Resistant Strains

The nasty microscopic bugs
We try to fight with special drugs
Consider penicillin just a problem to be solved
We dose ourselves at every cough
And kill a large percentage off
Forgetting that survivors mean the critters have evolved

And now, the CDC explains,
We’re dealing with resistant strains
And every day that passes brings us “closer to the cliff.”
But people are resistant, too,
To do the things we have to do
When drugs no longer work for us… there’s no more talk of “if”.

Guest Poem: Ballade For The Delusional

Ballade For The Delusional

© Philip Dunkerley


For far too long religion’s caused confusion,

I do not understand it, I confess,

It numbs the mind with fiction and allusion

 ..To things beyond this world, and faithfulness.

Thousands of creeds exist, and all profess

To be the Only Truth, and by preclusion

The case for each is full of doubtfulness;

Religion’s manifestly a delusion.


Religion works in terms of the collusion

Of members of a group who must express

Unquestioning belief, and the occlusion

Of all who beg to differ or digress.

Religious leaders ruthlessly suppress

The merest hint of discord or diffusion

Of new ideas, or even thoughtfulness,

Religion’s manifestly a delusion.


Religion’s deeply rooted in exclusion

And uses all its power to repress

Those exercising reason; the illusion

 …Of living after death is meaningless.

Live your life on earth with thankfulness,

It merits celebration and inclusion

Of every living thing in one big Yes!

Religion’s manifestly a delusion.



God, (how strange it is to make you this address,

you don’t exist) – I’ve come to this conclusion

The world of faith is one unholy mess,

Religion’s manifestly a delusion.


Dick Move, Jesus

I heard the TV preacher say,
Without a trace of hate
“When Jesus sees a tragedy
He likes to show up late.
He likes to wait till things have gone
From bad to much, much worse,
To demonstrate to everyone
He runs the universe.”

Disaster strikes, and people ask
How bad it’s going to get—
In pain, afraid, they pray to God
But Jesus says “not yet.”
Almighty Christ could calm the storm
And heal the injured quick
He likes to make an entrance, though,
Cos Jesus is a dick.

The sanctity of suffering?
The cleansing pow’r of pain?
Excuses by apologists—
The gospels make it plain
When people are in trouble
And it’s time to get to work
You can count on Christ to clock in late…
Cos Jesus is a jerk.

So I turned on the TV this morning, and (you know, because Christianity is being silenced everywhere) it was one of those Sunday morning sermon shows, in this case from Jubilee Christian Church. The preacher was speaking of the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead; in this interpretation, Jesus hears that Laz is in trouble, but rather than hurrying to his side, he casually mentions to a couple of companions that this was all going to work out for the glory of God… then waits until everyone thinks it’s too late (Lazarus has died, after all), then zaps his buddy back to life.

The preacher likened it to “making an entrance”. Not wanting to fix a problem until it was a worthwhile challenge, something that would really bring glory. After all, preventing suffering is an invisible trick. No one can see it, so there’s no praise or adulation. But wait until someone is in their final death throes, in mortal agony, or later, and then step in? They’ll write books about you. They’ll talk about you on TV some 20 centuries later.

Of course, this is not a terribly flattering picture of Jesus, so I had to keep watching to see where this was going… and… Bingo! “Mysterious ways”, chronos vs cheiros, have faith that Jesus is doing what is in our best interest. Mind you, the egotistic picture of Jesus the preacher had just painted would be completely consistent with a Bully Jesus, dunking humanity’s head in the toilet and asking us to praise him for pulling it out just before we drown.

But of course, if that’s the way Jesus is, then we’d all better praise him, and pretend we believe the “mysterious ways” Jesus, cos He might get mad, and pull out the Divine Noogies.

Strangely, the show being only half an hour long, the sermon was cut off in the middle of “God’s time (cheiros) vs our time (chronos)”, so I’ll have to wait until next week to see if Jesus turns out to be the good guy or the bad guy.

I think I’ll sleep in.

Edit: Mysterious Ways…

Hey Rachel, Let’s Make A Deal

See, it’s not the proper mainstream
It’s the loonies at the fringe;
I can listen to the former
But the latter make me cringe
As it’s painful to the both of us,
A wound we ought to heal,
I’m proposing a solution—
Yes, I want to make a deal.

Professors of biology
Who go to such extremes
That they see religious practice
As evolving social memes
We will gladly just ignore them
When they say a bit too much
If you’ll just ignore Pat Robertson
When he goes off a touch

And Ph. D. philosophers,
And physicists, and more;
Psychologists, neurologists,
And others by the score
We’ll listen to their ranting
And we’ll try to stifle moans
If you’ll ignore their counterparts—
For instance, Terry Jones.

Extremists do not speak for all—
You understand, I hope—
It’s such a silly strawman
When you criticize the pope!
Let’s peel apart the radicals;
Dismiss them, one by one,
And look for truth in what remains
When all the culling’s done

Rachel Held Evans wants to make a deal. She noticed Dawkins’s comments about “mild pedophilia”, and feels our pain.

As tempting as it is to classify Dawkins’ views as representative of all atheists, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I can’t bring myself to do it because I know just how frustrating and unfair it is when atheists point to the most extreme, vitriolic voices within Christianity and proclaim that they are representative of the whole.

So, atheists, I say we make a deal: How about we Christians agree not to throw this latest Richard Dawkins thing in your face and you atheists agree not to throw the next Pat Robertson thing in ours?

Now, while you may have noticed multiple posts here at FTB and elsewhere calling out Dawkins for his words, he is still seen as one of our leaders (especially by those trying to equate atheism with religion). And don’t think that Christians don’t criticize Pat Robertson on occasion, like when he blames natural disasters on sin, or when he’s too liberal in his political endorsements. So, yeah, the two are roughly equivalents–you see politicians courting Dawkins’s king-making endorsement all the time, and retirees sending him all their money in return for his good word greasing their way into the afterlife, and there’s Dawkins’s television network, too. (I can’t find a comparison of book sales numbers–if anyone has that information, I’d love to see it.)

Pat Robertson does not represent all Christians. But the one-time Most Dangerous Man In America is not, in any way, the opposite number to Dawkins. I can see why agreeing to dismiss both of them would be a tempting offer… for Christians.

But what if we resist the urge to use the latest celebrity gaffe as an excuse to paint one another with broad brushes?

What if, instead of engaging the ideas of the most extreme and irrational Christians and atheists, we engaged the ideas of the most reasonable, the most charitable, the most respectful and respected?

My goodness, if you want extreme and irrational atheists, don’t use Dawkins as your example. He says stupid things on occasion, but believe me, we have some who seemed to have carved out a comfortable niche wholly immersed in stupidity. But again, I can see why you would wish to call this an even trade.

So, yes, Richard Dawkins is an atheist. But so is ethicist and humanitarian Peter Singer. So are authors Greg Epstein and Susan Jacoby. So is my friend and fellow blogger Hemant Mehta. So is Sir Ian McKellen.

Yes, Pat Robertson is a Christian. But so is Nelson Mandela. So is acclaimed geneticist Francis Collins. So is Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. So is Barack Obama. So is Stephen Colbert.

Let’s take Collins. Yes, he’s a nice guy. But he’s still wrong. And nice atheists also have dumb ideas.

I think it was the eminent philosopher Batman who said (stole) “it’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”. When someone does or says something that is worth criticizing, then it doesn’t matter if it is Robertson, Dawkins, or Cuttlefish (yes, I put them in order of number of things worth criticizing); criticize.

As for getting rid of “extremists” on both ends, and looking in the middle… “When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong.

But then, that was said by an extremist.

“In God We Trust” vs “In God We Trust”

The motto stamped on bills and coins
Is everywhere. The phrase enjoins,
“In God We Trust”.
Unless we wish to be so brash
As just refuse to carry cash
It seems we must.
The warnings come, so stern and dour
From representatives of our
Who crow that, when with cash we pay,
“In God We Trust” means we display
But if, perchance, you should refuse,
And go to court and, sadly, lose
Believers scoff
If that is what the phrase is for
Then let them make the claim once more…
I’ll grind it off

I’ve noticed something strange. There are two completely different versions of “In God We Trust” on American money. One type is what the courts have consistently seen in their rulings on the motto–it is an example of “ceremonial deism”, a national motto rather than a actual invocation of a god; it is hidden in purse or pocket, rather than displayed as an affirmation (the comparison is made to “Live Free Or Die” on NH license plates, which are prominently and publicly displayed, and force the user to act as an advertisement for the motto), and thus can put no burden on non-believers (or others who object). It is not religious in the slightest, but rather a nod to history and to patriotism, and complaining about it is like complaining about the shape of Washington’s nose–you may disagree, but it’s a trivial matter and not a legitimate injury. And who could complain about this “In God We Trust”? It would be like going to court complaining that the reeding on the edge of the quarter was too fine. It’s trivial. It’s nothing. I have no problem with this “In God We Trust”.

It’s the other “In God We Trust” that bothers me. The one the judges don’t seem to see, but which a great many others, from regular citizens to lawmakers to televised “experts”, constantly refer to. The phrase that the commenters at CBN, or The Blaze, clearly see in yesterday’s story. The one referred to on Fox’s “The Five”, in support of the (equally ceremonial) “under God” pledge. The one commenters used to bash Jessica Ahlquist. The one used to turn all atheists into hypocrites, since they carry god around in their pockets (if there remains anyone who has not seen that little rhetorical trick, just follow the link to The Blaze, hold your nose, and read some of the comments).

That second “In God We Trust” is the one I am removing from my money. It’s perfectly legal (no more damaging on bills than “where’s George?“, and not damaging at all to coins (unlike cross pennies), which can still be used in any vending machine or parking meter, or at any store. And since the courts have decided that the presence of the phrase is no big deal, its removal is likewise a trivial matter. And those believers who are so concerned with my hypocrisy have to support my honest money, since my bearing false witness would be a sin.

Anyway, the courts have spoken yet again, and I won’t complain. I do wonder if an individual politician who uses the second “In God We Trust” to bash an atheist could ever see legal consequences. I mean, technically, in that world view such a politician is guilty of taking the lord’s name in vain… but that book is more suggestions than commandmants, innit?

I am continuing the tradition of de-godding a batch of coins whenever I see the second “In God We Trust”, and of de-godding any and all paypal donations. (I have changed my mind, though–I am going to bend over backward to make it all quarters now, and not dollar coins–I have seen evidence that the quarters remain in circulation, and evidence that shopkeepers won’t recirculate the coins, but rather simply bring them to the bank.) It’s practically no effort at all, and very satisfying.

Related posts:
To Phrase A Coin
Ceremonial De-Deism
Guess God Was Only Ceremonial After All

Oh, Texas! Don’t Ever… Evolve.

The bible is my textbook;
It’s the only one I need
It’s got all the information
That a person ought to read
Any open-minded scientist
Would certainly concede
It’s a better book than Darwin’s is, by far!

It’s the universe’s history—
All several thousand years—
And it shows how evolution’s
Not as strong as it appears
(Cos it’s atheistic scientists
Just covering their fears);
God created things exactly as they are

So it’s time to put the bible
Into all our Texas schools!
It’s against the constitution,
But they always say, of rules,
That they’re there for us to break them,
So watch out, you godless fools
We will have our way, through providence divine!

Yes, we’ll earn our reputation
As a stubborn, backward state
Though it’s really not the people,
It’s the board that guards the gate
So the people watch in horror
As creationists debate…
See, it’s what you call intelligent design.

Context here or here.

Related Post: The Bible As Textbook

The Concerned Neighbor

There’s a little get-together
In the house across the street
Where they’ll have some beers, some chips and dips,
And maybe grill some meat
Though it’s not the sort of recipe
My family cares to eat,
Still, I must admit, they’ve gathered quite a crowd.

All the cooking is downwind from me
There’s nothing I can smell
But I still—of course—am bothered
Cos the thought makes me unwell,
And notion of their cooking
Makes my life a living hell
So I’m thinking that it shouldn’t be allowed.

When my neighbor is relaxing—
Say, there’s no one else around—
He prefers a sort of music
With an odd and foreign sound
I imagine different harmonies
Like none I’ve ever found
Though his headphones keep his choice of music hidden

Now, his music doesn’t sound the way
That music’s meant to be
I believe it might be harmful—
Well, it seems like that to me—
I can’t hear it, but I hate it
So my path is clear, you see:
I must push to have that sort of noise forbidden.

Down the block there are some neighbors
Who are looking to be wed
But they’re not a normal couple—
No, they’re lesbians, instead;
When I think of them and marriage,
Why, a part of me goes dead
And our peaceful little neighborhood is wrecked

So I’m going to their wedding
Which they’ll have at City Hall
It’s a civil ceremony
Thus available to all
And I’ll steel myself to answer
When the J.P. makes the call:
“Is there anyone here gathered—“ “—I OBJECT!”

Inspired by today’s A Good Cartoon (which, of course, you should be reading daily).

The Return Of The Praying Mom

The praying mom is back. For context, here’s the earlier story.

Of course, some local Christians
Want the praying mom to stay
So they found a Christian lawyer
And they argued she could pray
Since the school administration
Didn’t want a Christian riot,
They decided she could pray each day
As long as she stayed quiet.

From the Boston Globe:

A mother who was told she can no longer pray on the steps of her children’s high school in New Hampshire has returned, but is praying in silence.

Chris Rath, district superintendent, said staff will monitor Urena’s actions on a daily basis to see if they are in line with campus visitor and religious policies.

‘‘We continue to work with her on a regular basis about how she can come and go from the high school in ways that respect both her ideas and our ideas,’’ Rath said.

Narendra Dabholkar

His name’s not familiar—not here in the states—
And we don’t know the things he’s said
But his work made him someone a fraud really hates
He was good; he was right; now he’s dead.

Although the interwebs make it possible for us to peer in on the entire world (or nearly), we generally don’t. It’s strange; we are in an information age, where we could stream the news from virtually anywhere, we so often do not take advantage of that. We are still creatures of our local communities (sometimes literal and geographically defined, sometimes virtual and defined by shared interests), and when something seismically huge happens just outside of our (real or virtual) field of vision, a world that waits at our fingertips might just as well be on the other side of the world. Which, in a pre-internet world… it is.

Narendra Dabholkar has been assassinated. In a technological age where I could know who he is… I mostly don’t. I remember hearing about his death, thinking it tragic… and, yeah, moving on. But the thing is, Dabholkar was a giant. He was known by millions… just not in the US. His assassination, for saying things I take for granted I can write any day, would be on par with the killing of any of the top tier names in atheism here… but he’s not here.

Anyway. Go read Greta’s piece on his life and his death. Please. Because you live in a world where it is possible to be moved by great people anywhere. And because all the good we can glean from a world of information at our fingertips is tempered by the knowledge that someone who thinks as we do… was killed for what he thought, and was bold enough to act on.

I just wish I had heard of him long before… and I have to wonder, who am I missing out on right now, that our technology gives me access to, and that bigotry, hatred and ignorance will steal from me before I have the opportunity to read?


Go read Greta’s piece.