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Jul 11 2014

Very Important Meatspace Stuff

… so I’ll be scarce to non-existent in digital form until at least Sunday.

Don’t let the pilot light go out.

Jul 09 2014

“A Symbol Of National Unity”

I shouldn’t be shocked—hey, they’re only the news,
They can say what they want with impunity—
But it took me aback that they called a cathedral
A “symbol of national unity”.

It’s a beautiful building, I have to admit,
(Darth Vader hides in the façade!)
But it seems our one nation once deemed indivisible
Separates now, “under god”

The cathedral is of the Episcopal Church
So the Baptists, of course, disagree—
Not to mention the Wiccans, or Muslims, or Jews…
But it’s Unity, clearly, you see?

It’s not their intent to do anything wrong
They try to be open, it’s true
They’d love to unite the whole nation, of course,
But that’s something religion can’t do.

It’s a feel-good story; the National Cathedral is getting its needed repairs after the 2011 earthquake sent God’s message that He is a Darth Vader fan. It’s beautiful architecture, wonderful stone carving (my favorite is at 1:40 in the video, reminding us that artists have long used whatever source material they could, from pagan gods to bible stories, as an excuse to showcase naked bodies), extraordinary stained glass (which includes secular themes, like the Apollo lunar landing, incorporating an actual moon rock in the design), and I am happy to see it being restored.

Also, despite being the “National Cathedral”, every dime paying for its construction and repair is from private donors. It officially is an Episcopalian cathedral, not a U.S. one (its official name is “The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington”), although it has seen events from many denominations, and secular events as well.

But one thing it is not, though the linked story makes the claim–it is not a “symbol of national unity”. I can see why the Episcopalian Church would want to call it that–the Pew numbers put traditional and evangelical Episcopalian/Anglicans, combined, at under 2% of the US, not even in the top ten denominations, percentage-wise; to lay claim to a unified “National” anything would be a serious cap-feather. I think, maybe, the only real symbol of unity for this diverse country might well be the motto e pluribus unum, which at once recognizes our differences and our common identity.

But of course, that has been replaced by “in god we trust”, which just emphasizes the fact that it is not in religion’s power to unite, only to divide.

Jul 08 2014

Vials Labeled “Variola” Found. Could Have Been Worse.

Unless you are from Brazil, the scariest news today may have been the discovery of forgotten, unsecured, vials labeled “variola” (smallpox, to you and me) in an NIH lab.

Hey, at least it was labeled! I’ve been cleaning out my office these past weeks, and if that NIH lab had been anything like my office, the detritus of decades would still be present, but virtually none of it would have been labeled.

One small unlabeled vial
Sitting there, forgotten
One small unlabeled vial
Lurking in the lab
It might be dehydrated spores
Of a weaponized fungus
Just waiting for wars
It might be a virulent pox
An assistant mistakenly
Left in a box
It might be a deadly disease
That could devastate countries
As quick as you please
It might be a parasite fluke
Or an isotope ready
To power a nuke
It might be some chemical goo
That can turn your cheeks’ roses
To cyanide blue
It might be a germ that’s evolved
So an antibiotic’s
A problem that’s solved
It might be the ultimate cure
Unless we uncap it,
We can’t know for sure…
There’s little more frightening, no denial,
Than one small unknown, unlabeled vial

With sincere apologies to everyone’s favorite Uncle Shelby, who did all the heavy lifting.

Jul 05 2014

On The Deeply Held Religious Beliefs Of Corporations

A local corporation is a member of my church
Though it never puts a dollar in the plate
I haven’t seen it in the pews, no matter how I search
Though it claims it’s more devout than me, of late
It reads its bible daily, and of course it watches Fox,
It’s offended by the liberal elite
It loves Scalia’s reasoning (“He thinks outside the box!”)
Saying personhood is not confined to meat

If the church’s wisdom dictates, say, that women be controlled
There’s a trick our local corporation learned:
Your insurance isn’t yours at all, despite what you’ve been told
Compensation isn’t something that you’ve earned
You must subjugate your wishes to the corporation’s will—
Your insurance is dependent on their whim
So it’s really up to Jesus which prescriptions you may fill,
Cos the corporation puts its faith in Him.

If it holds beliefs devoutly, while abstractly it exists
It’s protected by the constitution, too
And (all thanks to Hobby Lobby) the Supreme Court now insists
Its protections mean it’s even safe from you!
In a battle of religious rights, it’s kinda, sorta, funny—
Corporations have beliefs, by all reports!
They are just like you or me—except, of course, they have more money…
But, of course, that doesn’t matter to the courts.

Jul 04 2014

Before The Beginning

Day one was the day in which God creates light,
And the Earth—which came first, if my thinking is right—
Day two, we get water, both vapor and sea;
Then land, and some gardens, we get on day three;
The sun, and the moon, and the stars, on day four;
Day five we get fishes and birds by the score;
Day six we get animals, Adam, and Eve;
Day seven He rested, or so I believe.

He wrote it, of course, so he gets to be hero…
But what did God do on the day before zero?

If God is eternal, but matter is not,
Then He was here first (and by more than a lot!)
An eternity spent before we were here sinning,
Unless, of course, God has, himself, a beginning…
Either way, he was here before water or light
So… what was He doing, on minus-six night?
Was He here by his lonesome? Or here with some friends?
If so, for how long? Cos “before” never ends!

Sure, some can be hidden, with magic or tricks…
But what did God do on the day before nix?

If God is eternal, what happens before
Day Minus-Six-Million, Three-Thousand and Four?
Omniscient, and thus well aware of His fate,
With billions and trillions of eons to wait?
Did He sit there, divinely and utterly bored
As He waited the very first Year of Our Lord?
Since space—indeed, time—had not yet been created,
Seems God only knows just how long He has waited.

Can theology tell us—I think that it ought—
Just what did God do in the days before nought?

I’ve lost track of what I was reading that put this notion into my head. A comment somewhere, but where?

Jul 03 2014

Tornado Warnings, Now And Then

It was just the other morning
When we heard the weather warning
And we tried to drag the pets downstairs, for shelter from the storm
I remembered, with a chortle,
I was young once, and immortal,
And defied the nearing twisters, playing Frisbee by the dorm
Ah, but real life can be frightening—
I’ve since lost someone to lightning—
So I run inside from thunder, though of course I know the odds
And I’m thankful to the science
Where it’s safe to put reliance
How much better than to fear we’re at the mercy of the gods

Jul 01 2014

But… Will They Accept Verses?

The new journal Science, Religion, and Culture is announcing a special issue focusing on “Atheism, Secularity, and Science”. It suggests the following topics:

• Identifying and outlining Lakatosian research programmes in current atheism and secularity research – their advantages and limitations.
• Philosophy of science critiques of current research on atheism and secularity.
• Conceptualizing types of atheism and secularity.
• Atheism and secularity’s role in the separation of church and state around the world.
• Can atheism or secularity be understood without juxtaposition to theism or religion?
• The role of activism in atheist and secular communities.
• An examination of the rise of Sunday Assemblies or, ‘atheist churches’.
• Developing/advancing ‘secular studies’.
• Developing a comparative terminology for studying atheism and theism together.
• Can atheists be ‘spiritual’?
• Atheism and the rise of the Internet.
• Atheism and ‘analytic thinking’.
• New atheism’ and Scientism.
• Atheism, health, and wellbeing.
• Why are the majority of elite scientists ‘atheists’?
• Why are scientists in general less religious than the average person?
• Atheism, a next step in human evolution?
• Identity politics in Western atheism.
• Atheism, secularism, and children.
• Atheism, secularism, and Transhumanism.
• Science, an ‘alternative to religion’ for atheists?
• Explaining atheism in the cognitive science of religion.

Thing is, I think I have written verses on the vast majority of these topics.

Anyway, they require the “full name of the author”, and I doubt they would accept “Cuttlefish”, so once again, mollusk can’t buy a break in the vertebrate world. Entries are due by December 31st, for those of you willing to play by their rules.

Jun 30 2014

Gee, I Guess Maybe I’m Not An Atheist After All

I’ve missed the point of atheism—missed it all along—
I thought I was an atheist, but now I know I’m wrong:
An atheist hates God, you see, because he loves his sins
(It says so in the bible, and the bible always wins).

An atheist loves cruelty; an atheist loves death;
Defending immorality with every lawless breath
Their ideal life is meaningless—it’s nasty, brutish, short—
I thought I was an atheist; I’m nothing of the sort!

Don’t ever ask an atheist, “You’re godless—tell me why”
They’re atheists, remember—all they’re gonna do is lie!
I, myself? I would have answered, but I clearly did not know
It’s all hating God and loving sin—the bible tells us so!

In a world of chance and chaos, where the godless blindly grope,
There’s no beauty in a sunset—there’s no poetry, no hope—
All is ultimately pointless, so it’s meaningless as well,
And at death, these unbelievers face eternity in hell.

Only God has love and kindness, as the atheists will learn
They’ll be sorry they denied Him, as unendingly they burn
There’s a lesson for the godless, which they eagerly ignore:
They could love God if they wanted… they just love their sinning more

From a silly little Gospel Centered Arminian Blog, a screed, “The Point of Atheism.” It’s nothing you haven’t seen before dozens of times–the author was witnessing to an atheist (“Jason”), and ignored everything Jason said. See, the truth is:

The reality is that the point of atheism is simple: Romans 1:18:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Atheists simply hate God because they love their sins. This is the point of atheism.

It doesn’t matter what Jason told him. It doesn’t matter what I myself might say, or what any given atheist organization might say, or if hypothetically every atheist in the world agreed on one definition, but that definition disagreed with Romans 1:18 it would simply be more evidence that atheists are lying sinners, or sinning liars, or some such.

The truth is that when I observe a sunset and Jason observes a sunset, we both look at it through the lenses of a prior worldview assumption. He looks at a beautiful sunset and he sees nothing more than randomness taking place. He believes that nothing caused this sunset and it just exists by chance. I look at the same sunset and see the hand of Yahweh (Psalm 19:1-6). Jason has no hope. I have hope. Jason has no faith (well he does in Darwinian evolutionary theories) and I have hope in God. Jason lives a pointless life. I live a life where I seeking to not only love God but to help others to love Him along the way. Jason does good to others (at least he said he does) just because he is a human who evolved from a lower substance but I do good because I am created in the image of a good God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Atheism doesn’t produce hope. It produces death. I don’t doubt that religion can be equally as evil but I am not calling people to a religion. I am calling people to repentance and the truth in Christ (John 14:6). I don’t want religious people. I want disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). I want people to love Christ and obey Him as Lord (Luke 6:46-49; John 14:15). I want people to bear the fruit of the Spirit by the work of the Spirit among them (Galatians 5:22-23) which is where true goodness comes from. I want people to obey God and His moral law by His grace (Titus 2:11-12).

What does atheism produce? Does it produce hope in people? Does atheism lead to great human compassion and acts of kindness? Where are the atheist groups feeding the poor, serving the sick and dying, giving hope to those who are struggling with life? Where are the atheist hospitals? Where are the large segment of atheists going forth defending life, morality, and purity?

And we could point to those atheist groups, and because they don’t agree with a particular narrow biblical definition, they will be ignored. Water off a duck’s back.

So why even bother writing this? Because the Arminian site, if you look at it, appears to find one group even more objectionable than atheists (I’m sure a similar pattern will hold for other groups, but this one was presented prominently). That’s right… Calvinists. As is so often the case, the big acrimony is reserved for those who are in the church down the street. And the internecine bickering is observed, and some of us find it much ado about nothing… and that is often step one toward atheism.

Not a hatred of god. But hey, don’t take my word for it. I just love to sin.

Apparently.

PS. As the cherry on top, at the end of the post, he links to a Ray Comfort video.

Jun 28 2014

Sophisticated … Something.

I needed a few vital groceries
So I laced up my shoes and set forth
But I’d somehow forgotten my compass
So I didn’t know which way was North!

It’s just down the street that I’m heading
And I’ll hope against hope for the best
The store’s on the left when I get there
But I don’t really know if that’s West!

If I don’t have True North to depend on
I don’t know I can trust Left or Right
“Two Blocks Down” is just meaningless drivel
If I don’t have True North in my sight!

So I sit here–afraid to go shopping
I can’t drive to the market or mall
All directions are now without meaning
Without North, I know nothing at all!

So… yeah. My aggregator points me to a place that thinks C.S.Lewis had something reasonable to say about atheism:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

- C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, p. 32

Thing is, this is the best they have to offer. And it’s shit. And I’ve addressed it many times before. In fucking verse. And if they can say “you have to read the sophisticated theology before you can say shit”, then I can say “you have to read my whole site first, then you can try to address what I haven’t already dismantled.”

Jun 24 2014

An Atheist Town Council Prayer

The town of Greece, NY, as a result of their recent court decision, is going to have a town council opening prayer delivered by an atheist. This has left a segment of the Christian population utterly befuddled; when the bible is the only book you need, you are not likely to have a dictionary handy. As both articles and comments show an astonishing lack of imagination or understanding on the part of these concerned Christian citizens, I offered the following comment at the link above (for whatever reason, though, my comments never show up, so I have reproduced it, with additional comments in verse, here):

To pray, by definition, can mean to entreat, to beseech, to implore–to make a request of a person or persons. The verb is not restricted to communion with a god, but may include communion with our fellow citizens. If I were offering the opening prayer, I would beseech the council to remember that they serve *all* the citizens of their community, not just those who share their religious views. I would implore them to look to the constitution and laws for their guidance, instead of to a holy book that many in their community do not follow. I would entreat them to put themselves in the place of these others in their community, as their own bible tells them (Matthew 25:40). I would pray that they use their critical thinking, not merely their faith, in fulfilling the obligations of their elected office.

I beseech the worthy council
To remember, as we pause,
That they serve the constitution,
And the people, and the laws;
They are here as public servants
It is us they represent
By, and of, and for the people
Thus, they serve by our consent

I entreat them to remember
During arguments or fights
That minority positions
Do not lead to loss of rights;
That our freedom of expression
Will protect us as we rant—
We can favor our religion;
It’s the government that can’t.

I implore my fellow citizens
Here gathered by my side
To remember that we use
The constitution as our guide
The majority can’t bully—
We’re protected from attack,
If we heed the constitution
Then the founders have our back

And I pray to every one of you
The bold, the brash, the meek
If you hear or read my words,
Then it’s to you that I would speak
Let us gather here together
Cos there’s work that must be done
So let’s work with one another,
We the people… every one.

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