Question of Atheist Scruples – the gift

May 28, 2016

I’m a fan of old pop songs but by all the Flying Spaghetti Monster calls noodly goodness, this song is.. well.. icky. A girl dumps him and all he can think is to insult her for it. Maybe that’s part of the reason she called it quits in the first place, boyo…

Indian Giver is a culturally insensitive phrase and adding powwow drum noise into the mix isn’t making this song any better. NPR gave a rundown on the history of the term which can be read here. (They also report this song made it to #5 on the charts at the time.)

Moving on:

You buy a gift for an employee who has done extra work. Your spouse finds it and raves about finally getting a present from you without a reason. Do you admit the truth?

If I have employees and can afford to give them odd little bonuses for jobs well done, I can probably afford to buy another and let my dear keep the first one. Maybe I’d be tempted to omit the truth but I think honesty would win out in the end and I’d confess who I’d really bought the little thing for. But I’d also feel like crap for not thinking to get my dear something sweet and unexpected before this point and apologize for the oversight, promising to make it up to him somehow. Probably with a barbecue or hot sauce as yet untried…

Pop culture references to gifts gone awry — 

That scene from Love Actually with the found jewelry and the realization on Emma Thompson’s face when her actual gift winds up being a Joni Mitchell cd. I’d be pretty upset, too. Albeit for different reasons – I can’ t stand Joni Mitchell.

Gift of the Magi, the classic tale of two impoverished people each giving up something they treasure in order to please the other person with a surprise. She sells all her hair to get a watch chain and he sells his watch to buy her hair combs. Spoiler alert?

And Slashfilm offers up a fun list, with videos, of other movies featuring gift-giving.


Christian metal band loses singer to atheism

May 28, 2016

I’m snagging this from United Humanists where they’ve posted the story of Shannon Low who’d been in a metalcore band called The Order of Elijah.

In his younger days he’d gone through the drug and sex problems that are common in the music industry. He’d been religiously keen in his youth, though, and soon found himself pulled back into the church life as a way to deal with these personal problems. That’s when the band started. That’s also when he started to think more deeply about what the Bible brings to the table in terms of ideas and themes but questioning Old Testament God’s use of violence was a no-no where his peers were concerned. “Jesus condoned parts of the OT, therefore it’s all okay” seemed to the rationale they were going with. Not Low.

Low credits Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion for helping him figure things out.

It answered so many questions that my Christian friends would literally get furious for me to even address,” Low stated. “Sometimes I would lose Christian friends by simply pondering certain questions. I would see these same Christians publicly calling my other friends ‘abominations’ for being gay.”

Low then asserted that if God’s message was so important, it shouldn’t be filled with “contradictions.”

“Why allow his message to be spread by fallible humans and sit by idly while falsehoods are spread in his name?” Low asked. “Why sentence [two-thirds] of the world to Hell for being born in the wrong culture? I’d think a perfect God would never need to correct His Word if our literal souls depended on it.”

It wasn’t an easy or quick transition from belief to unbelief, but he got there. Well done.


Question of Atheist Scruples – bad teacher?

May 27, 2016

One of your professors is an incompetent teacher who grades too easy. Some classmates have a petition demanding his replacement. Do you sign it?

Three personal history stories first:

First story. My K-7 elementary school didn’t have a French-specialist teacher in the ’80s so for grades 4-7 the teaching was done by whoever was assigned. It didn’t matter overly much at that school what level of French we were getting, but I sure as hell noticed a difference when I switched to the junior high for grade 8 and wound up in French class with kids who’d been at that junior high for their grade 7 year where the French teacher was an actual French man from Quebec who was actually teaching usable French and verb conjugation and all kinds of vocabulary. Those kids really had a leg up compared to me and my grade 7 experience which, comparatively, was grade 3 level drilling on colours and days of the week. It was really frustrating to be thrust into the real thing and be so clueless.

Second story. I was already in Band by junior high which exempted me from the music class others were in and, by all accounts, the Music teacher was terrible at his job. At least once in his own class, I was told, he passed out the marked exams for his students to look over for any marking errors or whatever, then took them back with the intention of marking the grades down officially but then lost the exams somewhere. He then asked every student if they remembered what they got on the test. Of course people lied. He was oblivious to cheating in general and apparently would grade girls easier if they wore skirts and flirted.

I experienced him only through a semester of lunch break choir practice and the few times he’d subbed for other courses, like Math and English. He’d make mistakes in lessons there, too. Eventually, the kids had enough and took the matter to the principal. I can’t recall if I got interviewed over it but I might have. I wouldn’t have had much in the way of testimony as I wasn’t in any of his regular classes, but I probably would have backed up my friends.

Third story from university and my introductory computer course. The professor was fine but the TA was an Asian fellow with a very thick accent and it seemed like everyone in the class wanted someone else to take over our lab sessions and took it up with the prof. I don’t recall where I stood on that one now, but he was really struggling to explain things in English and make himself understood and everyone was complaining about it. Poor bugger. He could have been the cleverest guy we were going to run into that year and we sidelined him. 

So, to this question. Would I sign a petition? Maybe. It may depend on the type of class it is and how much I care about it.

If it’s a throwaway filler class I have no interest in pursuing as my major, I may happily take the easy grades and focus my energies on whatever mandatory coursework is required for the degree I do care about.  

If it’s happening in a class that should be better preparing me for future classes in my chosen field, however, I’d feel cheated and concerned about the quality of my education going into it. 
Which is how my peers taking that “filler” class as a mandatory one would be feeling.

Pop culture and “quality” education:

Bad Teacher which I didn’t bother to see. It just sounded like absolute crap. Going by IMDB, Cameron Diaz “stars” as a middle school teacher who hates the job but can’t afford breast implants without it once her rich fiancé calls it quits.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 4 – not my favourite, but does feature scenes of Buffy trying college on for size and that shit ain’t fitting overly well. She signed up for what she hoped would a blow-off pop culture class but gets ejected by the jerky prof within minutes of sitting down. Her psychology class isn’t a lot better, but at least her professor likes her, sort of. Professor Walsh winds up having some horrible secret mission shit going on and Buffy winds up in the middle of the mess that woman’s making with her monster-hunting militia and favourite army boy, Riley Finn. 

Community — oh, how to pick something from that one. Ken Jeong plays Chang, the shittiest Spanish teacher in the world. He’s certifiable with some serious anger issues.

The pottery teacher pitches a fit over anyone trying to duplicate that scene from Ghost. Betty White does a fun cameo episode as the anthropology prof who deliberately tranquilizes one student and could easily kill Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) while trying to prove a point about weaponry. John Oliver is in several episodes as Ian Duncan, foremost a psychology prof, but who fills in for Ms. White after the weapon episode and decides that anthropology, being the study of people, allows for entire lessons to be filled with Youtube videos of people who’ve Autotuned farts. There’s also a gym instructor who teaches valuable lessons about playing pool with or without gym shorts, a Who’s The Boss expert who gets schooled, a drama instructor who takes things to extremes and a life coach kind of “Carpe Diem” guy who tries to make people live in the moment, to the point of absurdity. Last of all, there’s the Dean (Jim Rash) who really shouldn’t be in charge of anything so important as education…


Lois Lowry’s Giver series is a good read

May 26, 2016

I haven’t started Son yet, but I’ve read the first three.

Giver tells the story of Jonas, who lives in a dystopian future:

a futuristic society that has eliminated all pain, fear, war, and hatred. There is no prejudice, since everyone looks and acts basically the same, and there is very little competition. Everyone is unfailingly polite. The society has also eliminated choice: at age twelve every member of the community is assigned a job based on his or her abilities and interests.

To be their job for life. Jonas seemingly gets passed over during the sorting process however (no hat involved), but soon discovers that he’s to be given to the Giver to learn all he knows. It turns out the Giver can see memories of all the past givers (and then some) and transfers them to Jonas to help him learn the history his his people and a lot of other things, including glimpses into the future. Jonas turns out to be a gifted Giver, also, and can transfer these ideas to a toddler baby that his family has taken in while waiting to find out if another family will have room for the child. When Jonas finds out that his father plans to euthanize the toddler instead, Jonas runs away with him.

Which brings us to Gathering Blue, which doesn’t reference the first book at all but is still linked to it. In this one, Kyra has a bad leg but a gift for embroidery and is tasked with the job of fixing and adding to a beautifully embroidered robe that tells the history and future of her people, through a Singer who’ll wear it. A young friend of hers, Matt, finds out that she’d love to learn the secret of blue dye and knows where to find the plants that can create it. He brings both the blue cloth and her father home, a man she’d long thought was dead. Her father can’t stay, though, and she can’t go back to Village with him because she needs to use her embroidery gift to improve the future of her people.

Which brings us to Messenger, which I just finished. Matt has grown, now called Matty, and living with Kyra’s father, a blind man just known as Seer because he’s good as seeing more than what his eyes could have anyway. Leader appears to be the young toddler boy from the first book, as an indication that time has passed. Village had been a warm and welcoming place for so long but these days the people are less kind and willing to let newcomers in. Matt discovers he has a healing touch, which comes in handy later as he’s helping Kyra come live there with her father before the villagers block the village completely to newcomers. No spoilers as to how that goes.

And then Son, which I’ll have to report back on, as I haven’t started it yet so maybe things will get tied together a little more neatly.

It’s not all young adult books but I’ve noticed with some of them that they’re big on ideas but short on explanation and so far there’s no explanation given for why there are people with these amazing gifts and talents and what it is that makes it possible and how they can find each other over such distances. At least Star Wars has the Force and Harry Potter has the wizarding world of Hogwarts and the Hunger Games has a political system created to keep people downtrodden but hopeful.

I much prefer the Chrysalids in terms of an entire story getting told. We took the book in grade 8 in 1988 and it’s been a favourite of mine ever since. In John Wyndham’s book, also a dystopia, some of the kids have the ability to read minds, some of them at great distance, and soon realize that their weird religious society would kill them/banish them as mutants if they’re found out so they plan their escape. The youngest is the strongest and manages to reach out to people across the world in Sealand who put together a rescue mission. Again, low on details on the Sealand side of things, but since we just have to know they’re on their way, we don’t need much else. Also, we’ve seen the prophetic dreams of David who’s been dreaming of the wondrous place for years. We know it’s awesome.

I recall we had to write a conclusion/an extra chapter or two as a book project. I have dim recollections of writing 8 long chapters, but didn’t save any of it for posterity, alas. I sure loved writing as a kid. Don’t know why it didn’t grow into a career.

I thought someone later did a sequel to the book, but can’t recall more detail, nor find reference online. Perhaps I imagined it.


The One Minion Search Party – soul searching

May 26, 2016

Seeing as I’d ignored the blogosphere for several months and didn’t do much in the way of checking on the site or updating things, I was curious to see what my stats were looking like after so long.

soul searching

Helen Keller and Satanism is still popular but people are really hunting for soul answers this month, I see. I did a post back in 2010 regarding weariness and comments made by someone taking a religious stance on it. I disagreed with the need to bring religion in as a cure at the time and I still do.

Another writer, John Ortberg, wrote a piece a few years ago explaining different types of fatigue – the body, the mind and the will – then suggests that those combined create the soul-fatigue for people to feel

separated from God, separated from ourselves, and distanced from what we love most about life and creation.

This is soul-fatigue. Jesus engaged in certain practices which allowed God’s grace to keep replenishing his spirit. He prayed, he participated in community with his disciples, he engaged in corporate worship, he meditated on scripture, he enjoyed God’s creation. These spiritual practices rested his soul.

Again, the same solution can be had by participating in any community, be it freethinkers or a book club or some other social group or around a table every week engaging in entertaining role play with friends (and enemies).

Meditate, do yoga, take walks, join a gym. Find a few minutes to just disconnect from whatever crazy technology, co-worker or other hassle is stressing you out. Get back to your center and find some balance.

A common problem is that people think of spiritual practices as obligations that will actually drain them. Sometimes I may need to engage in a practice like giving generously, or serving humbly, which my sinful side resists. But generally I need to engage in practices that connect me to God’s grace and energy and joy.

In terms of activities feeling more like obligation rather than freely chosen for fun, that’s something to think about. How much of your day is spent doing what needs doing? How much of your day is approached with joy and gusto? What activities energize you? What plans make you want to curl up under a blanket for a week instead of following through? There needs to be balance in those areas as well. All work and no play.. well, you know the rest.


Question of Atheist Scruples – it’s not you, it’s me

May 26, 2016

The question:

Your mate is very sensitive about his (her) performance in bed. Lately, you haven’t been very aroused. Do you act as though you are?

I don’t want to be bringing my own bedroom into this like Homer giving marriage advice.

But, I guess I can answer this one by saying honesty ranks pretty high for me and I’ve never been great at acting. I suspect a partner who knows me well enough would pick up on the actual lack of interest in doing the do. A good relationship needs the honesty but respect as well and some things should be approached with fairness on top of all that. I’d rather be honest and confess to lack of drive rather than pretend otherwise.

The best pop culture television/movie reference I can add to the bottom of this has to be the iconic scene in When Harry Met Sally where Sally (Meg Ryan) demonstrates how convincing a fake orgasm can be, embarrassing the crap out of Harry (Billy Crystal) in the middle of the restaurant after he claimed he could “always tell” when a girl was faking it. Har har…


Can’t your god make a better miracle than poop stains in a diaper?

May 25, 2016

It was making headlines recently, a poop smear in the shape of a cross in a newborn baby’s diaper. Big poopie whoopie. Wonkette reports via Patheos that the mother, Katy Vasquez, took to Facebook to show the world this miraculous discovery.

This sign came in the oddest form. My babies poop. I went to change his diaper, and he pooped a cross. It might not be the prettiest sign, but he put it where he knew I’d see it. In my babies diaper. Lol. Hard to miss what’s right there in front of you.

If you can, or want to, feel free to share the message. That God is with us. And he gives us signs to let us know that things will be OK. It’s not always the prettiest sign, but he puts it where he knows we’ll see it. We’re good most of the time, but God is good all the time.

I’m sharing, all right — not because of gods, but because of belief in gods and how far gods appear to have fallen in terms of making themselves known to their believers. A poopy diaper? Really? Is that the best trick he’s got? Taking advantage of fabric and natural wrinkles and bodily functions?

While looking for this particular news story, my search also highlighted Yahoo Answers where the question is asked, Did Jesus poop on the cross? The “best” answer comes from someone going by the handle of Non-Believers are Dead Inside (spelling errors kept as found):

Well first of all the crucifixes are actaully censored they have Jesus wearing a loin cloth but actually He was naked as a form of public embarisment for the crucified prisoners. And yes they went to the bathroom hanging upon their crosses. In fact when a person is dying it’s not uncommon for that person to wet and soil themselves.
You make fun of things like this now but one day when you get old or when your dying your going to have accidents yourself. There is a reason why companies make diapers for adults.

No sources cited to verify any little factoids here regarding loincloths but I did find an abstract at the National Library of Medicine:

Death, usually after 6 hours–4 days, was due to multifactorial pathology: after-effects of compulsory scourging and maiming, haemorrhage and dehydration causing hypovolaemic shock and pain, but the most important factor was progressive asphyxia caused by impairment of respiratory movement. Resultant anoxaemia exaggerated hypovolaemic shock. Death was probably commonly precipitated by cardiac arrest, caused by vasovagal reflexes, initiated inter alia by severe anoxaemia, severe pain, body blows and breaking of the large bones. The attending Roman guards could only leave the site after the victim had died, and were known to precipitate death by means of deliberate fracturing of the tibia and/or fibula, spear stab wounds into the heart, sharp blows to the front of the chest, or a smoking fire built at the foot of the cross to asphyxiate the victim.

So, really, pooping yourself would have been the least of your worries.

Back to gods and miracles, though. I’ll have to invoke The Great God Om now. As a Terry Pratchett fan from way, way, way back, I highly recommend his book Small Gods.

The one true god of Omnia has gone through a bad time. Om transformed himself into a tortoise at some point in the past but, due to the lack of true believers now, he’s stuck in this low form. The loudest, most obnoxious religious folk don’t believe in him as much as they pretend they do so they don’t hear him call for help, or writhe in agony as he curses them. In fact, the only real believer he has left is Brutha, a pathetic novice at the temple who can barely hoe the lettuce but knows the books of Om upside down and sideways and Believes in him completely. Om must take Brutha on the path to becoming the next prophet, no matter how difficult a task it may be.

The Turtle Moves. And it should move into your bookshelves immediately.


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