Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Death Penalty

Cousin Don and I have been discussing the death penalty. We're both against it for various reasons. At the end of his email he inserts this line of nonsense:
As I said before, I believe as long as a person is alive, there is hope for them. I believe that God can work miracles and can redeem anyone at any time, thus there is always hope.

So I'm thinking: Do I respond to that or just let it go? He has to know that I think that statement is absurd and unfounded. I struggle with it for a day. This morning I decide to address his assertion in a polite and tactful way.
As an non-believer I have to wonder, while God can work miracles and redeem anyone at anytime, why he doesn't seem to do this very often. Why not just make the person good and bypass the costly trial and the horrible prison time?

The reason of free will doesn't make sense to me. If he gave us free will then why intervene at the most inopportune moments to insert his will? To teach us lessons about life? Why would that be necessary if he just interfered sooner and make us good, productive, happy people? And why do it for some people and not others?

It makes better sense without entering God into the picture. Some people are bad as a result of genetics or environment. (Sorry, I know this is very simplistic.) Sometimes these unfortunate people can be rehabilitated if they are mentally healthy and want to be helped. If religion helps them, great! Some people need that kind of structure and fear to help them be good people.

Others cannot be helped. They are damaged beyond repair, mentally handicapped, or criminally insane. Nothing reaches these people. God doesn't talk to them, or if he does he's not saying anything good or productive to help them. These are the tragedies of every society, of every country, and of every religion. My observation is if God is helping these people then his record is extremely poor.

If all criminals in prison were miraculously helped, then I would agree with your statement. I would believe in an intervening, benevolent God. But when it looks like he helps only some people and not others with no clear reason and no clear pattern, then it looks as if there is no such God; just a God who doesn't care, or no God at all. Logically that makes better sense.

I do think there are ways to decrease our prison populations. It involves better social programs and education. That's extremely simplistic, but we have to start somewhere.

I'll post his response.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

FCD stands for...

Friends of Charles Darwin. You can join here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

New Freethought Podcast

From American Freethought, a new podcast and blog. I've listened to the first four podcasts and I find John C. Snider and David Driscoll very thoughtful and thorough in their subject matter. I also like that they have a very positive spin on their atheism, something I think we need more of in our community.

You can link from the above site to download to any MP3 player or search on iTunes under "freethought" to load to your iPod.

I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I have.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thoughts on the Season

As much as Christmas irks me there are aspects of the season that I do like. I enjoy the parties, the food, and the spirits. And I love getting and giving non-extravagant presents.

Here's what I don't like: I don't like the religious aspect of a secular holiday where some people feel they have to impose on others a faith they do not share. I feel strongly that faith is a private matter that should stay in the homes, churches, and with friends and family who share said faith. I don't like the commercialization of the winter season. I'd rather donate all the money I spend on family and friends to a cause like "Doctors without Borders" or "Planned Parenthood."

I don't like the way my mother emphasizes Christmas by capitalizing CHRIST in the word. I makes me want to be a bad person and write it Xmas just for her to get upset.

That's it in a nutshell. I hope everyone has a safe and uneventful Xmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Strangest. Gift. Ever.

My mom gave me the first season of the Waltons on DVD. I'm wondering if there's a hidden message there.

And I was hoping for "Sex in the City." Damn.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

De-Godding Money

Last Monday I had the opportunity to teach my young niece the reason I de-god all my paper money. I usually take care of this task at home whenever I get change after spending already de-godded money, but this particular time my niece and my brother were with me and I needed to de-god a $10 bill in order to use it to pay for sushi.

My niece asked me why I was doing it and I jumped at the chance to teach her about the First Amendment of the US Constitution:
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.

I then explained that putting "God" on our money is our government establishing this as the preferred deity over all others in the world. Clearly a violation of this Amendment.

Later her father let her de-god some of his money.

It brought a tear to my eye!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Family emails at a minimum.

This weekend I will be attending a "get together" with my fundy sister and fundy preteen son, my fundy mother and Catholic husband (I'm 46, I refuse to call him my step-father), and my atheist brother and atheist family. With DH and me that makes 5 atheists and 4 Christians. Ah! We got them outnumbered!
I'd like to think that we can counteract the religious overtones of the event but I don't want to get my hopes up. Perhaps I can hope for the best and be happy with what actually happens. Unfortunately, when it comes to family, shit never seems to happen smoothly. Also, the older I get the more cynical about the religious I've become. I may be able to fake a good smile and be a "happy" gal but I always feel dirty in the end.

My reason for the lack of blogging: I'll be spending quality time with religious family members this weekend so I decided to lay low on the email until after the event. It's better for everyone that my apostasy isn't in recent memory. Some people I can talk to about this subject but not my sister or mother. It'll get ugly and someone is bound to lose an eye.

So hold tight, after January 1 I'll be writing more and getting great material.

Culling them out!

Science Debate 2008. At least we can expose the Republicans for what they are: Ignorant buffoons and right wing nut mouthpieces.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Crazy Christians!

Wow. This and this. The irony!

I think my head just exploded....

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mitt Romney is no friend of mine

I hope most of us got a chance to review Mitt Romney's speech on religion. There is no comparison to the speech that JFK gave in Houston promising to uphold separation of state and church.

I disagree wholeheartedly with this statement:

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

I'm not religious and yet I experience freedom and commune with nature. Curious. Also, he seems to forget countries where freedom and religion do not endure together: Saudi Arabia and Iran to name only two. We can look back on the Dark Ages to see how Christianity stifled human freedoms. We don't even need to go back that far: women's suffrage is a prime example of how Christianity was used to keep women from voting; a right we now take for granted.

He also says:

"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it's more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs."

This is the only time he mentions Mormon in this speech. He knows this religion will sound crazy if mainstream Americans find out too much about it, so he focuses only on the fact that he believes in Jesus. But did you know he doesn't believe in the Trinity? Google Mormon and learn about this cult and be very afraid.

Again he says:

"But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

Sorry, but Mitt is so very wrong here.


sec·u·lar /ˈsɛkyələr/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[sek-yuh-ler] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–adjective 1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests.
2. not pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to sacred): secular music.
3. (of education, a school, etc.) concerned with nonreligious subjects.
4. (of members of the clergy) not belonging to a religious order; not bound by monastic vows (opposed to regular).
5. occurring or celebrated once in an age or century: the secular games of Rome.
6. going on from age to age; continuing through long ages.

We have freedom of speech in this country and anyone can say or do anything anywhere. Secularism is not a religion and he seems to forget that our Constitution is a secular document and that our founding fathers were secularists. Our secular government was designed not to interfere with religion and vice versa. This has nothing to do with what we can or cannot do in public life. He is so wrong here that it boggles the mind!

"Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: Does he share these American values -- the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another and a steadfast commitment to liberty?"

Article 6 of the US Constitution: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

As I have pointed out in earlier letters, being religious doesn't automatically make you a good person. Being non-religious doesn't either. Being a good person makes you a good person, regardless of what religion you consider yourself or god you choose to worship. We all have the ability for much goodness and much evil. Mitt Romney has said in another speech that we all have freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. This makes no sense; for us to have freedom to do something you also have to have the freedom not to do something.

What Mr. Romney is doing is pandering to people who are not knowledgeable about the US Constitution and the US Government. He's taking advantage of people who don't have the privilege of knowing what he knows about government. In other words, he's lying to us. (Oh no! He's a religious man, he wouldn't lie!) He knows that this very large voting group gets very emotional about religious issues such as creationism, stem cell research, and same sex marriage and will come out in large numbers to vote for God. If pastors and ministers were really interested in the truth they would strive to educated themselves and help their flocks to understand our secular government. It is in your best interest, not just mine, to keep religion separate from our government.

/end of rant

Friday, December 7, 2007

Atheist Charities

Techskeptic has done us all a huge service by providing a list of atheist charities. If you get that feeling to pass on a little money to a good cause we now have lots of choices.

Another email hoax from unsuspecting Xians

I just received another email hoax that attempts to paint Christianity in a better light than Islam. (For the record I find them equally as offensive.) It's about a man named Rick Mathes that deliberately lies about an event he said he participated in within the prison system. Read this to find out what really happened when someone traces the real origins of the story.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Allah or Jesus?

In the email I received Mr. Mathes attempts to use scare tactics by claiming that Islam is the fastest growning religion in the US. It may be true across other parts of the world, but it's the non-religious that are gaining popularity here. Which one should they be more afraid of I wonder?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The F Bomb

I was over at No More Hornets reading his post on his tribute to the word FUCK.

I personally love using the word! I'm a petite woman with bright blue eyes and a pretty smile so when I say "fuck" in the course of a conversation people perk up. I especially like it when I can get a laugh out of a serious subject with a well placed expletive or defuse a tense situation with a nicely timed f-bomb.

I have to be careful because sometimes I can lose an audience by using the word for personal gratification. I also have to be keenly aware of the nature of my audience; saying "fuck" to my grandmother wouldn't prove a point and would get me an ass chewing. Doing it during dinner with my mother, sister, niece and nephew probably isn't going to win me awards either.

Over the years I've perfected my timing and I'm proud to say I haven't had a bad screw up in many months!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

New videos on Beyond Belief 2007

I've been waiting for weeks for these to be uploaded. I can't wait to view them!

Monday, December 3, 2007

I still have dog problems

I've got a very weird problem next door. My neighbor has let her bull mastiff dog stay outside when she leaves in the evening around 6:00 pm. This time of the year it gets dark around 5:30 so this poor dog sits by the gate and howls non-stop until she gets back past 9:00. (This means that he is less than 20 feet from the office where Al works when he gets home.) I let it go for the first few times because it's the neighborly thing to do, but after the 3rd time it became obvious this was only going to get worse unless it was pointed out to her.

The day after a particularly bad evening of over 3 hours of constant baying I caught my neighbor outside and mentioned it to her. I suggested she keep the dog inside when she leaves to which she stressed to me that it would be cruel to keep a 135 lb dog inside for all that time. In other words, I was dismissed as not being as important as a dog. I was floored.

It wasn't every night but on the 3rd evening during the same week I had enough. I called the security guard to find out what recourse I had. To make a very long story short, the guard contacted the home owners association about my call, who contacted her to let her know a neighbor complained about her dog.

Just as I figured all hell broke loose. I tried to talk to her a few days later but she cried hysterically and screamed at me that we should have just gotten used to the dog like everyone else. She actually looked insane as she was shouting at me.

Unfortunately this woman is going though some tough times. She and her husband are ex-pats and her husband as been transferred out of the country. She doesn't want to join him and believes she can stay here while he remains overseas. I suspect, but have no proof, that she is also having martial problems. Now she blames me for everything bad that is happening in her life and is telling all the neighbors how horrible I am. It's sad actually. I've decided to rise above and not mention it to anyone who knows both of us. Even if asked I'm going to state that I'm not at liberty to discuss this subject.

Keep in mind that DH and I have always been good neighbors. I have kept her 3 pet mice on at least 4 different occasions for over a week at a time. When her kid throws a ball over the fence I'm always pleasant when asked to retrieved it. I almost got bit by a cotton-mouth in her backyard when she asked me to come by to identify the snake for her. She has asked and I have given advice on many occasions and have thought of her as a friend. I have always thought the dog was too big for her but I never said as much. So you can imagine how disappointed I am to be so thoroughly dismissed just because I couldn't get used to a baying dog.

Another point. As everyone knows, we have only been in this house for 2-1/2 years. Previously we lived in a house that backed up to a very busy road. One which was very noisy. Very large trucks, thumping music, police and fire trucks all in a day's time. It was disturbing to the psyche. The number one reason we bought this house in this location is because it was quiet and peaceful. We should not have one day of having to listen to a nuisance barker especially since he wasn't here when we bought the house and we didn't force that woman to buy that dog. We don't live in a trailer park and shouldn't have to be subjected to that kind of mentality.

Based on her reaction to all of this I'm glad this has happened. It's been very quiet around here. She believes that I can have her precious dog taken away so she is doing everything she can to keep him from barking and howling. Added bonus: she won't be calling me to remove poisonous snakes from her yard anymore! I guess it's not a problem anymore.