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.

angryconservatives

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 Bloomberg.com 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.

SEB Mailbag: How not to convert an atheist.

61182_402075513237596_1585133137_nThe SEB Mailbag isn’t as active as it used to be, but then neither am I. Every now and then I’ll get a missive from some good natured person who is worried about my eternal soul. I got one such email this morning and I thought I’d present it as a good bad example of attempting to convince someone to believe in Jesus. Note: I’m not naming the person who sent it because it was an effort at good will even though the subject line read “hate mail.”

Here it is in its entirety:

God so loved you that He now even give you the chance again to call upon His Son Jesus Christ Name just to give Him a chance in your live. You are going to stand in any case in front of Him one day. Jesus loves you and that is why I also love you, please give Jesus a chance. Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

First off, thanks for taking the time to sit down and compose such an amazing argument on your Blackberry. It shows just how shallow your concern for my soul really is that you couldn’t be bothered to make sure it was completely comprehensible or required more than two thumbs to type.

There’s three statements in this argument which we’ll breakdown one at a time starting with that first attempt at a sentence:

God so loved you that He now even give you the chance again to call upon His Son Jesus Christ Name just to give Him a chance in your live.

It’s not entirely clear what you’re trying to say, but my guess is that in spite of all the terrible things I’ve done in my life I still have the opportunity to ask God to let Jesus into my heart blah blah blah and I should just give Jesus a chance.

1010245_494868663920957_892655251_nAs I said in the reply I sent you, what makes you think I haven’t given Jesus a chance? Anyone who spends any amount of time reading my blog (particularly under the About Me category/tag) will know that I used to be a pretty faithful Christian in my youth. Up until I read the Bible from front to back and found myself with a whole host of questions that the clergy in my life couldn’t readily answer. My faith was never at question until I started to seriously study the Bible and then the folks who should have reasonable answers to my questions instead told me to try not to think so hard about it. During that time I prayed to Jesus quite a bit. I’d say I gave him more than enough chances over the years and, even now, I’m totally willing to be convinced that he does exist and gives a shit about my well being, but so far I’ve yet to see anything that would lead me to think that that’s the case.

Surely if Jesus does exist and does want me to believe in him he’s more than capable of providing me with ample reason to accept both of those facts. The fact that he hasn’t implies that he either doesn’t really give a shit or, more likely, doesn’t exist to give a shit. I’m still open to the possibility, but I’m not going to believe without good reason to do so.

You are going to stand in any case in front of Him one day.

This statement only makes sense if you accept that Jesus does exist. To someone who doesn’t believe that to be true it’s just silly. You may as well argue that I should continue to leave out cookies for Santa Claus because someday I’ll meet him and he’s going to want to know why the fuck I stopped doing that.

Before that statement would have any meaning to an atheist you’d have to have a reasonable argument for why a God of any kind might actually exist and then you’d have to have a reasonable argument for why your particular God exists and how you have any clue what-the-fuck-ever what he wants from his creation. In short, you’re a long way from a point where that statement would be even the tiniest bit effective. You need to remember that you’re talking to someone who doesn’t believe in God(s) of any kind. Saying that they’ll have to stand before one of them someday is just a form of veiled threat that is hard to take seriously when you don’t believe in the thing you’re being threatened with.

 Jesus loves you and that is why I also love you, please give Jesus a chance.

So, in other words, the only reason you give a shit about me is because you believe God wants you to. That implies that without said God you wouldn’t have any concern for my well being at all. Christians like to toss around the word “love” quite a bit, but I worry that they don’t fully understand its meaning because all too often what they say they do out of love doesn’t feel all that loving to me.

cat-bible-thumperMaybe I’m too cynical, but often these sorts of pleas from believers to “give Jesus a chance” feel less like they’re about any genuine concern for my soul and more about the believer’s attempts at scoring brownie points with their God. Seriously. This email is a half-assed attempt at spreading the word that is the minimal effort required so that once they’re standing in front of their God and are asked why they didn’t convert more people they can shrug and say “Hey, I tried, but the assholes wouldn’t listen to reason!”

You’d think that if they were really serious they’d take the time to get know someone and try to understand their viewpoint before trying to convince them to change them. That takes an investment of time and energy that most Christians just aren’t interested in devoting to the cause. Instead it’s much easier to toss out short, three sentence “arguments” that they must know have no hope in Hell of being convincing to anyone who doesn’t already believe in their God. Go ahead and wipe your hands on your pants ’cause you’ve fulfilled your Christian requirements.

I’ve thought about the existence of Gods and the afterlife for many, many years so it would take a pretty amazing argument — or an act of Jesus himself — to convince me to believe. So I’m not surprised that most Christians wouldn’t want to invest that amount of time and energy into convincing me. Which is fine as I’m not overly concerned that I might be wrong, but if you’re going to bother then at least put some effort into it, eh?

SEB Mailbag: Hilariously bad extortion email from the “FBI.”

unbearable_consequencesBeing a famous and world renowned blogger such as I am I tend to get a lot of phishing emails where the authors attempt to convince me to send them money. This time out it arrived in the form of yet another letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard from the “FBI.” I got two emails from them just days apart back in 2008. Back then they contained offers to help me acquire money that I had inherited in another country.

This one is a different story. This one is a threat to ruin my life. Well, it starts that way at least. Then it suggests that the sender knows I wasn’t the person who engaged in the illegal activity because my identity had been used by someone else, but I could still face the consequences unless this person helps me because he’s a Good Christian® and would hate to see me go to jail. (You gotta love how they toss some religion in there.) So if I wire some dude in some other country who doesn’t even have an FBI mailing address $250 he’ll get the whole thing straightened out for me PLUS I’ll get the $10.5 million that I was promised in the previous emails that got me in this mess to begin with! This guy is all over the place and can’t decide which route he should go to convince me to send some money. If one approach is good then all of them must be better, right?

Here’s the hilarious email complete with spelling and grammar errors:

From: “Federal Bureau Of Investigation”<info@fbi.us>
Subject: Re: Final Warning From FBI.

FBI headquarters in Washington, d.c.
Federal bureau of investigation
J. Edgar Hoover building
935 Pennsylvania avenue,
NW Washington, d.c. 20535-0001
Federal bureau of investigation (FBI)

Attention Needed.

Attention to you. This is the final warning you are going to receive from me do you get me????

I hope your understand how many times this message has been sent to you?.

We have warned you so many times and you have decided to ignore our e-mails or because you believe we have not been instructed to get you arrested, and today if you fail to respond back to us with the payment then, we would first send a letter to the mayor of the city where you reside and direct them to close your bank account until you have been jailed and all your properties will be confiscated by the FBI. We would also send a letter to the company/agency that you are working for so that they could get you fired until we are through with our investigations because a suspect is not suppose to be working for the government or any private organization.

Your id which we have in our database been sent to all the crimes agencies in (USA) for them to insert you in their website as an internet fraudsters and to warn people from having any deals with you. This would have been solved all this while if you had gotten the certificate signed, endorsed and stamped as you where instructed in the e-mail below. this is the federal bureau of investigation (FBI) am writing in response to the e-mail you sent to us and am using this medium to inform you that there is no more time left to waste because you have been given from the 13th of January. As stated earlier to have the document endorsed, signed and stamped without failure and you must adhere to this directives to avoid you blaming yourself at last when we must have arrested and jailed you for life and all your properties confiscated.

You failed to comply with our directives and that was the reason why we didn’t hear from you on the 13th as our director has already been notified about you get the process completed yesterday and right now the warrant of arrest has been signed against you and it will be carried out in the next 48hours as strictly signed by the FBI director. We have investigated and found out that you didn’t have any idea when the fraudulent deal was committed with your information’s/identity and right now if you id is placed on our website as a wanted person, i believe you know that it will be a shame to you and your entire family because after then it will be announce in all the local channels that you are wanted by the FBI.

As a good Christian and a honest man, I decided to see how i could be of help to you because i would not be happy to see you end up in jail and all your properties confiscated all because your information’s was used to carry out a fraudulent transactions, i called the efcc and they directed me to a private attorney who could help you get the process done and he stated that he will endorse, sign and stamp the document at the sum of $250.00 usd only and i believe this process is cheaper for you. You need to do everything possible within today and tomorrow to get this process done because our director has called to inform me that the warrant of arrest has been signed against you and once it has been approved, then the arrest will be carried out, and from our investigations we learn that you were the person that forwarded your identity to one impostor/fraudsters in Benin Republic last year when he had a deal with you about the transfer of some illegal funds into your bank account
which is valued at the sum of la

I pleaded on your behalf so that this agency could give from tomorrow on,so that you could get this process done because i learn that you were sent several e-mails without getting a response from you, please bear it in mind that this is the only way that i can be able to help you at this moment or you would have to face the law and its consequences once it has befall on you. You would make the payment through western union money transfer with the below details.

Receiver name: Okagbue Christian
Country: Republic Nigeria
City: Abuja
Text question: You
Text answer: Me
Amount: $250
Senders name:
Senders Country:

Send the payment details to me which are senders name and address, mtcn number, text question and answer used and the amount sent. Make sure that you didn’t hesitate making the payment down to the agency by today or tomorrow so that they could have the certificate endorsed, signed and stamped immediately without any further delay. After all this process has been carried out, then we would have to proceed to the bank for the transfer of your compensation funds which is valued at the sum of $10,500.000.00 MILLION U.S. Dollars which was suppose to have been transferred to you all this while.

Note/ all the crimes agencies have been contacted on this regards and we shall trace and arrest you if you disregard this instructions. You are given a grace tomorrow to make the payment for the document after which your failure to do that will attract a maximum arrest and finally you will be appearing in court for act of terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking charges, so be warned not to try any thing funny because you are been watched.

Thanks as i wait for your response

Respectively:

Agent Norman Wood.
E-mail: drnormanwood@qq.com
Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI)

SEB Mailbag: JESUS LOVES YOU ALL CAPS EDITION!

FUCK YEAH CAPSLOCKIt’s been awhile since I’ve gotten an email from a True Believer™, but that drought has come to an end in a most spectacular fashion.

I received an email earlier today from a Janet Wittek who had an urgent message for me. So urgent that it required full use of caps lock.

Warning, this is going to be lengthy:

From: Janet Wittek
Subject: Letter from Janet
Time: 7:18 AM

JESUS LOVES YOU.  I AM A GIRL FROM THE FARM WHO HAS VISIONS OF MAJOR DISASTERS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN.  LIKE 911.  EARTHQUAKES. TSUNAMIS. FLOODS. FIRES. AND OTHER THINGS WHEN PEOPLES LIVES R IN DANGER.  I AM COMMANDED BY GOD TO PRAY OVER THESE MATTERS AND TO SAVE THEM FROM DISTRUCTION.  MY REV GORDON WILLIAMS IS A PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY GRADUATE. HE IS WELL KNOWN BY CANADA AM TV SHOW.  HE IS ON ONE HUNDRED HUNTLEY CHRISTIAN TV SHOW. HE HAS A MIRACLE HEALING SERVICES WHERE PEOPLE GET HEALED OF ALCOHOLISM. AND OTHER ADDICTIONS AND OTHER PROBLEMS LIKE ATHIESM. SEX ADDICTIONS. FINANCIAL PROBLEMS. BACK PROBLEMS. ETC.   I THINK THAT U SHOULD GIVE HIM A CALL AT [number redacted]. OR [number redacted].  MY BACK AND STOMACK AND BLEEDING PROBLEMS AND OTHER NUMEROUS PROBLEMS LIKE BAD KNEES SORE LIVER.  DIABETES AND SORE LEGS AND ENTIRE BODY SICK AND CHEMICAL IMBALANCE IN BRAIN AND SKIN DISEASE AND BROKEN HEART HEALED CAUSE MEN ABUSED ME CAUSE THEY IN LOVE WITH MY ROOMATE SIZE THREE BLOND HOOKER AND I TOLD THEM NOT TO HURT HER CAUSE THEY GANG RAPE HER AND BEAT HER UP.  AND I YELLED AT ALL OF THEM TO STOP HURTING HER.  UNIMAGINABLE BASTARDS.  REPENT OF YOUR SIN OF BEING ATHIEST.  I AM A CHRISTIAN AND I WENT THRU HELL BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD AND DON’T FOLLOW HIS COMMANDEMENTS.  YOU R A SINNER.  THE FOOL SAYS IN HIS HEART THAT THERE IS NO GOD.  B U T.  T H E R E.  IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU CANNOT DENY IT NOR CAN ANYONE ELSE.  HOW COME WHEN 911 HAPPENNED EVERYONE WAS SCREAMING OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! AND RUNNING FOR THEIR LIVES.  THE ATHIESTS SURE DO FIND GOD QUICKLY AND CRY OUT WHEN MAJOR DISASTERS HAPPEN AND THEIR LIVES ARE IN DANGER.  HOW COME THEY REMEMBER HIM THEN.  YOURS IN JESUS.  JANET.  GO AND GET YOURSELF A BIBLE AND START READING IT.  AND START EXAMINING YOURSELF NOT ONLY EXAMINING OTHERS FAULTS AND FRAILITIES.  DO YOU KNOW WHAT LOVE AND MERCY MEANS. AND STOP SWEARING.  ITS KIND OF OBNOXIOUS BEHAVIOR AND SHOWS THAT YOU ARE A JERK.

What’s odd about this message is that it was one of two that came in around that time and not the one I saw first. The first one I saw omitted the use of all caps and was relatively brief:

Time: 7:28 AM

The woman who did that to her child obviously had something wrong with her.  Any fool can see that.  Yours in Jesus. Janet.

Being that I saw this second missive first and that it was somewhat vague (I assumed she was talking about something I’d written on SEB, but wasn’t sure what) I replied asking her to clarify what she was referencing. Being the jerk that I am I made a somewhat sarcastic statement that I’m not a psychic because, like God, they don’t exist.

Hours passed and I thought that was the end of it. She had said what she needed to say and had gotten on with her life. Boy, was I ever wrong about that:

Time: 2:26 PM

THE WOMAN WHO ABUSED HER CHILD FOR NOT SAYING AMEN AND WAS NOT GIVEN ANY MEALS AND STARVED THE 2 YEAR OLD TO DEATH.  I HAD A VISION OF A SIMILAR OCCURANCE TO 2 CHILDREN WHO WERRE ABUSED IN TORONTO WHO WERE IN THE CARE OF CATHOLIC CHILDRENS AID SOCIETY AND A TORONTO POLICEMAN SAID THAT IN ALL OF HIS LIFE HE DID NOT SEE ANYBODY TREATED THAT BADLY ABUSED CHILDREN.  IT WAS A BOY AND A GIRL WHO WERE SEVERLY ABUSED. THE BOY DIED BUT THE GIRL ESCAPED.  I HAD VISIONS OF THEM DAYS BEFORE THE LITTLE BOY DIED IN A HOUSE IN TORONTO. THE HOUSE WAS AN OLD VICTORIAN HOUSE LIKE MINE RED BRICK WITH UGLY GREEN PORCH.  THEN DAYS LATER I SAW THE CHILDREN ON TV ON W FIVE TV SHOW AND W FIVE TV PRODUCERS WERE EXTREMELY MAD AT CATHOLIC CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETY FOR NOT TAKING CARE OF THESE CHILDREN. THE LITTLE GIRL WAS SAVED AND PUT IN ANOTHER HOME.  THE LITTLE BOY DIED A HORRIBLE DEATH.  POOR THING. I SHOULD OF ASKED GOD EXACTLY WHAT STREET HE WAS ON AND WENT THERE AND TAKEN HIM OUT OF THERE WITH THAT NICE POLICEMAN WHO WAS HORRIFIED WITH THAT CASE.  IT WAS ON CANADIAN TV SHOW ON W5.  REV GORD WILLIAMS KNOW THE PEOPLE ON W5 AND HE IS WELL KNOWN BY CANADA AM AND CTV NEWS AND ONCHRISTIAN RADIO TV STATIONS AND ALL OVER THE WORLD.  HE IS FROM PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY.  HE IS ON ONE HUNDRED HUNTLEY STREET TELEVISION CHRISTIAN SHOW.  YOURS IN JESUS. JANET. HOW CAN YOU NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. I SEE THAT YOU HAVE SOME BRAINS AND FEEL BAD FOR THE LITTLE BOY CHILD WHO WAS ABUSED BY HIS MOTHER BECAUSE HE DIDN’T SAY AMEN AFTER PRAYERS AND WAS THOUGHT TO BE DEMON POSSESSED AND SHE STARVED HIM TO DEATH.  AND THEN THE CHURCH PEOPLE SAID THAT THEY WOULD RESURRECTED HIM FROM THE DEAD.  HE WAS 2 YEARS OLD.  POOR LITTLE BOY. GOD HAVE MERCY ON THESE LITTLE CHILDREN AND SEND ANGELS TO SAVE THEM FROM THE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!!!!!! YOURS IN JESUS. JANET.  THE PSYCHIC GIFT THAT I HAVE IS CALLED THE GIFT OF PROPHECY.  IT IS EXPLAINED IN FULL DETAIL IN REV GORDON WILLIAMS BOOK. LIKE A MIGHTY RUSHING WIND.  AND ALSO IN THE BIBLE.  IST CORINTHIANS 12 AND 14.

Then a half hour later I got this:

Time: 3:05 PM

IN THE OLD TESTAMENT PEOPLE DID BAD THINGS TOO.  IF EVIL EXISTS THEN SO DOES GOOD.  YOU KNOW THAT BAD THINGS HAPPEN WELL SO DOES GOOD THINGS HAPPEN .  YOU KNOW THAT WHAT HAD HAPPENNED TO THE LITTLE 2 YEAR OLD WAS BAD AND EVIL.  DO YOU NOT.  SATAN EXISTS BUT SO DOES GOD.GET A COPY OF THE BIBLE AND START READING IT.  DO NOT SAY THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A GOOD KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE. I BELIEVE IN GOD AND BEING GOOD LIKE HE TELLS US TOO.  I BELIEVE IN WHAT HE WRITES AND SAYS IS TRUE.  I HAVE LAID HANDS ON THE SICK AND THEY HAVE RECOVERED. MY FRIENDS BACK WAS COMPLETELY HEALED WHEN I PRAYED FOR HER AND SHE WAS SHOCKED THAT HER PAIN WENT IMMEDIATELY AWAY.  SHE IS A HOUSECLEANER AT THE CHURCH.  ANOTHER WOMAN GOT HER BACK HEALED AT THE CHURCH ON CHISTMAS EVE SERVICES WHEN I HUGGED HER.  MY DEAR MAN. GOD DOES EXIST JESUS DOES EXIST.  HE WILL PROVE IT TO YOU.  MIRACLES DO HAPPEN EVERYDAY THROUGHT THE WHOLE WORLD.  I BELIEVE THAT YOU EXIST THATS WHY I AM TALKING TO YOU.  GET IT.  YOU BELIEVE THAT I EXIST. THAT’S WHY YOU ARE TALKING TO ME.  DO YOU UNDERSTAND.  I KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT PSYCHIC. MAN.  I AM TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE WHO EXISTS JUST LIKE GOD AND JESUS EXISTS.  YOU EXIST !!!!!!!!THEN WHY DO YOU THINK THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST!!!! IF YOU EXIST.  R U REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT THE FACT THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST.!!!!!!!!! A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU. EXIST IN THE WORLD. ATHIESTS. I MEAN. A LOT OF THEM.  MANY MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND THE BIBLE.  THEY HAVE NO ACCESS TO THE BIBLE IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE IN NUMEROUS COUNTRIES.  ALL OVER THE WORLD AND ARE NOT HOLY SPIRIT FILLED.  I BELIEVE YOU EXIST EVEN THOUGH YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. CALL REV GORDON WILLIAMS AND HE WILL PROVE TO YOU THAT GOD EXISTS.  [number redacted] OR [number redacted].   GO AND GET A COPY OF THE BIBLE AND READ IT SEVERAL TIMES.  AND YOU ARE NOT STUPID. BY THE WAY.  STOP TELLING YOURSELF THAT.  GOD GAVE YOU BRAINS FOR A REASON!!!!!!!  YOURS IN JESUS. JANET.

Then 20 minutes later:

IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THAT I EXIST THEN WHY DO YOU BOTHER TO TALK TO ME AND OTHER PEOPLE . AM I A FIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION.  ARE OTHER PEOPLE?  I DON’T EXIST OR GOD DOESN’T EXIST. HE SURE DOES JUST LIKE YOU KNOE THAT I EXIST THAT’S WHY YOU ARE BOTHERING TO TALK TO ME.  MY DEAR MAN. YOU MADE MY DAY. I KNOW THAT YOU EXIST. YOU MADE ME LAUGH ALL DAY EVEN THOUGH YOU AR. AN ATHIEST. I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE AMAZING.  ONE MINUTE YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE AMAZING AND THE NEXT MINUTE YOU CALL YOURSELF STUPID.  YOU KNOW THAT YOU EXIST.  YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE AMAZING AND THEN SOMETIMES YOU R STUPID.  IF YOU EXIST AND OTHER PEOPLE EXIST THEN WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS.  WHY. YOU TELL ME ONE GOOD REASON THAT TELLS ME THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST THAT MSKED SENSE TO ME..  IT IS TRUE THAT IN MANY PEOPLES MIND GOD DOES NOT EXIST BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF HIM.  IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS.  YOURS IN JESUS. JANET

Then 33 minutes after that:

Time: 4:58 PM

I BELIEVE IN GOD AND YOU ARE TALKING TO ME AND YOU BELIEVE IN ME. YOU BELIEVE THAT I EXIST THAT’S WHY YOU ARE TALKING TO ME AND I BELIEVE IN GOD.  SO THEREFORE YOU AN ATHIEST REALLY DOES BELIEVE IN GOD BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE IN ME AND YOU ARE.  TALKING TO ME BECAUSE I EXIST

And, finally, 22 minutes ago:

Time: 5:16 PM

I BELIEVE IN GOD. YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE TALKING TO ME BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE THAT I EXIST.  AND I BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS AND I AM CONNECTED TO HIM SO THEREFORE YOU AN ATHIEST BELIEVES THAT I EXIST BECAUSE YOU ARE TALKING TO ME A BELIEVER IN GOD AND YOU ARE AN UNBELIEVER IN GOD AND I KNOW THAT YOU ATHIESTS EXISTS THAT IS WHY I AM TALKING TO TO YOU.  TO PROVE TO YOU THAT HE DOES EXIST. BECAUSE IF HE DOESN’T EXIST THEN WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT HIS NON EXISTENCE?     YOU ARE RIGHT. IN YOUR MIND AND MANY OTHERS GOD DOES NOT EXIST EVEN THOUGH YOU ATHIESTS ARE TALKING ABOUT HIS NON EXISTENCE.  WHY R U TALKING ABOUT HIS NON EXISTENCE. IF HE EXISTS AT ALL YOU SHOULDN’T BE TALKING ABOUT HIM.  YOU ARE RIGHT. YOU ARE AMAZINGLY STUPID BUT GOD STILL LOVES YOU EVEN THOUGH YOU ATHIESTS DON’T EXIST.  YOU ARE NON EXISTANT JUST LIJE GOD.  YOU HAVE NO SIGNIFICANCE AND YOU DON’T EXIST EVEN THOUGH YOU KNIW THAT YOU DO EXIST.  DON’T YOU. YOURS IN JESUS. JANET.

About three emails back I had started in on a reply to answer a couple of her questions and make a point or two about the assumptions she was making about me (which is an odd thing for someone gifted with Divine Visions to do), but as I typed away these additional responses came in and I was no longer sure there was much point in bothering. It’s really hard to argue against the logic she’s using because there’s no logic to it. It’s just a bunch of wild claims and silly circular arguments.

Now for all I know this is just someone trying to pull a Poe in hopes I’ll write about it. If so, mission accomplished. It could also be someone who’s not entirely playing with a full deck through no fault of their own due to illness or injury in which case it would be bad form to make fun of them. Then there’s always the chance that this is someone who has so much faith that it’s made them just a little bit crazy. As too much faith is often wont to do.

Being as it’s difficult to distinguish which of the three this is, or if there’s much of a point in the messages to discuss, I’ll just leave it here without my usual snarky comments. If nothing else, it’s an interesting example of the sorts of emails I get from time to time.

SEB Mailbag: The Grinch that stoled Christmas Edition.

Got the following email from “Kathy & Steve Ripka” yesterday — apparently written by the male half of that duo — and thought I’d share my response to it here. It opens with the following:

Subject: Just saw your website

Unfortunately, you are exactly what this movie portrays atheists to be.

A quick note before moving into the reply proper: I wasn’t sure which movie our learned writer was speaking of — though I had my suspicions — so I sent a reply asking for clarification. Apparently he had stumbled upon this entry I had written back in September of 2010 (way to be current, Steve) about the movie Christmas with a Capital C.

Unfortunately, you are exactly what this movie portrays atheists to be. You want any mention of Christmas removed from wherever you walk. Your kind is “The Grinch that stoled Christmas.”

Evidence of my hatred for Christmas.

Evidence of my hatred for Christmas.

OK Steve, right off the bat I have to wonder if you read the entire entry I wrote.  Nowhere in my writing did I call for all mentions of Christmas to be removed from wherever I walk. I generally don’t have a problem with Christmas and if you were to visit my home you would find it decorated with lots of Christmas lights and a proper Christmas tree.

Do I think nativity scenes belong on courthouse lawns or in front of city hall? No, I do not. It gives an improper impression of government favoritism, but so long as the government allows anyone who wants to put up a display alongside it to offset that impression then I have no problem with it. I also don’t have a problem if there’s a nativity scene on the front lawn of every private residence, church, and business if that’s what people want to do. Hell, I’ll go so far as to help you set up your nativity scene on the front lawn of your home/church/business if you need the assistance. I also don’t have a problem with people saying Merry Christmas to me — or for that matter Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, Happy Hanukkah, or Merry Festivus.

Your website says it all.

Yes, but apparently you can’t be bothered to read it.

I get so tired of watching the news just to see atheists ruining everyone else’s Christmas, traditions, etc.

Well, you could always stop watching the news. Better yet, you could work to ensure that the separation of church and state is respected by your local government and then there wouldn’t be any need for anyone — atheists or otherwise — to ruin Christmas. It’s not like there aren’t tons of other places you can stick one where everyone will see it, but if you’re going to insist on it being on public property then you have to be prepared to share the space with others who may not agree with your beliefs.

Hey, if you don’t believe in God, that’s fine, but why do you have to get into everyone’s face about it? I don’t believe in ghosts, but you wouldn’t see me up in anyone’s face that does.

When did I get up in anyone’s face about it? I wrote a blog entry. You came here and read it. I didn’t go to your house and force you to come to my blog and read my opinions. If you were to meet me in person and ask my beliefs I’d tell you I’m an atheist. If you didn’t ask any more questions that’d be all you’d get out of me on the topic.

As for getting into the face of ghost believers, as far as I know there aren’t any ghost believers who demand the government place displays representing sacredly held ghost beliefs on public property. Apples to oranges, Steve. When was the last time you saw Halloween display in front of City Hall that represented a sincerely held belief of ghost believers?

I don’t believe that life comes from non-living matter, but if you do, hey, more power to you. I promise I will never get on a rampage, and confront every atheist and take them to court on it.

That hasn’t stopped plenty of your fellow believers from doing just that, though. Admittedly, they confused the Theory of Evolution with the Theory of Abiogenesis, but the point still stands.

If you are not happy with your life, and belief system, why don’t you find something that will take away the anxiety from being an atheist that causes you to go on mindless crusades about how Christians are infringing on your rights,  you might just like the diversion. But don’t use your bitterness to ruin every one else’s Christmas season.

Who said I’m unhappy with my life and belief system? There are aspects of my life that I’m not thrilled about — I could use to earn a bit more money — but overall I’m fairly content. Being an atheist doesn’t cause me any anxiety and none of my “crusades” are mindless. If you took the time to read what I write you’ll find I’ve given them plenty of thought, but it’s apparent that you’re not willing to do much more than skim a single entry and then try to proclaim you know exactly the sort of asshole I happen to be.

As for being bitter, you can ask anyone who has met me how bitter I happen to be and how much I ruin Christmas for everyone. They’ll probably laugh at the suggestion. When little kids stop me because they think I’m Santa Claus, something that has happened more than once as I’ve gotten older and more rotund, I’ve never once taken the opportunity to smash their belief in the jolly old elf. Nor have I ever told them it wasn’t the birthday of Christ even though I know it wasn’t. They don’t care about that anyway. They’re excited cause they think they caught Santa going incognito.

I know, you have fun trying to shock others with your endless driveling about atheism, and four letter expletives, but maybe it is because you like drawing attention to yourself.

And now it’s clear you’ve not bothered to read more than the one entry. Endless driveling about atheism? How about my endless driveling about video games or movies or Doctor Who or politics or the dozens of other topics I’ve written about over the past 11 years. If you look at the tag cloud in the sidebar you’ll note that atheism isn’t the thing I’ve written the most about. Video games and computing both outweigh it among many others.

And of course I like drawing attention to myself. You have to be a bit of an attention whore to be a blogger in the first place. My swearing doesn’t have anything to do with that, though. It’s just my one vice. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs so eating too much and swearing is my thing. Even as such it’s not like my entries are just sentences with the word FUCK as every other word. That would make this blogging thing entirely too easy.

Why do you suppose that most atheists love all the four letter words that offend others?

For the same reason that most Christians love all the four letter words that offend others. For better or worse, that’s how people talk. It’s not limited to “most” atheists. I know plenty of atheists who rarely swear and I know many Christians who would make a sailor blush with the way they talk.

Maybe you didn’t stay in school long enough to get an education that would teach you how to communicate properly with others.

andthentheresthisassholeI graduated from high school and I’ve attended a number of years of college, though I admit that I have never bothered to finish college. Is high school not enough education to communicate clearly? I suppose it depends on who you ask, but most folks don’t seem to have any trouble understanding me.

Perhaps you’d understand me better too if you took the time to actually read what I write and spent a little time browsing the archives. It’s clear you don’t have a clue about me based on what little research you’ve done so far, but that doesn’t appear to stop you from expressing your preconceived biases about me based on one aspect of who I am. You know one little fact — that I’m an atheist — and you used it to draw all manner of false conclusions.

I wonder what Jesus would think of that approach?

Merry Christmas,
Steve

And a Happy Holidays to you, Steve.

All my love, Les.

SEB Mailbag: “Why does it matter?” edition.

The old mailbag has been less confrontational as of late. And the trend continues with Brandon Postler asking a good question:

Why do atheists in general seem to jump at the chance to argue? I’m an atheist and I just find it tiring. I really, truly, believe in NOTHING except for the fact that I don’t know everything.

I’m finally starting to get up there in scientific courses at my college for personal reasons, and all I’m discovering is that after all the lectures I’ve sat through and books I’ve read, science still cannot quite explain everything. That is alright by me, but why do so many atheists take it to the extreme in arguments?

You have two questions here so I’ll address them individually.

First, the reasons why so many atheists seem eager to argue with theists are as varied as the reasons for why they are atheist. Given that, it should go without saying that I can’t speak to anyone’s reasons but my own, but if you wanted me to speculate then I’d say, in a very broad generality, the willingness to argue with theists is because atheists feel they offer a valid and worthy counterpoint to the claims being made. Many outspoken theists make a lot of extraordinary claims that should be challenged lest they take on an air of credibility they don’t really deserve. As for myself, in the early days of this blog I did it because I enjoyed the challenge and it helped me to refine my beliefs and justify holding them. These days I’m not quite a quick at jumping in mainly because it’s all too often a fruitless exercise.

As for your second question, well, I’m not quite sure what you mean by taking it to an extreme or why the fact that science doesn’t know everything would be a reason not to argue with theists. Science not knowing everything doesn’t mean the theists claims are true by default. For all we don’t know, we still know quite a lot. Enough to judge extraordinary claims from theists at the least. I’d be very surprised if mankind ever reaches a point where, collectively speaking, we will know all there is to know. That shouldn’t stop us from using science as the tool it is for determining what reality is and how it works. Or, for that matter, as a means of judging supernatural claims.

What about the rest of you SEB regulars? What are your reasons, if any, for arguing with theists?

SEB Mailbag: Be happy I don’t tell everyone what a fake you are edition.

Got the following epistle this evening:

From: Ben Z <lbwbap@yahoo.com>

Subject: Horos vc. Jesus

You Sir are an Idiot:

Be happy that I do not  send this answer into your blog:

You made a 100% copy of

http://creativecounterpart.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/ending-the-myths-of-horus-jesus/

you are a fake!

Be

I love the fact that this guy is so smart he can’t even be bothered to write his name out completely at the end of the email. He’s referring to a very old entry by a former SEB regular, Consigliere, called Ending the Myth of Horus which the folks at the Creative Counterpart, a Christian blog, lifted from SEB in its entirety. (They did, at least, link back to us.) Its arguably one of the most popular entries on this site with Google ranking it as the number 2 most visited page here. But we couldn’t fool old Ben.

Here’s the reply I sent back:

Ben,

Wow. You caught us. We totally copied that entry from the Creative Counterpart blog. Except, if you’ll look closely, you’ll note that the CC blog entry is dated January 10, 2008 whereas the entry on Stupid Evil Bastard is dated January 10th, 2005. Some three years before the folks at CC posted it on their site. You’ll also note that they link directly to our content in their repost of the material. See the following quote taken from that entry at CC:

Here is the link, although I am not recommending this blog to everyone. The name of the blog is not very nice, let alone some of the other language there. Though, if you are an adult, i’m sure you can handle it.

Is that a link to SEB’s original entry? Why yes, yes it is!

But don’t worry about “sending this answer” into my blog. I’ll do it for you by reprinting your email verbatim. I wouldn’t want to let brilliance such as yours be limited to only enlightening me.

Thanks!

Les

It’s a good thing we have people like Ben policing the Internet looking for people stealing content from good, upstanding, Christian blogs.

SEB Mailbag: Norman Snyder presents a most eloquent defense of the Philip Stein Teslar watch.

Way back in August of 2003 I wrote an article about a craptastic product known as the Philip Stein Teslar watch. Since then I’ll occasionally get an email from someone who either sells the watches or has owned one and is incensed that I would call them bullshit.

Now, almost eight years to the day that I published the original entry, we have this amazing bit of logic sent in by another fan:

From: Norman Snyder (nshandimon312@hughes.net)

Subject: ! CHEAP FUCK THAT’S ALL

You sound like the kinda person that would drop a dollar to pick up a dime, I’f you dont agree with the statements made by Phillip Stein don’t fuckin buy it. keep wearing your mickey mouse watch and be happy. Just because someone can afford to toss money around, shound;nt be of any of your concern, they earned it and can do what ever they wish to do with it! Poor Poor Les NO MONEY FOR ME …. EVERYONE SHOULD LIVE LIKE POOR ASS LES.

You’ll note right away the subtle, but effective use of ALL CAPS as a persuasion technique. The irrefutable logic of “if you can’t afford to wear bullshit you shouldn’t talk about those who can.” His grasp of the finer points of argumentation are undeniably amazing. I am humbled and chastened by his stunning rebuke.

Norman Snyder, making the world safe for douchebags with more money than common sense.

SEB Mailbag: Chain Mail from Ben Stein. Kind of.

I’ve mentioned before that most of my extended family is religious to some degree or another so it’s not uncommon for me to receive chain mails with variations on the taking-the-Bible-out-of-school-is-the-cause-of-all-our-societal-problems theme. I got one such chain mail today and while I can usually just ignore them with only minor irritation, today’s missive bugged me enough that I hit the Reply All button and dashed off a reply that could very well put me in the doghouse with some folks for a while.

It was a lengthy enough reply, and of sufficient quality, that I thought I’d share it here with you folks. I won’t mention which side of the family it came from nor whom sent it as that’s not important. My goal wasn’t to shame anyone or make them feel stupid, but to point out the inaccuracies and deceptions the chain mail contained. It purports to have been written by Ben Stein, but as you will see in the reply that’s only half-true.

First, the original email:

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees…  I don’t feel threatened..  I don’t feel discriminated against.. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me.  I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it.  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu ..  If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country.  I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too.  But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:  This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina)..  Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response..  She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc..  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he’s talking about..  And we said okay..

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it… no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards,  Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

I will reproduce my reply after the break.

Continue reading

SEB Mailbag: “You are a dumbass” edition.

It wasn’t clear at first, but this email appears to be in regards to an entry I wrote back in 2004 about dumbasses paying money to sit in a mine full of radon gas on the belief that it will help alleviate any of a long list of ailments.

As you can see, the author has employed a time-tested Internet argument winning tactic:

From: sandie waddell <olivias.mama@hotmail.com>

Subject: you are a dumbass

HI DUMBASS!!

WHICH YOU ARE.  I KNOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE GONE THERE OVER 50 YEARS TO HAVE A NORMAL LIFE FREE OF PAIN.  I GO THERE FOR THE SAME REASON.  OSTEO ARTHRITIS WOULD HAVE ME CRIPPLED AND NOT WALKING IF IT WAS NOT FOR THE MINE.
THIS FORM OF TREATMENT IS A PRESCRIBED TREATMENT BY DOCTORS IN OTHER COUNTRIES.  THAT IS HOW WE FOUND OUT ABOUT THEM, FROM A DOCTOR.
THE MINERS WERE IN THOSE MINES EVERY DAY FOR 10 HOURS AND IT DIDN’T HURT THEM.  STILL SOME OF THEM ALIVE AND WELL INTO THEIR 80’S IN MONTANA, I HAVE MET THEM.
SO, DUMBASS, EXPLAIN THAT.  MAYBE TOU NEED SOME TREATMENT FOR YOUR BRAIN!!

OLIVIASMAMA

I’ll leave its deconstruction as an exercise for the reader.