Archive for November, 2016

I’m Still Here

November 22, 2016 Leave a comment

I borrowed the title from “Tenure She Wrote.” I guess the problem that I had last week as far as posting was that I didn’t know  what to write about. This was a different situation than my usual bouts of writer’s block. It was also different than the election week’s situation as well. To paraphrase Noah Ludgeons of the “Scathing Atheist” podcast: everytime I thought about writing anything my mind just came up with more election ramblings. It’s quite difficult to think of anything else to write about.

While the central focus of the blog is atheism and religion, I do sometimes get political. However, I try and stay away from straight political blogging because there is an outreach effort to include the people that aren’t typically atheist: conservatives. If I just harp on issues that conservatives are opposed to, then I end up furthering a stereotype that all atheist are ultra left wing liberals. Simply put, we know that isn’t true: one of the most vocal and public atheists: Penn Jillette is as hard core a libertarian as one gets. Sure, that could be a token example but it’s a very public one and I don’t want to do any damage to the idea that not believing is for everyone.

I said my piece last week about who I wanted to justify their vote. On my facebook page a non-evangelical offered their guess: and that was the pro-life assertions that Trump made. However, there is a problem with the pro-life movement: it’s not really pro-life.

Sure, on the abortion side of things it is. They oppose any and all abortions representing a minority of the country that finds it justifiable in some respects (usually concerning medical necessity, but also in cases of rape and incest–these exceptions actually make up most of the country according to polls). However these “pro-lifers” also are typically pro-death penalty and anti any kind of assistance. In other words they are pro-life up until a person is born and then after that they no longer care about them. I’ve heard one writer: from (it’s not linked but it was a while ago) call them fetus-fetishists because that’s really the only part of human life they are willing to protest for. In this case I just don’t buy that as a reason. However, I’m not going to dwell on this position because I said enough of it last post.

Instead I want to discuss the registration that’s being floated around of Muslims with the government. This is, one of many reasons, some people were so afraid of the Trump presidency. Newt Gingrich, a possible cabinet nominee for the president-elect, has discussed restarting a program similar to HUAC–the House In-American Activities Committee. These two ideas, if enacted like Trump’s most fervent supporters want, would essentially create a list of people who ‘think wrong’ and would be labelled enemies of the state merely for having thoughts.

As an Atheist I’m supposed to be against the spread of any religion, especially a religion which has a track record of committing violence against apostates and heretics. So on the surface of it this looks like a program I would support because it effectively stems the tide against one religion in particular. What most people misunderstand is that as an Atheist I’m against a religion but not against the people of that religion. In other words I think the ideas are terrible not the people that follow them. I don’t dislike them just the creed they follow and it’s the same with the other religions. Christians are fine, I just think the religion has bad ideas.

Why are we floating around two programs that we recognize were terrible fifty years later? Simply put: because those that support these programs are goddamn cowards. They are more afraid of the world they dreamed up than the reality of it. They think ISIS wants to invade and that they are so special that ISIS is going to personally attack them. So instead of thinking that a destitute, starving, and failing doomsday cult like ISIS is incapable of doing any kind of serious damage they are reacting in just the type of way that such groups want. They want to frame the West as being anti-Islam and programs like this are exactly what they want.

So in response, they want to write down the names of people who have not committed a crime and bring them in front of a committee for thinking wrong. This is in violation of at least two provisions of the first amendment (the other two assembly and redress I’m sure will follow) and a clear of violation of human rights. Even if I don’t agree with how the person exercises their freedom of choice in religion it doesn’t mean I want to outlaw their choice.

I find it abominable that the same people who will bitch about how their freedom of religion is under attack because someone wishes them “happy holidays” instead of their preferred magic spell will recommend that an entire group of people be registered for having a different book. This is in no way different than criminalizing thought.

I am an atheist, there is no objective evidence that an involved god cares about this world. There is no religion which truly reflects the underlying reality of the world or its morality. I believe that no one who is not indoctrinated from birth or social pressures would choose to live underneath these superstitiously backed tenets…unless they were otherwise forced to would willingly choose a religion. All that being said if they enact these programs I will register as a Muslim.



November 11, 2016 Leave a comment

I was in no condition to write this yesterday, and that’s probably a good thing. I was in shock, seriously shocked that despite every actual poll-even the ones from the Trump supporting websites-all showed Clinton with a win. The one I trusted the most 538, had her at an over 70% chance of winning. Only the LA Times USCG poll had him winning but it was within their margin of error. On top of the shock, I was seriously hungover. I took a large scotch when I started to see the tide turn, then I took a larger one when I realized that she had lost (this was at 1130pm est). I knew it was the only way that I was going to get to sleep.

A lot of pixels have been burning regarding analysis of the election but I want to go a different route.

First, she wasn’t the greatest candidate and for those Bernie Sanders that still wrote him in, I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. You can vote one of two ways: for someone or against someone. I was throwing my vote behind the person I thought best qualified to run the country as well as trying to prevent a person I consider an opportunist to grab the White House. A lot of other people were pissed off that Clinton had beaten Sanders, and think that he could have beaten Trump. Yet that last part is certainly Wednesday morning quarterbacking, it’s really impossible to tell. The final numbers just show what they always show a general apathy amongst the younger voters for the election. Overwhelmingly the youngest group supported Clinton (those that voted) but not enough of them actually did something about it and maybe Sanders could have brought them out. Then again, maybe not.

Those protest votes for the third party candidate? I sort of get it. I have Republican friends disgusted that he was their party’s selection and they wrote in candidates like John Kasich and then like Kasich wrote in McCain. I don’t necessarily agree with the protest vote but that’s kind of hypocritical of me since I voted for Nader in 2004 in Ohio specifically because the Democratic party used a legal technicality to keep him off the ballot in that state.

Actual third party voters, I get you and you don’t have to suffer the blame that some people are heaping on you (except Stein voters, because seriously!?). I never understood that argument. Voting for someone does not steal votes from a different candidate. If I want to give Alice a dollar, it does not take a dollar from Bob if he was never going to get it. I understand the Libertarian party position, I don’t like it, but if you are genuinely a Libertarian why wouldn’t you vote for Johnson? These people were never going to vote for anyone else, they can’t be blamed just because one candidate/party doesn’t appeal to them. I have a student in the Socialist party (one of the four) and that’s how he voted, and good for him. Vote your conscience.

Trump voters? Don’t get the appeal, but there were enough of you. As scant a majority as you pulled off in some key areas you found enough of the electoral college to win. That’s what it takes.

The people I think who have to justify their vote are evangelical Christians. Overwhelmingly they supported Trump despite the fact that his character seems to be everything they despise. Nothing in his campaign platform or speeches indicates that he was remotely against gay marriage or trans rights. We must remember that during the entire NC bathroom controversy he didn’t care. Then all of the sudden he made one comment about how he was for the bill but it seemed so forced that my assumption is someone from the GOP reminded him that the base really cared about the issue.

They claimed in the past that they voted Republican for family value reasons, this especially after the Clinton presidency in the 90s, but how does that translate being for Trump given his marital history? I support the right to end a marriage if the party’s involved want out, but you don’t. Explain this cognitive dissonance to me.

Also explain how his idea that we should go after the families of terrorists gels with Christianity. Going after terrorists, sure, in the interest of the security of the state. Their innocent families? No, that’s a war crime and it’s also against your religion. I know this because unlike the guy you overwhelmingly voted for, I’ve read your book. While the Old Testament is clearly for such actions, the New is not. All of your Christianity is about loving your enemies bullshit is now exposed. C’mon people, justify it.

This isn’t about who won because I would have asked the same question if he had lost. I just want to know how you defend the hypocrisy. Is it because 2 Timothy says that a woman shall not have authority over a man? If that’s it, just say it, but let’s stop bullshitting from you sanctimonious perches.

Is it about abortion? Fine, then just say that as well, and stop pretending like this person was the pinnacle of Christian candidates. I’m sure you would have preferred Cruz, and that’s fine, but given everything else he wasn’t your candidate. So how, how is it that you justify it? How is it that I’m agreeing with Glenn Beck do you realize how difficult it is for me to even type that sentence? I have to give him credit, he campaigned for Cruz and when Cruz switched over to endorsing Trump Beck, alone, called him out for it. I was always under the impression that Beck was a shill, someone who said things specifically for an audience but apparently I was wrong. Sure he’s embraced him as president now but what else is he supposed to do as Trump is now going to be president.

Finally, to Trump: thanks for not nailing that majority popular vote. I really hate having to have electoral college discussions with people every four years.

…also I hope most of your campaign was an act.

In Memorium–Jack Chick

November 2, 2016 Leave a comment

A long time ago I used to hang out a café in downtown Buffalo. It was right on the edge of the bar district and my friends would go every Thursday night. Typically it was me and one or two other people, but it was a routine. The café is still open but it’s greatly changed. I’m probably dating my self but I remember when the larger seating area was the smoking section. The front patio was a raised thing that the café had to construct every spring and tear down every fall. They had very nice reclining wood chairs. Now, the patio is the sidewalk with metal chairs and small tables that can easily be put in the back. The former smoking room has removed all of the various second hand chairs replacing them with standard wood chairs and tables. It’s also the place where I met Ani DiFranco, but I didn’t know who she was at the time (the story of that meeting is apparently a big deal, but I was just chatting up the person in line behind me) It’s a different place now. This post is not about that place.

One summer night I went there on my own and I saw a little tiny comic looking thing sitting on one of those wooden chairs. The city’s free paper (it used to be two) was usually lying about and I figured someone had clipped out the comic. As I sat down with my coffee drink I realized that it was not that. It was something called “Dark Dungeons” and it wasn’t just a slip it was a comic. It detailed the trials of a young girl caught up in the horrid cult of Dungeons and Dragons, and how that was going to lead her to…something, it’s not really that clear. It begins with a character named “Black Leaf” getting killed in the game and the person, Marcie, eventually kills herself because and in her words she, “can’t face life alone.”

Debbie, our hero, then begins to question her own faith. This is apparently Satanism because in her words the law of the faith was that they could do whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t harm anyone else. This is so similar to their creed of “do what thou wilt that is the whole of the law” that must be on purpose. Eventually some creeper named “Mike” convinces her to go to a meeting where a former Occultist convinces her to Jesus more.

It’s much more ridiculous than what I’ve said, trust me, and if you don’t here’s the link.

The art in the strip is pretty good. It’s not great, but it’s certainly better than what I would have expected had someone described it to me. This was not the first “tract” that I had encountered, but it was the most well done. Usually on the city sidewalks you’d find what looked like a five dollar bill folded up and then when you grabbed it, you were doubly disappointed in finding out that not only was it not five dollars but also that it was full of bible verses. I never understood this method, the person who threw it down must think that “oh they just haven’t heard the correct order of bible verses and that’s why they aren’t into Jesus.” It’s like a douchebag who honks at a pretty woman, does he think that it will work? She hears the horn and says to herself, “If he stops and comes over I’ll surely blow him?”

The tract itself was written by an individual named Jack Chick, and last week he died. Chick was strange for even fundamentalists, but no one can doubt his commitment to the cause. It’s just that he’s the exact type of crazy Christian zealot that the 80s produced. He would be right at home with Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, and Jerry Falwell if he wasn’t so reclusive. He was their exact type of paranoid religious individual, and if he was any other religion (or any other sect) they would be decrying him as a threat to their religious freedom as much as they do the president or anyone else, displaying a cognitive dissonance in not recognizing their own fervent lunacy. Chick is most famous for the Dark Dungeon tract, simply because of how insane; and I daresay, heretical it actually is.

As I’ve stated, I was raised Catholic, so in his eyes I might as well be sacrificing goats to Melkor. While Catholicism has it’s loony bits, the type of Christianity espoused by Chick is flat out insanity. He devotes tracts to denouncing Catholics and Mormons as being deceived by Satan (as well as Muslims). However this one tract, that was even made into an ultra low budget movie, is what sets him apart.

Reading the story carefully we realize one thing: Chick believes that Dungeons and Dragons is real. Panel 5 has Debbie bragging about how she cast a real spell and forced her father to buy more D&D merchandise for her. In other words, she cast a magic spell that works. Just think about that, Chick believes that a book which retailed for about twenty bucks (I used to play) contains real magic spells. In other words, D&D players have control over not only the minds of other people but also nature itself. Magic is real…apparently. I played as a wizard for years, and I could barely get my character’s spells to work because I never had the right material components (except for magic missile, you always carry enough for magic missile).

What saves Debbie? A different magic spell. Because that’s all that happens, she’s upset about her friend’s suicide and Mike, like a ghoul, preys upon her emotional state to introduce her to a different kind of magic. Only this one can’t deliver the same kind of results or can’t it? Debbie is instantly healed of all her grief and guilt stemming from her friend’s suicide and suddenly she’s going to become one of those insufferable people that condemn their old life in such a way that it seems like they are bragging about the way they used to be. Debbie burns all of her works as sort of commanded by Acts 19:19 (Christian book burning is an old tradition apparently).

This type of religiosity is one that believes that Satan is real, and grants occult powers to his followers. Why do they believe this? Who knows, because it’s nowhere in their book that this is a thing that happens. Yet this belief was so widespread in the 80s that even in my Catholic upbringing it was brought up numerous times to me, though I was never forbidden from playing it, and my school had a meeting with so-called experts about Satanism and the Occult. For some reason their thinking was that I would play a game, and then…I don’t know, have power over nature? Why is this bad?

I encountered numerous other Chick tracts in my life. Yet none stand out to my memory as much as Dark Dungeons does. Perhaps it’s the sheer lunacy, perhaps it’s because I used to play the game (by the time I found the tract I didn’t play anymore), or perhaps because of the contradiction in the horrible story with the artwork. Chick, you will always live in my memory as a crazy paranoid religious zealot who produced one of the most unintentionally funny things I had ever read.