Month: December 2012

The Virtue Of Accepting Ignorance

While being an atheist hardly implies that one is a critical thinker, many of us try to wear that hat and fail miserably by falling into logical fallacies and attempting to answer questions from the standpoint of ignorance.  Many will try to come up with ridiculous arguments that shine a spotlight on their ignorance and open themselves up for illogical claims to fill in the gaps.  The silliest of these arguments that I’ve heard is, “If Jesus died for our sin, why is there still sin?”  This question is the equivalent on the ignorance scale to the question about evolution that asks why there are still be apes if we evolved from apes.  The Jesus question can be uttered in response to the ape question, but only if one doesn’t plan on breaking their stride.  One thing evangelists lack is the one thing that all non-believers should have, which is the ability to feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know.”

It has been stated ad nauseum that atheism is not a belief system, it’s simply a lack of belief.  A few famous heathens feel that “atheism” shouldn’t even be a word since it’s a neutral state of being.  But, since we’re the minority and the majority think belief is the default, we just have to deal with it for now.  What we don’t have to deal with is providing proof for our negative assertion.  Theists claim a positive and if they really want it to be accepted, they should probably come up with a good reason; extraordinary claims and all that.  It’s strange that so many theists still demand that we explain how “atheism” is true, without ever stopping to consider how painfully stupid it sounds.  However, the demands of evangelicals tend to reach absurd levels when it comes to explaining why one might not believe.

It starts with simple questions about watches and watchmakers and escalates quickly into questions about the origin of the universe itself.  Someone who has read and understood Lawrence Krauss, can go with it to some extent, but eventually, every single one of us must fall back on “I don’t know.”  And that’s perfectly acceptable.  Very often, no explanation is preferable to a silly explanation.

A Psychopath On Every Corner

Either the dust has settled and the country has calmed down, or I’ve just not been paying attention to the media.  Either way, it’s time to speak up.  It’s been 8 days since the horrific events of December 14, 2012 and the reaction from the media has, as per usual, been appalling.  Although I have already solved this problem, it seems that some of my 300 million readers in this country have yet to catch on.  Very well, let’s go over it again.

It would be dishonest of me to say that I didn’t spend days pondering solutions to the apparent epidemic of mass shootings. I even found my own positions on gun control wavering a bit on the first day while my son sat wondering why I wouldn’t stop hugging him.  Then I drank until I forgot I had feet and all was well for the rest of the night.  Perhaps banning assault rifles would prevent crazy people from doing crazy things.  At least it might lower the body count.  On the same day as the Newtown, CT shooting, a man in China walked into a school and began slashing young children with a knife.  Without firearms, children in Connecticut would have some nasty scars, but would still be alive.  A ban on so called assault weapons might reduce the death toll, and a ban on all firearms would certainly lower shooting deaths by sick individuals who can only figure out how to obtain them legally.  But it fails to address the real question:  How can we prevent said sick individuals from acting out?  The answer is terrifying at first.  We can’t.  Sick people sometimes do sick things.  There will always be stories like this in one form or another.  There is almost nothing we can do.  However, since these stories put it into our heads that there is a psychopath in every neighborhood just waiting to gun us all down, nothing can stop the wave of ineffectual or stupid ideas.

The first solution that popped into my head was that of better mental healthcare.  Indeed, better healthcare overall is the solution to many of our problems and, call me a socialist, but free universal healthcare for all wouldn’t be unwise.  But in order to improve mental healthcare, it needs to be thought of as just healthcare.  There are millions of people in this country with some brand of mental illness from the full on shit-crazies to emotionally crippled alcoholic egomaniacs like myself.  The ratio of those who commit violent acts and those who don’t is so unbalanced that it’s hardly worth mentioning.  It’s impossible to predict who will snap unless there are immediate signs of danger.  So someone will always slip through the cracks.  While taking better care of people with mental illness should be a priority, that idea has nothing to do with preventing tragedies.  And in the meantime, let us avoid falling into the same position of the mentally defective NRA President Wayne LaPierre by thinking that the mentally ill should be on some sort of list.  Perhaps an international database of people who should shut the fuck up needs to be compiled.  The absurdly small-minded LaPierre made a stink with his ridiculous shopping list of every possible cause for the shooting except for, of course, the one that gives him a voice on the national stage.  If banning guns would mean never seeing his stupid face on my TV again, I’m on board.  And while my initial reaction was to consider banning certain guns, I was brought back down by the Black Panthers and modern technology.

Gun rights advocates, at least the intelligent ones, believe that the right to own and carry firearms is crucial to protecting us from those who are supposed to protect us.  In 1967, the Black Panthers, tired of constant police brutality in their communities, began patrolling their neighborhood with rifles.  They followed police cruisers and stood witness to stops to insure the highest level of professionalism.  This led a suddenly very nervous government to start passing gun control legislation.  I can’t help but consider that less than ten years before my birth, citizens used their second amendment rights for protection against a tyrannical government.  Any idea that we would never need a means to take back power is put to rest upon that realization.  And while I would be in favor of stricter criteria for obtaining a firearm, this country will never ban them outright.  This of course means that there will always be shooting deaths in this country.  In the meantime, we now have 3D printers capable of producing deadly weapons right alongside the thousands of Jodie Foster pictures we tape to our bathroom walls.

Reactionary policy-making is never a good idea, especially when it’s based upon anomalies.  And not all irrational ideas are equal.  In Texas, a bill has been introduced to arm teachers.  While there may be seemingly rational arguments in favor of teachers carrying guns, lets not lose sight of what they’re proposing.  Rather than limit who can get firearms, thus betraying a powerful lobby, we should succumb utterly to fear.  Should we all stockpile weapons and canned foods, trembling in everlasting terror at everyone outside?  Arming teachers is not common sense.  It’s a fear-based policy with the vacuous purpose of preventing a lightning strike, all the while serving to convince our children that they are in constant danger of being murdered by the boogieman.  “Mommy, why does Ms. Freeman carry an M4?”  “Because at any moment, some psychopath could come in and blow your brains out, sweet dreams.”

Video games, music, and movies as possible causes never crossed my mind though I knew they would be brought up.  Before you start pointing your finger at art, which has been a culprit since the time of Shakespeare, take a moment to ask yourself what video games inspired Charles Whitman to climb a bell tower.  Which violent film caused the actions of Barnett Davenport?  Perhaps Hitler was a huge fan of Drowning Pool.  Once reality ceases to be more appalling than even the most obscene work of art, we can worry about video games and movies.

My friend over at AtheistSlut.com briefly discussed the silliest of all finger-pointing exercises: banning God in schools.  To this, one can only start with the most obvious and factual rebuttal in that God is not banned in schools.  A student can pray, start a religious club, even wear religious symbols.  However, a teacher cannot force the students to pray.  How oppressive indeed!  We can always expect this brand of base opportunism from fringe religious nuts, but it takes on a new level of obscenity when it comes from a man who was horrifyingly close to the presidency.  Mike Huckabee’s vulgarity cements his status as a squalid bottom-feeder, but far worse is that such backward dark age idiocy can make it onto the world stage.  Curiously enough, God is almost never discussed in my home and nary a bullet has been fired in or around it.  I would say that beyond my son’s Santa-like belief in God, we live in a God-free house, and yet, the only tragedy in our home is his fixation on Annoying Orange.  A less polite writer might  point out that while secularism, video games, and movies might have a possible correlation with mass murder, in that those things all exist in the same reality, God has served as a direct motivation for some of the most unspeakable atrocities in history.  It would seem that an unbending, absolutist ideology does not a recipe for harmony make.  But as I value politeness, I will leave that alone for now.

Tragedies will always befall society and make for a seemingly reasonable excuse to attempt legislation to prevent more in the future.  We must be careful not to allow those in power to use such tragedies to curb our civil liberties.  When a police officer is killed in a traffic stop, lawmakers introduce bills that erode fourth and fifth amendment rights, with the backing of a public too shocked to understand what they’re giving up.  The events in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 spawned the single worst shift in civil rights discussion in my lifetime.  Every brain dead slug with access to a keyboard shat out their deranged ideas of limiting free expression to spare peoples’ feelings.  And while those in power exercised amazing restraint in that case, they seem all to quick to legislate against other freedoms.  Allowing our appointed representatives to chip away at our right to keep and bear arms demonstrates a trust in our government of which I am simply not capable.

At this time it’s unclear what solutions will be concocted to combat sudden unpreventable dangers, but whatever it is, I’m sure our rulers and media will spin it in such a way as to scare the shit out of us.

The Conservative Comedy Revolution.

In the earlier post my old buddy Scott had stated that the Tea Party wasn’t funny.  Well, he is wrong.  They are actually very funny in a visually stunning kind of way.  There is something about a fat, white woman, shaking her head while she gets pulverized about the face and neck with sacks of tea.  It’s an image that conjures up, not only the Bruce skit by Monty Python (If you have seen it you know what I mean) but just the thought of that woman getting tea bagged makes you chuckle in that part of your soul that is young, carefree and still discovering boobies.  The Tea Party is ironically funny because they are pretending that they are Libertarians who also happen to believe the government should be more religious as well as compare their ridiculous, homophobia, xenophobia and  Peniaphobia to some brave men that basically kick started the American Revolution.  Not wanting to pay taxes or attempt to move the country toward a more altruistic society is not being a patriot, it’s being a silly cunt and silly cunts make me laugh.  They also remind me somewhat of Scrooge McDuck, since I spent a few years smoking pot and watching Duck Tales, this also make me laugh.  Rock solid proof that the Tea Party is funny.  So what’s not funny?  Religious comics.

Yes, all that writing before was build up to this.  I love comedy, it is the greatest thing on the face of the planet.  Just sitting in a comedy club, watching aspiring comics eat a fat bag of dicks on stage is wonderful.  I grew up on comedy, Marx Brothers, Abbot and Costello, The Young Ones, the fore mentioned Monty Python, Douglas Adams, Peter Sellers, Terry Pratchett, Lewis and Martin, Oh the list could go on ad infinitum you get it, I love comedy but one thing I love more is really bad comedy.  Sitting through a really bad comedy show is like the most exquisite form of mental self torture I could ever muster.  It is as close to a religious experience, or torture orgasm, which are one in the same, that I have ever gotten.  That said, when the church down the street had a sign that said ” Free Comedy”, I went for it.  A dying comic is one thing, twisting on stage and sweating it out, I get that, I do that, it sucks but we all love to watch others go through it for the learning experience it is.  Now religious comics, they are another kind of shit storm.  They don’t know how horrid they are.  There is no understanding of the lack of actual joke.  Their filthy humor is so clean you could use it to prep a surgery,  in brief,  it is god fucking awful but they all think they are hilarious.  If you have never gone to a church comedy show, oh do, please do.  It is so bloody terrible.  The last one I saw was a a sketch group.  They had jokes about the heat of candle wax and a thing where one guy said “I don’t know what Jesus had to die for” and the other guy poked his chest and said ” Jesus died for this” and the first guy said “Jesus died for my sweater”? and at that point everyone in the church laughed and roared and my brain turned to molten shit and I died,  not really, close though.  A lot of churches in Minnesota are having these comedy nights and I am sure you could find them where ever you are too.  If you appreciate comics like Stanhope, C.K., Pryor, Black or Carlin and the way they made or make you look at what the wholesome among us feel is below them to snicker at, you need to find one of these church comedy shows.  It will not only make you love and respect comics that push at societies completely arbitrary taboos but it will make you, if you are anything like me, strangely horny too.  Something about overly wholesome women in flowered dresses and military issue undergarments, bosoms heaving in outrageous fits of laughter at nonsensical gibberish, also the six beers I have to slam to even consider going anywhere near a church.

Hugs and squeezes, Joe.

They’re Not With Me

I’ve recently grown bored of writing about theology and atheism.  I thought perhaps I would finally be able to do a hard hitting topical piece on rainbows and sunshine, puppies and kittens.  Perhaps I could write a review on the sneakers I bought recently that are so amazing that it’s more comfortable to wear them than to go barefoot.  Really, I love those shoes.  It’s like slipping my feet into a cloud’s vagina.  Unfortunately, the infuriating habit of people to form stupid clubs has jarred me from the thunderous whimsy of my pedal utopia.  

The problem with movements is that they become closed off from ideas very quickly.  What might start as a mass of people working toward creating a better world for all eventually devolves into extremism or idiocy.  People tend to become entirely too accepting of unproductive concepts simply because they were presented by respected group leaders.  Or they’re too muddled to get any work done in the first place.  The Occupy movement comes to mind here.  While I felt there was a genuine message at the beginning, the countless factions made that message too foggy for anyone to get behind.  So I don’t like joining movements because I simply don’t trust masses of people who think they have the momentum of their convictions behind them.  Especially if said convictions are really just a college phase.  Furthermore, I believe the best way to tell if you’re on the right side of a debate, find out which side has the better sense of humor.  Most movements aren’t funny.  I’m looking at you Tea Party.  If your sense of humor can be found anywhere near Branson, MO, you’re on the wrong side of history.    

The latest organization to stop being funny(if they ever were) is American Atheists.  In their recent conservative bating attempt at edgy publicity, the AA have put up a holiday themed billboard in Times Square  that says “Keep the Merry, Dump the Myth” with a picture of Santa Claus over a picture of Jesus.  While many atheists were celebrating a victory for free speech or sticking it to the religious right, I reacted – as I do with most things the AA does –  with a resounding “meh”.  It seems that as atheism has grown in the country, atheist organizations have completely lost site of when to fuck off.  Don’t get me wrong, religious billboards excrete abject stupidity every hundred yards on the freeway.  I have often wondered why there aren’t more anti-religious signs.  Now that they exist, I wonder why they have to be dicks about it.  The answer that they did it first is no excuse.  I support any public statement if done right, but the battle is not won by humorless 25′ slogans.     

#3004 American Atheists close 12.11.12_1

Last year the AA put out signs that said “You Know They’re All Scams,” with the symbols for the major religions below it.  While I certainly have no gripe against harsh language, I can’t help but wonder who thought that would be a way to get people on their side.  Plus, such slogans imply an attempt to state a fact.  Any thinking atheist knows they can’t disprove God and wouldn’t even try.  So, since it can’t be shown to be a scam, perhaps the president of AA should avoid saying that he’s merely telling the truth.  In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, American Atheists president David Silverman said he was simply letting atheist church-goers know they they didn’t have to go to church anymore.  In other words, doubters are not alone.  This, I believe, is the one area where skeptic organizations do real good.  However, a sign that reads, “You Are Not Alone” might have been more effective.  It’s clear in this case that Silverman meant to provoke, not provide information.  Incidentally, the interview with Silverman gave birth to the “You Can’t Explain That” meme when Bill O’Reilly stated that he believes in god because, “tide goes up, tide goes down, you can’t explain that.”  The simply fact that Silverman couldn’t explain that (THE FUCKING MOON!), makes one wonder what he’s doing at the head of an organization that claims the intellectual high ground.     

Atheists are consistently painted as a group of killjoys who waste their time on trivial issues like having “Under God” in the Pledge Of Allegiance.  Unfortunately, they have only themselves to blame because they waste their time on trivial issues like having “Under God” in the Pledge Of Allegiance.  If you’re going to jump on that boat at all, why not ask why children are made to pledge allegiance to anything?  It’s a bit heavy an obligation to lay on kids who don’t really understand what they’re saying.  But I guess to some atheists, that sort of indoctrination is fine unless it involves God.

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I am often guilty of the blanket ridicule of religion.  And I’m especially harsh to religious leaders, a group that consists of some of the worst human beings alive.  The difference is that I try to do it with a level of humor, avoid insulting individuals(with some exceptions), and most importantly, I’m just some asshole with a blog; and I’m an asshole because that’s who I am as an individual.  I don’t on Fox News as a voice for atheists everywhere, nor do I buy ad space.  But if I did, I would certainly be more creative than the American Atheists have been.  Those of us who are vocal would do well to think about why we’re speaking out in the first place.  We should provide a voice to others who might still be afraid to break away from their traditions, not cater to the three people who are deeply offended by Christmas trees.  We speak out to prevent religion from infiltrating public policy.  Instead of demanding they remove manger scenes from public property, why not help to get other faiths or non-faiths represented as well?  I thought the whole point was to aid those who feel under-represented.  Religion is never going to disappear.  All we can do is work against the sort of absolutism that goes along with it and in doing so, help to include everyone in the public forum.  And try not to be a dick.

-Scott   

Mark Dayton Sucks Almost As Much As The News Media

In a wide ranging interview with the Associated Press, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton stated his plan to extend same-sex benefits to government employees, but still opposes loosening marijuana laws.  This includes medical use.  Since the political wind on gay marriage has shifted, democrats can finally dispense with the dithering nonsense about claiming they support gay rights but still believe marriage is between one man and one woman.  This means that Dayton can publicly support gay marriage, gay benefits, and gay rodeo clowns etc, without much fear of losing votes.  However, despite mountains of information about cannabis, rural folk still seem to have a Reefer Madness view of the drug and therefore Dayton can’t publicly support it.  But then again, he could also be tragically ignorant, or under the control of special interests who pad his pockets.  The astoundingly daft statement by Dayton, “I don’t think we need another drug operating in our society” clearly illustrates that he’s an asshole.  I’ll give you a minute to ponder that quote while I count how many of my of the 95 contacts on my phone could hook me up with a bag of weed right now.  Done?  The answer is 95 and I don’t smoke pot.  Okay, thank your for reading.

But wait, Scott, you said wide ranging interview.  What about the rest of what he said?  Way to hold me to task,  hypothetical inquirer.  Unfortunately, I can only devote one paragraph to Mark Dayton’s staggering idiocy.  Instead, I am forced to wonder why in savory fuck I can’t find the full interview with the Associated Press.  It’s not on their website; and any web search for “Mark Dayton Associated Press interview” yields other news outlets talking about gays and ganja.  Why must we be spoon fed the latest hot button tidbits instead of being allowed to read the whole story?  Perhaps it’s time for me to get press credentials.

-Scott