Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yay!!!

I'm so relieved that our country is not so incredibly backward after all!!!! Unfortunately for all of my European friends, I won't be moving over there just yet. :)

Way to go Obama!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Socialism

I really intended to write a post about this before now, but better late than never, I suppose. In the late stages of the McCain-Palin campaign, they have started flinging around the word "socialism" and "socialist" along with the phrase "redistribution of wealth" with regards to Obama-Biden. From the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, the definition of Socialism is as follows:
  1. An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. There are many varieties of socialism. Some socialists tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains the dominant influence over the economy; others insist on an abolition of private enterprise. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists.
I realize that the connotations of the word are negative because of those governments who have abused their socialist policies, but because these governments abused their power, I don't think they meet the true definition of socialism. So, what I want to know, given the above definition, is why is it so horrible to call Obama a socialist? Even if it were, true, which it's not, the clear motive behind socialism is not control, but concern for the common good of man. Why is it so horrible for us to care about one another? In America, selfishness has become the number one virtue. As I see it, that's the main appeal of being a Republican for those who claim that they are Republicans because of their economic policies as opposed to the social policies. The Republicans' appeal to the selfishness of the public is their only last stronghold. And it has worked at least somewhat. It has worked for many of those who are rich because they are too greedy to give any of their money to the government for the greater good. They think, "I made this money, I want to keep it all". Unfortunately, this appeal works for the working and middle classes as well because of the American Dream. All of us are going to get rich someday and when we do, we want to keep all of our money, too. Screw all of those people who are struggling to make their own American Dream. Granted, I understand that our welfare system has been vastly abused. I've seen it in action working as a Pharmacy Technician in college. I've seen people come through the drive through pharmacy window (which, by the way, was installed for those people who may have trouble walking, not those that are just too lazy to get out of the car and walk inside) in their Cadillac Escalades and Lincoln Navigators and hand me a Medicaid card and not have to pay a damn thing for their prescriptions, or if they were on more than 3 medicines, they had to pay $3 per prescription. I've seen it. It annoys me, too. But that doesn't mean that there aren't people who are in real need of help. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't try our hardest to reform our education system to try to give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. If all those Republicans could just stop being selfish for a moment and think about what we could all do for one another if we work hard at reforming the government and our education systems, I think the world would be a better place.

And now that I've graduated college and work for the government, I've gotten a new perspective on the selfishness. So many people dislike government employees and complain about high taxes and the money that is used to pay these employees. This is especially common in the Republican party. Yet when something goes wrong, they complain that the government agencies didn't do enough in response or just that they aren't doing a good enough job in general. But what they fail to realize is that the government employees are paid much much less than their privatized counterparts and therefore the government can't compete for the best and brightest employees. Employee retention is worse and half the time, the agencies are understaffed and overworked. But no, we can't pay higher taxes and give the agencies that we depend on on a daily basis any more money because we're selfish and we made that money and we want to keep it all. By the way, government employees pay all the same taxes as everyone else.

As for the phrase "redistribution of wealth", do McCain and Palin really not see that wealth has been being redistributed upward for quite some time now? The oil industry has been making record profits for several years now. Increasing their profits from year to year several hundred percent. This is just one example. But I'm sure that they see it because both of their backgrounds mean that they are benefactors of it. So what they really mean is, "Obama could redistribute the wealth back downward, and we just don't want that, and neither do you" using that same appeal to selfishness, the new American virtue. When are they going to realize that the selfishness is what got us into this financial mess in the first place?

So in conclusion, I'm a "bleeding heart liberal" and I care about other people, even the ones who have abused the system because without everyone working together and without a positive outlook and attitude, we'll never get anywhere. It's time to make caring a virtue instead of selfishness.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cross your fingers for the U.S.

Well, the election is tomorrow. I am very, very nervous! I guess all we can do is sit and watch! If McCain wins, I will be taking Wednesday off from work to mourn the loss of an important election and to decide which part of Europe I'm moving to. Not that I'm superstitious in any way, but *crosses fingers, legs, eyes, and any other crossable body part I can think of*

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Please Consider the Following:

I would like to start by saying that I am fairly liberal (tending to vote Democrat) and that this entry will not be without bias try as I might to be objective on the matter.

I've been compiling some information (and opinions) on Sarah Palin and why she makes McCain-Palin a horrible vote to cast come November.

- When Palin was mayor of Wasilla, AK, she instated an official who cut funding out of the budget to pay for rape kits for victims of rape and victims were subsequently billed for their own rape kits. Granted, it was not Palin who actually made the budget cut or instated this practice, however, this shows the types of people who she would be instating into offices that are currently appointed rather than voted. If you read the above article, you will see that the person who she appointed to the position not only made the budget cut and instated those practices of billing the victims, but also fought it when the state legislature made it illegal for towns and municipalities to do so.

- Palin supports drilling in ANWR. First of all, I think it's imperative that we find alternative energy sources. Drilling for more oil will only delay the probelms for a little while and considering the amount of oil predicted to actually be obtainable from ANWR, it is a pointless endeavor to drill there, in my humble opinion. See here for an interesting article about ANWR.

- Along with supporting drilling in ANWR, her state also sued the federal government for placing polar bears on the endangered species list citing that it could inhibit energy development, i.e. drilling for oil. Global warming is pretty much undeniable. One can argue causes, perhaps, but you can't argue that it's happening. This being the case, polar bear habitats are decreasing as it is and drilling for oil will only decrease their habitat more. What more right do humans have to occupy this planet more than any other animal or organism? The possible human-driven extinction of another animal for a short-term solution to a long-term problem is disgusting and I can hardly believe that anyone would consider it. Well, actually, I can believe that people would consider it and I would even venture to say that I know what their motives are, but I certainly don't agree with them. We need a renewable energy source, (and to be more environmentally conservative while we're at it) end of story.

- Palin asked the librarian in Wasilla if she would be ok with banning books should the need arise. No books were actually banned, but the underlying motives seem fairly obvious to my (admittedly probably biased) eyes. Being that she is an ultra conservative Penecostal, it shouldn't come as a surprise that she probably had a religious agenda in wanting to ban books. She apparently also sent letters to the librarian and other appointed officials asking them to resign as a "loyalty test". What type of a boss does that? I certainly wouldn't want to work for someone who was constantly dangling my employment (and therfore welfare) in front of my face.

- Palin's religious views play too large of a role in how she has and will govern. There are indications that she is a young earth creationist which would be extremely dangerous for our education system and is also suggestive that her education is lacking. Intelligent design and creationism are not science and should never be allowed to be taught in a science classroom and this could become more of a real possibility should she and McCain be elected. Not only is her view on science pervaded by her religion (despite the fact that her father was a public school science teacher), but her views on abortion as well. She is quoted as saying that her daughter made the right decision in choosing to have the baby, but she wants to take that right to make that decision away from women in the first place. I don't know about you, but I'm of the opinion that if someone doesn't want to have a child, they shouldn't be forced to have it. Chances are that if you have a child that you don't want, you're not going to be a good parent and we have enough children living in horrible situations as it is without forcing women to bear children they definitely don't want. Not only that, but women would still attempt to have abortions illegally even if it were to be made illegal which would only cause more unneccessary deaths to women who are actively perhaps contributing to society and to the country and it's economy. I could probably go on and on and on about why banning abortion is just ridiculous so I'll stop here. What's next, banning all forms of birth control? I wouldn't be surprised knowing that she is a supporter of abstinence-only sex education (which obviously worked so well with her daughter).

- Not only is her biology a little lacking, but apparently her history is also. When asked if she was offended by the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, her response indicated her lack of knowledge of U.S. history (which would seem pertinent when vying for the spot of Vice President of that same country). As a note, the link in the article that I linked to supplying the interview doesn't work, but a transcript of the interview can be found elsewhere if googled. On a lighter note, if you read the comments at the bottom of the article, the one by solarbear is fun for a good laugh. For more about Palin's religious views as interpreted by a rival of hers, see here.

Now, there's been some amount of criticism from some that the media is focusing too much on Sarah Palin and not enough on those who are actually running for President and that it's just a distraction, but I couldn't disagree more. For one thing, John McCain is 72 and has a fairly significant risk of dying (strictly due to age) during his term should he be elected, so this woman would be the one who would be Commander-in-Cheif should he die. That is a scary thought, indeed.

I'm greatly amused by this quotation from Bill Maher, "I think this is pertinent because McCain has been running this campaign based on 'we're at war; it's a dangerous world out there. The Democrats don't get that. I, John McCain, am the only one standing between the blood-thirsty Al Qaedas and you. But if I die, this stewardess can handle it.'"

Ok, momentarily back to the serious stuff. Another thing to consider is that McCain is simply using Palin as a strategy. This is disturbing for several reasons. First of all, it suggests that McCain is disengenuous and only seeks to win the election by pulling stunts like making it the battle of the minorities rather than about the issues. It's disturbing, too, because Sarah Palin is allowing herself to be used (no matter what her motives are). So all of this being the case, how can anyone trust John McCain's decision-making abilities when these are the decisions he makes? And why would anyone want to trust him after he's revealed what a sleazy, run-of-the-mill politician he is?

One last thing to consider (and I think this may be one of the most important points) is that Sarah Palin, given her experience, would NEVER have been chosen were she a man (white or black). It is so gravely insulting that John McCain thinks the American public to be this incredibly blind, stupid, and ignorant. It's even more insulting to women (as if he hadn't done enough of that already).

John McCain and Sarah Palin are not the right choice for anyone, Democrat or Republican. I would urge you not to vote for them whether or not you are willing to vote for Obama. Vote for someone independent or write someone in, but don't vote for McCain-Palin. Our country would surely be in world of trouble (more than it already is).

Here's a letter to John McCain that I rather liked.

And here's some humour for those of you who need a bit of it after all of that (I know I do).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

McCain's VP Pick...

Made me so angry I think my head nearly exploded when I read about it. Actually, I'm still so angry about it right now, that I'm not even sure where to start this blog post. I suppose I'll attempt to start at the beginning.

It all started when McCain started running ads saying something to the effect of "hot chicks dig Obama". Let's just think about the implications of a statement like that and where they take us. Obviously, Obama is McCain's opponent, so liking/supporting Obama is a bad decision/misguided/insert negative adjective here. So it would then follow (since "hot chicks" is not qualified with any sort of value adjective like "some", "all", etc.) that "hot chicks" make bad decisions/are misguided/or whichever negative adjective you chose in the above sentence. Not only that, but since he mentions only one gender, I can only take it to mean that not only am I not capable of making good decisions, etc, but I am also incapable of separating my hormonal responses to Mr. Obama's appearance from my viewpoints as a voting constituent of the US. Thank you, Mr. McCain. As a self-proclaimed "hot chick" I will not be voting for you since you think I make bad decisions/am misguided/or whichever negative adjective you like who is incapable of separating my sexual desires from my opinions on politics. I am just a weak woman after all. I mean, seriously, what is this? 1950?

So, after showing his true chauvistic colors (or at least endorsing the chauvinism of those running his campaign) he picks a bible-thumping, conservative, unheard of "hot chick" as his running mate. The scheming, conniving bastard. I must admit, it's a brilliant brilliant strategy. That's why I'm so angry. It might actually work, but that's an aside. The point is after his ad demonstrating how he feels about women what else could it be but a ploy to win more votes? Why does politics have to be about scheming and plotting rather than what the constituents actually want and need?

At any rate, I don't think I can stand another term of Bush-like politics and I'll be afraid for the country if McCain wins.

There are rumors, however, that Palin's teenage (unwed) daughter is pregnant. Wouldn't that be just scrumptious? The Bible-thumping, conservative, anti-abortion Christian's daughter is a clear demonstration that abstinence-only education doesn't work.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bigfoot!!!

Ok, so I don't really have anything profoundly thought-provoking to say, but I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd post about the recent claim that a bigfoot body has been found in the mountains of northern Georgia (the U.S. state). I'm sure it's probably a hoax, but I can't help but love cryptozoology. It makes me giddy for some reason. Probably because I'm extremely nerdy. Wouldn't it be super cool if we found a large primate living in North America? Almost as cool as if Nessie were real. Ah well, the stuff they find that is real is sometimes cooler than the stuff that isn't.

In other cool science news, Harry Potter's invisibility cloak could be real!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Deviant Art

So I started a Deviant Art account so I could post my drawings in a more appropriate outlet! I also put the link on this post as well as permanently affixed on the right side of my page, so check it out! :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Penguini!




So this is the latest vector drawing I've done. I did it in inkscape. I just got Corel Painter, though, so I am very excited to learn a new program. I think this would have turned out better had inkscape not gotten so slow after I kept adding layers and things to the point where I couldn't do anything with it really anymore. Anyway, there are definitely some finishing touches that needed to be added, but I just couldn't bear the slowness anymore. If anyone has any suggestions on how to speed inkscape up once you've gotten a fairly complex drawing, please share! :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Abstinence-Only Sex Education

The other day I was having a discussion with a couple of people about abstinence-only sex education and I started thinking about it a bit. Those people who support this method of sex education expect preteens and teens not to engage in sexual acts before marriage and yet everyone demands sex in everything. Sex is used to sell everything from consumer goods, to tv shows, to movies. It's everywhere. It's basically like telling a fat person they can't eat bad or fattening food, but constantly waving twinkies around in their faces or telling a drug addict not to do drugs and then constantly surrounding them with said drug. Obviously, there is a laundry list of other issues with abstinence-only sex education that has been iterated elsewhere, but I just wanted to point out this one inconsistency. To give an example...there was an ad on the ABC family channel a week or so ago for a movie that was made for that channel that was to be coming on soon and the preview show a high school girl leaning over and the top of her underwear showing from the top of her pants...she's wearing and thong...and then another girl calls her thong "granny panties", takes a picture with her camera phone, and sends it out to the whole school. Then later the preview goes on to show one of the high school boys impregnating one girl and potentially another. Um...first of all...this is a "family" channel so the whole plot seems a little mature for middle-school/early high school kids to be watching (which seemed to be the target audience) and second of all...when did a thong become "granny panties"?!? So what? As a teenager what message is this sending? I have to wear a g-string or something...in high school, no less? And then you expect me not to have sex? WTF?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why I'm an Elitist

Ok, so I don't really think of myself as an elitist, but I'm sure someone somewhere along the lines would beg to differ. At any rate, I keep wondering lately why there are so many people who are probably more intelligent than average and they are either embarrassed of it or just generally don't want to be perceived as a nerd. Where did this trend come from? Why are people ashamed about their intelligence and why is it not cool to be intelligent, educated, and into intellectual things? I don't understand this. Were I not someone to generally go against the grain, I might be one of these people who is intelligent and ashamed of it. I have a friend from high school and college who is incredibly intelligent. She once stumbled into a physics exam, still drunk from the night before, had to hurry to take the exam so she could go throw up, and still made a 99 or something close to it. Meanwhile, the rest of us were struggling to get B's with this particular professor. But she's never wanted to admit how intelligent she is and when we would go out and meet guys, she would always dumb herself down to talk to them. She avoids reading and pretends that all she cares about is jewelry, shopping, make-up, and what Paris Hilton is up to. I sometimes felt like I and our other friends were her guilty pleasure. Her nerd friends that she had to indulge her intellectual side while never fully wanting to admit that. What a waste! And the one of the main reasons she is like this is because she thinks people will perceive her negatively should she show her true colors. It makes me sad and angry just thinking about it. I remember always being angry and jealous at the girls in ballet who were insanely talented, but could care less about being a professional dancer. I had the heart, but they had the talent. It's sort of the same thing here. Not that I am not above average intelligence, I think I am (or an above average dancer), but it's ridiculous that the reason that so much good intelligence is wasted due to popularity contests is sickening. If they're not going to use their intellect, can't I have it?

But anyway, since I am someone who goes against the grain, I say if you're nerdy, that's a good thing and you should flaunt it and maybe if enough people do that, the trend can be reversed and all of the ignorant masses will suddenly be aware that they are the ignorant masses and be ashamed of themselves and try to get some education. I know there's probably little chance of this happening, but it's fun to dream sometimes, right?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nausea and Religion

Bear with me as this post requires a little bit of back story.

Recently, I have had a conversation about atheism and the feeling of nausea that religion elicits and I thought that I would post the meat of it here. To be specific, an ex-atheist (who recently had an epiphany experience) had as his facebook status something to the effect of "Guy's Name is discovering that the Word means so much more than words". We were chatting on facebook chat and I told him "no offense, but your status makes me want to vomit a little bit". Apparently, my perceived nausea caused him a bit of mental distress or at the least wonderment at what had caused my reaction, so he sent me an excerpt from an article and it reads thus:

"Why spend so much time proving the non-existence of something? Why not do something more constructive with life? I don't believe in unicorns or the tooth fairy but I really do not have the time or the energy to write long books articulating my position and ridiculing those who hold such beliefs. Something else is driving the new atheism.

I believe that what drives this new atheism is the same thing which I also regard as driving the various philosophies collectively known as postmodernism, and also that which drives so much of modern Western culture : taste.
This new atheism dislikes religion because it sees it as distasteful. It was the german philosopher, Nietzsche, who launched an attack on Christianity not from the perspective of the limits of human knowledge but from the perspective of taste.
He regarded Christianity as false not becasue it embodied a set of incoherent and unverifiable beliefs, but becasue it advocated a morality, a "slave morality" as he called it, which exalted everything that turned his stomach : forgiveness, meekness, mercy, obedience, longsiffering. Itwas all just too distateful to him."

So I responded (a bit in haste, so forgive me if my writing is not up to par):

I'm surprised that you couldn't anticipate what the arguments against this article would be, but I'll refute it anyway. First of all, I haven't read Nietzsche, but from what I've heard, he may have had one or two good points, but was utterly over the top with a lot of his viewpoints. To me, Christianity and religion being a matter of taste above all else is ridiculously silly and I don't agree with that assertion in the least.

Anyway, to answer the questions posed in the first paragraph: 1) Not to be pedantic, but is anyone really trying to disprove the existence of God(s)? I thought we (the "new atheists") were trying to prove that the idea of God(s) is not a feasible or statistically likely idea. Also, to be a little more pedantic, unless you are a number 7 on Richard's scale laid out in The God Delusion, you would be perfectly aware that we will probably never be able to disprove God's existence. What we can do instead, is prove lots of things that continually diminish the likelihood that God(s) exist. And now to answer what was intended by that poorly worded question after discussing its poor construction. The reason I and any other atheist is concerned with proving the infeasibility of God(s) (especially as compared to fairies and unicorns) is because we are surrounded by people who believe in God(s) and associated religions and are discriminated against or likely to be discriminated against (at least in the US) because of our position. Also, most of us have come to determine that there most likely is(are) no God(s) by a fairly long process of contemplation and education in multiple disciplines and we feel that we have come to the most reasonable and logical conclusion(s) whereas those who are religious proponents have not done the same kind of contemplation or educated themselves to the same level on this matter and we feel a sort of responsibility to try to educate people about it. 2)And sort of getting into the other question posed, there are many things that multitudes of people need education about and so it isn't as if this is the only thing that I would try to educate people about (or any other atheist, for that matter). But it is one of the main ideas that I and many other atheists want to educate people about since it would lead to less discrimination against us. Anything that's to do with oneself will naturally take precedent over something not so near and dear. For example, fistula is a major problem among women in third world countries and many women who suffer from it are outcasts as a result of the incontinence they suffer from it. It is a fairly easily solved problem. The surgery only costs $300 and things can also be done during labor to reduce the risk of it occuring in the first place. However, the populace of these countries are not educated about it, and the women who suffer this condition are often shunned from society, considered unclean, and even told that there isn't anything that can be done to fix the problems. This is a major injustice. However, it's not happening in our backyards, and it isn't really something that will majorly affect our lives the way it does in these uneducated places. So while we consider it extremely worthwhile to educate the people in these areas about it, it doesn't take precedence because it doesn't directly affect us. Not to mention, the sheer amount of problems like this that there are in the world is insurmountable. You have to pick a handful of issues and concentrate on them, so naturally, we pick something that could or has affected us. That's what people are as a gregarious animal anyway: we're specialists. In order to have a functioning society among our species, we all pick something and specialize in it and contribute to society as a whole by gaining as much knowledge as possible in that area so that we can exchange our expertise for someone else's. It is easy to see how this type of society benefits our odds of successful reproduction as individuals. And finally, isn't it obvious that most atheists do do something more worthwhile than just sit around a refute the ideas surrounding God(s) and religion? All of the most famous atheist writers have other careers that have little to do with atheism. You already know this, but Richard Dawkins is obviously an evolutionary biologist first, atheist second. Sam Harris is a neuroscientist and has said that he never even called himself or even really considered himself an atheist. Daniel Dennett is a professor of philosophy. Christopher Hitchens is a journalist and could probably even be called a political pundit. Aren't all of those things worthy of the title "constructive"?

Anyway, obviously I think that the excerpt you have sent me shows nothing more than that the author has completely missed the point. He's also distastefully trivialized our position into ironically enough, a matter of taste.

Also, perhaps my comments about the associated nausea that accompanied reading your facebook status reveal the cultural gap (and perhaps even generational gap). It is quite a common thing to say among young people in the US that something makes them want to vomit. It's some sort of strange trend. You know how these things go. I might have said the same thing about a particularly sappy part of a romantic movie. I've also referred to vomiting in response to an example of really poor grammar. It's just an indication of a negative reaction. But it's not nearly so trendy to say "well, reading your facebook status elicited a rush of negative feelings". ;-)

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Confrontation a Day Keeps the Passive Aggression at Bay

As a forewarning, this blog post is probably more than anyone will ever want to know about the inner-workings of my psyche.

Recently, passive aggression seems to be a theme in my life as I have been both the perpetrator and receiver of some serious passive aggression. For me, I think my passive aggression is about trust. If I am not sure whether or not someone will still love me or be my friend because I confront them about something that bothers me, I will not confront them about it at my expense. This, of course, only causes me to resent the person for a crime they don't even realize that they've committed or don't realize that what they've done bothers me as much as it does. Another unintended consequence of this is that I am probably extra-irritable at the people I do trust to still love me and be my friends. And recently, my fear of expressing my unhappiness with certain actions has resulted in a good bit of unpleasantness in my life. One consequence being an accumulation of unhappiness that led to an emotional explosion and some poor decision-making. The other consequence was that I was on the receiving end of some passive aggression which the other person felt justified in doling out because I failed to report any offensive behavior.

I think it's extremely important as well as difficult to appropriately judge and gauge the correct reaction to something that is irritating, annoying, or otherwise perceived as negative. Is it something that is even worth bringing up? This can be a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, you could simply ask, well, if I don't bring it up, will it continue to bother me? If not, then there isn't any point in risking an argument or any animosity. If it will continue to bother me then bring it up. That seems simple enough, but what if the behavior is something that is inconsequential. For instance, say it bothers you that your roommate always turns the lights on in a particular order.* If you don't say anything, it will continue to bother you, but it really isn't something that you have any reason to be bothered about. So it is your behavior that is bothersome and not theirs. So then there's the task of trying to decide whose behavior is in the wrong. This is where I tend to get into trouble. I tend to err on the side of deciding that my negative reaction to the behavior isn't appropriately proportioned to the action which caused the reaction. Something related to this is my observation of interactions of other people. Some people it seems, especially in romantic relationships, seem to get so comfortable expressing their dislikes that it seems that almost everything the other person does elicits a negative reaction in their partner even when it is completely unreasonable to feel negatively about some arbitrary action. In an effort to avoid this, I have been guilty of under-reporting any behaviors even when they are definitely negative.

Something that only tends to complicate this all the more is guilt. I tend to try to excuse the other person's behavior on the basis of realizing my own imperfections and therefore rationalize not confronting the person about their behaviors whether it's worth confronting them over or not. So once I have rationalized my way out of confronting someone over something they have done, it sits in the back of my mind. Eventually, if the person is someone I interact with often enough, things accumulate to the point where I am constantly irritated by them because they are doing all of these things that elicit a negative reaction and they keep doing them! How dare they! How could they not know that this behavior is just not acceptable? Well, the answer seems obvious, since I've never let them know that what they do bothers me. But the rational mind and the emotional mind never seem to meet up. I know that I haven't told the person that what they do bothers me, but I can't seem to help feeling annoyed that they continue to do it.

Yet another complication is that things that may have caused the slightest twinge of a negative reaction, yet were fairly easily forgotten can suddenly resurface once you are confronted by someone else about your own actions. If you never bring anything that bothers you to someone's attention, then they will assume that there isn't anything that they do that bothers you, go about their merry way, not paying attention to what they do and won't have the slightest clue why you feel indignant when something you do bothers them and they bring it up. I think to myself, "but there were so many times that he/she did x, y, or z and I never said a word and now he's complaining because I did x just once!" The obvious problem here is that person who said quarrel is with has no idea that they've been doing x, y, and z because you never said anything about it! And most people when feeling bothered by another person's actions don't sit down and think first whether or not they've ever done the same. Yet, this isn't the way the mind works. You still feel indignant and suddenly those things that you thought you forgot about are suddenly flooding back into your memory.

The circle of persons I actually freely express my dismay with is extremely small, perhaps only two or three people. So in an effort to lead a more mentally healthy life, I'm going to make an attempt to rid myself of these detrimental passive-aggressive behaviors and confront people more often about the things they do that bother me. This could result in me being unnecessarily bitchy, so please bear with me while I try to adjust to confronting people more often in an attempt to avoid explosive situations in the future.

*I made this up as an example. People can turn the lights on in any order they prefer. :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rawr!

*Edit: This post is mainly in reference to the atheists debating one another rather than atheists debating believers and theists, although it could apply to that, too. Quetz's post on the matter is regarding debates between believers and non-believers.

Recently, I've been formulating some opinions. Imagine that! But seriously, recently as I've been hanging out on the sidelines on RD.net rather than really engaging in much debate, I've been noticing some trends. Quetzalcoatl (Jonathan) already wrote a blog related to this, but I think it deserves to be expanded upon. If you would like to read Quetz's blog first, here is the one to which I am referring: http://musingsofastrangemind.blogspot.com/2008/03/difficulties-in-debate.html.

Now, Quetz put forward the idea that people have what he calls "Attachment Factors" or AF to certain ideas. This is what I want to expand on and Quetz, I hope you don't mind that I am borrowing your term for this post. I agree that there are AFs that people hold to certain ideas, but as of late when watching people debate on RD.net, I've noticed that when someone has a point of contention with an idea one puts forward, it is very likely that the person whose idea has been questioned automatically develops an AF for the idea and feels the need to defend it, even if it were an idea he or she only recently came up with (maybe even as recently as during composing the post). Being that most of the posters on RD.net are very intelligent and in some cases (certainly not my own) are skilled debaters, it usually is quite easy for one to defend his or her post in an intelligent manner (especially in matters of opinion) no matter how good or bad (for lack of better words) his or her idea is/was.

What I'm getting at is that as soon as someone's idea is contested, rather than reconsidering his or her position, many times, the person immediately develops an AF for this position and subsequently begins defending it without ever truly considering the other person's opinion on the matter. I think this greatly obscures the purpose of debating in the first place. Debating is about find the truth, not who's wrong or right, correct?

I think part of the reason that this occurs is because whoever it is doing the contesting oftentimes not only criticizes the idea itself, but also the person who is holding the idea simply for the fact that person does hold the idea and it is only natural to have an urge to defend oneself. I think if people were to be more careful not to choose words that are sure to elicit an emotional response, the debates would be more proficient and proceed in a much smoother manner. Understandably, though, everyone has different styles of writing and debating, so perhaps rather than trying to avoid offending someone, people should try to avoid allowing an emotional response to a contention rather than a logical and rational response. Anyway, those are my suggestions for improving the debates. You may take it or leave it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Post on the FCOS Forum

I wanted to post this here in case it doesn't get posted on the FCOS forum. I am still waiting for my username to be approved, so this whole process may take a while. Anyway, here is what I intend to submit on the "Expelled" thread once I have been (if I am) approved:

David,

If I may join in on this discussion:

1) I do not regard all atheists as being followers of Dawkins. Nor everyone who posts on his website. However I do think that there are some who act as though they are his followers. Indeed one of the strange things about RD net is just how sychophantic it is.

I would like to reply to you in detail about this. First of all, I would like to say that I think the lens you are viewing the situation from is a bit clouded by your personal conflicts with Richard Dawkins. Please hear me out. It would be easy for you to project this sense of sycophantism onto the posters at RD.net simply because you have a general distaste for Richard himself and by association, you have a distaste for those who agree with him (although, those who agree with him on some points, disagree on other points). That being said, I think that you are mistaking simple appreciation for being sycophantic. Most people in the world are affiliated with a religion of some sort. Among those that don’t identify with any religion, many still believe in a god or supernatural being of some sort. Atheists are a minority. Fortunately, we are a growing minority, but that is beside the point. The point is that many people who are atheists feel somewhat isolated by their atheism depending on the situation and the religiosity of the people who surround them. There are tons and tons of books about Christianity and other religions, but only a small number of books (comparatively speaking) about atheism or to do with atheism. So when someone like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Michael Shermer, etc comes out with a book about atheism, what I and I assume many other atheists feel is appreciation that someone has spoken out about our positions (even if all atheists don’t agree on everything, which they don’t) and that we have a small, yet powerful representation in the sea of representation for the religious. Perhaps we are simply happy not to be isolated any longer.

To make an additional point, this is the definition of sycophant from the American Heritage Dictionary: n. A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people. So what makes you think that anyone on RD.net or who happens to agree with Richard is a sycophant? It is a fairly strong word to use when it implies that we are agreeing with Richard in a self-serving manner. Who’s to say that we can’t agree with Richard? Why does agreeing with Richard mean that we are doing it blindly? I know that when I agree with Richard, it is after deep contemplation on the matter, not just because I’m a “follower”. Also, I post on RD.net because I enjoy reading the articles and the discourse, not because I’m hoping Richard will recognize me in some manner.

2) …Dawkins in his letter wants to make out that atheism had NOTHING to do with Hitler and the holocaust…

I am usually pretty good at figuring out emotional responses and I think that your entire number two is an emotional response. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that the reason you are upset and had an emotional response to Richard’s statements about Hitler and the Holocaust is because you feel that he is attempting to shift the blame from the atheists to the Christians. This is where I diverge from Richard a bit (as I do and have on many other issues, as well). There is no denying that Hitler manipulated the Church for his agenda, but this is the biggest game of “hot potato” I’ve ever seen a bunch of adults play (I’m assuming the children in the UK play hot potato?). I have said before and I will say again, Hitler’s statements on Christianity and atheism cannot reveal anything to us about Hitler except that he was dishonest. No one can know for certain whether Hitler was an atheist or a Christian except Hitler himself because he was largely inconsistent on the matter in his general conversations as well as published writings, so there is no conclusive evidence in either direction. What we do know is that he was either an atheist lying about being a Christian in public or a Christian lying about being an atheist in private. Unfortunately for everyone involved with Hitler and the Holocaust, he lied to and manipulated a lot of people and the events that transpired because of him were more horrific than can be described. Might I suggest that the reason Richard is trying to distance atheism from Hitler and the Holocaust is not to shift the blame onto Christians, but simply to show that people who are atheists are not (generally) evil persons (as there are evil persons in every demographic). It is a reaction to people of the religious variety continually beating atheists over the head with “Hitler was an atheist”. It is tiresome because I along with (I would venture to say) everyone on RD.net and most of the atheists in the general population are disgusted with the Holocaust and don’t want to be wrongly associated with that kind of evil any more than you and other Christians do. That is why Expelled has received such a vehement response from many atheists; one of its main premises (from what I have read) is to peg atheists as Darwinists and then to blame Darwinism for Hitler and the Holocaust. If this is indeed the case, how would that make you feel? How does it make anyone feel?

Sorry for the lengthy first post. Feel free to chop it into two posts if you would like.


The other posts appear here: http://www.fcosonline.org/index.php?topic=26.msg296#new

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Churches and Atheism

I've just read an article on RD.net entitled "If God Is Dead, Who Gets His House". I wrote a short comment on the site about the article, but I feel the need to expound on my feelings here. First of all, I will take issue with the title of the article. God isn't dead because there never was one. It's really annoying when people associate atheists with hating God or thinking that he's dead. All of the atheists that I know including me don't believe that there is or ever was any god to hate or think is dead. This is simply ridiculous. Unfortunately, however, many theists (Christians, in my experience) associate atheism with hating God as was demonstrated by navyjake95 on another RD.net thread yesterday. I believe the term he used was something like "God-hating commie Athiest(sic) Jihad bastards". I commented that this was the epitome of all oxymorons. Last time I checked, it was pretty hard to hate something that one doesn't believe to be in existence, but maybe I'm wrong. It happens every once in a while. Also, if one were an atheist, I'm pretty certain that you couldn't be a Jihadi as well, as that would require belief in Allah and the tenets of Islam. Then, of course, there's the "commie" part. I'm assuming this is coming from the tired old Argumentum ad Stalinium/Pol Potium (Stalin and Pol Pot were atheists so therefore all communists are atheists). This is the stupidest part, so I'm not even going to bother with a refutation as this argument has been refuted ad nauseum in various other places.

And after that tangent, now on to the meat of this post. The subject and thesis of the article are basically that supposedly many atheists have some sort of void in their lives once the sense of community that they felt from the church is removed from their lives. Perhaps it's that I am biased as a result of my personal experiences with church in childhood (being that I was brought up in the Lutheran Church), but I think that my story is similar to a lot of my peers and spurred the mass rejection of religion (and perhaps God) that we see in the current young generation (as demonstrated by the Pew poll that said that 25% of 19-29 year olds did not affiliate themselves with any religion).

Growing up, I was always involved in a lot of things. I was a brownie/girl scout for a couple of years, I danced (ballet, jazz, modern mostly), I played the piano and the violin (in high school), I was a cheerleader, I was in chorus, I always did well in school, etc. So as you can see, I was a busy girl. I've always had a lot on my plate, so to be forced by my parents to add something else to the equation that was no fun and caused me to have to get up early on my only day to sleep in, I was understandably not overjoyed. Not only was church not just no fun, but it was also terribly boring. Sunday school required getting up even earlier than regular service did and so any fun that I may have had there was negated by the fact that I had to get up extra early and church service itself was incredibly boring. It was basically an hour of silence, standing up and sitting down, kneeling, mumbling some words that I said so many times I didn't think about them, and finding something to do or think about while the pastor gave the sermon for 10 to 15 minutes. Then there was the constant scrutiny that I was under from my step-dad to sit still and not put my feet on the "kneelers" under the pew in front of me. He paid more attention to what I was doing than he ever did to the service. I also had to go through several weeks of preparation for my "first communion" which required that I do homework. Any school-age child being told to do more homework that they don't receive any real credit for will obviously not be overjoyed. I was also forced to go through Catechism which consisted of two years of going to stupid classes every few Wednesday nights during the school-year which also required extra homework (which I never did). The first year was taught by Pat who was our Youth Director. Her name was Pat and she looked just like "It's Pat" from SNL. Needless to say, no one took her very seriously. The second year was taught by our no-nonsense pastor who didn't like my questions about whether or not non-Christians could go to heaven and that it wasn't fair for God not to have chosen everyone to be a Christian.

The only pleasant experiences I can recall from church were singing in the youth choir for a few years, doing the crafts at Bible School (until the year that I ate a cashew which caused me to go into anaphylaxis and both of my lungs collapsed which almost caused me to die...I didn't like Bible School after that), and the couple of ski trips that I went on in high school with other churches (since my church was too lame to do their own trip). I did attend a program called "Young Life" in high school that was fun. We played games, sang songs, and the "leaders" performed skits for us for an hour every Monday night. The boring part was at the end when one of the "leaders" would talk about Jesus. I always zoned out during that part.

Anyway, the point of all of the gibberish above is that most people my age were involved in numerous activities and church was just a chore to them. Indeed, my closest friends from the time are not religious (even if they aren't necessarily atheists). We found senses of community all over the place in the various activities that I listed above among many others. Perhaps generations older than mine only had a sense of community from church as there weren't as many options for extra-curricular activities in the past, but such was not the case for me and is not the case for future generations. Kids now are involved in even more things than I was involved with and I'm sure the options will only continue to grow, so this whole nonsense about needing a "church for atheists" seems outdated to me. There are many groups for adults to join as well. I participate in a cycling group and a running group. We even have shirts that say so. I also go to the gym where I see certain people regularly. There are many many options and if atheists think that they need some sort of church to replace the feelings of community they lost when they left the church, they aren't paying attention to the plethora of communities surrounding them. Personally, I relish my one day to sleep in.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Strange Happenings and New Trends

Lately on Richard Dawkins' website, www.richarddawkins.net , there has been an over abundance of theists just popping over. There used to be only one or two a week and now there are at least several a day. I'm wondering what has caused this surge in their efforts. They might be coming about as a result of all of the things Richard has been involved in lately. With the release of the paperback version of TGD, he's been making a lot of appearance in the Western World. David Robertson has also caused quite a stir about several things in Britain, so maybe that has something to do with it as well. Whatever the cause, it's been a bit irritating to me, at least because rather than having intelligent, useful discussion among ourselves, it seems that the atheists there have been wasting their breath (or typing skills) refuting the same arguments over and over and over and over and over again. I haven't been posting anything there lately because I've been quite busy and when I post, I want to engage in some intelligent debate about something other than the nonsense that the theists believe. When there are a group of people discussing something who've all gotten past that, the discussion generally proceeds at a higher level (most of the time, occasionally there's discussion of beer, tea, etc). At any rate, I'd rather that they go away. They are simply taking up bandwidth and nothing that any atheist says to them there is going to change their minds.

Another trend that I've noted with the theists is that they continually accuse the people on RD.net of not engaging in intelligent discussion. It seems that this is the new form of the old argument "well, you're just as bad as we are". If they had bothered to read any of the thread discussions that had taken place before the masses of theists began flooding the site, they would have seen that there was plenty of very intelligent discussion that sometimes is even over my head (I know, can you believe there's anything that's over my head? ;-), but that would just be too much to ask. They can't even be bothered to read the entire Bible, so why would we expect them to read older threads?

Anyway, my proposal if anyone is listening is to begin ignoring the theists until they have shown that they have actually done their homework. Until then, don't expect to be answered and don't whine about it, either.

In other news, someone with whom I used to be friends and still maintain some contact with recently sent me a link to a Christian radio website. At first I just laughed at how ridiculous it was to try to send something like that to me of all people, but then I started thinking about it and it started to irritate me. First of all, the person in question is someone who has avoided taking responsibility for things in their life for as long as I've known this person. At first, after recent developments, I felt sorry for the person and on some level, understood the person's decision to turn to Christianity for comfort, but on further contemplation on the subject, I realized that this was just the same old thing after all. This person was/is using "God's will" as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for not having their life together. So now I'm just annoyed because I always maintain some smidgen of hope that this person (who is very intelligent and has the capacity to be a great person) will snap out of it and come to their senses and I realize that this is only more of the same. I'm also annoyed because if this particular person wants to turn to Christianity and not accept responsibility for their life, that's not my decision, but I'd prefer if I weren't a target for conversion. A general annoyance brought up by the whole situation is that perhaps if religion didn't exist anymore, people would have to take responsibility for their actions rather than being able to cop out. Maybe that's why some people are clinging to it so desperately; without it, they'd have to admit that they'd screwed up their own lives and perhaps others, too.

Completely unrelated: I ran my first 10K the first weekend of April and it was a blast. There were about 30,000 people in the race, so it was really cool to be running with all of those people. I was about 30 seconds short of my goal. I ran it in an hour and 21 seconds. And guess what? I did it all by myself. I did all of the training. No god(s) had any part in my success! Yay me!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Patience with the incompetent

Recently I attempted to debate a Christian on someone else's blog. I'll say attempted because there was no format of actual debate. He commented some dimwitted nonsense on the blog to which I offered a comment in rebuttal. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought that he may have just skimmed the blog post or missed a particular part of it because his initial comments demonstrated that he hadn't quite gotten the gist of the post. Once I offered my rebuttal, he demonstrated for a second time that he was unable to comprehend what he had read because his reply to me didn't even make sense in the context of what I had written. I replied to him several more times, each time restating my point to him in a way I thought he might be able to understand (interspersed with an insult at his mental capacity here and there) and he still never got it. How is one to have patience with people like this? If they can't even understand the simplest of arguments.

I was also debating another Christian recently over facebook. He was actually fairly intelligent. It was a strange debate, though because he agreed with most of my logic, but DESPITE the fact that he agreed with it, still remained a Christian. How does that work, exactly? I wonder. Maybe he is more on the fence about it than he is willing to acknowledge? We are in the Bible Belt and he does seem to be close to his family. Maybe he's too afraid of the consequences of taking stock in views that actually make sense as opposed to religious nonsense.

I must say, though, that I prefer to debate with the latter. Even if I never convince him, at least there's an actual conversation taking place rather than me beating my head against a wall. I suppose that's why I'm polite to DR. Even if he's a lying, manipulative guy he at least gives something that you can respond to. I suppose being exposed to the clearwooters and the jimmys of the world makes me more grateful for the DRs and the Johns of the world.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Materialism and Relationships

I must admit that while I've been an agnostic for quite some time and only last year made the switch over to atheism, my life has made much more sense than it did before. Of course being an atheist doesn't mean that one is necessarily a materialist (for those of you not familiar with the materialism philosophy, and no it's not the desire to hold lots of material objects in one's possession, please see here: http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/Materialism.htm), but my science background and same search for the truth that led to my atheism also led to my materialism. This is all anecdotal, of course. I'm sure that there are atheists who feel more lost than ever after the realization that there probably isn't a god(s). But for me, it has simplified everything so much more.

I think one of the things that goes hand in hand with the Christian faith is that people believe that God has one single person that they are intended to be with or "the one". I think the concept of "the one" complicates things beyond what might initially seem to be the case. If you believe that you are destined to be with only one person, all of your actions with regards to relationships are guided by this notion. For instance, if you're in a relationship that you're having second thoughts about, rather than logically assessing the problems of the relationship, you end up trying to figure out what to do based on whether or not you think he or she is "the one". This leads to all kinds of confusion. "What if I break up with him and he was 'the one'?" or "If he's the one, everything will work itself out" or "If he's 'the one' we'll be together when we're meant to be together" and so on ad infinitum (also see ad nauseum). At any rate, it leads people to take a passive position in dealing with relationships rather than an active one. If you believe that there is "the one" then you most likely also believe that things will work themselves out as a result of this destiny or fate. When you hold a materialistic world view, you can let go of all this nonsense and begin to take an active position in your relationships and make better decisions and more clear decisions. If you aren't happy in a relationship and you feel that it has become unhealthy, it's easier to let go of it if there isn't some "the one" nonsense clouding your judgment.

Just to be clear (even though I included the link above), materialism is the view that everything can be explained physically without the need for invoking things like a soul and that consciousness can be explained in purely scientific terms . If one doesn't believe that there's any existence of a soul, then there isn't any need to believe that there's such a thing as a soul mate or "the one", to be consistent in my phrasing.

Not that there are really that many people who actually read my blog (especially since I don't actively promote it), but I can hear the protests about how depressing a materialist world view is. If you think it is, I will ask you why? Love and positive relationships aren't any less real and we don't feel them any less if this is the case, so why do you think this is depressing?

I'll leave it at that, today.