Friday, December 17, 2010

No, This is About Power

Ever since Pope Benedict XVI gave his September 2010 speech in Europe, his words about atheism have been on my mind. Particularly these words here:

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny”

I've seen plenty of arguments for and against this notion. And I've personally been in a few on-line arguments with other people over this issue.

I hope that when I share my opinion here, that I don't come across sounding as though I'm completely "right" and any opposing viewpoint is completely "wrong". Rather, I hope that my opinion can at least be thought provoking or perhaps even stir up a meaningful dialog on the subject matter.

And, my opinion may very well be met with silence. That's OK, too. I feel the need to get this off my chest at the very least. Writing helps me to do that-- even if no one comments or even reads this post.

Let us assume that Hitler was unquestionably an atheist and that the Nazi regime was undeniably--without debate-- the result of an atheistic philosophy and world view though and through.

Even with such an assumption, can we still not think of other large scale crimes against society that were committed in the name of God?

And can we still not see that many people who subscribe to the wold view of atheism can still do good and make great contributions to society?

I have slowly come to the opinion that arguing the level of religiosity found in either Hitler or the Nazi regime alone cannot completely help us learn the dire lessons that we need to grasp from history.

I personally think that it's clear that Nazism was not about atheism-- not when the belt buckles of some soldiers would read: Gott Mit Uns.

Nazism was not about atheism when religious imagery was mix in quite well with the propaganda of the Nazi party.

But, I'll dare say that Nazism was not necessarily about theism, either.

No, in my opinion, this is about power.

Anyone that wants to control how you think, how you live, who you consider your enemies, who you worship, and who you may not worship is only seeking power. A person seeking absolute power can come heralding the name of Christ or come denying the existence of God. And followers of either ideology can find themselves mindlessly supporting such a wantonness drive for human control.

I admire the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. They tried to fashion a government that allowed belief in God without imposing religion upon anyone. After fleeing from a monarchy, they understood well that mindlessly following any ideology is the truest danger of society. We need to be free to argue, disagree, live our own lives, and state opinions that are unpopular. We need to learn to do this and still respect each other's humanity and refrain from resorting to violence to resolve ideological disputes.

When force is used to impose an ideology on others, then the moral tenants of the ideology in question are probably only an afterthought.

Because in the end, it's all really about power.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A New Personal Journal

I have not given up on blogging, but I will not post here nearly as much as I have. I had started another blog, but it wasn't personally fulfilling for some reason. I've started a new web log that seems to hit the spot for me emotionally. Whether an audience will ever read it remains to be seen. But, I'm doing this more for myself. People are welcome to be a voyeur of my personal electronic journal.

So if you want to read anything that I'm currently writing, then visit my newest blog:


I won't consider this web log dead just yet. I will probably still post here from time to time, but it will be rare.

I have nothing to say here at the moment that isn't ready being said very well by lots of other people across the Internet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recent Reflections Concerning Religion

I have finally found a quite, rare moment to write . . .

Lately, I noticed that I was developing hostility towards religion. I didn't notice this within myself until I felt extremely annoyed at the notion that religion and myth are such powerful forces in so many lives. Ironically, I had come to admire the works of Joseph Campbell as my life's journey brought me to a posture of atheism. Campbell eloquently shows how the influence of myth is powerfully ingrained in the human psyche. Religious metaphor moves and inspires people-- without question. And at first, this was an intriguing and beautiful discovery to me despite my growing sense of non-belief. But in these recent weeks, his ideas were starting to bother me more and more.

I especially noticed this when a dear friend of mine recommend that I read a book entitled The End of Education. This book seemed to really rub my nose in "it" by constantly expressing that religion is a fixture in most of humanity. At this stage of the evolutionary cycle, human kind cannot, as a whole, expect to suddenly detach from religion any time soon. As a result, education's engine may run best when wrapped up in a mythological or religious-like narrative. The author of this book was not advocating religion itself, or any specific religion. Just the idea that narrative in a mythological style may be the best seeds for planting the important lessons of life.

And he quoted Joseph Campbell on top of everything else as he made his case!

And that's when I came to realize something . . .

It's OK if religion hangs around for a while.

I've come to realize that nothing is wrong with being inspired by a myth or a religious faith. Nothing is wrong with drawing inspiration from a narrative. Our minds almost seem wired for this. Yes, our minds seem to have an ingrown place that is wired for mythological narrative, faith talk, and religion. If that be true, who am I to be angry about this?

I have also come to realize for myself that while I can personally do without religion, others cannot or will not. It is not my place to judge people whose lives are driven by faith.

Also, I cannot prove that god does not exist. And while the burden of proof rest upon the claimant, I cannot be totally certain that the claimant will never find evidence for their deity's existence.

That doesn't mean that I've become a theist again. Not at all. That only means that I realize that I have no right to push someone into thinking that there is no god.

Just as a theist has no right trying to push god upon me.

I thought about what I wanted to see happen in society as an atheist or agnostic. What did I really want to see change in society around me?

Here's all the change that I ask for concerning the clash between the religious and the non-religious. I wish that more people would take time to:

1. Understand that I want religious people to have the freedom to worship their deity. This is their right as human beings.

2. Understand that I want to exercise the right to interpret religion just as freely as other religious people already get to do. So, whatever deity I have or do not have in my life is my business and my personal right. I should not be treated differently because of this.

3. Understand that I do not deserve to be threatened with eternal torture of the hereafter or with imminent death in the here and now simply because I have a difference of opinion. Remember: Someone else has a deity that breaths threats of eternal punishment for you in their prediction of the afterlife, too. So, are you going to drop your faith and follow theirs now? No? Please, then, do not expect this of me.

4. Understand that I do not want to turn the world into an atheistic society that has flushed away all religion. I want religious people to maintain their freedom to worship. I would simply ask that more religious people become tolerant of non-religious people.

5. Understand that if you have to always speak for your deity, punish for your deity, and badger others for your deity, then perhaps your deity is mute and impotent: that's (after all) the mark of a lifeless, idol god. I'm not saying . . . but, I'm just saying. Give your deity a chance to take care of him or herself before you terrorize and threaten others on your deity's behalf.

6. Understand that I realize that I could be completely wrong about the existence of God. I revisit that idea frequently, but I'm very comfortable where I am right now in my non-belief.

7. Understand that you could be completely wrong about (at the very least) your faith. Be open and tolerant therefore, of those with whom you disagree.

8. Understand that freedom is enjoyed best when everyone can enjoy it. Everyone cannot enjoy our nation if any specific religion is oppressed by Government or controlled by Government. The same potential for tyranny holds true if any specific religion oppresses our society or rises up to control and assimilate our Government.

After mulling over these reflections for a few days, I felt much better. My hostility towards religion dissipated. Just as Thomas Jefferson said, "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg". While this is true, the problem comes when your neighbor cannot stand the fact that you disagree and (as a result) wants to actively break your legs because you are different.

So, in that vein: I do not hate god or religion-- rather, I hate the notion that people feel they ever have a right to force an ideal upon me with which I disagree. And when speaking in those terms, it doesn't matter if the ideal is a religious one or not.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Gonna Be a While

It's gonna be a while before I post again, I think. Work, family life, and my wife's return to school has constricted my free time a whole lot.

So, if you ever wonder where I am-- I'm either at work, proof reading papers for my wife, on a soccer field watching my kids practice, or dead to the world asleep.

But, I'll leave you with a bit of irony: my wife chose to enroll in one of the local Christian colleges in my area. Imagine that! It was the only school that had classes that fit her schedule.

So, now I fend off nightmares of kids running around in soccer uniforms and term papers about critical thinking that require a Christian theme.

Yikes!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Read Each of the Following

I was performing the grueling task of making my son finish his homework today.

He had a language assignment that was designed to train him in discerning an author's purpose. Before reading the directions, the worksheet had a short paragraph explaining the possible purposes of the author.

For instance, if an author gives facts, then his or her purpose is most likely to inform. If the author is writing about how wonderful something is, he or she is probably trying to persuade. And, if the author is writing a story about fictional characters, then the author is probably making an attempt to entertain.


After reviewing that paragraph with my son, we read the directions which were as follows:

Directions: READ EACH OF THE FOLLOWING WRITINGS AND DECIDE WHETHER THE AUTHOR'S PURPOSE IS TO:

  • persuade
  • inform
  • entertain

After wrestling with my son over matters of neatness, sloppiness, and coherency, something started to dawn on me.

If the Bible isn't trying to sell you something, then it's not trying to persuade. But, if it's not totally accurate historically, then it's not making a good attempt at informing others.

Ah! So then, it's for entertainment!

Ha! Now I get it!

OK, OK . . . honestly-- it's not that simple in my opinion. But, that notion sure has given me something to think about.

What was the purpose of any given author of any given scripture text?

That's an important question for everyone to explore each and every time we read.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How Mystical Thinking interferes with Troubleshooting IT Issues

I work in the IT field. I won't go into too much detail about what I do because I want to preserve my anonymity as much as I can.

I've noticed that in Jesusland, many people have mystical thinking about computers. I did, too, before I became comfortable with troubleshooting computer problems.

People make comments that their computers have minds of their own. They only work when they want to. Problems only happen when tech support isn't around, but vanish when we finally show up to assess the problem.

E-mail just "disappears". Gremlins eat important files.

Computers just get tired and give out.

The computer just doesn't like that Ethernet cable you're using.

I know that most of these types of comments are just mild personifications that we give to all objects around us. Overall this is harmless and reduces the stress that comes from the frustration of a cantankerous, uncooperative PC.

But when the troubleshooters themselves actually buy into this sort of thinking, problems do not get resolved. They are just chalked up as mysteries as unnecessary work around's are often devised while the real problem fails to be properly addressed and corrected.

I've seen people wonder if a NIC card had it's own mind. Or wonder why a docking station for a laptop works with a store bought Ethernet cable, but not a hand made Ethernet cable.

Rather than admitting the hand made cable is bad, they rationalize that something mystical is happening with the docking station or NIC.

I've also seen people wonder if interference from a cell phone could keep a dial up modem from working.

I'm not talking about customers. I mean technicians that are helping customers.

And that's the problem we run into when we let mysticism guide us through troubleshooting technology. You explore a false premise and ignore the clues that lead you to the facts.

Nothing is wrong with pretending your PC has a personality. I felt sort of nostalgic recently when I had to decommission a few servers that got me through thick and thin. I sorta missed 'em for a few days. It was like saying bye-bye to a neighborhood friend that was moving away for good.

But, I know that I couldn't gently pat the server on the side of the chassis and magically make it work correctly again after it malfunctioned. I can't hold a CD or DVD in one hand while laying my other hand on the server to form some sort of mind meld that mystically uploads the software.

That just doesn't work in IT.

I wish I could lay hands on a server and manage it.

Remotely.

From home.

In bed while asleep.

Now, that would be the shiznits!

Man, if that sort of thing could really happen, I might reconsider the existence of God!

Or maybe the Force.

Friday, September 3, 2010

How All Business Phones Should be Answered?!

I ran across this e-mail recently. I'll post it first, then at the end make my comments about it:

How ALL business phones SHOULD be answered!

'GOOD MORNING, WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA'

'Press '1' for English ....

....Press '2' to disconnect until you learn to speak English .'

And remember only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you ...

Jesus Christ

... And the American Soldier.

One died for your soul,

The other for your freedom.

If you agree......
Keep it going


Now, to force me to answer my phone with the greeting above is quite unfair. You don't think so? What if someone told the supporters of the above e-mail to answer the phone with, "Allah Akbar". I bet their faces and necks would turn red hot!

This is not a Christian nation. Congress Shall Make NO Law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

If this were a Christian nation, why do we have a President rather than a Pastor. Why do we have a Congress rather than a Congregation? Why a Constitution rather than just using the King James Bible?

That's what a real Christian nation would do. And a real Christian nation would do away with our freedoms in the process, too.

Forcing everyone to learn English is a convenience. But the world is getting smaller and the United States is a melting pot. Trace your heritage back. White people have black uncles. Black people can trace back to Ireland, West Africa and Choctaw. People of Asian decent call themselves Americans first when you might be tempted to call them Chinese-- yet they are of Japanese decent!

I bet those who want everyone to speak English or get out of the country couldn't find a bathroom if they were dropped in Germany, France, Sweden, or Mexico even!

Learn a little bit of a foreign language. You and you're children will need it 20 years from now.

Lastly, soldiers have indeed died for our freedom. So, you sure as hell have no right to impose your religious views upon me. And don't suggest I don't care about our soldiers. I don't have to voice adoration for Jesus to love this country and honor our military.

Period.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Baby Steps

In my previous post, I discussed my recent feelings about whether I should remain in the closet or not about my atheism.

A day needs to come where keeping my dirty little secret no longer feels necessary.

Again, I'm not doing anything radical at the moment. But here's my first baby step towards coming out to the real world.

See . . . I never dropped my membership from the denominations with which I am still affiliated. I grew up being part of the Missionary Baptist Church but converted to Apostolic Pentecostalism at 18 years old. I never formally cut ties with the Baptist church when I moved. My last years as a Christian were spent being part of the Church of God based in Cleveland, TN. But, I never formally cut ties with the Apostolic Faith Church, either.

So, for my first baby step, I wrote a letter to the Church of God state office in my area and formally withdrew my membership. Below is a copy of the letter I wrote. I have edited out any personal information because at this time, I am not yet ready to share those details online:


XXXXXX COG State Office
XXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXX


To whom it may concern,

Please accept this letter as my formal request to withdraw my membership from the Church of God organization headquartered in Cleveland, TN. At the time that I joined this denomination, I was attending XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

My personal beliefs concerning God, Salvation, and the Bible are no longer fully aligned with all of the statements of faith held by the Church of God organization.

No one has done anything to drive me away from XXXXXXX or from the Church of God organization as a whole. I do not harbor any animosity towards anyone in the organization and everyone at XXXXXXXXXX was very kind and caring towards me and my family during my membership. My decision to withdraw my membership solely rests upon the personal changes in my faith when compared to the doctrines of the Church of God.

I realize that this letter will not be pleasing to receive, but ultimately I must be honest concerning the conflicts between your articles of faith and my current personal beliefs. Therefore, I hereby tender my withdrawal of membership and I wish you good fortune in all your endeavors as a church and organization.


Respectfully yours,


XXXXXXXXXXX


I know that this letter isn't radical. But this was a very big step for me. I didn't just ask to withdraw my membership. I let them know that I don't agree with their doctrine any longer. Although, I didn't say way or how.

And I think that may be the crux of the whole issue between the religious and the non-religious.

I shouldn't have to explain. And I won't. If someone from the church calls, I will simply say that my private beliefs have changed. It's honestly not the business of anyone else what I believe about God and why. My right as a human being, as an adult, and as United States citizen is to have my own private opinion about God and exercise that belief to my liking.

Well . . . assuming I'm not harming others, being cruel to animals or destroying the property of others, that is.

Anyhow . . .

That is my First Amendment right -- just as the members of other religions may enjoy this right, too.

I hope to one day write the other two denominations a very similar letter. But, my ties with the Church of God were much weaker and shorter lived. I'm not making too many waves writing a letter to them.

I need to grow up a bit more before writing to the other two denominations. I hope to develop the strength in time.

I'm proud of my little baby step. Even if it is only a small one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Concerning the Idea of Coming Out

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I've tried to remain anonymous. I want my blog to remain a place where I can freely voice my thoughts without worrying about some acquaintance or family member outing me. I also stay anonymous to avoid any possible persecution or discrimination in the event that a customer of my employer or a co-worker find this site and pin it to my identity.

Perhaps I'm worried about nothing. But, I don't really want to take that chance. So, I seriously doubt I will ever disclose my full identity on this blog.

However, I do feel that I need to start making steps to come out of the closet in the real world-- apart from cyber space.

Recently, two bloggers that I follow were outed in different ways-- only days apart from each other. Both seemed very displeased about the whole ordeal, but found that their world didn't totally crumble once the smoke cleared. Yes, they must make adjustments now that important relationships have become strained and stretched. But a bit of relief seems to have come as a result of taking off the mask.

And another benefit may come from being outed.

According to a recent talk given by Greta Christian entitled "What Atheists Can Learn from the LGBT Movement", she states that the number one phenomena that generated more tolerance for the LGBT community was the coming out of members.

Coming out of the closet, according to Greta Christina, causes people who would normally be intolerant of the LGBT community realize they personally know someone from that community. Potential opponents are forced to put the human face of a friend or loved one up against their intolerance. As a result, tolerance slowly displaces prejudice because the members of the LGBT movement are no longer "them". Rather, they are now our brothers, cousins, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and children.

As it should be.

The people who were outed by their blogs may wished it never happened, but these outings may actually serve as two more important steps forward for the atheist community as a whole.

In light of Greta Christina's talk coupled with the outing of the two bloggers I've mentioned, I now have a much stronger desire to come out of the closet myself.

Again, not here on this site. Although, I think I might start sharing a few details about myself that I would normally keep private. I'm mulling it over for the moment.

But as for life outside of the blogsphere, I have decided to slowly take baby steps towards coming out to the people from which I've hidden for several years now.

In my next post, I'll share my very first baby step towards coming out of the closet.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Demon Busters

Spiritual Warfare is a theme that I haven't talked much about.

You know, Demon Busters.

People who believe that every malignant thing that happens is caused by a demon.

Did you talk back to your parents? A demon influenced you to do it.
Did you get too lazy to pray today? A demon did it.
Are you depressed? A demon is oppressing you.
Do you feel surrounded by constant bad luck? A demon has invaded your life.
Are you sick? Never mind microbes-- you've got a sick demon riding your back.

And demons should be cast out of you. Some person close enough to God has the power to lay hands on you and call that demon out of your life.

In recent years, I wondered why calling upon an omnipotent God to remove a demon more powerful that you was always a struggle.

There is always this big display. Lots of crying, bucking, and jerking. Eyes start rolling in the back of the head as one starts foaming at the mouth . . .

Heck, Jesus just said, "Come out!" and they did. Rarely did demons talk back. And when demons did talk back, he told them to shut up and sent them off into swine who subsequently ran themselves off a cliff and to their deaths.

And Jesus said that his followers would do greater works than those that he accomplished.

So why is demon busting so hard?

Because the demon buster and the demon possessed both have to get their minds worked up to play their respective roles.

See, those of the demon busting type believe that Christians are not exempted from being demon possessed. Even those filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues could become demon possessed. No one is safe. Not even when God's Holy Spirit dwells within you.

Ain't that a bitch!?

So then, just as self-hypnosis can cause someone to behave like they're possessed by the spirit of God, they need that same state of mind to play the role of a possessed person.

Or the "demonic" is simply playing along for grins and chuckles.

So, I believe the preacher and the possessed get worked up together. Because a preacher usually has a language of sorts that he speaks when he (or she) is casting out a demon. First, they tell you that you have one.

Then they start to speak against it and pray for you with the laying on of hands.

Then, they get all wound up. They probably won't quit if you don't exhibit some sort of show yourself.

Or, if you're wrapped up in that sort of thing already, you'll subconsciously play along. You would believe that you are really were possessed because the anointed of God just told you so. Such believe is no different from when I once believed that I actually spoke in tongues.

I think it's a damaging thing to tell someone who is clinically depressed that they have a demon. If the demon could only be cast out, they'd be happy again. Until they commit suicide. Why suffer that when an anti-depressant can possibly save someone's life and make life worth living again?

Telling someone that their cancer is a result of a demon can't be much for emotional morale. What if the demon is "cast out" but the cancer never leaves?

And I feel really bad for homosexuals who are caught up in Pentecostal movements. Homosexuals get picked on really badly. They are talked about openly and abrasively in many Pentecostal circles. Their lifestyle is always described as a "condition" at best. And often, homosexuality is a demon to be cast out. I don't see how a Pentecostal who is homosexual could ever be happy. Having a demon buster talk a homosexual into being unhappy for the rest of his or her life can't possibly be healthy.

I find it highly suspect that an omnipotent God must use us frail humans to struggle with the eradication of a demon.

Something just isn't right about that.

On a side note, I visited Demon Buster.com in preparation of this post. They say that a midi file plays when you visit their site-- Oh, The Blood of Jesus. I'm quite familiar with this song and I'm quite familiar with the emphasis demon busters place on the name and blood of Jesus.

The web site puts so much emphasis on the blood of Jesus that they claim that anyone who is annoyed by the midi file on their site probably has a demon in their home-- if not, then the demon is in you.

But I didn't hear any midi file when I first visited the page.

So what does that mean? I guess I'm so demoniacally oppressed that the demons keep my ears from hearing the midi file play through my demonic laptop!

I guess I'm going to bust hell wide open, huh?

Or maybe you don't hear the midi file when you visit their site either.

Ah, but I went to my Windows desktop, the song finally played.

I guess Linux is the OS of the devil.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quiz Show

A funny (at least, I thought) video, compliments of NonStampCollector.

But, I gotta give a hat tip to Tristan for having other videos that lead me to this one.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Planetarium

My local Jesusland planetarium sucks.

People who don't wanna be told that Earth is four billion years old will not support a planetarium that tells you so.

As a result, our local planetarium is shoddy, run down, and antiquated.

Many areas in Jesusland are poor. When money is scarce, my local government thinks four times over before spending money on science or education.

That's why I live in one of the poorest, least educated provinces of Jesusland.

I have some family here. I enjoy my job a quite a bit. But this atmosphere bothers me sometimes. I may need to migrate from here one of these days.

If I do ever move, maybe I'll base my relocation upon the quality of the city planetarium.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just Give Us the Facts

Around 2001, students from Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Indiana petitioned the school board by requesting that Special Creationism (Intelligent Design) lessons be taught along side evolution.

These students were not asking for evolution to be muted in their classrooms. They simply wanted Special Creationism to be taught along side evolution.

These students articulated that they wanted to be given all of the facts and then be allowed to decide for themselves what was true. They felt that Special Creationism had merit and needed to be taught along side evolution so that they can make an informed decision.

While this petition was student led, I'm confident (though not certain, of course) that an adult or two were behind this effort.

I suspect this because I started a bible study back in my high school years. Despite my religious enthusiasm in those days, an adult prompted me to meet with my high school principal to gain permission to meet. He prepped me with legal information as leverage (which actually backed my principal into a corner when she first seemed hesitant to comply). Also, adults supported our meetings which furthered our drive as students. We didn't impose our meetings on others and did not meet during school hours. We could meet before or after, according to the law at the time (which I think is still valid, for those of you who insist that prayer has been taken out of school).

So, I'm confident these students had similar influences even thought they were probably just as passionate about this debate as the adults who possibly put them up to this petition.

During the formal presentation of their petition to the school board, the students eloquently made their case. And many of the students who supported the petition donned black T-shirts with white type that read:


Just give us the facts and then let us decide.


And on the back of their snazzy black T-shirts was printed the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Nice touch, I must say.


Students kept insisting to the school board that they deserved to have all the facts. Somehow, they seemed to "know" that Special Creationism was as valid as evolution and deserved to be taught in their biology classrooms. "Just give us all the facts and then leave us to decide", they reiterated.

Interesting . . .

Honestly, I loved their T-shirts. I want one! But I don't think they really understood what they were asking. I think they only fashioned their words to sound like they wanted all the scientific information that was available to them.

But what they really said was:

Just give us the facts and we'll decide which ones we like and don't like.

Because the fact is, Special Creationism is not a scientific theory.

Nope.

Special Creationism doesn't help us understand why a monster strain of Tuberculosis is on the rise. Nor does Special Creationism give us clues as to how we stop it.

Intelligent Design doesn't answer questions about why certain people are immune to the AIDS virus and how that may one day help us achieve a cure.

Special creation "theory" doesn't help HIV patients live longer by understanding that the virus evolves as it continually duplicates inside it's host-victim.

For example:

As an HIV patient takes medication for a while, a variant of the AIDS virus becomes resistant to the medication as the other variants of the virus die off in the patient's system. As a result, a dominant strain overcomes the medication and causes the patient's condition to worsen.

If planned carefully, medication can be paused for a period of time. During this time, the resistant variant starts to make varied strains of the virus again. But in doing so, the resistant HIV population becomes dwarfed by it's own diverse offspring of viruses which are once again susceptible to medication. This tactic has extended the survival and health of patients who are battling AIDS.

The insight for this treatment plan comes from acknowledging and studying evolution. Not from studying Special Creation or Intelligent Design.

Nope. Sorry.

Think of another example. What if you were studying fish in a pond? You needed to find out why the fish were contracting a fungus that was killing many of them. You soon discover that some of the fish are sexual in their reproduction and others are asexual (clones).

You learn from observation that the healthiest fish are offspring of sexual parents while the asexual fish become sick by the fungus most often.

Why?

During your study, the pond dries up due to a drought. All the fish either die or migrate. But fortunately, the pond fills up with water again after the drought and the fish population returns.

Ugh! But you see the previous health trends reverse! Now the asexual are healthier than the sexual fish and the fungus seems to hit the sexual population extra hard.

Why?


Can Intelligent Design answer this question?

No. But studying evolution can.

The genetic diversity in the asexual fish is always very low. So the fungus can run amok with the asexual fish because they have little diversity driving traits that resist infections.

But when the pond dried up, the fish population shrank so much that the sexual population of fish had to inbreed in order to survive! As a result, the sexual fish became more clone-like than the asexual fish; the diversity of their gene pool fell lower than their asexual counterparts!

After understanding the problem, the solution can easily fixed the problem. Find some genetically diverse fish that reproduce sexually and add them to the pond. The offspring of the sexual fish become resistant to the fungus just as before-- all thanks to studying evolution.

If you must insist that Special Creationism is science, then the ways of creation must be studied through the theory of evolution.

Evolution is a fact. Of course we don't understand everything about it. And while we don't know if we humans came from slime billions of years ago, we do know that we have common ancestors with other species of apes from millions of years ago.

So when you say that you simply want the facts, be sure that you really mean that. That's what a good scientist strives for-- just the facts.

Even the uncomfortable ones.

So those students in Lafayette, Indiana were getting the facts. Some of the students simply didn't like what the facts started to imply concerning their literal interpretation of the bible. As a result, they decided that they wanted an alternative to the facts instead.

As it turns out, the school board kindly and gently rejected their petition.

And most of the biology and chemistry teachers at Jefferson High School wiped sweat from their brows as they sighed a great sigh of relief.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Lying to Children About Evolution is Dangerous

In Russia, a super strain of Tuberculosis is slowly creeping across the world. Russian prisoners are crammed into prison cells under unsanitary conditions. When a prisoner contracts TB, he rarely completes his medication due to funding, thus the formation of a super TB strain results. And this super strain requires even more aggressive (and more expensive) treatment. This makes proper treatment of the prisoner even less likely. And sometimes, the TB strain is so highly evolved that no medication known to humankind will fight the uniquely formed strain of TB.

For some prisoners, contracting TB is a death sentence. Either the funding will not be provided to treat these prisoners, or they've contracted a terminal variant of TB. These prisoners die in their jail cells.

But sometimes a prisoner with a super TB strain completes his prison sentence and is released directly into the general population-- hacking and coughing as he walks out of the facility and into the public.

Then someone in the general population contracts the super strain of TB after unwittingly spending time in the presence of the infectious, coughing ex-convict. This poor person departs from his presence to make his or her way to the airport. This person plans to make an extended visit to New York City, for example, where he or she will eventually start hacking and coughing.

Why does this happen? Where will this stop?


Some studies have shown that a small percentage of people are immune to the HIV virus. In each person found so far, a mutation was noted. They don't have any receptors on their white blood cells like most other people. As a result, the HIV virus has no way to invade their immune system. Interestingly, this same trait is traced back genetically to survivors of the Bubonic Plague hundreds of years ago.

How can this be? Could this be a clue to a cure for AIDS? How can we better understand this?


As predators change over time, those who are most successful live to pass their traits on to their offspring. The prey who allude capture are awarded that same opportunity to pass on their genes to their offspring. Thus, you have a constant honing of predatory skills and evasive tactics between predator and prey. One sharpens the other over time. This is one of the components that drives the engine of evolution.

Real problems are happening and will need to be solved by understanding evolution.

If members of our society succeed in cranking out armies of young people who think evolution is science fiction, then we will dilute the upcoming scientific community. We will stop producing the necessary minds for solving these real, growing problems. We will produce doctors, scientists, and chemists who will fail the public when the next big biological problem come to visit humankind.

So many people hate the idea of evolution because the implications threaten their Fundamentalist beliefs in God. With clouded minds they lie to as many children as they can within our school systems for the express purpose of preserving their so called "American Values".

What good will come of preserving "American Values" if we are all wiped out by a super virus because nobody took into account the phenomena of evolution and how it drives the changes we see in biological life-- not just from millions of years ago, but for today as well?

OK, so you insist all day long that life was designed.

Fine. Sure. OK.

I don't care. Whatever.

You win.

But just know that even if you insist that life was designed by a creator, you cannot escape the fact that our world was then designed with evolution as part of the plan.

To overlook the fact of evolution is irresponsible. To ignore the fact of evolution is delusional.

And to insist that evolution is science fiction to millions of school kids across the nation is down right dangerous for our survival in the future.

And that's regardless of whether you believe in any particular god, or not.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Heaven in the Sky?

In the past, I have shared several dialogues between me and my son.

But today, I will share a dialogue between me and my five year old daughter.

My five year old attends the same day care that my son once did. The facility is quite good with the exception (in my view) that they will try to indoctrinate your child. After all, the daycare facility is run by a mega-church. What can one expect?

Now my daughter is finally starting to ask the tough questions about God. This day surly came faster than I thought.

While riding down the highway my daughter asks out of the blue:

“Daddy, is Heaven in the sky?”

“No sweetie. Heaven isn't up there in the sky. We've sent astronauts into space, we fly planes in the air all the time, and we have satellites floating around way up there in space. No one has bumped into Heaven up there. Pass the sky and you end up among the moon and stars. So between the ground and space where the sky is, we haven't found Heaven.”

I could have told her that Heaven was the sky. But I think the heart of her question was really, “Is God's home up there in the sky?”

Whether you're a theist or not, can you honestly say that God is sitting up there somewhere in the sky?

Anyhow . . .

My daughter thought about my answer for a moment. Then she asked,

“Well, what are all those clouds in the sky for?”

I guess she was wondering why clouds needed to float majestically in the Heavens above if Heaven isn't really “up there”.

“They aren't really for anything, exactly." I said. "The clouds are in the sky because water turns into a gas when it gets hot.”

“A gas?” She seemed to know what “gas” was, but was caught off guard with the idea that water could exist as a “gas”.

Time to introduce the fact that matter can exist in several phases.

“Yeah . . . you know what an ice cube is, right?”

“Yeah, but I don't like ice cubes. They hurt my hands and lips and I can't crunch them with my teeth. They hurt because they are so cold.”

“Right. Well, when water is really, really cold it turns into something like a rock. It becomes solid. When water is not so cold, we see it the usual way-- as a liquid.

“Daddy . . . what's a liquid?”

“Anything that is “wet” like water is a liquid. The juice you love to drink all the time is liquid like water.”

I paused for a moment, then continued.

“And if water gets hot, it turns to gas and floats into the air. As the gas keeps going up and up, it starts to cool again and forms the clouds you see. When a cloud gets too big and can't hold any more water, it releases that water to the ground. You know that that's called?”

“Rain!”

“Exactly!”

Then my daughter says, “I know that when I drink too much water, I have to pee. Just like the clouds when they hold too much water and start to rain!”

Hey . . . she came up with that one all on her own. That "pee" thing wasn't my idea.

Then she asked why she couldn't hold her pee forever. You know, it's such an inconvenience to stop playing just to go pee, after all.

So my son and I started to explain the purpose of a bladder.

And then that question turned into another conversation all together.

Notice that I did not tell my daughter that Heaven did not exist. I only told her the truth about the sky. We have not found Heaven up there and the clouds come from a cycle of evaporation and condensation. Have you heard any reports of Heaven being found in the sky?

This is no different than what I did with my son. I simply gave him facts and tried to encourage him to think for himself. I'm now doing this for my daughter.

No crime or criticism can be found in that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By the way, below is an interesting graphic of "the Heavens" as depicted by the website Our Amazing Planet.

Earth's Atmosphere Top to Bottom
[Source: Telescopes for Beginners for OurAmazingPlanet.com]


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dominance

Upon closer examination of the human psyche, I now understand why gods have anthropomorphic traits. To say that gods are simply reflections of mankind might still be true. But even so, such a description may be a bit too simplistic.

According to Christianity and Judaism at least, humans are made in the image of God. This has been debated to mean that humans are like God in that we share the capacity for emotion and personality just like God does. Many other origin stories of humanity involve some anthropomorphizing of nature-- thus nature creating humankind becomes a supernatural event.

In light of this interpretation, it only makes sense that God would be anthropomorphic in his (or her) behavior. Humans have a nature for sure. We are social yet territorial. We are cooperative, yet always find ourselves in conflicts and struggles with each other. We are generally altruistic, and have the potential to be murders. We humbly give in one minute and can then seethe with angry jealousy the next.

The God of the Old Testament (at least) had to be human-like if we were designed after him; It only makes sense.

But one oddity I find in this analysis is that we humans are deeply social. Thus, the dichotomies I mentioned above. Our social nature makes conflicts inevitable. We are not Utopian creatures. We live in a competitive environment with limited resources. Selfishness is sometimes a virtue when there is only one precious item left-- but many people need or want it.

See, the fact that the social nature of humanity brings out the best and worst in us begs (in my opinion) an important question:

Why is it that God (who is solitary and omnipotent) exhibits the traits of social creatures?

Ah! But God is not alone. He's the alpha-male over his angels. He has a beta-male rival named Lucifer who tries to take away God's most prized possession-- Mankind, the crown jewel of all that was created.

Lucifer was kicked out of heaven, like a beta-chimp who failed in his coup against the alpha-male of his troop.

So the God of the Old Testament is most likely described with accuracy if we are indeed made after his image. God is jealous. He will crush those that oppose him. Now it makes sense that God would threaten to make you burn for eternity if you angered him enough. Just give him a reason to make an example of you and he will do it.

The idea of Hell is simply a deterrent devised to protect the next Utopia God creates-- AKA "The Afterlife".

Beta-deities need not apply.

God is at the top of the grand social hierarchy of the universe. He is dominant over all creation.

Dig back into time and archeology will suggest that Yahweh was contending for the top spot in a pantheon of Canaanite gods thousands of years ago. When Yahweh finally reached the top, he didn't just simply declare himself and his consort the ruler of all other gods, but he eliminated all gods and declared himself the only true deity of all time.

No wonder we humans act so much like God!

Ah, but then there is another alternative.

God is an artifice of the human psyche and thusly, any given god acts like us humans.

Either way, God can be a brute just as we can be. He's prone to be irrational, illogical, and irritable just like we. He enjoys bragging that he's the best-- even to the point of claiming omnipotence-- though at times he's failed to fulfill this description.

Just as we humans sometimes do.

People constantly vie (in overt and subtle ways) for dominance. God (and any other "little" god) is no different.

Yes, God is no different from us; He is human.

And it's human nature for me to refuse kneeling down* to any god upon this revelation. No human kneels to anyone else without first witnessing a proper display of dominance. Only after that will most people humble themselves into a state of abject submission.

So tell me then . . . is that analysis descriptive of creationism?

Or does that sound like hard core evolution?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


* I can't help but think of these lines from the movie 300:

Xerxes: It is not the lash they fear. It is my divine power. But I am a generous god. I can make you rich beyond all measure. I will make you warlord of all Greece. You will carry my battle standard to the heart of Europa. Your Athenian rivals will kneel at your feet if you will but kneel at mine.

Leonidas: You are generous as you are divine, O King of Kings. Such an offer only a madman would refuse. But the, uh, the idea of kneeling, it's... You see, slaughtering all those men of yours has, uh, well, it's left a nasty cramp in my leg, so kneeling will be hard for me.

Xerxes (now, infuriated): There will be no glory in your sacrifice. I will erase even the memory of Sparta from the histories. Every piece of Greek parchment shall be burned and every Greek historian and every scribe shall have their eyes put out and their tongues cut from their mouths. Why, uttering the very name of Sparta or Leonidas will be punishable by death. The world will never know you existed at all!

Leonidas: The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many and, before this battle is over, that even a god-king can bleed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

There's a God For That

I've recently heard a married woman give an account of how another married man made inappropriate sexual advances at her.

Among the ways he tried to woo her, he stated that God obviously allowed them to meet for a reason. So what's holding her back from sneaking off with him?

God?

That notion appalled the woman most of all.


That's when I realized something. God is what you make of him.

  • If you need a little infidelity in your life, there's a god (or allah) for that.
  • If you need to be vindictive, then there's a god for that.
  • If you need to hate others that are different than you, there's a god for that.
  • If you need to feel accepted even though the scripture text of your religion calls your lifestyle an abomination, there's a god for that.
  • If you need altruism to exist in the universe, there's a god for that.
  • If you need to start up an inquisition, there's a god for that.
  • Need to burn some crosses in somebody's yard? There's a god for that.
  • Do you need god to be "she" rather than "he"? There's a goddess for that!
There is a god (or goddess) that can fit any need, belief, whim, or hate.

I will admit that some people who believe in god are inspired to love and care for others. People like that usually have a benevolent god in their lives. I think this is because such people happen to already be benevolent for prior reasons.

But even a confidence artist will say that God has caused his victims to cross his path.

Why?

Because that's the kind of god a confidence artist will serve.

God is merely a reflection of his worshipers' hearts-- a projection of the deep recesses found within a worshiper's mind.

In the end, God is what you make of him.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Stoning of Soraya M.

While following up on the condition of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, I learned of a movie called The Stoning of Soraya M., which is based upon a book of the same name.

The gut wrenching part is that the book is claimed to be based upon true events as the movie attempts to bring the book to visual life.

I just finished watching the movie; this movie was one of the most difficult movies I've ever watched. Not because it was poorly done. Not at all! But to sit through such cruelty was so very, very difficult to do.

Soraya M. was helpless. No dobut Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is just as helpless.

Reports are leaking out that Ashtiani is also a murder who mutilated her husband and deserves the death penalty. I honestly cannot say. I wasn't there. But considering the way that theocracies typically oppress women, I think the murderers in this case are the judiciaries and the one about to be mutilated is poor Ashtiani.

Now . . . for anyone who thinks I'm attacking Islam in this post, I am not. I'm only attacking the cruelty of stoning.

But if the shoe fits . . .

In other words . . . if your religion supports this kind of act-- then yes, I am attacking your personal religious beliefs. Any belief that generates cruelty of such magnitude brings shame upon the entire human race.

And of those who plan to stone Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani-- their beliefs likewise bring shame upon the whole human race.

May Allah one day forgive such people of their wickedness.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sign O' the Times

Here ya go, the sign of the Apocalypse:




Friday, July 9, 2010

Know It All's

I've noticed that when doubters criticize a clam such as a yogi levitating or fasting for inordinate amounts of time, people come out of the woodworks and accuse the skeptical of being "know-it-all's" who need to humble themselves, open their minds, and realize that science is limited-- no, powerless-- to explain why a yogi can float or live off of air alone.

Admittedly, many doubters and skeptics can often come across sounding condescending and arrogant. OK . . . so that probably isn't very cool.

But the true skeptic knows he or she is not a "know-it-all". Quite the opposite-- a true skeptic knows he or she is limited in understanding. That's why we doubt. We're not sure until we get some solid evidence. And even then, we endeavor to keep our eyes open for new information that could change our perspective. At least . . . that's the goal. We don't always maintain that stance, but we try to consistently aim for that ideal.

So lets do some tests and see if we can find out if that yogi can really, honestly float.

We're not know-it-all's. We just want a bit more certainty. Until then, we maintain doubt towards unsubstantiated claims.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ninety-Nine Lashes

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is on death row for adultery. She is waiting to be stoned to death in Iran unless someone somehow prevents this brutal atrocity from happening.

How could stoning someone for infidelity ever be upheld by law?

How can stoning someone for any reason be advocated by God above? If we're appalled by a modern day stoning, then a stoning of ancient times is just as heinous.

Ashtiani has already endured ninety-nine lashes for her alleged crime. Now, she sits in fear waiting to be buried from the torso down in preparation for her execution by stoning.

Even if we know she is guilty, this is too harsh of a punishment. And worse, she may have been coerced into her confession from the beginning.

I wonder what happens to the other person with whom she committed adultery.

All around, this is horrible. And ancient religious scripture mixed with human cruelty is to blame.

I certainly hope mercy wins out in the end.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Liberty Enlightening the World

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.

-- John Adams


Our nation absolved allegiance from the British Crown in order to rule itself on July 4th, 1776 by issuing the Declaration of Independence.

This event makes every Fourth of July special. Each Fourth of July marks one more year that this nation has remained free. And today, we've reached 234 years now.

Let us all contemplate how wonderful liberty is. Let us all appreciate our freedom by learning about where it came from in the first place.

Let us be grateful for all servicemen and servicewomen who sacrifice and join our all-volunteer military so that our freedom is protected.

Be grateful for the democratic process and our elected officials who participate in this great political experiment. And be grateful for our justice system. Even with the flaws and frustrations of our legal system, we could be worse off.

And be grateful that we can complain to our elected officials and even poke fun at them when it suits us, because we have freedom of speech and expression.

And, thank your God, should you believe in him (or her) -- exercise your freedom of religious expression.

And if you are a non-believer, breath in the fresh air of freedom because you may exercise your freedom of personal expression and freedom of any sort of religious oppression.

Think of how ancient Greece and Rome once stood as beacons of light to the rest of civilization. Then consider how these empires fell and plunged the world into the Dark Ages. Consider the events which characterized the Dark Ages, then think on the Age of Enlightenment and how it emerged from that period of darkness. Consider how great minds, great discoveries, and great words of expression re-kindled the flame that illuminated the dark world once again.

Know that liberty is the cornerstone of enlightenment; Liberty enlightens the world.

Think on the original name of our great Statue of Liberty. Consider how it was a gift from the French who helped us during our Revolution. Then take time to contemplate the French's role in the Enlightenment era. And take time to think about how a French sculptor took symbols from the best of world civilization and embodied them in our greatest monument of freedom -- a token given to our country to celebrate it's centennial birthday.

Celebrate this day. Eat some potato salad and barbecue. And if your vegan, eat some barbecue tofu in honor of this day.

If you had to work today, I hope you can still take time to celebrate. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your freedom -- even if you have to take a rain check and celebrate tomorrow.

(Originally posted 0n 07/4/2009, though I did change the number of years we've been free.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Octogenarian Breathetarian Pt. 2

In my previous post, I ended by asking what would have to be true if Prahlad Jani truly and honestly abstained from food AND water for 70 years.

Well, first we shall examine his claims:

  • He hasn't eaten since he was 11 years old.
  • He receives nutrition from a secretion in his pallet by the divine power of a deity.
  • He never passes stool.
  • He never passes urine.

So based on these claims then, what would have to be true? These are some of my thoughts, which could be wrong. But I think they are worth considering:

  • If Jani has any teeth left, they would probably be special teeth. And if he has no teeth, then the loss of his teeth raises questions in my opinion.

If he hasn't eaten since he was 11 years old, his teeth will be hardly used. A dental examination might show his teeth to be different from most other adults. I'm assuming he has some of his teeth still. If not, then why did he lose them? Malnutrition? Poor dental hygiene? An unspoken point behind researching the claims of a 70 year fast is that Jani is in good health despite his food abstinence. His teeth might be able to tell us a lot.

  • One way or another, he receives nutrition. The source of his auto-generating nutrition should be verifiable.

We can take a swab of the hole in his pallet and analyze the juicy goodness found in those claimed secretions that he has. He isn't truly living by air alone. He says so himself (whether he knows it or not) by claiming that the goddess he worships drips a sort of elixir down his throat to keep him sustained. If there's no juicy goodness in his throat, then he is sustained by other means and misunderstands his own method of survival.

Or maybe his auto-nutrition comes from the sun or simply breathing as others have claimed.

Or, perhaps he's made fraudulent claims.

Either way, some source of nutrition has to be going on in his body. The proper tests should be able to ferret out the source.

  • He cannot have symptoms of starvation since he is nourished somehow.

Since he actually does receive nutrition somehow, his body mustn't auto-digest. So, weight loss should be negligible. The guy looks so skinny that he doesn't seem to have any more weight to lose. But other signs of malnourishment might manifest themselves if he were kept under longer periods of observation. He should be kept for a month or more under strict observation before we get too excited about the last two studies published concerning his feats of fasting.

  • He produces at least some waste.

Jani's bladder does produce urine. Producing urine highly suggests he produces some sort of waste from his nutrition source. Why doesn't he pass it then? Testing his urine would be very interesting, too. And why does he have bowel gas? The tasty treats dripping in the back of his throat don't produce stool? This stuff must be pure goodness! Even his urine is nutritious and gets reabsorbed by his body!


These are just a few ideas I have after some thought about his claims.

And what would have to be true if he's lying?


  • He will pass waste, eventually.
Someone needs to analyze his bath water.

  • He will sneak off into the jungle and eat some leaves off the trees or something. He'll stoop down at a nearby brook and slurp up some H2O when he thinks no one is watching.

Someone simply needs to stalk him with a camera for a bit. They might just be rewarded by catching him coming out of the jungle with a big ol' slurppy cup from Seven-Eleven.

Or maybe he'll get caught coming out of the jungle turnin' up a 40 oz. of Mad Dog 20/20.

  • He won't have any verifiable signs of auto-generating his own nutrition

I think this point hurts the two studies. They didn't do any invasive procedures such as taking blood samples and such. All they did was monitor Jani. If he greased the right palms, someone could have slipped him something to eat and drink if the observation methods weren't strict enough to prevent an inside job. He sat in ICU for 24 hours before the observations began. He could have made some deals or gulped down some water before the testing began.

Anyhow. Jani claims he's nourished. Signs of that need to exist and I think can be easily verified by some blood tests and some microscope slides.


At the time of writing this, I haven't heard if someone has caught Jani contradicting his claims. Nor have I heard any scientific hypothesis that explains why he seemed to endure a 10 day and 15 day fast without passing any waste.

I don't believe Jani based on his word. And I'm not too confident in the study so far. I've been lied to in my life too often to simply accept their claims without some hard proof.

Until then, I maintain that Jani is a lying about his 70 year fast, but maybe has the uncanny ability to fast longer than the average human because of his meditation techniques.

Otherwise, I need to start worshiping Jani's deity, huh?

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Octogenarian Breathetarian

Yogi master Prahlad Jani claims to have gone without both food and water for 70 years now.

He says that a goddess to which he is devoted feeds him substance by divinely allowing his nutrition to secrete from a hole in his palate.

I have a hole behind my palate that allows me to get nutrition. I also have a goddess at home (my wife) who often prepares my nutrition for me. So, I don't think Jani and I are all that different.

OK, seriously . . .

He says that he has never passed urine or stool since he was 11 years old-- that's the time when he was compelled to live in the jungle on his own. After which, he experienced a religious epiphany that allowed him to become a "breathetarian".

Jani was observed enduring an extended fast by a medical team in India back in 2003. They kept him isolated in a hospital for 10 days. He was provided with no food and was given no water to drink. He was not allowed access to a bathroom. He was given mouthwash, but it was measured before and after rinsing his mouth. He was allowed a sponge bath in a shallow pan only after the first seven days of fasting. He was monitored during all his activities to ensure he didn't drink any water or sneak any food.

His medical screenings stayed normal for the most part. However, he did have weight fluctuations, his body did produce urine (though it seemed to diffuse out of his badder somehow without any observation of him passing it), and the medical team felt that the activity detected by his kidneys was baffling. He had stomach gases, but no formation of stool.

The medical team says they're only interested in Jani's fasting abilities to the extent that they hope gain insight about possible survival strategies for people under extreme conditions. They are not necessarily trying to disprove Jani's claim of being a breatharian of 70 years.

The medical team feels satisfied that Jani didn't sneak any food or beverages. They cannot explain why his urine came and went. He was not observed using the restroom. (Maybe he dribbled out some during his shallow pan bath. He sat in the pan as he bathed himself).

The medical team can only say that for the 10 days they had him, he was not given food or drink and was monitored by human witnesses and surveillance cameras 24 hours a day.

Jani recently participated in a new study in April, 2010. However, the key members of the medical team were participants in Jani's previous study. This time he was monitored for 15 days. The results seem to be very similar to the first study.

So, how can this be?

I don't know. I have a lot of questions, that's for sure.

He could be a crafty fellow sneaking food a drink here and there. Or, we could be underestimating the power of slowing down one's metabolism with meditation.

One thing is certain-- animals need nutrition. And people are animals, too. Also, people die every day of starvation. A few so-called breatharians have come along and failed in the public eye. And worse, some of their devoted followers have even died trying to imitate the false claims of their masters.

Admittedly, we must explore the power to take the human body to extremes. But extremities suggest that not everyone can expect to experience these results if trickery isn't necessary to achieve extreme results.

I personally think that his meditation practices could allow him to endure long periods of fasting.

But I'm not convinced about Jani enduring 70 years of complete fasting from food and water.

I'm mean, c'mon. Jesus and Moses only got in 40 days and nights of fasting! And they had divine help!

Oh wait. Jani says he has divine help, too.

My bad.

So, what would have to be true for this yogi to be telling us the truth?

And what would have to be true for this yogi to be telling us a lie?


I can't wait to get more information on this one!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Niece is in a Cult (Update)

We called our niece's mom. She doesn't know the number to the pastor or to the church.

Many of the members, including the pastor, live in the same house. But they try to keep the address undisclosed.

I'm hoping that some city ordinance is in place for a church to have official standing in a town or city. With that in mind, I'm going to see if the city knows about this congregation. I'm also curious if their church appears in the phone book. If the city thinks something odd is happening, then it's certainly time to rattle some cages and make some noise about this issue.


I might end up coming out of the closet over this. I won't make any hasty decisions about that just yet. But, we just can't stand around and allow our niece to be sucked in without a fight.


--
On a side note, I've been playing around with my comment engine. My comments are supposedly importing. If you don't see any of your past comments no need to panic-- yet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Niece is in a Cult

I have a niece on my wife's side that came out as a lesbian.

A few weeks later, her deadbeat parents handed her over to live with her older cousin who is the paster of a really small congregation.

Funny thing is, people used to speculate that he was gay years ago. Though he's married now, we hear that he doesn't even sleep in the same bed as his wife.

Actually, our niece tells us that she sleeps in the same room with the pastor's (her cousin's) wife. The pastor sleeps in different room all to himself.

My wife called her niece today wanting to give her a gift. But she couldn't give us a time where she would meet us.

She didn't want us to come to her pastor's house where she lives. She didn't want us to meet her in some public place somewhere.

It looks like we'll have to crash one of their church services to see her, apparently.

The goal of this pastor is to "de-gay" her. That was the whole purpose of her parents sending her to this church in the first place.

But my niece was perfectly fine before they came along. She seemed happy and was living out her life. She was making friends, had a girlfriend, and seemed brave about her sexuality.

Now she's in this bizarre stupor and acts very submissive. She has not friends and is cut off from the every day world.

My wife and I are making plans to confront the pastor. Not in a belligerent way, though. We just want to raise some concerns and find out why our niece is behaving in such an odd manner. Why can't our own niece tell us a time that we can meet her to give her a card with a little money in it?! That's all we wanted to do. Why is that so hard?

Why do people treat homosexuality as though it is some evil? People do more evil trying to eradicate homosexuality from people's lives as opposed to letting people simply be themselves.

I believe homosexuality threatens the modern Church because accepting it implies the Bible is wrong. To admit that homosexuality should be regarded as normal means that the Bible is wrong or God made a mistake.

Or that maybe God made people gay on purpose even though the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. And if the Bible doesn't say this, a great number of Christians certainly think that the Bible says this.

People don't realize that if a baby boy is born and has a high level of estrogen, he can squirt breast milk out of his nipple. On occasion, single fathers have lactated in the extended absence of the mother of their new born child.

Hormones control so much of what we become. Our genes do as well.

That's just the way biology is.

And now my lesbian niece is sleeping in the same room with a heterosexual woman, trying to rid herself of homosexual desires while her so called pastor might be entertaining his own possible homosexual tenancies with his homosexual assistant pastor behind closed doors.

And they call this holiness?

No. This is madness!

Not that she is lesbian or that her pastor is gay-- that's not what makes this maddening. But the madness comes because they run and hide from who they truly are. They lie to themselves and make their lives miserable in an attempt to be something the were not meant to be-- heterosexual. Nothing is wrong with them being gay. Absolutely nothing.

My niece is wrapped up in a cult.

I hope we can rescue her before it's too late.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Good Neighbor

Ever hear the saying? Good fences make good neighbors.

I personally find truth in that comment.

Before I moved into my current dwelling, we took on a mortgage for a home that had been vacant for a while. The neighbor was used to the house being empty and took the liberty to pull through our soon-to-be driveway, across part of our soon-to-be yard, and then on to his own property.

He had a perfectly good driveway of his own. But he used it only as his exit.

We had hoped our neighbor would stop using our driveway. Maybe he'd catch the hint that cars other than his own now occupy the space.

Nope. He would just squeeze through.

That is . . . until my wife hired a landscaper to plant shrubs along the property line.

The look on our neighbor's face was priceless.

He wanted to protest, but what could he say?


I like a neighbor that knows when it's time to go back home to his own property.

Don't get me wrong; doing favors for your neighbor is good. Helping each other out is commendable. Greeting the new person with brownies and cookies is a warm gesture. Those are good things that nobody can honestly berate.

Checking on each other after a nasty storm (Jesusland can have some really inclement weather at times). Loaning out some tools. Giving away some firewood. That's being a good neighbor.

But there comes a point when I want my neighbor to stay next door and stay the hell out of my damn business. So long as I'm not making too much noise, I'm keeping my property neat, and I'm minding my own damn business, I really want to be left alone.

Fundamentalist Christians are like neighbors who don't know where the property line is. They feel like their relationship with God gives them license to ignore the property line and absorb whatever space they feel they can claim for the "Kingdom of God".

A fence creates a healthy and necessary boundary between Fundamentalists and the rest of us. That fence is built by our United States Constitution and is named The First Amendment.

Find a land surveyor and discover where the property line really is.

Friday, June 11, 2010

KABOOM!!!

What happens when you mix atheism with skepticism?

Does it really go KABOOM?

Perhaps the better question to explore is why skepticism has the potential to lead someone to an atheistic posture.

Skepticism is simply shunning belief that is not accompanied by strong, supporting, verifiable evidence. You recognize that you simply cannot afford to take everyone at their word all the time. This realization even encompasses the grand authorities in one's life.

You should endeavor to think for yourself.

Nothing is wrong with consulting people smarter than you. I like to call such people "experts".

But I do not like to label anyone an "authority". The title "authority" implies that such a person not only knows the truth of reality, but dictates truth in an infallible manner.

Experts, in my view, are well skilled in their craft and their knowledge is extensive. They have honed their abilities to a level of professionalism. But they can make mistakes. You should speak up when they do or when you don't agree with their actions. Or when you want evidence to back up what they are saying.

Authorities, in my mind, dictate truth whether right or wrong. They demand you always accept what they say as truth without any proof beyond the simple fact that they said so.

So when someone says that all the nations of the world must believe in God their way and that there is no other way to know God-- a skeptical person defers to doubt towards that specific believer. And that doubt will most likely generalize to that believer's God as well.

When all major religions push to make the world believe just as they do, God's followers start sounding very suspicious. They all cannot be exclusively right. And unless only one religion is right, all religions must yield a little to the others. So then, who has a right to warn others of the coming wrath of their god?

I say that mixing skepticism and atheism is at least a reasonable practice even if skepticism doesn't necessitate a turn towards atheism.

However, I think the real danger is when someone mixes radical Fundamentalism with technology. That seems to be the true formula that goes KABOOM!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The AFA is Right; Not Censoring New JC Show Would Be Unfair

I saw this e-mail today. I'll quote it first, then expound upon it:

Comedy Central set to blaspheme Christ with "JC" show
The Comedy Central network is planning a cartoon series about Jesus Christ entitled "JC."
June 7, 2010


Dear (name removed)

In its promotional material for the program "JC", Viacom describes Jesus as a "regular guy" - rather than the Son of God - and depicts him moving to New York to "escape his father's enormous shadow." The Father is depicted as an apathetic dad virtually addicted to video games and totally uninterested in his son's life.
So Comedy Central is set - unless we intervene - to blaspheme two-thirds of the Trinity on a weekly basis.

A depiction of Jesus on Comedy Central's "South Park" (Courtesy of Comedy Central)See how we expect Comedy Central to mock Christ by viewing this previous offering of anti-Christian bigotry from the show "South Park." Warning - It is offensive, but depicts the animosity the network has toward Christianity.

Yet in recent weeks Comedy Central bowed to pressure from Islamic groups and heavily censored an episode of "South Park" that showed Mohammed in a bear costume. The hypocrisy here is staggering.
Comedy Central shows more respect for Mohammed and for Muslims, who represent two percent of the American population, than for Jesus Christ and the 83% of Americans who believe in him.
We need to send a loud, clear message to Comedy Central and all potential advertisers of "JC" that this kind of insulting programming is completely unacceptable. If we speak with one voice now we can keep this program from ever seeing the light of day.

Sign our petition today and make your voice heard. This petition, with your signature on it, will be sent to the decision-makers who will determine whether this program airs.

At first I thought, "these people have no right to suppress free speech".

Then I realized something else-- the violent, threating members of Islam have already done this when the most recent South Park's depiction of Mohammad was censored on television.

This is not fair after all.

We pick on Jesus because Christians probably won't come together in larger numbers and threaten to murder. One might kill, but a community of Christians won't come together and threaten everyone with misery and death if the JC show airs and offends the majority of America.

But we won't dare say anything about Allah or his (so called) prophet Mohammad (why should peace be upon him? he certainly isn't generating peace upon us after he's been gone for centuries!).

Just that comment above could get me killed if I had a wider audience. I could have this blog pulled because I defamed the name of Mohammad.

Until our society realizes that we need to have the balls to own up to our rights of free speech, free inquiry, and freedom to criticize, then we sure as hell have no business making fun of Jesus Christ without censoring him in the same way that South Park's recent depiction of Mohammad was censored.

We must not forget where we came from. During an era of witch hunts, despotic kings and governors, kidnappers and slave traders, inquisitions, and spreading of religion by dominant force-- a beacon of reason and Enlightenment declared that enough was enough. The people wanted a government that gave a rats ass about the people, a ruler that was respected, but could be taunted, and a freedom to pursue happiness and liberty.

And the people knew that in order to have this, an environment needed to be created where someone could discover controversial truths and express them openly for the ultimate betterment of human kind.

If people can't say something negative or controversial about Mohammad, Jesus Christ, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, or even yours truly, then we will find ourselves too afraid to point out danger when we see it. We will hold on to delusions out of fear. We will dismiss the reasonable when insanity is handed to us. We will fall into a well of ignorance and usher in a new Dark Age.

Mohammad doesn't have the right to do that to us. But until we get that into our heads, we don't have a right to pick on JC while cowering in from of Allah.