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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.

Jun 23 2014

God Is Gonna Do Some Judging…

God is gonna do some judging—
Yes, He’s gonna show His wrath—
As a message that humanity
Has left the righteous path

God is gonna do some judging
And our sins have sealed our fate;
Yes, He’s going to show His visage
Any day now—just you wait!

God is gonna do some judging
And it’s gonna happen soon—
He will set the seas to boiling
Underneath a blood-red moon
He will punish us with torment
For the things we’ve all done wrong
And he’ll start now, any moment…
Well… It shouldn’t be too long.

God is gonna do some judging
So you’d better shape up quick
Cos the things He’s gonna do to you
Will more than make you sick
You’ll suffer, suffer, suffer
As a judgment for your sins—
You’ll regret your life of evil
From the moment He begins!
It’s a torture that’s eternal—
No relief can come from death!—
He’ll be starting… any minute…
Well, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

God is gonna do some judging—
Yes, we’ve heard it all before
God is coming down from Heaven
And he’s kicking down the door
Any second—any minute—
Any month or any year
Any century—millenium—
Yes, God will soon be here!

Cuttlecap tip to Ed, here.

Jun 20 2014

OUCH!!!

When off on the road, a motel room’s a swell room—
Big beds, lots of pillows, and acres to stretch—
But no, I was sleeping on couches, so “ouch” is
The travel review from this Cuttlefish wretch.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy old chappy;
I saw lots of family, and had a great time
But damn, it is clear that I’m older; my shoulder
Is hurting—beyond either reason or rhyme

Now, several days back, I’m still hurtin’ for certain
I’d love for this torment to just go away
I’ve iced, I’ve tried meds, I’ve tried showers for hours
But strangely, I’m not even tempted to pray
You know—if it works when I choose it, I’d use it
But prayer has a record of failure or worse.
So, no, I won’t pray, though I’m moaning and groaning…
With Pain for my muse, I’m complaining in verse.

Jun 18 2014

Get Out Of My Head, Randall Munroe!

XKCD Cartoon

(Title text: “And then whisper ‘anapest’ in my ear as you hold me?”)

Source–XKCD, of course.

How many of my readers will not just get the joke, but can name the appropriate feet? No googling!

Jun 18 2014

Repeat After Me:

So you’ve got a new ambition—it’s to write a gospel song—
They will play it on the radio, and maybe sing along
But your knowledge of the bible isn’t really all that strong
If you’re thinking that’s a problem, I can tell you that you’re wrong!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times!

Yes, you’ll write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Add some power chords and cymbals, and the feigned excitement climbs—
With your keyboard synthesizer you can make-believe it’s chimes
And repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it many times
If it all gets too depressing, pick your chin up off the floor
And repeat the line you’ve written six times more!
If it all gets too depressing, pick your chin up off the floor
And repeat the line you’ve written six times more!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

You can throw in “hallelujah!”; you can throw in “blessed be!”
(Hey, with just those words, you’ve got a verse—or maybe two or three!)
And for extra points, be sure to use a random “thou” or “thee”
And you’re ready for the radio, as far as I can see.
You’ll be ready for the big time—Christian love and Christian fame
No one cares if all your verses are the same!
You’ll be ready for the big time—Christian love and Christian fame
No one cares if all your verses are the same!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

As I said, I’ve been listening to Christian radio. I found it offensive–not because of my atheism, but because of my aesthetic commitment to proper rhyming verse. Again and again, song after song, lazy songwriting! Maybe one song in a dozen would start off with a passable verse, but as if the effort had exhausted the songwriter, the remainder of the song would be the repetition of one phrase (say, “he is mighty” or “blessed be” or “certum est, quia impossibile“–ok, that last one is my own, I cheated), and perhaps a repetition of the first (and thus, only) verse. The rest of the songs were repetitious pablum dressed up in power chords and saccharine synthesizer riffs.

See, and I’m even a moderate fan of old-time gospel music and older, more serious, hymns. Done well, there can be beautiful music there. But, I suppose, done poorly takes much less time, and has to be that much more profitable.

Jun 18 2014

I’m Back, Mostly

What a lovely returning gift–81 comments, most in verse!

I will likely be scarce for a little bit–my back is threatening to secede from the rest of my body. Driving is not natural for invertebrates, and I have done much driving and much sleeping on couches since you last heard from me, and I have not yet found the combination of heat, ice, narcotics, massage, or amputation to alleviate the pain.

I did find the perfect radio strategy for staying awake, though–I listen to Christian radio! I found out, from the Catholic Radio Network, that Protestants have chosen to ignore part of God’s word, and (from another network) that Catholics are not true believers. I heard a guy who spent several days sitting in Jesus’s lap, communing with God himself (he learned much more than he could tell us, but if we want to buy his book and CDs…); he prayed for us both in English and in spirit language, and healed a bunch of people over the radio. Not my back, though. It is very clear that there is no such thing as “Christianity” as a unitary category; the false front united against atheists is only visible a few times a year, during the War Against Christmas and whenever Michael Newdow goes to court. Other than that, it would appear that Christian sects fight like cats in a sack.

Oh, and Christian praise music has got to be the easiest way to earn a paycheck.

So there I am, listening to Christian radio, and I am kept fully awake by the steam coming out of my ears. Even better than political radio.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to walk the dogs, mow the grass, weed the garden, wash the car, prep my fall courses, and have my right shoulder surgically removed.

Jun 06 2014

Road Trip–Open Thread

Just a quick note to say, don’t expect me around for the next week to 10 days; I have no idea whether I will even have internet access at all.

I expect this comment thread to be full of wonderful stuff when I get back. That’s a reasonable expectation for an internet comment thread, isn’t it?

Jun 04 2014

“I promise that your eyes will keep on watching…”

We gather together on Sundays
With people who share our belief
Our community spans generations
In collective elation or grief
We’re transformed in ecstatic communion
There are times we—as one—hold our breath
We have given our hearts to our passion
In a way that defies even death

This is bigger by far than religion
Even bigger than God, it would seem
“Greater love hath no man”, goes the saying,
“Than the love of a fan for a team”
And the stands now are packed with our family
We’re committed—till death do us part
And beyond—if I die a bit early
Someone else can take over my heart

And my eyes will keep watching, for someone
And my lungs, for another, can shout
I’ll be scattered all over the stadium
It’s the best of what fandom’s about
Sure, the love for a team may be foolish
But it’s true the community thrives
So it’s root, root, root for a new thing:
In the name of your team—saving lives

Via the Beeb, a really cool story about the very real communities built up among the fans of sport teams–in particular, Brazil’s Sport Club Recife, which has used the power of the fanbase to promote organ donation:

“I promise that your eyes will keep on watching Sport Club Recife,” says one man waiting for a cornea transplant in the television ad made to publicise the campaign.

“I promise that your heart will keep on beating for Sport Club Recife,” says a potential recipient of a transplanted heart.

The video is screened at every match in the club’s Ilha do Retiro stadium, a venue that seats 35,000 but could be filled almost twice over with the number of people who have signed up for a donor card – 66,000 so far.

The waiting list for organ transplants in the city of Recife was reduced to zero in the first year, Peixoto says, and the impact has also been felt throughout the surrounding state of Pernambuco.

“We used to perform from five to seven heart transplants a year, but last year we achieved 28… it was an incredible increase,” says Fernando Figueira, director of heart transplants at Pernambuco’s Institute of Integrated Medicine

First off, the campaign is beautiful; it seamlessly integrates organ donation with fandom in a way that really resonates. Secondly… wow! What an impact!

My own team, as both my readers know, is the Cleveland Browns–and the Browns Backers have been active for years, organizing blood donations, community cleanups, and (just today) launched the First and Ten project.

This is why I don’t particularly care for the atheist “Sunday Assembly” stuff. Hey, for those who enjoy it, I support you, but it seems a lot of “what is it that religion does that is worth copying?”… and frankly, the communities built around sports teams already have that covered–and not by copying a church, but by the organic growth of the fan community, the mutual caring for one’s fellow human beings.

And it is “human beings” rather than just one’s own fan community:

It’s not just about club loyalty though. Daniele Dias Pessoa, 32, supports one of Recife’s other clubs, Santa Cruz, but also decided to lend her face to her bitter rivals’ campaign.

Pessoa’s mother died of a stroke two years ago and she fulfilled her wishes, donating five of her organs.

“It was a very hard decision but it’s an act of love. Thanks to her, five people could finally leave the waiting list for a transplant,” she says.

Her mother was also a Santa Cruz supporter, but, says Pessoa, “I’m sure she wouldn’t have cared if her organs went to a Sport Recife fan.”

I love it.

Jun 04 2014

An Ode To Open Carry

I carry my gun to the toilet, and boy, let
Me tell you, it’s difficult wiping my ass
But guns are important! For freedom, you need ‘em
In every location—a critical mass!
I carry while changing my baby, cos maybe
A diaper goes rogue, and I need to defend!
My AK goes with me while shopping—no stopping—
The good guy who carries is everyone’s friend!

At church, while receiving my wafer, I’m safer
Cos slung on my back are my rifle and scope
In tactical gear, wearing camo, with ammo
I’m here for the sermon, a message of hope!
I’m eating left-handed at Chili’s—it’s silly;
I can’t eat a Whopper, cos that takes two hands
The NRA finds open carry too scary—
I’m not giving in to their leftist demands!

May 30 2014

Utah Girls Have No Right To Bare Arms

The photos they saw
Though they’d broken no law
Still were setting off major alarms
See, the dresses they chose
Left their shoulders exposed!
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

They were sleeveless—just straps,
And they’d worn them, perhaps
Many times, and encountered no harms
But for yearbooks, their school
Had a Mormon-based rule:
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

If their views are expressed
By the way they are dressed
In their cities, or suburbs, or farms,
At their school, then, the church
Leaves the girls in the lurch:
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

One girl was amazed
That her neckline was raised—
Her tattoo was a part of her charms!
But a bit of bare skin
Is a terrible sin!
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

Wasatch High School in Utah has a thing for modesty. They have made news, for altering yearbook photos–raising necklines, adding sleeves to cover bare shoulders, hiding a tattoo… and the first students learned of it was when the yearbook came out. They feel, understandably, like the school has disapproved of their expression, has tried to shame them, has determined that they don’t measure up.

“I feel like they’re shaming you, like you’re not enough, you’re not perfect,” sophomore Shelby Baum told the Associated Press on Thursday. Baum’s collarbone tattoo reading “I am enough the way I am” was removed from her photo. She also discovered a high, square neckline drawn onto her black V-neck T-shirt. Baum said she wants a refund or a new book with an unaltered photo.

I suppose it goes without saying that every one of the altered photos was of a female student. Completely coincidentally, I am sure.

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