Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stardust!


"Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics.

You are all stardust.

You couldn't be here if stars hadn't exploded. Because the elements, the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution weren't created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars. And the only way they could get into your body is if the stars were kind enough to explode.

To view the complete lecture click here. Well worth the hour to watch.

A friend has a "problem" with me

I like to think I can help my friends if I see them being misled by bad information if I have facts that can help them. On the reverse side of that, I love it when a friend corrects me before I make a horrible mistake or corrects me if I'm wrong. I consider it a gift and am grateful to receive it.

Several months ago I posted a link about Kevin Trudeau and included the comment:

I hope none of my friends have any of this huckster's books. I still see them at the pharmacy. I wonder how much harm he's done?

The article I linked to describes Trudeau as a conman who sells books about natural remedies which can be potentially harmful and/or prevent people from getting the proper care they need from a real doctor. I would never buy such books anyway as I would recognized it as a complete waste of my time and money.


Then a few days ago I had lunch with a very good friend who I haven't seen in weeks. She's recently lost over 15 pounds, feels better and looks great. I'm under the impression that she's done it the old-fashioned way by diet and exercise. I had seen her in November and she told me about this special diet she was on and how the weight was just falling off. The diet was one that I've used on occasion to get rid of a few holiday pounds: avoid sugar, bread and pasta, and eat smaller portions. Toward the end of our lunch she reveals to me that she took offense to one of my posts on FB, the one about Kevin Trudeau. I was confused, how can one be offended by being informed about a person who has been proven to be selling harmful information?


What she told me reminded me of what several people say to me about the death penalty. It doesn't matter if the information you give them has scientific facts that inform us that a previously held belief is wrong. It doesn't matter if the information you give them can help them to become a more thoughtful and insightful person. She told me that the Federal Trade Commission was out to stop this man from informing the general public about natural remedies. That there was something "personal" about this attack on this person from the government. When I reminded her that Mr Trudeau had spent time in prison and had been fined for false advertising she said that it didn't matter to her. She bought all his books and he was above reproach. She followed his diet, lost all this weight, and that was OK for her.


I was floored.


I was also reminded of something a person told me when I was telling her about the killing of innocent people on death row. "It doesn't matter what you say, I won't change my mind." She still believes the death penalty is the right and moral thing to do, even if you kill a few innocent people.


Both people mentioned in this post are true believers. One is too busy with real life to really care about such things as the death penalty. I get that. The other claimed to have done lots of research into Trudeau before using his dangerous diet regime. I don't think so. I think she dug only as deep as his own websites and was happy with that information because she wanted to believe.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Laura Ingraham is so fucking annoying.

I know that Fox News is extremely biased to the far, far right but I was not aware that this terrible, arrogant woman worked for them. What a bitch! She gets so many things wrong and seems to be so proud of her "Christianity." I thought that Annie Laurie Gaylor handled it well and deserves a big hug after being subjected to such Christian vileness. Ugh!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Year in Quotes: Science

Just a small sample of the uninformed trying to make policy in our state that affects the education of our children:
“I disagree with these experts. Somebody’s gotta stand up to experts that are… I don’t know why they’re doing it.”
– Texas State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, in a rambling defense of the creationist arguments he used to attack evolutionary theory during the final debate over new public school science curriculum standards, TFN Insider, March 27, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Religion...

It's 2009 already!

It's hard to believe that this hocus pocus, chanting to the gods shit still happens in 2009. These people look stupid, idiotic, and childish doing this and on our dollar. Disgusting!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tim Minchin - 9 minute beat poem - Storm

Eddie Current on Atheism

What I got from a Christian

The other day I was having a conversation with a Christian friend of mine about religion. Now James believes strongly in god because of an experience he had during battle in the Vietnam War. Against all odds he lived though this battle and thinks god spared his life. As I listened to him tell the story it saddened me to hear him attribute his unquestionable luck to an invisible deity. He wasn't happy with being in the right place at the right time. He needed to put meaning into a meaningless chance occurrence which just so happened to have saved his life. It was during this conversation that I revealed that I am an atheist. He was neither appalled nor disgusted by me. He was intrigued.

James is actually more of an acquaintance, an occasional friend. I see him once every month or so for a service that I subscribe to. Our time to chat is short and we've shared much but not a lot of personal information, like what denomination of church he goes to or how many kids he has. He did tell me this last time we talked that he heads a bible study group.

Anyway. This last time we talked he asked me if my relationship with my family had changed. I told him about my Facebook experiment and that it seemed to be going well. He was glad to hear it. Then he made a comment that surprised me. He said that although the bible says to share the word of god it doesn't say that you have to force it onto anyone. When I commented that one of my relatives still blocks me and chooses to erase me from her life he got a little angry. He said that the bible doesn't condone that kind of behavior and that if she was as much a follower of Christ as I'd lead him to believe (she's righteous for Jesus, I think that makes her a fundamentalist, maybe a reader of the bible) she should be kind and sweet and engaging with me.

I just laughed. Maybe, I said. But like with any other group of people Christians can be assholes too. His face softened up a bit and he smiled. He agreed.

His point was not lost on me. James wanted to let me know that he accepted me as his friend and it didn't matter that I didn't share his faith. Our connection went deeper than that. We both love cars and dogs. We both want our families to be healthy and happy. He believes that religion is for comfort and community and shouldn't be forced on anyone, a sentiment that I share with him. We have a lot in common and one of those things was respect for each other.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Greta's Meme of the Day

"Believing in God is a safer bet" is a terrible reason to believe in God. If you believe because you fear being punished for not believing, it's like dating someone because they threaten to beat you up if you don't. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across. ~ Greta Christina


Pascal's Wager is an argument I don't get very often. When I do it's very easy to refute although I've never used the one above. When I struggled with whether to believe in the Christian god or not this was a thought that crossed my mind frequently. Why would a loving god want to inflict eternal damnation on a person just because that person couldn't believe in him AND couldn't accept that his son was sacrificed for our unworthiness. I mean REALLY! Couldn't god come up with a better, more believable, and more worthy of a story that was timeless and gentle? According to the definition of god Christians use I'd say, "Yes. Yes he could have."


So the argument is the salvation story was written for the people of that time. Those people understood blood sacrifices and atonement. They was accustomed to sacrificing animals to their gods and the bloodier the better. So the writers of that part of the bible wrote to appease these primitive people. 


Over the years, hundreds of years mind you, we have changed to be kinder to each other, to know that slavery is wrong and that equal rights for women benefits all of us. Our morals have changed (imagine that!). This Christian god would have known that this was going to happen. In fact, why didn't he just make us that way in the first place. A lot of suffering and death would have been avoided. A lot.


OK, with this knowledge is it still a better bet to believe in god than not to believe? For me, once I got my head around this concept, there was no way I could convince myself to take the story seriously much less believe in it. Who's to say that the ancient Greek and Roman myths aren't true? They are just as unbelievable and were just as believed in their time as the Christian myth is in current times.


My answer is a resounding NO! This is not a good bet. For one thing there is no evidence and another thing is the story is just plain unbelievable on it's own merits. I'll stick with no belief in gods or goddesses until something better comes along.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Houston has a new mayor!

Houston just became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor by voting for Annise Parker.

As reported by the Houston Chronicle:
Parker, who began her political career as a gay activist, rose through the ranks of local politics to serve first on city council, then as city controller.
"I realize that I'm a role model, but I've been a role model for my community for 30 years," she said. "It's part of who I am, and I believe it makes me a better representative for the city of Houston."

Since I don't live in the city limits I didn't pay as much attention to this race as I should have. Apparently Parker's opponent Gene Locke had asked for Dr. Stephen Hotze for his support but was turned down because Hotze had endorsed someone else. So who is Dr. Stephen Hotze? An article from The Houston Press describes him as "a Christian fundamentalist who espouses antigay rhetoric." Clearly not someone one would want to support a campaign.

I also found this clearly anti-gay hate site from World Net Daily, The Pastor's Corner. The article is an emotion driven screed that appeals to those who aren't concerned with the truth. The truth that accepting other people's sexual orientation does not make a society immoral. The article ends with this gem:
This is an act of love, not of bigotry.

I cringed inside when I read that. After reading the article it was obvious it was bigotry and hatred in big bold letters.

So with the election of Annise Parker I'm glad we are ushering in a new age of tolerance and love for each human being and that we can focus on solving our problems instead of making up false ones.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Actual Picture of Billboard


Photo taken by Tina's brother.

Some Holiday Help For The Godless, On I-45

By Chris Vogel in Whatever


Houston can be a lonely place for an infidel, what with all the mega-churches and deep-rooted southern Sunday tradition. Even more so at Christmas, when it all gets ramped up a notch with as many commercial reminders of Jesus' (alleged) birthday at the mall as there probably are in Billy Graham's bedroom.

But to all you atheists and non-believers out there, silent and afraid, you are not alone.

At least that's the message posted on a billboard high in the sky by the Houston Freethought Alliance and the national United Coalition of Reason.

Towering above numerous placards offering $3.99 haircuts, tattoos and "All Pro" eyeglass repair on FM 1960 just west of Nanes Drive sits a giant sign with the words, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." It is part of a national campaign that's been going on since March, a spokesman tells Hair Balls.


The point of the billboard, says Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason, "is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States. Nontheists sometimes don't realize there's a community out there for them because they're inundated with religious messages at every turn. So we hope this will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren't alone."
And during the holidays, no one wants to be alone.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Man dies after sitting in recliner for eight months

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (NBC) -- Believing his faith would heal him, a Greenwood County, South Carolina man sat down in his recliner after an injury in March and never got up.

On Thursday, his wife explained why he stayed in the recliner until shortly before he died.

"The man totally believed in God and his healing," said Ada Webb.

In March, Webb's 550-pound husband, Tillmon, sat down in a recliner inside their trailer in Greenwood. Wearing nothing but a blanket, the 33-year-old didn't move from that recliner for the next eight months.

"He couldn't do nothing for his self and I couldn't do but so much," Webb explained.

Webb says Tillmon tore his ACL in March and drove to a doctor's office.

"They were gonna give him an appointment, but they wanted $300 up front, and we didn't have the money," said Webb.

Webb says he returned to the recliner, picked up his Bible and became determined that faith would heal his leg.

"He read his Bible daily, he spent his full focus on God," said Webb. "And he was literally waiting and praying for a Job miracle. If anybody knows the Bible and knows Job, he really and fully believed that God was going to heal him just like he did Job, because he said he couldn't think of a better testimony to go out and to tell people.



More...


I only have one thing to say, "Disgusting!"

Another Meme

To say "You atheists will give up your atheism in a hurry when you're facing death and disaster" is simply not true. Many atheists have suffered great loss and faced terrible crises without turning to belief in God. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across. Greta Christina's Blog

The New Atheists


Monday, December 7, 2009

Women Atheists

From an article in USA Today's Opinion column:
Today, most Americans associate unbelief with the old-boys network of New Atheists, but there is a new generation of unbelievers emerging, some of them women and most of them far friendlier than Hitchens and his ilk. Although the arguments of angry men gave this movement birth, it could be the stories of women that allow it to grow up

I totally agree. Although the Four Horsemen are important figures in our growing movement of reason women are just now getting more involved. Most of the atheist podcasts that I listen to have brought this subject up over and over: We need more 3
women in our movement to be involved!

I know it's hard. I was devastated by the reaction of some of my family members when I was outed by an overzealous relative. I was unprepared and handled the aftermath inappropriately. In hindsight, if there had been more of a woman's influence on our movement at that time I feel my transition might have been smoother. But my point is that it's harder for women to come out than men. It's harder because of the emotional attachment we have on family and friends and how much we care about those feelings. Now the atheist movement as a woman's touch and that is a powerful thing!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Real Church Sign


And really true!

God must've had a reason?


Mom expected God to provide food, daughter testifies

Friday, December 04, 2009
Joe Moszczynski
STAR-LEDGER STAFF
The money ran out first. Then the food.

Over three months in 2006, as her five children grew more emaciated and listless by the day, Estelle Walker made no move to find a job, no effort to scrounge up a meal, her kids told a jury yesterday.

"We were supposed to wait for God to provide," said Walker's oldest daughter, now 21. "And that's what we did."

At one point, the daughter said, she and her siblings went 11 days without food. When police were at last summoned to the Sussex County cabin by neighbors, investigators found the children so malnourished they had difficulty talking.
More than three years later, three of the siblings took the stand in a Newton courtroom, describing how their mother watched them nearly starve
.
Walker, 50, of Brooklyn, is charged with four counts of second-degree child endangerment. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison on each count. Walker was not charged in connection with her oldest child because she was a legal adult at the time.

The young woman and her two siblings -- a 16-year-old sister and a 15-year-old brother, betrayed no resentment toward their mother, speaking in soft, even tones.

Under questioning by Sussex County Assistant Prosecutor Frances Koch, they said Walker never tried to get any assistance for her family, either from her estranged husband or from other relatives. She likewise avoided seeking help from two churches near the Hopatcong cabin where they had been staying, the children said.

Though she had previously worked as a teacher, Walker made no effort to earn money, her children said.

"She never tried to get money or food or get a job," the 16-year-old daughter said.

All five children, now in good health, live with their father in Somerset.

In 2005, Walker and the children -- then ages 8, 9, 11, 13 and 18 -- had been placed in the cabin by their church, Times Square Church of Manhattan, to help them escape what Walker claimed was her husband's alcoholism. The cabin is owned by church members who open it for retreats.

Walker was due to leave the cabin in May 2006 but refused, saying God had told her to stay, church members have said. The church then cut off her support and began eviction proceedings.

The invocation of God has been a theme throughout the trial's first three days. Before the jury entered the courtroom yesterday, public defender Ronald Nicola told Judge N. Peter Conforti that Walker had been refusing to take an active role in her defense.

"She says, "God is my defense,' Nicola told the judge.

Nicola asked that Walker be permitted to undergo psychiatric testing.

Asked by Conforti why she is not participating in her trial, Walker told him she saw no point in it.

"I don't feel the need to continue to go over the documents that we've been going over for three years," she said. "God will defend me."

Conforti, noting that Walker was deemed competent to stand trial in 2007 after mental health evaluations, denied Nicola's request for further testing.

Last year, Walker rejected a plea-bargain offer that would have required no additional incarceration other than the one year she already served in the county jail, if she agreed to undergo additional psychiatric testing.

The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I wish it wasn't true, but...


Fox News really isn't news...

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
For Fox Sake!
www.thedailyshow.com

Daily Show
Full Episodes

Political Humor
Health Care Crisis

I love it that The Daily Show is supposed to be a comedy show but that they end up being a better source of facts than some news stations.

Long ago I used to watch Fox News. I'd say about 6 years ago or so, it was the station I went to for all of my news. But it wasn't long before I noticed a conservative bias prevailing in their newscasts. It began to bother me so I started watching news from other sources. Before too long I noticed that there was a different between Fox News and the others, a big difference.

Now I only watch these little video snippets. And only for entertainment. It's too bad they aren't better liars!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Atheists Aren't Close-Minded

Having an open mind doesn't mean thinking all possibilities are equally likely. It means being willing to consider new ideas if the evidence supports them.... and to give up old ideas if the evidence is against them. And that's just as true for atheists as it is for anyone else. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across. ~ Greta Christia's Blog


When I discover a problem that I feel is important enough to make a decision about I enter into with an open mind. I try hard to find all the information about this problem and weigh the pros with the cons. Sometimes I change my mind and sometimes I don't. The point where I get to where I've made a decision with some degree of certainty my mind is made up, closed if you will. That doesn't mean I won't change my mind if new evidence is revealed, it simply means that I'm prepared to argue my side and stand my ground. I feel this way about gay rights, women's rights, human rights, death penalty, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.



Monday, November 30, 2009

Study from MediaCurves.com About Standing for the Pledge

A young boy doesn't stand for the Pledge of Allegence and most people are offended by this act. What they fail to realize is that we don't have to stand for the pledge. It's a freedom we enjoy as citizens of this great country.

Here's a study of what happens once people are educated about our rights.

Daily Meme from Greta

Atheists are not atheists because we want to be free of the restrictions of religion. We are just as moral as religious believers, and our codes of ethics are just as serious. And in any case, religion clearly doesn't make a reliable foundation for restricting unethical behavior. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across. ~ from Greta Christina's Blog

Christianity is actually an immoral mindset. One can sin all they want, in fact, I'll argue that they can be of the worst kind of person, and all they have to do is accept Jesus as their personal saviour and "presto!" instant redemption. Horrible monsters are sharing a pew with you while singing praises unto the lord. Wonderful. The motivation to be a good person is not there.

On the other hand, an atheist lives a quiet life donating what she can to charity, volunteering for human rights causes, and being a good, kind person in general. Just because she doesn't believe that a god sacrificed himself for a cause he could've solved by himself without all the blood and gore she is believed to go straight to hell. Oh, and that this god still loves her and want only the best for her but makes himself out to be impossible to prove because we have to have faith that he exists. Does this sound moral to anyone? To have the ability to rationalize the way we do (science, anyone?) this god can make himself known with no problem what-so-ever.



In the 21st century why is faith is still considered a virtue?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Daily Meme from Greta

Atheists do not hate god, and we are not angry at God. Atheists don't believe in God. We're not angry at God, any more than we're angry at Zeus or leprechauns or any other supernatural entities we don't believe exist. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across. ~ from Greta Christina's Blog


But we are angry at what people do as a result of believing in God. There's a difference.

Thomas Paine Quote

"To argue with a man who has renounced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead." ~ Thomas Paine

Prayer doesn't work - The Mayo Clinic Says So!

Mayo Clinic Releases Studies on Spirituality and Health

ROCHESTER, MINN., Dec. 12, 2001—A study that appears in the December issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings outlines the importance of religion and spirituality in medicine with many patients, but notes it is difficult to prove that the result is better health from intercessory prayer—prayer by one or more people on behalf of another.

Mayo Clinic researchers found that their study of intercessory prayer had no significant effect on patients' medical outcomes after hospitalization in a coronary care unit.

The single-center, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial was conducted at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., between July 4, 1997 and Oct. 21, 1999, among 799 male and female patients aged 18 years or older, who were admitted to Saint Mary’s Hospital coronary care unit and were discharged with a cardiovascular diagnosis.

For the rest of the article click here.

I've known for a long time that prayer doesn't work. I tried it to jump start my mediocre life when I was on my own in my late teens and early to mid 20's. In my mid 20's prayer didn't save my marriage, and in my 30's prayer didn't end the suffering of my late father-in-law. What Christians would say to me is that my prayers were answered, just not in the way I thought they should be, but that's not the promise that is in the bible:

Matthew 21:21-22 (King James Version)

21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

So according to the bible, and this is the KJV, whatever I asked for, being that I believed with all my heart, should have been granted to me.

During this time I began to notice that things would happened to me, whether I prayed for them or not, in a random fashion. So I quit praying and still good things and bad things happened at an amazingly random pattern. Having stopped praying I figured out that if I made better decisions more good things happened than bad things. Then I did research about the decisions I was making and I was able to increase the good things that happened to me and decrease by a huge margin the bad things. I noticed that rational and critical thinking trumped prayer every time.

Then a horrible thing happened to us. My husband's father had a stroke and went into a deep coma. For over a week he lingered in hospice, just laying there with his eyes shut and his mouth wide open. It was distressing to watch and the only thing that occupied my mind was that he had to die to be at peace. So at 36 I started to pray again. I prayed for God to end his suffering and to end ours as well. I prayed for about 5 or 6 days before I finally gave up. Obviously there is no one that could do anything that was listening and the only person that could do anything legally was God, so either he didn't care or he didn't exist. The God I was brought up to believe was a caring God so that part was eliminated from the equation. That left only one conclusion, God didn't exist. I never prayed again.

Shortly after that event my husband had to undergo triple bypass surgery. I went into this situation as an educated person by asking lots of questions and finding out that my husband's surgical team was one of the best in the country. By this time prayer was a meaningless act of desperation so it never occurred to me to engage in it. As anticipated, the surgery went well, my husband had no complications because of his young age and good health, all factors which were explained in great detail to me.

In conclusion, I realize the world can sometimes be a scary and unpredictable place. Being well informed and flexible, rational and unemotional, can only do so much to ensure that life is good. But prayer is just wishful thinking and can hold a person back from realizing his true nature!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What offends me

It's been brought to my attention that I occasionally offend my relatives. This can't be helped. My pat response to that remark is that very little offends me. My atheism call be attacked all day long and I can't be offended. The reason is my atheism is based on reality and facts. It stands on it's own and I don't have to defend it.

But, as I thought about this further, there are things that offend me and offend me deeply. When people use their religion to justify acts of aggression or murder toward individuals or groups of people I am offended. The murder of Dr Tiller by a mentally ill man who used his religious views to justify murder is offensive. People who justify the oppression of women by referring to scripture offends me. The justification of preventing all people in our country to be free to marry the person of their choice by cherry-picking verses from the Old Testament while giving good, solid reasons to ignore eating shellfish is offensive. This is a short list but you get the idea.


By coincidence Pat Condell posted this video today which I whole heartedly agree with.



As I'm maturing within my atheism I'm discovering that extremely religious people are just going to hate me no matter what. I can show them what a caring and thoughtful person I am and it doesn't mean a hill of beans. All the struggling I've done trying to get my family to accept me has been an exercise of futility. The problem isn't me, it's that atheism is still not accepted in the general public and that religion gives these people a pass to treat us as second class humans. It's the nature of the beast (religion) that they will never accept us as equals.

So the anger is gone and replaced with sadness.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another message of thanks from an atheist

Atheists are not ungrateful. Most of us are deeply aware of our good fortune, including the astronomical good luck to have been born at all. Our gratitude just doesn't go to God. It mostly goes to other people: people who have made life better, for us and everyone else. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across. And happy Thanksgiving! -- Greta Christina

At this point in my life's journey I am thankful for the ability to think for myself and to guide my life to a point of happiness and contentment. There is meaning to my life because of the people and activities I choose to have in my life. But I must say that even when I believed in a god I never had the belief that I was so important that God would bless me with a good life and yet choose to ignore another. It bothers me still when people give God credit for everything good that happens to them and yet ignore the bad things that happen to others.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Humanist Thankgiving Proclamation

by Robert Green Ingersoll

When I became convinced that the universe is natural--that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.

The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the world--not even infinite space.

I was free--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live my own ideal--free to live for myself and those I loved--free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination’s wings--free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope--free to judge and determine for myself--free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past--free from popes and priests, free from all the “called” and “set apart”--free from sanctified mistakes and “holy” lies--free from the winged monsters of the night--free from devils, ghosts and gods.

For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought--no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings--no claims for my limbs--no lashes for my back--no fires for my flesh--no following another’s steps--no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.

And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers, who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain--for the freedom of labor and thought--to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains--to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs--to those by fire consumed--to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons [and daughters] of men [and women]. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they have held, and hold it high, that light may conquer darkness still.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How my experiment is doing - an update.

After being featured on the Friendly Atheist blog and reading through the 30+ comments after the post, I decided to make a few changes. The first change was to remove my political and religious views from my profile. It was dishonest to label myself Republican and Christian and my reasons for doing so were not noble. The second change I made was to remove my friend request from the cousin in question and let her make the decision of whether or not to friend me. Everything else is the same and I'm happy with the activity that I've gotten so far.

As of today I have 18 friends. Only 3 of them are not family members. There is no talk of God/Jesus/Christianity just yet but there nothing happening at the moment. No deaths, no one dying, no marriages, no births, etc. I plan to maintain my aloofness to religious talk as hard as that will be for me.

But this is why I have my other FB page. It's refreshing to be open and honest with people and for them to be the same back!

Being an atheist and a secularist has been the best thing that has happened to me. It's sad that the people that I should be closest to choose not to benefit from it because of fear and dogma.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Facebook experiment

As I've written before, my family of origin and my extended family seem to think I'm a baby-eating, immoral person totally incapable of having a normal, everyday conversation without bringing up the evils of religion and the horrible state GW Bush left our country in. They don't seem to realize that the only time I've brought these subjects up is when they, the family, interject the subjects into the conversation.

I will concede that perhaps when my uncle was hospitalized (see previous posts) that I should have respected the family and kept my mouth shut. Perhaps. The only thing I posted free from prompting was that the doctors and other staff should also get the credit for helping my uncle as much as they could. (He died, BTW.) My relatives acknowledged that I was right and so they prayed for the doctors/nurses too. Whatever. But one cousin asked more questions about my beliefs and it went downhill from there. It ended by her saying it was her duty to pray for me and that was the end of it.

So recently I tried to friend another cousin, who I thought I'd have no problem with, on FB and was surprised by her response. She said she will friend me if I promise not to discuss religion or politics. I was surprised by this response and replied to her that I wasn't sure why she was asking me to do this, then I replied again knowing that most of my friends are atheists so she was sure to read something that would hurt her fragile feelings and wrote that I felt being my friend wasn't a very good idea. I'm not sure if she got the email via FB because I blocked her from my page at that time.

The next day it bothered me so much that I felt there had to be a solution. After much thought I decided to make another FB page and label myself a Republican and a Christian and use my maiden name instead of the name most of my friends know me by. This is really just an experiment to see what kind of reaction I get from the family and also to stay in touch with the people who normally wouldn't give me the time of day.

I thought that I would feel creepy about this but I've managed to rationalize it in this way: I don't have much to do with this people but still want to maintain some contact with them. They have made it clear they don't want to know the real Tina so I'll give them a fictional character they'll feel good about having contact with. My cousin from the paragraphs above probably won't friend me since she is very, very fragile and she's got a very good reason for being so. She lost a young child in a tragic accident which I believe she witnessed and I'm sure she's hanging on the the belief she'll see him when she dies. Fragile indeed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Facebook exchange

My mother:
Charlie and i said a prayer of thanks giving for the Doctors and the hospital staff that pulled Norm out of this and more prayers to get him the rest of the way through this. Charlotte needs our "thoughts" also. The Lord put her in the right

Me:
I'm satisfied that you and Charlie have recognized that Norm would not have survived without the staff at the hospital. And because of modern science and the advancement of modern medicine he did not die. But that was not always true, and even today people die of this kind of injury because they don't get to the hospital in time. For example: Natasha Richardson died in March in a ski accident. Another example is Sonny Bono in 1998 died of head injuries in a ski accident.


A few minutes later another post.

My cousin:
I praise God for the doctors that had a hand in Norm's recovery. I don't believe that it would have happened without our prayers. I know from experience that the "critical hour" is very important in the outcome of these kind of injuries. As with Kim (another relative with a head injury), everything fell into place, and all the doctors and nursing staff where where they should have been to make this happen. That is God's hand!

Me:
I respectively disagree. There are many people who never make it to the hospital and die because of it. It happens to mothers of small children, old people, successful people, doctors who save lives, homeless people, and to ordinary people like me. It's random and tragic when people die because they didn't get to a hospital soon enough. It's also wonderful and inspiring when people do, that I will agree.


It's hard for me to process that people still think in this childish, backward, superstitious way. What do they think when other people have stories of family members who die because they don't get to a hospital soon enough? That God had a hand it it? That God saved their relative but didn't save the other person's because he wasn't important enough? How horrible is that? There's a huge disconnect to their way of thinking, as if they only think of their own situations and when death happens to others God isn't involved or that horrible excuse of "working in mysterious ways."

Most of my extended family is undereducated and their world is very, very small. They need a higher power looking out for them or else their little world becomes bigger and scarier. And heaven forbid if you rock their little world with a suggestion that their lives are random and meaningless. As I've mentioned before, I've been blocked by relatives and I've been disowned by some just because I disagree with them. My reply? "Whatever!"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I really heard this today

My very Catholic friend said today as I was explaining the Flying Spaghetti Monster concept to a group of people: "I'm not totally convinced we came from monkeys..."

Unfortunately I wasn't able and really had no interest in explaining how we know evolution did happen to humans.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The power of prayer...

Lately there’s been a flurry of activity within my religious family. An uncle has required several surgeries to survive and the family has rallied around my aunt for support. When I mistakenly thought my uncle had been life-flighted to Houston I called my aunt to offer my home and services to help her, which she appreciated and acknowledged. But this post isn’t about that, it’s about the craziness these super-religious people engage in when a crisis happens in their lives.

The first wave of emails (which I was surprisingly included) stated the nature of the injury and first attempt towards the recovery of my uncle. Seems my elderly uncle went four-wheeling and had a fall several days ago. While on a driving trip he experienced slurring speech and vomiting which prompted my aunt to take him to a hospital immediately. The injury was so severe that he was life-flighted to a bigger hospital that could handle this type of surgery. This email also included this request:

PLEASE PRAY FOR GOD'S WILL AND PRAY FOR (aunt) TOO. PLEASE PUT (uncle) ON YOUR PRAYER LIST AT CHURCH.....THANKS, (super religious aunt)


I got this email several time during the day, which is alright. My family is a bit computer illiterate and can’t be bothered to read the “sent to” list at the top of the email. A trait I find that seems to be synonymous with religiosity. (Sorry, I’m snarky right now.)

The next email states that my uncle’s condition has not improved and he has gone through another surgery. Another prayer request goes out:

WE WILL KEEP YA'LL POSTED AS WE HEAR ANYTHING...KEEP THEM ON YOUR PRAYER LIST PLEASE.


As the day progresses I get emails from a different person. Although this person is also religious, she doesn’t invoke prayer requests or God/Jesus in anyway. She just reports the facts. Refreshing.

But the other aunt, the one that goes bullshit for God, sends the last email. This one I get from several other relatives first that my uncle is recovering nicely but she can’t stand that she doesn’t know whether I’m getting them or not, so she sends this exact same email directly to me. I’m honored and I know why it was so important that I got it directly:

THIS IS WONDERFUL NEWS......OUR PRAYERS ARE BEING ANSWERED...PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS COME! I KNOW (aunt) IS ELATED!


This is the email in its entirety. No mention of the doctors and nurses. No mention of the science and medical advances. No mention of my aunt who had the foresight of getting my uncle to the hospital as soon as possible which saved his life. I wanted to email a snarky answer to her but I blocked her emails instead. That felt good.

Tina’s world is getting better and better.

(Note: this super religious aunt is Janice's mother. See yesterday's post. Also I found her email in my spam folder so she might have sent it to me when she sent it out to everyone else. How my name got on her email list I'll never be certain but it seems dubious at best. It's the only email I've gotten from her in years. LOL)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My family and Facebook. Another rant.

Over the years, and I’ve documented much of this on my blog, I’ve had to deal with the religiosity of my family of origin and also that of my extended family. About 5 years ago there wasn’t anything in my life that caused me to claim my atheism. I didn’t believe in god and prayer and the religious nature of my family didn’t bother me. I guess I didn’t care enough to really notice. Then my father got very sick and died four months later. During his fight to live the religious craziness hit a crescendo. I felt I was among children with their wishful thinking and irrational requests.

Also during this time I was involved in an email list that my father had started up with our extended family. Everyone except me is super religious and conservative. It was about a month before Dad’s death that my sister was involved in a minor roll-over accident which she reported to the family via the email list. Now my sister is no dummy so I was surprised that she attributed the mildness of the accident to God/Jesus. Everyone agreed except me. I think I wrote something to the effect that God should have interfered about 30 seconds sooner to avoid the accident all together. Oh the shit storm that followed!

It wasn’t that bad I suppose, mostly reminders about mysterious ways and all, but one cousin was offended in the most profound way. The only way I can describe what she did to me through emails was what Xians call “witnessing.” This cousin, who I’ll call Janice, ended the brief exchange (which was filled with misspellings, bad grammar, and all text being capitalized) by blocking my emails to her with a statement that read “Since I have to have the last word I am now blocking you from answering me.” I wish I was kidding.

My father died the next week and the confrontation I had with her at the wake was ugly and disgusting. It was also orchestrated by her to get the maximum amount of Christian righteousness for herself front of my mother and her mother. In my silence, out of respect for my father, the Christians did damage to my good reputation.

I must add that I’ve never been close to my mother or father. It’s been a strained relationship ever since I can remember. As much as I wanted to be close to my sister, she has taken advantage of me for years and after my father died there was no reason to let it continue. She’s made it very clear she wants nothing to do with me now and I’m ok with that. My mother feels the same way. She has remarried, moved to another state, and is happy being closer to her new family than to her own children in TX. Whatever.

But this essay isn’t about my sister or my mother. I’ve withdrawn from them in a big way and they no longer have the power to make me feel small. This is about Janice, my super religious, fundamentalist, ultra-conservative, Christian whack-job cousin. She has blocked me on Facebook and I think she’s told my other relatives to ignore me as well. I feel victimized by her all over again. My lesson when I found out: I don’t like my family and I wish I could disown them.

There’s a happy ending to this story. I gathered all the names of those relatives who can’t find it in their little Christian hearts to friend me or at least make an effort to contact me and I blocked them. All of them and I felt good doing it. Now they won’t see me and I won’t see them. Out of sight, out of mind. Ahhhhh.

The world of Tina is right again.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm pissed off, but why?

I'm pissed off at my family on Facebook, but I suspect I shouldn't be. I responded to a relative's post about her being against gay couples adopting children. I did it in a positive way by commenting that I know of gay couples that have healthy, well adjusted children just as I know straight couples with children who have turned out to be terrible people. It stayed on her post for a few minutes before she deleted it and that's what pissed me off.

But I also understand that she can't handle an opposing view because of her religious beliefs. I also understand that it's her right to delete said opposing views if she feels she doesn't want anyone to view it or if it offends her. She also has the right to ignore me and/or delete me if she feels it's the correct thing to do for her. I understand all that; what bothers me is that she can't handle it.

Fortunately I also have that right. I went the other post of hers that I responded to, the one about her opposition to abortion, and deleted my comments from it. I suppose she won't notice but it did make me feel better. Now she won't be offended by my words about how education is important to reduce the amount of abortions in our country and how I find life just as precious as she does.

arrgghh....

A dying friend

A few days ago I found out a very dear friend is dying of cancer. I knew her and played tennis with her several years ago when she went through her first bout with breast cancer. She was so positive and courageous that I immediately looked to her as an example to follow when my father became terminally ill and died of lung cancer. Whether she knew it or not, she was a source of strength for me during a very hard time of my life.

Today I found out that my friend is no longer eating and is drinking very little. Her family has asked for no visitors and I suspect the end is very near. Although I'm sad I haven't been able to say goodbye to her this isn't something I'm devastated about. She's my friend and I will honor her wishes and express my grief in other ways.

Now for the atheist in me to discuss a few things surrounding her impending death that is bothering me. When I say this is bothering me I mean that I've had to keep my opinions to myself and be respectful of some of the strange things mutual friend Ruth has said to me about this dying friend. Ruth is in her late 70's and is a life long Catholic. That is the context. She mentioned that our dying friend will be a source of comfort and will be able to take prayers when she is on the other side. I tried to convey my thoughts in a different way, by voicing my love for her as she is in this world, in this reality, and not in a supernatural way. I mentioned that if I wasn't able to be here (if she died while I was gone visiting family) then I wanted Ruth to know that I will be here in spirit and to convey that to others if appropriate.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Joys of Swearing



One thing I love to do is swear. I drop f-bombs everywhere and I don't care who hears me. In fact I've had people tell me to stop and I ignore them. Fuck 'em, I say. Swearing is wonderful and good comedy. It releases tension and it just feels good. Swear away I say!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Losing my religion through literature

I don't remember much about what I liked to read until I got to HS. My 10th grade literature teacher was fantastic and introduced me to the world of Frank Herbert. I don't know how she managed to do it but everyone in our class got a paperback copy of Dune and we studied it for a whole semester. By the end of six weeks I had finished Dune and the other two books in the trilogy. The subject of how the main character was the savior of the Galactic Empire was not lost on me. Paul was a person of myth and prophesy, so very much like Jesus.

About that time, or perhaps a few years before, we had read the Greek and Roman myths in school. I enjoyed them immensely and noticed the similarities between those stories and the biblical stories I was exposed to. I remember vaguely thinking that if we knew the Greek stories weren't true then why were the Christian stories, which were just as unbelievable, considered true to many people? I didn't give it much more thought until I read Dune.

Now there are lots of reasons I never considered Christianity as a worldview. My mother being a bad role model set the stage for me to reject Christianity but I consider the reading of Dune to be an event that opened my eyes to what religion was really all about. Control!

More on this later...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An early memory

My mother was the teacher of Christianity in our family. Unfortunately she wasn't very good at it. She only told the popular stories and didn't give satisfying answers to the questions I would have. I learned that she really didn't know what she was talking about; just regurgitating stories she heard from her mother, her father, or her pastor.

The story she told about why women are unequal to men was one of many. According to my mother it all started when Eve gave the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge to Adam. Because of that act God cursed Eve and all of her female descendants. The curse was that women were always to have horrible pain while giving birth. As I remember it, my mother was very specific to say that all the other animals didn't have pain, it was just humans and it was because of Eve.

Then one day I had the opportunity to witness a cow giving birth. We lived on a small farm and we had a few chickens, rabbits, and a cow. I might be remembering the scene wrong but I suppose it doesn't matter. It was dusk and my mother must've known the cow was about to give birth. When the cow laid down she came to the house to get us and she allowed us to watch this fantastic miracle. By flashlight I watched as this cow pushed and pushed while moaning in obvious pain until the calf popped out of her.

I think I was about 12 years old and very interested in science and math. I fantasized about growing up to be a veterinarian so I was very watchful of all the animals I came in contact with on the farm. The fact that this cow was obviously in pain made an impression on me. My first thought was that my mother had lied to me. She had to know that other animals felt pain when giving birth because she had been raised on a farm too. Or did she not pay attention? Or was she trying to make a point about God and believed at some level she was correct?

Whatever her reason was I never believed anything she told us after that. Especially the religious stuff. Her credibility was shot. I was 12 years old and a hell of a lot smarter than her. As you can imagine I had a awful childhood. The constant religious talk grew tiresome and, on top of everything else, it didn't make sense.

There are a lot more reasons I didn't buy into the religious stuff and I'll write about those in other posts.

Note added 7-17-2009: See PZ Myer's post about a related topic here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Frustrated with Facebook

Actually, I absolutely love Facebook. It's been a great way to get in touch and keep in touch with old and new friends. My frustration is that I'm unable to express myself as an atheist because I want to be sensitive to my theist friends, of which I have many. I've been able to only express myself to other atheist friends because I can control what gets displayed on my wall.

Since I feel strongly about not offending any Christian feelings I've decided this blog is the best place for me to rant and perhaps talk to other atheist friends who feel the same way. Even if that doesn't happen I already feel a sense of peace about being able to put my feelings into this blog.

One thing I am doing on Facebook is posting articles/links about subjects on science and politics. Not inflammatory things like whether Palin is a liar or not, but subjects that can open the mind and cause people to think a little. My compass is what would my mother deem unoffensive and post only those links. It's also helping me to be a better person to think about the feelings of those who can't handle the whole truth about a controversial subject.

I feel a bit of sadness having to censure myself. I'm one of those persons that has a very light filter and is honest to a fault about my feelings. As a result the super-religious people in my life feel they can't trust me not to say anything derogatory about their collective worldviews. It might be their loss but I feel everyone loses when opinions are stifled because some subjects are taboo to discussion.

Proof there is no God!

Monday, July 6, 2009

A friend's birthday

I used to not be a sentimental person. My marriage to an ex-Navy SEAL who was diagnosed as bi-polar taught me to not be hurt by the uncaring actions of a person who was incapable of being thoughtful. This man would not lift a finger to make another person feel special and as a result I had to develop a protective shell around me. Nothing got to me but I also became harden to the feelings of others as a result.

I spent about 4 years with the bastard before leaving and divorcing him. But the damage had been done and it took years for me to get over it. My current husband is very thoughtful (to a fault!) and I saw how people responded to him early in our relationship. I embraced this thoughtfulness and, fifteen years later, I feel I'm pretty good it.

I've developed a friendship with a neighbor in my subdivision over the past year or so. Pam is over 10 years older than me and has traveled all over the world, raised a couple of children, and has always been an atheist. She and I started walking together a few months ago for exercise which gives us lots of time to talk. We talk about current events, religion, family, cooking, past experiences and many more things. I've learned that she's quite a fantastic person and I really like her a lot.

Today is her birthday and last week I thought I'd like to get her something special but modest and a card. I found a gift that I knew she would like and a unique card. I went out of my way to write something special in the card, something straight from my heart but well written and thoughtful. I almost didn't have enough room on the card to accurately relay my feelings but I managed. I felt good that I had done something nice but not over the top.

Later in the day to went to her home with gift and card in hand. She opened the card first and read the lengthy inscription inside and began to get teary eyed and a little emotional. I was stunned! My words had come from a deep place but I didn't expect her reaction. We hugged and she told me that she was very happy to call me her friend.

And this from two old atheists!

Anyway, it was nice and I wanted to share.

Email problems

I have some pet-peeves about email etiquette. I hate those emails that people just forward to another person or group of people without a personal message. It's lazy, rude and thoughtless. What's wrong with a simple cut-and-paste with a simple explanation why this particular forwarded email was important to you and/or why it should be important to me? Another big pet-peeve for me is spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and capitalization. Most of the time I can't make heads or tails of an email that someone just puts together as if it tumbled from one's head. And what's up with all-caps? To me that shouts out about that person, "Look! I'm a religious idiot!" Unfortunately, some of my crazy fundie relatives think that typing in all-caps is especially important or something. They won't stop even when proper email etiquette is explained to them. I know because I've tried.

With that being said, today I got two email forwards from a person I barely know with links to a "global-warming is a hoax" website and a right-wing political website. This person did not include any explanations for sending this email to me and it was a forward of a forward of a forward! Being that I've finally gotten my family to stop sending this crap to me I was a bit annoyed that now I've got this shit being sent to me by someone I barely know.

So I decided to write an email to this person and I choose to try to make it as non-confrontational as possible. This is what I sent:
Dear [person I barely know],

I appreciate you forwarding these emails to me but I'd like to request that you take me off this email list. I am already inundated with similar emails from family members so I already have enough to read.

Thanks,
Tina Marie

No reply as of yet but I'll keep you posted.

Update: Got this today:
So sorry. I'll be happy to do that.

Which I responded thusly:
Thanks for understanding.

Have a great day!
Tina
End of story.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My encounter with a Christian

A few days ago we had dinner with a Sam and Judy. My husband has a professional relationship with Sam.

They came by our house first for a few drinks and snacks before we took off for a restaurant. Judy was very nice and sweet with a cute smile and pleasant personality. We hit it off very quickly but soon the conversation turned to a personal tragedy in her young life. She tells me that during this tragedy she speaks to God and the things he said to her in response. About this time I'm thinking, "Oh shit! This woman is nuts." Honestly, I don't remember much more of what she said. She dominated the conversation and continued to giggle while telling me this terrible thing that happened to her and what God told her throughout this ordeal. It was surreal.

She never asked me about my beliefs and I guess she assumed that I shared hers. Well, maybe she didn't make that assumption and decided to tell me her testimony anyway. Whatever it was I was still very, very uncomfortable.

Over the next few days I thought about what would I do different the next time I find myself in that situation. Actually, what I'd really like to know is would a Christian appreciate being told that the person she is telling this kind of story to is an atheist or at least someone who doesn't share her views? Would it be rude or kind to interrupt and inform this Christian that I am not a Christian?

Note added July 5: I found out later that my husband told the husband of this woman that I'm an atheist. I wonder if we'll get invited out to dinner again. My guess is probably not. We'll see.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I'm a terrible person. OK, not really but...

I've turned into a facebook addict and have neglected my poor blog. I'm also turning into an avid gardener and want to turn my attention towards maintaining a bird sanctuary in my back yard. Sorry about the neglect but perhaps I'll blog a little about what I'm doing. Otherwise, one can follow me on facebook. Ask for my name in the comments and I'll email it to you.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slowly adding stuff

A few days ago I decided to remove the items on my facebook profile that revealed my political views and religion. Now that I have over 100 friends, including a few relatives, I've added that I'm a democrat and that my religion is "none." I'm still not willing to scare off the few xians/relatives/friends by overtly claiming to be an atheist. Small baby steps.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ewww...

One of my friends on facebook just became a fan of Kirk Cameron. Yuck, and now it's showing up on the highlights side of my page! How can I get it off? It hurts the eyes to see it!

To borrow a phrase: The stupid, it burns!

Yeah, I'm friending Christians too. The price I pay to be a real person on facebook.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My facebook dilemma

I logged onto facebook in December 2008 and created a profile with real information along with my political views (liberal) and religious views (freethinker, atheist, naturalist). My intention was to converse and connect with likeminded individuals, never once thinking about my other friends or family. I guess I was having a brain-dead moment.

A few months go by and facebook becomes more popular. A few of my friends from the other parts of my life start “friending” me and I start to think: Do I want to share this side of me with them? You see, these other parts of my life are very separate. There is no overlap. In fact it’s rare to even bring up religion or politics in my other life.

So what was I to do?

After thinking long and hard and listening to my husband tell me that I should be true to myself, I decided to change my political and religious views to something more whimsical and non-threatening. I remained true to myself by keeping all of my atheist friends and gaining more while also becoming friends with those in my other life. So far nothing has been said. So far.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stewart Rocks

The Daily Show is my favorite show to watch. I'm sad that it only comes on 4 times a week instead of 7. I'm also depressed when Jon and Stephen, on the Colbert Report, go on holiday and leave us with repeats.

Anyway, this week Jon Stewart has been ripping up CNBC and the reporting of Jim Cramer. It's been amazing to watch how news shows, the ones we trust, don't report the whole story and how the public is misled. Last night Jon interviewed the butt of his latest jokes Jim Cramer and I thought he did an excellent job.

I'm also concerned that a comedy show did a better job than the serious news stations on reporting this kind of fraud. But then again, it is why we watch The Daily Show.

From the Huffington Post. Enjoy!

Back to earth

Again I've been lax on blogging. I actually have a life where at times sitting down to write random thoughts can take valuable time away from chores and errands. I came back from my trip to New Zealand on February 24th then immediately took a short trip to Birmingham, Alabama to watch Davis Cup so I have that as a good excuse.

The purpose for out trip to New Zealand was mostly to figure out if immigrating there is a good idea for us. We discovered it wasn't. The biggest problem is the tax structure and the amount we would have to pay if my husband were to work. The other option would be to retire but our cache of cash as been severely depleted recently and we would need a source of income. We were also concerned with the value of beach front real estate and the high cost of building.

The holiday part of the trip was wonderful. I found the country breathtakingly beautiful and the people to be enthusiastic and honest. We met people from all over the world and had interesting conversations about ecology and politics. I ate delicious food, loved the lamb, and drank fantastic wines. But going back again anytime in the near future is not in our plans. Sitting in airports for hours and eating airport/airplane food during a 24 hour setting is not a pleasant way to end a trip.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We leave today

for New Zealand. I should be excited but I'm a bit luke warm about it. It takes a long time to get there and my husband usually is not much fun to vacation with. He assures me that I haven't any worries but I'm skeptical. Wish me luck!

We leave Houston a little after 1400 and arrive in Los Angeles around 1530. (There's a couple of time zones we cross, but you guys already know that.) Then we leave for Auckland at around 1930 to arrive at 0525 in the bloody morning. Arrghh!

The first day and night we'll be in Auckland and we plan to tour the Sky Tower and visit the Maritime Museum. After a sunset dinner in Devonport at The Esplanade we rest for the night to get ready for a flight to Kerikeri and Russell to the north.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What I saw today at the grocery store....


What I hate about this kind of advertising is this person is taking advantage of the trust ordinary people place on the religious. To hell with his abilities, it's all about his beliefs!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Saddlebacking

One of my more favorite podcasts to listen to is Savage Love by Dan Savage. He's a fantasic gay sex columnist out of Seattle who gives common sense advice to gay and straight people. His humor and colorful language isn't for everyone but I find it refreshing and real.

A few weeks ago, the time just before our historic Inauguration of Barack Obama, Dan ranted about Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the innovation, which many atheists, freethinkers, and gays all felt was a terrible choice. In response to this terrible little petty man and his sectarian prayer Dan wanted to change the meaning of "Saddleback" to reflect the teachings of this man's church so he asked for and received various new definition for this term.

He made a website just for this term: www.saddlebacking.com

What do you think?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Plans are finalized

I know we're not spending enough time in New Zealand but I'm married to a workaholic and this is the best we could do.

We're leaving Houston on Saturday 14 February to arrive at 0530 16 February in Auckland. We'll spend the day in Auckland and Devonport then fly out early the next morning via Salt Air to Kerikeri for a helicopter tour of the Bay of Islands. After spending a few days in that area we fly to Blenheim for a few days among the sounds and wineries. At 1730 on 24 February we'll fly from Nelson to Auckland to arrive in LA at 1400 the same day (imagine that!). From there it'll be an uneventful flight back to Houston.

My husband is still wanting to move as soon as possible. Seems he's pretty upset with the condition Bush left this country in and has serious doubts that President Obama can fix it in our lifetimes.

Wish us luck.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Traveling to New Zealand

As I’m writing this we are making plans to visit New Zealand next month. My husband, the engineer, wants to check out the country with hopes of immigrating there in the near future. You see, he’s sure the US is going to hell in a hand basket very soon and he doesn’t want to be here when it happens.

I have a problem with this. I love living in Houston. I’ve been here for over 30 years and have acquired a lot of close and deep friendships. My life here is fun, exciting, comfortable, nice and wonderful. I don’t want to change something that I’ve worked hard to achieve.

On the other hand New Zealand is a wonderful place to live. My research has shown that the quality of life is high and that the people there are happy. I’ve looked into residential real estate in the Auckland area and the area around Russell and the prices seem high but reasonable for what one gets.

We’ll be leaving in mid-February and staying for a little over a week. My engineer husband seems to think that’s enough time to figure if we want to live there or not. I’m not so optimistic.

I welcome any comments about New Zealand anyone has for me. Thanks!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book thoughts

On the second Saturday of every month a group of atheist ladies meet at a local health food restaurant for fellowship and brainstorming. We call ourselves the HoustonHumanistsChicks (and we can be found on Yahoo! Groups.)

Last Saturday, after an hour of chit-chat, we each talked about any resolutions we made or anything of importance going on in our lives. When the discussion got to me I revealed that I hadn’t made any resolutions but I have been reading “50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God” by Guy P. Harrison. Several people stated immediately that they had read the book and enjoyed it. Well, I’m enjoying it too but it’s not what I thought it would be and I don’t think a Christian like my mother would understand the book and its message.

I had listened to several podcasts in which Mr. Harrison had been interviewed about his book and he stated that he wrote the book with theists in mind, to gently point out the absurdities of their points of view. I’m only halfway through the book and my feeling is that fundamental theists would not like what they are reading. In fact I pointed out to my friends that my mother most likely would’ve thrown the book across the room from the very beginning. I’d like to think my less conservative friends/family would agree with some and disregard the rest yet still not be challenged to think any differently.

After some discussion about this book one of the ladies suggested reading “The Denial of Death” by Ernest Becker for better understanding of why people have faith in a god. Surprisingly I have that book in my library and may have read it several years ago when going through my own growing pains out of belief. I’ll be reading it again when I finish Guy Harrison’s book.

I am reading these books because I do want to understand why people continue to hold to the belief in a god with no credible evidence. I get how people can be brainwashed and indoctrinated. For example: the concept of Santa Clause as a real person. An immature person, a child, loves the mystery of the man who lives at the North Pole who rewards the good ones with gifts. The story of Jesus can be mysterious and full of wonder if one wants to hold to the belief of good triumphing over evil and the righteous get to spend eternity in heaven. To me and to many other nonbelievers this concept seems as childish as believing in St. Nick. Opening my mind to how religions are formed and how the Bible was constructed helped me to understand reality. I finally saw that there is no force watching out for me and, like a child, let go of the fantasy and embraced reality in all it’s beauty, randomness and ugliness.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Poor

I’ve been meaning to write more often in 2009 but the real world has been interrupting that goal. My ambition is to write at least 3 times a week with the intention of writing more.

Today I’m writing about poverty and what to do about it when it forces its way into your life.

A few days ago I was filling my car with gas at an Exxon station off the main freeway. It’s a busy place not only because of its location but it is also the location of a fast food burger joint. It was particularly busy that day and I was watchful of my self and of my purse in the front seat. A young woman who looked battered and poor approached me, getting too close to me for comfort. She proceeded to tell me her story, about how her husband had just beaten her and she was stranded there at the gas station in her car and two small children.

I was torn. Do I believe her and help her or what? I’ve been taken before in parking lot scams, not for a lot of money, but one doesn’t like to be taken advantage of. So that’s in the back of my mind. If her story is true what responsibility do I have as a fellow human being in helping her? How far do I go?

The two small children were in the car looking out at the scene. They were cute, clean, and looked to be in no danger. While I was trying to decide what to do this woman got even closer to me making me very, very uncomfortable. She was getting between me and my purse in the front seat. I had to act quickly.

Beggars used to be quite common in our city. It seems the trend is gaining ground lately so I keep a few one dollar bills in my ashtray to quickly hand out at stop lights. I took the opportunity to get in front of this woman to open my car door and get a few dollars for her. I grabbed three, handed them to her, and stated that that amount should help her get where she needed to be.

I know I’m a target. The bright red Porsche doesn’t help. Many of my friends are in similar situations so I’ve been asking what they would do if confronted with a poor, battered woman at a gas station. I was surprised at some of the answers. Many of my middle class friends would ignore the woman and hope that she walks away! Some would say they had nothing to give and hope that she walks away. I just couldn’t do that. With the little that I did do I felt guilty that I didn’t try harder to do more.