Apr 16 2014

Ok, That’s A First

Twice today, students asked questions that I had previously examined on this blog, such that my immediate thought was “oh, I’ll just recite this verse”. Which, of course, I did not. I gave a nice, thorough, completely prose response.

I need to get more people reciting my verses as answers to classroom questions, so that I can do so without raising suspicion.

In the future, anapestic tetrameter will replace powerpoint as the go-to presentation format.

Apr 13 2014

Containing Atheism, In Saudi Arabia

There’s a piece decrying atheists—
“Contain them!” it opines—
But it’s quite a different story
If you read between the lines…

There’s a very strange article in the Saudi Gazette. On the face of it, atheism is a problem which must be contained:

A number of academics and experts have underlined the need for serious efforts to contain atheism in the Kingdom. Claiming that there is a link between the spread of atheism and extreme religious views, the experts said a moderate image of Islam must be promoted and any doubts youths may have about religion must be addressed in a convincing manner, Al-Madinah Arabic daily reported.

Yes, there is a connection between atheism and extreme religious views, therefore we must do our best to limit… atheism.

Now, I’d have thought extreme religion leads to atheism, but of course I’d be wrong:

Ghazi Al-Maghlouth, professor of Islamic culture at Al-Ahsa University’s Faculty of Shariah, said atheism is not at all linked with religious discourse. It is purely related to the personality of individuals who have some confusion about certain religious doctrines, in addition to having a skeptical mind. They always search for mysteries behind anything and everything and ask questions for which there may not be any clear-cut answers,” he said.

Yes. They have some confusion over questions for which there may not be any clear-cut answers. THis sounds less like “confusion” and more like “understanding”.

According to Al-Maghlouth, even in China, there are three major religions — Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, in addition to atheism. He said that atheism is present in every society in varying degrees. Al-Maghlouth specially referred to the controversial book by the Egyptian philosopher Abdul Rahman Badawi, titled “A history of atheism in Islam.”

In the book, Badawi explains how several Muslim philosopher-scientists and students of the medieval period questioned and often refuted some basic Islamic tenets and eventually became atheists.

So… wait. This article is saying this is a bad thing? That we must prevent people from refuting basic (and clearly refutable) Islamic tenets?

Al-Maghlouth said the media played a great role in promoting atheism in the modern world. “Before the high-tech media revolution, there were atheist tendencies but they did not receive any significant attention. Now, even small atheist elements are receiving wide publicity,” he said while adding that people who are engaged in their own reading and writing are more prone to atheism.

Do you sense the trend I do? Insult atheists by comparing them to philosopher-scientists, people engaged in their own reading and writing, skeptical thinkers regarding questions which have no clear-cut answers?

Oh, I’m not saying the whole article leans that direction. Here’s the closing:

“The fundamental principles of our religion are sublime and candid and they can be easily understood by every man and woman regardless of age. The basic thing is that scholars and preachers have to impart them to the younger generation in a convincing way, without creating confusion and skepticism,” he said.

But for an article nominally against atheism, this is more favorable treatment than we can expect. What’s next, an article–in Saudi Arabia–openly praising atheism?

Yeah, no, I won’t hold my breath.

Apr 12 2014

God Goes To Court In New York

A little bit short
On His credit report?
No, you don’t want to mess with divinity—
Y’see, God is the sort
Who will take you to court
If you say He can’t buy His Infiniti.

A silly little story on NPR:

As the saying goes, “In God We Trust, all others pay cash.”

But in the case of Russian immigrant and businessman God Gazarov, cash may be the only option.

That’s because, according to The New York Post, credit reporting agency Equifax has refused to acknowledge that he has any financial history whatsoever, despite having high scores with two other major credit agencies.

He was named after his grandfather, apparently, and not his heavenly father. Equifax suggested changing his name to fix the problem. God’s lawyers have other suggestions.

Oh, and it really was an Infiniti he was trying to buy. I mean, what else would God drive?

Apr 11 2014

The Second Song

My iTunes is set on “shuffle”
I like it much better this way
I’ll listen to one, cos I want to,
But I don’t know the next that will play

I sometimes engage in obsessing–
A song will get stuck in my head–
And I think I will know what comes after,
And a different song plays, instead

And it shakes up the way that I’m thinking
It’s a virtual kick in the butt
And I’m off in a brand new direction
When I might have been stuck in a rut.

So I give it my recommendation
As a way you can shake up your brain
Put your musical whatsit on “shuffle”
And enjoy the perspective you gain!

So, yeah, I wanted to hear a particular song. This one, actually. But I had no idea what would come up next, and what did… just turned my evening right-side-up. (It happened to be a Tom Waits song, but with my music collection, that would happen to be the best odds.)

And the last time I listened to the former song… (this was recently, or I likely would not have remembered), it was followed by something completely different. As with the time before that. Were it not for my obsessive listening to the first song over the past few days, I don’t think I’d have noticed.

But there are times when the second song comes on (or the third, or fourth, so long as you keep listening) and it just makes you laugh. Or cry. Or dance. Or whatever it is that that song does, that nothing else in the world can quite do the same way.

Choose excellent music, and put your music-thingamajiggers on “shuffle”. Too much of life is predictable anyway.

So…ever have a song come on unexpectedly and just rock your world?

Apr 11 2014

Problem’s, Problem’s, Problem’s…

I was reading through some papers
(It was really quite a stack)
Cos I’ve had them for a week, now,
And the students want them back

But then… a stray apostrophe
Was seared into my soul,
Unleashing horde’s of demon’s,
Till I fully lost control

It took a bit of doing
But I talked myself back down
Read the news at [site redacted]
For the latest from my town

But then… that stray apostrophe,
A simple, plain, mistake
So many good example’s,
Who could know that I would break?

In the comic’s, in the headline’s
In the manual’s for my car!
On the price tag’s, in my vision’s
If I’m looking–there they are!

Those fucking stray apostrophe’s!
Intentional, I know!
They wan’t to see me broken,
And they know the way to go.

Apr 09 2014

Revisionist History in “God’s Not Dead”

So… I was looking at something else entirely, when this popped up as something I might want to read. That’s right, an article at the Christian Post… so you know it has to be true. There are commandments (well, one) against bearing false witness, you know.

Anyway… seems part of “God’s Not Dead” (the movie) was inspired by true events. The asian dude in the movie who found Jesus… yup. Totes real.

It was during his time in college that Wang, then an atheist, built a relationship with a professor who began asking him questions about God and showing him evidence for the existence of a deity.

“A Harvard professor, a professor of pediatrics, and a believer, saw the status of mind that I was in, confused and in crisis,” Wang told The Christian Post in an email.

“He knew that because of his medical expertise, I would listen to him out of my respect of his medical knowledge. So he saw an opportunity, to guide and influence me, to broaden my understanding of life, to a broader prospective by introducing faith in my life which could help answer the questions that I had and for which I could not find answer in science.”

Note–his words, not mine. I am not bending this to say that a college professor saw a student in crisis of mind and decided to proselytize…I am merely reporting that this is what happened. Note: confused and distraught student, Christian professor.

Wang recalled a conversation where his professor asked him how he could believe that a car could somehow been created in the absence of a creator but yet assume that a brain had come about randomly.

“Right there and then, he opened a door, in my life, and I found God, found Christianity, that could provide the answers to the questions that I was asking.

Again, I hasten to say, these are not my words. It is Wang who is either mis-remembering, or accurately remembering incompetent faculty.

You don’t need my interpretation; you can read his story yourself.The story of a lost student who was pressured by a pushy faculty member… Pretty much the story of “God’s Not Dead”, right? Wait. lemme quote again:

Wang also said while Kwo, “the Chinese student character,” does portray part of his life story, the doctor also sees much of himself in the main character Wheaton.

“Some of the arguments that I made in the original book God’s Not Dead, with regard to the evidence of existence of God, was put into Joshua’s mouth, in his brilliant presentation of the evidence of existence of God. So, in essence, sort of half of me, in the original book, has gone into this main character Josh,” he explained.

Real life: insecure student from China is preached at by Christian prof.
Movie: Atheist prof challenges Christian student, Chick track ensues.

It’s based on a true story! Well… a story, anyway.

Apr 08 2014

In Defense Of The “Village Atheist”

The thing about a village is,
There’s nowhere you can hide
Cos everyone knows everyone
(A point of village pride)

And should you act distinctively,
That act becomes your role
A label thrust upon you—
Wholly out of your control

If your label as an “other”
Is too difficult a test,
You will monitor your actions
So you blend in with the rest.

It’s how villages keep order
And maintain the status quo
You can risk a village label
Or be safe, and just lie low

Thus we find the Village Idiot
(With luck, there’s only one)
And the nasty Village Atheist
Who argues just for fun

But for groups in the majority
Whose thoughts and acts are shared
There’s no “other” role required
So that label they are spared

It’s a simple sort of governance,
Enforcing right and wrong
The “Village X” may live here,
But they really don’t belong.

So my aggregator threw an article my way, “Why more atheists need to speak out against village atheism” (written, I probably don’t need to tell you, not by an atheist but by a Christian apologist just trying to be helpful):

Over the last five years that I have been blogging I have noted the extensive presence of village atheism within the infidel blogosphere. While the blogosphere also has its share of “village Christians”, what is particularly ironic about the proliferation of village atheism is the fact that the online atheist/skeptic community persistently tries to brand itself as being especially rational, critical, and objective. And yet, the widespread and vocal opinions of the village atheists directly contradicts this lofty branding.

His concern is noted. He goes on to describe “village atheists” in great detail, and mentions a second time that there is also such a thing as the “village christian”, but does not describe or give examples.

Thing is, there really isn’t a “village christian”, not in this culture, not meaningfully. I did a search for “the village atheist”, “the village idiot”, and “the village christian”, and in the words of Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others. You can go for pages and pages of “the village christian school”, or “the village christian daycare” or find the phrase “…the village. Christian…” as the juxtaposition of two sentences in a story. I have not found it used in the same sense as “the village idiot” or “the village atheist” yet.

And that’s because “the village X” is a designated minority role. It’s a way of othering, of dismissing with a label, of designating someone to be both part of the village and apart from the village.

We have village atheists because we have people who are eager to speak up, but not terribly well versed in the topic they are speaking of. We have a great many more Christians who are eager to speak up, but not terribly well versed in the topic they are speaking on (we don’t have to look far). These are not “village Christians”, though–they are wholeheartedly welcomed members of the community. They are the village. It is not the fact that someone doesn’t have all the facts that makes them the “village atheist”; it is the fact that they are the atheist.

Interestingly (well, to me, at least), I did not run across any suggestion that “the village atheist” was meant to evoke comparisons to “the village idiot”. I really expected that the link was intentional and meant to disparage, but it appears that the terms are independent (I would, of course, defer to someone who can show otherwise, but I found nothing), both naturally occurring instances of an in-group labeling an out-group.

Lastly, to my mind the finest treatment of the village idiot ever (but see comment #4 below for a well-argued alternate choice)… though it never actually uses the phrase. The Beatles, with “The Fool On The Hill”:

Apr 05 2014

The result of an unbelievably convoluted trail…

With luck, I will eventually be able to tell you. But since it may never happen, I do want to share the eventual destination…

Apr 04 2014

“A Greater Fool Than The Atheist”

There’s fools and then, there’s greater fools
Like those who went to fancy schools
For silly stuff like Kepler’s rules
And other science stuff

The planetary hows and whys
Show God at work—that’s no surprise.
You need to back your case with lies?
The bible is enough

So my aggregator threw a site at me I had not seen before. It put me in mind of arguments I have not heard since grade school (about which, more below). It began by slapping two groups with the same bible verse (how economical!):

In the Bible, Psalm 53:1 says “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good”. We last spoke of the willful blindness of the atheist, who refuses to acknowledge his Creator. They believe in the ridiculous concept of evolution, which has no explanation for the beginning of life, and how fruits, nuts, vegetables, vitamins, minerals, and herbs for our health were provided. As foolish as the atheist may be, there is a group that’s even more foolish: they are the Muslims.

So, yeah, we’re fools. This guy is gonna teach us.

Let’s start with the Moon, for it is what the Muslims worship. It is the largest relative satellite in the solar system. From when the renewed Moon (lower crescent) is sighted in Jerusalem, to the next sighting of the renewed Moon, is about 29.53+ days. During the months of October to March, the Moon is closer to the Earth, and has a shorter (smaller) orbit around the Earth.
During April to October, the Moon is farther away from the Earth, and has a longer (larger) orbit around the Earth, and increases its velocity. It does this in order to remain in sync with the Earth’s distance from the Sun,maintaining its apparent equal size with the Sun, as viewed from Earth. The Atheist thinks that happened by random chance. [italics mine]

No, the atheist thinks what you just said is not true. It reminds me a bit of a bit of God-evidence I heard as a small child. We could trust the Genesis account of Eden, you know, because of biology; it is a medical fact that men have one fewer ribs than do women.

Now, this was easily checkable, thought not so much for a pre-internet kid. Encyclopedias did not actually outright say that men and women had the same number of ribs (because their writers evidently never considered the possibility that someone might actually need that bit of information spelled out for them!), and the claim was verified by at least one teacher (who, in hindsight, I can see was more religious than scientific in background)

And Mr. Cummings’s claim about the moon’s orbit is likewise wrong. Not only is it wrong, it actually contradicts observations that had been made since well before Christianity began. The moon and stars were important; they were carefully observed. The moon was larger and smaller, the planets moved, sometimes apparently slowing down and speeding up, even moving backward (as observed by us, anyway–thus “mars in retrograde”–a claim that the moon goes faster the further it is from earth would not be made based on the observed moon. Rather, the attempt to have the moon prove God’s existence has actually forced us (well, Mr. Cummings, anyway) to actively ignore evidence and make shit up.

My comment there, just in case…

Mr Cummings, you might want to check your science.

Any satellite (including the moon) in its elliptical orbit does not move faster when it is at its apogee (furthest distance); its fastest speed is actually at its perigee (closest distance). This is, you will note, the exact opposite of what you claim here. So… which is wrong? Science, or you?

You might also want to take a look at the beautiful phenomenon of the annular eclipse, in comparison to the total eclipse. The sun and moon do not, as you claim, maintain an apparent equal size, but vary enough for a spectacular variation in eclipses, depending on whether the sun or the moon appears larger (for annular and total eclipses, respectively). Again, you will note, this is the exact opposite of what you have written here. Will you change your claim? Or will you deny the evidence of the very sun and moon themselves?

If I cannot trust you to speak the truth about these simple, obvious things, why on earth should I trust you on anything else? For instance, it is easy to check your “I have been told” story about Obama (http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/weddingring.asp). If you are so gullible when the evidence is easy to see, is there something about 2,000-year-old information that somehow makes it *more* reliable?

If I sound harsh or impolite here, please understand, I am responding to a post that A) calls me a fool, and B) does so based on clearly false information, which C) is very easily checkable.

The title of the post is The Truth of Genesis: The Muslim Is A Greater Fool Than The Atheist – Part 1B No, really.

Two days late to be an April Fools Day joke.

Apr 02 2014

As Read By The Author…

So, yeah… April is (US) National Poetry Month. And I have a potential project, which may or may not see fruition this month or ever (simply because grading has to take a higher priority at this point), for which I could really use your input.

No promises–I try very hard not to make promises I can’t keep–but… which of my silly verses might you want to hear read by the author? Long-time readers may have their choices–I would ask new readers to feel free to speak as well, but also to feel free to look over to the left side of this page where there is an “archives” tab, and have fun exploring the early Cuttlefish offerings.

Now, I’ll say right up front that there are verses I have outgrown–there are some I would not recite even if they were the favorite of every other reader here–and there are some that I would decline because they need to be sung (others, I might actually sing), or require two-part harmony (for one, at least) or four-part harmony (for another).

But if you ever wondered what a particular verse sounded like to me… this would be your chance to point that out. Cos it’s part of my master plan for taking over FtB, and eventually the world. Or maybe I just want to show people how the verses sound to me. And I can’t very well just do them all.

No hurry–take your time. Look through the archives; try reciting them yourselves. The one thing about rhymed and metered verse is, it is intended to be read and heard aloud. There are hidden treasures there that will never be appreciated by those who read them silently, I promise you.

Anyway… I have grading to do. Dive deep, look around, and let me know. (New readers, you can start from the very first months if you like–the archives go back to 2007, and it astonishes me how many of my own favorites are among the earliest!)

ok, back to the salt mines… later…

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