Why, Oh Why, Oh Why-Oh (…Would You Act This Way, Ohio)

Attorney General Mike DeWine
(Republican, Ohio)
Is looking for an act of hate
To supplement his bio

He can’t be seen as gentle
(He’s Republican, of course)
So while Jim’s love John is dying
Mike is showing no remorse

While he can’t appeal the ruling
(Which is really quite a shame)
He can still deny the rights of those
Whose marriage is the same

That’s the law here, in Ohio
(And we follow every rule)
Though it makes gays less than human
And it makes DeWine seem cruel

He will fight, defending marriage
(So the local paper quotes)
Just as long as that position
Is the one that gains him votes

My most recent post on Jim and John ended on a partially optimistic note:

The bad news is, the court’s injunction is limited to this particular case and these two individuals. The good news is, even Cincinnati doesn’t expect that to remain the case

Ed also had reason to be hopeful:

This is just a temporary restraining order, but it obviously indicates how the judge is likely to rule on the case itself.

Looks like even if Cincinnati recognizes a marriage, and the judge does as well, the attorney general does not. Although DeWine appears to have initially said he would actually appeal the judge’s decision, he seems to have walked back from that cliff just a bit. ThinkProgress includes this update (after an unknown number of calls to DeWine’s office by concerned citizens):

A spokesperson for DeWine clarifies that he does not intend to appeal this temporary order because, the spokesperson says, such an order is not generally appealable. Nevertheless, DeWine also plans to “continue to defend Ohio’s constitutional amendment and law banning same-sex couples from marrying and banning the state from recognizing such marriages,” according to BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner.
In other words, while DeWine does not plan to appeal the judge’s recent temporary order, he still plans to put up a full legal fight against Arthur and Obergefell’s right to be permanently recognized by Ohio as husbands.

Fucking Bastard.

How Did Your Congressweasel Vote?

It was only a little amendment
And no one would really take note
But of course, it would all be recorded
(Check your own representative’s vote!)
There are thousands of chaplains already
Not one is an atheist, though
If the Pentagon thinks they might need some
It seems Congress already said “no”.
We have patriots working in Congress
Watching over our soldiers abroad
And we’ll do what they can to support them
Just as long as they worship our God.

In yesterday’s post, I missed the fact that they actually voted–and the amendment banning atheist chaplains did pass. You can check here for how your congressweasel voted, and consider contacting them to thank or chastise them, as the case may be. The only possible reason for supporting this amendment that I can see, would be that they attach more importance to the word “chaplain” than they do to the needs of thousands of soldiers.

GOP Congressman Attempts To Prohibit Atheist Chaplains

If you need to see a counselor
There’s someplace you can go
But it shows up on your record that you went
But a chaplain, if you see one,
No one else will ever know–
An alternative that’s clearly heaven-sent!

If you choose to go to chapel
You can get the morning off
If you don’t, you are free to stay and work
So the floors are mopped and polished
By the folks who chose to scoff–
Just another well-deserved religious perk!

Though the godless here among us
Number roughly one in five
(More than Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu troops combined)
We’ll claim none are found in foxholes
Where religion comes alive–
If their chaplains all are christian, they won’t mind!

Foolish congressmen are singing
Hymns with many sour notes
And it’s frankly disrespectful to the troops
Don’t expect their tune to change, though,
Cos it guarantees them votes…
And it keeps the godless jumping through their hoops

Not content to simply vote down an amendment providing specifically for atheist chaplains in the military, GOP congressweasel John Fleming is attempting to actively prohibit such chaplains, on the off chance the military decided that providing support for the 20% of troops who identify as atheists or agnostics was a good idea. If anyone thought “support our troops” was enough to overcome prejudice against atheists, today’s news will disabuse you of that illusion.

A positive view, with thoughtful legal analysis.

A relatively neutral, unsophisticated view, from the Christian News Network.

Batshit crazy (especially the comments) from The Blaze.

Garbage! (A Happy Dog Song)

My dog was a little bit frisky
As we went for our evening walk
And it might be the moon, or the whisky
But I swear I could hear the pup talk
My pooch wasn’t sleepy, nor hungry
He’s well rested, and recently fed—
Well then what, of all things, was the matter?
And so help me, here’s what my dog said:

Oh, please, can we roll in some garbage?
Can we wallow in filth for a bit?
As an eau-de-toilette, it’s the best you can get
Can we please roll around in some shit?
I love how it feels, the saran wrap and peels,
The aroma of chicken and fish
Oh, please, can we roll in some garbage?
Won’t you please grant your doggie his wish!

Then he smiled and he puckered his eyebrows
Did that thing where he cocks his cute head
He was doing his best to be fetching
But I wasn’t so easily led
So he whined and he wagged, and he wiggled,
But he wasn’t quite making it plain
He could tell that I wasn’t persuaded
So my puppy implored me again:

Oh, please, can we roll in some garbage?
There’s some stinky stuff here on the lawn
And I think I smell skunk, such a wonderful funk
We should hurry, before it’s all gone!
How could anyone think it’s a bad kind of stink?
When it’s all of the things I adore?
Oh, please, can we roll in some garbage?
I won’t ask you for anything more!

He was asking so very politely
With that puppy-dog look in his eyes
So I stopped for a bit and considered
And you know, he deserved a surprise
We were passing some odorous trash bags
When I told him “ok, we can stop”
And I opened a bag and I dumped it,
And we both rolled around in the slop!

Come join us, and roll in some garbage!
In coffee grounds, fish heads, and slime
Squirm around, if you please, in some old moldy cheese
Cos it’s really a wonderful time!
You won’t really know, till you give it a go,
What it’s like to be happy and free
Come join us, and roll in some garbage!
Have fun with my puppy and me!

John and Jim: An Update

This is why it matters.

James Obergefell has lived with the love of his life for 20 years before they married two weeks ago.

They also hoped to be buried next to each other, to spend eternity together, but the state of Ohio and his spouse’s relatives won’t let him – because he married another man, John Arthur.

Last week, the two men sued Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Cincinnati doctor responsible for approving death certificates. Obergefell and Arthur asked a judge to overturn existing Ohio law – which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage – to allow Obergefell to be listed as surviving spouse on Arthur’s death certificate and for it to show that Arthur’s marital status at death as married.

The most beautiful wedding you never attended…was not going to be recognized by the state of Ohio. Which meant that John, who is actively dying, was not going to be allowed to be buried next to Jim, his spouse, his partner of 20 years.

“We’ve been beside each other for 20 years. We deserve to be beside each other in perpetuity,” Obergefell testified Monday.

Arthur has ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has no known cure and is fatal, and is “days maybe weeks if we are lucky” from death, Obergefell testified.

“What he wants is to die knowing that I am legally taken care for and recognized as his spouse,” Obergefell said of Arthur, both 47.

The bad news is, the court’s injunction is limited to this particular case and these two individuals. The good news is, even Cincinnati doesn’t expect that to remain the case:

Aaron Herzig, an attorney for the city, said the city doesn’t oppose the request by Obergefell and Arthur. The city named July 11, the day the two men were married in Maryland, as James Obergefell and John Arthur Day in Cincinnati.

369

Three hundred sixty nine. That’s the current number, as of when I got caught up with the present, a moment or two ago. I mentioned, last post, that I’m gathering up my verses in preparation for another book. This 369 verses represents the quick-and-dirty sort–anything that I just hated didn’t make the cut; muse of the week limericks did not make the cut, stuff that was clearly crap, that anyone in their right mind would have binned and been done with, but which I posted because that’s what I do, did not make the cut.

In other words, the easy bit is done.

The last volume (still available, up there in the “cuttlestuff” tab) held some 244 verses (342 pages); I expect that the next volume will be slimmer. Which means I expect to be cutting the current crop by at least a third. Which will be difficult, but maybe in the opposite direction than you might think: It is exceedingly easy for me to say “oh, that one is horrible”. If I held to the standards of my staunchest inner critic, I could easily cut the verses down to a nice round number… the roundest of numbers, in fact. It is in defiance of that inner critic that I publish the “clearly crap”… but that critic did have a point. The nature of this blog requires that my inner critic be kept in irons most of the time, exercised only rarely and briefly. This editing will be difficult, in determining which ones to keep, not which to cull.

And so the tug-of-war begins. At present, I have no idea what the final book will look like. What categories? With or without commentary? Art? (I have an idea for the cover, though, which is a big step.) Or even a title. And I especially don’t have a target date. I keep intending to have something ready for Cephalopodmas season, but that hasn’t happened in years. But… who knows?

Wish me luck?

Two Years At FtB

As the first annual FtBConscience wraps up, it astonishes me to note that my first FtB post went up two years ago today. As I said last year, I thank Ed and PZ for creating this place and populating it with these people. And I especially thank my readers and commenters for helping feed my addiction. I am gathering up verses in preparation for putting another book out, and it astonishes me to find literally hundreds of verses I don’t really remember writing, and some of them really aren’t half bad (others, of course, are astonishingly bad).

From two years ago, my first FtB post:

The gods have taken many guises;
Fathers, mothers, monsters, friends,
Tricksters bent on bold surprises
Schemers bent on selfish ends
That’s how we’ve known ‘em.

We’ve done our best to try to please ,
To understand as best we could;
For eons we had bent our knees;
Then questioned gods, then boldly stood,
And now, outgrown ‘em.

This was once a beautiful temple.  Now it is a beautiful swamp.

I took this photo at the Temple of Isis at Dion, in the shadow of Mount Olympus.   Long-time readers with photographic memories might remember me using it once before.  It must have been a beautiful temple; it certainly is a beautiful swamp.

Oh, Nothing, Really….

When philosophers talk about “nothing”
Why, their nothing has nothing at all
No time, and no space, and no matter,
Not even the quantumly small

When philosophers talk about “nothing”
It’s a special and magical word
But it isn’t the “nothing” that physicists see,
Cos the thing is, it must be inferred

Now, this doesn’t much bother philosophers
As a rule, they are rarely unnerved
But you see, this philosopher’s nothing?
It has never—not once—been observed

When philosophers argue religion
And their “nothing” implies a first cause…
If you get to assume your conclusions,
You’re not looking for natural laws

If the universe started from nothing
Which it can’t, the philosophers say
Either “nothing”, or “nothing”, is faulty
So… why swing the philosophers’ way?

There are two different versions of “nothing”
Which the sides have us choosing between
One version says God isn’t needed…
And the other has never been seen

So it’s “nothing” to fret about, really
(and “nothing” seems overly broad)
And there’s nothing that needs a creator…
But it works… if you presuppose God.

Y’know, I would swear I’ve already responded to this… but my aggregator says no. Lemme show you a video by Peter Kreeft, explaining that belief in god is more rational than atheism…

Yes, Kreeft starts with Aquinas, because the 1200′s are so modern.

Ok… I was going to go through the whole video, but I think maybe I’ll save that for later. I want to mention one other thing first.

Now… what was that?

Oh, yeah… nothing. Nothing at all.

Now, Krauss has a book out about nothing. And he’s pretty damned good at talking about it, I hear. But there are those who say he’s talking about an entirely different nothing than the philosophers are.

Which is the point of my little verse. See… Krauss’s “nothing” has the decided disadvantage of being observable. Philosophers need not restrict their nothings with such trivial matters. There is “nothing”, and then, there is “nothing”. One is easy to understand… but has never been observed. The other does not match our expectations, but does match the evidence.

There’s nothing, and then there is nothing. The philosophers’ “nothing” is an assumption, not an observation.

Really…. It’s nothing.

At The Risk Of More Competition…The Limerick Contest!

I have to tell you (I was just informed myself, as was my source, the good people at the OEDILF) of the International Limericks Competition. (And it is indeed “the” Limerick competition, based in Limerick, Ireland, as it is.)

Free to enter, up to three entries, must be original and in proper limerick form, with a cash prize of 1000 euros (if you are able to attend the final competition–that’s the bad news).

Deadline for entries is 30 July, so get busy!

Atheism’s Little Idea

“God” was, once, a Big Idea—
Without a doubt, this is true;
So much of the world, we did not understand;
There was much that a god had to do.

In pieces and bits, we have gained understanding;
In inches and feet, we’ve gained ground;
And with each passing year, we’ve discovered
Fewer uses for God can be found

As God has grown smaller and smaller
Opposition to God also shrinks
And ideas that one were amazing
Are what pretty much everyone thinks

So atheist thinking, and atheist writing
Seems less than in previous years
As people just “fall into” godlessness…
That’s what happens, when God disappears

There are food snobs (I’m one), and music snobs (only sometimes), and fashion snobs and sports snobs and snobs of all sorts… so it isn’t really surprising that there are atheism snobs (Or purists, or whatever term you want–I honestly don’t think there should be a necessarily negative tinge to this). I found one here, bemoaning atheism’s “little idea” in comparison to the former big ideas of old:

I do apologize. It seems that everything I write these days is anti-atheist. And who can blame my unbelieving brethren for assuming I am fighting for the other side. Perhaps I should be, since modern atheism is hardly worth defending.

To be brutal, I cannot imagine a time in the history of unbelief when atheism has appeared more hamfisted, puling, ignorant or unappealing.

Oddly, I’ve got a bit from the Mikado going through my head now… “then the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone, all centuries but this and every country but his own…” Not that the author is an idiot–that just happens to be the lyric. But the complaint?

Atheism has become a very little idea, an idea that has to be shouted to seem important. And that is a shame, because God was a big idea, and the rejection of the existence of God was also a big idea, once upon a time.

Which, actually, is true–the thing is, this isn’t a bug–it’s a feature. Hoffman likes a positive view of atheism; I prefer a privative view. He makes clear in the comments that he does not like the negative definition–but that is precisely why he has the complaint that he does. Atheism, for him, is an idea–and a shrinking one.

God was a big idea. God had to explain so much, not merely the physical world, but our world of experience–our wonder, our awe, our very presence. And, yes, much of the writing of the Gnu Atheists has focused on how the physical sciences have no need of a god hypothesis–physicists and biologists seem to lead the way (yes, there are philosophers, but at least some of them are writing about the physical sciences too), and to the extent that God was an explanation for phenomena in their fields, God has shrunk. In my own experience, I think the psychologists have produced fewer successful books of the same sort (If I have missed them, point me to them, please!)–in part because psychology is such a broad discipline, and the experimental psychologists who have the best tools to answer the questions are not as accessible to the public as the pop-psych writers who may as well be making shit up.

But I digress. As I said, God was a big idea. So atheism, the “none of the above” answer to which god-myth was responsible for all these phenomena, was itself fairly radical and a big deal. But it was not a single, coherent, positively defined idea (this, of course, is where Hoffman and I disagree, and where I am right), let alone a Big Idea. There were magnificent atheist writers producing beautiful statements of atheist philosophy…but they did not, could not, speak for all of atheism. (I suspect there was also some real dreck being written on the side of atheism, but there is a reason good writing survives.)

And over the decades, the Big Idea of God started to shrink. The single best example, of course, was evolution rendering creation obsolete, but of course we find progress in physics, geology, astronomy, biology, psychology, anthropology and more, each chipping away at the mountain of stuff God used to explain. Nowadays, the faithful (well, some of them–it is as wrong to paint all believers with the same brush as it is to paint all atheists likewise) are reduced to saying “we don’t know what happened in the first picoseconds of the big bang, ergo Christianity.” Or that the observation of innate morality is evidence for, not against, god as an explanation for moral codes. And often as not, the claims are not even really representative of the proper science, but are arguments out of ignorance. “‘Science can’t study love’, ergo God”, for instance, ignores the fact that psychologists have been studying love experimentally for decades (true, you won’t find much on the actual research in pop-psych books, cos it doesn’t sell as well as Venus and Mars bullshit).

So, yeah, God has been shrinking for quite some time now. It no longer takes radical thought to dismiss God as an explanation for… anything. Which is a problem, for Hoffman:

My current Angst, to use that hackneyed word correctly, is that most contemporary humanists don’t know what classical humanism is, and most modern atheists won’t know the references in the last paragraph, and what’s more will not care.** Their atheism is an uneven mixture of basic physics, evolutionary biology, half cooked theories from the greasy kitchen of cognitive science, assorted political opinions, and what they regard as common sense. They fell into atheism; they did not come to it.

My goodness, what a wonderful thing! That religious faith no longer need be the default thing to “fall into”? This reminds me of acquaintances of mine who argued that it is better to develop an immunity to a disease naturally, by actually contracting the disease, than by vaccination (which would, of course, be simply “falling into” immunity).

Yes, the big questions are smaller now. We no longer have to explain how the sun climbs in the sky, now that we know the earth spins. We no longer have to explain why God allows suffering. We no longer have to explain a lot of the vexing questions that came about because of a flawed world view. If the questions are simpler now, it is at least in part because the questions were wrong, before. And if that recognition isn’t terribly romantic, I can live with that.