 1,425 active blogs. Membership is limited to atheist and agnostic bloggers. To join, follow the instructions listed below. The full member list of the Atheist blogroll is located here.

If you run an Atheist website. I will be happy to host a link to it at the Atheist Blogroll resource blog

Minimum Requirements:
Your blog should be written from an atheist, agnostic, or skeptical point of view. There is no requirement that your blog be exclusively atheist or agnostic themed. Many members write about photography, science, or what they had for dinner. I write about many things here at Deep Thoughts, atheism is only one of many of my passions.
We recommend that display an Atheist Blogroll badge on your blog.
Your blog must be an active. An active blog is defined as a blog that posts regularly. Blogs with no activity in six months are dropped from the full member list.

Photoblogs are acceptable.
To grow, the Atheist Blogroll depends on new members. Getting the word out is important. To help, new members are asked introduce the Atheist Blogroll with a post. Something like this is fine:
[insert your blog's name] has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the Atheist Blogroll badge in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.
Your blog can contain nudity, but I draw the line at pornography. Blogs that portray pornography will be dropped. I am the sole judge when it comes to determining what is porn, although I do listen to the voice of the community.
To Join:
Simply send me an email. Put "Join the Atheist Blogroll" in the subject line to get past my spam filter. In the body of the email, please indicate that you are an atheist or agnostic blogger and include your URL. I will add your blog after I have verified that your blog meets the minimum requirements. Please allow me some to respond. I have a real job too!
Promotional Introductions:
If you would like an introduced to the Atheist blogging community, please write a few short paragraphs which describe your blog's focus and and point-of-view. Email it to me using "Introduction on the Atheist Blogroll" as the subject line. See this post for a good example or check out The Atheist Blogroll in the links on my sidebar.
About the Atheist Blogroll:
I maintain the Atheist Blogroll resource blog. You can find out about what is happening on the blogroll there.
*** Updates ***
  • Feb 1, 2007 - Please use Blogrolling's Ping form when updating your blog. is experiencing ping spam, which blogs the update service for normal blogs.
  • Feb 5, 2007 - I added a rolling version of the blogroll and made RSS, OPML, and PHP version so the blogrolling code available.
  • Aug 10, 2007 - Rule change: To join the Atheist Blogroll, one must be an atheist or agnostic blogger. Also, Added a new promotional introduction feature.
  • July 27, 2008 - Cleaned up the rules, updated procedures.
  • August 2, 2009 - Updated to change files hosting and clean up rules.
  • September 2010 - Updated for content and a link to the Atheist Blogroll resource blog.
  • September 2010 - Changed content to reflect the drop of
  • June 2011 - updated membership links.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

John Kerry eyes the Christian vote

John Kerry visited my alma mater recently to deliver a speech to the faithful. At least one Christian blog sees it as an attempt to snag a few Christians in the Democratic party net - a deliberate strategy to draw Christians voters away from the Republican party. Pepperdine University is a Church of Christ (no drinking, no dancing, etc) run school that takes its religion seriously. Pepperdine is also a bastion of conservative Republican power in California. A democrat has about as much chance of influencing these people as I did in avoiding their benevolent form of moral activism and emphasis on Christian values. Kerry's message may have fell on deaf ears.

One of my favorite passages from scripture, a familiar story from the Gospel According to Mark 10:35-45, sheds a lot of light for me on how to translate my faith into action. The Apostles James and John ask their teacher Jesus if they can sit, one at his right hand and one at his left hand, and bask in his glory. They want to be seen as first among the disciples. And Jesus tells them, while they can drink from his cup and share in the baptism, the special position they want isn’t his to grant—it’s only for those who are up to the task. When the other ten disciples heard about James and John’s request, they were angry. And so Jesus gathered them all together and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to be first among you must be servant of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Kerry's speech reads like a sermon, however, once he gets past quoting bible passages, he lays out his plan to bring Christians back to the Democratic fold. The speech is worth reading, it portends a election cycle steeped in religious symbolism. Atheist might feel left out. Of course, Kerry made a gesture towards all faiths too.

We are more than just Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims or atheists: we are human beings. We are more than the sum of our differences — we share a moral obligation to treat one another with dignity and respect—and the rest is commentary. Nowhere does this obligation arise more unavoidably than in when and how to resort to war.

The one think to keep in mind regarding the new democratic strategy is that it was delivered by John Kerry. A few months down the road he will be singing a different tune. What was his nickname? Flipper?

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Share the power man

Traveling makes me crazy. So crazy in fact, that I cannot remember which airport this latest piece of advertising crap-o-la was spotted. There is a strong chance it was Newark, or possibly Indianapolis. It does not matter, sponsoring power plugs pushing the feel good "share the power" mantra cross the line into the absurd. To begin with, I will hog this power outlet while sucking enough juice from it to recharge my laptop, cell phone, and iPod. I will tear the sign from the wall as I attempt to camouflage my find so that other travelers will not attempt to share. I might even mark an airport map with a small "X" to signify "power here", so the next time I am in town, I can plug in again. It is not as if Chase put the plug there for our use, it has always been there. How else would janitors plug in their buffer thingy?

Why is power so important? Because flying without a fully charged iPod means I must listen to some Betty talk about bunions instead of listening to Tabla Beat Science play Magnetic. Trust me on this, music is better than Betty, or Billy Joe Bob, or even that hot little College coed that never sits next to me anyway. Music takes you to a happy place, despite sitting like a pretzel in coach next to the fat man eating a garlic sandwich.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Another milestone (of sorts)

Grad school is a year behind me and find that I can enjoy reading again - finally. God knows I love to read. My liberary contains thousands of books.Yet, grad school killed my desire to read in a way that only those who experience the process can understand. Until recently, I was not able to hold a book in my hands long enough to flip through the pages without experiencing a slight tremor. I managed to polish off a few mindless Tom Clancy novels when stuck on long flights over the past year. Clancy don't count. My free time went to other pursuits, like movies or computer games, anything but reading. All this changed last week. I read five books in 7 days. The latest, On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King, went down like a fine scotch. As I reached for another book, I realized that nearly every moment of my free time over the last week, a book has called to me. It is nice to be back. I love to read.

Kings's book has been on my reading list since it was published in 2001. Reading it represents another milestone - I am back to normal. Except for blogging, which I picked up to take my mind off of school in 2004, and appears to have stuck. King's book is typical of the type of book I like to read. It offers a glimpse of what makes Steven King tick. I'm my minds eye, King is a dark and moody freak. In reality, he's a normal guy, but, a master of his craft. If he were a mechanic, my truck would be serviced in his shop.

I read 3 or 4 books at a time. I always have. I'm pissed at myself tonight because I realized that I had left a half read copy of 1776 in the seatback of an American Airlines flight from Boston last Friday - I also left New Rules by Bill Maher and the latest Economist magazine, a $35 waste - or make that a $70 waste, I will buy the books again.

Enough writing - it is time to read.

A Malaysian interracial love story

I read, I think, I write - and sometimes, what I read just don't make sense. I happened upon a Malaysian newspaper and fell down the rabbit hole of cultural misunderstanding. Muslim Khalid writes of his love for a Malaysian Christian girlfriend.

I am a Muslim from Pakistan. I have a Malaysian girlfriend who is Christian. We have built a wonderful relationship that transcends everything - even time, space, race and religion. We have discussed marriage and she had told me that she is not willing to convert to Islam. She was very frank and honest with me (I appreciate that as it is the basis for a good and lasting relationship). She told me that she did not believe in Islam, though as a Christian she believed in one God.
I read the whole thing - In Malaysia, to marry, the girlfriend is compelled by the state to convert to Islam. Your new religion goes on your identity card (IC) and determines how you are treated by the state in the future. The girlfriend in this tragedy has no desire to convert, she is a devout Christian. What are two young lovers to do? Or course, many other letters follow. All are outstanding examples of how little I understand this culture.
Well... At least they are talking about it.

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War, the rapture, and evangelical nutballs

Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air interviewed John Hagee, founder of the Christian Zionist group, Christians United for Israel. Hagee is the pastor who claimed New Orleans was destroyed by God's will. He asserts God destroyed New Orleans because of a scheduled gay pride parade. He does not mention the innocent victims outside of New Orleans, it must be ok for God to incur collateral damage when he takes vengeance on those horrible gay sinners. Can you imagine? A whole city destroyed because of a scheduled parade? Hagee reiterates his position in this interview. Listen to it! Hagee is frightening, even more so when you consider that he has the ear of President Bush.

Hagee's interview focuses on Israel, "the rapture" and the coming war. For the uninitiated, Hagee sounds like he escaped from a mental institution or a Monty Python film. Hagee is focused on the the end times. He wants war in Israel. He wants the rapture to come. He believes the end is near- And, he is in the mainstream when it comes to Evangelical Christians.

A Christian pastor recently commented on my blog post on heaven and hell

...too bad it is a total misunderstanding of Christianity but whatever. The Christian message is that the Kingdom of Heaven is in reach today. The model for Christian prayer is "your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". When Christians say Jesus is the Christ, this means that our king is reigning in us and through us today.
I know Pastor Brad means well, but naiveté only goes so far. Hagee believes in a antithetical flavor of Christianity, like chocolate to your vanilla. Hagee is pulling for an expanded war in Israel, which hurries along the rapture, so he and his followers can go live in heaven with their god. It is a freaky scary over the top super religious nutball theology followed by thousands and thousands of people populating evangelical megachurches all throughout the country. Even direct exposure to sunlight cannot kill this weed. I kept waiting for Terry Gross to ask "you believe what?' However, Hagee just kept doing the job for her.

Hagee and his ilk grow more powerful by the day. Hagee is not focused on "Heaven on earth" or "our king reigning in us" - He is focused on ending life on earth through trying to force an all out war in the middle east. I wonder if he is a Christian at all.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Added to my reading list: Faith and Politics: How the "Moral Values" Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together by Senator John Danforth

A question of ethics

I have a question. If tax law forbids non-profit organizations from endorsing a candidate for public office, and James Dobson's Focus on the Family offers a tacit endorsement of Sen. Rick Santorum - can Dobson's statement be considered an ethical violation, or taking it a step farther, an actual violation of law?

Dobson's comments leave little room for doubt.

"Pennsylvania is too important for us not to be here ... especially in your Senate race," Dr. Dobson said in a radio interview last week. "Get to the polls. You know who to vote for. I won't tell you, because you already know."

Evangelical supporters are able to discern Dobson's intent without any further help. therefor, it stands to reason that Dobson's intent is public endorsement of Sen. Rick Santorum. Which, if not an actual breach of law is a violation of the spirit of the law and draws attention to Dobson's ethics, which appear to be corrupt.

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Burnin' Hell

After wasting some time this morning trying to upgrade iTunes to version 7, I gave up and started to listen to music instead. John Lee Hooker is my choice this morning. Hooker's Burnin' Hell, it is perhaps the best atheist themed song ever written - "I don't believe in no heaven, I don't believe in no burning hell". It just so happens that I am reading Daylight Atheism as part of the CotG this morning. His post, No Heavens, is a perfect complement to Hooker's epic song.
What all these heavens have in common, though, is that they are far off, hidden from our sight. Preachers and scriptures tell us that this life is a vale of tears and none can change that, but if we bear suffering with good cheer and humbly obey the religious authorities, we will receive pie in the sky by and by. Although most religions have edicts commanding their followers to aid the poor, none have any expectation that their followers will succeed at alleviating want, or even that such success is even possible. Jesus, for example, is reported as saying that the poor will be with us always (Matthew 26:11). Instead, most religions teach that misery and suffering will persist until God returns to establish his kingdom on Earth, and of course they all teach that converting the poor is a higher priority than supplying material needs. ("For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
The concept of Heaven and Hell has always posed a problem for me. I once heard heaven described as "being in the presence of God". I understand the concept. If there were a god, being in his presence would be the ultimate reward for faith. Reality intrudes - Heaven and Hell do not exist, nor does god. The only heaven (or hell) we have is the one we experience here and now while we live. In the immortal words of Bradley Nowell, "love is what I got". We make the best of what we have, we strive to be better, or we descend into the abyss of drugs or despair. The choices are ours alone to make. Without the reward of an afterlife, life itself becomes our precious reward.

John Coltrane is playing Syeeda's Song Flute at the moment. My wife and son are relaxing on the couch. I am in heaven.

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CotG #49 is up at Grounded in Reality

Bruce at Grounded in Reality has provided Carnival of the Godless # 49 for our reading pleasure. I plan to enjoy a morning of coffee and invigorating ideas. Stop by this latest issue and see for yourself.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Fighting the culture war

Why is congress wasting time with likes of activist Navy chaplain Lt Gordon James Klingenschmitt? There are more important issues in this country, we are at war in two countries, our economy needs help, trade issues abound, gas prices... I can go on and on. Yet Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) are pressing ahead with this non-issue. Klingenschmitt deserves his Article 15 - or whatever punishment he receives for his flagrant disregard of military rules. Yet this non-issue, an officer violating direct orders, is a cause celeb for the religious right. It comes down to what the job description of a chaplain; they are supposed to represent a generic faith to a diverse armed services. Yet Klingenschmitt uses his pulpit to proclaim his unique version of evangelical Christianity - it just so happens to be the same faith at the Commander In Chief, so rather than deal with real issues, like losing the war or the shared disgrace of Lynndie England. It’s easier to compromise the neutrality of chaplains than it is to deal with a screwed up war and state sanctioned torture. At least the Military Military seems sane on this issue . Klingenschmitt seems destined for some level of pain.
The judge, refusing Klingenschmitt's motion earlier this month to drop the case, concluded chaplains are protected only inside the chapel on Sunday morning. If ordered not to worship in public, and they disobey, chaplains can be punished at a criminal court martial.
I wonder how tolerant the Religious Right would be if Klingenschmitt issued a call to convert to Islam instead of closing a prayer "in Jesus name"?

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A sea change for evangelicals

I have been watching the evangelical movement for several years looking for signs of a shift away from the hate filled anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-atheist conservative agenda. The election of Frank Page as president of the Southern Baptist Convention was one sign of change. The rise of other dissenting voices and an alternative agendas continues to pipe my interest. What are these new evangelical leaders all about?
"I think there are lots and lots of young people, in their 20s to 40s, who are very impatient with older models of social engagement like those used by the religious right. They understand the importance of life issues and the family issues, but they know the concern for justice has to be broader and global. At least a good portion of the evangelical movement is looking for leaders who have a broader conception of social justice."
Broader focus translates as "focusing on other issues", like global warming or "creation care". The shift in focus does not stop with the environment. The tactics of the Religious Right are under fire, tactics used by Religious Right talking head James Dobson and others. The message is clear - enough of the hate:
"For the most part, the religious right has been limited to the Republican Party…. A voice of biblical values cannot be in the pocket of one party…. Christians can decide for themselves how God would want them to come down on any issue…. There ought to be more than just gay marriage and pro-life issues, because the Bible is concerned with all of life…. We need to do everything we can to relieve poverty, to heal the sick and to protect the Earth."

I will be giving more room to the New Evangelical Movement here at Deep Thoughts. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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Logan Airport

I have not been in Boston's Logan Airport since before 9/11. The mood has changed. It's somber and serious. I felt alone. I explored the American terminal and eventually settled down to do women people watching. I found these chairs near the far end of the terminal. I liked the rocking chairs, mothers and the elderly occupied most, a few selfabosrbed teens the rest. The chairs offered a nice change to the standard airport shell and broke some of the tension.

I had an Islamic movement while looking for edible food. I wanted a fresh salad. I found only fried food and burgers. I stopped at a deli run by a Muslim woman. She had full menu but only vegetarian food available, I needed meat. We spoke briefly about small matters. I eventually left with an apple. 20 minutes later she walked up to me as I sat reading. She held a fresh chicken salad in her hand. "You are a kind man, and you looked Hungary" she said as she handed it to me. She smiled and walked away without asking for money.

How as I kind? I had smiled when I spoke to her. I was polite and inquired about her day. I told her that it was of no consequence that she did not have the food I desired. I thanked her for her service. In other words - I was a gentleman. She was a headscarf wearing Muslim who had taken six obnoxious travelers ahead of me, several had been openly hostile. To me she was just another immigrant American in need a little respect.

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Environmental Evangelicals

A small group of evangelical churches are attempting to expand the concept of "pro-life" to include saving all life on earth through environmental consciousness. Led by Tri Robinson of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Boise, Idaho, this commendable environmental awakening is spreading to other like minded churches. Robinson's beliefs are based on his rereading of the bible. He believes god wants him to help save the planet.

“If you believe, as I do, that the ultimate end is not the destruction of the Earth but the healing of the Earth, you will be inclined toward wanting to work with God to see it restored,”

Robinson has serious detractors. James Dobson of Focus on the Family is not amused. Dobson has warned fellow evangelicals to keep focused on stopping abortion and gay marriage. Other religious leaders are more direct.

The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, which includes Christian leaders with close ties to the Bush administration, argues that if humans are responsible for global warming, the costs of preventing it outweigh the harm it causes, said spokesman Calvin Beisner.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, adopted a resolution in June denouncing environmental activism and warning that it was “threatening to become a wedge issue to divide the evangelical community.”

It is ironic that when a Christian does something that benefits all mankind, politically minded Christian leaders jump to appose his worthwhile efforts. How does recycling ink cartridges damage Dobson's politically charged anti-gay agenda? Or repairing a hiking trail? Robinson remains resolute in the face of opposition.

“God blesses small beginnings,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to get people to recycle — do the little things. I believe God will meet us.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On the road again

I've been on travel this week visiting Indianapolis and Boston, so posting has been light. Between working hard and the after work social activities associated with my job, I only have time for sleep. Take today, almost 8 hour of work, followed by 9 hours of travel. Now, I have time for one post, some emails, and then sleep.

I had an epiphany in Indianapolis. My friend challenged me to think about if I was really ever a Christian or not. At one time I believed, but I had to admit that I always had doubts about what I was learning. I constantly asked questions about why rock music was bad, or why one religion was true while another was a cult. Moral issues caused me great confusion. These questions, led me to think critically about the big picture of religion and moral behavior. Eventually my doubts lead me to realize that I did not believe. So the question, "was I ever really a christian or not", was valid. The answer is no. I spoke the words, I followed the rituals, but I never fully believed. I always doubted - always.

I final word about Indianapolis. I enjoyed a great meal in this wonderful midwest city. I ate at St. Elmo's - Wow. I particularly enjoyed the decor, it is very reminiscent of another era. The food was simple, yet outstanding. Navy bean soup, followed by prime rib, and then bread pudding for desert. The prime rib was one of the best cuts of meat I've ever had. I would return to Indianapolis just eat there again. It really was the highlight of a long trip. Plus, the company was outstanding. I'll post another review when I can. I also ate at Mo's steakhouse and visited a great cigar bar. I have a few new stories to tell.

Well... Two days to go...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

NPR profiles an athiest

Pat Burger, a 78 year old Aheist and New Yorker is profiled on NPR's Weekend Edition. Pat and atheism are painted in a favorable light. It makes for a good story. Click the audio link to hear a rebroadcast of the interview.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I saw this yesterday

Not one of my best photos, but I only had a second to shoot. I will add that this was in the window of a loser mobile. You know what I mean, a 15-year-old truck in bad condition, driven by mullet man.

I collect bumper stickers, well kind of anyway. I shoot pictures of stickers I see on other people’s cars while driving the freeways here in LA. It beats daydreaming.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Drinking is to Homer

As Dobson is to Mendacity.

I read 20 James Dobson related emails and posts a day, sometimes more. I am always on the lookout for when he plays fast and loose with the facts. We must strive to remember that Dobson is not using science but is instead using religious morality and ignorance to spread his hatred. Science does not support his "gays are bad parents" dogma.

A group of protestors went to the headquarters of Focus on the Family in Colorado in July. They protested that organization's bigotry and discrimination against gay people. With the protestors was Dr. Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology at NYU. She was personally protesting the mendacity of Focus on the Family and its founder James Dobson. They had been misquoting her research on gay and lesbian parenting to justify discriminating against homosexuals and their families. Dr. Stacey told a press conference the conclusions of her research, "The sexual orientation or gender combination of the parents raising children does not have much impact on children's development; the quality of the parents' relationship and the quality of their parenting does."
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Brian Holtz takes on 9/11 conspiracists

California Libertarian Candidate for Congress Brian Holtz has been using his intellect to debunk his Green opponent Carol Brouillet's 9/11 conspiracies. In a well written summary of a live debate held on August 17, Holtz delivers are devastating blow to the illogical positions espoused by his opponents. Brian even has a video of the debate. Take 20 or 30 minutes to watch or read what is sure to be a classic of skepticism in action. When done, post a word of support for a fellow skeptic who has gone into the lion's den and come out unscathed.

Brian deserves to be a Congressman. I urge you to visit his Campaign website, read about his positions on key issues, and then offer support.

Cross posted to Joe Libertarian

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Ahmadinejad don't like us

Damn - Ahmadinejad thinks we are all atheists.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here on Friday that the big powers' atheism is the rootcause of man's problems today.

Addressing a group of locals, President Ahmadinejad said the only remedy to the plight is recourse to God and injunctions of the divine messengers.

Somewhere in his address, Ahmadinejad said the Iranian nation is on the path to progress, setting God Almighty as its ultimate goal.

He said strong faith in God and monotheism are the key to durable peace and calm.

He went on to say that Iranian nation all over the country support access to peaceful nuclear energy, considering it as their inalienable right.

This guy is crazy, the king of Nutballs in my book. What he actually did was show his distain for Christians.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Carson Ugly #24 - homeless woman

My instincts are always to help. Sometimes the help is unwanted. Like Tuesday Morning when I shot this picture. I had just purchased a quick meal for breakfast and was pulling out of a parking lot when I saw her. I snapped a picture and immediately felt like crap. I pulled over a little ways up the street and walked back with my breakfast in hand. She yelled at me to stay away. I could sense mental illness. It was depressing.

...400 feet away is Carson City Hall.

I posted another pick to My Blind Eye.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

R.I.P Steve Irwin

The Crocodile Hunter has died - Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin Killed
BRISBANE, Australia Sep 4, 2006 (AP)— Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and environmentalist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray during a diving expedition. He was 44.
What a shame - my son and I loved Steve. I even own a snake because of him. I am sure my son's desire to become a veterinarian in due in large part to Steve and the other people like him at the discovery channel. I am going to have to tell my son of Steve's passing soon, I don't think doing so will be much fun.

The Discovery Channel has a statement mourning Steve's loss.
Our entire company is deeply saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Steve was beloved by millions of fans and animal lovers around the world and was one of our planet's most passionate conservationists. He has graced our air since October 1996 and was essential in building Animal Planet into a global brand.
There is a community forum at the Discovery Channel where people are expressing their grief at his passing. The forum is bursting with expressions of sympathy for the Irwin family.

The Crocodile Hunter website appears to be down - maybe forever.

R.I.P Steve Irwin, and thanks for all the wildlife fun and memories.

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Review: Jake's Wing Company

While at The Pike in Long Beach yesterday I stopped by Jake's Wing Company to sample the fare. I had enjoyed passable hot wings at another restaurant earlier in the day, so my taste buds were primed for a new experience. While my wife and son stepped out to buy a chocolate cake, I ordered my meat desert. A plate of the house special grilled tequila lime wings. At $8.50 for a plate of ten small wings, they are no bargain. I suspect at least $2 is going to cover location overhead, The Pike is pricey real estate.

The wings are small in comparison to most appetizer portions served today. I would estimate no more than 5 oz of meat on ten bones, possibly less. What the wings lack in size, they make up for in flavor. I found myself eagerly selecting my next wing while still sucking the meat off the one in my mouth. The salsa that complements the wings is outstanding. I wanted to take a bottle home with me. The staff was friendly and courteous, the dinning area was well organized and clean. People watching is fairly good in the window seating areas that overlook the central plaza. My only suggested improvement would be to allow some outside dinning. A Red Stripe, 20 wings, a good cigar, and seat in the lazy afternoon sun would find me eating wings at least once a week. Overall, I would rate the experience repeatable.

Jack's serves bottled beer, Red Stripe and other brands, for a reasonable price considering the location. They also have a full menu of salads, sandwiches, and sides in addition to their signature wing recipes, so the wife and kids can eat too. Jacks is located at The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, 160 Bay Street Long Beach, CA 90802. Mark Jacobson (562.590.5544) is the manager.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Atheists sue over Jacksonville Day of Faith

it looks like the city of Jacksonville spent more than one hundred thousand dollars on a religious event called "The Day of Faith" anti-violence rally. Lisa Lovingood, representing American Atheists, filed suit to force the City to return the funds to taxpayers.
But some religious leaders see Atheism as a faith as well. “Everyone has some kind of faith because you believe in something. You may not call it god but whatever is determining, dictating your lifestyle is what you worship", says Pastor Rudolph McKissick Jr. of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church.
If the city adopts Pastor Rudolph's position, they will soon find themselves writing a check to the taxpayers. Atheism is not religion. The notion is absurd.

I have to wonder about the city officials who backed this. They should have seen this a mile off. This looks like a clear 1st Amendment case. What were they thinking? Religion makes one do funny things I guess. The Jacksonville event was wrong on two levels, separation of church and state & pure government excess. It makes my libertarian blood boil.
Pastor McKissick Jr. says the group should be focusing on the murders in Jacksonville and not the money spent on the “Day of Faith.”
McKissick is wrong - the focus should have been on catching the murders. Private funds should have been used to throw his $100K feel good prayer party.

I am not a big fan of this type of protest lawsuit. American Atheist is too militant for my blood. Protesting crosses in Utah and publicly funded prayer sessions in Jacksonville seem pedestrian in comparison to battling the religious rights hold on our government. I suppose somebody must do this - Go get them Lisa!

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A day at The Pike

We spent they day at the Pike in Long Beach. It is antiseptically clean and does not lend itself taking the kind of pictures I like to take. Heck, I could not even spot a wayward piece of trash. I had a good time anyway, we managed to dodge the crowd and get in some games, food, and even a ride on a ferris wheel where I took this shot.

I posted a more mojoey like picture at My Blind Eye.

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Tao of Monkey kune do

Bruce Lee reincarnated as a monkey.

If there is no God, why be good?

Newsweek is at it again. This time they act as if the atheists in America are insignificant when weighed against the great Christian hoard. Admittedly, we are the few - but insignificant? I don't think so. The article in question, The New Naysayer, by Jerry Adler, profiles two new books by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Both books question the value and relevancy of religion in light of the damaging affects of fundamentalism. At one point in the article, the author asks, "If there is no God, why be good?". It is a question that causes me to snort - because I know the difference between good and evil without the guidance of god. Of course, the author suggests that without faith, Christians would run amok, society would crumble, the world would end in chaos - you get the idea.

Belief that god's guidance is the sole source of good in humanity is one of the concepts Dawkins will explore in his new book, The God Delusion. My guess is that without the guidance of god, we would all get along just fine. I have always theorized that there is something in us, something evolved from our collective past, that helps guide us towards behavior that is benifical to the whole. It will be interesting to see what Dawkins has to say on the subject.

Regarding Newsweek - I have not been keeping track, so I am not sure, but it feels the editorial team might be developing an anti-atheist bias. Or, at least they may be pandering to their Christian readers by attempting to marginalize atheists in America. Read the article yourself and see if you can detect the subtle undercurrent.

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I moved to Blogger beta

I took the leap and moved to blogger beta today - They should warn you that the process takes you down for a a 10 to 15 minute stretch. It made me a little nervous. It looks like all systems are working just fine. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Oh crap - spoke too soon

Saturday, September 02, 2006

48th Carnival of the Godless

Welcome to the 48th installment of Carnival of the Godless. I must admit that I have never contributed to CotG myself, however, I have been an avid reader. First, a word about my blog, Deep Thoughts. I write about whatever I care about. At the moment, its my 26 years living as an atheist, photography, art, culture, nutballs, and my pet peeve, Christians who think they should rule the world. But, enough about me, let's start the Carnival with a poem:

Gadfly of The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly penned this ode to Olympic National Park:

Mount Olympus stands enshrouded,
Wrapped in a wreath of cloud.
Pull back the cumuli, and what do you see?


This would be hard to top but the prolific Gadfly delivers with this second effort entitled Beaches of Faith. I read it five times in silence - then twice aloud - Thanks Gadfly, your work is uplifting.

The ocean surge constrained by lurking volcanic headlands,
Brackets questions of ebbing faith within a particular context.
Faith in what? About what? For what? To what end?

One of my most favorite quotes is "Specialization is for Insects". It would seem that Gadfly has taken this quote to heart. Gadfly's poems are excellent, while his blog provides a diverse and interesting experience to the casual reader.

The Ridger, of the language, liberalism, freethinking themed blog, The Greenbelt. offers a book review for our consideration. Not the End of the World is a novel by Christopher Brookmyre. The book is about... oh heck, read the review for yourself. Here is a snipit.

No, it's not about them (ed. fundamentalists). Exactly. What it's about is the people who are in their way. You know: the sinners in that old chestnut "hate the sin, love the sinner" (which, as the book points out, is so hard it always turns into just plain hate). An LA cop (mentioned in Quite Ugly...), a Scottish photographer, an oceanographer, and a porn star - well, an ex-porn-third lead. They're the heroes, and they're in that large group of people the bad guys - led by a charismatic fundamentalist preacher who once ran for president - decide can be sacrificed to save the world. Because...

What is another term for big words? Oh, large words. This next post is full of large words and even larger ideas. The Collectivist Assumption of Depravity - as I slowly reach for the dictionary, I steel myself for the intellectual battle to come, I start with the title. Collectivist = the political principle of centralized social and economic control. Assumption = the act of taking for granted or supposing. Depravity = moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles. My conclusion after reading the title of this heady piece - Francios Tremblay went to a better school than I did.

So what is the natural state of human groups? Is it, as the collectivists claims, a state of immorality and brutal violence, upon which their “outside” morality must be imposed to restore order and peace? Is it a nihilistic oblivion?

The American Talliban strikes at defenseless ancient stone carvings in far off Qajartalik Island Canada. Babbler of See you at Enceladus asks why fundamentalist Christians have No Respect for the Past. It seems fear and primitive superstitions have reared their ugly heads in a Tallibanesque form - killed that which competed with it, much like the Catholic Missionaries did with the Druids of old Ireland.

If the archeologist’s accusation is true, then this is more an petty vandalism. This is an attack against the common heritage of humanity. They have ruined irreplaceable artifacts, of a peoples who can no longer protect them.

I am sure we will hear that this was purely the act of some deranged Christian sect and not in any way associated with mainstream Christianity. Now, where did I put those sarcasm tags?

Few things are more frustrating than discussing religion with a true believer who falls back on his or her divine experience to justify belief in God or the superiority of their religion. Jeff at A Nerds Country Journal reckons that using divine personal experience is a bit of a copout. In his submission Personal Religious Revelation As Evidence for God he explores the problems with this concept.

....they are common to humans throughout the world, in a variety of religious traditions. A Hindu feels that same subjective sense of God as strongly as you do, as strongly as a Muslim does, as strongly as a Mormon does, as strongly as those Aztec Sun-God Worshippers did. Can you doubt that their strong subjective religious feelings were as valid and as powerful as yours? That they believed as completely as you do? How can one tell the difference between the "real" sense of God you feel as a Christian from the "false" sense of God felt by that Muslim, Hindu, Aztec, or Mormon?

Personally, I think it is quite easy to have a personal religious revelation. All one needs is an unscrupulous youth pastor, a liberal amount of LSD, peer pressure, and a lengthy backpacking trip in the Sierras. I must tell this story at some point in the future.

My favorite Atheist read, the blog Atheist Revolution, contributed a short but powerful post called The War on Reality by vjack. I recently heard this concept referred to as truthyness, "the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts". Truthyness is like believing that abstanance is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies even though the facts suggest that the morning after pill radically reduces unwanted pregnancies. vjack nails the concept in his post.

If I had to select one thing that frustrates me about Christian extremists more than anything else, it would be their apparent inability to separate belief from truth. Believing that I can lift my car over my head does not make it true no matter how much I believe it. Believing that I have a soul does not make it true no matter how strongly I believe it. It appears that the Christian extremist concludes that anything they believe strongly enough becomes part of reality...

I wrote a short post on this myself a few days back, Doubting Scientific Truth - a Christian friend posted on the same topic from a reformed perspective about a year ago. This subject scares me, after all, the people who run America subscribe to this nonsense.

Fellow science fiction fan and Geocacher, Martin of Salto Sobriu submits a blog post by guest blogger Jim Benton called Jim Benton on Divine Free Will. To quote Martin "Everybody knows that a belief in divine omnipotence carries with it a series of logical conundrums. But, as this entry shows, so does the idea of divine omniscience."

God -- your favorite monotheistic omniscient deity -- knows, along with everything else, the results of his own actions. And he/she/it/they has a "plan for the Universe." (It isn't reasonable to assume that such a deity is just a spectator, watching to see how things turn out because "he" -- let's make things easy -- knows the answer already.

I do not contemplate the nature of god much - I don't believe there is a god. However, unless one falls back on the "God is unknowable" copout to explain things, the arguments constructed by Benton are similar to the twisted thought process I went through when I became an atheist many years ago. I enjoyed this article.

If I can take one thing away from the process of putting together this issue of Carnival of the Godless, it will be that I found Letters From A Broad. This is a truly enjoyable blog written by C.L Hanson about her experiences as a friendly American ex-Mormon (exmo) Atheist mom living in France. Part of the attraction is that I identify with her. I lived and worked for a year in France a few years ago. Ironically, I worked with a devout Utah Mormon named Hanson. Additionally, back in the day, I dated a Mormon girl for nearly a year and suffered through a never ending trip down the logical rabbit hole know as Mormonism.

C.L. Hanson submitted a story in three acts about her experiences with Mormon Missionaries (mishies) while living in France:

Act One - The Mishies and Me: Cultural Mormon nostalgia

So a subtle distinction like whether a given person believes it's real or not seems like a big deal to you. But here in France, Mormonism is so freakishly rare that it makes sense that all of us "cultural Mormons" should stick together.

Act Two - The Mishies and Me II: The Revenge & The Mishies and Me: The rest of the Story

The So they told me a story about how they had had doubts as well when they were younger, and the one was telling me about how his father encouraged him to doubt and question. I agreed with him that it's important to seriously analyze and question your beliefs. I told them that for that reason I was making a point to see to it my sons would be exposed to different religions so they could make informed decisions about the subject.

Act Three - More musings on mishies

When the warriors of Truth (with a capital "T"!) discovered that I was a former Mormon yet not hostile towards Mormonism, they immediately assumed that I'd never tried very hard to believe in it. That's what I figured they'd conclude -- if they're confident that their beliefs are correct, that would be the most logical explanation for them of my situation.

I thoroughly enjoyed these posts. They took me back to the many long hours spent drinking beer with my designated Mormon driver and my devout Catholic friend, in the various Irish Pubs that infuse Paris with islands of English speaking sanity. No matter how illogical and fact challenged the Mormon religious may be, my friend's faith was unshakable. His was a faith founded in family connections and the fear of excommunication. Truth did not matter.

Hells Handmaiden attempts to draw a connection between Hitler, Saint Peter, and Christian culpability for Nazi atrocities. The Nazis and First Peter examines the meaning of bible passage 1 Peter 2:13:17 while asking the question "Did God tell the citizens of Germany to follow Hitler's orders?".

My point is not to point a finger at Christianity and blame it for the whole of what happened in Hitler’s Germany. There are complicated reasons for his rise to power and for his ideology. My point is this: Pious Germans “just followed orders” because God told them to follow orders.

My brain is flashing a skeptical "warning warning" as I read this post. I know enough of Christianity to know that the bible is full of other instructions that help believers live what they believe to be a godly life. Additionally, 1 Peter is not a commandment to follow blindly. Common sense dictates that Christians would understand the nature of evil that Hitler's existential will-to-power Nazi movement represented. Many Christians fought or objected to the Nazi's and died. Tying divine sanction to the support Hitler received from Germany's citizens absolves the citizens of individual responsibility for the horrendous decisions they made.

Relig-o-Matic by Fugginwad of Wad's Place is another post that I find myself at odds with. Fugginwad attempts to dissuade seekers by presenting a series of satirical "...important questions for which you should have definite answers before committing your life to this religion or that cult." Although I find Fugginwad's post funny, my political philosophy guides me towards acceptance of other's proclivities, even if they are Christians.

Number two: exactly what is the benefit package you will receive once you're dead, assuming you have fulfilled all organizational requirements and are a normal member? Are requirements negotiable? Are prizes awarded on a sliding scale? A lot of variation exists here so check around. And be sure to get it all in writing so in case something goes wrong you'll have recourse for your grievances.

Like I said... funny - but in conflict with my core libertarian values which can be summarized as "people are free to do as they please as long as they don't hurt me or others by their actions." So... people can believe in God or the six toed horned rabbit of Lakewood - I don't care and expend zero effort trying to convince them otherwise. I do care deeply about what I believe. However, preaching to seekers is too much like handing out bible tracts. It gives me shivers.

I'll conclude this issue of CotG with The Ridger of The Greenbelt's short but powerful post titled September Then and Now. Written to commemorate the anniversary of the start of WWII.

American journalist William Shirer was in Berlin as a correspondent for CBS Radio, and he wrote in his diary today in 1939:

"It has been a lovely September day, the sun shining, the air balmy, the sort of day the Berliner loves to spend in the woods or on the lakes nearby. I walked the streets. On the faces of the people astonishment, depression. Stunned."

But we just don't learn.

Wars everywhere. Chronic wars. Decades-long wars. Wars we cease to notice, and wars that suddenly flare up and catch our brief attention - until the next one comes along. We don't seem to be able to do so much: pay attention to it all, understand any of it ... stop it. And it does get worse.

This brings us to the end of the 48th Carnival of the Godless. CotG returns in two weeks on Sunday, September 17, 2006 at Grounded in Reality. I willingly pass the baton – because putting this together was quite a bit of work. Keep writing and keep sending your godless best to Brent Rasmussen. There are slots open for hosting duty of Carnival of the Godless. Check the site for open dates. This has been fun – maybe next time I’ll write something too!

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