God, guns and gobbledegook

god_in_schoolsSorry for the long hiatus, I’ve just been busy with work and other things, and to be honest, I haven’t had a whole lot new to say. But after the horrific school shooting in Connecticut, I feel like I should add my 2 cents worth.

One theme we’ve been hearing, from such people as Mike Huckabee, is that the reason for such shootings is that we’ve somehow managed to “take God out of the schools,” as if an omnipotent being could be kept out of them (some people have suggested that God is a “gentleman” who doesn’t go where He’s not wanted — but do they really think that when someone came in with a gun and started shooting children, not a single one of those kids was asking for God? Seems like they’re really saying that God’s not a weakling, He’s just a passive-aggressive dickhead. But I digress …)

Even though I’m generally loath to weaken our Constitution, I might be willing to make some compromises in the name of reconciliation and in scientific, empirical evaluation of methodologies.

Here’s my humble suggestion to religious types who think putting God back in schools makes more sense than, say, regulating guns or working harder to identify and treat mental illness:

First, we’ll try it your way. We’ll institute mandatory prayer in all public schools, and do absolutely nothing to ban or regulate guns or provide improved access to mental health diagnosis and treatment.

But if that doesn’t work — if there’s another school shooting, even with God on the job — then we’ll ban the prayers, ban the guns, and the fundamentalist fucktards will have to shut their goddamned mouths and keep them fucking shut.

Do we have a deal?

Joining the club

Calvin-Hobbes-Santa-Claus

Sometimes people ask me if I feel “left out” at this time of year (full disclosure: nobody asks me that, I just said it as a way of introducing this post). My reply (full disclosure, this “reply” is entirely in my imagination) is, “On the contrary, this is the time of year I feel most included.” Here’s why:

At this time of year, there’s a big to-do about a magical being who knows if you’ve been bad or good, who sees you when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake, etc., and who can do magical things like visiting billions of homes in a single night, defying all the known laws of physics.

And it’s pretty obvious that there are lots of people who actually believe in this magical being. And everybody kind of gets the message that it would be really uncool to tell these people that they’re wrong, or even to express the opinion that these people are wrong. There’s a very strong sense that we should all just play along, so these people don’t get disillusioned by having their mistake revealed to them.

In other words, the holiday season is when everybody over the age of about 8 gets a taste of what it’s like to be an atheist.

Happy holidays, everybody!

An imaginary conversation

“Why are you an atheist?”

“Why not?”

“C’mon, I’m serious!”

“So am I. That’s not a flippant response, it’s an entirely serious one.

See, it’s like this: Take a look at this room around us, and the walls of the room. What’s holding them together? I don’t know, since I haven’t looked closely. But while it’s hypothetically possible that what’s holding the walls together is a bunch of tiny invisible elves holding hands, I don’t think that’s what it is.

And I’m guessing that you wouldn’t demand that I explain myself, that I provide some reasoning or logic for not believing that tiny invisible elves are holding the walls together. On the contrary, if someone did come along and say they thought the walls were being held together by tiny invisible elves, you’d ask them what made them think such a thing.

Likewise, let’s say there are two people — could be you and me, could be two other people — and both of these people agree that the physical world exists, and that people live their lives in this physical world.

But one of those people also believes in some other stuff — they believe that besides the physical, natural realm, there’s also a supernatural realm that we can’t see, and that this realm contains a supernatural being whom we also can’t see, and that this supernatural being gives us a supernatural life that continues after our natural one.

In my view, it’s not the person who merely believes in the physical world we can see, and the natural life we lead, who’s got some ‘splaining to do. If we’re going to ask anyone why they believe what they believe, I’d say we should be asking the person who’s bringing all the invisible supernatural friends to the party.

So like I was saying, why not? Why not be an atheist? What’s your argument?”

Adopt me, please

So, the Catholic League is starting an “Adopt An Atheist” program, wherein Christians are encouraged to “adopt” atheists and enage in “working with them to uncover their inner self. They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to place myself up for “adoption” by a willing Christian. We can discuss theology, and the Bible, and other God-type stuff, and you can use your powers of persuasion and your knowledge of Christianity to bring me back into the fold. C’mon, try it! What have you got to lose?

“War” is over, if you want it

I work in customer service (tech support for an Internet-related service), and for what it’s worth, we’ve never been given any official instructions or guidance about the whole “Merry Christmas” vs. “happy holidays” thing. We’re allowed to say whatever we think is appropriate (and most likely to get the customer to fill out a survey saying they liked us, rather than saying they didn’t).

But I’ve noticed something interesting, in this first part of the holiday season — so far, I don’t think anyone’s wished me a “Merry Christmas,” but several customers have wished me “happy holidays.” I don’t know if that’s because they suspect they might be talking to some Hindu at an Indian call center who has a really good accent (I’ve actually had an Indian customer congratulate me on my excellent American accent, assuming I was working in India),  or just showing the customary respect (respect for the person being addressed, and for diversity and tolerance in general) that to me is implied by the use of that inclusive phrase. But it seems like an encouraging sign. Maybe the media-hyped, wingnut-targeted “War on Christmas” is seeing an early armistice. (cartoon via Engineer of Knowledge)

Sunday non-Sermon: A fine “Wine”

I’ve linked to videos of this song before, but this is a new animation of Tim Minchin‘s modern atheist holiday classic, “White Wine In The Sun”  (via PZ)The animation is a bit overly literal for my taste — reminiscent of the early ’80s music videos where e very scene was a direct illustration of the lyrics — but it’s still powerfully moving.

Of course, almost any video would be moving when it’s accompanying Minchin’s wonderful song, which still gets me choked up at the family scene near the end where he sings, “wherever you go, whatever you face, these are the people who’ll make you feel safe in this world.”

And while last year the song served as a poignant reminder of what I was missing (new job, no vacation time put away, couldn’t get back home for holidays), this year it’s a joyous anticipation of my own journey home (albeit for hot chocolate in the snow rather than wine in the sun). Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday Sermon: Tardis edition

I really should have written this a few weeks ago, given the subject matter, but let’s just pretend I have a time machine and that this is still December:

Something that occurs to me is that being an atheist is kind of like being a grownup at Christmastime. We have this shared knowledge that’s not polite to express in public, because there are still folks who believe in the magical bearded man, even though we know he isn’t real.

And I wonder if a lot of atheists are people who grew out of Santa Claus, and then just kept on growing. I mean, at some point as a grownup (or semi-grownup), you start going along with the program, and you knowingly let the little kids have their silly fantasies about Santa.

And you do this because you know that it’s relatively harmless and that one day they’ll grow out of it and come to realize Christmas isn’t really about some silly notion of a guy who lives at the North Pole and rides a magic sleigh full of toys.

It’s really about how the son of God was born to a virgin after being immaculately conceived as part of a grand plan for God to forgive mankind for having the sinful nature God gave them … and then you start going “Hmmm …”