John Oliver takes on Televangelists by setting up his own church.

A lot of people assume that, as an atheist, I have a problem with folks believing in God and going to church. The truth is so long as you’re not hurting anyone else or passing laws based solely on what you think your God wants, I generally don’t give a shit if you spend your Sundays dressed in uncomfortable clothes at your local church taking communion or speaking in tongues or whatever other silly rituals your particular belief system engages in. I spend my Sundays doing laundry and playing video games so it’s not like I’m being all that much more productive. Do I think your beliefs are stupid and a waste of time and money? Yes, yes I do, but if it makes you happy and keeps you from climbing a clock tower with a high powered rifle then you go right ahead and keep on believin’.

That said, there’s one part of Christianity that I have a big problem with and that’s the Televangelists. Particularly those who push the concept of Prosperity Theology or, as it’s more commonly known, Prosperity Gospel. To skeptics and many other Christians it’s often referred to as Greed-Based Theology. For those not familiar with this particular variation of Christianity, prepare to have your skin crawl:

If it weren’t for the religious trappings these guys would be referred to as con-artists and would be liable for all manner of legal trouble, both civil and criminal. Yet wrap it all up in the shroud of Jesus and it becomes perfectly legal. The IRS, already hated by most people, won’t even glance in the direction of most of these “churches” for fear of bringing down the wrath of the righteous.

My cynical side tells me that if there are people so stupid that they can’t see this nonsense for the scam it is then they deserve to be fleeced by the wolves in sheep’s clothing, but my better nature gets angry that these, often desperate, people are having their faith taken advantage of. This is also why I have problems with the whole concept of spiritual faith. When you can believe something is true with no actual evidence to support that belief then you’re ripe for plucking by those who would manipulate that faith. It bothers me that those who can least afford it are often the ones who get most sucked into these scams.

Which brings us back to John Oliver who it appears is attempting not so much to shut down these churches as prod the IRS into scrutinizing them more closely. I’m already of the opinion that all churches should be taxed just like the rest of us, but it’d be nice if the IRS at least looked into the ones who are flagrantly abusing their flocks to amass great amounts of wealth. If there aren’t any laws in place to regulate this sort of thing, then perhaps it’s high time we had some.

The claim that the Civil War wasn’t over slavery is false.

The recent brouhaha over the Confederate flag after the mass shooting by Dylan Roof of black members of a Charleston church brought out a lot of old arguments about the Civil War by folks defending the flag. The most common of which is the claim that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. A claim that is clearly wrong to anyone who has spent much time studying American history.

In a (possibly vain) attempt to settle the matter, the folks at Prager University enlisted the aid of Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, to speak on the topic:

That explanation is simple and concise and is something you can share with your crazy right-wing uncle the next time he starts ranting about slavery not being the reason the Civil War happened. It probably won’t convince him because those folks tend to be immune to reality, but at least you can save some typing.

Updated to add: This video should be particularly persuasive to Conservatives given that Prager University is the brainchild of Conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager. So this isn’t the work of one of us wussy liberals, but of one of your own.

Cuddles finds the Christmas bows.

Our orange tabby cat, Cuddles, is very playful and surprisingly smart. He knows where we keep all his favorite toys and he’ll often seek them out to bring to us when he wants to play. One of his all-time favorite things to play with are the bows that go on gifts. Anne did some tidying up of the computer room yesterday and made the mistake of letting cuddles see where she put a few stray bows and ribbon.

This is the result:

Cuddles love of gift bows is so deep that we often find a ton of them under the couch when we move it to clean. In fact, when the movers picked up the couch to carry it out to the truck back when we moved at the end of May we found a ton of bows that Cuddles had shoved under it. Not only that, but there was a tear in the in fabric cover under the couch that had collected quite a few of the bows so as the guys carried the couch out the door and to the truck they left a trail of Christmas bows behind them like some weird variation on Hansel and Gretel. It was still dropping bows as they carried it into the new apartment. I don’t know if we managed to get all of them out of it.

Pat Robertson tells viewer to try to get atheist grandkid enrolled in Christian school.

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and its signature show The 700 Club, has a long record of saying douchey things. So much so that I rarely comment on them anymore, but this one was particularly aggravating.

In a segment where he replies to letters from viewers he responds to one from a grandmother concerned that her grandkid is being raised as an atheist by his father so she’s seeking Pat’s advice on what to do about it. Pat’s idea? Try to get the kid away from the atheist parent and into a Christian school or a vacation Bible school.

Christians pitch a fit everytime Richard Dawkins says that he feels parents shouldn’t force their religion on their kids, but I’ve never heard Dawkins suggest that someone should actively try to get a child away from a parent intent on indoctrinating them. If he had you’d never hear the end of it.

If you’re going to argue that Christians, or members of any other faith, should have the right to raise their kids in their faith then the same should be true for atheists. Pat Robertson should’ve told that grandmother to mind her own business, but that would’ve been only fair. He’s not interested in fair, he’s only concerned with spreading Christianity as far as he can before he kicks the bucket because he thinks it’ll earn him extra whipped cream on his Sundaes in heaven or something. He also knows that if you can hook ’em when they’re young they’re more likely to stay with it as adults. To many Christians children are like Pokemon: Gotta catch ’em all.


And now, your deep thought of the day.


This is totally true. I’ve tested it.

Nothing worse than an aging I.T. nerd.

WDHDsaleI’m sitting in my cube at work this morning going through my daily routine of checking my work and personal email when I come across an ad from that includes the item over on the right. A 1TB Western Digital HD for a little under $50.

As it is my habit to try and get other people to spend money on stuff they don’t need, I engage in a ritual of reading off this deal to my cubemate who is roughly eleven years older than I am. We both stop to marvel at this price because we’re both old enough to remember life before hard drives.

At this point he pulls out a dry erase marker and starts to write things down on his whiteboard. Back in the day he used to sell computers for a living and he can remember that in 1984 a 10MB hard drive went for about $500. In today’s dollars that comes out to around $1,148.48.  A 10MB drive is equal to about 0.000009536743164063 terabytes. To put it another way, the cost per MB of that 10MB drive in today’s dollars works out to around $114.85. The price per MB of a 1TB drive in today’s dollars is roughly 0.00005.

I can remember a time when us computer nerds spoke of a one terabyte hard drive in hushed, reverent tones as though describing a unicorn. A fantastic, mythical thing that could exist, but probably never would and if it ever did surely it would be so fantastically expensive that we’d never afford one in our lifetime. Oh, but if we did get our hands on one we’d never need another hard drive again cause there’s no way we’d ever fill it up! Just imagine having a hard drive you’d hand down to your children and them to their children and even then it’d probably take another generation of kids to come close to filling it up!

You know you’re getting old when you waste time figuring shit like this out and then shaking your head at how spoiled kids are these days.

Addendum: The first computer I ever bought with my own money was my venerable Amiga 1000. I got a job at McDonalds and took out my first ever loan from a credit union to pay for it. The machine itself cost $1,295 at launch and the CRT monitor was another $300 bringing the total to $1,595 not including sales tax. In today’s dollars that works out to $3,537.43. That boggles my mind.

I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian.

In the previous entry I discussed a little about how, generally, most folks become more Conservative as they age. This brought to mind the Political Compass test which attempts to establish where you fall in the Liberal/Conservative/Authoritarian/Libertarian scale. I first took the test in 2004 and while I didn’t blog about it at the time I did post it as an image on SEB.

To give an idea of what it attempts to do, here’s their sample graph that plots out where a few famous historical people fall on the scale:


When I first took the test my score was Economic Left/Right -4.62 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -4.92 which would place me down around Gandhi on the chart above.

I retook the test in January of 2012 to see if I’d grown more Conservative like you’re supposed to do when you get older. Here’s that graph:

I’m becoming even more of a Republican’s worst nightmare.

Clearly I was the exception to the rule. It’s been another 3 years since and I’m coming up on my 48th birthday so surely I’m starting to reverse the trend by now, right?


If I keep going at this rate they're going to need a bigger graph. 

If I keep going at this rate they’re going to need a bigger graph. 

Thus proving that the idea people become more Conservative as they age is a generalization. I blame my open mindedness and curiosity, both factors psychologists have identified as contributing to a liberal political outlook. If it seems like I’ve been getting worse in my liberal viewpoint over the years, you now have evidence that it’s not just your imagination.

SEB Mailbag: “What went wrong with my dad” edition.

I received this email from J a couple of days ago and I’ve been mulling it over trying to come up with a decent answer. Here’s what he wrote:

I will try not to bore you to death. My father raised us well. We do not discriminate, race is a non issue with us. My brother married an Indian, and I married a Puerto Rican. I’m going to move forward to speed along…

Today my  father is an angry man. He is angry at all the wrong things. He blames Obama for just about everything and is scared and paranoid. He has many guns which he displays daily. He supports open carry. He says racist remarks and incessantly complains about immigrants, although his own parents moved here from Europe, which he hates! He goes to church but displays hateful rhetoric and attitudes daily. He curses gays and lesbians. He believes the government is after his guns. I would be interested to hear what you think has happened. My mother thinks it is the news he watches. I think it is fox news which my wife has banned from the house. Although I like to watch it to get the others perspective.

Naturally I can only speculate based on a very limited bit of information. Admittedly my first impulse is to say that if he relies mainly on FOX News for information then that may have a lot to do with it, but it’s far from the only reason. They say that most folks tend to grow more conservative as they age and perhaps that’s what has happened here. You don’t mention how often you interact with him these days so it’s also possible you’re seeing only one aspect of him these days. Obama winning the election brought out a lot of otherwise hidden bigotry among the populace so perhaps that played a part in it.

Again, not having known the man myself I can only provide guesses. I have family and friends who took a turn to the far Right as they got older and I’ve never been able to fully figure out why. I mentioned just recently that I’ve gone as far as to unfriend one relative because they were getting upset at my attempts to discuss their conservative postings to Facebook. People I’d once admired are often hard to stay in contact with these days due to the views they espouse. You could argue that I’ve become more Liberal as I’ve gotten older and I’m sure it’s just as confusing to the Conservative folks who’ve known me a for a long time.


There’s an interesting article over at Psychology Today from October of last year in which they discuss some of the reasons some folks become more Conservative as they get older. They include:

  1. Personality: “people differ in their typical levels of curiosity, and these differences have been attributed to the broader personality trait of Openness to Experience.”
  2. Judgement: “in particular information-processing capacity.”
  3. Familiarity: “as we grow older, our experiences become more constrained and predictable.”

The point of curiosity is one I can relate to. I’ve always been an intensely curious person and I’m sure that’s a big factor in why I became an atheist. From the article, here’s the full text from the segment on personality:

Indeed, a review (link is external) of 92 scientific studies shows that intellectual curiosity tends to decline in old age, and that this decline explains (link is external) age-related increases in conservatism. At any age, people differ in their typical levels of curiosity, and these differences have been attributed to the broader personality trait of Openness to Experience. Higher levels of Openness have been associated not only with aesthetic and cultural interests, but also with a general tendency to seek emotionally stimulating and adrenalizing activities (e.g., from scuba diving to bungee jumping; from drugs to unprotected sex). Furthermore, open people are also more likely to display counter-conformist attitudes, challenge the status quo and disrespect authority. Although these qualities make high Openness a potential threat to society, Openness is also the source of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as an intellectual antidote to totalitarianism, injustice and prejudice.

The article admits it’s a generalization and doesn’t apply to all people (obviously not in my case). There’s another article from last year over at that adds another reason why some folks become more Conservative as they age: Having kids.

Contrary to popular belief, paying taxes, accumulating wealth, and being in the 1 percent or the 99 percent are extremely poor predictors of left-right political orientation. According to American National Election Studies, an academically run survey project, the correlation between family income and party identification for U.S. voters in the 2012 presidential election was a mere 0.13. This weak statistical relationship is typical of past elections.

There is one life event, though, that greatly accelerates a person’s shift to the right, and it often occurs in the 30s: parenthood. Its political impact is easy to see among a cohort of Canadian college students studied by psychologist Robert Altemeyer. Their scores on an ideology test at age 22 grew more conservative by an average of 5.4 percent when they were retested at 30. But among those 30-year-olds who’d had children, conservatism increased by 9.4 percent.

In the case of your dad, J, it’s possible that his shift to the far right is just a natural consequence of him getting older. It’s also possible that it’s been exacerbated by the media he consumes and the people he surrounds himself with. There’s also the possibility that your perception of his Conservatism is heightened by the difference in your ages (and thus where you both are in terms of your political viewpoints).

Which of the above is the actual reason for it? I haven’t a clue. It could be that it’s a combination of all of those things. With any luck perhaps I’ve given you a pointer in the right direction to help figure it out.

Ramen photobomb.

My buddy Greg came over to hang out and watch silly cartoons with me yesterday and then we went out to dinner at Matsuchan, the local authentic ramen restaurant. He was so impressed with his food that he tried to take a pic of it which I tried to photobomb.



Looking pretty good! That ramen isn’t bad looking either!

Random thoughts that momentarily caught my attention.

Memes like this one float around on the Internet quite a lot, but this one in particular caused me to pause and think for a moment. Always a dangerous thing to do.randomspacethoughts