Monday, November 26, 2007

Church/State Issue Resolved in Houston

First from the KPRC Channel 2 News web site:

Supreme Court Refuses Houston Courthouse Bible Lawsuit

HOUSTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review lower court rulings that a monument outside a courthouse featuring the Bible should be removed and that Harris County must pay the legal fees for the woman who sued over the monument.

Harris County Attorney Mike Stafford had asked the high court to vacate a ruling by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, who sided with a woman who sued in 2003 claiming a monument featuring the King James version of the Bible was offensive.

Second from Americans United:

High Court Refuses To Re-open Religious Symbol Case

A dispute over the display of an open Bible at a Texas courthouse came to an end today when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

The legal battle centered over a display in front of the Harris County Courthouse. Originally erected in 1956 by a Christian charity to honor William S. Mosher, a Houston businessman and philanthropist, the memorial is a glass-topped case housing an open Bible lighted by neon.

“Courthouses are not the place for religious symbols,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Government should never send a message that a person’s belief about religion is a factor in a hall of justice.”

The Houston Chronicle had the same article as the Channel 2.

Yeah! The good guys have won!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Praying for rain - Response by Atheists

Astrology anyone?

This actually happened to me yesterday.

I'm at a Starbucks drive thru ordering my usual triple grande latte. The girl taking my order is sweet and cordial but in the background I can hear someone cutting up and mocking my answers. It's obvious she's doing it for fun and I smile at the the easiness she seems to have in her humor.

When I get to the window there are two girls running the register. One is serious and hands me my coffee, the other is dancing, smiling, and singing. She's the one who was mocking me! In good humor I told her I could hear her in the speaker. She covered her mouth in surprise and apologized while flashing a huge grin at me. In response, while flashing an equally huge grin back, I said it was no problem and was quite fun listening to her. Immediately she asks me if I'm a Scorpio. Being a skeptic I know her chances of guessing my zodiac sign is 12 to 1, so you can imagine my surprise that she guessed it right!

Anyway, she was a Scorpio too and seemed to think since I found her funny and also showed a little humor that I must be too. With no time or interest in explaining why astrology is silly, I chalked the experience up to a good time had by all. It was fun!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What I'm grateful for

Here in the States on the fourth Thursday in November we have a holiday called Thanksgiving. It supposedly dates back to the 1600's or earlier when the Pilgrims came to America and needed help from the native American people. We celebrate that event by eating tons of food with family or friends and watching football on television.

Another custom, not practiced by everyone, but done by many is giving thanks or revealing what one is grateful for. It's another excuse to grovel for God and my family is no exception. God was always the No. 1 reason for being thankful and grateful. Every year it's like this and every year I write something like this:

I wanted to write what I'm thankful for as well. As I grow older I find I'm thankful for the wonderful genes my parents passed down to me. At 46 I'm still very active and able to play tennis within carefully thought out parameters. I'm reasonable healthy but feel the effects of gravity and over use everyday, so I'm thankful to the scientists that have designed drugs to allow me to continue to be physical relatively pain-free.

Here's the big one. You can equate this to your gratefulness in God. I'm very grateful for my husband and the hard work he does to allow us to live the way we do. He has very carefully managed his education, his time, and his energies to maximize his earning potential. I am aware of this situation and help to make this possible for him by keeping our household as stress free as possible. In other words, I'm not a drama queen.

I'm also grateful for the many friends I have that keep me honest. What I mean by that is my friends are intellectually stimulating and keep me from getting lazy in my skeptical thinking. I want to thank Sheila (a distant cousin) for being a friend in spite of our differing religious views. I'm grateful that you didn't stop emailing me and realize that being an atheist doesn't mean I'm a bad and evil person. I admire the strength of your faith and your willingness to talk about it without getting defensive. I know it's been difficult at times but you hung with me and I'm happy and grateful to call you my friend. We have both benefited from this wonderful relationship and it gives me hope for the future. Thanks!

I'm grateful for a great many other things too. Too many to account for here.

Peace and have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is God?

Religion is supposed to be comforting to those who believe. This does not provide comfort but manipulates those who suffer with fear and misery. I found this truly disgusting beyond words.

Also I found it weird that Goldie Frances is not the real name of the person who wrote this article and it was changed for "security reasons." First this God kills people and send them to hell just because they were born in the wrong place and now the writer feels he/she needs to be anonymous because God can't protect him/her.

This is one of many reasons I don't believe. This god makes no sense to me.

The arrogance in this article was sickening beyond belief.

Their prayer: that faith in Christ follows cyclone
By Goldie Frances*
Nov 19, 2007

Bangladeshis left homeless by the Nov. 15 cyclone wait for relief goods at the village of Maithachomohoni in the country’s southern coastal area. The official death toll is 3,100 and climbing, and, as one media worker noted, "Untold numbers of survivors were in urgent need of food and water in ... one of the poorest areas of the world.


Monday, November 19, 2007

What would you do?

The scenario: My next door neighbor has a 2 year old bull mastiff that weighs 135 pounds. "Sam" was diagnosed early with hip dysplasia which was very expensive to fix. My neighbor Mary loves this dog as if he were a human and refers to him in human terms. She is also moving in 4 weeks to Qatar.

The problem: When she is gone in the evening she leaves the dog outside because "it is cruel to leave a dog that size in the house by himself." He howls and barks nonstop until she gets home several hours later. Constantly from 6:30 PM to 9:15 PM at least 3 nights a week, but it seems much more than that.

What I've done so far: I like Mary a lot. She's nice and sweet and she's on my tennis team. She's very weird about animals, giving them human feelings and emotions, which is the problem. After one bad night when the dog was out past 10:00 PM I had to let her know the barking was unacceptable. Since then she's been good about getting him in the house before 10 PM, but now, since daylight savings time, and it's dark here around 5:15, the barking is worse.

Tonight I called security (we live in a gated community with a roaming guard) and asked what to do. You see, I don't want to get the community association or the sheriff involved but I needed to know what my options are if she doesn't comply, which I don't think she will for reason mentioned above. Worse case scenario is calling the sheriff and having her fined. Perhaps I'll just have to mention that fact to her.

Updates in the future.

Church rejects interfaith service on its property

Hyde Park Baptist says it didn't realize Muslims were leading annual Thanksgiving event.
By Eileen Flynn
Friday, November 16, 2007

Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the city's largest interfaith organization, announced Thursday that its annual Thanksgiving celebration Sunday had to be moved because Hyde Park Baptist Church objected to non-Christians worshipping on its property.

The group learned Wednesday that the rental space at the church-owned Quarries property in North Austin was no longer available because Hyde Park leaders had discovered that non-Christians, Muslims in particular, would be practicing their faith there. The event, now in its 23rd year, invites Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Bahais and others to worship together.

Organizers had booked the gymnasium at the Quarries in July and made the interfaith aspect clear to Quarries staff at that time, said Simone Talma Flowers, Interreligious Ministries' interim director.

Several Muslim groups were acting as this year's hosts for the event. Kent Jennings, associate pastor of administration at Hyde Park, released a statement Thursday that said church leaders received a postcard about the service Monday and only then realized that it "was not a Christian oriented event."

The postcard also "promised space for Muslim Maghrib prayer and revealed that the event was co-hosted by the Central Texas Muslimaat, the Forum of Muslims for Unity, and the Institute of Interfaith Dialog," according to Hyde Park's statement.

"Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, the church cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property," the statement said. "Hyde Park Baptist Church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church's beliefs that have resulted in this decision."

Central Texas Muslimaat and Forum of Muslims for Unity are local Muslim nonprofit groups that promote charitable works and education. The Institute of Interfaith Dialog holds regular interfaith gatherings that aim to teach non-Muslims about Islam.

With hundreds of people expected to attend and only a few days to find another site, Muslim organizer Shams Siddiqi said they couldn't find another facility. That's when leaders at Congregation Beth Israel, Austin's largest synagogue, offered to host the celebration.

"Symbolically, that's a very good thing," Siddiqi said of the joint Jewish-Muslim endeavor.

Of Hyde Park's decision, he said it was "unfortunate that people still feel this way in this day and age."

Some Christians object to praying with people of other faith backgrounds or allowing those people to worship in their sanctuaries.

Hyde Park Baptist, an evangelical megachurch at West 39th Street and Speedway, is not a member of Interreligious Ministries, and church leaders were not planning to participate in the service, Flowers said.

Every year, a different faith group hosts the Thanksgiving event, which typically includes food, prayer, song and dance. Last year, St. Louis Catholic Church hosted. This year, because the Muslim groups did not have their own space that was large enough, they decided to rent the Quarries, a 58-acre property near MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and Duval Road that the church has owned since 1984.

Flowers said she was disheartened by the church's decision. "As a Christian, my first response is, what would Jesus do in this situation?" she said.

She also stressed the importance of respecting all beliefs and said Beth Israel's involvement is a blessing.

"They said, 'It's an honor to be able to provide the space, especially knowing our co-hosts are Muslims,' " Flowers said.

Synagogue leaders said they would arrange space for Muslims to make their evening prayers, Flowers said. "What a great testimony of inclusion."

My Daemon

Monday, November 12, 2007

Stirring it up again

That last post was pretty creepy, wasn't it. We don't have much contact with this side of the family but it's obvious there's some serious mental problems there. Even knowing that this cousin is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet the religious stuff will creep you out quick. She's helped us out of a few minor jams and was always willing to go that extra mile, but the religious stuff gets too much for me in a very short amount of time. Fifteen minutes is all I can take. It's bad.

I've been stirring it up again with my relatives. The latest question I asked was what is a "child of god?"

The answer, no surprises:

I believe everyone is a child of God. I try to respect everyone as a child of God. When I disagree with someone I try to remember that they are a child of God and treat them as such. Sometimes I am more successful at this than other times, but it is what I believe.

My response:

(Please read this in a light airy tone. I'm trying not to be too serious.)

But there is no scripture in the Bible that supports this notion. How do you know that everyone is a child of God? Just because you believe it doesn't make it so. I will say that I do understand why you feel this is the right thing to do. It feels moral to you.

I suspect that this is an expression that is left to each individual to interpret. I've heard it several times and I bet if I ask each person to tell me what it means to them I'd get a slightly different answers from each person.

I'm not saying that it's wrong. I'm just saying that should raise some red flags about some aspects of your religion.

I can remember the song "Jesus loves you" from my brief stint in Sunday School before the age of 7. It scared the living daylights out of me. Even at 7 I knew he had been dead for a very long time so there was no way anyone could know that he loved me. It was creepy to me, even at that age.

This is how I feel whenever anyone says "Jesus loves me" or "God loves me" or she's a child of God. How do you know? The concept of God being so mysterious that we can't know him, yet this kind of thing being assigned to him by mere mortals is troubling to me. How do you guys keep it all together?

Faith is a weird concept to me. To much to keep track of. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean?)

More email from family

This time it's from my husband's side of the family. It's seriously creepy.

The names have been changed to protect the delusional from God.

Dear Family and Friends,

This is one fast way to get the news to many of you. We praise the Lord for the gift of a son to Mike and Debbie. John was born late last night and weighed in at 8.5 lbs. Thank you for your many prayers over the months. As my mother said,
"It's a miracle!" Truly this is.

John is beautiful and doing well. Please keep Debbie in your prayers for her to gain her strength. May this new family be bonded in love to each other and to the Lord.

I must add a p.s. It is just great for the Lord to make me a grandmother as well!

We praise His Name for all His goodness to each one of us.

Blessings and love,
Sonia(Grammie or whatever they may choose to name me.)

It continues to amaze me when I get emails like this. The pandering to God is so horrible one wonders why a person would grovel in this way. It seems so immature and juvenile. How does this person face each day?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Islam, Christianity, and Women

A cousin of mine wrote to the family about how horrible Islam is in which he referred to several videos depicting beheadings, stonings, and hangings as punishment for acts like adultery, homosexuality, stealing, etc. Being that I have strong opinions about religion that are much different than the rest of my extended family I felt I needed to reply.

Sent this morning:

I haven't seen those videos Bart referred to but I have read about them. Islam, like Christianity, is a patriarchal religion. Since the beginning of human history men have controlled groups of people with fear, violence, and religion; often all three at the same time. Unfortunately Islam has yet to go through an enlightenment that Christianity experienced several hundred years ago.

A personal observation: I will never understand why women buy into any of these patriarchal religions. Men who lived hundreds of years ago (who wrote these so called Holy Books) were only interested in sex for procreation and thus treated women as property. Heaven forbid if the woman couldn't bear children or hold a viable pregnancy. Notice in the Bible that punishment for women is much higher for certain crimes such as adultery or rape (when a man rapes a woman she still gets punished, WTF?) than it is for men. One of the ways the Koran enslaves women is by putting the blame of rape solely on them. They are required to cover most of their skin and hair so men will not be tempted to ravage them. Imagine living in a community afraid that a toe might slip out of your shoe and a man (not related to you) might see this and have an overwhelming desire to have sex with you. It gets worse. Your male family members can kill you if you happen to fancy the wrong guy because that will dishonored the family.

I, for one, am grateful to live in a place where women have progressed to be almost equal to men. If it had not been for the maturation of Christianity in the last two hundred years we would be at the same place Muslim women are now. I know some of you are shaking your heads in disagreement but think about this: women weren't able to vote until 1920! Do you know the main reason for not giving us the vote before then? The Bible!

Elizabeth Cady Stanton says it best: The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman's emancipation.

It is worse for Muslim women.

Another cousin responded to Bart's email:

I agree with you that Islam is very evil, at least the radical part. Unfortunately, we can't not fight them. They started it. If they'd stay put and kill each other off there would be no problem. They are spreading their pernicious belief system all over the world. Either we stand and fight or I get ready to buy a burka! And that I refuse to do, so I'll be dead. I wish they would stay in the Middle East, but they're here and demanding Sharia Law in certain situations. Why should public money be used to put in Muslim footbaths in public restrooms? We truly can't have our cake and eat it too in this situation. I would love to see all our boys come home and be safe.

Yes, I agree that Islam is bad (the radical part too) and is in dire need of an enlightenment. I'm curious as to what it is you think they started? If you mean they attacked us first, be careful: they think we started it by occupying their holy lands. What better reason to attack us: God's blessing and paradise in the afterlife. What do you mean when you say we can't fight them? We are fighting them: in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our president claims "God told him to invade Iraq and attack Osama bin Laden's stronghold of Afghanistan as part of a divine mission to bring peace to the Middle East, security for Israel, and a state for the Palestinians." How are we different from them?

Wearing a burka. If the Muslims did take over the United States, as highly unlikely as that may be, you bet your ass I'll be in a burka. I will not sacrifice myself for any religion and being alive, even in a burka, one can live to fight irrationality in the most subtle of ways. I would hope that all women would join me in that fight.

Islamic footbaths. If Christians get the Ten Commandments in schools and courthouses then Muslims have every right to request and get foot baths in public restrooms. This is the reason we cannot accommodate the religious in public and/or government areas. Our founding fathers were wise to put the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. You're right; we can't have our cake and eat it too. If Christians want to fight this kind of thing they have to practice what they preach.

BTW, I don't think Muslims should have foot baths in public restrooms for the same reason I don't think "In God We Trust" should be on our money and "under God" should be in our pledge. The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

End of rant.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

God in our State Government

Our state senator Dan Patrick sent us a newletter in which he complains about how he fought hard to keep spending down but met with great resistance. Then he writes this drivel:

Despite these disappointments, this session may have been the most successful session in history for Judeo-Christian values in Texas. I was honored to help lead the way along with other conservative leaders in both chambers. My first legislative success was to have the maxim "In God We Trust" displayed prominently over the Senate Chamber for the first time in Texas history. I also joined Representative Debbie Riddle in passing legislation that now inlcudes the words "under God" in our state pledge. Students will once again be able to invoke the name of their God at events, and the Bible can now be taught as an elective subject in our schools.

I was madder than $#@& and was provoked to write an email to the honorable Dan Patrick to give him an opinion he perhaps hadn't thought of:

I received your newsletter today and I must say I was appalled at your message. You claim to advocate fiscal responsiblity and yet spent our hard earned tax money to display a religious epigram in the Senate Chamber when clearly it is in violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. You wasted more of our tax dollars by putting religion into our state pledge and urge our youngesters recite this abomination.

I feel very strongly that teaching children about religion should be done in the privacy of their homes and churches and should not be a matter of state concern. I do not understand why you feel it is the state's responsiblity to expose our children to your religious values.

I pray you do not waste our hard earned money in this way again.

Thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Starting a new book

We've had our usual SE Texas fall weather; cool at night in the lower 60's warming up to 80+ in the afternoon. Perfect. We all remind each other that this is why we love living in Texas, it's worth the 2 unbearably hot months in the summer. I even laid out in the sun for over an hour in a bikini! It was nice to get my beneficial dose of vitamin D.

I started reading a new book a few days ago. Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Did you know that Charles Darwin never used the phase survival of the fittest? Here is what Wikipedia says:
Survival of the fittest is a phrase which is a shorthand for a concept relating to competition for survival or predominance. Originally applied by Herbert Spencer in his Principles of Biology of 1864, Spencer drew parallels to his ideas of economics with Charles Darwin's theories of evolution by what Darwin termed natural selection.

The phrase is a metaphor, not a scientific description; and it is not generally used by biologists, who almost unanimously prefer to use the phrase "natural selection" exclusively.

Why am I reading Origin of Species? I've read the Bible a couple times all the way through and felt the need to read the other book which changed the way we think about life and it's complexities. So far, I have to say, it makes much better sense than the Bible. The added bonus is there's no blood sacrifices, genocides, rapes, stonings, or dogma is this book. Just science.

There's another email going around that spreads misinformation by using Christianity to bring up intense, hateful emotions. It starts with a photo of several soldiers bowing their heads in prayer with a title that reads "What's wrong with this picture?' The misinformation is that the ACLU is trying to remove GOD from everything and everyplace in America. I urge each of you to go to their website at and find out what this organization really does for Americans. I'm absolutely sure you will be shocked that a great organization that fights for civil liberties (which includes religious freedom) gets such a bad reputation from conservative Christians. If you don't have the time to find out the truth about the ACLU please don't contribute to nasty emails that spreads lies about something you know nothing about. I was taught by my mother that Christians value the truth but so far, with the spread of this and many other nasty emails about atheists and the ACLU, I can see that this value isn't a virtue anymore. /End of rant.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Religious Experiences

One reason for believing in God is the many religious experiences people have throughout their lives. I've actually had a few.

Over 20 years ago I attended the Unity Church here in Houston. It was one of those non-denominational Christian churches that isn't into the fire/brimstone hellfire sermons that I had been exposed to as a child in the Baptist Church. No, it was the touchy-feely, nice, Jesus was a wonderful person, sort of church and I really enjoyed for a short period of time. The reason I left is the subject for another post, but I did grow tired of the same old thing week after week and decided it wasn't for me.

Anyway, one day during the morning mediation, as a visiting lady minister was guiding our thoughts, I had a religious experience. A deep tingly feeling started at the top of my head and traveled quickly to the rest of my body. I ended up with tears flowing down my face wondering if I had felt God at that moment.

Here's the best part. I wanted to test it to make sure. I went to that same church for several weeks in a row, listening to a different minister but hoping for the same results. Never happened. For a second I actually entertained the thought that the lady minister was the cause of my feeling but I was sure God wouldn't work in such a focused way. I abandoned this line of thinking very quickly and stopped going to church altogether.

The good news is that I've been able to have that feeling several times over the past 20 years. One great way is through SEX! That's right: plain, old-fashioned, dirty sex. Another is driving over 100 mph with the top down in my Carrera on a cold December day. I got that feeling again seeing my grandson play violin for the first time in front of his family. Brought big ole tears to my eyes. It was great!

So the next time you have that God feeling just think, "Did I have that feeling last night as I was getting boinked?" I bet you did!