Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fallout 4 merchant super bug exploit ... empty a shop in seconds

So I have not seen this exploit listed anywhere yet. I discovered it when playing with the well advertised ammo bug -- which it's similar to (the one where you buy ammo / sell back one round / sell back all / continue selling back the phantom round that remains). Similar, and it builds on it, but different. Way, way quicker...you can rack up thousands & thousands of bottle caps in seconds.

The video and steps follow.


Steps:
1. Go to a merchant that sells .50 cal ammo.
2. Select all of it from their inventory.
3. Sell back one round.
4. Sell back a few more (but not all) rounds.
5. Continue selling the remaining rounds, until the merchant owes you more bottlecaps than they have in store.
6. Browse their their inventory now. Purchase all the .50 cal ammo back again. Notice that even though you're buying from them, the game tracks it as money the merchant owes you.
7. Repeat until you have plenty of bottle caps.
8. Buy everything you want. Accept the trade.
9. Enjoy until Bethesda patches. :-)


Notes: I'm playing on PS4. I've found that this works most reliably with merchants who sell .50 cal ammo, but I have got it to work on other calibers sometimes. Also, I should note that I haven't yet started a new game to verify that I can reproduce the behavior on a fresh character, but my hunch is that it'll work as I can so consistently reproduce it w/this one (and similar exploits have proved consistently available).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So many problems with "We can't seem to pinpoint the problem"

I'm seeing a post pop up in my feed, and I can't seem to find where it originated; but it's been copied/pasted as a status by several people I know, and I see it showing up at various places online. It's a lengthy list of bad-things-by-Muslims, combined with a laughably fact-adverse section on how nobody-else-does-bad-things, leading to the inevitable implication that Muslims-are-scary-no-good-and-very-bad.

I've broken it into sections for evaluation (emphasis my own), but if you're into self-torture, the text in its entirety can be found at the bottom.

We Can't Seem To Pinpoint The Problem

The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim
The Beltway Snipers were Muslims
The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim
The underwear Bomber was a Muslim
The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims
The Bali Nightclub Bombers were Muslims
The London Subway Bombers were Muslims
The Moscow Theater Attackers were Muslims
The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims
The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims
The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims
The Iranian Embassy Takeover, was by Muslims
The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims
The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Muslims
The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims
The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims
The Kenyan US, Embassy Bombers were Muslims
The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims
The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims
The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims
The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims
The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims
The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims
The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims

So, there you have it...a list of terrible things radical Muslims have done. (Take that, anyone arguing Islamic extremists don't commit crimes!!)


 Think of it:
Buddhists living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Christians = No Problem
Hindus living with Jews = No Problem
Christians living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Confucians = No Problem
Confucians living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Sikhs = No Problem
Sikhs living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Christians = No Problem
Christians living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Confucians = No Problem
Confusians living with Hindus = No Problem
Muslims living with Hindus = Problem
Muslims living with Buddhists = Problem
Muslims living with Christians = Problem
Muslims living with Jews = Problem
Muslims living with Sikhs = Problem
Muslims living with Baha'is = Problem
Muslims living with Shintos = Problem
Muslims living with Atheists = Problem
MUSLIMS LIVING WITH MUSLIMS = BIG PROBLEM

You may have noticed that line I bolded. If not, if you got lost among all that BS, allow me to re-quote:
Christians living with Jews = No Problem
 Right. No problem. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Other than, oh, I don't know.

  • The-fucking-Inquisition.
  • The lower-case "i" inquisitions that took place all over Europe
  • That time when Christians kicked Jews out of England
  • Those times when Christians persecuted Jews because of blood libels
  • The pogroms, persecutions and oppressions of Jewish people throughout both Western and Eastern Europe
  • The. Holocaust.

But, yeah, other than pretty much all of Christian history, "no problem" bro!

And let's look at how much of a "no problem" it's been for people of other faiths living among Christians. We could ask the thriving pagan communities of Europe, for instance.

Could, if they hadn't been forcibly converted or put to the sword. But, you know, "No problem!"

There's also a curious omission here. The author doesn't -- to his or her limited credit -- note that it's been "no problem" when Christians have lived with Christians. The fact that there is so much ALL-CAPS-EMPHASIS on the BIG PROBLEM that ensues when Muslims live together seems to imply a measure of uniqueness, though, so let's address that too.

Since pretty much the beginning of Christianity, literally, Christians have been having "BIG PROBLEM"s with other Christians. The Catholic / Protestant conflicts that ran Europe red weren't the half of it. Just ask the Arians. Or the Cathars.

Wait, you can't. They were wiped out. By other Christians. Point is, Christians have been massacring other Christians since early on. And that's for theological differences.

I haven't even mentioned how Christians have used their faith to justify racism. Or killing abortion doctors...in church, no less. Because, let's face it, some Christians can't even co-exist with women's health providers without getting murderous.

So to suggest that Muslim versus Muslim violence is unique to that religion is, well, bullshit. Pure and utter. Steaming loads of it.

But the author goes on:
 **********SO THIS LEADS TO *****************
They're not happy in Gaza
They're not happy in Egypt
They're not happy in Libya
They're not happy in Morocco
They're not happy in Iran
They're not happy in Iraq
They're not happy in Yemen
They're not happy in Afghanistan
They're not happy in Pakistan
They're not happy in Syria
They're not happy in Lebanon
They're not happy in Nigeria
They're not happy in Kenya
They're not happy in Sudan
Aside from the fact that people aren't happy in some of those countries because, well, we've been bombing them...it's worth pointing out that plenty of people are happy in those countries. Religious extremism may lead to discord, and may not sit well with the more enlightened elements of society, but it's not as if those populations are abandoning ship posthaste.

Which, as it happens, seems to be exactly what the author thinks is going on:

******** So, where are they happy? **********
They're happy in Australia
They're happy in England
They're happy in Belgium
They're happy in France
They're happy in Italy
They're happy in Germany
They're happy in Sweden
They're happy in the USA & Canada
They're happy in Norway & India
So immigrants to secular nations are happy in secular countries.
Reminds me of this story I heard once, about a country where people, tired of the unending religious bloodletting in Europe, tried to set up a secular nation with freedom of religion. They did it, and you know what? It worked out well; they were pretty happy. All of them. The religious ones. The irreligious ones.
They're happy in almost every country that is not Islamic! And who do they blame?
Not Islam...
Not their leadership...
Not themselves �
THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!!
And they want to change the countries they're happy in, to be like the countries they came from where they were unhappy!
Aside from the fact that this is a peculiar definition of happiness that the author is using...imagine that. Religious people constantly wanting to tear down the freedoms around them to impose their own beliefs on everyone around them.

Damn. That's scary. I guess you're right. Islam must be singularly problematic.

Because you'd never see Christians doing that, would you?








=================================================================

Full text:


We Can't Seem To Pinpoint The Problem
The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim
The Beltway Snipers were Muslims
The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim
The underwear Bomber was a Muslim
The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims
The Bali Nightclub Bombers were Muslims
The London Subway Bombers were Muslims
The Moscow Theater Attackers were Muslims
The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims
The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims
The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims
The Iranian Embassy Takeover, was by Muslims
The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims
The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Muslims
The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims
The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims
The Kenyan US, Embassy Bombers were Muslims
The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims
The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims
The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims
The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims
The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims
The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims
The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims
Think of it:
Buddhists living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Christians = No Problem
Hindus living with Jews = No Problem
Christians living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Confucians = No Problem
Confucians living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Sikhs = No Problem
Sikhs living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Christians = No Problem
Christians living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Confucians = No Problem
Confusians living with Hindus = No Problem
Muslims living with Hindus = Problem
Muslims living with Buddhists = Problem
Muslims living with Christians = Problem
Muslims living with Jews = Problem
Muslims living with Sikhs = Problem
Muslims living with Baha'is = Problem
Muslims living with Shintos = Problem
Muslims living with Atheists = Problem
MUSLIMS LIVING WITH MUSLIMS = BIG PROBLEM
**********SO THIS LEADS TO *****************
They're not happy in Gaza
They're not happy in Egypt
They're not happy in Libya
They're not happy in Morocco
They're not happy in Iran
They're not happy in Iraq
They're not happy in Yemen
They're not happy in Afghanistan
They're not happy in Pakistan
They're not happy in Syria
They're not happy in Lebanon
They're not happy in Nigeria
They're not happy in Kenya
They're not happy in Sudan
******** So, where are they happy? **********
They're happy in Australia
They're happy in England
They're happy in Belgium
They're happy in France
They're happy in Italy
They're happy in Germany
They're happy in Sweden
They're happy in the USA & Canada
They're happy in Norway & India
They're happy in almost every country that is not Islamic! And who do they blame?
Not Islam...
Not their leadership...
Not themselves �
THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!!
And they want to change the countries they're happy in, to be like the countries they came from where they were unhappy!
******** So, What are their Major Organizations? **********
Islamic Jihad : AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
ISIS: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Al-Qaeda: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Taliban: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Hamas: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Hezbollah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Boko Haram: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Al-Nusra: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Abu Sayyaf: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Al-Badr: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Muslim Brotherhood: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Lashkar-e-Taiba: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Palestine Liberation Front: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Ansaru: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Jemaah Islamiyah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Abdullah Azzam Brigades: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
And we just can’t figure out who's causing the problem!!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A few good rules does not a just moral system make

To many fundamentalist Christians (and believers of other stripes), morality is not a reasoned set of rules we've established for man's well-being, but rather a set of dictates from on high, presumably for man's well-being. Thus we see that, no matter how odious the outcome (robbing women of reproductive rights; robbing gay people of civil rights; etc.) and how devastating its impact on people, if you can convince believers that God wants it done, it is assumed right and just and pursued with a vengeance. You might be destroying and in some cases ending someone's life, but as long as God dictates it, somehow, perversely, it's the best thing for that person.

Believers will sometimes try to justify these monstrous acts, often with specious or downright monstrous reasoning of their own. Often enough, the reason comes down, in part or in whole, to the authority of God's moral code (as the believer defines it, at least). A rule is just because the believer assumes God supports it. Even if we cannot understand why, even if it appears harmful and monstrous, even if it is literally ruining people's lives, we just have to trust that it's for the best. Because God wouldn't give us a rule that wasn't good for us; and if we start to question the laws God has given, well, what basis for morality is there? As Ken Ham has charmingly wondered, if you don't believe in God's rules, what's stopping you from eating babies and raping animals? Sure, you may have secular moral codes; but without an authority figure handing down unimpeachable dictates, is anything ever really wrong? You might not like persecuting gay people, but if you won't obey God on that, why should we also stop murder?

Now, this kind of morality is less morality and more rule-following. In this worldview, humans aren't actually expected to exercise moral judgment, but rather to follow the rules given them; and, like a well-trained attack dog praised for his obedience, the believer is congratulated for following the rules closely, regardless of whose life he ruins in the process. The more closely he follows, the more moral he is (good boy!).

But not only is robotic obedience not demonstrative of deep moral thought, it's duplicitous to imply that because a code demands some morally justifiable behaviors all demanded behaviors are by extension morally justifiable. Furthermore, while observing a given rule may be morally justifiable in many cases, that does not in and of itself validate the reasons that led that to implementing that rule.

Perhaps the simplest way to explain my point is by way of demonstration. Let's suppose someone – a god, if you like – appeared, and offered up a set of rules. These were the Way of Convenience, and they go something like so:

1. Wasteful noise and inconvenience are loathsome in the sight of the Lord thy God. Thus sayeth the Lord:
2. Thou shalt not kill thine brother, nor shalt thou kill thine sister, or thine friend, or thine enemy. For killing is noisesome business, and the Lord finds it tiring.
3. Thou shalt not rob thine neighbor, for this creates unnecessary paperwork.
4. Thou shalt not commit adultery, for family drama vexes the Lord.

Now, these seem like pretty good end goals – something most people (and most moral or religious teachings, for that matter) can agree upon: don't kill, don't rob, don't cheat on your spouse.

But while we can agree that those are good goals, we also recognize that the reasons why are stupid. In other words, we implicitly acknowledge that decent ends are not validation of means. So the fact that, buried with a lot of odious and downright silly commandments, there are some solid principles in the Bible (or any religious text) is not validation of the Bible's moral authority, anymore than it is validation of the Way of Convenience. You have to actually demonstrate that there is a good reason to observe your set of rules, outside of the fact that there are a few agreeable dictates among there.

Now let's take this analogy further. Let's suppose, following all the nice-rules-for-silly-reasons, we get to a passage like this in the Way of Convenience:

843 And the Lord thy God spake, saying, People who sing in the shower are an abomination in the sight of the Lord thy God.
844 Forsaking the natural uses of bath time, they pursue musical endeavors which are neither fitting nor pleasing in the sight of God.
845 Let the shower singers be forever cut off from my people, and let their blood be upon them.

Even if all 842 prior verses were rosy and wonderful, and so it hadn't occurred to us to view them with a skeptical eye, this would be a really good time to start applying some of that skepticism.

Somehow, though, in our day and age people still look to a book that justifies owning people as slaves, regulates how a rapist can get away with his crime, prescribes the death penalty for disrespectful children; and a God who floods the entire world killing children, babies and fetuses along with everyone else (but is pro-life!); a God who metes out collective punishment for the actions of individuals; a God who punishes thought crimes while forgiving actual crimes (if the sinner repents!); a God who would allow the devil to torment a loyal follower just to prove his point; somehow, people insist that we must not only look to this book and this god without the least bit of skepticism, but actually derive our moral principles from a literal reading of it.

This isn't morality. This is just following orders, and assuming that you're not actually responsible for exercising moral judgment – because your particular orders came from the top man himself, the General in the Sky. You don't have to prove it, because you feel it's true. And, what's more, the rest of us have to follow those same orders too.

Because, my God, what's to stop us from eating babies and fucking animals if we don't rely on order-taking?!

Monday, July 13, 2015

It isn't “love” when you're hurting people...

Love is kind, love is patient...
love wants to take your rights?
After the SCOTUS decided that gay Americans are protected under the constitution too – and so deserve the same marriage rights as straight Americans – there's been a noticeable shift in the winds from some corners of the anti-LGBT Christian community. Not that minds have changed, of course, but rather that the tone being promoted by many has softened: it's a lot less “Westboro Baptist” and a lot more “concerned friend.”

There's always been the “hate the sin, love the sinner” nonsense, of course. But that's tended to focus a lot more on the hate, with the love being the caveat that (supposedly) makes it all better: hey, don't call me a bigot, man; I hate that you're gay, because that's disgusting, evil, and totally icky...but I totally love you!

After the initial impotent, sputtering indignation following the ruling, some thunderstruck conservative Christians seem to be trying to figure out a different approach. Unfortunately, they're attempting to figure out a new way to say exactly the same thing, in support of exactly the same positions: in short, a more palatable excuse for fighting to deprive gay Americans of equal protection under the Constitution.

And while some of the results have been so absurd as to border on self-parody, the tone softening deserves a closer look. Following the ruling, Ed Stetzer at Christianity Today, for instance, offered this exhortation to Christians bemoaning this “re-definition” of marriage:
As we live in a culture that has just defined marriage in a way contrary to what evangelicals and others believe, we must understand that, as Christians, we aren't the only ones who care about marriage. As a result, we must keep in mind that discussions surrounding the definition of marriage carry a lot of emotions and must be handled with care.

As evangelicals contend for the definition of marriage in spheres outside the law (that is settled now), we must keep in mind truth is often not heard if it's not communicated in love. If we want to be heard, we should communicate in a way worth hearing.

Mark Galli (also at Christianity Today) hoped Christians would take this defeat as an opportunity to re-engage LGBT people. The National Association of Evangelicals' statement mourned that “the legal definition of marriage...is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth” … but they encouraged

...Evangelicals and other followers of the Bible have a heightened opportunity to demonstrate the attractiveness of loving Christian marriages and families. Evangelicals should renew their commitment to the sacrificial love and covenantal faithfulness to which Jesus calls all husbands and wives.
As witnesses to the truth, evangelicals should be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage.
Bob Lepine at Family Life spent a good deal of space calling out the angry, hateful approach Christians have embraced toward homosexuality, and calls instead for Christians to “reach out with compassion” following the ruling. But, again, at no point are we talking bridge building and acceptance. As Lepine writes,
I believe in the months and years to come, there will be people who have either sampled or participated actively in homosexual activities who are going to be looking for a way to deal with their shame and their guilt. They are going to be looking for a way out of the lifestyle. Would these people even think to look to the church for help? Would they think of us as "kind people who really care about me" or as angry, hate-filled men and women who will only make them feel more ashamed of where they have been? Are we preparing ourselves as the church to be ready to provide help and hope to those who will be seeking a way out?
So the tone is definitely, in some quarters, shifting -- or, at least, we're seeing the gloves-on approach promoted more often. There are still the presidential candidates who are vocally advocating means of reviving marriage inequality (including Wisconsin's own Sarah Palin Scott Walker). There is still ample rage and hateful commentary to be found. But there's also a kinder, gentler face emerging. 

But is it really? Certainly, the rhetoric is being toned down. But is rhetoric the problem?

I don't think so. Language is important, but the fight over marriage equality wasn't a fight over how we talked about it. Conservatives' vitriol might have contributed to the change in public opinion by alienating people, but the problem wasn't that gay people were denied their rights in a hostile manner; the problem was that people were denied rights based on their sexual orientation. And that's the sort of thing a smile can't fix.

This gets really interesting when it's all put forth in a “we're doing it for your own good” framework. Bolstered by witnesses like these (the market for a “gay de-conversion” story is as strong as it ever was, I guess), I've seen this line more frequently these days. Like Bob Lepine argues, the Church has to be there to “help” gay people overcome their “lifestyle”.

It would be bad enough if the “help” conservative Christians had in mind was inflicting self-hate and shame on people – all for the sake of redeeming them, naturally! But as we've already seen, and as the Republican front-runners are keen to remind us, they're not just intent on inflicting emotional anguish. The rash of “religious freedom” bills we saw when conservatives began to realize they might lose on the marriage front is a good indicator that even if they accept, of necessity, that marriage equality is here to stay (a position that even now is disputed by many GOP presidential candidates), conservatives are going to fight tooth and nail to continue discriminating as long as possible.

Which brings me to the point of my title. Conservative Christians have been, are, and will likely continue for some time, fighting to make gay Americans' lives hell. Conservatives may tell themselves that it's all for a good cause, that they're just trying to save gay people from an eternity in hell, that this is just a brand of tough love, that they have to be cruel to be kind...but at the end of the day, if you work to ostracize, isolate, shame and persecute someone; if you try to legalize discrimination against a subset of your fellow Americans, and try to deprive them of equal protection and rights under the law; if you throw a tantrum when you can no longer legally control the behavior of other people; if you think you should be able to deprive someone of a consenting relationship, of a family, of legal benefits and general dignity; if you think you should be free to imply that a person's love for another consenting adult makes him or her a monster and a threat; that's not a manifestation of love. And insisting that you're only doing it because you love the person so very much is not just duplicitous, it's creepy as hell. It's the kind of rationalization an abuser offers, and with the same justification: none.

Because you don't hurt the people you love. And if you do, it's not love. No matter how many times that you insist it is, or how wide your smile as you say it...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sorry, it is a gun problem: "Cain killed Abel with a rock"

Inevitably, every time there's a(nother) prominent shooting, every time there's another senseless mass slaughter, the anti-gun control crowd predictably contributes to the conversation by screaming about how keeping guns out of the hands of killers isn't a viable solution to stopping killings.

There is one particularly stupid meme I've seen shared, in one form or another, after every mass shooting in the past few years (and, yes, the fact that I even have to write those words, the fact that we've become so acclimated to a world where mass killings are another facet of life -- and that the primary concern of so many is defending unlimited gun ownership rather than, I don't know, people --  makes me sick).

I don't know where this originated, but you can find it in lots of places.


Predictably, after the Charleston shooting, I've seen it showing up in my feed. The image, which reads, "Cain killed Abel with a rock. It's a HEART problem, not a gun problem" references Jeremiah 17:9.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
At which point, you're supposed to, apparently, throw your hands up in defeat. People have been killing each other since the days of myth, my friend; it's all part of God's mysterious plan, so don't be hating on the guns. It's all a byproduct of our fallen natures, so if you want to do something really productive, you won't waste your time preventing would-be killers from acquiring weapons that enable them to commit mass murder; you'll do something really useful, like push religion on people to address that "heart problem." (What religion? Well, damn it, your church's of course! After all, who knows the mind of God better than you and everyone who agrees with you?!)

Earlier, I called this a particularly stupid argument. Aside from the absurdity of trying to divine some sort of solution to a complex contemporary issue from a literary murder that was supposed to happen thousands of years ago, this is just a poor argument.

No one is suggesting that guns are the One Ring, that will corrupt the mind and turn a "Good Guy with a Gun" into a deranged killer. No one is suggesting that guns are the only tool with which someone intent on murder can go about realizing his ambitions. On the contrary, it's not that guns create killers, or that guns are the only tools killers have or could ever use, but that guns enable killers to do significantly more damage than they could do without guns. This isn't a difficult concept, but the image bypasses the actual issue at hand by implying a few strawmen arguments.

Like Don Quixote's windmills, the points this image addresses aren't real arguments. But those who share it seem to be convinced that they are, and that simply noting that people kill with other weapons too is enough to shut down a conversation on gun control.

Sorry, folks, it's not. We all get that some people snap, some people are evil, and some people are going to attempt -- and succeed at -- killing people. We get it. That's the reason we're having this conversation. And we get that guns are not inherently good or evil. They're just objects. We've got the concept.

But those inanimate objects, in the hands of people with "heart problems," are capable of inflicting a hell of a lot more damage than a rock would be. Which is, you know, why we're talking about keeping those tools of killing out of the hands of people who mean to misuse them.

It's really not that difficult of a concept. We recognize that the more damage a weapon is capable of inflicting, the more regulated it should be. No one in their right mind would argue that we should just let countries pursue nuclear programs, because, what the hell...it's a heart problem, dude, not a nuke problem! We're not crazy enough to advocate for civilian ownership of military weaponry because, hey, Cain killed Abel with a rock, man...it's not about Neighbor Bob's tank! We realize that when something empowers people to commit mass murder, it might be in our interests to regulate who has access, or at least keep them out of the hands of violent, crazy people.

Until we get to guns. Then, all of a sudden, our reasoning capabilities seem to go out the window, and we resort to, "But, dude, Cain used a rock!"

Sorry, people, it's a gun problem. It's a gun problem because we're making it incredibly easy for killers, those who suffer from "problems of the heart," to get guns, and those guns enable them to commit mass murder. That's the gun problem.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vesterheim museum, in Decorah Iowa

This past weekend I joined a group of folks from a rosemaling class I was taking for a field trip to the Vesterheim museum in Decorah Iowa. Wow.

So much history -- and beauty. Here are a few highlights from different sections of the museum.

Perhaps one of the most moving exhibits was this one, the translation of a poem written on a barn board by Halvor Langslet before leaving for America:
Here have I roamed many a day
in this wood, so green and fair,
but alas, my time is up,
ad I must bid this place adieu,
for I am off to America.
Farewell, ye birds, ye thousands
who for me have sung.
I fancy I'll here ne'er again come.
Farewell. Farewell.

- Halvor Langslet



 There was also a fascinating selection of items that accompanied Norwegians to the United States. Some of them were expected -- like spinning wheels, plates, etc. And then there were things like the following, which is a beautifully carved butter mold:


There were a number of fascinating pieces of furniture, including this one, that combined some impressive painting and carving.





The rosemaling was incredible, too.



Obviously, this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of everything that we saw...but hopefully it gives you an idea of the kinds of stuff there. If you're interested in rosemaling, or acanthus or chip carving, or immigrant history, etc., this is definitely a place to go!



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Reminder: you are a broken, miserable person. Now praise the one who made you that way

Like God's Not Dead, Do You Believe? is pretty active with its "we love Jesus -- now see our movie" meme offerings. 

Like this one: a reminder that you, human, are a worthless, broken entity. By God's design (and Eve's snacking). And the only thing that can save you? Why, the thing that broke you in the first place! (Oh, and see our movie!)




You know what they say about imaginary cures for made up ailments...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Conservative Christian persecution watch: Gay ISIS and the impending criminalization of Christianity

As you may know, there are few groups as persecuted today as right wing American Christians.
Scratch that -- no group as persecuted today as far right American Christians.
Hell, there's probably never been a group quite so persecuted.

And do you know who is doing the persecuting? Well, obviously, there's the usual suspects -- women, Muslims, liberal Christians, liberals, feminists, moderate Christians, environmentalists, the Pope, the media, abortion doctors, and, of course, Obama. But there's no group quite so insidious, quite so brutal, quite so relentless and hateful as gay Americans.

You see, gay Americans want to be able to walk into a store and purchase an offered service without being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Gay Americans want to have the same marriage rights as straight Americans.

In other words, they're basically ISIS. And I'm not even really exaggerating here, except completely. But this is actually a concern some right-wing Christians have been expressing, as in the article The Gay Rights Movement: ISIS Without the Bullets?

It's a provocative question -- if, by provocative, one means bat-shit crazy. But, as Patheos blogger Libby Anne demonstrates rather well, bat-shit crazy is more or less a way of life for the article's author, Gary DeMar.

But the sentiments DeMar puts forth are hardly unique to the furthest fringes of the right-wing. They're rather a common refrain among the pro-discrimination crowd: it's persecution not to be allowed to discriminate against gay people. Throwing in ISIS is just the crazy-frosting on the rabid-bigot-cake.



 

DeMar's argument is that since breaking the law comes with consequences, sometimes financial ones, in the United States, American Christians who want to break the law are basically in the same boat as victims of ISIS, who must convert of die. Other than the dying piece. Which is kind of like saying that a paper cut is like a beheading, except you get to keep your head: still three degrees past are-you-freaking-kidding-me?

There's a lot more that could be said about it, but these points are worth making.
  • No one is demanding a conversion -- Jan (above) can be as bigoted as she likes. No one is trying to change her mind, or make her love gay people. She just can't break the law to withhold offered services from gay people. That's not what ISIS asks of its victims. By a long shot.
  • "Lose everything" is a significant overstatement (even in the cases he lists, many involve no financial repercussions, and in some cases the loss of income is voluntary -- the bigots in question would rather shutter their shops than sell to gay people). The comparison makes this particularly egregious -- because the "everything" in question on the left is literally everything, and the "everything" on the right is...well, not even close.
  • On a similar note... fines are not death. It's a far cry from slapping a fine on a shop that discriminates against customers based on sexual orientation (or race, or religion) to killing them. ISIS without bullets (and beheadings and burnings and sledge hammers, etc.) is not really ISIS. What makes ISIS so particularly loathsome are the very things the DeMar dismisses. When you strip away the killing, maiming, torturing and other violent aspects of ISIS, that's not ISIS.
But, as I alluded to earlier it isn't just one random homophobe spewing absurdities on his blog. This persecution complex is pretty inherent to the religious right these days. It's the message from celebrities like Josh Duggar (of '19 Kids and Counting'), who suggests that not being allowed to persecute people is actually an example of Christians being persecuted, to presidential hopefuls like Mike Huckabee, who thinks that...well, not being able to persecute people is evidence of Christians being persecuted.

Huckabee didn't mention ISIS, but he didn't need to invoke gay Jihadis in order to stumble through the looking glass.
I think it’s fair to say that Christian convictions are under attack as never before. Not just in our lifetime, but ever before in the history of this great nation. We are moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity.
Because, you see, if gay people are allowed to wed, and religious charlatans can't force damaging pseudo-medicine on gay people, Christianity and Christians are under attack. It's not just bad, it's worse than it's ever been.

Basically, ISIS is at the gates. Demanding cake for their gay weddings.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The most delicious phone (or, cat meets technology)



I know I haven't been posting much lately...work has been taking up most of my time these days. But for now here's a video of my cat Teddi trying to eat my phone, because why not. :)


Monday, April 6, 2015

The "Special Snowflake" Syndrome of American Conservatives

The "religious freedom" debacles in Indiana and Arkansas have illustrated a lot of important points lately. The big one, of course, is that we as a society are moving past the point where it is socially acceptable to harbor animus toward another human being because of their sexual orientation, and try to find refuge in the law for discriminatory impulses that arise from that animus.


But there's another important one that should not be overlooked. It's the religious far-right's "special snowflake" syndrome. That's really what the entire conversation is about: conservative Christians thinking that because they believe God sanctions their particular brand of bigotry, they're special snowflakes who shouldn't be retrained by human decency, much less the pesky laws that the rest of us are obliged to follow. If you hate hard enough, the rules don't apply to you.


Because you are a special snowflake, who really, really believes in what you're doing; your feelings about something make you so special that the law just ceases to apply to special little you.

And it's not like conservatives are going too far out on a limb in believing this. In some measure we've come to accept that belief should excuse you from following the law, even as it impacts others. With, for instance, Hobby Lobby, we see a shift toward the idea that your beliefs, even if factually wrong, simply exempt you from the law -- even when, in practice, that has an impact on other people. We've moved away from the sensible idea that a person shouldn't be held to laws that conflict with his beliefs where exemption won't have an impact on others, to a world where religion is a valid excuse to get out of such obviously necessary things as driver's licensing rules. So we've gone from "your career won't be ruined for using a prohibited substance in your religious ceremony" to "you don't have to provide health care coverage for medicine you don't like". Religion and religious belief has become the trump card: having a belief about something, in a sense, did make you a special snowflake, and you could get away with all sorts of things, regardless of the impact on other people, by virtue of how special you were.


All animals are equal, but animals who profess a strongly held belief are more equal.

Or so conservatives, and their overly broad interpretations of religious freedom, seem to have convinced themselves. And then along comes the Indiana skirmish, and all of a sudden this isn't a given any more. Along the lines of "your right to swing your fist ends where the other fellow's nose begins," people, it seems, are not willing to make the same allowance for belief when it impacts people beyond the believer as they are when it concerns just the believer. In other words, people still haven't lost sight of the only sensible view of religious liberty there is: we should all be free to live according to our consciences, up until the moment that those consciences drive us to impose our beliefs on another person. In a world full of competing, often contradictory ideas, this is the only view of religious liberty that is feasible, or could possibly be evenly applied.

And it's a far cry from the special snowflake syndrome conservatives seem to be suffering from...because, at the end of the day, none of us are or should be special snowflakes in the eyes of the law, and none of us should have a trump card to use at the expense of our neighbors.


(Image info: "Unique, snow flake" by Pen Waggener - Flickr: Unique. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Since when did we decide that American discrimination doesn't matter as long as someone else is worse?


I must have missed the memo, but since when did we decide that our discrimination doesn't matter as long as someone else, somewhere else, is worse?


It seems like the right has adopted this as a go-to defense of their bigotry: stop whining about American Christians who want to be able to oppress gay people -- at least we're not asking to kill them, like they do in some countries!


It's a takeaway from Senator Tom Cotton's suggestion on CNN the other day that Americans upset by the potential for legalized discrimination really needed to "have a sense of perspective. In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay."


And it's certainly the implication to posts like the following, from former Congressman Allen West.
I find it ironic that we are so tolerant of a religion that kills Christians, gays and lesbians, yet we are punishing businesses in America for their Christian religious beliefs. It seems this Easter weekend we are reminded that Christian persecution has risen to a disturbing level.
The above text accompanied this image:



Not only, you see, are Christians being "persecuted" by not being allowed to discriminate against LGBT people, West is complaining that we're tolerant of a religion that kills gay people. Presumably, the religion in question is Islam -- not only because it's a safe bet that, at any given time, Allen West is no more than half a sentence away from an Islam-slam, but because it would be far too much to expect the sort of honesty that would acknowledge the existence of murderous, homophobic strains of the Christian faith.

The message, then, is that you've no business criticizing Christian bigots, because at least they're not trying to murder gay people like some Muslim bigots do. (Except, of course, when they are; but once you're down the conservative rabbit hole, you realize that while "bad Muslims" define the faith, "bad Christians" just don't count.) In short, be grateful, gay people: American Christian conservatives are contenting themselves to isolate and discriminate against you, when they could be trying to kill you!

Of course, not all versions have to do with Muslims.

If Islam is Allen West's kryptonite, abortion is right-wing writer Matt Walsh's. So, obviously, he tells us in an over-the-top rage-fest on The Blaze, anti-discrimination efforts are, like, totally pointless -- because abortion!
Don’t be silly, the national outrage has nothing to do with dead babies, instead it’s all targeted at Indiana. No, not because anyone’s life is in jeopardy, but because a few homosexuals might be inconvenienced when attempting to purchase consumer goods.
In Walsh's mind, it's crazy that people could simultaneously think women should have reproductive rights and LGBT people shouldn't face discrimination.


Now, are there worse things that anti-gay discrimination? Of course (although a woman's right to choose is certainly not one of them...). Back in the day, there were worse things that segregated drinking fountains, or racial miscegenation laws. But we recognize that "something worse exists" isn't a valid reason to legalize the somewhat-less-bad action. It doesn't absolve a thief of his crime because he didn't also commit murder like someone else might have: he's still guilty of theft. It doesn't absolve a bigot of bigotry just because his particular brand of bigotry doesn't lean toward murder.


Yes, there are worse things than treating gay people like second class human beings, and there are more violently-inclined bigots than your average right-wing Christian bigot. But so what? There are worse things than having your wallet stolen -- both legal and illegal. But just because some financial schemes are essentially legalized theft, and some criminals resort to worse crimes than theft, I'd still be pretty upset if someone stole my wallet. And, if it was legal to steal wallets, I'd work to make it illegal.


So, no, conservatives, you don't get a free pass to discriminate just because there are worse bigots than you. No, it's not okay that you want to deprive people of anti-discrimination protections because you also want to target other people and their rights. You're not moral just because someone else somewhere else is even more immoral than you.

And, frankly, you do yourself no favors by lying on top of aggressively pursuing special protections for your bigotry. I don't think anyone outside conservative circles thinks it reflects well on you that your stance on LGBT rights isn't as bad as that of ISIS' or the Ayatollahs'. And I doubt the comparison sits that well with a lot of your base, either.

Friday, March 20, 2015

For the right-wing, even #RaceTogether is a good excuse to bash them damned kids

Commentators on the left had plenty to say about Starbucks' #RaceTogether plan to address the complex issues of racism with your cup of coffee. Even Starbucks' baristas weighed in on what a misplaced idea it was. There have been plenty of good points raised, and some bad ones too. Particularly when we start to look at the right-wing reactions -- that's when things get really interesting.

I've written before about the GOP's successful tactic of dehumanizing and degrading the working poor. If you listen to conservative commentators for any length of time, the pattern is pretty hard to miss. Certain groups -- minorities, the LGBT community, non-submissive women, non-religious people, liberals, etc. -- are cast not just as being on the other side of an ideological divide on an issue, but as lazy, worthless, and useless. If you're not white, Christian, upper middle class or wealthy conservatives, you're one of the enemies, fools, criminals, and/or monsters. There is language specifically reserved for these "others": Thug. Baby-killer. Slut. Un-American. Moocher. Taker. Welfare queen. God-hater.

Young people are just one of these sets of people that conservatives seem to hate. And not coincidentally, conservative policy is either agnostic to, or downright hostile toward, young people. Republican apathy to student loan debt, attacks on higher education and healthcare access, silence on or opposition to minimum wage, etc., are good indicators that the problems facing millennials at best aren't on the radar of the Republican Party. Often, though, they're the direct result of conservative policy and action.

So how do you convince your base of middle-aged and older voters to support you as you destroy their children and grand-children's prospects? By convincing them that young people are narcissistic, ignorant, clueless, selfish, entitled and lazy. Hell, they even party wrong!

Sound familiar? It's the playbook they've been working from for quite awhile now. Which brings me back to Starbucks and #RaceTogether. On a topic where almost everyone, except the upper echelons of Starbucks' management, can agree that it's a bad idea, or at least poorly implemented, how could this possibly end up an opportunity to bash young people, you ask?

Well, I encourage you to turn to the dark underbelly of conservative social media. Like that intellectual cesspool Right Wing News, which shared this image earlier today:




Arrogant.
No real-world experience.
Condescending.
Sneer.
Lecture.

And if these descriptors weren't enough to make you hate the hapless purveyor of your morning coffee, keep in mind that this arrogant judgey liberal kid wants to "treat you like an ignorant hillbilly" -- as well as imply that you have pedestrian tastes in coffee! What's a Real American© Conservative (but I repeat myself -- is there any other kind?!) to do?

For many of RWN's commenters, the solution was simple: reveal to the world just how ignorant, racist and plain old crazy they actually are. And they managed that all on their own, with zero input from any "arrogant 20-something".

Like Jason, who decided to share this gem:


Or these people, who are truly concerned about racial victimization in this country...of white people, of course.




Then there's the Real Americans © who are worried about the real problem in this country: liberals. These patriots know what's wrong in this world. Michael, for instance, points out just how elitist baristas are; like Donna, he has a solution: don't drink Starbucks coffee. Sean, though, has a dream.

Vincent is just tired of it all. It must be overwhelming, after a while, to put up with people having different ideas than you.


Brandon, meanwhile, has a message for the "libtard" behind the counter. And David is worried about the spiritual implications of purchasing from Starbucks.


Worried enough to comment more than once, in fact.


That's a good point, really. Supporting Starbucks is basically saying this:




To Satan, you godless sickos.

But lest we lose sight of the more tangible aspects of this travesty, Bob is there to bring us back around to the main point: young people are ignorant know-it-alls, who are just waiting to get in the face of a Real American ©. Oh, and, let's bash low-wage workers for good measure. Because, why not, amirite?


Now, it's worth noting that businesses that actually fight for legal sanction to discriminate against their customers are heroes to these same hateriots. But when a business puts forth a widely criticized (but well-intentioned) policy to get people to think about racism, all of a sudden businesses have no reason to take a moral stance on issues. Indeed, it's outrageous that they'd even contemplate it!

What's more interesting to me is that they feel they are, personally, under attack because people want to end racism...and promptly drop a boat load of racist language to protest the perceived attack. That's pretty telling.

But the way it's framed as an attack by ignorant, judgey young know-it-alls against Real Americans © is also telling. This wasn't a move put in place by the working "20-somethings"; it was put into action by corporate business men. And, still, conservatives manage to make it about them damned arrogant kids.
It's not like youth-bashing is a new thing. Curmudgeons have been complaining about the latest generation pretty much since forever. Conservatives have figured out how to seize onto that generational resentment, and turn it into a major part of their political movement. They've managed to convince some people to hate their children and grand-children's generations, to see young people as lazy, entitled, ignorant and contemptuous. So contemptuous, apparently, that they're lingering in coffee shops and sneering at their elders' coffee choices. And, now, just waiting to accost those elders, and chew them out over race relations. It's a tough life for Real Americans©, courtesy of them damned whippersnappers. 

Men in suits (typically, the heroes of any conservative narrative) coming up with a bad idea really doesn't fit the conservative world view in the same way that arrogant-kids-judging-real-Americans does. And if you're going to convince Republican parents to support a party that wants to subject their kids to a future where education is out of reach, employers pay as little as they want, healthcare is only available to the wealthy, jobs keep going overseas, environmental protections are gone, nature is a privilege reserved for those who can afford it as we sell off our public lands, etc., etc., etc. ... well, you're going to have to convince them to hate the future generations of humanity. Them, and all their coffee-snobbery.

Jon Stewart reveals Fox News' utter hypocrisy with comparison of Ferguson report to Benghazi report

When the GOP-led Benghazi investigation debunked all the Fox Obama conspiracies (that I'm still hearing from conservatives -- thanks for that, btw, Fox), it didn't merit a peep. When the DOJ finds that Michael Brown didn't have his hands up when he was shot, but the Ferguson PD is thoroughly corrupt, racist and abusive -- like Ferguson residents were saying all along -- damn it, protestors better apologize! (And let's just ignore that their concerns were  validated, regardless of the specific incident).


You can spend thousands of written words on something like this, but sometimes the video really speaks for itself. These people are the most amazing hypocrites.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A fiendish and feathery turf war (fowl language warning)

So the quality isn't that great. Regarding the video, it was shot on my phone. As for the puns, well, I make no apology...there just aren't many geese jokes that'll quack you up, but there's a few that I think are just ducky.

Alright, alright, I'll stop. Anyway...I caught this on a walk the other day...the annual showdown has begun a little early this year. The one goose was particularly vocal, and was screaming long before I got the camera.




Monday, March 9, 2015

Forgiveness and redemption from the perspective of an atheist

Forgiveness and redemption are core elements of many religious teachings, the idea that God can clear the slate and we can start anew, at least in the eyes of the divine. But without a god figure, this sort of blank slate isn't really possible.

And yet, forgiveness and even redemption are. No, not supernatural redemption, or forgiveness granted by a divine being. But, stripped of the supernatural elements, the concepts are not only valid but sometimes necessary.

If you were one of those atheists raised outside of religion, this might not make sense. But if you're a former fundamentalist, you probably already know what I'm talking about. Because me? I was raised a religious bigot. My faith taught me to hate pretty much everyone who wasn't like my family and church communities: straight, far right, and hardcore Christian. It wasn't called hate, of course; but that's what it was. Transgender people were abominations. Gay people were pedophiles. Muslims were terrorists -- or were not true Muslims. Women who had premarital sex were sluts. Abortion doctors were murderers. Women who had abortions were too, and deserved to be tried for murder. (In case you are curious, the penalty for murder -- and everything else -- should, in a truly Christian nation, come from the Bible...in the case of murder, the penalty would be death). Depending on the church, racism often lingered just below the surface...and every once in awhile, in plain sight. With the exception of some Buddhists, my dad hated pretty much every one who wasn't Christian; and not just Christian, but conservative Christian. Liberal Christians pissed him off worse than anything. We attended various churches (some very, very culty) as I was growing up, but, in the end, they were all too soft. Because no one knew the mind of God quite as well as my father. So we spent our Sunday's watching a televised dominionist preacher in the morning, and then reading the Bible.

I wish I could say that I saw through the nonsense, but I didn't. I was homeschooled, and taught that the father was the head of the household, appointed by God. To question him was to question God (and, like the God we read about every Sunday, my father was not above emphasizing his authority through brutality). There were things that, even as a child in that situation, didn't make sense; but I questioned within the established parameters only, ever. Doubt was not an option; better understanding was the only object of questions, and sometimes "God has his reasons" was the answer you'd have to content yourself with.

So, after my father's death, when we started attending a local Southern Baptist church for continued spiritual guidance, I didn't bat an eyelash when I heard church leaders say that Islam was a religion created by the Devil. Well, of course! my bigoted brain kicked in. I didn't think twice when I read Christian apologists explain how Christianity was a great religion, and the bad things it did were perversions of True Christianity; but when Islam taught the same sorts of things, that was evidence that it was inherently evil. I accepted and regurgitated such nonsense, because I believed it was true. (As an interesting aside...reading the Quran in full actually was pretty significant to my journey to atheism, because, having been so inundated in the Bible as I had been, it was hard to maintain the nonsensical position that Islam was demonstrably or significantly worse than Christianity...this is also part of the reason why, today, I can't stand to hear atheists saying pretty much the same things that I was taught as a Christian -- "Oh, well, Christianity's bad, of course, but Islam is sooooo much worse...". Aside from the fact that it's not true, it's a cultural bias that allows us excuse the crazy/malicious/evil things our ancestors did, while getting on a high horse about the crazy/malicious/evil things other people do...and all it does is marginalize people and promote bigotry. But I digress).

And no matter how much I wish I had never believed the crazy things I did, I was raised to be a fearful, bigoted zealot...and I was. Then I grew up, and -- with my mom's support -- got an education, at a public university.

Having grown up hearing all the conservative talking points that I had, I fully expected an all-out assault on my values and beliefs. It took me awhile to get used to the fact that it wasn't happening. 

Meanwhile, for the first time, I had real, unfettered access to information. Again, it wasn't an immediate transformation...it probably took longer than it should have...but, like dominoes, once I started really examining my beliefs on one point, the others followed. The process was nowhere near done when I left school (and, for that matter, I don't plan to ever call it quits). But the dominoes had started to fall.

So do I believe in redemption? Of course. Not from sin, or evil spirits, but from ignorance and the callous bigotry that can arise from it; from the trap of closed-minded absolutism; from any scenario that shapes or ensnares us in a fashion contrary to our better natures and humanity.

Forgiveness is more difficult to define, in a sense, because there are aspects that are both external and internal. Then there's the intersection of memory, and how memory ensures that the lessons learned stay learned. It's not enough to "forgive yourself"; and not enough to seek forgiveness from those you've wronged. When I recall things I believed, and the  things I said and did -- not out of malice or a desire to do evil, but in genuine accordance with those beliefs -- I am still ashamed. Where possible, I have sought external forgiveness; and I know that I was not responsible for believing what I was taught from the earliest days of my life as absolute truth. I know that I made the choice to reexamine things I believed when I saw that they conflicted with reality -- a choice I could have ignored, when doing so would have been so much more comforting. I know that I subjected myself to a great deal of internal conflict and discomfort, because I truly wanted to find the truth, and do the right thing; when I could have chosen instead to be comfortable in ignorance. I realize that the process of reforming your worldview is complex and can be lengthy; I recognize that I stumbled on that journey more than once (and will probably do so again as it continues). I have made peace with the past, but I do not forget -- nor do I want to forget -- it. That includes the realization (and attendant feelings) that I was a part of something that I now recognize promotes a great deal of harm (conservative religion), and that the views I once held were, bluntly put, ignorant and harmful. Self-forgiveness, I think, is moving on, lessons learned.


So I don't think the concepts of redemption and forgiveness are limited to religion. I don't think everyone needs them, because I don't think humans are born broken. That's a religious concept, for which I've found no evidence. But where we err, certainly, they are applicable. When we are raised to be broken, to judge and hate and further harmful ideologies, redemption and forgiveness can be found. Not as a boon from the divine being who broke you in the first place, but as something to be found within ourselves and our fellow beings.

And our capacity to recognize our failings, to correct them -- and to want to correct them -- is, I think, more real and beautiful than anything supernatural ever could be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three young Muslims shot by atheist in what may have been hate attack

So I've been reading about an attack by an atheist against Muslims in North Carolina. Police are not yet releasing a motive for the shootings, in which three young people -- all Muslims -- were killed.

Links to the shooter's atheism are being noted by the media, and barring some personal grudge against the victims, it seems that religious hatred might well have been the cause here.


[Craig Stephen] Hicks, the alleged shooter, frequently shared links about atheism on what appears to be his Facebook page. One such post reads: “People say nothing can solve the Middle East problem, not mediation, not arms, not financial aid. I say there is something. Atheism.”

 The victims have been identified as


...Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Mohammad’s sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha...
 Whatever the motive, such violence is barbaric and should be condemned absolutely. If anti-theism was in actuality the deciding factor here, the case is perhaps even more tragic-- killing over God, or the lack of gods, is probably the most senseless reason for killing humankind has ever invented. Whether it is done by a religious person, or whether it is done by an atheist it is an absurd and obscene waste of human life.

My thoughts are with the families of the victims during this horrible time.



Update: details are still sparse, but police comments indicate that the shooting motive might have been an ongoing parking dispute...this doesn't mean that religion was not a factor, or even the primary  factor. More details to come as we learn more. It goes without saying, regardless of what the shooter's motivation, this is a horrible crime, and a senseless tragedy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show

Sad news, Daily Show fans...Jon Stewart is leaving the show. From Time:

Stewart announced his coming departure during the taping of Tuesday night’s show, and Comedy Central president Michele Ganeless confirmed it in a statement. It wasn’t immediately clear what Stewart’s next move will be, nor was it clear who would replace him or whether the show will continue.

There's not really much to say, except that this sucks, and I wish Stewart tons of luck whatever he does next. He's a brilliant comedian, and his fake news gig does a far better job than many of the real ones. Particularly the hacks from Bullshit Mountain, but others as well. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Message for Christians who Believe in Public Prayer

Dear Conservative Christian,

Thank you for joining me a second week in a row, friend, for this special Sunday message. Last week we covered Matthew 25, and the moocher nation. Today, at the kindly suggestion of DailyKos user zenbassoon, we shall return to Matthew. This time, we'll open our Bibles to chapter 6.

The topic is the hypocrisy inherent to open displays of religiosity -- and, dear conservative reader, I must give you fair warning: you may be a little alarmed by what your dear Lord and Savior has to say on the matter.

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Alright, I trust you've had sufficient opportunity to pick yourself up off the floor after that shock? Good. So, let's dive into the substance of this piece. What is Jesus saying?

Well, in a nutshell, that insisting on praying in public is hypocritical showmanship. Boasting about how charitable you are is too. The prayer rallies, the public prayers before meetings, the national days of prayer...all this religiosity in the public square, that conservatives insist must happen for the sake of our nation, is actually hypocritical and runs contrary to the will of God. People who do that do not actually garner God's good will. I mean, at least if you take the word of the radical speaking in Matthew 6 as truth (who was that guy again?).

The right way to pray is to do it in private, in seclusion, without audiences (and cameras and publicity). I know, that's disappointing...how can you show off just how much the Bible means to you, if you're forced to act like you believe it?! Still, according to the Bible, it's the people who pray in secret who can look forward to rewards from heaven; the hypocrites who have to show off as they pray are out of luck.

And that, beloved, is our Sunday message. Check back next week for another – and thanks to all who offered suggestions!

Have a wonderful day,
This humble atheist