Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jan Brewer Ain't Got Nuthin' on Texas!

Yesterday, Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona, showed herself and the Republicans of Arizona to have the moral courage of a dead fish.

After having stood up for over a week, grandstanding before a national audience while pushing a highly discriminatory law through the Arizona legislature designed to disguise itself as somehow being some sort of religious freedom law, once that bill passed the legislature and hit the governor's desk, Arizona Republicans showed themselves to have no more backbone than an octopus hiding behind an ink cloud.

Americans of all stripes piled on.  Apple, American Airlines, Yahoo, the NFL, business organizations of all types stood up and told Jan Brewer how much money and business Arizona was going to lose if she signed that bill. Social media lit up like a Chistmas tree with unflattering picture memes about how terrible the Republicans were being.

The common complaint of everybody was that the bill was WRONG.  It unfairly discriminated against not only gays, but ANYBODY the Bill's intended audience didn't like.  Single mothers, gays, divorcees, Muslims, Jews, or heck, even Blacks, were fair game, if you could claim a religious bias against that person's status - whatever that status might have been.

Yet, yesterday, when the Governor vetoed that bill, what was her excuse?  Was it a moral disagreement with the Bill's intended purpose?  Did it have ANYTHING to do with the reasons millions of Americans objected to the bill?

Shit no.  She caved because of the economic pressure.  She vetoed it because she didn't want to be the cause of her State losing billions of dollars in business and who knows how many jobs.  In short, instead of having the moral courage to either veto it because it was wrong or to stand up before the pressure of the crowd and defend her convictions, she folded like a cheap suit.

I'm sorry, but in Texas, where I come from, that wouldn't fly.  At least in Texas, they'd have the moral courage to tell Apple to take a long walk off of a very short pier.  Now, the NFL, on the other hand, would have been a whole other ball game.

Literally.  You don't screw around with football in Texas.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A most puzzling marriage...

I ran across an interesting piece today that reminded me of a very puzzling juxtaposition of ideals and values within the Republican Party that has both intrigued and bemused me for some time.

I refer to the inclusion within the very same political party of two very different groups of people.

One is the traditional conservatives.  Small government, fiscally conservative, pretty much isolationist regarding foreign policy.

On the other hand are the social conservatives - the far right wing theocrats.

Ever wonder why the same political party pushes legislative measures that require a large government presence in people's lives - banned abortions, limited or no birth control, strict control over who can marry whom, restrictions over even what sexual positions are allowed in one's own bedroom - while at the same time holding the completely opposing ideal that the government should be as small as possible - small enough to "drown it in the bathtub"?

It is a political marriage that took place forty years ago, and is now reaching the logical conclusion of that marriage - the complete and utter takeover of the Republican Party by the Dominionists.  The traditional "establishment" of the Republican Party has always been the small government crowd.  The old style fiscal conservatives.

The guys the Tea Party threw a bone to back in 2009 when they made fiscal conservatism a central piece in their campaign.  The bone that got jerked out of their very jaws in the recent cave-in on the debt limit.

But then, what are we seeing at the State level - is it fiscal conservatism?

No.  We see a rising number of very unpopular laws being rammed through State Legislatures legalizing, of all things, discrimination against gays.  (and ultimately, anybody the Dominionists don't like - divorced folks, single mothers, gays, atheists, fornicators, whatever their pea-pickin' little hearts want to label folks they hold a religious grudge against.)

On one hand, this seems insane.  It makes no sense for them to push a legislative agenda that is very unpopular to most Americans.  On the other, this represents the last effort they think they've got to push their laws while they still have the chance.  Many of them, living in their right wing echo chamber, still think they've got years ahead of them to make America a Christian Evangelical utopia. Their platitudes to their own followers that they've got a majority of Americans on their side seems to be so appealing they are beginning to believe it themselves.

But on the other hand, they are not fools.  The demographics are NOT on their side, and within ten years at the outside, the Republican Party will either have to radically change its legislative agenda or simply die.

No, that doesn't mean that Democrats will have their own way.  Conservatives aren't going away, and have no fear - neither are Conservative values.  But they will be stained by the association with the crazy theocrats for some time to come.

I think the legislative scenario in the US is going to get worse before it gets better.  The stranglehold on State and local level governments by the crazies isn't going to be broken in just one or two election cycles.  But that just means that once the American people finally get their fill of theocracy, they'll spend a lot of time in relative Opposition Hell before we trust them with that much power again.

And I hope it is a long, cold time in legislative hell.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On Facebook, it's Throwback Thursday.

Sounds kind of fun, huh?  Posting an old picture of yourself to delight your friends and family...

But I'm going to put a different spin on it today.

A bit earlier this evening, I did a bit of Internet Tube surfing, and found some interesting stuff.

The first thing I found was a story about a discovery of Neolithic tools on Crete.  This is pretty astonishing by itself, because nobody even imagined that humans as long ago as 130,000 years ago were doing any kind of seafaring, much less over an open stretch of water!  The dating isn't exactly precise, and is somewhat under heightened scrutiny, but still - Neolithic on Crete?  Pretty cool.  We might have to rethink that land bridge out of Africa thing!

The second story (leading from a link on that page) was about Polynesians canoeing around the Pacific, and finally, making it to South America about a hundred years before Columbus.  Proven by dating chicken bones, of all things!  (Did Columbus beat ANYBODY?  First the Vikings, then the Chinese...)

Sounds like humans have been seafaring for a VERY long time...

Then there was this, and it blew my mind once the time periods involved sank in.

In Israel, archeologists have excavated a cave in which they found the oldest confirmed hearth - indicating the domestication of fire - at any human inhabited site anywhere in the world.  Now, this is pretty heady stuff - they say people - like us - began using this cave as a living abode over 300,000 years ago!  A pretty fair chunk of time prior to past estimates of when we began using fire.

But that's not all.  Microscopic examination of the hearth showed that it had been used almost continuously on a rotational basis for over 200,000 years.  That's a lot of fires!

In fact, allowing generously some 40 years as the length of a generation, that is over 5 THOUSAND generations of humans who used that site on a more or less continuous basis over that period.

That's 200 times the length of the oldest known monarchy in Europe, in Great Britain.  2000 times the age of the US!!!

Now, I'm not going to get all New Agey on you.  But I think that there is growing evidence that humans were smarter a lot sooner than we have thought in the past.  But the human condition has always been chaotic.  We have fought, pushed, plotted and schemed to get for our own families, clans or tribes the best possible hunting, fishing, farming and mining grounds at the least possible cost to ourselves and at the expense of our neighbors since the very beginning.  There's plenty of bad (and good) karma to go around!

But to have found a place - near where people are supposed to have broken out of Africa - in which people lived, hunted, fished, made love, and yes, for goodness' sake, COOKED, using fire, for what has to be an amazing period of time at the same location.

Looking back at human habitations as modern archeology has located old cities, villages, and other sites of human activities from the past, it seems to be rare that we stay in the same places for much longer than a couple of thousand years.  Somehow, in the history of any particular place, someone else comes along, invades, burns the place down, and the survivors are either taken away as slaves, or if they remained free, just moved elsewhere, I guess to get away from bad memories, or to a better defensible location.

But somehow, in this one place, in an area that we think has to have been a virtual highway for human migration out of Africa, humans remained for 200,000 years, year after year, decade after decade, century after century.  Building fires, cooking their food, living the good life, making babies, for five thousand generations.

Simply boggles the mind.  Makes everything modern civilization has done over the last two thousand years look like child's play.

Talk about longevity!  We should wish to last that long!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Pastor Throws in the Towel.

The online support group for former clergy, The Clergy Project, consists of over 500 members as of the last update on their homepage.  It explains itself thus:

The purpose of The Clergy Project is to provide a safe haven for active and former professional clergy/religious leaders who do not hold supernatural beliefs. It originated from a growing awareness of the presence of these professional clergy and a concern about their dilemma as they moved beyond faith. 
There were three sources of this awareness and concern:
  • Stories of the life experiences of former clergy that Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation has been collecting over the years; 
  • A preliminary study of “Preachers Who Are Not Believers,” by philosopher Daniel Dennett and researcher Linda LaScola, published in March, 2010 in Evolutionary Psychology and The Washington Post;
  • Ongoing discussions between Dan Barker and Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion” about the need to help clergy who want to leave the ministry.
The Clergy Project was made possible through a donation from The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The Clergy Project seeks ongoing donations as it expands to meet the needs of this rapidly growing community. 
The Clergy Project launched a private, invitation only, Forum on March 21, 2011 with 52 members. Currently it has over 535 members. The Forum is an on-line meeting place where former and active professional clergy can talk freely among themselves. Terry, John G, John C, & Lon are moderators; Adam, Dennis, & Terry are Site Administrators.
It is, by all accounts, a wonderful resource for current and former clergy who have gone from believers to doubters to unbelievers.  Many pastors who have realized that they no longer believe the very thing they are employed to teach are in a quandary - how does one maintain one's integrity while still providing for one's family?

Remember - Christianity teaches that the man is responsible for being the breadwinner.  HE is responsible, yet, if he continues to do the only thing he has ever been employed to do, he is deceiving the very people he is being employed to minister to!  Besides, how can one fully and adequately talk about something you don't believe?  How can you be a counselor to people when you no longer believe yourself?

It is a terrible position to be in.  The Clergy Project is just what these folks need to help.

But, how does one get to that point?  How can the most trusted and knowledgeable of the Christian brotherhood possibly fail in their faith?   Don't they know Jesus best?

Weeelll, therein lies the problem.

Don't get me wrong.  There is no one way to lose one's faith.  The ways are myriad and often convoluted, fraught with all kinds of land mines along the way.  Many people have their own unique stories to tell.

But the clergy has one fairly unique land mine that lay persons don't have to confront, or shall we say, the lay version of that land mine isn't as powerful or potent.  That land mine is the Bible itself for the layman.

For the clergy, the list is long and for some, ultimately telling.  An example of the subjects clergy are taught in seminary:

Ancient Near East History
Bible Hermeneutics
Greco-Roman Religions and Cults
History of Christianity
Intertestamental History and Theology
Modern Theology
Literary Criticism
Textual Criticism
Theology-Philosophy Interactions

I don't pretend to know what all of these are, much less understand what they teach!  But what I do know is that under the influence of the knowledge introduced in the above subjects, seminary students often find themselves weighing the evidence thus presented against what they are being taught to actually teach the public, and find the latter sorely lacking in integrity.

Why does this information destroy faith?  The same way as when many laypersons read the bible.  They see through the mumbo-jumbo, the propaganda and the contradictions and realize that it not a reasonable basis for belief.

Seminary students see through those subjects that the bible is not a god-inspired novel of some kind, but is a man made compendium of books written thousands of years ago, by many different people, for many different reasons, for the illustration of many different agendas.  Much of which we only partly understand, and often just don't know at all.

They realize that it is, in the end, a religious tract - or a collection of religious tracts - which is why much of it sounds to so different and often contradictory.  The proof is handed to them almost daily on a silver platter - the platter of education.

So, why do I categorize this post under Harm from Religion?

Because the seminary students who go on to graduate and become the next generation of clergy have one of two major flaws.

Either they understand the truth and press on to teach bullshit anyway or cannot bring themselves to let go of their upbringing, which allows them to go on and keep teaching bullshit - which at some level, they HAVE TO know and understand is bullshit.

Either way, they are knowingly teaching, as truth, a theology that is false and leads people to base their lives and future decisions on false information.  If they were doing that as anything but religion, they'd be arrested as con men and jailed for fraud.

This is inherently harmful.  The money they collect is taken from the pockets of people who often need it for other purposes - basic necessities, for many.  They use that money to buy property that could be used for actually productive purposes, or for political influence, and often just for big houses and fancy cars.  Sometimes, they spend it to build a television or radio empire that bilks even more money from the vulnerable.

Worse, they do it TAX FREE.  Which means that ALL OF US pay for it.  Billions and billions of dollars that we do not have, as a country, to feed the poor, house the homeless, or teach our children.

If that isn't harmful, I really don't know what else might be.

At any rate, I came to write about this because a very brave and honest guy has finally come to the inevitable conclusion of his personal journey, and published a video log (vlog) about the fact that he is no longer going to be a pastor because he in now an atheist.  His name is Justin Vollmar, and he has run the “Virtual Deaf Church" online for the past four years.

It is an interesting vlog, and I'll let The Friendly Atheist tell you about it.   Go and read, you'll be glad you did!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Rethinking the fight against racism

The gulf between being educated about something and ignorant of it is a wide one.  It makes the difference between understanding that subject and merely thinking you do because you have been mislead all your life.

I have always considered myself to be an educated man.  Of course, being educated, I do understand that there are huge gaps in that education of various kinds, where either the system I was educated in was deficient or I elected to take a particular direction to my education, forsaking those I wasn't interested in.

In other words, I always thought I knew what those gaps were, and was largely Ok with what they represented.

Boy, was I wrong!

Today, I clicked over to read an article whose title intrigued me as I saw it shared on Facebook.  That title, "What White People Need to Learn", sounded interesting, especially as I consider myself white, and am always interested in learning something new about myself.  I was to be rocked to the core by what I would read.  Its content was so different from what I thought it might be as to be shocking.

I know, overused word, but read on, you'll see what I mean.

The author, Mary-Alice Daniel, was writing the article as part of a series by women of color on Alternet.  What she had to say about the history of the term "white" as a racial descriptor should make every person who looks at him or herself that way sit down immediately and re-examine everything they thought they understood about race.

Including their own identity.

My ancestry is a mixed one, like many Americans.  My family comes from (in order of percentage amount) Germany, Scotland/Ireland, and England.  The last is a supposition, and has not been confirmed by research, yet.  I think my mother's father's family was English, but I am not sure, and don't know what kind of mix might have been on his wife's side.  Incomplete information.

So, when I read the following paragraph, it literally made me sit back in shock:
The very notion of whiteness is relatively recent in our human history, linked to the rise of European colonialism and the Atlantic slave trade in the 17th century as a way to distinguish the master from the slave. From its inception, “white” was not simply a separate race, but the superior race. “White people,” in opposition to non-whites or “colored” people, have constituted a meaningful social category for only a few hundred years, and the conception of who is included in that category has changed repeatedly. If you went back to even just the beginning of the last century, you’d witness a completely different racial configuration of whites and non-whites. The original white Americans — those from England, certain areas of Western Europe, and the Nordic States — excluded other European immigrants from that category to deny them jobs, social standing, and legal privileges. It’s not widely known in the U.S. that several ethnic groups, such as Germans, Italians, Russians and the Irish, were excluded from whiteness and considered non-white as recently as the early 20th century.
Emphasis mine.   Boy, is it mine!

So, as late in history as just a hundred years ago, if not quite that far back, three quarters of my family would have been considered non-white!  No wonder my grandfather changed the pronunciation of our name to make it sound less German!

I sincerely hope that this doesn't sound like I am unhappy about or somehow dismayed about my family's status.  I am not.  It does, however, make me sit back and realize that the history I've been taught was badly twisted and edited, censored and formatted to make me think about myself, my social status, and the structure of our society in such a way as to try to enlist my wholehearted compliance with making that structure remain in place.

It was designed to make me say to myself, "Man, I am glad I was born white!" whenever I see another story about how minorities are mistreated, oppressed and smacked back into "their place".

As of today, I am no longer going to consider myself "white" inside of my own mind.  Oh, I'll still have to check the "white" boxes on forms and such.  The system I live inside of insists on that, and this late in my life, I'm not sure I've the energy to fight it on that level yet.

But, I do think it is time for this knowledge to be more widely spread, and time for the Progressives in this country to begin to use this new set of facts to where it can begin to be taught to succeeding generations.  It is valuable to know, and it illustrates things "racial" in a whole new light.

For instance:
Those who identify as white should start thinking about their inheritance of this identity and understand its implications. When what counts as your “own kind” changes so frequently and is so susceptible to contemporaneous political schemes, it becomes impossible to argue an innate explanation for white exclusion. Whiteness was never about skin color or a natural inclination to stand with one’s own; it was designed to racialize power and conveniently dehumanize outsiders and the enslaved. It has always been a calculated game with very real economic motivations and benefits.
Once again, the emphasis is mine.

Now perhaps I am showing my ignorance here.  This may be something that blacks and hispanics may have intuitively known all along.  If so, if there are any who are willing to comment on this post and set me straight, please do!

[Don't get me wrong, I do understand the privilege thing, I do know race was used as such a separator - it was the loosie-goosie definition of it and how that was used so coldly that floored me.]

This is some thing we (the American people not "white folks") need to get straight, so we can begin to address the racial thing in a much better and more knowledgable way.  In recognition of that, bear this in mind from the author's last paragraphs:
My hope in writing this is that white Americans will discover how it is they came to be set apart from non-whites and decide what they plan to do about it. 
So, yes, for one month, let’s hear about white history, educating ourselves and others. Let’s expose whiteness as a fraudulent schema imposed as a means to justify economic and physical bondage. Let’s try to uncover the centuries-old machinations that inform current race relations and bind us in a stalemate of misunderstanding. Then let’s smash this whole thing to pieces.
But I'd rather this not be for just one month a year - let's make this knowledge a permanent part of our understanding of Western Civilization.  It is a critical fact that makes the whole thing make so much more sense!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Are the moral standards of America declining?

A popular complaint of Christians (and thus a standard dig at atheists) is that the moral standards of the US are declining.  Some blame it on gays, some on women's "libido", others use various other specific complaints, but since all of them are essentially Progressive Faults, many just lump it all together by blaming it all on us atheists.

The problem is, when the specific items are examined closely, often the worst places in the US end up being States and localities with heavily Christian influence.

Divorce, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, murder, assault, theft, all have a generally higher level of incidence in very religious areas of the country.

Internationally, countries (especially in Europe) with very low rates of religiosity also have very low rates of these same social problems.

Of course, without specific studies showing causality, one does need to be a bit careful about pointing fingers, so lets look at this from another viewpoint.

I think that the whole morality issue is a matter of definition.  It isn't that morals are "declining", but that the population of the US is simply changing the way we look at morality and ethics.

Cultures, as a general rule, go by sets of rules.  Those rules may be legal, they may be cultural, they may be religious.  Many of those differing categories probably meld back and forth - a religious rule may be enshrined in law, or a cultural taboo may be absorbed by religious leaders, or vice versa.  It is often hard to separate the different kinds of rules.

There is little doubt, however, that those rules often change over time.  Examples abound - here in the US, it used to be a hidebound rule that blacks were inferior to whites, and that status was exhibited in myriads of ways - riding in the back of the bus, separate drinking fountains or public restrooms, etc.

Today, such discriminatory measures are not only illegal, but are actively frowned on in much of the country as anachronisms.  Used to be, inter-racial marriages of any kind were illegal.  No more.  At one time, divorce was not only frowned upon, but was impossible to obtain in most parts of the country.  As recently as the late fifties or early sixties, an unmarried couple could not stay in the same hotel room except in certain "low rent"parts of town.  Large chain hotels/motels would not allow it.

All of those things now are not only legal, but are looked at as quaint reminders of the way things used to be, and most people don't even miss them at all.

An important recent example of this is the rapidly changing national attitude about gays and marriage.  As recently as just ten years ago, in many parts of the country (and even a few today), one could not reveal oneself as gay without severe repercussions.  The attitude of most Americans has reversed itself, and now a minority feel being gay is wrong and support the old negative stereotype.

Today, over 13 States have legalized gay marriage, standardizing what is rapidly becoming known as marriage equality.  There are numerous legal challenges to many States' bans on gays marrying, and there are indications that others may be following the early lead of that first thirteen.

Interesting how that number 13 crops up occasionally, isn't it?

It is clear that societies change over time.  Ours is no exception.  We no longer allow slavery, or indentured servitude.  We no longer throw people into prison for indebtedness (or at least not in a widespread way - a couple of States have re-instituted it in a weird modern way, but not like it used to be)

To many Americans, the new moralities are better.

Women are no longer forced to stay in violent, unwanted marriages, and can today actually be the party filing for divorce.  They can own property under their own names, hold jobs, start a company and be the boss, they can vote.

Minorities are no longer relegated to second class status, at least not legally, except in the way the justice system operates.  Yeah, we still need to work on that.

There may be a lot of Evangelical Christians who feel strongly that American morals have "slipped". That's fine, I have no problem with folks who have the ability to maintain their beliefs in the face of immense public pressure.  There is much about that to admire.

Until those old beliefs become harmful, especially to the innocent.  Or until they begin to try to make the rest of us adhere to their old belief system.  Then, there's a problem.

Message to the Conservatives that are trying to make this country stand still:

Go home.  Go to Church.  But leave the rest of us alone.  We don't buy into your bullshit.  We don't want your belief system enshrined in law, or taught in our schools, or enforced at work.  We have our own morals, our own ethics.  If you promise to keep your moral/religious practices to yourself, we promise to do the same.  Keep your religious crap outta our schools, and we promise not to teach Secular Humanism in school either.

This country has survived for over 238 years by being tolerant of others' belief systems, I think it is perfectly capable of doing that many more by maintaining that tolerant posture.


Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Tell me, what is your definition of Patriotism?

Mirriam-Webster defines it thus:

  • love for or devotion to one's country

Pretty simple, huh?  But there anything in that definition that says one's patriotic songs can only be sung in a single language?  I don't see that anywhere on Webster's page for "patriotism".

I could - kinda - understand if one were talking about a country like, say, France, where there IS a single language identified with the country, and is, in fact, mandated as such.  In fact, France actually has a government department dedicated to ensuring the "purity" of French!

But America has no such mandate, and there isn't an office in the government here - at any level - ensuring the "purity" of English!  What an impossible job that would be!   Remember, English is the language known for following other languages into dark alleys and shaking them down for loose words and grammar.  Then manages to mangle the pronunciation, meaning and usage!

So, what is going on with this anger over the Coke ad using several different languages to have people sing America the Beautiful?  You know, the patriotic song written by a lesbian?

I am not an empath, nor a psychic.  I cannot read minds.  But, I did grow up in a very conservative part of the country, to conservative parents.  I do have a good idea what is going through these folks minds, and that is pure and simple racism, or if you prefer, xenophobia.  Hatred or fear of foreigners, of people who are different.

Not patriotism.

This is a country that was BUILT on immigration.  Every single person in this country who isn't a native American is descended from immigrants.  All of our ancestors made that long dangerous trek across the oceans of this globe to land, uncertain, homeless, and often owning no more than the clothes on their backs, but with hope in their eyes.  Hope that the future they could make for themselves would ensure the welfare of their children and grandchildren.

Which, in the long run, for all of us, ensured the future of this country to become one of the beacons of liberty and the hope for a better future - beaconing to the entire world.  Read again the words written on the plaque at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

So, no, we have no right, no reason, and no call to look down our noses at anybody, no matter how long or short their family's sojourn on these shores.   We should be welcoming them, because it is the infusion of new blood, new minds and new energy that makes this country great, in wave after wave.

Irish, Chinese, Italians, Germans.  All immigrants, and all despised in their day.  All of those ethnicities have built a place for themselves in today's America.  Blacks, Hispanics, Japanese, each, in spite of the very tough nature of their past parts in the American stage play, have built places for themselves, too. Each of these ethnic groups, and dozens more like them, right up to the present day, add their own flavoring of spice to the American pot.

We call it a melting pot, but it is really more like a mixing pot.  A salad, if you prefer.

I've seen a number of Conservatives use that term derisively, as if the fact that each group having generally stuck together through the tough beginnings of their immigration here is a bad thing.

As if the English speaking folks didn't - and still do - just that!  It takes a lot of guts to stand in your racist little tribal enclave and accuse others of being racist.


This country is and was built on immigration.  I welcome every immigrant.  My mind soars at the sound of every differing language, every lilt of a foreign tongue added to the music of how the English language is spoken, and every foreign word we add to our vocabulary.

Ours is a rich culture, enriched from a past jammed with the differing traditions and customs of hundreds of foreign countries and a thousand ethnicities.  It is impossible to separate the customs of this country according to the lands and peoples from which they have been drawn.

This is the power of America.  Not the great aircraft carriers.  Not the intercontinental missiles, not the economic power of Wall Street.  Not the guns.

The people.  WE the People.  Together, living each of us with our own little versions of The American Dream.

The attempts of the right wing to stop or slow immigration would be the death of that dream.  What makes this country great is the very fact that all people everywhere can, should they wish, try to come here to build their own little American Dream.  Hundreds of thousands do, every year, from every corner of the globe, from every possible ethnicity, speaking every possible language.

Yearning to become just one more of that We The People spoken of in the Constitution.  Part of that great compact.

We should be in celebration of that desire.  We should welcome them with open arms, smiling faces.

They are our future.  They are the guarantee that this country will not lose its greatness, will not lose the energy that held that compact together for two hundred and thirty-eight years.

They are us.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Mission Statement

It occurs to me that I've not truly expressed my beliefs and what I hope to show the world in my blog.

Yeah, a blog.  Everybody and his donkey has a blog.  Not a big deal.

I really don't care.  This is MY blog, and I hope to tell the world what I think about just about anything that comes to mind.  There are, however, some issues that are more important and will (have been) blogged about more than others.

Separation of Church and State
Harm from Religion
Science and Technology
Apple, Inc. products and similar cool stuff
Weird stuff
Secular Humanism

Now, taking this one step at a time, here goes.

Separation of Church and State

I am an American citizen.  I have spent over 40 years of my life serving the United States Government and have taken two oaths to support and defend the Constitution.  One was military - four years, and the other the civilian oath for Federal Civil Service - 36 years, all of that at the FDA.

The Constitution has as part of its first Amendment the guarantee of religious freedom.  Two clauses, one to keep the government out of religious affairs, and one to keep religions out of government affairs.  Together, they protect all Americans from any one religion (or religious sect) from dominating the government and dictating religious affairs to the rest of the country.  A clause in the Constitution itself forbids any religious test of office, going further to protect us from religious influence.

It isn't perfect, as today's struggle to keep fundamentalist Christianity from overturning the US Constitution and creating a Theocracy is proof of.  (Yes, Dominionists really ARE trying to do that.)

I am opposed to that, and am avowed to do anything I can to support separating religion from public affairs.  The First Amendment provides excellent cover for religious folks to go to church and even practice their religion in the privacy of their own lives without the rest of us interfering.  It also guarantees them the right to associate with others of like belief.

The oaths I took obligate me to protect the rights of ALL Americans, religious and non-religious, and I WILL do that, but I will NOT support anybody forcing their religious practices on anyone who does not believe.  I will also not support anybody forcibly stopping people from believing in a god, either.

Believe how you want, practice - or not - as you wish.  But you cannot use the power of the government - Local, State or Federal - to force your religious practices on the entire country.


I am pretty much an Independent.  I am registered in Maryland as a Democrat - mostly because that's the best way I see to use my vote.  I refuse, on principle, to vote for a Republican, until that party regains its senses and dumps both the religious loonies and the Tea Party extremists.  If they ever do, and become a viable party with sensible and competent leaders, then I'll begin looking at individual Republicans running for office again.

I support universal single payer health care, legalization of marijuana, reasonable limitations on firearm ownership, separation of Church and State, immediate measures to curb human contributions to climate change, a reasonable balance between human and animal habitation of our planet, strict control over our capitalistic economic system, including harsh prison sentences for economic leaders who endanger the system by emphasizing private gain, government programs to assist the unfortunate and the impoverished.

I am in complete support of full, free public education, from pre-school through four year University level.  There is nothing more critical to a functioning and healthy democracy than a fully educated and reasoning citizenry, and it is our obligation to future generations of Americans to see that they receive the full benefits of the best education this country can provide.  Nothing else is as likely to eliminate poverty than that.

I am in full support of full and complete equality of all human beings, regardless of race, sex, gender identification or sexual orientation.  Human rights are HUMAN rights, and no sub-classification by arbitrary label has the power to abrogate any of those rights, no matter what label that may be.

I also explicitly support the freedom of women to choose their own way when it comes to procreation.  Or the choice to NOT procreate.  They have the right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term or not, and in consultation with the physician of their choice, the right to end that pregnancy however is appropriate to their individual circumstances, should those circumstances demand it.


I have seen the evidence and firmly am of the opinion that the group known as Dominionists are determined to overthrow the United States government as a democracy and transform it into a theocracy.  I will publish and repost whatever information I see to bring awareness of them and their activities to public light, in an effort to persuade as many people as possible to oppose their lunacy.


I am a firm atheist.  I do not believe in a god of any kind, and believe that religions of all kinds represent some form of confidence game with the purpose of gaining political and economic power for whatever priestly or guiding group controls the organizations supporting worship of any particular god or gods.

While I do see the lack of evidence for a "historical Jesus" as lacking, which makes that historicity unlikely, I think that the more important point is that since there is no god, there can have been no son, so even if there WAS a man whose existence may have been overblown into legendary status, the claims of godhood cannot be true, by definition.  Ergo, stop bothering me with it.


Being an atheist is similar to not believing in the tooth fairy.  The word defines something I DON'T believe in, not what I do.  There are other, more positive things that define my ethics and my moralities.

Harm from Religion

I believe that the widespread belief in religion brings harm to all mankind and retards our progress into the future.

It does so by causing people to filter reality through a false lens, altering their responses and making them do things which actively harm others as well as, often, themselves.  It causes people to make political decisions based on bronze age ethics and morals in an age where such practices have long been discarded as cruel and unusual, causing turmoil, dissension and violent political strife and, often, war.  It causes people to make claims on land based on ancient legends and stories backed by no more than books of dubious authenticity and provenance - claims which have roiled the entire globe with violence and untold turmoil for decades, with little possibility for any reasonable settlement.

It breaks up families, promotes child abuse, opposes public education and encourages people to blindly follow authorities who have no competence or ability to lead, and often, only lead to aggrandize themselves.

It encourages entire sects of people to disbelieve climate change based on a false sense of believing that god will somehow come back to repair the damage we have done.

Historically, it has encouraged its believers to kill those who do not believe the same as themselves, and many sects still do so today.  Many of these will kill apostates.

I could go on, but you get the gist of what I am saying.


I believe that when human beings die, our personality dies with the death of the body, in which the personality resides.  There is no soul, no spirit.  No ghosts.  Yes, ghost stories may be fun, and scare the crap out of your younger siblings, but there is no basis for believing in their existence.

Spiritualism is, in short, something that resides within ourselves, and gives us the ability to improve the way we use our minds.  It helps us to balance ourselves, removing stress and tension and improving our mental state of mind.

It does not connect us to a greater power, nor does it make us one with the Universe.

Science and Technology

I believe that mankind will improve our standard of living, our health and our relationship with the rest of mankind as we learn more and more about the Universe, how it works and how our own biology works.  I encourage the continued activities of people the world over to invest in the continued and growing research and development of science and technology.

Apple, Inc. and all its products.

I love Apple.  I love its tech, I love its products.  I will occasionally talk about anything I see as cool that they  are coming out with.

Weird stuff

As knowledgeable about Science and the universe as we may be, any scientist will tell you that the whole point of science is to discover the things we do NOT know.  I like to occasionally explore the weird stuff that indicates things we may still be ignorant about.

Secular Humanism

I am at heart, a secular humanist.  This pretty much sums up what I feel.

  • A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.

  • Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.

  • A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.

  • A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.

  • A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.

  • A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.

  • A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.