Updating The Menu (Halal Mermaid!)

Via Ed, we hear that there has been a change of dietary heart. Whereas it was apparently once the case that mermaid were officially (there was an official fatwa) off the menu, Ed reports that mermaids A) exist, and B) are halal.

I really never thought I’d have the appropriate excuse to repost this one, but it’s one of my favorites. You have to read it aloud to get the internal rhymes.

A fish connoisseur made paella with Mermaid;
He thought the aroma was nice.
With garnish of seaweed (his sycophants “oui-oui-ed”)
And saffron infusing the rice.
He clarified butter, and started to mutter
“It tastes like it’s really Mazola”
Then added blue cheeses: “the trick, if you please, is—
With Gorgon, you need gorgonzola!”
With minimum bluster, he gutted and trussed her;
You see, in his studies, he’d learned
That the delicate features of mermaid-like creatures,
If left unattended, get burned.
The succulent breast of (as well as the rest of)
The meal, would make proud its creator;
I was told that one bite would bring utter delight,
And I could not refuse… so I ate her.

The War On Christmas, In Convenient Poll Form

Over at The Blaze (don’t judge me!), my “war against christmas” verses (collection at link) failed to even get a mention in their round-up of this season’s war. But billboards and banners and nativity scenes and humanlight (which I had not heard of) and the sort did. More importantly, there is a poll! “Who won the war on Christmas?” Don’t they know? There are no winners, only survivors. Sadly, that’s not an option.

The war against christmas is finally over;
The church-bells are solemnly tolling.
So bury the bodies ‘neath acres of clover
And start the traditional polling.

The Blessings Of Atheism

Is my disbelief a blessing?
Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
It depends on what is stressing
Me, and how my struggles go.
I have no need for confessing,
“Asking God” is much too slow
Since it’s just the same as guessing
While I bow my head just so
I am glad no god is messing
With my actions just for show
And I think it’s worth expressing
When the time is apropos.

Sorry, that was just a quick little nothing, in order to talk about this opinion piece by Susan Jacoby at the New York Times, “The Blessings of Atheism”. It’s a very pro-atheism piece (as well it should be, with Jacoby a proudly “out” atheist), prompted by the Newtown shootings (or, more precisely, prompted by a conversation that was prompted by the shootings), and the observation that consolation in times of grief is seen as wholly the jurisdiction of those with faith.

I, of course, disagree (and have written about it elsewhere), but agree with Jacoby that this view appears ubiquitous in the media. We are called to renew our faith, perhaps precisely because such events (as they should) shake the belief in a loving god to its very foundation.

IT is primarily in the face of suffering, whether the tragedy is individual or collective, that I am forcefully reminded of what atheism has to offer. When I try to help a loved one losing his mind to Alzheimer’s, when I see homeless people shivering in the wake of a deadly storm, when the news media bring me almost obscenely close to the raw grief of bereft parents, I do not have to ask, as all people of faith must, why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen.

It is a positive blessing, not a negation of belief, to be free of what is known as the theodicy problem. Human “free will” is Western monotheism’s answer to the question of why God does not use his power to prevent the slaughter of innocents, and many people throughout history (some murdered as heretics) have not been able to let God off the hook in that fashion.

Mind you, I wouldn’t have written the same piece Jacoby does (for one thing, hers is shockingly lacking in doggerel rhyme, and for another, our personal journeys are of course different), but it is well worth the read, and it is a breath of fresh air to see in the mainstream media (although, of course, it will be dismissed by a great many precisely because it is in that liberal bastion, the NY Times).

Poison In The Water (Repost)

There was poison in the water
And it wasn’t fit to drink;
So we got ourselves together
And we had a little think…

We were told to “just ignore it”
We were told “it’s not so bad”
We were told that sanitation
Was a silly, passing fad

We could just avoid the fountain
We could just avoid the taps,
And the problem would resolve itself
Eventually, perhaps

There are sensible precautions—
Keep your mouth shut as you shower;
If you’re feeling really thirsty,
Maybe boil it for an hour

There are antidotes available
Or so, at least, we’re told,
But they’re getting hard to find these days
And some are rather old

If we get our act together,
We can do it! I can tell…

…And it won’t disturb the fellows
Who are shitting in the well.

Yeah, normally I wait a bit longer before reposting things, or at least until it’s appropriate again. Sadly, I am coming around to the opinion that this particular issue never goes away. I’ve been reading CNN’s comments again, and may have to stop. [I wrote, and deleted, the particulars of today’s stories, but frankly it doesn’t matter–it’s everywhere.]

The Problem With The VAWA

A woman lies battered and bleeding and bruised,
As so often, reports CNN
And as always, a clamor—a group much abused—
Won’t somebody think of the men?

In a CNN opinion piece, Senator Patty Murray writes of yet another example of the failure of the Republican leadership to do the right thing:

This week, just over 250 days since the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan and inclusive bill to extend the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives allowed the clock to run out on protections that bill would have provided to millions of women across our country.

The act had been renewed many times since it was first introduced in 1994; there were a few changes this time:

Specifically, the bill included increased protections for women on college campuses across the nation following the brutal 2010 murder of Yeardley Love at the University of Virginia. It included new law enforcement measures to safeguard women on tribal reservations, one in three of whom will be raped in their lifetimes. It included nondiscrimination language for those in the LGBT community who had been unfairly left out of previous bills. And it provided protections to immigrant women, regardless of their status, who are often scared into silence at the hands of their abusers.

Yeah… no. That’s unacceptable to the right wing of the Republican party, and those extremists are in control.

But that’s not what my verse is about. No, as usual, I took an ill-advised peek into the comments at the article, and found… exactly what I expected to find. The real victims in all this?


Any sort of legislation aimed at protecting women from rape is clearly anti-equality and anti-american. Any concern over some victims of sexual assault (read: women) ignores the bigger picture, that equal treatment under the law means that privileged groups might have to settle for being treated equally, and that’s just not fair.

Never mind that the Violence Against Women Act’s nonexclusivity clause directly states that protections apply to male victims as well. Never mind that “what about the men?” does not apply to this story at all. The Republican extremists apparently don’t like LGBT, native Americans, or women in college–that is the hold-up. But CNN commenters aren’t always that nuanced.

One comment even suggested that the act is completely unnecessary, that other laws already cover everything that is needed to combat sexual assault. This commenter, of course, was referring to concealed carry laws. The solution to every problem.

Here’s hoping the new House of Representatives does a better job.

Greece And The Mortality Of Gods

Wait, Greece is saying it’s a crime to insult religion? But… but the whole country is a shining example of the fleeting existence of gods, and the evolutionary change of religious culture, as images of Zeus Apollonius are repurposed as Jesus, as the Parthenon becomes a church, becomes an ammo dump, becomes a ruin, becomes a symbol of the rebirth of a city, becomes a protest site…

Greece is all the proof you need, that the gods are mortal too.

Once there was a temple here
With marble columns gleaming white
Once the gods themselves looked down
Upon these altars with delight.
Olympus climbs into the clouds
And mortals look up from below—
The hidden summit must have gods,
We do not just believe—we know.

But gods, it seems, are mortal too
And gods must die, as must we all
And temples, without gods, decay;
Abandoned columns soon will fall.
The people leave; the waters rise;
What was a marble floor, now grass;
The sunken statuary gaze,
And dumbly watch millennia pass.

Once the gods were worshipped here
Today the rulers here, the frogs
Control the fate of damsel-flies;
Athena’s columns for their logs.
The gods, it seems, cannot stop time
And Zeus himself must lose his crown
The land gives way to fish and frogs…
And turtles all the way down.

(All images by Cuttlefish, from Dion, in the shadow of Mt. Olympus.)

Not Really Christian

Now, I know he reads the bible, and I know he goes to church
He denounces sinful nature from his high and mighty perch
He says gays and their supporters will be going straight to hell
But he isn’t really Christian—I can tell.

He’s a stern and forceful father, with a father’s iron hand
He controls his wife and children; they all bend to his command
He’s abusive, to be honest; it’s behavior I despise
So it isn’t really Christian, in my eyes

He’s consistent with the scriptures, or at least that’s what he claims
And his loving congregation all support him in his aims
Though he says he follows Jesus, he and I, we disagree
So he isn’t really Christian, not to me

There are lots of true believers, but what really makes me mad
Is, they credit Christianity for things I think are bad
It’s a beautiful religion, but their actions really stink
So it isn’t really Christian, don’t you think?

I have always been a Christian, and I’ve tried to do what’s right
And I know that what is good and true is Christian in God’s sight
What is evil, though, is Man’s alone, eternally his shame
Cos it really can’t be Christians are to blame
What is evil, though, is Man’s alone, eternally his shame
You could never really sin in Jesus’ name.

This verse could have been inspired by any number of comments, but was in fact inspired by a comment (at this story) that doesn’t really deserve to be snarked at. I did, though (there, not in this post), and I’m a bit sorry I did. The commenter did not mean to excuse Christianity for the evils it does–near as I can tell, he or she is absolutely in the right, and used the phrase “they’re not [Christians] in my book” as a way of decrying the actions of some bigoted Christians. So, T. G., whoever you are, I did not mean to accuse you of letting Christianity off the hook.

The phrase, though, does serve as teflon for Christianity. Good behavior is seen as Christian, and Christians (even clergy) behaving badly are “not Christians in my book”.

Christianity is a puddingstone of diverse sects that sometimes seem to share as many similar beliefs as dictionary atheists do. Do Christians support same sex marriage? Several churches near here certainly do. Others do not. Do Christians speak in tongues? In high school, I had Christian friends who did; now, in a different decade and different area of the country, my Christian students are astonished that such a concept exists. Do Christians handle venomous snakes to show their faith? Where my parents lived, several churches did (and people died on a regular basis… of lack of faith, apparently); I think I’m safe in calling this a minority practice. Knowing only that someone is “a Christian” actually tells you very little about the particulars of their faith.

You may fight against discrimination and bigotry because you are inspired by your Christian beliefs, but that does not stop others from engaging in discrimination and bigotry because they believe the bible, and their Christian faith, demands it. And they are every bit as much entitled to use the label “Christian”.