Sunday, October 31, 2010

Computer Crap Out

Thank you, Mac Store of Pasadena for fixing my computer for free! Apparently, my video card has a history of being fickle, and they replaced it for free. Thank goodness, because that was a serious moment of panic.

Otherwise, I'm working on pouring through all of the Nov. 2 election material so that I can get some really good stuff on here. Stay tuned! Those judicial elections are so tricky!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christine O'Donnell is a Hack

I'm sure just about everyone has seen the video of Christine O'Donnell (R) in a debate with her opponent, Chris Coons. They're competing for Delaware's seat in the Senate.


I like the way Anderson Cooper breaks it down. She repeatedly asks, "Where in the First Amendment is the Separation of Church and State?" If one gave her the benefit of the doubt, she might have simply meant that those exact words aren't actually anywhere in the Constitution. This is true. But Article Six of the Constitution states that anyone running for office shall face "no religious test" and the First Amendment clearly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." And the Supreme Court over the years has clearly interpreted the First Amendment to mean "separation of church and state."

During the same debate, O'Donnell also didn't remember what the 14th (dealing with citizenship) and 16th (income tax) Amendments were, despite the fact that the Tea Party has made a big deal about these this year, going as far to call for their repeal. I mean, I don't know what each Amendment is without looking it up, but O'Donnell constantly invokes the Constitution as the basis for her opinions and claims to have studied Constitutional Government. Well, she obviously didn't study it very hard. What a dingbat.

This is so disturbing, because this is a right wing, ├╝ber conservative, fundamentalist Christian who doesn't believe in Evolution and thinks "intelligent design" should be taught in schools. GAH! THIS is why political involvement is so important right now!  

If you care about SECULARISM, get out and VOTE!!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jesus Loves all the Little Velociraptors

Velociraptors and Jesus go together like fat kids and...


CAKE?!

I couldn't help but share this when I saw it on Cake Wrecks this morning. I really hope this was part of a joke. I really hope that the person who created this image also got it put on a cake. But somehow, I really doubt it. Since the Creation Museum exists, I'm sure someone painted this with sincere intentions. I tried looking for this around the interwebs, but I'm not sure of the picture's original origin. Any help out there?

Sam Harris and Morality

Sam Harris was on 89.3 KPCC today promoting his new book, The Moral Landscape. He tries to argue that science can define morality based on assessing the effect of an action on the well-being and ability to flourish of humans and animals. He argues that we don't need God to tell right from wrong. He's been pushing the book like crazy. Sam Harris hasn't posted on his web page for ages and all of a sudden, BAM! Four posts in one day!

jurvetson/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd
Of course, I agree that we don't need a god or religion to tell right from wrong. Some would argue that I have a moral compass because my mother is religious and I was raised in a religious household. However, I do not believe in God now and follow no religion. The Bible is DEFINITELY not the basis of my morality. I definitely don't believe in slavery or the subjugation of women or stoning....so, you know, I DON'T believe the Bible or any other Holy Book is a good basis of morality. Certainly, there are people who do great harm and incredibly immoral things in the name of religion. So where's their moral compass? Clearly, the God Compass isn't working right in them!!

I follow a philosophy of "Do Least Harm." I try not to bring hurt or pain to others, and try to limit the hurt and pain I place upon our environment. I don't eat animals, I recycle... this is a part of my morality. I don't think that using fear of god or the threat of hell or the reward of heaven is a good basis of morality. This promotes IMMORAL behavior, I think... If you think you can be an asshole all of the time, but at the last minute go to confession or "find" Jesus, that's not very moral. So, you kill a person? No big deal! Repent, and all is forgiven! BULLSHIT. The victim's family will not forget and there will be plenty of people who won't forgive.

Occasionally, I'll consider doing something "immoral"... like, taking the $10 left in the self check-out machine. But, *sigh* I would want someone to turn it in if I forgot it, so I hand it over to the supervising cashier. Maybe he pocketed it, but that's on him. I'm an extremely honest person because I am extremely empathetic. How would I feel if I were in their place? I found another server's book, forgotten, left lying around and filled with money. Guess what? I returned it. Even though I didn't care for that person. I would hate it if that happened to me. Sometimes my morality is based on guilt, but not on God's... it's based on my mother. Sometimes her voice just pops up in my head.

The Sam Harris interview was interesting, but I don't know (based on this interview) that he made a strong argument for science as a basis for morality. I doubt that religious people who listened to it were particularly convinced. When the subject of promiscuity was brought up, I thought that I could have added more to the conversation.

Sam Harris argued that pair bonding and stable relationships are most fulfilling and conducive to well-being for most people, therefore there is an argument in its favor based on scientific studies. I would also argue that promiscuity puts one at a higher risk for STDs and emotional stress, therefore it isn't the best choice to make. I know that I would use these facts when discussing sexuality with my own children. But I also don't think that remaining a virgin until your wedding day is a moral/immoral choice. I think it's an unwise choice. Relationships last longer and are more successful if the partners involved are well matched sexually, so it makes sense to "test drive" (so to speak) before making long term commitments. And hey, six years of monogamy has worked for us and *GASP* we're atheists!

Monday, October 18, 2010

REGISTER TO VOTE!

Today, Monday, October 18th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in California for the November 2nd primary.

If you are not registered to vote already, please do so! Go to your local library or post office and pick up the form. It simply has to be postmarked by today! If you want to vote by mail, you must apply by the 26th!

This is an atheist blog, but it's also a political one. Religion shouldn't interfere with our political system, but since it's such an influential factor for so many politicians (and so openly so), the two sadly seem to go hand in hand. 

I've been house/dog sitting lately, which has made it more difficult to post, so this is just a quick reminder. Californians have A LOT to vote on because of our crazy propositions, so I'll be going through the voter information guide over the coming days. That's just as much for me as it is for anyone else who cares to know my opinion and listen to my research!

GET POLITICAL! DON'T LET THE CRAZIES RULE THE VOTE!

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Christian" Music?

I recently went to a Belle & Sebastian concert at the Hollywood Palladium. I wrote about it on my other blog. Going to the concert happened as a bit of a lark. I found out about it the night before and someone at work just happened to have tickets available. I'm only familiar with their early work in "Tigermilk," "The Boy With the Arab Strap," and "If You're Feeling Sinister." So, at the concert, I heard a lot more of their new stuff, which is decidedly more upbeat. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I had a great time. There was one song though that caught me off guard. There was something in the lyrics that seemed... well, religious. I'd never gotten that feel in their music before, in fact, their music had always seemed rather anti-religious. I pretty much forgot about it until I heard this interview on NPR.

Belle & Sebastian's newest album is overtly religious and the group's main singer, Murdoch, openly discusses his Christian faith in the lyrics. From the NPR interview
"The Ghost of Rockschool" features these words: "I've seen God in the sun, I've seen God in the street / God before bed and the promise of sleep." It's always tricky, that line between pop music and so-called Christian rock. I'm not a fan of Christian rock, and I hope that ["The Ghost of Rockschool"] doesn't sound too much like a mawkish Christian rock song.
*Sigh*

So... I feel sort of let down? As they say in the interview, the group's lyrics used to be far more cynical of religion. Murdoch sort of writes that off, blaming his young age at the time. But I LIKE their old stuff better. I always interpreted those songs as being completely non or even anti-religious. But maybe I was interpreting them completely wrong?? This is from "If You're Feeling Sinister."
But if you are feeling sinister
Go off and see a minister
He'll try in vain to take away the pain of being a hopeless unbeliever

But if you are feeling sinister
Go off and see a minister
Chances are you'll probably feel better
If you stayed and played with yourself
The funny thing is that LP (other half of this blog) has never cared for Belle & Sebastian and pointed me in the direction of the NPR interview as a sort of vindication. Of course, LP has his own "Surprise Christian Band of the Millennium." Have you heard ICP's totally awful Miracles


It's so bizarre and sadly hilarious. ICP announced a couple years ago that they were secretly Evangelical Christians, but I've never bought it. LP has always liked ICP, he's from Michigan, after all, and he has his own interpretation on the matter that I'll make him post someday. 

I have to say that ICP has a few songs that I really do like. They aren't all that bad. Seriously, some of their songs are kind of catchy... you actually have to listen to it, but not take it too seriously. But "Miracles" doesn't really sound like anything from their most recent album to the point that they must be tongue in cheek. Jon Ronson interviewed them in The Guardian recently... and they don't come off looking so great. In fact, they come off looking completely stupid. So, are they actually serious Christians? Or just dumb? Or secretly brilliant hoaxers?

An ode to ignorance that will be interpreted many different ways. Some will see it as ironic, some will take it at face value, some will see it as a glorious Christian message. What do you think?

And what do you do when you find out that a band or musician or artist you like is overtly religious? Does it change how you feel about them? Lyrics are never the most important thing to me in music, so if I otherwise like a song, it doesn't bother me much. And random references here or there don't really bother me. I would hope that if a religious person found out that an artist they admired was an atheist, that it wouldn't sway their opinion much.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon

Today would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday. From both of us here at GOP, let's pay homage to a singer/song writer whose message is still incredibly relevant.

Our favorite song sums up everything we could hope to say about life, the universe... and everything.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tithing... stupid.

When I was a little kid, I dutifully saved my pennies each week to drop in the basket that was passed around church. I had visions of poor orphan children, shivering without coats, or starving kids with swollen bellies in African villages, and I imagined that my few coins went towards feeding and clothing the poor of the world. I was proud to drop in all that I owned.

I imagined myself to be like the cute little mouse from Robin Hood, giving up her last farthing to help with the poor. Fast forward to 3:14.


Then one day, our priest gave a homily on tithing. Tithing is the practice of giving some portion of your income, usually 10% to the church. I remember the priest emphasizing that this should be 10% of your income BEFORE taxes, BEFORE any other spending. I was flabbergasted. I asked my mom where my money went that I faithfully put into the baskets each week. When she told me it went to our church, I felt lied to. My mom actually said that she chose to give some portion of her income to our church, but most of her 10% actually went to various charities she believed in. That makes sense to me.

Tithing has existed for ages, dating waaaaaay back to Jesus time. Churches have always needed a way to guilt parishioners into giving them enough money to operate. I believe that donating to valuable non-profit organizations is important, but contributing to an organized religion doesn't seem like a charitable cause to me.

Writing about tithing seems like it should be a non-issue to me. After all, I don't belong to a religion. Why should I care? Well, I care about poor people being guilted into giving away their hard earned money to an organization that doesn't actually do any good for people. Why not take that 10% and give it to your local school or homeless shelter or Doctors Without Borders?

Plus, I thought I should write about tithing because it represents the very first crack in my faith as a small child. What was the first crack in your faith/belief in god or religion?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thank you Tim Gunn

Since I already touched on the subject of homophobia and gay bashing recently, I won't talk much more about it except to highlight a couple things that I've seen recently that at least make me feel more positive about America's attitude toward the LGBTQ community. Even though Congress messed up big time on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," at least a new CNN poll show that at least half of America now supports gay marriage. Here's my favorite part of the article I read...
This trend will continue. Nationally, a majority of people under age 30 support same-sex marriage. And this is not because of overwhelming majorities found in more liberal states that skew the national picture: our research shows that a majority of young people in almost every state support it. As new voters come of age, and as their older counterparts exit the voting pool, it’s likely that support will increase, pushing more states over the halfway mark.
That's great news. Everybody just needs to ignore what is the very LOUD, but minority voice on this issue. The other thing I'd like to share is this wonderful and very touching video from Tim Gunn. In it, he has a message for LGBTQ teens..."it gets better." He urges them to seek help if they are in despair, and shares a very personal story of his own experience. I loved Tim Gunn anyway, but this just secured him a place in my heart forever.


It's not totally on topic for this blog, but it was so uplifting, I just thought I'd share.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can I pray for you?

I work as a restaurant server. Sad, but true.

Yesterday, I was working the lunch shift and waited on these two very sweet, but incredibly trying middle-aged women. I noticed them praying before they ate their bread and made sure not to disturb them. Later, after I answered their 9,000 questions and satisfied their inane requests and FINALLY took their order, one of the women says, "Now, my dear....we already prayed over our food, but we'll pray again when our meal comes. And I want to ask you, is there anything we can pray about for you?"

I'll take this kitten's prayers, thanks. He's cuter.
These are very nice women, otherwise, and I depend on their tip, so I just say, "That's very sweet of you, but I'm just fine, thank you. You don't need to pray for me."

"Are you sure? Any family we can pray for? You must have something!"

"No, ma'am, I'm just fine on prayers. But thank you so much for thinking of me." And I walk away.

I was hoping that would be the end of it, but NO! When I come back to check on them during their meal, I ask if everything is OK. Church lady says she has a big problem.

"Oh, no, I'm sorry, ma'am, what is it?"

"I am just so troubled. I can't believe there's nothing about which we can pray for you."

"Trust me, that's very sweet, but I've got two grandmas and a mother who I know are praying for me every day. I'm covered." That at least made them laugh.

"Ohhhhhh, are they Christian? What church do they go to?" (Now what the fuck difference would it make if my parents are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist? My family is Catholic, but I had a feeling that this lady wouldn't consider that Christian)

"My family is back in Iowa, actually..."

"OHHHHHHH.... Now how old are you? Are you in college or are you done with school? What are you doing in Los Angeles?" She bombards me with questions until she decides that she will pray that I have success in my career. Oddly enough, they assumed I was an actor even though I told them I was a writer (I'm tired of having that conversation EVERY day with customers).

Maybe I should have told her that I wrote a blog and that she should pray that I get more readers. Here's my point:  

What do you say when someone asks to pray for you?

Since I was at work, I had to be polite. What could I have said? Don't waste your time? What's the point? Do you really think you have a direct line of communication with an invisible, fictitious omnipotent being that has direct influence over your life and the lives of others? Are you so freaking special that your prayers mean more than the prayers of millions of others? Are you that narcissistic? I guess, in this case, that was true. These women also asked that I refrigerate and hold their leftover food until they got back from the movies. So, yeah.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Homophobia is Deadly

By now, I'm sure everyone has heard about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his dorm roommate publicized a video of his private sexual encounter online.

I hope, hope, hope that the young man who was Tyler's roommate thought of his harassment as just a prank. I hope that his behavior was not the result of bigotry, but just immaturity. However, since Tyler committed suicide, I think that all kinds of anti-gay rhetoric has bubbled to the surface. I do love that celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris are calling out to gay teens to be strong and be proud.

As someone who was pretty depressed as a teen, my message to young people is that it GETS BETTER. Leave your home town, leave the people who make you sad, form your own family of close friends, go to a town that's friendlier to you. Plus, as you grow older, you'll find that you become less sensitive, events seem to affect you less. You gain a little perspective.

What happened to Tyler though, was enough to ruin any adult. The breech of trust, the invasion of privacy. I'm sure Tyler felt like he'd been violated. That would be enough to deeply disturb any individual. And for Tyler, with all the anti-gay rhetoric in the media, it would seem like life wouldn't get any better. I'm sure that he thought that college would be 10x better than high school. I'm sure he went in with a lot of hope, only to be completely let down.

I saw a video over at The Friendly Atheist with an interview between Anderson Cooper and the Michigan Assistant Attorney General, Andrew Shirvell. For the past 6 months, Shirvell has been blogging against the openly gay student body president at Michigan University. He's called him a Nazi, a bigot, and the servant of Satan. Shirvell claims he's not against the young man because he's gay, but because of his "radical homosexual agenda" to petition for gender neutral housing at the university. What a great idea, especially considering what happened to Tyler Clementi. My first year of college, I had a lot of friends who had to change roommates because of issues surrounding their sexuality. Even if they weren't open, they knew that their roommates would be difficult if they found out.

I know this post is a little redundant because it's been talked about so much in the blogosphere, but I just felt like I had to comment on it because it upsets me so much. So-called "Christians" attacking gay people and feeling like they have a moral imperative to do it. It's so much god obscuring perception that I just can't stand it.