Out In Droves – Arguing Same-Sex Marriage

House Bill H.R.1054 was up for a vote in the Civil Law Committee on Tuesday. On that day the committee took testimony from any and all citizens who wanted to share their views on the bill. Many presented their own views and some introduced themselves as representatives for a group.

I don’t often watch political committee discussions (but when I do…), but this is a topic of great interest. H.R.1054 is a bill that, if passed by the MN Congress, would give same-sex couples the right to get married in Minnesota! I also wanted to watch because August Berkshire was scheduled to speak on behalf of Minnesota Atheists. August live-Facebooked the event. Fellow MN Atheist members Greg Laden and Stephanie Zvan also blogged about the committee meeting.

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Not gonna tip. Not gonna do it.

Steven Olsen from WWJTD posted this photo on Facebook from the FB group for IfYouCantAffordToTip.com: 

The image shows writing scrawled in pen on a piece of paper that says:

Crystal,

Your service was Great. The Reason for No tip – I am starting my own Redistribution Plan Like Obama – Started 11/6/12 – I no Longer Tip or Donate to Charities. I give the Money to My Church instead & wounded warriors.

Thanks for Understanding

PS. Please Don’t Be offended I will Redistribute My own Money as I See fit!

*sigh*

There are many reasons why note this is frustrating. Here’s a few:

Number the first: For better or worse we tip our servers in the United States. It is very easy to make an argument against tipping (check out this 2008 article from the NYT called Why Tip? It’s fascinating), and how and why we decide how much to tip is as unique as the individual dining situations that we find ourselves in. But pouting because the other guy won the election has got to be one of the shittier excuses I’ve seen for not leaving a tip.

Number the second: You’re not going to leave tips or donate to charity, but you’re going to donate to your church? WHY? Why are you giving to your church? To where do you think that money is going? To church infrastructure? To supporting your church leaders’ house(s)? To church-approved charities (which are, you must assume, different from the other charities you might be giving to). To buy yourself a place in heaven? To spite Obama and the liberal agenda? <–lolwut? Why are these uses of your money better than donating to other charities? And PROTIP (ha! Pun!): Tipping your server is not charity.

Number the third: Redistribution of wealth. This is yet another case of someone looking at a word or phase and re-interpreting it in a manner that they see fit. Redistribution of wealth is a concept that is applied at a group level. To say that you’re going to “redistribute your wealth as you see fit” when what you mean is you’re going to “spend your money as you see fit” is to show your ignorance about the complex concept that is redistribution of wealth. If you want to make an argument against redistribution because you oppose the government telling you how to spend your money, or because you believe that redistribution is used by the government to set spending priorities that the populace doesn’t support, recognize the fact that tipping your server is the exact opposite of government control. YOU have the choice of how to spend your money when you tip. Ain’t gettin any more independent than that. Don’t blame the Obama administration for your greed and/or anti-social views.

Number the fourth: Good luck with trying to tell your server that they shouldn’t take offense at your jerkish behavior. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

Marketing Mute Mommies

This is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger.

I’ve never been a big Disney fan. Growing up, my exposure was minimal. The cartoons weren’t broadcast on TV and my parents took me to maybe two movies in my entire childhood. The only one I remember was Mary Poppins. And when I was in junior high, for some reason my dad took me to see the French Connection, which I remember being a pretty great film.

But the cartoons on TV were Fleischer (wonderful) and Warner Brothers (a mixed bag ranging from wonderful to meh) and Hanna Barbera (utter crap, all of it) with hardly a Disney cartoon in sight. But still I constantly heard about how Mickey Mouse was the most beloved cartoon character of all time and how everyone loved him. Most of this fawning press, I later came to realize, was generated by Disney’s own publicity machine. However masturbatory it was, it was effective. People will believe most anything if you simply say it loud enough and often enough. I don’t like to think about that during election season, but there you go…

I saw maybe half a dozen Mickey Mouse cartoons and they all utterly disappointed me. They were never nearly as inventive the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons I adored. And while Disney animation was more meticulous than Warner Brothers, the cartoons were flat because the personalities of the characters were boring, really boring. And more than that, Disney never challenged the status quo, more like the studio enforced every bit of tedious and toxic middle American midcentury thinking. And while the other studios were likewise part of this culture, they were, at least, iconoclastic thinkers. No matter, I didn’t like Disney, I didn’t see much Disney, I didn’t think about Disney.

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Trucking Missionary Style

I took this photo as part of my Photo Per Day (Peeper Dee) project for Le Cafe Witteveen.

I gotta be honest – I cackled with glee before groaning and cursing. This was just too fabulous of an example of a Missionaries Gone Wild spotting. We thought about calling the number and chatting with the guy, but we were on a mission of our own at the time (ba da dum!). We saw the truck in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and the truck plate is from Oklahoma.

Mormonism recognizes four holy books, the KJ Bible and The Book of Mormon being two of those four. Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price are the others.

Giant banner on the back of a cube truck reads “FREE FREE FREE – King James Bible/Book of Mormon. CB Channel 19. Ambos Disponible en Español. Cell: 480-586-5323. Free Bible Man. I carry the Books With Me in This Truck. Ask Now Not Later!”

Crazy Faith, Adoption and Zombies

Here are a couple of odd signs that have caught my attention over the past couple of days:

Seen on the back of a car in a parking lot.

Short version: No arguments here.

Deeper version: I think this might be a reference to Susan William Smith’s Crazy Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives. According to one of the reviewers, the book “challenges ordinary people to let God use them for impossible tasks. Such submission requires “crazy faith,” knowing God will bring success even when the task seems impractical and illogical.”

*blink blink*

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Why She Left Her Church

A very good friend of mine just left her Catholic church in large part because of its support for the marriage amendment that will be on Minnesota’s ballot this November. The church put a “Vote Yes” sign in their front lawn, and that was the final straw for her.

Not sure I can stomach the Vote Yes sign outside of my church. I get where they are coming from (I mean, it’s a Catholic church!) and that we all have to make our choices inside of our religion, but that sign…it’s so…in my face. I think I need to make an enormous change. My faith is strong, but I need to find a place that aligns with the rest of me too, right?

I know she agonized over the decision, but she did end up resigning; she couldn’t continue to attend and raise her children in a church that is opposed to marriage equality and that holds GLBT people and families in disregard. She would describe herself as being a firm believer in God and so she’s now looking for a new place to worship. She has received a ton of support from her friends and family. In fact, her mom told her that  she stopped being a Catholic years ago!

Keep shooting yourselves in the foot, RCC. Keep telling women that they’re underlings, keep telling people that teh gay is nasty, keep telling your parishioners that they don’t have any control over their lives except what you and God give them. See how that works out for you in the long run.

I’m an atheist (no – really!), but that’s my personal decision about God(s). I know I’m right, just like my friend knows she’s right about God’s existence. I don’t love her any less for her belief. I’m not gloating that she has decided that her church doesn’t work for her. But I am proud of her for rising above this one particularly odious doctrine of her church.

Thank you, you beautiful, brave woman for sharing your story (her story is shared here with permission).

Praying for Obama

Seen over at Le Cafe Witteveen

So nice, those religious people praying for Obama, right? Let’s find out what Psalms 109:8 is, shall we? *flips through the internet* …Let’s see…the general consensus seems to be along the lines of:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Nice. I see what you did there you sneaky bastards. You’re not praying for President Obama, you’re praying against him. Asking God to intervene, to choose your side. The bible as weapon – whoda thunk it?

Oh Mary, I disagree. The bible is used a weapon allllll over the place.

Bible or College?

On the drive into work today I saw an [sarcasm] AWESOME [/sarcasm] bumper sticker. Ready?

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.

*sigh* This is why we can’t have nice things.

Aside from this being a ridiculous premise – (Which is going to help you in the real world: a thorough knowledge of a fairy tale/horror story/slash fiction or a real-world-based education?) – I got pissed off for another reason.

Earlier this month at the American Atheists Regional Conference in St. Paul I had a chance to hear Teresa MacBain, an ex-pastor, speak about how hard it was for her to leave her church. At the Midwest Freethought Festival in Omaha, Nebraska, Jerry DeWitt shared some of his story about leaving the church after 25 years as a Pentacostal minister. He also introduced ex-evangelical preacher Dan Barker at that conference.

Dan Barker heads up The Clergy Project, a confidential online community for active and former clergy who no longer believe in the supernatural. Dan spoke about some of the challenges that clergy members have to think about when they want to quit the church. One of the big ones is career placement. How hard must it be to fill out a resume and have little other job experience to write down than “preacher” for the past 10, 20, 30 years? How well does that thorough knowledge of the bible serve ex-clergy when they leave the church and have to find a new career?

But I don’t know; this is outside my experience. And I had a thought: Does a theology degree translate well to changing careers mid-life? For those of us who go to college, we all specialize in something and that doesn’t necessarily keep us from changing careers. The difference is, I think,  that we don’t have to worry about losing belief in biology, physics, math, business, art, computer science, literature, history. These subjects are based in reality and they prepare us for taking a place in a reality-based world.

But then this bumper sticker isn’t saying a theology degree is worth more than any other degree. I’m betting in this case it falls more along the lines of “if you know the Good Book real good, that’s worth more than book-learning at one of them librul colleges.”

Glasses to Blur Out the Wimminz

Or alternatively, Fuzzy Glasses, Fuzzy Logic.

It’s August and as far as I know there’s only one April Fool’s Day every year. Right?

RIGHT?

I went to Google to see if this “Associated Press” article that I saw on Twitter was real (Ohhhh… you say you’re <air quotes>Associated Press</air quotes> Sure ya are. Got ID?), and found that the story is being carried by several other news sources including the Washington Post, HuffPo, and about a kazillion bajillion blogs. So here it goes:

What do you do if you’re a man who is forbidden by his religious doctrine from having contact [edited per comment 3] with the majority of women in this world? Well, you start by making women invisible in your society. That makes it totes easy for you, and you’re the man so why shouldn’t life be easy for you? So you pressure your women to dress ultra-modestly and forbid them to interact with you; that goes a long way toward your goal. But you know… you can still see them.

Hmmm…

What if a button breaks and you catch a glimpse of a lady’s neck? Or an ankle – gasp! And what if she purposely tries to tempt you by…oh I don’t know…by letting a stray hair slip from her head covering? You have to trust the women to follow your clothing rules so that you’re not tempted into lusting after them! *groan* And let’s not even get started on the women outside of your community who don’t have to follow your rules. You have absolutely no control over this situation!

But wait – you do!

Take some regular glasses and put stickers over the lenses. No not just any stickers – that would be silly. You have to buy special fuzzy stickers that allow you about 10 feet of clear vision, and beyond 10 feet everything fuzzes out – including your repressed sexual desire!

Problem solved!

So that takes care of that. Except… for those times when you need to cross busy roads or read street signs or – nahhhhh. You’ll be fine. And secure from unexpected lust that’s totally not your fault or responsibility! Everybody wins!

Right?

RIGHT?

CONvergence 2012: The Role of Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy

This panel featured five authors with different religious backgrounds: Agnostic, an Episcopal minister in training (with an interest in Paganism – not a practicing interest, but a fascination), an atheist with knowledge about Eastern religions, a Church of England priest, and an atheist Unitarian Universalist ex-Catholic.

Some of the themes discussed:

  • Does much of science fiction tend to assume that religion is gone or has lost its relevance? Is this a realistic assumption; religion tends to stick around.
  • Considerations of current religions and how they would adapt to futuristic technology – Amish in space, wondering in which direction Mecca lays when in space.
  • Why is religion rarely mentioned in Steampunk when it was very much a part of Victorian life? Rejecting God for science and invention (Frankenstein was brought up as an obvious exception)? Is it because Steampunk is a punk genre – against status quo/against religion?
  • Why does religion appear to be more prevalent in fantasy than in science fiction? Is it?
  • The portrayal of gods in science fiction and fantasy – the difference between physical, present gods vs. the absent, unknowable god.
  • How do you define a god. If it’s inside and part of the universe, is that a god or a really powerful creature? If god is outside of time and creation can he affect the universe itself?
  • Will we bring our gods into space with us? Discussion of Firefly (Shepherd, Inara’s “Merciful Buddha!”), American Gods.

The panelists went over a few of the stories and universes that embrace religious stories and create new pantheons: BSG, SG Universe, Babylon 5, DS9, Star Wars, Safehold series, Firefly, Sandman comics, American Gods.

I was annoyed when a God of of the Gaps argument came up. An audience member asked “Where is the god in Doctor Who?” One of the panelists suggested that god in Doctor Who can be likened to the Book of Esther, in which God is the hidden force that is always at work. And could perhaps the fact that the TARDIS is always putting the Doctor not where he intends, but where he needs to be – could this be God or Fate at work?

Hmmm…nah. If that’s not God of the Gaps, it’s at least assigning mystical cause to a poorly understood phenomenon. I prefer to think there is no god (other than local socially created religions) in my Doctor Who.

There was an interesting portion of the panel during which the authors spoke about how to write gods into your stories. They discussed that when placing god as a character, you have to have rules about what your god can and can’t do so they don’t steal the spotlight or lead to plot gaps (“Can’t explain it? God did it!”). They also discussed the importance of being careful with other peoples’ deities; not that it’s necessary to respect the mythologies, but to know which rules you are breaking. They urged doing your research before portraying gods that have an established mythos.

At the end of the panel, the moderator sent us away with a few ideas to ponder:

  • Did Jesus die for the aliens in all of the other galaxies, or just the ones in ours?
  • If we survive the next 1000 years, what will religion look like?
  • When we discover warp drive and find new religions in new galaxies will we adopt those?