Quotable comment: help the poor (somehow) with Jesus

August 1, 2014

This comment was left on a post recently but it has nothing to do with the post itself so instead of replying with a comment there, I made a new post to share my thoughts on it.

Help the poor ,live as we do.that is what the bible and jesus preached d to us about.it is a book about poverty help not rich ,money help

Ignore the seasoning in terms of spelling and punctuation and try to focus on the meat of the comment.

Help the poor…

How exactly?

It’s already clear that prayers to Jesus or his mother or various saints or other gods aren’t helping the poor not be poor. People pray every day. Does God think those prayers are insincere and therefore not worth answering? Is he somehow incapable of fixing the problem? Does he not want to fix the problem? Or, and this is my favourite scenario, there isn’t any superior being anywhere to hear them? Scratch prayer.

…money help.

Part one of this aphorism holds true: give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Throw some money at the poor today and they might buy coffee or beer or pay a bill or something, but that isn’t getting to the root of the problem. The problem isn’t just “they have no money”.

What’s going on in their city, province, state, country in terms of the government and aid for low/no income families? What’s available for them? How many roadblocks are there for getting health care and enough food and education for themselves and their children? How many chances are they given to get further ahead?

Now the other part of the aphorism: teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life. How much help are they able to get? What facilities exist for assistance and getting them out of a bad situation? How much support is really there? How much compassion from their employers, their landlords or their governments? True, some money problems are a direct result of bad choices made by the people themselves (you really think a carton of smokes and another tattoo is a good use of that pay cheque?) but how can people really learn how to manage their money if they never had much to begin with? How will kids learn how to save and invest in the future if the parents can’t?

Something that might help a little: churches and the governments that support them should stop fighting birth control and abortions. Life may be precious but think about the lives of the people here right now and how they’re doing. If they’re doing well, having a child (or another child) won’t be as huge a financial strain as it will be for a low income family. Make birth control as cheap as possible if it can’t be free. Put the choices in the hands of the families, not businessmen and lobbyists. I hope it doesn’t come across as if I don’t think poor people should get to be parents. That’s not the argument I’m making here. What kind of support system is in place for these families, though? If the support isn’t there to accommodate the added monetary weight for each new kid born, these families will inevitably fall.

…Jesus preached to us…

Yes, this story is credited to him:

Jesus did not extol poverty as some great virtue. In fact, only one time did He tell someone—the rich young ruler—to sell his possessions and give to the poor. I think it was because that man was possessed by his possessions. Because when Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21), the Bible says that he went away sorrowful. It was a test to see whether God was more important to him than his things.

But recall that no writer of the bible knew the man in life. All they had were anecdotes of varying degrees of validity about a man who may never have lived at all.

A few western examples of life on a low income:

McDonalds and their goofy budget suggestions.

Employees at McDonald’s and Walmart support living wages and it’s not going to be quick fight to get it.

Woman gets jailed and fired because she can’t afford child care and let her kid spend the day at a park.

Bottom line, don’t quote Jesus as the solution and simply stop there. Yes, even atheists will admit that there are bits in the bible that are still relevant today but he’s more like an advice columnist from a bygone era, Miss Manners for the 1st century.

Apologies to the Beatles, but the poverty issue really is bigger than Jesus.


Atheist Scruples: the business agreement

July 27, 2014

Today’s question:

You’ve agreed verbally to a business deal when you get a much better offer. Do you back out of the deal?

Memo to self: email the auto dealer we spoke to yesterday and let him know we went with a different car on a different lot and I hope to hell it was a good choice — a 2012 Kia Forte we knew the price of versus a recently arrived 2010 (blue!) Ford Focus the lot hadn’t done its inspection on yet. We went with the Kia.

I’ve been really stupid with money in the past. Maybe nearly everyone who’s lived without a lot of it can say the same. That’s what a study from August 2013 was measuring and they might have been onto something.

“Previous accounts of poverty have blamed the poor for their personal failings, or an environment that is not conducive to success,” said Jiaying Zhao of the University of British Columbia, who led the study, conducted while she was a graduate student at Princeton University.

“We’re arguing that being poor can impair cognitive functioning, which hinders individuals’ ability to make good decisions and can cause further poverty,” she said.

The study had two parts. In the first, about 400 people at a New Jersey mall were randomly selected to take part in a number of standard cognitive and logic tests. The participants’ annual family income ranged from $20,000 to $160,000, with a median of $70,000.

Part of this was car related: repair work required between the prices of $150 or $1,500. The cheap work was an easy decision for everyone in this hypothetical scenario but apparently the more expensive it got, the worse the impoverished test takers did in choosing a good financial solution, effectively creating a drop of 13 IQ of points or the equivalent of losing one night’s sleep. One could probably suggest that someone strapped for cash has already had more than a few sleepless nights worrying and isn’t working with a full set of intelligence points most days, unlike someone with fewer cash flow woes.

I was awake at 3:10 this morning with this new car on my mind. I’m not broke, though. In fact, taking into account my bank accounts, my RRSPs and Tax Free Savings Account, I have nearly the value of the new used car right now, not counting the “cost for borrowing on the term of the loan.” If we need it, I can dip into it. I wouldn’t want to, but it’s there if we need it. That’s part of the point of investments, I’m sure. I’ll have to inquire on what kind of income tax payments I’d be looking at next year if I use any RRSPs, though. See what the pros suggest we do here.

Bringing this back to the question, we didn’t agree verbally to buy the Focus but the guy we were dealing with was nice and he will have some details for us about the car by Monday, he said. Looking through the paperwork from this other place, we have a 15 day window to return the Kia… But then we’d be considering an older car with more mileage and frankly, that seems like stupid squared.

Then we’ll just have to figure out what to do with other car. It has a computer glitch and a crack in the windshield and I’m tempted to just sell its set of snow tires to somebody and he can have the car for free…


Atheist Scruples: the car trouble

July 22, 2014

Today’s question:

You and friends go on a day-long outing in separate cars. Their car develops mechanical trouble. Do you wait with your friends until the trouble is fixed?

Yes, I did, and it was a colossal pain in the ass.

We have to go back several years to the convoluted day.

It was 8:00 or so on a summer evening when I got the phone call. It was from B, a guy I’d met through a dating site. We didn’t hit it off romantically, but he was a cool guy with similar music and film interests so we’d been hanging out when schedules fit. I wouldn’t have been the first choice for his call, he said, but nobody else he knew with a car was available. His friend and roommate had driven him and his young daughter across town to drop her at her mom’s but when they went to leave, the car completely crapped out. Could I drive over and get them? (Fuck.) Yes, I can.

A neighbour had the hood up and had figured out the problem; they’d run the damned car completely out of oil and seized up the engine. He thought they could maybe make it home with a lot of oil added and a new spark plug or something of that nature. C stayed with her friend and her car and B and I took my car over to an open Canadian Tire (fuck Canadian Tire, just saying) to see if we could find the matching plug. B did not have any money so I bought the oil and the thing. When we got back to the car, the oil was the right stuff but the plug wasn’t a perfect match. The neighour worked on this for nearly an hour but was able to jury-rig the plug it to fit and got the car running. (I had no coat with me and the wind was picking up and I was not a happy camper by this point.)

B and I were to drive to B’s place and C and her friend were supposed to be right behind us. In hindsight, we should have followed them to make sure the car would make it a block in its condition. As it was, we arrived at his place across town and they didn’t. We waited about 20 minutes and then there was nothing else we could do save get back in my car and drive across town again to look for them. It got about three blocks further down the road. It was toast.

B, C, and her friend piled into my car and I took them all back to their place. I don’t remember if I stayed there with them for a bit or left right away. It was a hell of a night.

While B claimed he’d pay me back for my troubles, I never got a lick of money out of him and I didn’t bother to press the issue. Not long after that, the Man and I were together again and haven’t seen much of B since save for comments on Facebook.

It was a strange experience for me, not just because of the 4 or more trips across this wonderful city over the course of an evening, but having friends that would call me for help.

I’ve always been an independent person and calling friends when I need help was never something I thought of doing. When my Reliant died on the way to work, I called a tow truck to take it as far as the Walmart. I had to tow it home from there, too; they said the head gasket had gone and I shouldn’t drive it anymore. When my Taurus peed itself at a parking lot (antifreeze poured out of it) I was meeting friends for supper but I still called a tow truck. (Canadian Tire said that was a head gasket, too. Later I started to wonder if these places just call out “head gasket” to all single women with car trouble to make them stressed over the potential cost of that and more likely to make a bad money decision that will work in the garage’s favour.)

C had no money to buy oil, obviously, let alone pay a tow company.

It’s something you do for friends, I guess. No, I wasn’t happy to do it. I was mighty inconvenienced. I don’t know what I had planned for my evening otherwise – probably nothing – but most of me did wish I had just let the answering machine take the call instead of me getting it. I would have been sorry to hear about the trouble later but I don’t think I would have felt any guilt over not answering.


I’m supposed to read Huck Finn for my Banned Book Club

July 19, 2014

It’s slow going.

I’m trying to figure out if I like it.

I’m roughly half-way though. At this point Huck and Jim (the slave who’d wanted to run away to a free state instead of being sold again) are making their way through Arkansas and have been hosting a couple professional liars on their raft. One calls himself a duke and the other a king. Huck is something of a liar, too, and sees through them easily but admires their finesse.

One of the best bits of the book has been with those guys. One’s a top con artist and at one particular town they find out a revival meeting is going on in the woods. He marches onto the stage and lays a thick tale of a pirate life. Then he claims he’s been saved thanks to this revival and wants to take the mission to all the other pirates he knows on the Indian ocean. The gullible locals are in tears over his moving story and insist on taking up a collection so he can continue to do God’s work on the sea. Counting it up at the raft later, the guy netted $85 or so.

This novel was published in 1885. I was curious what that kind of haul could buy back then and came across this:

In early 1884 several traveling salesmen walked across the Ozarks. They came up from Arkansas along the train tracks from Mammoth Springs to West Plains. From West Plains they followed the railroad to Willow Springs, then headed west towards Springfield, through Cabool, Mountain Grove, Norwood and Mansfield. One of them kept a journal describing what he called their “peddling.” This journal tells us a little about the land, towns and life of the Ozarks in 1884.

It lists Missouri prices but Arkansas probably would have been comparable at the time:

For those people who wanted to homestead in the area, the federal government still had land available. There was 75,000 acres of homestead land available in Douglas County, 125,000 in Ozark County and 25,000 in Wright County. This land could be had for a $2 filing fee plus $6 for a 40 acre plot. It cost only $14 dollars to homestead 160 acres of land!

(So the thousand or so bucks that Tom and Huck wound up with at the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was one hell of a windfall. I’ve never read that book either; there’s reference to the money at the start of this book, though, and it drives part of the plot at the beginning.)

This is an area of history I know nothing about and have yet gotten around to looking into. Being Canadian, we learned of the expansion into what would become the Canadian provinces and even those details are gone from my brain; Social Studies was not my forte. Names and dates and places.. no thanks.

The meeting is at the end of the month so I still have a couple weeks to get through it but damn.. it’s unusual for me to have this hard a time to get into a book and get it read. Maybe some of it has to do with the writing style and slang and necessity to decipher the parts of speech. I just can’t zip from start to finish like so many other books.

I don’t want to resort to reading Wikipedia entries and watching a crappy film version and then go to my meeting pretending I have a clue and valid input. One guy who came to the last couple book meets has done that and it’s an eye-rolling experience. We don’t have a rule that everyone has to finish the book. We let people come that haven’t read it, but there’s just something about this guy.. he seems to be one of those people who puts more stock in his own wacky theories than he does the ideas and knowledge of others. It’s frustrating to listen to him going on and on. But, whatever.


Because there aren’t enough actual issues to be pissed off about?

July 10, 2014

Apparently.

Urban Outfitters had the “audacity” to feature Ganesh on a blanket and now we must be upset about that. Who cares about the starving, the abused, the killed for religion? Ganesh is featured on a kitchy fucking blanket…

Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, has asked Urban Outfitters to take the duvet cover off the market.

“You can put him in a frame and on the wall. That is fine,” Zed said. “But not to be put on the bed, on which you lie and your feet will go on. That is very inappropriate.”

I’ve had some wine, so I’m somewhat nonsensical at the moment, but this still makes even less sense than my alcohol fueled mind can figure…

Tacky Ganeseh blanket

It’s so tacky. Why give it any publicity whatsoever?

Why!?

Had it been ignored by the faithful, it would have been barely a ripple in the consciousness of the internet consumer. Now, it’s there for the world to see…\

Why do people need to make mountains out of molehills.. tacky molehills…


Atheist Scruples: And Bingo was his name-o

July 10, 2014

Today’s question:

You need one number to win the jackbot at BINGO. A stranger next to you also needs one and it has been called. Do you tell her?

This edition of A Question of Scruples came out in 1986, which was something of a heyday for Bingo obsession, if I recall correctly, and in 1991/92 our school band ran some Bingo nights to raise money for our upcoming trip to Vancouver. We all had to volunteer to work an evening. I was kind of shy at the time (hard to believe now) and stressed out over these women shouting at me for more cards and throwing money at me and barely waiting for me to figure out what I owed them for change. There was little time between rounds for cards and money to change hands. It also stunk like hell with cigarette smoke. I remember that overall. So disgusting. But, I digress.

Ultimately, I think it depends on what kind of jackpot we’re talking about. If this is a fundraising “top prize is a turkey” little thing for a kid’s school, or senior’s centre, then maybe I’d holler Bingo for the woman myself and then point to the spot she nearly missed. I have no room to store a turkey anyway. If this was a night of cutthroat gambling at a real Bingo hall where hundreds of dollars are up for grabs and everybody wants it, screw her. If she can’t see the spot she missed, clearly she’s playing too many cards at once. Greedy cow. (That’s assuming I even notice. I’d probably be too busy watching my own cards like a hawk watches for mice.)

Now a question posed by someone via Yahoo Answers:

Christians: Do you consider Bingo and the Lottery gambling?

The question was posed five years ago. Kerika answered:

Yes. Christians rightly avoid any sweepstakes or drawings that involve buying chances (such as raffle tickets) or putting up money for a chance to win some prize. Simply put, we avoid gambling, which certainly is an expression of greediness.—1 Corinthians 5:11;; 6:10; Ephesians 4:19; 5:3, 5.

She also quoted from some Jehovah’s Witness writings so maybe she’s not typical.

A different response from P?tsie:

I am a Christian. Are they gambling, of course. Are they a sin?… not as easy to answer. Personally, I believe that if you can control your spending and do not over indulge, then it is generally not. There are many who would disagree, but there is no verse that says “don’t play bingo”. What you believe is between you and God, and nobody else.

I bold the last line because that’s exactly the kind of thinking used to rationalize and justify a lot of behaviour including everything that shouldn’t be socially or legally acceptable anymore. And since I’m of the opinion that gods are created by the culture that wants or thinks they’re needed, I don’t think the question is ever really “What would Jesus do?” The question usually seems to be “What do I want to do and how can I interpret the Word to support my way of thinking?” The first way may be contrary to what I want to do, whereas the second way is ultimately win win…


A Quesion of Atheist Scruples – round 8

July 3, 2012

(I missed last Tuesday on account of faulty time management. How do people busier than me keep up on their excellent blogs and still get everything accomplished?)

Same setup as other weeks. I’ll answer three Scruples questions and leave a fourth for readers. Feel free to weigh in on the others, though.

A close friend will be interviewed for a job with your employer. He asks you for a list of the questions in advance. Do you supply it?

I think most employers only interview the ones that qualify based on skills and previous experience (unless it’s seniority-based, then be ready to be passed over when someone more senior yet essentially unskilled applies for the same position). The job I have, I wouldn’t have access to a list like that anyway. All I could do is explain what kind of work it is and what there’s been for turnover. A lot of people get worried about interviews but I don’t know if prep work really can boost a person’s chances of getting the job. Confidence is one thing but overconfidence can look a bit too much like arrogance and that sort of attitude can be pretty off-putting. Don’t come across like a know-it-all and try to stay relaxed. That’s all the advice I’d be able to give. Eat a banana beforehand and smile…

You are advised to invest in a company which does well because of its monopoly but makes a poor product. You are sure to profit. Do you invest?

Sounds like Walmart. I had stock in the company while I worked there. Five years later (this year), I finally got around to telling them I’d like to sell it. I do have an RRSP plan on the go with money going toward that every month. I should be more cognizant of what my money is going toward, actually. Something to do something about down the road here. As far as the question, I think I’d pass on it.

The people who find your beloved cat injured in a ditch pay $150 for veterinary care and adopt it. You discover what happened three months later. Do you let them keep the cat?

I love cats. I grew up with transient farm cats rather than beloved pets for the most part. I’ll tell this story, though. When I was 6 or 7 I had this one called Tiger. He and I spent a lot of time together. The summer my parents invited a professional photographer to take pictures of the family in the yard, Tiger photobombed almost every sitting. Dad finally tossed the cat into the house even though he’d never before been allowed in there. For years I thought that my teasing him with a stuffed dog was the reason he buggered off but I suspect the real reason was that there weren’t any girl cats around and he had wanderlust.

If I’d found out later on that a neighbour had found him and paid for his vet visit, I might have begged Mom or Dad to have a word and see about getting him back but I think my folks would have said no. And, unless we’re talking about an expensive pedigree cat I saved up to buy and had as my companion for several years before the loss, the answer would probably still be no. By this point, the new family will have bonded with the cat and it wouldn’t feel right to barge in and ask for it back, even if I offered to pay back the money for the vet bills.

You are a politician. The people who elected you demand that you take a position on abortion which is against your personal convictions. Do you?


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