How to Live

Roger Ebert is dying and showing us how to live. Found at Pharyngula on February 19: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

My favorite excerpt:

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

“To make others less happy is a crime.” Review an earlier post, here, “Christians are the bad guy? How did that happen?” How many fundamentalists (enter any religion) have made gays, women, slaves, etc, unhappy? And the only reason for such was ego or greed.

“We must try to contribute joy to the world.” I, too, am happy I have lived long enough to find this out.

Peace.

Christian Fundies Not the Only Wackos to Fear

From a BBC article, here: Albino killers get death penalty – BBC News

Part of the article:

Four Tanzanians have been sentenced to death by hanging for killing an albino man last year – one of a spate of such murders in the country.

[…] Witchdoctors sell good-luck potions made from the body parts of albino people for thousands of dollars.

More than 50 albino people are thought to have been murdered in the past two years in Tanzania.

Analysts say thousands of albino people are now living in fear, especially in villages in the north-west where the majority of the murders have occurred.

It seems that witchdoctors are making a fortune by selling potions made from albino body parts. Hey, if people are going to believe in that fable about Zombie Jesus, why not believe that albino parts in a potion will cure you or make you powerful? Same amount of proof – have to have faith. Probably use the potions to ward off witches – Look, no witches, must be working! Go figure. I wonder how they prove that said potions are, in fact, made from albino body parts? Do they keep digital photos of the body and show which part the potion was made from? Inquiring minds want to know!

Once again, anytime you make something more sacred than human beings, you devalue the life of a human. When a witchdoctor, or priest, or politician, has more power than a common man, you know the society is in deep doo-doo.

A Moral Crossroads for Conservatives

Just read a great article here: A Moral Crossroads For Conservatives – National Journal Magazine

“Here’s the key principle,” Peter Sprigg, a gay-marriage opponent with the Family Research Council, said in an April radio interview on Southern California’s KCRW. “Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society. And therefore the burden of proof has to be on the advocates of same-sex marriage to demonstrate that homosexual relationships benefit society. Not just benefit the individuals who participate but benefit society in the same way and to the same degree that heterosexual marriage does. And that’s a burden that I don’t think they can meet.”

Can’t they?

* * *

Having just been told, at 3 a.m., that his partner of three decades might die within hours, Mike Brittenback was told something else: Before rushing to Bill’s side, he needed to collect and bring with him documents proving his medical power of attorney. This indignity, unheard-of in the world of heterosexual marriage, is a commonplace of American gay life.

Couple of thoughts from the article:

National Review has a cover story this month by Maggie Gallagher, a prominent anti-gay-marriage activist, subtitled: “Why Gay Marriage Isn’t Inevitable.” She is right, in a sense. Most states explicitly ban same-sex marriage, often by constitutional amendment, and the country remains deeply divided. The national argument over marriage’s meaning will go on for years to come.

In another sense, however, she is wrong. Never again will America not have gay marriage, and never again will less than a majority favor some kind of legal and social recognition for same-sex couples. The genie that gay-marriage opponents still hope to stuff back into the bottle is out and out for good.

The story that the author, Jonathan Rauch, writes about his cousin, Bill, and partner, Mike, hits like a pallet of bricks in the abdomen. Please read the whole article and see why the genie is out of the bottle.

Blasphemy Day

Cafe Philos had an interesting article here:

I just heard the news that the Center for Inquiry and its sister organization,  the Council for Secular Humanism, have teamed up to sponsor a Blasphemy Day this September 30th. Before you yawn, consider they probably mean well.

Time was when blasphemy was a crime and a blasphemy day might have been a wake up slap to the powers that be.   Back then, setting aside a day to blaspheme might have accomplished something. But today? Isn’t every school kid a blasphemer these days?

At least, those were my first thoughts upon hearing of a Blasphemy Day this year.  I wondered what the point could be.  It’s 2009.  Most days, I’m of the opinion that the Judeo-Christian God — “God” with a capital “G” — is too ridiculous to exist, and that the various more sophisticated gods of the philosophers and theologians are unnecessary to explain anything.  No one is stopping me these days from expressing those opinions, so what could be the point of my going out of my way to blaspheme?

I’m curious.  Any ideas?

The fact that we have the right to blaspheme is so important it can hardly be understated. Unlike most countries in this world, our Freedom of Speech sets us apart from all the chaff. This does not mean that it is appropriate or respectful to blaspheme, just that we have the RIGHT to do so.

From that article I linked to this NYTimes article here:

Back in the fall of 2007, with only the most practical motives in mind, George Kalman took his pen to the standard form for creating a limited liability company in Pennsylvania.

[…] The first line on the document asked Mr. Kalman to supply his chosen corporate name, and he printed it in: I Choose Hell Productions, LLC. In a personal bit of existentialism, Mr. Kalman believed that, even if life was often hellish, it was better than suicide.

A week later, the daily mail to Mr. Kalman’s home in the Philadelphia suburb of Downingtown brought a form letter from the Pennsylvania Department of State. His corporate filing had been rejected, the letter explained, because a business name “may not contain words that constitute blasphemy, profane cursing or swearing or that profane the Lord’s name.”

[…] After a couple more readings, though, Mr. Kalman realized that the rejection was genuine. Pennsylvania, it turned out, indeed had a law against blasphemy. In the short term, Mr. Kalman successfully filed for incorporation as ICH Productions, LLC. In the longer run, he put in a call to the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and set in motion a challenge to the state law.

[…] Pennsylvania’s law may be the most idiosyncratic of all, because it covers only the matter of corporate names. And, rather than being a dusty vestige of the 19th century, it was enacted (and overwhelmingly so) only in 1977. A Democratic legislator, Emil Mrkonic, wrote the bill after a mail-order fire-arms dealer filed incorporation papers for the God Damn Gun Shop.

I love that the recent bill was passed in PA in 1977. And who could fault the business entrepreneur for wanting to name his gun shop as he did in 1977, which caused the bill to be introduced by some Fundie? Should we have the right to blaspheme?

Blogger surrenders on Conn. lawmaker-threat charge

In an AP article,

A New Jersey blogger who urged readers to “take up arms” against Connecticut lawmakers and who suggested government officials should “obey the Constitution or die” surrendered Thursday on a charge of inciting violence.

He was

angry over legislation that would have given lay members of Roman Catholic churches in Connecticut more control over their parish’s finances.

Seems he was under earlier scrutiny for:

Two years ago, police in New Jersey beefed up security for four state Supreme Court justices whose addresses Turner revealed in his Webcast “to show they can be gotten to.” Turner released the information after the court ruled that gay couples were entitled to the same rights as married couples.

You don’t think he may be a little bigoted? Maybe this belongs under the earlier thread about a Christian asking, “I’m the bad guy? How did that happen?”
You can read the whole article here.

Primary School Gay Curriculum

Calif. District Creates Primary School Gay Curriculum

Monday, June 1, 2009 3:24 PM

By: Rick Pedraza

This is the headline for an article that describes how Alameda County, Calif, schools are planning to introduce lessons that will be designed to prevent bullying and teasing based on stereotypes. You can find the full article here: http://www.newsmax.com/us/school_district_same_sex/2009/06/01/220249.html?s=al&promo_code=7DC2-1 The way it is written indicates that many parents are upset:

Promoting gay, lesbian and sexual orientation should be a parents’ rights issue, parents say, and is not an appropriate topic for school children.

So it’s OK to promote bullying, but not OK to promote tolerance or inclusiveness? WTF?

Scientists put psychic’s paranormal claims to the test

In an article from The Guardian:

Professional medium Patricia Putt was last week subjected to a rigorous scientific test of her powers as the first stage of her bid to claim a $1m prize from the James Randi Educational Foundation

The young female volunteer in front of me could not suppress an embarrassed giggle as she sat there wearing a ski mask, wraparound sunglasses, an oversized graduation gown and a pair of white socks, a large laminated sheet hung around her neck displaying her participant number.

Then things got even weirder. Professor Richard Wiseman knocked on the door to collect our volunteer. He accompanied her into a large room where she was instructed to sit in a chair facing the wall and do nothing for 15 minutes or so. Professional medium Mrs Patricia Putt was then brought into the room and sat down at a small table around 12 feet away. Sometimes Mrs Putt would request that a volunteer read a pre-specified short passage, as she had found from past experience that often “the Spirit enters and makes contact through the sound of the sitter’s voice”. After that, no talking was allowed whatsoever as our medium wrote down a “reading” describing the volunteer using her alleged paranormal abilities. At the end of the reading, Mrs Putt left the room and the volunteer was allowed to change back into somewhat more conventional garb and given a reminder to return later in the day for the all-important judging phase.

What was going on here?

Read the rest of the article here.

Very interesting to see the great lengths the Randi Foundation goes to to make sure the tests are very scientific and are acceptable to the participants. Also interesting to see the excuses brought forth afterwards.

Pope warns of misuse of religion.

Does anyone know where I can get my Irony Meter repaired or replaced? I read this article and almost fell off my chair:

Pope warns of misuse of religion – BBC News

Pope Benedict XVI has warned against the misuse of religion for political ends, in a speech to Muslim leaders on the second day of his visit to Jordan.

Speaking in the King Hussein Mosque in Amman, he argued that religion was a force for good, but its “manipulation” caused divisions and even violence.

[…] “Some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world and so they argue that the lesser attention given to religion in the public sphere the better,” he said.

“Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied.

“However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society?”

Can Beenadick actually look at himself in the mirror? How many Africans will die from his misuse of religion? How many little boys are suffering from his priests’ misuse of religion? etc, etc.

Mom pleads guilty, until child resurrects.

Md. mom pleads guilty in cult starvation death- AP

A former religious cult member pleaded guilty Monday to starving her 1-year-old son to death after making an unusual deal with prosecutors: If the child is resurrected, her plea will be withdrawn. Ria Ramkissoon, 22, also agreed to testify against four other members of the now-defunct religious group known as 1 Mind Ministries. All four are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Javon Thompson.

According to a statement of facts, the cult members stopped feeding the boy when he refused to say “Amen” after a meal. After Javon died, Ramkissoon sat next to his decomposing body and prayed for his resurrection.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water! What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Guns don’t kill people.

Here’s an interesting thought on the Second Amendment:

DOCTORS:
A. The number of doctors in the US is 700,000.
B. Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000.
C. Accidental deaths per physician is 17.14%
Statistics courtesy of the US Dept. of Health & Human Services

GUNS:
A. The number of gun owners in the US is 80,000,000 (yes, that’s 80 million).
B. The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is 1,500.
C. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.001875%
Statistics courtesy of the FBI

So statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners. Remember, guns don’t kill people, doctors do.

FACT: NOT EVERYONE HAS A GUN, BUT ALMOST EVERYONE HAS A DOCTOR

Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We should ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!

Out of concern for the public at large, I have withheld statistics on lawyers for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention.

From Roger Owen, February 10, 2006