Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Original Sin

I was thinking this morning about the nature of original sin and how the christian bible got it wrong. It wasn't that snake got Eve to eat the fruit of the tree. It's that she ate the snake. No symbolism intended.

When life, before we could have recognized it as such, began. There had to be some sort of proto-organisms, free of DNA, self forming, that grew through absorbing minerals and nutrients. We know that they didn't eat other things because there were no other things to eat. And then somewhere along the line one of them invented eating, absorbing not just nutrients but the physical matter of other proto-organisms. It was a big step.

Eating, that is the taking of life so that another organism might live, seems to me to be the original sin. It requires each of us to kill in order to live, even though the killing might be just the harvesting of green leafy parts, or the outright slaughter of animals. We kill to live. There's no escaping it. It is the way we evolved, the way we are, it is the original sin. It's the reason I give thanks at each meal, for those that I'm about to devour, the lives they led, be they bean or beast, and how they nourish me for these few coming hours until I will need to eat again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Maya Angelou Quote

I love Maya Angelou, but one must remember that poets generally make up the worst sort of common knowledge and wisdom. She says: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

What's wrong with this? It's just feel good pap. Scientific research shows us that memories of feelings are among the most malleable. That how we think we felt about someone or something in the past is very much dependent upon how we feel in the current moment. People will not only forget about how you made them feel, but they will tend to get it completely wrong.

Never trust a poet to communicate actual knowledge, other than knowledge about poetry itself.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Facebook Security

Facebook security is a lot like god. People seem to have faith in it. People write quite a bit about it. Much energy is put into fretting about it. But in the end neither actually exists.

Monday, July 26, 2010

cracker story


Looks like a dog has outdone PZ.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Believable Fiction

Rambling, I know...

I've been working on this idea of narrative. The idea that we all carry around a story inside of us about who we are, what we do, and how we came to be the way we are. Some of it is true, and the gaps are filled in with fictions, fictions that meet certain needs.

I remember at a very, very young age being told by some adult that I was a shy young man. I remember distinctly the conflict I felt. No, I said, I was not shy. But the adult persisted, and I came to understand that even though I was not shy, if this adult, whom I trusted, said I was shy, then perhaps I should try to be shy. Yes, it seem ridiculous that a very young child would think this way, let alone be conscious enough to recognize this thought pattern. The diffidence of knowing you are one thing, but needing to be something else in order to match someone else's idea of who you are, or who you should be.

This speaks to a central theme of religion. Which when I have more time I'll write about.

But for today, I just wanted to say that while standing there peeing in the men's room, this thought came back to me. That we are at times called to "be" certain ways in order to fit others expectations of who they need us to be. I'll talk more about that at some point as well, but not now.

Today I want to take that idea and twist it just a little more, introspect some, if you will. I noticed that I need to "be" certain ways for myself in order to fit with my expectation of who I need to be. How strange is that?

I was standing there saying, OK now she did this and I did that and that reinforces this behavior, but if I focus on a little part of what she did, it not only reinforces the behavior, but it reinforces the narrative. She's mean, I'm good, the narrative holds.

The narrative is a fiction, a believable fiction that we tell ourselves about who we are, and how we got to where we are. And like so many stories, it needs to be taken down once in a while, and examined for what it is. So I'll talk about this more in a latter blog as well.

All of this Believable Fiction idea really struck me when a facebook friend posted a picture of a billboard. The billboard said "Contrary to popular belief I don't hate anyone who's gay", and it was "signed" by god. Well, OK, this speaks to believable fiction. When one group believes the fiction that god said, well anything really, but specifically that god hates gays, my recourse is to say that, well, that's a ridiculous fiction because god doesn't exist, and therefore can't "say" anything. So this statement is really advancing a political point of view held by someone who gains power by putting it out there. Likewise the repast, this contrary billboard, takes the god belief and just restates it to their political point of view.

In either case, both parties are trying to create a Believable Fiction, a fiction that meets their needs.

I'll write more about Believable Fictions and personal narratives in future posts.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Oil Spill Prediction

We've not seen the worst. My prediction is that the BOP will collapse into a hole that is being eroded, unseen, beneath it, and that the whole thing will just go blorp, and continue going blorp for many, many years. There is precedent. And there may be evidence to support this view.

The French call this la marée noire. The black sea. On bad days, I think that we're looking at just the tip of the iceberg. That in reality it's so bad that we don't even know how to be scared enough, so we'll just remain calm.

On the other hand, I might be a victim of belief bias. I have few actual facts to go on. So I don't really want to be alarmist. Yet, I blog anyway.

I think the real question is what can be done, what remains? How to protect the earth, the biosphere, our country, our interests, our families, our selves? That's a hell of a lot of oil, that is.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's only a cracker

From: Married to the sea
It is, regardless of PZ's take, still only a cracker.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

All we can do is pray...

regarding the oil leak.
Let's hope not, because we all know how well that works!

Friday, May 28, 2010

science and religion

If they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters. - F. J. Ayala

Exactly my point. Science deals with things that exist. Religion, things that do not.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bumper Sticker

"Don't make me come down there - Gd"

Which kind of makes him sound like an absent, abusive drunk parent who's too busy watching the tele while getting his hootch on to care what's going on with his kids, so he'll just threaten them with abstract punishment and really mess them up for the rest of their lives as they try to figure out how to make this distant yet menacing figure love them.

Dalai Lama


just about what I expect...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

So I'm thinking...

So I'm thinking, what with all the earthquakes and volcanoes recently being the wrath of an angry god, and all that, this is what I am going to do.

I'm just saying here and now, that people better start treating me real nice, giving me gifts, throwing money, taking me out for nice dinners, inviting me to fancy parties. All that. Knob Creek bourbon, I have a fondness for that stuff too.

Because if y'all don't start treating me like royalty, I'm going to do whatever I can think of to piss off this god of your'n and then he's going to go all old testament on you. Kinda wide spread destruction. Seeing as his wrath seems to be a fairly blunt instrument, taking out the airline industry in northern Europe because certain women are too jiggly, that kind of thing, I think y'all better ante up and give me my due. Otherwise, I don't know... could be some global warming headed your way, or higher gas prices, maybe a tornado or two. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Creationist Telecast

Contact: Robert Andrescik
Director of Public Relations
Northland, A Church Distributed
Phone: (407) 949-7147
E-Mail: robert.andrescik@northlandchurch.net

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tens of Thousands of Christians to Participate in International Creation Care Simulcast
Believers from 30 countries will be participating, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

LONGWOOD, FLA. — In just two days, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Northland Church will host an international simulcast called Hope for Creation. It promises to be the largest gathering of Christians supporting creation care ... ever.

The simulcast will be broadcast online from Northland’s site in Longwood, Fla., this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. EDT. So far, more than 60,000 people from 30 countries—including Hungary, Italy, India, Thailand and Russia—have indicated that they will be participating in the event.

"This is an effort to recast the environmental movement into its proper perspective—as a biblical issue that Christians should care about,” explains Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Northland’s senior pastor. “I believe the Church should be leading the conversation, and this event will give us all the chance to do just that.”

Participants can join in online, at home or with a small group. Many pastors are planning church-wide gatherings. There’s even a zoo that has signed up.

The simulcast will feature music and speakers, along with a preview of a new film series from the makers of the popular NOOMA series. There will also be an interactive town-hall conversation live with audiences around the world featuring Dr. Matthew Sleeth, founder of Blessed Earth and the visionary behind this event.

Dr. Sleeth’s journey from emergency room physician to creation care activist began just a few years ago. Well-respected and at the top of his career, Dr. Sleeth and his wife, Nancy, lived with their children in a picture-perfect town in a three-story New England house, complete with library, guest suite and four bathrooms. But something was missing.

“We had all the nice things that were supposed to make us happy, yet at the core we still felt hollow,” remembers Nancy, author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money and, God's Green Earth.

Matthew adds, “I had started seeing changes in disease based upon the environment and changes in the environment in general. These changes have been profound.”

One day, Nancy asked Matthew a question that would change his life: “What do you think the biggest problem in the world is?”

He explains, “I thought for a moment, and I said the world is dying. I began a search to try and make sense out of the world.”

That search led to the Sleeths downsizing their lifestyle and upsizing their efforts to preserve the planet. Matthew eventually quit his job to put all his energy toward creation care.

“Environmentalism is the only activity we can carry out where we worship God all the time. When you begin to live more humbly, or meekly as Christ would put it, you begin to grow as a spiritual human being,” Dr. Sleeth says.

To learn more about Hope for Creation simulcast, visit blessedearth.org. To view Dr. Sleeth’s video testimony, visit youtube.com/servegodsaveplanet.
I love the SNL send up of ICP on hulu But is it a parody of a parody?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010


"I was raised to believe that you can't serve two gods." - Ray Charles

Monday, March 8, 2010

Robert A. Heinlein

A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion - any religion - is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.

[Robert A. Heinlein, from "Friday"]


Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told
Religion is going what you are told regardless of what is right

I'm not sure where I saw this, but it rings true to me. Maybe something on Youtube? Possibly. If anyone has an attribution let me know.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

David Foster Wallace

Granted, this is taken completely out of context but David Foster Wallace was an idiot when he said, "Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism."

The man was a prolific and brilliant writer, and I'll never hold a candle to him. But he still got stuff wrong. I think the brilliant and acclaimed can often blather, as we all do, but in their case there's the risk that it will be taken as meaningful. Blather is still blather.

The Atheist Version

So, what makes the Atheist version more compelling? Is it that the Atheist, who is well loathed in lore-americana, gets his one uppance for being so forthright? Or for muttering the words "oh god", instead of saying "oh shit", or "I'm, fucked".

Well, we all know that time cannot stand still, that a presumed sky god cannot actually talk to someone, that a bear has never spoken, lacks the physical ability in fact to do so, has never spoken let alone become christian. These things cannot happen and we all know that they cannot happen.

But they'd be funny if they did... at least to us, the on lookers, not to the Atheist.

So basically, it's saying that, true, all that, but fuck that Atheist anyway for pointing out the obvious. And Ha Ha. At least that's how I read it, and that's what possibly makes it funny.

A Christian was walking through the woods

A Christian was walking through the woods.
"What majestic trees"!
"What powerful rivers"!
"What beautiful animals"!
He said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards him.

He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder & saw that the bear was closing in on him.

He looked over his shoulder again, & the bear was even closer. He tripped & fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw & raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Christian cried out, "Oh my God!"

Then the bear ate his liver.

OK, the Atheist version is funnier.

An atheist was walking through the woods.

An atheist was walking through the woods.
"What majestic trees"!
"What powerful rivers"!
"What beautiful animals"!
He said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look. He saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards him.

He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder & saw that the bear was closing in on him.

He looked over his shoulder again, & the bear was even closer. He tripped & fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw & raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out, "Oh my God!"

Time Stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.

As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. "You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don't exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident." "Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer"?
The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the BEAR a Christian"?

"Very Well," said the voice.

The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head & spoke:

"Lord bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

On why I'm godless

I haven't always been an Atheist. Maybe just the last 2 or 3 years. But I am now. I like it. It seems to hold better answers for me and feels more honest than anything else I've worked through. And maybe more importantly, I feel like I have a spiritual identity, that I belong to a spiritual community, and that we share a common understanding. I've wanted that for a long time, and it has driven my search for God since I was little..

I grew up without a church. We simply didn't talk about God very much. My mom's family believed in nature. My dad came from a Catholic background but only went to church twice as far as I knew. But other people around me when I was young had a strong religious identities, and who you were seemed to be important. I felt that I was missing that whole religious thing in my life. Maybe that's why I sought it out.

I grew up in Skokie Illinois. Skokie, at that time, was largely Jewish. In fact most of my friends were Jewish. I remember getting really upset in first grade because all my friends got to wear yarmelkes and go to Schule. I cried. I didn't get to do those things. They were my friends. I wanted to be part of their community. But of course I couldn't. It was a different culture and it had something to do with God.

Now Skokie was not entirely Jewish. There was a dividing line. Ironically, it was Church Street. To the south mostly Jewish. To the north, mostly Catholic. We lived right on Church street, very much unchurched. Right on the dividing line. Living between cultures, being accepting of them while not belonging to them.

Behind us, to the north of the dividing line, was the Catholic School. I had friends there too. We'd play baseball and shoot hoops on the playground. That's where I was first asked the question, “What are you?” It was just a bunch of kids trying to figure out how I fit in. But at that age it was already important to Be something, to define yourself. This has been a common thread in my journey.

I told them I was Catholic. I tried to pass. I lied so that I might fit in. I couldn't say I was nothing. I mean, I wasn't nothing. I didn't know what an agnostic, or an atheist was. To me, at that time in my life, there was Jewish and there was Catholic, and I didn't go to Schule or wear a yarmleke so I had to be Catholic.

So that's what I told them, but of course they all went to Catholic school just as my Jewish friends went to Schule. I didn't know any of the right words or lessons or the names of the Saints. They saw right through me. But it turned out OK because somebody knew me and said I was a pretty good outfielder, and we went back to playing baseball.

So in grade school I was thinking about God, and my relationship to this mysterious thing that most other people, besides my immediate family, seemed to have some connection to, but I clearly did not. And this debate has gone on inside me most of my life. What was God? What should I believe? Why should I believe? How would I even know what to believe if I chose to believe? Is there some evidence or proof one way or the other? Or did I just have to possess a deep, deep faith and stop thinking about it so much? Could I believe in something one day and not the next? Did consistency even matter?

With all these questions, someone told me that it sounded like I was becoming Agnostic. Finally an identity! And I liked the way it sounded. “Agnostic”. I liked being Agnostic. I felt like I could go to any church or synagog or religious service and find I it interesting. I could talk to people about what they believed. I could look for answers. It was good.

But at that time I was a Boy Scout. And being Agnostic didn't help when it came time to get my Eagle Badge.. Being Agnostic I wasn't certain if there was a God or any kind of Supreme Being. I was still questioning these things. And unfortunately you had to say you believed if you wanted to get this award. Well a great friend of mine spent weeks, trying to use logic and reasoning to get me to believe, but unfortunately every logical argument had a hole. Every emotional argument fell flat.

And that's kind of how it's been for me over the years. Some days looking for proof. Thinking I've found something solid, only to see the hole in my reasoning the next day. Some days thinking I should just let go and just have faith. Some days just pretending to blend in with what ever group I happened to be with.

I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about my relationship to this thing called God. For a few years I even wanted to become a Catholic. Obviously that didn't work. Then I found out I was a better Pagan than I was a Catholic. At least I didn't have to believe in a supreme being to be a Pagan, and being Pagan brought me closer to my mother's tradition of just believing in nature.

It was about three years ago, I finally said to myself, I cannot prove that God exists any more than I can prove whether or not there teapot hovering in outer space. There's a very small probability indeed. So small as to not matter. Minuscule. So let's just say that God doesn't exist and see how that changes things. And as for multiple lesser gods and spirits, if I cannot even prove that even one God exists, how can I support a whole pantheon of them? No God. No gods. I think I sound like an unbeliever. An Atheist.

The problem then, was what the problem had always been. My real problem, was that at the crux of all of this was this idea of wanting to belong, to be accepted, to have an acceptable religious identity. I didn't want to be an Atheist and to be alone in the world of believers. Everything I had read said that Atheists were lonely and depressed and that they were full of hate and anger and they were not to be trusted.

Well, Here's what changed for me.

A couple years ago, I read Richard Dawkins' book. “The God Delusion” and it clicked. I got it. Everything I had thought about was in that book. It brought me full circle to my current understanding that there is no God, no Gods, and that it was OK. And then he pointed out that those reports about Atheists being mean and evil were all published by religious organizations and that they were simply made up and completely untrue. Atheists are actually pretty much the same as other people. No better. No worse.

And then I read Christopher Hitchens and other authors. And then I started to find a whole body of people who thought the same way I did, and who were vocal about their godlessness. And that's when I realized I'm not alone. Far from it. I had found a spiritual identity and I had found other people like me. Hourray!!!

So that was my spritual journey. But I want to say that that the journey is not over. I'm still growing and learning.

I got involved in a debate just a couple weeks ago. Where do morals come from? How do we decide what is good and what is evil? Are these feelings universal through out human kind? And if so, does this universal sense of right and wrong, could that possibly be endowed in us by God? And my Atheist answer was this, “No, there is no God. So morals cannot come from there. We have to look deeper. ”

And that is the luscious point of all of this. In finally admitting to myself that there is no God, it has allowed me to look deeper. Deeper into my life. Deeper into the meanings of things. Deeper into how things work. And ultimately, this makes me happy.

Being godless helps me understand the world, and how it works and why I'm here, and what I want out of life. It is life affirming. Instead of being good today for some reward I might achieve in the afterlife, I can just choose to be good today. Instead of praying for something to happen, I'm likely to take direct action. Life is even more awe inspiring when you consider that it doesn't have an author, designer, or a profound reason. That it just is.