Saturday, July 26, 2014

Buying a House

As my ambition to keep up the blog started to wane, the task of trying to buy a house, and all things that that entails, have began to fill up my free time. So will begin a temporary halt to my frequent blogging for an indefinite amount of time. I may pop on from time to time to provide some priceless insight into my life or perspective on a hot topic. I hope to be back at some point, but for now, farewell. Thank you to all of you that have helped me reach nearly 15 thousand page views. I hope you've enjoyed getting to know me better.

Cheers. Don't be a wanker. Kindness Is Magic.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Good Book? - Deuteronomy

In Deuteronomy, nothing happens. I know, I know, I said that about Leviticus too, but really, nothing happens. And Deuteronomy basically goes over all of the rules that were laid out in the prior three books. The same "God is good and loving but fear the Hell out of him", even though we haven't yet been introduced to Hell; this is just a bit of foreshadowing. I'm hoping that with Moses finally dying at the end that the next book will be jazzed up with some better stories.

If you want to be very disturbed, go read Deuteronomy 21 and 22.

Deuteronomy 2:7 It took the Israelites 40 years to make it to Canaan. They probably shouldn't have wasted all that time following the cloud (Numbers 9-10). 9 God tells them not to kill the Moabites because He's not going to give them their land. He'll let them know when it's okay to slaughter a group of people. 10 The Emims are giants, lol. 21 God killed the Anakims, they were giants too. 30 God hardened Silhon's spirit; remember what happened when he did this to the Pharaoh?. 32-34 God instructed the Israelites to kill Silhon, his sons, cities, and even all the women and children...yep, that's what happened to the Pharaoh.

Deuteronomy 3:3 The Israelites killed Og and his people. 6 Even the women and children. 11 Btw, Og was a giant - 13.5 feet tall. 21-22 God will destroy any kingdoms He needs to for the Israelites.

Deuteronomy 4:3 God killed all of the people who followed Baalepeor. 10 Remember to fear God. Teach this to your children. 24 "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God."

Deuteronomy 5:25-26 If you hear the voice of God you will die. On a different topic, I'm invisible when no one is looking.

Deuteronomy 6:14-15 If you accidentally worship the wrong god, or happen to be born into a different culture that worships a different god, God will kill you.

Deuteronomy 7 If you stick with God and love him He'll ensure your fertility (sorry those that are infertile, you should've loved God more). He'll also murder and destroy your strangers and enemies for you. If you turn away from God, He'll hate and kill you.

Deuteronomy 9:7 Never forget how many people God murdered in the wilderness for having reasonable complaints. 14 If you kill the people who disagree with you then you will be left with people who agree with you; or at least appear to.

Deuteronomy 10:16 "Circumcise the foreskin of your heart" - I hope this is one of the few (or many depending how you interpret it) metaphors of The Bible. 19 God tells the Israelites to love strangers even though they spend a lot of effort murdering strangers.

Deuteronomy 11:1 Keep all of God's statutes, judgements, and commandments always. All of them, that probably includes the killing animals ones...always, regardless of Jesus.

Deuteronomy 12:1-3 What should the Israelites do first when they get to the promised land? Destroy all other places of worship. 23 "The blood is the life" - hmmm?

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 Prophets and dreamers of dreams of other religions (someone like Joseph Smith) should be put to death. 6-10 If any of your family or friends try to lead you astray from the God of the bible, you should stone them to death.

Deuteronomy 14 Rules for what you can and cannot eat. 21 If you find some dead animal, do not eat it. But, it's okay to give or sell it to a stranger.

Deuteronomy 15:12 After your slaves have served you for six years, set them free in the seventh.

Deuteronomy 16:3 "Seven days shall thou eat unleavened bread" 8 "Six days thou shall eat unleavened bread"

Deuteronomy 17:1-13 Rules for executions by stoning.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12 The following are abominations: one that uses divination, an observer of the times, enchanters, witches, charmers, a consulter of familiar spirits, wizards, and necromancers. These exist, God said so.

Deuteronomy 19:1-6 More detailed rules for Murder The Accidental Killers (Numbers 35).

Deuteronomy 20:5-7 Ways to get out of battle: build a house without dedicating it, plant a vineyard without harvesting it and marry a women without sleeping with her. You get to go home and do these things. 10-11 Once you capture a city, take the survivors as slaves. 13-14 Kill all the men; the women and children are yours to do as you please. 16-17 All of the closest cities must be utterly destroyed and all people killed.

Deuteronomy 21:11-14 If you see a beautiful slave woman, take her home and try her out. If you decide she is no good, just let her go. 15 "If a man has two wives, one beloved, and another hated..." 18-21 Stubborn, rebellious sons who don't obey should be stoned to death (Good thing my parents didn't follow this rule).

Deuteronomy 22:5 Don't cross dress. 13-21 If a man married and then hates his wife, he can claim she is not a virgin. Her father then has to produce tokens of her virginity. If the father can, the husband is chastised. If he cannot, the wife is stoned to death. 22 If a man sleeps with a married woman, they are both killed. 23-24 If a man rapes a virgin who in engaged, they are both put to death. Him for the rape and her for not screaming loud enough. 25 If the raped women isn't a virgin, only the man is killed (thank God). 28-29 If a man rapes a virgin who is not engaged, the man had to pay her father some silver and then he has to marry the woman.

Deuteronomy 23 The following cannot enter the congregation of The Lord: 1 a man with wounded testicles or whose penis was cut off, 2 a bastard until the tenth generation, or 17-18 a whore or homosexual. 24-25 You can steal food as long as you eat it before you leave.

Deuteronomy 24:1-2 If a man wants a divorce, he can file the paperwork and give it to his wife. 16 People should not be punished for other's sins - this verse seems to contradict many others.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 When men are fighting and a wife grabs the secrets of the other man, cut off her hand.

Deuteronomy 27:20-23 Don't lieth with your mother or animals or siblings or mother in law.

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 If you follow all of the commandments you will be blessed (14 verses) 15-68 If you don't, you will be cursed (54 verses). Fear > Love

Deuteronomy 29:5 Their cloths and shoes didn't wear out in the forty year they wandered in the wilderness. Wow! Wait, didn't everyone who left Egypt die and all that is left are their children and grandchildren...

Deuteronomy 31:2 Moses is 120 years old, lol. 16-17 God tells Moses that after he dies, the Israelites will go astray and God is gonna get them good.

Deuteronomy 32 Moses sings a very disturbing song.

Deuteronomy 33:17 "...his horns are like the horns of unicorns...", hehe.

Deuteronomy 34:5 Spoiler Alert: Moses died.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What has changed the most in my life since identifying as an atheist?

In the last two years I have changed. I think the change is one that many people encounter as they grow from being teens and young adults and thinking primarily about the here and now, to getting older and starting to ponder some of the more philosophical questions of life. Many people, who were raised in a religion but strayed away as they discovered the world, may end up back at the same religion for answers. Some people may journey around testing the waters here and there until they find what works best for them. And others, like me, may come to the realization that none of the answers presented for the unanswerable questions satiated their desires. That religion does not provide solace, and its circular reasoning is unsatisfactory.

As I grew up in the Mormon church I was taught exclusively of the Mormon church. There were no lessons discussing the beliefs of Hinduism or Buddhism or any other religions. At the time I lacked the curiosity to seek out that information. I actually even lacked the curiosity to learn about the Mormon church and did my best to avoid participating. When I moved out on my own, I was finally free of the obligation and quite happy to be free of it. From that time until about two years ago I gave religion very little though.

I’m not sure what it was exactly that sparked my interest in it again. It had been fairly easy to ignore it for so many years, but it started to pry at me until I was pulled back in, but this time as an atheist.

As I investigated atheism, I discovered that their arguments were the most coherent. There was no dogma, no arbitrary rules, no fear-mongering. It was simple. Does God exist? Probably not. Is there any proof the God exists? Not really; it seems that the primary prerequisite to having proof that God exists is a belief in God or a want to believe in God. I found this proof was similar to drawing bullseyes around holes in the side of a barn; it just doesn’t captivate me the way it may others.

But atheism to me isn’t just about not believing in God, it is trying to understand what others believe and to point out the harm caused. This has taken me back through the religion of my youth where I reexamined the Mormon positions. I have a better understanding of that religion now than I ever did when I went to church every week. It has led me to seek out those that are harmed, to better understand their grievances. Atheism has also led me to read the bible, which is a much different read as a non-believer. But I haven’t stopped there. I have also read about Judaism and have just started reading about Islam. I have found it to be just as important to know what others believe, than what you believe.

This quest for knowledge has led me to become more accepting of people from all faiths. I no longer judge others based on their beliefs, but on their actions. I have found that being kind to others, regardless of differences, makes everyone happier. Knowing that the most likely reason that someone is in a religion is due to the family and culture that they were born into has helped me to break down some of the barriers that define groups and realize that they are all just people trying to do their best to figure out life, just like I am. I no longer despise those who do harmful things because of their beliefs and view them as victims of their religion.

I don’t worry about my children asking me the big life questions. I have many more answers than I did two years ago, and sometimes the answer is “I don’t know” and that is okay. I want them to always have questions and find what works best for them. I’m glad that they will get to choose what works best for them, rather than have to break free from something that does not. I’m glad that I won’t be disappointed if they choose differently than me and that I’ll never worry about their eternal salvation; just as long as they are happy.

Being an atheist has brought much more value to my life. I value my own life more than ever, because it’s the only time I expect to have, so I must make it count. I try to overlook the things I don’t have because of the great number of things that I do have, especially my family. I try to surround myself with people who love me and who try to make my life better, while shrugging off those who don’t. I have been surprised to find how many people really do love me...way more than I expected.

Mormon missionaries would always tell stories of those that they converted. How the church has brought a light to their lives that they were missing before. This is how I feel with atheism. I'm happy to identify as an atheist. I'm happy that so many people love and support me. I'm happy.

Enjoy your happy burrito.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby

Today the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision came down. I am pretty disappointed. I always like to think that we are living in the future; a day and age where we have near unlimited information at the tips of our fingers and have come such a long way at expanding our knowledge. Yet we are still hamstrung by archaic beliefs and ideas that are used to carelessly discriminate and damage others.

Today a fight was lost in protecting the reproductive rights and healthcare benefits of women. Even though the result will most likely be short lived, as the healthcare law will be amended to fill the gap, thousands are cheering victory across the country.

What are they cheering for? Have they won some religious freedom that was taken from them by this liberal presidential regime? I don’t see it that way. In Hobby Lobby’s case, they won the right to not cover some of their employee’s contraceptive devices. Not all of them, just some. Even though they covered them in the past, before ACA, and despite the fact that their investments are intertwined with the companies that produce them.

I’m fine with them being hypocritical so long as everyone knows the facts. They are also within their right to challenge the law. But what were the potential repercussions? If they win (which they did), a good percentage of their workforce will now be without the healthcare benefits that some of them undoubtedly need. The costs associated with Hobby Lobby’s owners’ clear conscience will be placed at the feet of their employees. That’s pretty shitty, but that is what is being cheered for.

We need to come to the realization quickly that sex is not a sin and that sexual education is vital. This is the future. We know how all this stuff works, we just need to tell people who have open minds and are willing to listen.

Also, please don’t defend the SCOTUS decision by slut-shaming the women who chose to have sex. It doesn’t help and just lowers women further down the scale of humanity.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Mormon Bloggers Response to Threats of Excommunication

The other day I was going through the Mormon blogs at Patheos and I ran across two interesting posts. The first was The Importance of Religious Hersey: Recent Contemplations from the KiwiMormon blog and Differentiate: Not Excommunicate!! from The Mormon Therapist blog. Both articles discussed how they wished that the LDS Church move away from excommunication for members who openly disagree with certain aspects of the church's doctrine. I wasn't quite sure what had caused these two to engage on this topic until the next day when a link was posted on my Facebook. link
So it appears that the church is looking into excommunicating Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women and John Dehlin, a creator of websites and podcast series called "Mormon Stories." I think continued conversations into these complex issues would be more beneficial and that excommunication is quite harsh for believing members. Excommunication comes across to many as an authoritative method to silence critics, which seems a bit old-fashioned. But what I found more interesting than my own thoughts on the matter, were the thoughts of the members of the LDS church who are standing together to support Kelly and Dehlin with this statement (posted here and here and here and here)

We face a difficult and pivotal moment in Mormonism as LDS leaders and church members wrestle more openly with complicated aspects of our faith, its doctrine, and its history—often in spaces afforded by the Internet. In light of possible disciplinary action against prominent voices among us, we the undersigned Mormon bloggers and podcasters affirm the value of the conversations that take place in the LDS “Bloggernacle” and express our hopes for greater understanding and compassion from all of us involved in current tensions.

May we all remember, as scripture teaches, the intricate intertwining of mercy and justice. May we all follow the admonition to seek understanding before judgment, even as we address matters that can be difficult to talk about.

Scripture and tradition teach us that excommunication is one way of maintaining the boundaries of a religious community. But we believe that excommunication is not the best way to address conflict over doctrine, policy, or tradition. We ask our leaders to consider other ways of maintaining boundaries, strengthening Church members, and encouraging them to grow spiritually within Mormonism’s large and embracing community without the fear and despair the threat of excommunication sows not only in those threatened but in their families, friends, and those who share similar concerns about LDS Church doctrine or history—even those who do so silently. We are deeply encouraged by the recent news about the prospect of de-escalation in at least one of the current cases and pray for positive steps towards reconciliation.

The issues in Mormon doctrine, history, and practice highlighted by those facing church discipline are much larger than any one individual. It is not only unavoidable that these issues will continue to be discussed; such discussion is good for the health of our religious community and faithful to the truth-seeking spirit of the Latter-day Saint Restoration. As bloggers, podcasters, and passionate contributors to good, healthy online discussion, we affirm our commitment to continue speaking openly and publicly, and encouraging others to do so as well. We will continue to use online spaces to grow in knowledge and faith, to attempt to present and see many sides of each issue, and to reach out to those expressing pain, heartache, and loneliness. It is our experience that these conversations can bear good fruit as Latter-day Saints mourn with those who mourn and reflect on, deepen, and renew their faith.

We are grateful for our membership in this Church and for the unique opportunities the Internet has provided us to share our Mormon experiences, questions, and hopes. We pray that a spirit of clemency will guide the words and actions of everyone—especially those who bear the heavy responsibility of ecclesiastical discipline of Church members—and that the words of President Uchtdorf will hold sway: “Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.”

Dan Wotherspoon, Mormon Matters podcast
Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood blog (Religion News Service)
Natasha Helfer Parker, The Mormon Therapist blog
Paul Barker, Rational Faiths blog and podcast
Michael Barker, Rational Faiths blog and podcast
Mark Crego, A Thoughtful Faith Support Group (Facebook)
Lisa Butterworth, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Joanna Brooks, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon blog
Lindsay Park, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Jared Anderson, Mormon Sunday School podcast
Daniel Parkinson, No More Strangers blog
Bill McGee, Sunstone
Mary Ellen Robertson, Sunstone
Stephen Carter, Sunstone
Michael Stevens, Sunstone
Chelsea Shields Strayer, LDS WAVE
Tresa Edmunds, LDS WAVE
Chelsea Robarge Fife, Mormon Feminist Cooperative
Cami Ashby, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Kalani Tonga Tukaufu, Feminist Mormon Housewives
David Landrith, Mormon Mentality
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, Mormon Matters podcast
Jerilyn Hassell Pool, Rational Faiths blog
Spencer Lake, Clean Cut blog
Brittany Morin-Mezzadri, TheLadyMo blog
Katie Langston, Feminist Mormon Housewives blog
Hannah Wheelwright, Young Mormon Feminists blog
Erin Moore, Young Mormon Feminists blog
Kimberly Lewis, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Nikki Hunter, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Nancy Ross, Nickel on the ‘Nacle blog
Mark Brown, The Mormon Hub (Facebook)
Alicia Jones, LDS Left (Facebook)
Elise Villescaz, LDS Left (Facebook)
Emily Summerhays, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Mindy Farmer, The Inquisitive Mom blog
Jeff Krey, A Thoughtful Faith Support Group (Facebook)
Lori Burkman, Rational Faiths blog
Laura Compton, Mormons for Marriage
Alison Moore Smith, Mormon Momma blog
Heather Olsen Beal, Doves and Serpents blog
Brent Beal, Doves and Serpents blog
Ed Snow, Doves and Serpents blog
Erin Hill, Doves and Serpents blog
Meghan Raynes, Exponent blog
Aimee Hickman, Exponent blog
Rachel Hunt, Exponent blog
Liz Johnson, Exponent blog
Libby Potter Boss, Exponent blog
Heather Moore-Farley, Exponent blog
April Young Bennett, Exponent blog
Deborah Farmer Kris, Exponent blog
Jessica Oberan Steed, Exponent blog
Carolyn Kline, Exponent blog
April Carlson, Exponent blog
Sariah Anne Kell, Exponent blog
Chelsea Sue, Exponent blog
Emily Clyde Curtis, Exponent blog
Emily Updegraff, Exponent blog
Dayna Patterson, Doves and Serpents blog
Cheryl Bruno, Worlds Without End blog
Katie Evans, Zelophehad’s Daughters blog
Kristy Benton, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Lori LeVar Pierce, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Rebecca Reid Linford, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Paula Goodfellow, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Cheryl McGuire, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Kay Gaisford, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Lorlalie Pallotta, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Wendy Reynolds, All Are Alike Unto God blog

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Feeling Small

As I begin writing this I have one episode of Cosmos left on my DVR. I loved the show; I found the stories fascinating, the images stunning and beautiful, and the narrator was cast perfectly. It is by far my favorite television series since Planet Earth and Frozen Planet. The difference between Cosmos and the others is that Cosmos made me feel so small.

In the first episode of Cosmos they introduced the Cosmic Calendar. This calendar was a representation of the 13.8 billions of years of the universe crunched into a 12 month span. When the universe is compared in this manner, humans evolved in the last few hours of the last day in December. My entire lifetime will last less than one second on this vast timescale...feeling small.

Several episodes discuss the stuff in the observable universe; different types and ages of stars, black holes, the movements of galaxies throughout the universe, etc. The quantity of these things is difficult for me to comprehend. There are billions and billions of things out there and Earth is just one small ordinary planet. Nearly everything in our lives revolve around this minuscule corner of our universe...and there may be an infinite number of universes...feeling small.

It is sometimes hard to think that humans are just organic matter floating on a small rock. With or without us the universe will continue on indifferently...feeling small. 

But even though I sometimes feel small, I never feel insignificant. I'm here and I plan to make the very best of it. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by so many people, family and friends, that love and care for me. I love my wife and my children and embrace my role in their lives. I'm happy when I make others happy...

I just watched the final episode and they've quoted Carl Sagan. As Voyager 1 passed Neptune it turned around and took a picture of Earth, which was so small it was only one pixel in the picture. This picture is now called Pale Blue Dot and this quote from Sagan gave me goosebumps when they played it in his voice in the episode.
Dark grey and black static with coloured vertical rainbow beams over part of the image. A small pale blue point of light is barely visible.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
It is everything I was feeling and trying to express, said so poetically. Thanks Sagan.

Enjoy you cosmically small burrito.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Consider This...

What if I were a person who wanted to cure chronic pain. I have chronic pain or someone that I know has chronic pain and I want to help. So I develop a product that can help alleviate chronic pain. I then market and sell my product. The consumers of my product have reduced pain.

Then my product is tested in scientific studies. Unfortunately the scientific studies results do not show that my product provides any actual benefit and the most likely benefit of the product is the placebo effect. I continue to sell my product because people claim that it helps them.

Now consider that I am a person who wants to make a lot of money. I don't mind if I scam a few people along the way. So I produce a product and I tell people that it can alleviate chronic pain. I then use my savvy sales skills and knowledge of the placebo effect to scam people with chronic pain. I convince the people who purchase my product that it works and they claim to have reduced pain.

Which one of these scenarios do you consider to be unethical? In both, a product is created that in itself provides no benefit. In both, the people who use the product have reduced chronic pain. Does the intentions of the seller of the product matter?

While I think that it is clear that the second scenario is an unethical scam, I also think that the first is just as bad. Once a producer determines that their products provide no actual benefits, any further promotions or sales are unethical.

Now the question is; what should I do if I know that a product that a close friend or relative uses provides no actual benefit? That research and testing have been done that shows that the claims are invalid? It seems like the answer should be straight forward; tell the friend or relative. That's what someone who claims be be a skeptic would do because skepticism is the intersection of scientific education and consumer protection. 

Unfortunately, it is sometimes much more complicated than that. Sometimes, I'm afraid that if I tell them that it will hurt their feelings or they won't believe me. Or they'll think that I'm trying to ridicule them or show off my scientific bravado (which I'll never claim to have). And even if I am just trying to help, I think that in the end it will damage our relationship. I want to try to help those I care about but most of the time I don't. So I say nothing and smile and nod when they talk about it.

 Enjoy your scammed burrito.