Author Archives: Webs

How About we add a 50 page Introduction to the Bible?

Did you see Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s new movement to alter Darwin’s work for his 150th Anniversary? If not check out the video below. But I have an idea too. How about we create our own 50 page introduction to the Bible? If anyone is interested I think we could start a website to do this. We could event take it further and go to churches and pass out these new Bibles?

Watch this:

Hat tip to Greg Laden

Measuring Town Quality not Through Growth?

Since when has manisfest destiny not mattered in our world? Or at least to those within this country? Well hopefully its starting to die thanks to a small Michigan town, Flint. From a New York Times article on a topic I learned about listening to BBC World News

Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods.

The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval.

So rather than try to re-build they are giving up?

“Decline in Flint is like gravity, a fact of life,” said Dan Kildee, the Genesee County treasurer and chief spokesman for the movement to shrink Flint. “We need to control it instead of letting it control us.”

The recession in Flint, as in many old-line manufacturing cities, is quickly making a bad situation worse. Firefighters and police officers are being laid off as the city struggles with a $15 million budget deficit. Many public schools are likely to be closed.

So yes, giving up indeed. Sounds pretty un-American to me. They must be terrorists!

Nothing will happen immediately, but Flint has begun updating its master plan, a complicated task last done in 1965. Then it was a prosperous city of 200,000 looking to grow to 350,000. It now has 110,000 people, about a third of whom live in poverty.

Flint has about 75 neighborhoods spread out over 34 square miles. It will be a delicate process to decide which to favor, Mr. Kildee acknowledged from the driver’s seat of his Grand Cherokee.

Jokes aside, the basic idea is this. Flint has come to the realization that they will never be a thriving town of 200,000 again. The problem is Flint today is built as a town of at least 200,000, being spread across 34 square miles. Well it makes no sense to spread out that much when you only have a population around 100,000. So rather than try to re-build the decrepit outlying areas the town of Flint is going to turn them into green spaces and focus on spending all money to rebuild the core areas of town, and save money at the same time too (or at least not waste money).

A block adjacent to downtown has the potential for renewal; it would make sense to fill in the vacant lots there, since it is a few steps from a University of Michigan campus.

On many streets, the weekly garbage pickup finds only one bag of trash. If those stops could be eliminated, Mr. Kildee said, the city could save $100,000 a year — one of many savings that shrinkage could bring.

The green spaces can be anything from a forest, to a park, to just simple trees and grass.

“If it’s going to look abandoned, let it be clean and green,” he said. “Create the new Flint forest — something people will choose to live near, rather than something that symbolizes failure.”

I think it’s a wonderful idea and a great way to make use of land no one wants to buy. Another way Flint can make money, and hopefully someone is thinking of this, is the city can create a committee for the soul purpose of going around and consulting to other towns to help them with similar ventures. What a great way to help the world and do some good.

Atheism, Religion, and the Scarlet A in my Sidebar

So the other day I read a post by Paul at Cafe Philos about “Standing up for Nontheists. It’s a very good post and is thought provoking, as all of Paul’s posts usually are.

For years, my deepest, most fervent and heart felt opinion on the ontological existence of deity has been a passionate conviction that the question of whether or not god exists is boring.

This is probably one of the few areas where Paul and I differ. But my interest in the issue comes more from my own stupidity on religion than from anything else. I wasted my younger years not learning all the interesting concepts out there in the world. Which leads to my interest in just about everything nowadays.

The main point made in Paul’s post is his frustration of seeing how atheist are treated in this country. And it can be very frustrating at times for an Atheist. Take the simple definition of the word atheism. It means lack of belief, specifically any religious belief. So Atheists are being mistreated, and in some cases abused, because of their lack of a belief. If that last sentence sounds odd to you, welcome to the world of an atheist.

What is the reason for the bigotry and mis-treatment of atheists over their lack of beliefs? Please tell me it’s not from some misguided thought about how a lack of a belief in any religion predisposes someone to more violence or criminal activity. Hopefully it’s not that myth about divorce rates. Does it have something to do with our lack of beliefs threatening your beliefs?

Whatever the reason, take any question from above and even if the answer is yes, bigotry and mistreatment to any human being is uncalled for. Part of living in a civilized society is treating others fairly, justly, and not discriminating. As well as giving someone the civil rights they deserve so long as they do not remove or encroach on the rights from someone else.

So, as Paul did with his blog, I will be adding the “Scarlet A” to my blog. Not because I necessarily care about the movement of outspoken atheists and not because I am the sort of person to sum up my feelings and thoughts with a bumper sticker slogan. But because I am tired of being treated differently for my beliefs and I want others to know why.

I add the “A” to my blog because what Nicole (see video below) went through is bullshit and undeserved. No belief should exclude someone from treating others fairly and humanely.

Fast Food and Portion Sizes

Not the usual post that shows up here, but I found an interesting article with some conclusions that came out of the Documentary “Super Size Me” by Morgan Spurlock. First off, if you haven’t seen the movie go check it out

Back to the topic at hand, the article, “Self-Experimenters: Filmmaker Gained Weight to Prove a Point about Portion Size”, is an interesting look into the aftermath of doing such an experiment as Morgan did.

Morgan Spurlock’s “really great bad idea,” as it would later be called, came to him after a gluttonous Thanksgiving meal. Jeans unbuttoned, stomach engorged with turkey—and eyeing a second helping—the 32-year-old playwright noticed on the television news that two teenage girls from New York City were suing McDonald’s for allegedly making them fat.

“It was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard of,” Spurlock recalls thinking. Until, that is, a McDonald’s spokeswoman appeared on screen to deny any link between the chain’s food and the girls’ obesity, claiming that Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets and the rest of the gang were nutritious. “That was even crazier than the lawsuit,” says Spurlock, now 37. “If it’s so nutritious, I should be able to eat it every day.”

I agree with him, most of those lawsuits against McDonalds are pretty stupid. At some point the user has to be held accountable. I will say that companies such as McDonalds can be very deceptive in their advertising and marketing, as well as statements from their spokespeople about having healthy meals. If McDonalds wants to make the statement their food is healthy, we should hold them accountable for such a statement.

To prove the statement by the spokesperson was ludicrous at best, Spurlock set out on a crazed diet of nothing but McDonalds for 30 days. If their food is healthy there should be no problem right?

But what most alarmed his physicians was the damage to his liver, which became so engorged with fat that it could have been marketed as pâté. “I expected his triglycerides would increase temporarily, his blood pressure would go up, he’d feel miserable,” said Dr. Daryl Isaacs, Spurlock’s general practitioner. “I never expected an acutely fatty liver. By the third week he had the liver of a binge alcoholic.” All three physicians ordered Spurlock to stop, but he nervously stuck it out.

Aside from the obvious issues with the diet like weight gain and cholesterol, he also experienced more severe or shall I say scary by-products of the diet such as lack of sex drive, heart palpitations, and the above issue: the liver of an alcoholic.

Spurlock’s self-experiment brought attention to unusual obesity-related illnesses. Lisa Ganjhu, Spurlock’s gastroenterologist, says the film increased public awareness of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a severe liver inflammation that is not due to alcohol but rather brought on by rapid weight gain; it is associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Fredrik Nystrom, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Linköping University Hospital in Sweden, replicated Spurlock’s experiment with 18 subjects, nearly all of whom experienced the same rapid liver damage, but recovered after they ended the fatty diet.

It seems a diet high in crappy food can have some drastic side effects. The movie has a pretty eye opening scene where the doctor is trying to explain this phenomenon (at least at the time it was) to Spurlock and he was completely dumbfounded and surprised at the results. He recommended Spurlock stop the diet immediately. What surprised the doctor was that all estimates and best guesses assumed his cholesterol and heart issues would stop Spurlock before a bad liver would.

The other interesting thing brought up in the movie and article:

The striking documentation of his health problems put fast food purveyors on high alert. “Food portions in America have increased in parallel with rates of obesity,” Lisa Young, adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, wrote in a recent study published in the Journal of Public Health Policy. Obesity in adults skyrocketed in the U.S. from 15 percent in 1980 to nearly 33 percent in 2004, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, putting Americans at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Young says that the average daily U.S. food intake per person has increased up to 300 calories since the 1980s.

Within weeks of the movie’s May 2004 debut at the Sundance Film Festival, McDonald’s pulled Super Sizes from its menu, saying the move was designed to simplify diners’ choices. “The only thing that got McDonald’s to reduce its portions,” Young tells Scientific American, “was the publicity of the movie.”

Food portions have increased at a very close rate to obesity rates. Something confirmed by a study I read in a book by that asshole on TV… oh yea Dr. Phil. Anyways, the study mentioned looked at food portion sizes in Europe (I think specifically Great Britain and France) and America and also looked at obesity rates and average weight of adults. The study found that portion sizes in America are about 24% greater than Europe and the average weight is also about 25% greater. Something that goes right along with the study mentioned in the quote above from the article.

Anyways, my weight loss plan for the last 8 months has just been to eat less and exercise more along with getting some help from what appear to be decent sources of information (the authors of this book got a team of researchers together and poured through over 10,000 studies and research to find the best info). So far I am down 15 lbs, have a ton more energy, and I haven’t really gained any fat weight.

Another Frontline Episode that will Piss you off

Tonight I noticed that Frontline has a special on about the White House and their illegal wiretapping program. I wasn’t able to catch it all because my fiancee was watching “Dancing With the Stars”, but I did catch some small pieces and what I caught was pretty astonishing!

President Bush described his anti-terrorist measures as narrow and targeted, but a FRONTLINE investigation has found that the National Security Agency (NSA) has engaged in wiretapping and sifting Internet communications of millions of Americans; the FBI conducted a data sweep on 250,000 Las Vegas vacationers, and along with more than 50 other agencies, they are mining commercial-sector data banks to an unprecedented degree.

And it gets much worse than this little clipping from the Frontline website. I won’t give away too much, but the part about AT&T should really piss you off. Frontline talks to actual [ex-]employees (didn’t catch if they were current or ex) that explain how AT&T allowed the NSA to set up a room that was wiretapping voice and data traffic from AT&T’s network.

And then there is the gem I caught before I had to switch back to “Dancing With the Stars”, a Justice Dept Attorney, “During a time of war while soldiers are fighting Al Qaeda and we are trying to do what we can to keep Al Qaeda’s attacks from getting closer and closer to the US, wouldn’t you want to protect from those attacks. It just makes sense to me.” This quote is not exact but the basic point the jackass was getting across was, “Hey it’s a time of war, so fuck your basic rights and the constitution this country was founded on.”

I highly recommend watching this episode. It’s essential for citizens of the US to understand what our government is doing.

Atheist Dilemma: Reaching Out to the SEB Community

I’ve always considered myself an Atheist teetering on agnosticism, but never really had a reason to think there might not actually be a God. It was only when I really became interested in Science and the world and less interested in pop-culture that I actually thought about it. That and the death of close friend made me start to think.

I met my girlfriend (now fiance) 5 years ago, before I started thinking more about life and the world. At the time I didn’t really participate in any churches or faiths, I just didn’t really care one way or the other and it never occurred to me I should care or should think about it. Out of respect of my fiance I attended church with her and her family on a few occasions.

The church is a Christian denomination, it’s called Trinity Church, and has a very modern appeal. At first I thought it was a normal church and not much seemed all that bad. Then came the day when the preacher said in his sermon, “Now you have all the other religions and ideas out there. And it’s not that these people are bad or evil, just that they are all wrong and going to hell!”

This was after I had been there 3 or 4 times. I was infuriated at this and really the event for me was a culmination of little things that lead to it. After the service I was driving with my fiance, then girlfriend (this was a couple years ago) and I told her I was upset about what was being said in the sermon. Coming from a Unitarian Universalist (UU) background I was very much against this, besides the obvious wrongs of such a statement.

At the time I remember my fiance stating something to the effect of, “Yes, I know, it upsets me too.” And not much more was really discussed. Then after another problem with the church about a year later I told my fiance, “I am never going to that church again. I really can’t stand what they preach. And to make matters worse they teach this ideology to little children that don’t know any better.” I was very much against what the church was doing and wanted little to do with it. I just couldn’t keep pretending I cared.

We got into a little discussion (well I guess an argument) and she said, “Well they’re Christian! What are they supposed to say!” Referring to me bringing up sermon on everyone else is going to hell from a year ago. I said something to the effect of preaching exclusivity is wrong and it essentially teaches hatred and bigotry. Another important thing to keep in mind here is the story my fiance told me of how the church had a sermon 6 years back (before we hooked up) that on Mother’s day told everyone how Mother’s Day is a day to remember what the Mother has done for the family and to show her love, but it’s still the Mother’s job to cook, clean, and take care of the family. ON MOTHER’S DAY!! I was told this story a few years before this argument.

So anyways, we are getting married and it will be by a UU minister from the local UU church. Which I am happy about because it will cater to both of us. But I am worried about her Christian background and my Atheist background. Not because neither of us couldn’t make it work, but because we haven’t really had a conversation about our beliefs. At least not one that wasn’t started from a fight. My fiance seems to have a harder time than I do at keeping the emotions out of things, and I’m thinking she may not be as moderate of a Christian as I once thought, for as liberal as she is.

So I don’t want to offend her, but I want to talk to her about our beliefs. I want to get it all out on the table and discuss whatever either side wants to discuss. I want her to know that I don’t really care if she believes in God, so long as her faith isn’t hurting herself or others, but I care in the sense that she and her beliefs are important to me. To me our love for each other is and should be stronger than all this. I’m just worried that if we don’t discuss anything now, it might snowball to something worse down the road. Conversely I am worried about what such a conversation could lead to.

So after making you all read this now we get to the important part… Any advice on how to go about this? Has anyone had such a conversation before? If not, have you had a similar one with a sibling, parent or close friend? I am just looking for some tips, because I tend to screw up these types of conversations and this is one I really want to get right… At least as best I can.

If you don’t have any tips but would like to tell a story I would love to read it and maybe others here have a similar dilemma they could use some advice on.

Thanks you to those of you that will leave comments I really truly appreciate it and I will respond as time permits. And thanks Les for giving Atheists a community. This blog has helped me in many ways and really has done a lot for me. I appreciate it. Happy Holidays everyone!

Governor Asks for Prayer for Rain

What do you do in times of drought? According to the Governor of Georgia, you pray.

He joined lawmakers and ministers on the steps of the state Capitol to pray for rain.

While public prayer vigils might raise eyebrows in other parts of the nation, they are mostly shrugged off in the Bible Belt, where turning to the heavens for help is common and sometimes even politically expedient.

“Christianity has more of a place in the culture here than in some other region,” said Ray Van Neste, a professor of Christian studies at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. “And it’s only natural, in a way, for the public to pray for rain.”

But it doesn’t end there…

Perdue isn’t the first governor to hold a call for public prayer during the epic drought gripping the Southeast. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley issued a proclamation declaring a week in July as “Days of Prayer for Rain” to “humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty.”

This begs the question of what the fuck the is the Governor doing? Why is he leading prayer? Or better yet, asking for people to pray?

“We need to try a different approach,” said Rocky Twyman, who organized the concert. “We need to call on God, because what we’re doing isn’t working. We think that instead of all this fussing and fighting, Gov. Perdue and all these others would come together and pray.”

“What we are doing isn’t working.” Is there really all that much can be done besides conservation? My Meteorology isn’t all that great but I thought the processes required for rain don’t shift much from human interaction. I know that global warming shifts weather patterns, and more places will have drought and more places will have flooding from Global Warming and these two scenarios will be less spread out. So in that sense humans have an impact. But in the immediate short term, there really isn’t much human interaction is going to do.

And why the fuck is the Governor leading this prayer. He has every right to pray himself, but what is he doing on the capitol lawns asking for and leading prayer. Is it too much to ask for high level government official that understands the constitution?

In this case, it just seems that prayer is a way to shift responsibility from people to God. I know no one is claiming that, but I have always seen religion as a way to shift responsibility for ones actions. Besides that, I don’t really care if people pray. I have never found it useful, no matter how much I used to believe, or how bad my life was. I never got anything out of prayer, no one answered my calls, and no one fixed my life but myself. So I guess my path in life has lead me to to different answers.

Open Thread on the Word “Atheism”… What do you Think?

Please read what Paul wrote on his blog about the term “atheism”. I am interested in what you all think about it. Also please read the link he has in the post, its a speech given by Sam Harris.

I am interested in what readers here think about using the word “Atheism”. Do you agree with Harris’ thesis? What is your idea if you are disinclined to follow his?

The Simpsons are Branching out

So is this for real? Has anyone else seen or heard anything on this, The Simpsons Game, Neverquest.

If so it looks pretty cool. I know nothing about Neverquest, but it looks kinda like WOW. Anyways, I thought some people here might be interested.

[UPDATE]
Just found this: Medal of Homer
I think both of these are just part of one game called The Simpsons Game. But I’m still not sure, if anyone has more information please let me know.