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.
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).


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.