Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry XMas

I am back to work after a two month lay off. I am in Seattle this time for a few weeks. My hotel is right underneath the Space Needle. I have been in the Seattle area many times in the last few years but this is the first time in ages I have actually spent any time in Seattle so I intend to have fun. It was nice being off over the holidays. My wife was working so I got to take care of all of the family things. Taking the kids to school and their activities. I cooked meals, assisted with homework and helped out with their dance school and at the karate studio. My seven year old son has taken up wrestling and I was able to help coach him and the other younger kids and take him to tournaments. I even baked sweet potato pies for his tap company bake sale. For a man who works on the road most of the year these fatherly times were precious to me. However it had it's downside, even with my wife working our income was very low and we had to scrape to put together a nice Christmas celebration. I wasn't concerned about buying presents, my kids are not materialistic and although they like getting things the "loot" is not what they care about.

We do have our Christmas traditions however and they are not inexpensive and some we had to skip. Usually we go to see the Nutcracker performed by the local ballet company and attend several other holiday events which we were unable to do this year and these things were missed. Some things however had to be kept, it was tempting to just do a turkey or ham instead of paying a fortune for our Christmas goose but I resisted the temptation. My daughter and I have been making a goose since she was four and I couldn't miss out on that. It came out beautifuly, golden brown and crispy with moist, dark meat and a wonderful stuffing, rich with herbs and studded with chestnuts and cranberries. The wine is also traditional but was almost to expensive, Since my wife and I started celebrating Christmas together I have always served Gew├╝rztraminer for Christmas dinner. It is not an inexpensive wine ever but most years I can shop around and fine good bottles for 10-12 dollars but this year it was going for 18-20. Fortunately I am persistent and after searching pretty much everywhere in town I found an excellent one from a vinyard just a few miles from home at a price I could afford. I also had fun looking so that was an added bonus. In the end our celebration was everything I could hope for.

One great moment was when my wife and I opened our gifts to one another. We had not planned to buy each other gifts at all, intending to spend our money on the children and of course the bills but at the end we decided to get each other a little something. Actually my wife had already bought my presents but I didn't know that yet. Anyway I suggested to her that I needed new pajamas and a new set of stereo headphones. She didn't give me any hints so I just bought what I thought she would like. The night before Christmas my wife said "I should have got us new pillows for Chrismas mine are all worn out, I really need to get something I can sleep on." When I opened my gifts I found new pajamas and headphones that she bought a month before I told her I needed them and she opened the expensive memory foam pillow I had picked out for her. That brought home to me how close we really are, that we just know each others wants and needs without being told. We did well with our children as well, they both asked Santa for new bikes, which is fortunate because we already had them stored in my moms garage.

The best part is the family time, getting together with parents and siblings and nieces and nephews, Sharing joy and love with each other as we sometimes forget to do during more mundane times of the year. Christmas really is as the song says the most wonderful time of the year. Even though as an atheist I am not celebrating the birth of Christ, as someone raised in America the traditions and pagentry of the holiday are an essential part of my life and family. I know there are some atheists who choose not to celebrate Christmas and some Christians who say we shouldn't but the holiday to me transcends its Christian signifigance. Just as Christians have appropriated it from its pagan origins and turned it to their needs I celebrate it in honor of what it means to me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving traditions

Thanksgiving is a huge event at my home, as I am sure it is at many peoples. It is rich in tradition and signifigance for us and holds many of my fondest memories. This is not unusual in America. Thanksgiving holds that place for many of us, the reason I think it is noteworthy to blog about is because of my Atheism. I have seen on many forums that atheists shouldn't celebrate thanksgiving because it is all about thanking god. One Christian even calls atheism the "sin of ingratitude." I have heard others make similar claims regarding atheists. I think it is useful to explain why a nominally religious holiday is important to a secular person such as I.

The concept of Thanksgiving is not uniquely American or uniquely Christian. The harvest festival in all of its forms transcends culture and time. It is ancient and appears all around the world. It is however clearly religious. It is always about thanking God, the Gods, or the Goddess for the bounty of the harvest. In the American version it is also about thanking the Christian god for all manner of things not related to agriculture. In theory it shouldn't be relevant to an atheist.

Thankfulness and gratitude are important to atheists, at least those I know. Very much so. I am thankful to my employer for giving me useful work and a livelihood. I am thankfull to my friends and family for their love and support. I am thankful to my wife for many, many, things. I am thankful to my government, corrupt and broken though it is, for providing an economy that allows me, even in times of struggle and worry, to provide a table groaning with good food for the people I love. I am a man bursting with gratitude. I simply feel gratitude to real people for real things, rather than crediting an imaginary being with anything.

The thing I enjoy most about the holiday is preparing the feast. I come from a family where love is shown by cooking. It is a matter of fact that if you love someone you fix them food, it goes back to my childhood. At our home it has always been my daughter and I that make the holiday meals, this year my son joined us as well. My wife bakes the breads and pies but the bird belongs to me. My girl and I have been doing it together since she was four and it is a pivotal part of our relationship. Starting in October we begin planning the menue and buying this that and the other that we will need. We spend days before making stock and prepping herbs, and shopping for produce. This year times are a bit lean and we planned a simple dressing without some of the more expensive additions that we sometimes include. We had a bit of a windfall however. we had purchased some Crimini mushrooms to use and were going to leave it at that. Oregon is a mushroom pickers state and at the last minute we recieved a gift of Chantrells, Morells and Shitake which we gleefully added to the mix. We also recieved a basket of bright bell peppers and a beautiful fennel bulb complete with stalks and fronds. It is great to be surrounded by organic gardens and farms.

The meal turned out to be extrordinary. We have turkey cooking down to a science and always have a juicy bird but this one I think was better than most. It was tender and flavorful and just perfect. Everything seemed just a cut above. I think the hardships and worry we have had this year have made us more appreciative of the bounty that we still possess.

Yesterday was a local event which is called the Festival of Trees. It is where local merchants and philanthropists provide extravegantly decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and gift baskets which are auctioned off for charity. This year it is to support a hospice for end of life care. This is a favorite holiday event of my wifes, and this year my sons dance company was performing on one of the entertainment stages. Everything is beautiful and there is great food and the event smells and looks purely of Christmas. My son was extrordinary, this is his first year in the tap company and also the first year dancing on stage without his friend and usual dance partner who did not join. It is funny because she is the reason he tap dances in the first place. He took his first class at four and at the end of the year he said he didn't want to tap anymore. I said fine but when enrollement came up this little girl said "Mic, pleae take tap with me please" being his fathers son and a sucker for the ladies he agreed and he has every year since, just for her. Finally he has come to enjoy it for its own sake and is very good. When the performing company asked him to join he said yes even though his friend wasn't going to. He did say that he doesn't like dancing without her as much though.

I fell in love with one of the trees there and was tempted to bid on it. This is normally the time of year when I can afford that sort of thing. It was luxurious with gold balls, red velvet ribbons, holly and little toy cardinals all over it. I was sold on it before I saw that it also came with presents beneath, includin a video camera and a seven day vacation to mauii with airfare, hotel, spending money, and resteraunt vouchers. Qhen I looked at the bids it was already over a thousand which would have put me out of the running even on a good year. Still it was a very pretty tree.

I hope everyone reading this had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you have a Merry Christmas as well.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Liars for Jesus

Bodie Hodge one of the creotard superstars at Answers in Genesis posted this self righteous screed about lying. Essentially he is saying that the people who lied to protect the Jews in Nazi Germany were sinning against God and it would have been better to tell the truth and let the Jews be murdered than sin by lying.

Apparently he forgot to check with the actual Bible.

In Joshua we see that this sort of lie is perfectly fine with the dictates of the Christian deity.

Joshua 2:4-6
And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax.

James supports this by saying
James 2:25
Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?.

Seems pretty clear right? Of course in another article the creotard addresses this. Claiming that

"The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that nowhere in this verse is any inclination of Rahab being praised for lying about the spies. Also in Hebrews 11:31, Rahab’s faith was praised for receiving the spies in peace. But again, there was no praise for lying. Rahab was not righteous for lying but for her other deeds:"

This of course ignores the fact that (A)Rahab did lie and lying was implicitly part of the action for which she was praised, and (B) If Rahab had not lied the spie would have been killed and she could not have helped them or done anything praiseworthy, and (C) Why would James have used the word Justified in his statement or even mentioned it at all if he was not condoning her actions.

This Bodie character is one of the many Christians who don't care what the Bible actually says only how they can twist and mangle it to support whatever premise they wants it to support. Having studied the Bible in great detail I can say it is not subtle or mysterious requiring great interpretation as the founders of Catholocism would have you believe. As the early protestants noticed it is a very straightforward document. While I see it as a collection of myths and legends, I also see that it says exactly what it means. Interpretation is a device used to manipulate the text into a tool for controlling the followers of the religion, not to enlighten or educate. People like Bodie don't care about their god, they regard themselves as god and want everyone to follow their own version of divine command.

Bodie continues by trotting out the ninth commandment:
"Lying is a breach of the Ninth Commandment and is never condoned by God, regardless of who does the lying or what the circumstances might be. There is no such thing as a “righteous lie.”"

This is another dishonest mangling of the Bible. The ninth commandment states:
"Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor" this is from the first ten commandments written by God which Moses broke.
Or
You shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor in the second set written by Moses.

Who did Rahab bear false witness against? No one. She lied in order to save lives but she didn't lie against anyone. She lied about the direction two men traveled. This is surely a lie but by what mangling of language is it a false witness against someone. She is not bearing false witness against the people she lies about she is lying for their benefit, and the people she is against are not the ones she is bearing false witness about.

Other scriptures such as Exodus 23:1,Leviticus 6:2-4,Proverbs 24:28, and Luke 3:14 all address deception but all in the context of bearing false witness or making false oaths. None adequately address the actions of Rahab or the actions of those who helped the Jews avoid Nazi death camps.

There are some verses such as Revelation 21:8 and Revelation 21:27 which broadly condemn lying yet considering the words of James does it follow that Christians should abet every murderer and sadist simply to avoid deceiving them. I am sure there are many Christians who like Bodie are so self centered that they would place their personal purity above the lives of even millions. I am glad I am not one of them.

Here is morality according to me an atheist. If it were true that lying would net me eternal damnation in some magical bad place and if a group of people were fleeing murderers and I needed to lie to save them I would do so without hesitation. How could it be moral for me to put my own self interest in avoiding damnation above my duty to protect my fellow man from harm. If a man were robbing a bank I was in and was going to execute some hostages should I stay hidden behind a desk where I am safe? or should I rush out and try to stop him even at the cost of my own life? I say the second. According to Bodie a good Christian should pick the first. If a madman tells me I can pick someone to be tortured but if I refuse he will torture me, do I condemn my neighbor to death by torture? or do I man up and say take me? I choose the second, however according to Bodie Christian doctrine says take the first.

So in summary there is no good case that lying to protect the Jews from the Nazis was a sin according to his mythology, and further even if it were, only a vile and disgusting creature would condemn others out of his selfish need to protect his own purity.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My son and his music.

My seven year old son was singing the other day in the car, I thought he was singing this.



Now I never really cared for this sort of music in high school but I thought it was cool that he knew it and started singing along. After a few minutes I realized he was actually singing the Chorus to this.



Now this is an excellent rap I enjoy it and as my son dances hip hop it makes sense that he would have heard it. However it is not particularly appropriate for a first grader to be singing. Even worse I don't even really care to explain to him why it is a problem. Admittedly it isn't as bad as you would get from the chorus, but it is a song about spending money on strippers. So I used a ploy that worked when he was a baby. If he was playing with something that for whatever reason I didn't want him to have, like my keys, I would give him a toy he would like better. Now my boy likes hip hop but he loves punk and metal so I found him a copy of this.



Problem solved. If the song had actually been about oral sex which is what I thought after I heard him singing the chorus I would have probably taken a little stronger stance to discourage him but as it is this has worked out perfectly. I also discovered an awesome new band. I listened to the rest of their catalogue on YouTube and they are incredible. I am going to have to download some from ITunes for my collection.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Heresy of Ray Comfort

Having taken an extended break from arguing with creationists, Ray comfort in particular, I have recently been drawn back in to such discussion. Refuting Comforts unsubstantiated and ridiculous assertions about science and atheists is childishly easy. I would however expect that on his turf, the Christian religion, he would be more competent. Sadly this is not the case. His most recent blog post about the book of Luke so badly represents what is indicated by the Christian myths that it is almost painful to read. He goes about constantly talking about the need to repent and obey, yet the Christ figure claims that salvation is a free gift and only belief in Christ is required for eternal salvation.

Here is that most recent post and my response to it which has also been posted at The SMRT forum


61 But they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name." 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, "His name is John." So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea.

If you remember, Zacharius refused to believe what God said to him through His angel. He therefore deemed God to be a liar. That is the insult of unbelief, and he was punished by God for his sin by being struck dumb. However, the moment he became obedient to God by naming his son John, God did a personal miracle for him. His mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed.

Disobedience comes naturally to all human beings--anyone who has kids can tell you that. We don’t have to teach our children to be selfish, to lie, to be greedy, or to be rebellious. We are born rebels. Yet, despite the multitude of sins that we each have, God will do a miracle for us the moment we obey Him. Speaking of Jesus, the Bible says "though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him..." (Hebrews 5:8-9).

Jesus is the "author" of eternal salvation. That means He grants everlasting life to anyone who obeys Him. Why should you obey Him? What has He done for you? He gave you eyes to see His incredible creation, ears to enjoy music and the sounds of the birds He created. He gave you the ability to love, to laugh, to sing, to think. He lavished His kindness upon you by giving you the gift of live itself. Have you thanked God for your life, and asked what He would have you do? The moment you obey the gospel you will no longer be dumb. God will open your mouth and you will speak of His kindness and praise Him for His goodness, much to the distain of a proud and rebellious world:

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad" (Psalm 34:1-2).


Ray

Since the scripture claims that one must simply believe in Jesus in order to receive eternal life where is this talk about obeying him coming from. That sounds like a works based doctrine which is contrary to the words of your savior.

While it would be reasonable to suggest that those who believe would obey, it does not follow that one must obey or repent in order to believe. It seems you are reading things in to the book of Luke which run contrary to the words of Jesus Christ himself.

Even if the book of Luke does mean what you are claiming, that only means that Dr. Luke was teaching a doctrine contrary to the words of Christ who I would imagine is the actual authority according to your faith. Wasn't there a name given for those who claim things in the name of Jesus that he never said? I believe it was false prophet.

Now since I see the whole Gospel as just a silly collection of stories it doesn't affect me if you wish to distort it. However since you purport to believe in these stories one would think you would wish to be honest about what they actually say.


Another interesting flaw in the reasoning of Ray Comfort is (along with many other fundamentalists) is his interpretation of Romans one, which is believed to indicate that all atheists Do in fact believe in the Christian deity but choose to reject it. However according to Christ all that is required for salvation is belief. This indicates that either (a)Atheists who according to Paul really do believe are every bit as much saved as "True Christians" and it is only those who believe in other "false" deities who are in danger of hell. (This would explain why Idolatry was seen as worth mentioning in the decalogue but atheism was not considered important enough to worry about. It would also absolve some of the evil attributed to the Christian deity for burning those who have never heard of the Christian myths) OR (b) That interpretation of Romans is incorrect.

However if (b) is true it refutes the common apologetic that atheists do believe and have no excuse. However this interpretation of Romans is frequently used to counter the claims by atheists that it is an evil doctrine that the Christian myth figure punishes those who do not believe when it could have provided them with belief. This either means that atheists are saved by virtue of their presupposed belief or the Christian deity is an evil one.

In any case the obvious conclusion is that all of the doctrines of Christianity are simply a flawed and contradictory collection of old myths.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Proud Daddy

My seven year old son had his first ever wrestling tournament tonight. He has been on the team for a bit over a month and tonight was the opening tournament of the season. He did very well taking second in his weight class. It was a nail biter. He won his first match on a pin, his second match went to points and he came out behind. He actually beat himself, he had his opponent in pin position and instead of waiting for the ref to call the fall he just let go. His opponent got points for the escape and a reversal putting him ahead. In the end it came down to the results of a match he wasn't even in. The way the scoring worked out if one guy in the match won then my son would have gotten first but the other boy won so my son took second.

At any rate all of the kids were just amazing, both our guys and the other teams. I have been helping coach and I was so proud of all the kids on our team. After my sons second match I had all of the coaches from the other schools coming up and telling me how impressed they were with my son, and congratulating him. One coach told me the match that my son lost was the best match of the whole night.

The proudest moment for both of us was when our head coach congratulated Mic and told him how he helped the team(which consists of grades k-8) You could see the pride in my sons eyes and the way he stood a little straighter and poked his chest out a little farther. Being part of the team is something very special to him. Afterwords the coach told me that he was expecting that the way my son wrestles he will be going to nationals this year. Coach is confident he will be taking the team and he says that Mic will definitely be part of that.

It was a great experience for him. He is so focused and invested in this thing it amazes me. I don't push things on my kids. I expect them to have activities and participate in different things. I also count on them to do their best at whatever they are involved in, but I don't pick which activities they are going to do, they pick them(I make suggestions of course and this was one of them but honestly I was kind of hoping for football). This is what he chose and all of the hard work and dedication he has shown is also his choice, that is what truly makes me proud.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shout out to da Witches

My favorite columnist Vin Suprynowicz has an excellent column about the history of persecution against witches. It is pretty educational and fun.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hay Ride

Today we went to the orchard for our pre Halloween outing. There is a local orchard near our home that has hay rides, pumpkins, apple cobbler and ice cream, cider all at no charge just for coming out. My wife and I have been going with our children since my oldest was just a baby. Usually we visit several times just to buy vegetables and fruit but this year with my traveling so much this was our first time out.

It has become so much a part of our family traditions that the farm seems almost like our own. The kids know that every year there will be puppies to hold and play with, yummy food, a hay maze to play in with lots of other kids. My wife and I shop for vegetables and enjoy the excellent cider. We carefully select the perfect pumpkins for our Jack-O-Lanterns and our pies. The hay ride is always the same driver, she has been doing it for a dozen years since before my daughter was born. She travels a long way just to do the hay rides each year. She has two big beautiful draft horses, who are real working animals. When they are not delighting children she has them plowing, hauling and pulling stumps on an organic farm of her own.

This year the farmer and his grandson joined us on the hay ride and we chatted and talked about the orchard and farm. One woman who had brought her grandchildren had been coming to the farm for forty years, before moving away. She had come back from the other side of the state just for a visit. Many like us had been coming our childrens whole lives and there were some who were coming for their first year and loving it. This one little family farm and orchard has touched the lives of so many people. It is this place and other family owned businesses that show me what community is all about.

Yes I will go to Wal-Mart or some other chain store to save money when I need to, but I always remember that there is more to consider than price. Service, quality, integrity, and community are all also considerations. I make a point of patronizing local businesses that have served me well whenever possible. I get my vegetables from my favorite farm. I buy my computers from the same shop I have been using for fifteen years. When I can afford it I buy my wines from a local vineyard, my seafood from the neighborhood fishmonger and meat from a local butcher. I can't always afford to do this and when I must I shop for the lowest price, however I know that if I do not support these local businesses when I can they will cease to exist and that would be a loss I would hate to suffer.

I would encourage everyone to explore your community owned farms and shops and see if there are some worthy of your business. If your community is anything like mine you may find that for a few extra dollars you can enrich rich your life many times over.

Political Schmoozery

I went to a local political event this evening. It is one of those dress up and spend money to help the cause sort of things. This one was a liberal themed one and was benefitting mostly liberal causes and drawing a mostly liberal crowd. There was Entertainment, speakers, a silent auction and all of the usual trappings of this sort of thing.

Although I am active in local politics it is not the sort of thing I would normally attend. As a Libertarian I find that there are few causes that I wish to support. There are a few such as PFLAG and the food bank that are worth contributing to but that is about it. There are others who's goals I support but who's methods I disagree with. Some wish oppressive regulation to achieve a goal that could be accomplished through boycotts and education. Most want or are already receiving tax dollars when they should be privately funded. Anyway I prefer to contribute quietly to those causes I support and stay away from the public fund raisers.

I attended this one not for political reasons but because my daughter was performing. She was dancing and Taiko drumming with a group from her school and My wife and I went to watch her. That part was fun, and I did enjoy the social event as well, largely because of my seven year old son. We walked the silent auction tables and talked about what he would like to bid on. He has a little money and I told him he could make bids, but he wisely decided to hold on to his savings. We ate snacks and free ice cream provided by some local shops. We greeted our mayor and a state senator. My son was far more enthusiastic about the whole thing than I was and that made it fun. My wife was mostly concerned with my daughters performance, although she spent some time socializing with friends from the community and checking out the auction. After her performance my daughter joined us and we spent some time looking at all of the tables and exhibits.

It was a nice family night and hopefully educational for the kids. It did however remind me how out of the mainstream I am politically. I can't connect with either liberals or conservatives. The former are too in favor of oppressive government control and regulation of our lives and the latter are too in favor of oppressive laws and government control of our lives. It seems that there are few people in this "Land of the free" that actually want freedom.

I can understand that, freedom is hard. To be free you have to be strong and willing to care for yourself. You have to have ethics and responsibility. Also freedom requires that you respect the freedom of others. You have to accept that other people will do things you don't like or live in ways you find immoral. Some people can't handle that and I understand. However just because I understand it doesn't mean I respect it. I will always support freedom even to my detriment. As Benjamin Franklin said "He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security." That is what keeps me voting Libertarian despite having my candidates lose. That is what keeps me opposing both the social oppression of the liberals and the moral oppression of the conservatives. The fact that Liberty is far more important and worthy of support than material security or moral bigotry.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

WooooHooo!!!!!!!

I just finished off my work season and am going to be on vacation for a couple months until I get started again. Honestly this is just a temporary job until my regular work as an AC tech gets busy again, but it has been a blast. I have travelled all over the Northwest and Hawaii. I missed Alaska but if I am still working here after the new year I will get that trip as well.

Tonight is our big wrap up and we are staying in this excellent resort called Great Wolf Lodge in Washington. It is this huge luxury hotel filled with restaraunts, arcades, bars, a spa the works. My roommate and I have a huge suite with all the perks. Best of all the place has a massive water park.

I just spent two hours riding water slides with my crew. We are a young crew mostly. There are a few of us old guys and ladies but for the most part they are all early twenties, and I tend to run around with the younger crowd. There are several slides the two best are one called the funnel. It has a very steep drop leading into a huge tube that you go up and down the sides like a half pipe and then shoot out the other end, The other is longer and has more turns but isn't as steep. However we took five people in a raft to get the weight up and just flew through it. The water park just closed and I am going to go meet up with some people to hang out and eexplore the place. I am responsible for getting about twelve people home so I get to pick the leave time and we are going to spend the day here tommorow.

This job has been about the most fun I have had working. It has it's headaches as well but it is great. If it paid what I am used to I would probably make a career out of it but I can't afford it. It would take years to get up to the wage I really need to support my family. I wish I had discovered it years ago when I could have devoted the time to work up. I am going to be off work for a while and hopefully will find another construction job, but building is way down in my area and I am unwilling to relocate so I may get another season of this.

Anyway I have some work to take care of and people to talk to but I haven't posted anything in a while and I thought this was something fun to write about.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

War on Christmas

Finally the AFA is starting to make it's yearly rumblings about "the war on Christmas". Usually it starts around August and I was beginning to get worried. I suppose that was silly of me, but it was a matter of some concern. Fundies whining about being "persecuted" has become as much a part of Christmas as presents and snowmen. I don't think I can get in the holiday spirit anymore unless I hear some wingnuts crying because they can't put their nativity idols in the courthouse or sing songs advocating their superstition in public school classrooms.

I feel much better now that some Christmas traditions don't die out.

I really do wonder where this war on Christmas thing comes from. I have never seen it. Yes public buildings don't display religious icons and idols. That is a first ammendment issue the same is true for hymns and incantations. I am not sure why that is a problem. The people who want to sing Christmas hymns in school probably wouldn't want their children chanting incantations to please the spirits at solstice time, or fasting for Ramadan. You would think they would be pleased at the government for not putting religion in schools. Likewise they would probably not wish an altar with solstice candles and grain offerings on display in the courthouse.

As for private business the big concern seems to be people saying "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas." Again I fail to see the problem. Christians are supposed to reject idolatry, and putting so much reverence on a ritual greeting seems very idolatrous to me. It is actually amusing that the idol worshipers I know who do place reverence on ritual phrases do not get upset when store clerks fail to offer them a "blessed be".

Anyway when I was growing up "happy holidays" was always a traditional Christmas greeting. It meant merry Christmas and happy new year together. No Christians objected. Now however people also use the phrase to extend these good wishes for Hanukkah, Ramadan and Solstice as well it is suddenly a problem. Myself I don't care if Christians want to whine and bitch and boycott. It doesn't harm me and like I said it has become so common that it just wouldn't seem like Christmas without it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Is Ono Bruddah.

Try this for breakfast.

Syrup:
Make a simple syrup with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar cook on medium till it reduces by half.

Add a can of coconut milk, whisk smooth and reduce to the texture of pancake syrup.

Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla.


Hotcakes:
sift 1/2 cup flour, 3 1/2 tsp baking soda,1 tsp salt, 2tsp brown sugar.

Make a well and add an egg, 3tbsp melted butter and about a cup of light coconut milk. Whisk until smooth adding seltzer water as needed.

Cook cakes on medium high griddle, top with macadamia nuts before flipping.


Bananas:
Saute some sliced bananas in butter until soft sweet and a lilobit carmelized

Top a stack of cakes with bananas and syrup, maybe put some bacon and egg on the side. Serves four or five people.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Must be in the genes.

Here is an excerpt from the last will and testament of my ancestor John McTurk Gibson dated the 30th of April 1891. It seems atheism is not new to that branch of the family.



Last Will and Testament of John McT. Gibson

Realizing that "Life's fleeting dreams," will soon be over, and that my probation here is fast drawing to a close, and being as yet of sound mind, and capable of attending to my own business, I hereby declare this to be my last will and testament.

When dead I want no ostentatious, display of unnecessary, costly funeral extravagance, but everything conducted in as plain a manner, as is consistent with decency and decorum, and above all, I want no Preachers Pow Wowing round me dead or alive. I have always regarded this whole "Tribe of Levi" with loathing and disgust, fanned and intensified with their fanaticism, ignorance, intolerance and hypocrisy, and when the end comes, I want them to take a backseat while I take my departure in peace.


In fairness this could just be a rejection of religion instead of a statement of atheism however philosophically it is a view I respect either way. I know my grandfather, Johns grandson had no use for religion either, I recall him referring to it as foolishness. My great aunt, his sister also shows no particular religious devotion. Sadly I had no opportunity to know my great grandfather, from what I have heard he was an extraordinary man.

John McTurk Gibson, I have found, was in addition to being an explorer something of an accomplished poet. Writing, at times, under the pen name John Blunt.

Here is one of his poems regarding a young lady who's name was redacted. It reminds me of some of my writing, pretentious and overworded but still nicely put together and captivating. I find myself liking my grandfathers,grandfather more and more as I learn about him.

Lines

(Addressed To Miss C______ O______)

See, yonder sits enthroned on high,
The waning moon in the cloudless sky,
Clad in robes of the purest white,
Ruling supreme, o'er the silent night.

On wings of hyht, she skims along
Attended by a countless throng
As lesser orbs, that sparkling shine,
Mov'd by Creation, springs divine.

The limpid waves refract their beams
Wanton winds play o'er the streams;
Silence deep, in the village reigns;
Moonlight sleeps on the verdant plains.

Fragrance breathes in the passing gale,
Echo waits for the joyful tale,
Of heart-knit lovers 'mong the trees,
To tell it in the circling breeze.

Then let us down by Lugar stray
Through meads among the tedded hay,
Then nature's blessings round are spread,
And drooping flowers their fragrance shed.

We there, shall hear the cooing dove,
And raise our thoughts to things above
The sordid views of worldly men,
And breathe our love in every glen.



Here is a poem I once wrote regarding a young lady.

MIDNIGHT
I once knew a girl of midnight eyes
A myriad twinkling stars
Darkened lake reflecting moonlight
A wildfire wreathed in smoke
She was a lightning summer nighttime
Trapped in human form

Once I loved this child of midnight
And such fierce joy I've known
But as all who love the nighttime
I woke and was alone

Now I must find a new love
With eyes cut from morning sky
With cool and dawning brilliance
And gentle healing light
Who will warm away my memories
Of lovely lost midnight.


Admittedly they are very distinct and I am sure that in part I am projecting when I see similarities between my poetry and my ancestors,but in reading his body of work I do feel it is familiar, having a certain boldness and drama that I also try to achieve.

I am having a great deal of fun with this discovery, my mother as well she is actually trying to go farther back and find information on his parents in Scotland, I am however perfectly content to spend my time getting to know this interesting and entertaining man.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ancestry

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This picture is of an ancestor of mine, John McTurk Gibson. He is a moderately well known pioneer who traveled to California from Iowa during the gold rush in the 1850's on both the California and Oregon trails. His Journal of Western Travel is a frequently cited reference on the conditions of that journey.

I just learned about John a few days ago. My mother, while looking up some information on our family came upon the name and thought that since there aren't an abundance of McTurk Gibsons he may well be a relative. She asked her Aunt about it and sure enough he is a great-great-great something grandfather. He is also considered, at least according to my great aunt to be something of a rascal and ne'er do well in family lore. This of course attracted me instantly and I began researching him. I found his Journal on line and have put the link above. He is a clever and interesting writer and I think I would have liked him. I also found his portrait and it is just eerie. Although I lack the monstrous white beard I otherwise resemble him very much. My wife and mother noted it before I did, but after they pointed it out it was almost as if it were a charcoal drawing of me.

I am going to continue reading his journals and attempt to find and collect other mentions and references to this ancestor of mine. For now though I just had to post a little bit about it on this blog, I will probably revisit this topic in time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Best Video Game Evah

A new Dark Matter Vid that I just had to put up.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Poor silly little Republican girl.

I just got a call that said "Political Call" on my caller ID. I gleefully answered the phone expecting the pleasure of bursting some staffers bubble. The nice thing about being a Libertarian is that both parties offer me things to argue against. On the other end of the phone was a girl sounding about fourteen but probably a year or two older. "Hi I am so an so from the Republican something something committee" (I am not redacting she just wasn't a very clear speaker) I said "HI, what can I do for you today?" She started with "Do you consider yourself Republican, Democrat or Independent" I said "Libertarian" She said "Wow like Libertarian uhhm ok" "Well" she said "We are looking for support in opposing the liberal agenda" "Sounds like my cup of tea" I said (yes I do talk like that sometimes) "Which portions of the liberal agenda are we opposing?"

Her: Well uhhm like higher taxes and taking control of our money

Me: Yes I certainly oppose that, of course both parties are into doing that, your party likes to hide it in deficit spending instead of direct extortion but we get screwed the same in the end."

Her: Uhhhm ok well we want to stop that and have less government control

Me: Excellent what intrusive laws will we be repealing?

Her: Excuse me

Me What particular things are we going to be working on removing government control over.

Her uhhm we do the pro life.

Me: Oh no I am very pro choice, I want less government control not more.

Her: (To her credit she dropped the pro life thing instead of trying to argue. Killed my fun but pretty smart) We are like pro military.

Me: Oh yes me too, we need to get them home and stop fighting foreign wars. We need to fix the focus of our military away from ever doing anything outside of our borders.

Her: UH yeah well uhmm we oppose the socialized health care.

Me: Really, I hadn't heard. (a little over the top on the sarcasm I admit) Well I can agree there, we definitely need a better solution than anything the government is offering, something market driven. I can back you up on this issue, are you looking for someone to write letters to congressmen or newspapers?

Her: Uhh no we are looking for donations to fund our work.

Me:...........Ha Ha Oh sorry I didn't know this was a money call, I give to Libertarian causes.

Her. OH ok G'nite.


She was far from the worst political caller I have ever had, but it was obvious she had zero knowledge of the issues she was trying to oppose. None. Even if I were into furthering the Repugnican agenda I wouldn't have given any money to someone who couldn't even detail what they were trying to accomplish. I have to give the Dems credit for at least one thing, they get the smarter fangirls.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Almost back to the real world.

I am having a lovely time right now. I am at a resort in Kaapaa Kuai. It is gorgeous, the company has pulled out all of the stops for our last two nights on the islands. Until now the accomodations have been budget. Not bad or anything but not luxurious. This however is off the hook. Spacious rooms, pools with pool bars, saunas, amazing gardens and a private beach. I spent today just swimming in the surf and lounging by the pool. I really want to stay forever. OK not really I am glad to be going home to the wife and kids but I am going to miss Hawaii.

I am already plotting how I am going to bring them here for vacation. Maybe next April when the humpbacks are here, bring my little girl to swim with me in the sea, my son to explore the volcanoes and lava caves, and my wife to romance in the warm tropical nights. I so badly want to share all of the adventures and experiences I have had here with them.

I am going to miss so many of the things that have become staples of my life while I have been here. Lions blend coffee, Rice with every breakfast (although that is something I will start doing at home.) Plate lunches, the fresh fruit, being able to buy liquor at Seven Eleven which is like a dream of my youth come true, it is so satisfying to be able to buy a Slurpee and a little bottle of rum to put in it. Swimming in the ocean before breakfast, convenience store musubu, (musubu is a dish something like sushi, rice rolled in nori but without the vinegar and spam or teriaki chicken instead of fish, it is so good and is in every convenience store like breakfast burritos are around my home.) I am going to miss poke, I had never had poke before and am now an adict. I am a big raw fish eater anyway sushi, sashimi and carpachio, but they pale before poke. It is the king of fish dishes. Tonight I had Ahi/Wasabi poke and fresh papaya for dinner, with lemon squeezed over both and a little ice cold white wine. Absolutely nuts and under ten bucks

I am going to miss the birds flying in every building because nowhere bothers with doors, I am going to miss the peacefull tranquility of the nights which exists even in the middle of crowded Waikiki.

I have one more day of work tomorrow and one more night here then I fly home. I will be glad to see the family and share my pictures and stories, and remind my wife how much I love her, sadly I only have two days to catch up before I am off again for a week in eastern Washington. After that however I have a week off, I will be home in time for my sons birthday and then have ten days before I travel again. To Idaho this time I think.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

City Mouse/Country Mouse

I have always thought of Hawaii as being a single place. Intellectually I knew that it had regions and variations just like everywhere else, but emotionally I thought it was just one homogenous paradise. I have learned otherwise, each island and even diffferent parts of each island has its own character, also it is a personal distinction as well because the things I experienced on those islands has influenced my opinion.

The Big Island is very much a paradise, it is guiet and relaxing especially the Hilo side. Even the tourist areas on the Kona side seemed laid back and mellow. It is the kind of place where you want to sip Mai Tais and listen to Reggae. Mauii is also pastoral but higher energy. It is such a beautiful place, the prettiest island I have seen so far and it seems to call out to me to surf and hike and swim and experience. Now I am in Oahu and it is very urban. City with the capital C. Here in Honolulu it is a tourist city like Vegas and it is full of energy, bars, shops, dance clubs,resteraunts, theme parks, museums, malls, strippers, hookers, drug dealers and all of the other trappings of a tourist economy. By day the beaches are crowded but fun, by night it is an open party.

It is also expensive. My first week here I was wondering why people said Hawaii was expensive. I was eating great food and doing as I pleased for next to nothing, easily staying under my per diem. Now I know what they are talking about Waikiki beach is one pricey outing after another. There are good deals if you look and placs where you can haggle, but still not affordable overall, at least if you are looking for adventure.

To show you what I mean about the difference between city and country Hawaii here are two pictures the first is a beach in Mauii the second is Waikiki beach in Honolulu.

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These two pictures sum how I feel about the two different experiences. Of course other people may have entirely different observations.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Aloha!

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I am sorry for not having posted lately. I have been both busy and without internet access. The hotels my company has set me up in while nice enough do not have free Wi-Fi and access is on the order of twelve bucks a day. I am finally in Honolulu and in a hotel with free internet so I will be posting when I can.

The picture above is of a place called Huggos on the Rocks. My co workers and I went on a bit of a pub crawl in Kona and this was one of the places we ended up in. I watched a Luau at the King Kamehameha hotel and swam in the Hawaiian end of the Pacific for the first time. I also found some excellent live blues.

This trip was my first time flying over the ocean and it was also the largest jet I have ever been on. I love to fly and every time I do I am impressed with the ability of this little tube with wings to hold itself aloft. Intellectually I understand it very well but I am still awestruck. I find that I do have the capacity for faith. When I fly I never worry that the plane will crash or that something will not work. I have complete faith in the technology and its implementation. Not that I think it can not fail, just that knowing how it works and seeing it work fills me with confidence. Were I ignorant of physics or engineering I could see myself being afraid of flying. Were I from a primitive culture that had never seen such things I could see myself cowering in fear of this terrible thing and the mysterious magic that made it fly. It seems that I can easily put faith in something I can see and describe. It is only those things that can not be seen or described that defy my ability to have faith.

After leaving the big island we travelled to Mauii. We did a few days work and then had a few days off. Yesterday a group of co-workers and I went out seeking adventure and adventure is what we found. First we took a snorkeling cruise to the Molokini crater. It was insanely fun. The seas were calm and the weather amazing. The crew provided us with an excellent lunch and an open bar making it a happy sail in and of itself, but the best part was the snorkeling. The reef was full of brightly colored fish yellow tang, parrot fish and many others. I was chasing a parrot fish about when a large shape caught my eye. I turned and saw a large knifelike fish swimming back and forth about ten feet down. I looked closer and realized I was swimming with a shark. A whitetip, they are not known to be aggressive towards humans but I was still impressed with its appearence of grace and power. After snorkeling we returned to Mauii and on the way we saw a gian sea turtle off the bow of the ship. I was too slow to get a picture, sadly.

Then we went to big beach right at high tide. At first we just played in the surf getting tossed around but after a time we got more seriouse. One of my team has done some surfing and she taught us how to paddle in to the crest of the wave and body surf in. THAT WAS AMAZING. Sooon we were perfecting our skills and riding high. One wave a very big one caught me up and I was right on the crest. Having taken a beating on a few other big waves I thought I would protect my limbs and tuck into a ball. DON"T EVER DO THIS! The wave sent me spinning exactly as if I were a beach ball and tossed me shoulder first into the beach very hard. I got up holding my bruised ribs and saw some perfectly stereotypical Japanese tourists pointing at me and taking pictures.

We decided that now we wanted some nightlife. After returning to the hotel for changes and showers the ladies decided they wanted to Kareoke. We asked the lady at the hotel and got directions to what was supposed to be a good place but when we arrived they had a band that evening. We set out exploring to find another. Shortly after we saw a little bar in an overpark with a big sign advertising Kareoke night. "Yeah!" we thought and went in. It took me all of two seconds to realize we had found ourselves in a hostess bar, and not a discrete gentelmans club either but basically a house of prostitution. My co workers being all in their early twenties were not so astute. The girls figured it out first after noticing all of the unattached women who were not pleased to see them. The guys were obliviouse until the girls explained it to them. I bought our girls some drinks because they weren't allowed to stay if they weren't drinking and then put my very limited Japanese language skills to work explaining that we really just wanted to sing. This was not very welcome news to the hostesses and one made it very clear that for twenty dollars I could have oral sex in the back room. I politely declined but that made us even less welcome and we were starting to think we should leave. Fortunately our songs cued up. I won us some goodwill and applause with a pretty decent and over the top rendition of heartbreak hotel. When I was finished we had gone from unwelcome to tolerated. The rest of the team took their turns and we were having a good time but the clincher, that made friends of our hostesses was when one of the women on my team took the mike. She had the voice of a goddesss. It was as if the simple little kareoke tune sprang to life and grew wings. The whole club including the other patrons were struck dumb and enraptured. When the song ended the applause was overwhelming and we were no longer ignorant gaijin intruders but welcome guests.

Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. adventure, friendship, beauty and comedy all in one wonderful day. Each island has brought new sorts of experiences and I still have two weeks and two islands to go. I can't wait to see what else awaits me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Justice?

Lately I have been engaging in several discussions about why the Christian god is evil and offends my sense of morality. The Yahwheh of the old testament is an easy mark, clearly a wicked, petty, tantrum throwing, weasel. However it is harder to explain what is wrong with the new testament with its message of forgiveness and salvation. On the surface it seems nice enough. I have talked about it before many times but few Christians seem to get the point I am trying to make about why salvation through grace is an evil doctrine.

Dark Matter has a new video which may explain it better than words can. This is how Christian justice appears to many of us who do not practice the religion. Despite all of the apologetics and scripture quoting I have been subjected to I have yet to hear anything that contradicts this portrayal.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Calling all Pagans, Wiccans, and Shinto.

I have recently been trying to make myself believe in God. Partly as a thought experiment and also out of respect for my Christian friend Tracy who was honest and respectful enough to acknowledge that, at least for her, faith is a choice. In This discussion she says that yes she could choose to believe in another god or no god. I was very touched and moved by this and have been trying to believe in her deity very much. I have been reading the bible(sometething I often do anyway), Praying for the first time in my life, reasoning with god, trying, and failing to set aside all of my rational objections and just believe. I Have Failed.

I know at least one pagan reads this blog and I am going to contact her personally and invite her for discussion, but if there are members of other faiths who wish to discuss their religion with me you are welcome to do so. I would also like to hear you discuss it with some of the Christians who read here. I think if nothing else it could be a wonderful cultural exchange.

I am not saying I want any religion. Regarding Christianity, I would be very willing to believe if I could but that doesn't mean I would worship. As to others I don't know, I am familiar with many religions but not intimately so with all of them. Perhaps there is one that could inspire belief or even worship. Of course as my pagan reader pointed out, maybe it is simply my destiny to be an atheist.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Choosing to Believe

I have been discussing belief lately with an internet acquaintance who gave me some interesting things to think about. It is her position that I could choose to believe in a god. That my desire for evidence is simply an obstacle and that I need to simply set that aside and choose to believe. I had thought to counter this by suggesting that she would be unable to do the same with a god other than her own. I expected the usual silence in response but, instead was impressed and delighted to recieve an honest answer. She replied:

"Yes, I am saying that I could abandon my faith in Christ and CHOOSE to beleive that allah is the true god. Or any other god for that matter. I could CHOOSE to agree with you and decide that God doesn't exist and rule off my "relationship with Jesus" as a delsuion."

I was amazed, and very respectful of her and so I complied with her request and made a sincere effort to believe in a god, first the Christian one and then expanded it to include any deity or pantheon. I failed, but not for lack of trying, I opened myself to believe in any revelation or invitation and when that failed I sought to convince myself by discarding my objections both philosophical and scientific and simply saying "OK your real come to me" that also failed, I tried formal prayer the Jesus come into my heart and be my savior, forgive my sins etc that I learned in my brief exposure to Sunday school some decades ago. I got nothing, so I meditated and focused and just told myself to believe that there must be a god. I couldn't even get to the point of Deism.

What I did discover is that my objection is neither scientific nor philosophical, both science and philosophy absolutely support the lack of gods but they are not the cause of my unbelief. My unbelief is deeper than that, it is an inability to do as my associate does and set aside doubt and objection, an incapacity to compel belief in myself. This lack could be the true distinction between theist and atheist.

I reccomend reading the discussion on her blog it is interesting but if you don't, here is the question I posed to her in my last reply, and I would open it up for discussion to anyone who may be interested. Of course as rarely as I have been updating lately there may be no one interested ;).

Here it is.
"If you are choosing your belief and deliberately putting aside any doubts and uncertainties. How do you know the difference between truth and belief? Since as you said you could choose to believe in Zeus or Allah and you are capable of setting aside doubts, wouldn't such belief be as real and compelling as belief in Christ if that is what you chose? So how would you, in the absence of evidence know that Christ was
more true? It can not be because creation is evidence because many mythos have creation stories. Some don't have clearly false claims like the Christian mythos does, so wouldn't it make more sense to choose to believe in one of those?

It can also not be because of a personal knowledge of Christ because as you said such things are a choice and it seems if you chose belief in Vishnu or Isis you would expeience the same personal relationship. I personally know a Shinto who feels the presence of Kami, and several Native Americans who feel the power of ancestors or spirits during drumming and dancing ceremonies.

In the end even if you choose to believe you need some criteria by which you choose what you will choose to believe. What is that criteria? If I were going to force myself to believe I would find something that doesn't offend my moral sensibilities such as Deism or an animistic pantheism such as Shinto, Druidism, or Native American religion, all of which I find have more value and are more compatible with reality than Christianity.

So to sum if belief is a choice that I can make, and I can manage it, by what criteria should I decide to believe Christianity over another belief system? Also by what evidence do you support this criteria, and is that evidence objective or simply something else you have chosen to believe in.

I hope this doesn't sound mocking, that is not my intent, these are the sort of questions most Christians tend to dance around and since you seem sincere in answering I am asking with equal sincerity."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Making sense out of parables..

This is just about the best take on the fig tree parable yet.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Worshippers Box.

I have been talking a bit with Christians on various blogs and such and have noticed certain differences in the way they think and the way I do. I don't say this so much to insult them but more to point out that the atheist/theist divide may be as much about barriers to communication as it is about knowledge and education.

One thing I have noticed is the definition of evidence. To a worshiper, faith comes first. So from the perspective of faith, anything that might support their worship is evidence no matter how vague. That is why, many of them will with complete sincerity point to a few, short references to early Christians and their practices as proof that their man god was real. They also take a, clearly forged passage added to the works of the scholar Josephus as proof of the existence of Christ. To a believer this is sensible and they see non believers like myself as being stubborn fools for not recognizing it. To me however all of the references put together, including the gospels, at the very best prove that there was a man named Yeshua, who led a cult. He was executed for heresy, his followers founded a very successful religion and eventually wrote a bunch of stories about him that they may or may not have believed to be true. There are no historical witnesses who actually document miracles and resurrections. There were many scholars and commentators at the time who very likely would have commented on a man raising the dead, curing plague victims and the blind, performing powerful magic and rising from the dead himself. This video gives a list of such scholars that failed to notice these supposed miracles and also gives a case against the sources who do. It is not definitive but certainly useful and interesting.

The other trait I have seen that distinguishes the believers mindset from the non believer is that the believer sees the world as being about worship. I have seen many Christians have an incredibly difficult time believing that someone doesn't worship something. Even if you can convince them that you don't secretly believe in their god and just pretend not to because you love to sin, they will still act as though you worship someone. Charles Darwin is a favorite. Christians love to call us evolutionists and act as though we worship Darwin. They go to great lengths to impunge his character, calling him a fascist and anything else they want because they want to "destroy our faith." I read a very long multi thread discussion where this one, obviously fanatical, minister had claimed that Darwin was a social pariah and womanizer. After much biographical evidence refuted that he began claiming that the ships logs of the HMS Beagle had the captain recording that Darwin was a habitual hash smoker. Eventually a great deal of research, culminated in proving he was a liar and that there was no such reference, he then claimed Richard Dawkins had hidden away those portions of the log books. You get the idea. Anyway even though we had fun disputing him, chastising him for bearing false witness and generally showing him to be a loon and a liar, we didn't need to. If Darwin were all of those things...so what? It wouldn't change his theory, it wouldn't change all of the work that had been done since, it wouldn't make his work less important. I have also been accused of worshiping professor Dawkins, and of course Satan. I think the confirmed Christian really believes such tactics will work. Not necessarily because he is stupid but because it is how he views the world working.

I think atheists often have the same problem. We in general, like evidence. I know I have a very difficult time understanding how I can present, iron clad conclusive proof of something, and have the Christian I am discussing counter with some absurd and barely comprehensible psuedo science, or even more likely a bible verse. Again I think this is not because they are necessarily less intelligent, but because evidence means different things to them. To them an insignificantly small possibility that science could be wrong about their belief, through the speed of light slowing down or radio carbon dating not working or whatever is proof that such must be the case, because it supports their religion, which they have faith is true. Likewise even the most flawless and solid case that contradicts their religion, must be false because they have faith that their stories are true so it must be the evidence that is wrong.

Evidence does get through to some believers, but I think only those who already have questions anyway. That is why I feel that the best way to truly reach out and show believers a better way is to lead by example. Live as an outspoken and public atheist. Show that you are moral and honest. Live a good life and show that faith is not necessary for virtue or happiness. I think this will create more doubts than a million pieces of evidence. If you want a person to abandon a lifestyle, it would be helpful to offer a better one.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

TRADITION.

My family has a tradition regarding Independence day. Ever since my oldest was born, we have made a trip, just the three of us(four after my son was born) to the city of Newport, which is a fishing and tourist town on the northern Oregon coast. Sometimes others will join us, friends, parents, in laws, whoever but the trip is ours.

We set out early it is a hundred mile drive and we want a whole day. On the drive, like almost all our drives, we talk constantly. I find out all of the little details of my kids lives and friendships and interests, I tell stories, in this case all about why we celebrate on the fourth of July. We admire the view and talk about the sites. The trip over the coast range to Newport is very much worth admiring. I have said before that Oregon is the most beautiful place on earth and this is one of those drives that demonstrate that.

When we arrive it is activity time. The fireworks show over the bay is the premise for going and we don't miss that but the rest of the day is about adventures. Some new some old.
First we went to the Marine science center. Newport has a great commercial aquarium and we visit sometimes but the science center is just as fun, only asks donations and is somewhat educational. I also like that the "exhibits" all relate to work that the scientists are actually involved in. Much of this is about invasive species which is a very big deal in Oregon. We watched videos, played games watched storm patterns on a big interactive fiber optic globe. We looked at beautiful fish and other marine life. My kids drove a diving craft simulator. We touched urchins, starfish, oysters and anenomese. My son petted and eel. We looked at fossils of whale bones and teeth and learned about whale eating habits. The kids didn't want to leave and we went through more than once.

Then We visited the Yaquina Bay lighthouse, it is a restored structure that only operated as a lighthouse for a few years back in the 1870's. It is (other than electricity and such) a pretty faithful restoration. Each room has period furniture and appliances showing how the people of the time lived and cooked and worked. There is also a ghost story associated with the lighthouse. It is said that in the days when the lighthouse was abandoned and locked up a group of children somehow got the key and entered the house on a dare. They explored the house and left except for a young boy and girl who stayed behind the others. The girl told the boy she had lost her handkerchief and he should go out the front and lock up and she would come out through the kitchen. A few minutes after the boy left he heard screaming and went back in but found nothing but a bloody handkerchief. Since then people claim that they have seen the girls ghost haunting the lighthouse. I have no belief in ghosts, nor do my kids but we love ghost stories and playing pretend so we scoured that house searching for the ghost but no luck.

Next we went to play on the beach. Now for those who haven't been there the beaches of Northern Oregon are not like the beaches of Hawaii or Southern California or the Gulf. Our ocean is cold, not a little cold but painfully cold. My daughter and I couldn't care less. We were out crashing in the waves within five minutes. It wasn't a nice day either, cold wind, and mist were our companions out in the surf. It was glorious. One thing we do is walk out as far as we can and still have her chest out of the water, so that a it looks like the whole world is nothing but waves and sky, we wait for a wave to come in that would bury us and then try to run from it, usually failing completely. When she was very little we played this with her on my shoulders, now we play it hand in hand. I almost dread the day she is big enough to face the ocean without me.

My son on the other hand is no fan of cold water, he prefers exploring the rocks and combing the beach with my wife. They hunt agates, shells and fossils on the beach. After a while my daughter an I joined them in the search. We found some beauties. Several nice agates and two excellent fossils. I found a sand polished rock containing a fossilized mussel or other shellfish and my wife found one that had a fossil of some spiral shelled snail like thing in it. Over the next week or so my wife will be busily trying to identify them. Then followed some sand castle building and rock climing and seaweed fights and just general beach mayhem. The beach was mostly deserted. There was one family barbecuing near the rocks and a couple in the distance flying kites but otherwise just us.

After that we explored the historic bayfront a lot of this is just tourist stuff(which we like as much as any other tourists) but there are a number of wonderful old buildings mixed in with the docks and fisheries. Finally it was time for the fireworks. Sometimes we go out on the bay in a fishing boat to watch but this time we were on the dock. It took forever to get started, an hour later than usual and we considered leaving a few times but we stuck it out and it was worth it. Best show in years. If you have seen a fireworks show and I am sure everyone has you know how at the end they launch a lot of them in rapid series to give a big finally and get the oohs and ahhs. They did that three times. Of course my daughter who freaks out over anything that booms was behaving as if it were the end of the world, but even she peaked out to watch the spectacle. There was a fog out on the bay and the fireworks reflecting between that and the clouds made it look as if the sky were on fire.

Then we tucked our sleepy offspring into the car and had a quiet drive home, gently talking about our day until the kids went to sleep, then talking to each other in the easy way that married people talk when they already know what the other is going to say.

It was a great day, but at always there is a bit of sadness mixed in with the joy and pride as I see my children grow another year, becoming more independent and opinionated, I know the day will come when they are off at college and then married with their own family and traditions and I won't have a little boy to chase ghosts with or a little mermaid princess to dance in the waves with her daddy. My philosophy is all about reveling in the present, but sometimes the future sticks its ugly nose in. However every year brings new pleasures from parenting as well, new games, new conversations, new adventures, and come what may we are storing up memories that we can never lose.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A poem for my little girl, who grows less little each day.

Upon sun dappled lawn in spring
light distilled in green gives birth
of majestic treasure as to a king
Ivory and gold of noble worth

Broided chains grace slim neck
and bracelets slender arms do clad
golden tresses richly decked
as a silver laugh make a father glad

My commandments to me.

Having been lately discussing sin and conscience with a nice Christian lady and also morality with a commenter on another thread I took it upon myself to spell out what exactly my conscience was. It took the form of Ten commandments. Unlike a certain other group of Ten commandments I only require that they be followed by myself, although I recommend them to everyone. This is what I have come to consider the secret of happiness. It is a combination of philosophy and morality that requires no religion but is superior to any that exist.


First. Be happy with what you have, remember that what you have now is what you only once dreamed of. A happy life needs few possessions and true happiness comes from security, friendship and simple pleasures.

Second. do not fear death, while you exist death has not come and when death comes you will no longer exist so what is to fear? Since the eternity prior to your existing is not terrible or menacing why fear the eternity after you exist no longer?

Third. pride is the highest virtue, pride motivates us to be honorable and to avoid bringing shame upon ourselves, pride rewards effort and accomplishment even when those accomplishments offer no tangible payment, pride informs self worth and strengthens us to resist oppression and degradation. Pride condemns us for weakness and encourages our strength.

Fourth. No person has greater intrinsic worth than any other, an assault that deprives another of liberty and security is the same as if it were directed at me. No one is entitled to special favor or accommodation nor is anyone deserving of special harm or disdain. Each must distinguish ones self and defines ones character through actions and example, not circumstance of birth

Fifth. dishonesty is an act of weakness. The strong have no need of it. In the face of oppression it could be needful to deceive in order to preserve life and liberty, but it is still weakness that made the deception necessary. We should strive to live in strength and security so that deception is no part of our lives. Deception also leads to distrust which hampers friendship, and friendship is essential to happiness.

Sixth. Violence, outside of competition and sport is never acceptable unless it is required to preserve life or liberty and then only the minimum necessary to the task must be employed. Killing is not acceptable unless there are no other means which are effective.

Seventh. No person may be denied any personal liberty, save where such liberty would take away from the health, security or liberty of another.

Eighth. No one is entitled to any material thing that they have not been freely given, or earned in payment for goods or services, or built through honest labor.

Ninth. Friendship is essential to happiness and security, to be a good friend is the greatest of skills and to have a good friend the greatest of accomplishments.

Tenth. Life exists now, the past is prologue the future not yet written. While thought for the future is essential for security, Joy can only happen in the present. Take simple pleasures, eat so that you are satisfied, drink so that you are merry, appreciate beauty, love well and often, cherish each moment, savor each sensation, and fear neither death nor gods.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Absolute morality,and other fairy tales.

I have been hearing a lot of the word absolute lately, to the point that when I hear the word and it does not refer to Vodka I assume the person is trying to sell me some snake oil. The first is when someone says absolute truth, I know they are setting up something, recently that something is some variation on the transcendental argument. However this is pure nonsense. Absolute is an invalid premise regarding truth in a discussion of logic, because it implies that there are degrees of truth which is in violation of the law of the excluded middle. Another proof that absolute is a fallacious qualifier would be as follows. Define a proposition as P that proposition is true if P=T if P is not equal to T then the proposition is false. If we add the qualifier absolute to the value of true we end up with P=T+A since P is only true if it equals T then for P to be true the value of A must be zero. So a proposition can only be absolutely true if the qualifier absolutely has no value in which case it is unnecessary. If on the other hand the qualifier absolute has meaning then A has a value greater than zero and P=T+A is false because P does not equal T. So an Absolute truth is either simply true or it is false.

The one I am currently debunking is absolute morality. I find this to be the worst offender because it is always a wind up for some apologetics where anyone who doesn't believe in whatever god is being peddled must rape and eat children. The problem again is the concept of absolute but also the description of morality as laws. Morality is no such thing, there is no one transcendental morality, what there are are systems or codes. There is also no absolute right or wrong. These are fine for a casual discussion and we all know what is in general meant, but for the purposes of logical proof the correct terminology would be consistent or inconsistent.

The moralists argument would go something like this, Do you believe in absolute moral laws. If you say yes they go on to make a case that some magical sky fairy or another has to be responsible for them. If you say no and that morals are subjective they will say something to the effect of "so if society decided that it were acceptable to rape and eat children then it would be right to do that?" some get more personal and say "since you don't believe in absolute moral laws then if you wanted to rape and eat children then there would be nothing wrong with that." Most people will try to explain that morality is a survival based system and that society does not in general condone that, and most try to explain that even if society said it was acceptable they would still find it wrong. However the apologist will start hammering away about "what absolute standard do you use to say it is wrong?" and such.

This is clearly skewed and dishonest but also hard to refute. It can be done with patience and a cool head but it is quite tough. The problem is that the apologist has framed the discussion by setting prejudicial terms. In an appropriate discussion one would say that they subscribe to a moral system or code(from here on I will say code) and that they are also bound by the moral system of their society(I will use system for societal morals). I could say that raping and eating children is inconsistent with both my moral code and the moral system of my society. If the question were asked "if society said that it was OK to rape and eat children then why would that be wrong" it would be a simple matter to state that in that case raping and eating children would be consistent with the moral system of society but still inconsistent with my personal moral code and I would not engage in it. It would also be perfectly acceptable to state that since my personal moral code takes precedence over the system of my society I would be compelled to oppose such behavior even at risk to myself. I would then ask if such behavior would become consistent with their moral code if it were sanctioned by society. They may respond, if they are clever, with "if your personal moral code takes precedence over societies system then why would you follow societies system at all." Since we have terms defined accurately it is easy to say, If my actions are inconsistent with societies moral system then there will be social consequences for violating those standards also depending on the actions there may be legal punishments as well, therefore the moral system of society enforces itself and I will only violate it if my personal code requires it to a degree that I am willing to accept the consequences. Also since the moral system of society is enforced through social pressure it reflects a consensus among the the personal codes of the members of that society, making situations where society condones an action that the majority find immoral to be uncommon. The moral system of a society typically reflects the moral codes of its members. Obviously there are exceptions, it is not uncommon for political or religious powers to be strong enough to enforce a system which does not reflect the moral codes of the citizenry. This is why it is important to first look to ones personal moral code, because the personal codes are what foster resistance and change, when enough people stand up for their personal codes then the system of society will change to reflect that either through accommodation, politics or revolution.

Regardless of what many people would wish morality is relative, it does change and adapt, and it is a human creation. There are certainly some constants, since we have evolved as social animals our instincts will lead us to favor behaviors which facilitate group survival. These behavioral preferences are reflected in our codes of morality. However these codes and systems still take a wide variety of forms. Those who argue against "moral relativism" are arguing against human nature. They may be able to make a case that it would be better if there were an absolute standard of morality, but they can not make a case that such a standard exists. Saying that we should believe in a deity because it would be better if one existed is in no way an argument as to whether it actually does exist or not.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A night at the museum, actually an afternoon.

I took the family to the art museum at our university yesterday. Actually they took me, my kids were performing in something called the Sunday of sound which is part of something called the world harmony project. At any rate after they finished with their singing, dancing and drumming I was not going to just go home and waste a chance to explore with the wife and kids.

The first gallery we visited was the one my children were performing in, the exhibit was called. ON THE ROAD Two Visions of the Tokaido. It featured wood block printings by two different artists, Hiroshige and Sekino. The prints all featured scenes from along the Tokaido which is a trade road between Tokyo and Kyoto. All of the prints were lovely and I had a great time watching my childrens reactions and explaining how wood block prints were made. My son was his usual inquisitive self, pointing out all of his favorites and asking endless questions, my daughter on the other hand was quiet and introspective. I did not get much response from her until we proceeded to the Chinese art exhibits. She was fascinated by the Treasure Wall which featured an assortment of pottery and sculpture from the time of the Quianlong Emperor. The treasures were definitely worthy of her interest. Exquisitely carved jade, meticulously detailed glazes on the pottery, beautiful Cobalt blue glass. I fell in love with it as much as she did. My son really liked the dragon sculptures, and a pair of wedding cups with lion carved handles.

After that there followed exhibits from many cultures including modern works. My favorite gallery however is the Russian religious Icons. The paintings of the haloed Jesus are perfectly executed and serene. I enjoy all sorts of religious art but I think it is only the Russians who truly make Christ beautiful. Seeing these wonderful paintings and sculptures reflecting a variety of religions and cultures, filled me with a great sense of contentment. Despite all of the harm and corruption that has been committed in the name of the gods man creates, a wealth of sublime beauty has come from it as well. It is times like this that I can almost feel why the believers want to believe so badly. It is hard to look at such subtle skill and realize that it is the work of mortal men and women, the work does inspire a feeling of transcendence. However it seems to me even more satisfying to see this as testimony to the greatness of our species rather than attribute it to the mythological figures being depicted.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Epicurus

I have been asked before about my philosophical influences and there are many, however the greatest of philosophers in my estimation is Epicurus, I have always tried to live according to Epicurian philosophy even before I knew what it was. The pursuit of justice and simple pleasures, security and freedom from pain as a natural good, the trust that knowledge can be gained through the senses, the realization that we need not fear death, these are all truths upon which I have based my life. The more I have read of Epicurus the more I have adopted it in my life.

While Epicurus is often associated with eating, and drinking and other pleasures, Epicurus was not completely a hedonist, to the contrary he believed that since fulfilling desire led to happiness and not doing so led to suffering then there were two strategies to follow either fulfill desires or eliminate them. He preferred the latter. It was his contention that desire should be pared down to a minimum that can be easily fulfilled. So yes good food and drink and other simple pleasures are very much in line with Epicurian philosophy, greed for these things is not. Any desire which becomes burdensome to fulfill needs to be eliminated. This is actually very similar to the second truth of Buddhism and Epicurus in some ways reflected a Buddhist like asceticism. It is of course pleasant to enjoy luxuries when available but to be come dependent or accustomed to such things leads to suffering when they can not be had and therefore that is to be avoided.

Epicurus also believed that happiness depended on having many virtues courage, moderation, knowledge, justice. However unlike other philosophers he saw these things as a means to an end rather than an end in and of themselves. They are valuable for the happiness that they help create and maintain. Even knowledge is seen as a means to an end, science is useful so that we can explain natural phenomena and eliminate the fear of gods, and philosophy is useful to dispel the fear of death.

Justice and friendship are also key to Epicurian philosophy, Epicurus is the first philosopher to give a well developed contractual definition of justice. At it's essence justice can be described as an agreement to not harm or be harmed. All laws should proceed from that basis. This lines up perfectly with my Libertarian ideas of the role of law. Epicurus deviates from pure utilitarianism regarding friendship proclaiming that a wise man would be willing to die for a friend. However in general his attitude is still that friendship is valuable because it is among the best ways to gain happiness.

Epicurus also reflects well upon my view of death, one shared by many atheists. He sums up the insignificance of death in the following ways.

1. Death is annihilation.
2. The living have not yet been annihilated (otherwise they wouldn't be alive).
3. Death does not affect the living. (from 1 and 2)
4. So, death is not bad for the living. (from 3)
5. For something to be bad for somebody, that person has to exist, at least.
6. The dead do not exist. (from 1)
7. Therefore, death is not bad for the dead. (from 5 and 6)
8. Therefore death is bad for neither the living nor the dead. (from 4 and 7)

He also said:
Anyone who fears death should consider the time before he was born. The past infinity of pre-natal non-existence is like the future infinity of post-mortem non-existence; it is as though nature has put up a mirror to let us see what our future non-existence will be like. But we do not consider not having existed for an eternity before our births to be a terrible thing; therefore, neither should we think not existing for an eternity after our deaths to be evil.

He regarded the fear of death and the fear of gods to be the greatest obstacles to happiness. This is also the position taken by many modern atheists.

Below I have included a number of quotes from Epicurus, this is hardly a complete representation of his work but it is a good sampling and will hopefully whet your appetite for further study of this great philosopher.

The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.
Epicurus

A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs.
Epicurus

Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.
Epicurus

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
Epicurus

I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know they do not approve, and what they approve I do not know.
Epicurus

I never desired to please the rabble. What pleased them, I did not learn; and what I knew was far removed from their understanding.
Epicurus

I would rather be first in a little Iberian village than second in Rome.
Epicurus

If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are forever praying for evil against one another.
Epicurus

If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.
Epicurus

It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble.
Epicurus

It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.
Epicurus

It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.
Epicurus

It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.
Epicurus

It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.
Epicurus

Justice... is a kind of compact not to harm or be harmed.
Epicurus

Misfortune seldom intrudes upon the wise man; his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.
Epicurus

Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.
Epicurus

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.
Epicurus

Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.
Epicurus


Riches do not exhilarate us so much with their possession as they torment us with their loss.
Epicurus

Monday, June 22, 2009

Appreciating the glory of nature.

Today I find myself in Missoula Montana, on a business trip. I have to say the trip here was absolutely stunning. From the highway a person finds themselves confronted with one magnificent vista after another. Coming as I do from the most beautiful place on earth I had thought I was somewhat jaded about the beauty of nature. Northern California all along the coast down to the Bay area is magnificent, but I still found it no competition for Oregon. Washington particularly around the Sound is glorious, but I still prefer Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, Nevada, all have amazing scenery but I was still faithful to my home as the pinnacle of what nature has to offer. I had not yet been to Montana. I would not go so far as to say Montana is more beautiful than my beloved Oregon, but I can't honestly say it isn't either. Oregon has a nicer climate and of course an ocean which are major advantages, but I do love mountains, and Montana is aptly named in that regard.

A very nice Christian lady recently invited me to appreciate the beauty of nature, and then try to not believe in God. I found this amusing because I have always felt the opposite. If I could think of the best way to convince someone that there is no God, it would be to show them the beautiiful things that inspire awe in me. Expansive mountain vistas, crystal clear streams tumbling over rocks, trees as tall as the sky, deep mountain lakes, rolling desert hills, the crash of the ocean on the rocks, the infinite expanse of the heavens. All of the Gods, myths and superstitions that people fill their lives with, are so small and petty by comparison.

How could a simple little tribal god like Yahwheh with his petty envy, and murderous temper tantrums and archaic taboos be the creator of such majesty. Religious people bandy about terms like omnipotent with no thought to what it implies. They apply the authorship of all the awesome complexity and power of the universe, to a character with less personal virtue, subtelty or intelligence than the average human.

Such a crude and vulgar entity is beneath even the most flawed of mankind, yet it is elevated to the status of all powerful and all knowing. If people would truly open their minds to the real wonder of the universe, they would see existence is greater than we are, and greater than the fantasies we construct to explain it.

I often hear the refrain that this or that law of physics or scientific theory could be wrong. I say, "so what?" Even if it is wrong, it is an act of learning. Through study we grow and advance and catch glimmers of the truth of the universe. Even if we are wrong nine times out of ten, every time we are right we gain a treasure more valuable than we could ever gain from the comforting and simple fiction of religion. Even if we are never correct, just the proccess of seeking is far more courageous and rewarding than, hiding behind the crude tribal myths of our ancestors.