Oh, so that’s what cats are for

You can use their butchered bodies to send messages to your political opponents! The campaign manager for a Democrat running for office in Arkansas was horrified to discover the family pet killed and “LIBERAL” painted on its body.

Little known fact: cats, dogs, goldfish, hamsters, gerbils, boa constrictors, turtles, and canaries are all politically liberal, and would all vote Democratic if only The Man weren’t keeping them down. I believe arthropods tend to be more libertarian, but even there, no self-respecting animal of any phylum would ever stoop so low as to vote Republican.

Help out a local girl scout

She has a project to oppose racism, and one of her goals is to acquire a thousand signatures on a pledge.

The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can recieve. I decided to title my project "Rani’s Roses Against Racism", because I have experienced racism, and I wanted to make a change. The petals consist of: White, Beige, Brown, Black, Tie-Dye, and Red. All represent the skin color of people. There are 7 total colors used in making this rose.

Please sign my pledge "I Promise To Honor Myself And Others". You can click on the website that will show up after you sign the pledge, and make one of your own. :)

That’s it. I think we can fill up her pledge page fast.

An essential lesson in Minnesota geography

I need you to look at the map below. The most important thing you must learn from it is that Morris, Minnesota is in the blue dot on the western side of the state, in Stevens County.

Do you see that hideous red blob on the eastern side of the state? That’s the Anoka-Hennepin School District. It’s in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis.

I point this out with some urgency so that it is completely clear to everyone that we have nothing to do with those assholes. I try not to even visit the place; I recommend you avoid it, too. At least it’s easy to skip it; the airport and the Mall of America are all on the south side of the city, so really, you have no need to ever even pass through there. There’s no excuse at all, unless maybe you were visiting Greg Laden, who lives around there.

Why am I so eager to separate myself from that area, and why am I urging you to shun it? Because it seems every state needs a sphincter where the unpleasant inhabitants must congregate, and Anoka-Hennepin is it for us (well, and a few other places: states aren’t restricted by metazoan anatomy, and can have many sphincters). This is one of the areas that elected Michele Bachmann; it’s been in the news lately because it is the center of a wave of teen suicides, where bullying is common and gay kids are often the target.

You’d think parents in that area would be worried about an epidemic of suicides. They are. Led by the Parents Action League and The Minnesota Patriarchy Council, some have decided to do something about it, they’ve assembled a list of actions to take.

They propose further discriminating against and stigmatizing homosexuality.

And whereas school officials would be liable for violating parental rights by subjecting a child to homosexual and related conduct indoctrination…

And whereas legal liability exists for the tort of negligence if it is proved that homosexual activists and organizations were granted access to students under responsibility and that students suffered physical or mental harm…

1. A new division within the student support services and a special section on the District 11 website devoted to student of faith, moral conviction, ex-homosexuals and ex-transgenders…

3. That District 11 administrators and staff work closely with pro-family and ex-homosexual and ex-transgender organizations to provide ongoing training to school counselors, school nurses, social workers, school psychologists, prevention specialists, student learning advocates and a number of secondary principals and principals….

4. Provide professional development opportunities in which philosophical, pedogogical, and political assumptions of GLBT advocacy are critically examined.

7. Provide the history of gay-related immune deficiencies and acquired immune deficiencies and the medical consequences of homosexual acts.

They want to blame gay kids for potential harm, demand more Christianity in the curriculum and endorsement of gay conversion techniques, and want to relabel Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) to something that more clearly and more inaccurately pins the cause on homosexuality, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID — man, it’s been ages since I’ve seen anyone use that term).

This is their solution: to justify and encourage more hate.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Marcus Bachmann has two gay conversion clinics, one in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis, and the other in the eastern. Minneapolis is just surrounded with a ring of these enclaves of smug, small-minded Republican scumbags. I suggest that we call them the Sphincter Suburbs, both for their ring-shaped geography and for the psychological properties of their inhabitants.

Oh, please.

I am rolling my eyes so hard right now that it hurts. Alain de Botton proposes building “atheist temples”.

You may take a moment to retch. I hope you have buckets handy.

Done? There’s a spot on your chin, you might want to clean that up.

Anyway, he wants to build a 46 meter tall (because the earth is 4.6 billion years old, get it) black tower in London. Perhaps with a throne at the very top, where he can sit and peer out over his domain.

You know, I think that when you are building a movement, you should get the people first, before building the monumental architecture to awe and contain them. I think his black tower would be awfully echoey and empty when all the acolytes of Atheism 2.0 gather. The only thing he’s got to fill it up right now is ego and hubris.

Why I am an atheist – Jesse Stapleton

It sure seems like it was bound to happen, sooner or later. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in a family with ties to the religion stretching back multiple generations on both my father and mother’s side. Any religion, if it is to survive, has to retain members; and it would seem that my family has historically been rather susceptible to the allures of this one rather peculiar vein of Christianity.

Growing up in central Georgia I was aware of this lineage. I have family stretching all the way from Portland, Maine to Tampa, Florida (a veritable seaboard of piety), and the expectation to carry on in the religion of my upbringing was obviously implied. So, I dutifully carried out that which was expected of me. I studied the bible, using the conveniently provided study materials printed by the Witness’s controlling organization The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society; I participated in the preaching work; and I shied away from forming close friendships with those outside of the congregation. I didn’t actually visit the home of a non-Witness friend until I was in High School (Ah! Now THAT got your attention!).

My immediate family had its collective faith shaken by the divorce of my parents when I was at the tail end of Middle School. He was disfellowshipped (a shunning practice similar to excommunication) shortly prior to this and the rest of us tried to continue on, drawn together by the camaraderie inherent in organized religion. One of the teachings of the religion is that a Witness should not form personal relationships with nonbelievers (read: Non-Jehovah’s Witnesses, not simply non-Christians). Moreover, a Witness should not have any dealings at all with a disfellowshipped or ex-Jehovah’s Witness. This posed a problem: my father was disfellowshipped, but he was also my father.

The leaders in the congregation will usually try to ignore this rule as it relates to children and their parents, terming it a matter of conscience between yourself and God. But the expectation is that you will drift away from your unrepentant parent as you get older. It was obvious that my father was finished with the Witnesses, and I had some decisions to make. I was 14 and my family was the congregation. I started to work towards getting baptized. (I should mention two things: I never actually stopped associating with my dad during this time, although I certainly saw less of him and felt awkward being around him at points; and baptism for the Witnesses is a personal choice taken on after learning the teachings instead of a ceremony performed shortly after birth.)

Another thing that began to happen at this same time relates to another important part of my life. I’ve always been interested in science and I would pour my heart into science projects at school. Of course, science and religion don’t usually get along, especially as you delve into the deeper sciences. Evolution was one of these sticking points. Want to know how I dealt with it? Simple, I ignored it! But it made a damn sight more sense than the creation myth, so I kind of ignored Genesis too. Fortunately the Witnesses don’t teach a literal 7 day creation so I didn’t have to deal with young earth hogwash. I eventually settled on God using evolution as a means of creation, but this too was technically against the teachings of the congregation. I decided on this in early High School, 18 months or so before I was baptized. It was the first time I really questioned a tenant of the faith; a change that would sit dormant for a few more years, waiting for the right catalyst.

It was also during the first two years of High School that I started developing closer friendships with my classmates. I had discovered friends! And girls! And girls who were also friends! Yes, I was a little late to the party, but I was dealing with a strange religion on top of the usual powder keg of teenage emotions. Yes, the religion was beginning to appear strange even to me.

So, my three sins were thus: I doubted the teaching of absolute shunning based on my desire to continue associating with my father, I doubted the creation myth based on scientific evidence, and I desired to have fun with people my age who weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses because I was human. Make no doubt, I was still the awkward kid and a total flake but I honestly was trying. Still, during all of this I was working toward being baptized. Eventually, I was, late in my Sophomore year of High School.

So the stage was set, I was now a baptized member of the Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My “three sins” weighed upon me, but they were never something I received council from the congregation on, much less a reprimand. I had began to keep my personal life separate from my spiritual life. That distinction would have been alarming to my brothers and sisters in faith back then. I was essentially leading a quiet double life. Never once did I do anything elicit, I never even broke the tenants of the faith in my personal life, but the gap between the two sides of myself slowly widened in my mind. I began to realize that getting baptized had really been a last ditch effort to jumpstart my own faith. I asked myself an important question, “Why did I get baptized, and what does it really mean to me?” My answer? “I don’t know.”

I slowed and eventually stopped going to congregation meetings, though I would still go to the larger assemblies and conventions and to special events like The Memorial (a yearly celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, as outlined in the Gospels). Finally, it all came to a head right after Senior Prom. I stayed at a friend’s house with a group of my favorite geeks that night. Through an interesting fluke, that next day after prom was the Sunday of the “special talk”, given a month or so after The Memorial. I was having fun playing video games and hanging out with my friends when my mom called to remind me about the special talk. I tried my best to avoid going, but eventually relented.

I rushed home, threw on a suit and tie, and just made the opening prayer. I sat in the back and felt, for the first time, total alienation from the words being spoken on stage. I saw the faces of those I knew and loved sitting around me; my family and friends, the Elders who had helped me prepare for baptism, all my brothers and sisters in the faith. I felt that I and all those sitting around me had been deceived. This wasn’t the true religion. Furthermore, was there really a true religion? Was there a God? This time my answer was different, it was, “I don’t think there is.” The realization was swift, the two hours sitting there at the special talk in 2006 were my catalyst. I told my mom about my decision later that day. She broke down into tears, she even prayed with me, tried to study with me. She would later develop doubts of her own.

I told my best friend at the time at school the next day that I was done with the Witnesses. She was ecstatic. She told me what her mother had said upon seeing me fly out of her house the day before, on my way to the special talk. She’d remarked that it was surprising to see someone my age with strong enough faith to always make it to church. What irony!

I graduated High School and went to College. I studied art and humanities, taking time to look around for another religion that might fit me better. I never did. I was an Atheist from that moment at the special talk, even if it took me a little while to figure it out. I started reading Dawkins and Pharyngula along with anything else I could get my hands on. My love for science has been thoroughly rekindled after spending some time away from it. The awe and wonder that I never really experienced with faith now plays fiddle to every waking hour of every day.

My brother is also an atheist, although we took separate paths to get there. I spent twenty minutes on the phone with my dad while writing this. He is a deist, still believing in God but with his own ideas. My mom is somewhere in between, she doesn’t go to meetings any more, but she hasn’t given up her belief in God. I still get along well with my family, although I’m careful not to rock the boat too much when I’m around them. Admittedly, I took the easy way out chosen by many ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses: I simply stopped going. I could officially denounce the congregation, but that wouldn’t accomplish much. Those that still associate with me would be forced to stop, and I refuse to let the strangle of religion take anything else away from me.

So, why am I an atheist? Because my three sins weren’t actually sins after all.

Jesse Stapleton
United States

Let’s give an altmed poll a non-homeopathic dose of reason

I am pleased to see that some Australian scientists are taking a stand and telling their universities to stop peddling woo — alternative medicine classes that only train students to respect quackery. I’m looking at you, too, University of Minnesota: we have a “Center for Spirituality and Healing” that fills me with rage every time I consider it.

There’s also a poll! Charge in and let Australia know what you think. Oh, and if anyone sees a poll on giving UM’s supernatural quack center the axe, let me know.

How do you rate alternative medicine?

Prefer it to traditional medicine 14%

Use it with traditional medicine 24%

Open minded about it 12%

Believe it’s quackery 50%

Today is Shawn Otto day at UMM

We’re having a visit today from Shawn Lawrence Otto, a fellow who has been fighting against the un-American war on science on the web and in a book, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. He’s speaking on campus tonight at 7:30 Central, in the HFA Recital Hall — I urge local community members to show up, he has important things to say about education and climate change — and that talk is going to be streamed live, so all you distant strangers can also watch the show.

It was a little strange, though, to get messages from the university administration telling me I’m expected to go to dinner with him. It turns out, I’m in his book — there’s actually a substantial 4 or 5 page section in there where he discusses an interview he had with me (I’m getting old, and I’ve done so many interviews that they all bleed together), so I had to run out and get a copy of the book to find out what I was getting into. It all sounded a bit Chris Mooney-like.

Fortunately, the book is good — if the topic is a bit Mooneyish, it’s the Mooney of The Republican War on Science, and not the batty, Nisbet-bespelled Mooney of Unscientific America, and his stuff on me isn’t a hatchet job. Otto doesn’t come out and declare me the absolutely correct master of all I pontificate on (I’ll have to bend his ear and make suggestions for the second edition), but at least he recognizes that there are many different angles to take in fighting ignorance. You are allowed to read the book and listen to the talk without feeling outraged.

(Also on Sb)

He probably hadn’t seen the cat in church in a long while

So it is of course entirely understandable that a Baptist minister would torture and kill a mere cat.

Rick Bartlett, pastor of the Bastrop Christian Church, is facing animal cruelty charges. Bastrop Police Chief Michael Black said Bartlett admitted that he caught the cat, named Moody, in a trap on Sunday, Jan. 15. Bartlett told them that he was having a problem with feral cats in his garden.

Moody [I hope this is an error, and that it was Bartlett–pzm] also told police that he had the cat in a cage in the back of his pick-up truck for three days and forgot about him until Tuesday, Jan. 17., when Bartlett brought the cat to police. An animal control officer noticed a name tag including the phone number of Moody’s owners, Sarah and Eddy Bell, on the cat’s collar. The officer offered to take Moody back to his owners but police said Bartlett told them he’d take the cat back himself since they were his neighbors.

Later on the same day, a park visitor discovered Moody’s near lifeless body on the bank of the Colorado River, some 40-50 feet below a bridge.

Moody the cat died of severe internal injuries. He’d apparently been thrown from a bridge after being starved and neglected for several days by good Pastor Bartlett.

There is a little coda to the story.

Moody was Sarah and Eddy Bell’s cat for 11 years. They are having a difficult time understanding what happened to the beloved member of their family. Trying to explain his death to their five-year old daughter has proved challenging.

“She also asked me where Moody is now and I said, ‘Baby he’s in Heaven,'” said Sarah. “She knows the man who did this is a pastor at the Bastrop Christian Church and she said, ‘I don’t believe in Heaven anymore, Moody’s just dead.’”

Parents, don’t lie to your children and tell them this fairy-tale nonsense about the dead magically living in a happy afterlife. They’re smarter than you give them credit for — and they can tell that the people most enthusiastic about telling these lies are no better than other people, and are often worse.

I have been indignantly informed that Bartlett is not a Baptist, but a member of a different sect, the Disciples of Christ. My apologies. All the loons look alike to me.