Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt

Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Those seemingly delightful lyrics are from the song “Accidental Racist,” by Brad Paisley and sung by him and LL Cool J. The song often refers to how white people from the south and black people from the north maybe just can’t understand each other, and maybe they’re being a little too sensitive about things, and maybe they should just have a beer together. It’s a really dreadful song and you probably shouldn’t listen to it.

A couple weekends ago, a white 20-year-old wearing patches representing pro-apartheid African nations, and who has been pictured waving a Confederate battle flag and burning a United States flag, and who — according to his roommate — had often spoke of killing some black people and starting a new civil war, went into an historic black civil war-era church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat around for a while while the pastor led his congregation in prayer, and then pulled out a gun and opened fire. The death toll, before he fled the scene only to be captured in North Carolina the next day, was nine.

Based solely on the evidence I listed above (confederate flag, anti-apartheid, yearning for another civil war, historic black place of worship) a lot of people labeled this pretty much immediately as a hate crime. Others claim it’s an act of terrorism, and I tend to agree with both. His intent was very clearly racially motivated, and going by the FBI’s official definition I think it’s clear to say this was an act of terrorism as well. The oddest thing, however, is when you switch your television station over to Fox News, you’ll hear they have taken a different approach to the situation. Obviously this wasn’t a racist hate crime, but an attack on Christianity! Because in Foxnewsland, the spin they put on any story has to make it seem like they, the Christian Right, are the ones being attacked. So far as I can tell, no indication of Roof’s religion has been made.

Anyway, this whole shooting debacle led very briefly to a discussion on gun laws and a lot of old internet memes popped back up for about three days, but that was all swept aside to make room for this week’s new topic of debate, and the real culprit here: racism.

And you know, I sort of agree. I’m no fan of guns. We need stricter gun regulations. We need to make it more difficult for all people to obtain guns. But it’s also important to determine motive and then see if there are ways to quell motivation — in this case, racism — that may lead to heinous acts like shootings that kill nine people. So our first course of action has been, for the first time in 150 years, to villainize the confederate battle flag (CBF). The day after Roof’s killing spree, the CBF was still flying on South Carolina capitol grounds. It still exists as part of the design on several state flags, as well. So obviously we have to have that flag removed.

But why a flag? It’s just a flag! It’s more than a flag, people. It’s a symbol. A symbol flown by supporters of a war 150 years old that was lost to the Union. A symbol of traitorous southerners who thought it was their god-given right to keep slaves. Yeah, technically people have the freedom to fly their CBFs or their Nazi Germany swastikas, but does that mean they necessarily ought to? Furthermore, does it mean they reserve the right to do so free of consequence? Freedom of speech and expression does not grant you immunity to criticism. As a person with German ancestry, I don’t feel it’s necessary for me to fly a swastika to honor my ancestors.

“Southern pride” rednecks can hang the flag from their trailers and lean-tos and claim their ancestors who fought and died for the Confederacy deserve respect, but I refuse to mourn for or respect separatists who, had they had their way, would have maintained their right to oppress a race of people and buy/sell them and force them into servitude.

Hell, the presence of the CBF or its likeness in the form of stickers on the bumpers of Ford trucks as old and rusty as their owners or patches on overalls serves to warn me in advance who the racists are who can’t let go of the past and their ancestors’ failings in the name of heritage, or some other hokey backwoods jargon that secretly stands for “Hey, we tried to [3/5ths] compromise!”

But that flag has no place whatsoever on public or government property. When it exists next to a United States flag, or a state flag, or especially AS a state flag, it gives the Dylann Roofs of the world a symbol to fight or kill for. It perpetuates — and even worse, institutionalizes — racism.

As of this writing, several states have removed the CBFs from their capitol grounds. Several retailers — even huge retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and eBay — have stopped selling CBF merchandise. I don’t think that was a necessary step, but I support their right to sell or not sell what they please. Even video game publishers of historic games are talking about stopping sales of games featuring a CBF. It is absolutely huge that this is in national discussion right now. There are the people who think the flag belongs in a museum, since it certainly has a history within the United States, and then there are the people who refuse to take it down because their “southern pride” is more important to them than supporting their fellow Americans. When all is said and done, the racists will stick out like sore thumbs and we’ll all be better off knowing who to stay away from.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO TODAY’S BIG NEWS

I awoke this morning and turned on the news, like I do, and I picked up my Android phone and started scrolling through Facebook to see what I had missed during my slumber. As it turns out, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a vote of 5-4, overturned states’ rights to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

This is an extraordinary time to be alive right now, knowing that not only is history being made, but that I’m on the right side of it and have been since I was old enough to understand that boys are allowed to love boys too.

The second thing I did this morning, after I had scrolled a bit through Facebook, was to start perusing the comments sections under the posts made by local news organizations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you really want to know the state of things in our country, don’t watch TV, don’t read a newspaper; all you have to do is read the comments sections under local news articles. Because this is your home; these are the people who surround you. Many of them are kind-hearted, reasonable people whose love for life extends to their friends and neighbors and doesn’t just stop outside their own personal egobubble.

But then there are the rabid, hateful, obscene people who want everyone to know how much love they have for family values and Jesus and oh god won’t somebody think of the children! It is to those people whom I address in the remainder of today’s post. Those Christians who assume this progressive country abides by the laws in their millennia-old book.

Your silly book of fairy tales with its laws against shaving your beard and laws against women taking on roles as educators and laws proclaiming bats are birds and stories about talking donkeys and people being turned into pillars of salt and daughters raping their drunken father and god destroying everything a man loves and lives for all because of a silly bet…

That’s not the book from which our normal-people laws are derived. Hell isn’t real, heaven isn’t real, talking serpents and donkeys aren’t real, dragons and unicorns and behemoths and leviathans aren’t real… so do kindly shut the fuck up and refrain from passing judgment on anybody – ANYBODY – seeking happiness and inclusiveness and equality. Because if what they’re doing shakes the very foundation of your fundamental beliefs, then it’s your fundamentals which need to be checked, NOT theirs.

If I learned anything from the Bible, and I have read it cover to cover, it’s that lesson from very early on in the book about the big important guy getting all in a kerfuffle because his two subservient playthings decided to seek knowledge: the ultimate gift.

Too bad satan’s not real, otherwise I’d praise him for setting us free from the Christian god’s shackles.

Equality wins, boys and girls, friends and family. And of you still huffing and puffing about hell or about how icky it is that some people actually had to fight and live through the ridicule and the pain and the insults just to hear their country say “okay, you’re allowed to love each other now,” you huffers and puffers are a dying breed.

This is an incredible time to be alive in the United States. I’m watching history being made. I’m watching my friends finally be recognized as actual people. I get to see my friends rejoice in who they are and know that finally, America is on their side.

If there was a god, I wouldn’t offer cries of “god bless” or “god is great” or any sort of fealty. Not after seeing how his/her/its followers and so-called disciples spit venom and hatred and condemnation toward anybody a little bit different than themselves. Anybody with a different skin color, or anybody with a different sexual preference or identity. No, god deserves no love, no praise, no thanks. It’s the fast-growing majority of progressive, forward-thinking Americans who are to thank for helping bring this country that much closer to universal equality.

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Pascal’s Wager

Fortunately, most moderately intelligent theists won’t bother playing the Pascal card when debating religion, but nevertheless there are many who do. The purpose of this post is to respond only to those who feel the Wager is a legitimate reason to believe in their god. I make no attempt to prove or disprove the existence of any god in this post; just to counter the Pascal’s Wager argument.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pascal’s Wager, it goes a little something like this (paraphrased):

God either exists or does not exist. Salvation and eternal happiness is through belief in and worship of God. If you “bet” on God’s existence and you’re wrong, you’ve lost nothing; if you’re right, you will receive salvation and everlasting life. If you bet on God’s non-existence and you’re wrong, you’re destined to an eternity in Hell. Therefore it is safer to bet on God’s existence.

Now if you’ve got any mind at all you’ll see the obvious flaws in this. However, I’ve had people who I had previously thought of as fairly respectable play this one on me, so you never know who might fall for it.

First, being that he was Christian, it’s clear Blaise Pascal was referring to belief in the Christian god. To the skeptic, however, one need only swap the name God for another name (Allah, Zeus, Odin, et al) because the fact is that most mainstream gods demand worship and punish those who don’t offer it. So which god should I bet on? How do you know the god you’re betting on is the right god? Is anybody really making a safe bet?

Second, belief is not a light switch. One can’t just say “Oh, in that case I believe.” In order to believe something is true, one must be convinced of its truthfulness. Threats like Pascal’s Wager do nothing to convince anybody of anything.

Third, chances are the god you’re trying to convince me exists is omnipotent according to your religion’s textbook. Surely it can see through somebody who claims they believe simply because it’s the “safer bet.”

Finally, the part of the Wager which states “If you believe and you’re wrong, you’ve lost nothing” is absolutely wrong. What about all the time you wasted on your knees praying or in a church singing? What about the scientific or medical advances you’ve ignored (extreme cases) because your religion states that all you need is your god? If you believe in a god and you’re wrong, then you’ve lived your entire life thinking you had an eternity of happiness and pleasure to look forward to in an afterlife without paying as much heed to the life you’re currently living.

I and many atheists like me, on the other hand, see this life as our only one. We are more inclined to live our lives to its absolute fullest; making sure we make a lasting impression on others, hoping that once our bodies are decaying and our atoms are moving on to other endeavors that our legacy will live on in the memories of others.

So maybe the safer “bet” is that no gods exist. We’ve got a 50/50 shot at being right, while the odds that your particular god is the only one who exists are far lower. Bet on non-existence and perhaps you’ll see a whole new value in your one and only life.

Godless Medley

This is a medley of three songs I’ve written. The first, called “Little Atheist Me,” makes its debut in the medley. The second and third, titled “Songs About Jesus” and “The Fantastic Theory,” were previously recorded and released on my YouTube channel. Altogether, the video is just under ten minutes long. Two, if not all three, songs contain swear words. So put on those headphones.

“Little Atheist Me” is about nothing more than me and my worldview, which just happens to not include any gods. The song describes those things I do believe in, such as “love and hope and family,” as well as those things I’m afraid of, like “falling to my death or being stung by bees.” As the song says in the chorus, I’ve got “no time for Jesus.” I wrote this as a way to tell the religious community that atheists do have plenty of things they believe in or are afraid of; it’s just that none of those things include superstition.

“Songs About Jesus” is really just one song, and it’s only about Jesus insofar as the Christian belief that “Jesus is God” goes. So I suppose, really, it should have been called “A Song About God.” But there you have it. The song is also how a lot of Christians don’t seem very Christ-like, so I guess that’s the part about Jesus.

“The Fantastic Theory” is about Intelligent Design versus evolution, and the battle to censor science and/or teach ID in public schools. Mostly I cover evolution and sing about how life has no apparent design; and if it was created, it wasn’t done so very intelligently.

A few notes unrelated to the song(s)…

  • No, I will not take off that hat. I really like that hat.
  • No, I will not trim my guitar strings. No reason; I just can’t be bothered.
  • The silicone band on my right wrist is zebra-print and I got it at the Dallas Zoo. Incidentally, the Dallas Zoo is where my wife and I had our wedding ceremony.
  • The guitar is a Yamaha. I received it as a gift for my seventeenth birthday.
  • I bought my shirt through RichardDawkins.net

Also on my YouTube channel, you’ll find a few additional songs:

  • “Mary,” which is more or less about marijuana.
  • “Imagine,” which is a cover of John Lennon’s famous song.
  • “Rat-Zinger,” which is about the Catholic Pope and child-molesting priests.
  • “Fabulous,” which is about equal rights, especially for the LGBT community.

Washington, “District of Christ.”

I don’t have any comments yet. Perhaps I’ll edit some in after a while. In the meantime, here’s a video of a crazy Christian who thinks America is (or should be) a theocracy.

For the record the man in this video, John Benefiel, is the same man who believes homosexuality is all part of a scheme by the Illuminati to limit the population.

Y’ever wondered why we induct- why we elect good people to Congress sometimes, and sometimes they go there and they go nuts?

Well, you might too, if all the nation confessed that you were under the District of the queen of Heaven called Columbia. Do you understand how serious that is? When we call it the District of Columbia we’re saying it belongs to Columbia, the Queen of Heaven, and that gives her a legal right to mess things up in our nation’s capitol.

Well, in March of 2010- well, in December of 2009 we gathered one leader from all fifty states to divorce Baal and as we were there we renamed the District of Columbia to the District of Christ. Hallelujah.

Harumph, harumph.

And somebody asked me after we did this, they said, “Well how can you do that anyway?” Well, we just did it! Whaddaya mean how can you do it? You do it! “Well, what authority do you have?” I tell ya I have more authority than the U.S. Congress does.

See, I guarantee ya that that will not forever be called the District of Columbia. It will be changed… by somebody- it’ll be changed by the Lord when he comes back or our Congress, but the body of Christ has to do the changing first! We’re the real spiritual authority, then the natural authority will begin to change!

[ominous music]

Jesus vs. Jeezus

If it is too small and difficult to read, please click the image to view it full size (1000×1409). If it simply isn’t working, here’s the text which I hope isn’t too difficult to understand, as the cartoonist was kind enough to sort everything out in an easy-to-read table for us:

Jesus vs. Jeezus

On sexual immorality
Jesus: “If any one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” (John 8:7)
Jeezus: I hate fags!

On alcohol and drugs
Jesus: “What goes into a man’s mouth does not defile him, but what comes out of his mouth, that defiles him.” (Matthew 15:11)
Jeezus: But only say ‘Nay!’ Get ye high on me!

On abortion
Jesus:
Jeezus: Bring the little fetuses unto me, for they are precious to me. On this issue shalt thou vote, and on this alone.

On war
Jesus: “All who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
Jeezus: Slay ye every one of them, and I shall sort them out!

On separation of church and state
Jesus: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)
Jeezus: I am the state!

On money
Jesus: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 19:23)
Jeezus: Make thy pledge now, at our toll-free number.

Tim Kreider The Pain — When Will it End? http://www.thepaincomics.com

Counting down: day 9

Nine days ’til rapture!

National Day of Prayer

So yesterday was America’s National Day of Prayer and yet nothing phenominal, miraculous, or even kind of neat happened. While it cannot be used to prove god’s non-existence, it can be used as evidence of one of four things:

1. Jesus is a liar and either doesn’t listen to prayer or doesn’t have the power to answer them.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

This is a pretty direct statement. This tells me that anybody (who believes this rubbish) could say “In Jesus’ name I pray: please, Lord Jesus, heal all the world’s sick and feed the hunger,” and Jesus would make it happen. And yet nothing of the sort happened yesterday. So this tells me either Jesus is totally full of it, or

2. Nobody believes this rubbish. That’s simple enough, right? Maybe plenty of people prayed in Jesus’ name to end world hunger and sickness, and Jesus really, really wanted to do it, but none of them actually had faith in him so he either chose not to answer the prayers because they weren’t sincere enough, or incinsere prayers don’t reach him. Or perhaps

3. The scripture is just false. Whoever took down Jesus’ words got it wrong. Maybe his actual words were “Pray, and something might happen if I get around to it.” But if that little part of scripture is wrong, who’s to say any of it is right? I know A doesn’t necessarily imply B, but it would certainly make the whole thing sketchier. But if Jesus is not a liar and people really do have faith in him, this is to me the logical next option. Unless, of course,

4. Americans just don’t care about sick or dying people. Not a single one of ’em. Not any of the faithful Christians, at least. But (and forgive me for suggesting this) wouldn’t that be a little bit un-Christian? And it’s not like Jesus grants his believers only one prayer. They could have asked him to heal the sick and hungry, then for him to give their third wife a flat tire on her way home so she wouldn’t catch them cheating. Jesus is not a genie in a lamp.

If it’s none of those things, then I simply can’t imagine why Jesus would not have answered any prayers yesterday, on the American government-sanctioned National Day of Prayer.

Or one really faithful sarcastic jackass prayed that nobody’s prayers but his own would be answered.

Thoughts (I)

With nothing better to discuss today, here is an assortment of thoughts.

  • This Pakistan/Pakistani-bashing has got to end. My workplace employs people of all different lifestyles, races, and from all different walks of life. Among my peers at work are a couple people from Pakistan. Not two days after Osama bin Laden’s death I heard they’ve already had to put up with mental and verbal abuse; not necessarily at the workplace, but certainly outside of work. The Pakistan government may or may not have had anything to do with bin Laden and they may or may not have known his whereabouts for a while, but this by no means subjects anybody else to any kind of abuse. Guess what? The American government has done or allowed some pretty terrible things in the past; I certainly don’t take accountability for their actions, nor is anybody who happens to be from Pakistan responsible for any of his or her country’s government’s alleged actions.
  • On the topic of Osama bin Laden, I frankly don’t care if pictures of his corpse are not released, or his “death tape” (the video he allegedly recorded to be released upon his death). I’m perfectly fine with never seeing him or hearing his voice again. As far as I’m concerned, he may still be alive, detained in a top-secret military base somewhere on the dark side of the moon. Probably not, of course. He probably really was pushed over the side of an aircraft carrier into the Atlantic Ocean somewhere with weights tied to his feet. Personally, I think that’s just too bad – science really could have benefited from studying that man’s brain. Oh well.
  • I would like to know the exact time of day (local time) that the Rapture is supposed to happen on May the twenty-first. I’m a bit of a procrastinator so I’ve got some things I’d like to work out before all that business goes down. Especially since I’ll be working that day and it’s possible everything happens while I’m there.
  • On that note, May 21st is a Saturday, so if anybody’s throwing a party around here I’d like an invite. I should be free in the evening; I’ll even bring some beer. I recommend holding the party somewhere with lots of accommodations. Being that most of the people here are “good” Christians, that means there ought to be plenty of empty houses to choose from. On the off-chance that god turns out to be loving and reasonable (I know, I’m pushing it) and I end up being raptured, you’re welcome to crash at my place. There will be plenty of beer in the refrigerator, a loaded bar, and a ton of great books and movies to kill some time with.
  • If Satan is known for punishing bad people eternally, is Satan really evil? Is our justice system evil? Our prisons? The police? If evil exists not because god is fictional but because of Satan, then does Satan have more power than god? All that aside, doesn’t the recognition of Satan as being as powerful as (or nearly as powerful as) god make the Christian faith polytheistic? Not to mention Jesus. That’s at least three gods Christians believe in. It’s actually less of a stretch to say the whole thing is rubbish.
  • If David Copperfield traveled back in time two thousand years and performed a simple card trick, we would be worshiping him now. I don’t know how magicians pull off a lot of their tricks, but that doesn’t mean I believe magic exists.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

What if Jesus came back today?

Let’s say a 30-year-old man and a bunch of friends start traveling the country or the world, telling people that he is indeed Jesus Christ, returned to prepare the world for the rapture. His friends insist he really is Jesus – that they’ve seen him perform miracles. Let’s say that when questioned of these miracles and the authenticity of his claims, Jesus Christ proceeds to tell us we must have unquestioning faith in him.

Do we have unquestioning faith in him? Or do we ask him to “prove it” by performing miracles for the rest of us? Let’s say we take the latter option and he agrees to perform a miracle. Dozens of news broadcast stations are alerted to the fact that Jesus himself will be performing a miracle for a crowd of people. Thousands of people show up with video cameras. Then, before our very eyes, Jesus spreads his arms and six dozen doves fly from his open hands.

The crowd is silent. His miracle has just been broadcast live to sixty major news networks worldwide. After the shock of what just happened finally sets in, somebody steps forward from a crowd and asks, “Is that it?”

Shocked, Jesus asks what more he could possibly do to prove he is who he claims to be. In a fit of desperation he reaches behind the doubter’s ear and produces a shiny quarter. “Ta da!” he cries, and takes a bow. Satisfied, the doubter steps back into his place and the crowd explodes with applause.

The man is immediately accepted by all of the world’s Christians as the second coming of Jesus Christ.

That’s how it would happen, right?

Why should I believe?

Why should I believe in your god?

Really, seriously, I mean that. How would belief in your god (or any god, for that matter) improve my life? Any arguments along the lines of “because the Bible says…” will be dismissed automatically. I want to know, from the perspective of a believer in any particular religion, how the belief in supernaturalism would improve my life. This life, I mean – the one I’m living right here, right now, on earth.

Also, feeling the “golden wash of Jesus’ love” is not a legitimate reason. In fact, it’s kind of icky.

I expect the comments section of this post to be riddled with some of the deepest, most insightful reasons ever for adhering to a particular religion.

Bonus points if you can tell me why your god is more important than anybody else’s.