Counterfactual Thinking In The New York Times

From the NYT letters to the editor:

Re “Student Faces Town’s Wrath in Protest Against a Prayer” (news article, Jan. 27), about a successful lawsuit brought by Jessica Ahlquist, a 16-year-old atheist in Cranston, R.I.:

There are only six words in the text posted on the wall of Cranston High School West that are the cause of the problem. They are “School Prayer,” “Our Heavenly Father” and “Amen.” Take them out. The text can then read, with slight modification:

“May we each day desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers, to be honest with ourselves as well as with others. May we be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. May we value true friendship and always conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.”

Who could possibly object to that?

(name withheld, out of pity–you can see if you like)

Were it not for the phrases that make it a prayer
It wasn’t a prayer at all!
So how could a reasonable person object
To a banner that’s hung on a wall?
Were it not for the fact that it’s labeled a “Prayer”,
Says “Our Heavenly Father”… “Amen”
Why, the banner the judge said was going too far
Would be nothing at all—and what then?
If it hadn’t been phrased as a prayer (which it was)
Who could ask—or demand—its removal?
There are only six words—only six!—and that’s all—
That prohibit the banner’s approval!
It’s outrageous the judge’s decision I read
Says the horrible things that it does!
Cos the only thing making the banner a crime…
Is the curious fact that… it was.

Yeah,yeah, after the jump… [Read more...]

Answering The Call

For JT.

When it comes to rhyming verse, I’ve seen better; I’ve seen worse
But at least I know the form to write it true
There’s a problem, though, with these, cos I don’t speak Japanese
So I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku

With a sonnet in pentameter, I know the right parameter,
In ballad form, I’ve written one or two
If I have a thing to say, I can write a villanelle
But I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku

I compose my double dactyls with internal rhymes, like fractals
And my limericks? Renowned the whole world through
Should you want an ABC, you could leave it up to me,
But I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku

Oh, there’s one that stands alone, I invented on my own
Cos it seemed the sort of thing that I should do
I could sharpen up my quill, and could write you what you will
But I’ve learned I must decline to do Haiku.

Haikus are only haikus
When in Japanese.
English? Counting syllables.

More, after the jump: [Read more...]

Look The Other Way

At our school board meeting hall, there’s a banner on the wall
That says ,“Jesus is my savior and my lord”
Though its stands against the rules to have prayer in public schools
If it’s clear that it’s a message from the board
When I started to complain, I was answered with disdain:
“What a hateful and unchristian thing to say
I’m not seeing what you see, cos it doesn’t bother me
You should turn around and look the other way”

Look (look the other way), the other way (look the other way)
And the problem will appear to go away (look the other way)
If you shut your eyes and ears, then the problem disappears
It’s so simple when you look the other way (the other way)

“We should keep it in plain sight, cos the banner is our right
We have earned it with the taxes that we pay
There’s no need to take it down, we’re good Christians in this town
You should turn your head and look the other way”

Look (look the other way), the other way (look the other way)
And the problem will appear to go away (look the other way)
If you shut your eyes and ears, then the problem disappears
It’s so simple when you look the other way (the other way)

“It’s been hanging there so long, it can’t possibly be wrong
It’s a message that we need to see each day
For a Muslim or a Jew, or an atheist like you,
You can turn around and look the other way”

Look (look the other way), the other way (look the other way)
And the problem will appear to go away (look the other way)
If you shut your eyes and ears, then the problem disappears
It’s so simple when you look the other way (the other way)

“If we want the banner there, there’s no reason you should care
And the wants of the majority hold sway
If you see us breaking laws, just take a breath and pause
Then turn around and look the other way”

Look (look the other way), the other way (look the other way)
And the problem will appear to go away (look the other way)
If you shut your eyes and ears, then the problem disappears
It’s so simple when you look the other way (the other way)

“Should you win the case in court, we have one more last resort
We can threaten you and force you to obey
If you make us take it down, you’re the bully in this town
You should turn your head and look the other way”

Look (look the other way), the other way (look the other way)
And the problem will appear to go away (look the other way)
If you shut your eyes and ears, then the problem disappears
It’s so simple when you look the other way (the other way)

I don’t really need to provide context, do I? Every discussion thread that ever touched on an establishment clause case, that’s your context.

Feel free to add verses–this one practically writes itself.

“Look Around”

Funny thing, perspective. The same comment can be seen as good or bad, support or refutation, because of all the often-unsaid baggage that the speaker or writer attaches to that comment.

In our discussions of de Botton’s proposed tower (btw, de Botton sounds far more reasonable in Kylie’s new interview than he has been portrayed in the media), one quote kept getting mentioned (in three different languages, actually): “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice.” Atheists apparently see more beauty in the real world than in any temple we might construct. Or that’s how we viewed that quote, anyway. This morning, though, I saw another point of view (after the jump): [Read more...]

Why Should You Care?

An atheist doesn’t believe in a god,
So why should an atheist care?
So what if he’s put on some idiot’s list
For a heaven he knows isn’t there?

The church claims a place of authority
They tell us it’s written in stone
I will not assist their intrusion—
My name is not theirs; it’s my own.

I’ve seen it in a number of different contexts recently–the Cranston banner, “in god we trust” on money, and now in two unrelated stories about atheists and baptism. More, after the jump: [Read more...]

The Grandest One Of All

Regarding de Botton’s proposed atheist monument, commenter Crudely Wrott writes:

Build a cathedral? Build a cathedral?!

Shit, de Bottom, we are born inside the grandest one of all!

Look about you.

We don’ need no stinkin’ interpretive scale models!

Or, in Cuttlespeak…

We could pillage, pilfer, plunder
All religion knows of wonder
We can take the best from all their holy books
We can ask the three-in-one set
What they’ve got to match a sunset
Which is there to see for anyone who looks

When reality is greater
Than some fictional creator
There’s no reason we should steal the lesser stuff—
We should simply look around us
What we witness will astound us—
Cos the world itself is beautiful enough.

An Atheist Monument? (Or, On Herding Cats)

A leader’s role is heady brew,
But difficult to swallow;
Please, name yourself the King of cats—
I do not think they’ll follow.

You want to build a monument
And point it at the sky
Assuming that they notice, cats
Will only ask you, “Why?”

Feel free to tell the feline folk
It’s there on their behalf
Assuming that they notice, cats
Will only point and laugh.

Point out its deep symbology,
Its praises, proudly sing!
Assuming that they notice, cats
Would rather play with string.

You’ve snatched religious trappings,
Without falling in their trap—
Assuming that they notice, cats
Would rather take a nap.

It isn’t meant for worshipping—
It isn’t meant for prayer;
Assuming that they notice, cats
Will probably not care.

A leader’s role is heady brew,
But difficult to swallow;
Please, name yourself the King of cats—
I do not think they’ll follow.

Thoughts, after the jump: [Read more...]

On Adequate Sampling

He claimed it was a goblet of the sweetest, purest wine
But the first sip tastes like vinegar to me.
He said, “but near the bottom there’s a sip that’s just divine—
You may have to drink a lot of it to see.”
He calls me narrow-minded cos I haven’t tried the rest
Says my condemnation takes a lot of gall
And he’s sure that there’s a sip in there that truly is the best
Which I can’t deny until I’ve tried it all.
It’s true, I haven’t tried it all, but gladly I’ll forego,
Since the first sip only made me want to spit
It might not all be vinegar—I guess I’ll never know—
But the man himself is surely full of shit.

Context here, of course.

NYTimes Article On Cranston

Nothing you haven’t heard before. But a lot of people who haven’t heard it before are going to hear it. (The link goes to the New York Times article on the Cranston banner.)

I’ve been arguing with a few people, away from here, about this case. I don’t know–to me, it seems so cut and dried; why would any religious believer want to side with the notion of “yes, the government can choose which religion to promote.” Seriously, Jessica is fighting for their rights, even as they (figuratively, I hope) spit on her.

Cuttledaughter has been following Jessica’s story; it’s too late to hope she grows up to be like Jessica, but it is not too late to be proud that she takes Jessica’s side.