Atheist scruples 2014 – hey “old man”

October 5, 2014

This was in my list of search terms for some random reason.

should i permit my 12 yr. old granddaughter to call me “old man” instead of grandpa?

I see many possibly answers here and they all depend on how much people want words to matter.

If this kid wants to call him “old man”, perhaps he should start calling her Princess Fartface or something equally stupid. She’ll either find it hilarious, or she’ll start getting annoyed.

This can be used as a jumping off point to a lesson in respect, remind her that “old man” isn’t a respectful way to address a grandparent, even when it’s true.

The other option is to just be cool and roll with it. Maybe it’s just a phase and she’ll grow out of it. If not, I guess you also have to ask yourself if it’s truly something to get bothered over. Maybe it’s meant as a gesture of respect, albeit one that might not make a bunch of sense as the old man in the scenario, but so it goes.

We really enjoy watching Community around here and in many of the commentaries the actors, writers and directors talk about Chevy Chase, who played Pierce on the show, and his consistent lack of understanding elements of the plot, jokes, and random lines he’d be set to deliver. Pierce was also a character frequently confused and out of touch with everyone. Chevy left the show due to artistic differences (to be polite about it).

“[Chevy is] a befuddled old man, but he’s also the guy who calls you to his trailer and shakes the script in the air and says: ‘I’m not a befuddled old man! I’m sexy! I could be the star of this show! I’m not gay. You’re writing me as if I’m gay,’ ” says Harmon, noting that he’d use Chase’s outbursts as story fodder. “I’d say to him, ‘Do you understand that what you’re saying is funny and it makes an interesting character?’ He would kind of blink and stare at me and go, ‘Whatever, I just don’t think it’s funny.’ “

And Pierce’s lack of tact and understanding would be a running joke between characters, which probably served more to annoy Chase rather than pacify him, too. But the “old white man says” Twitter feed is still pretty funny.

So, to finish up, times change fast and etiquette is having a hard time keeping up. Sayings and types of behaviour we find funny these days may baffle, alarm, or irritate our elders in ways that seem baffling, alarming or irritating to the one trying to make the joke.



“Graffiti is bad. Go play sports.”

September 2, 2014

The Man and I got Community season 5 from the library this past week and we’re so happy that it’s as good as the other seasons. We’re big fans. The blog post title comes from their take on G.I. Joe as Jeff Winger copes (badly) with turning 40.

We probably aren’t going to buy the show, though, until the whole series is available as a set. (We’re frugal and the SILS library system loans out the seasons of this and every other popular TV show for free anyway. If you live in Saskatchewan, get yourself a library card if you don’t have one already. Those are also free. There’s no excuse to miss good TV.)

Huzzah! to Yahoo for greenlighting a season 6. Hot damn.

If you’re not watching this show already, what the blerp is wrong with you?

I love their Dungeons and Dragons episodes especially but also the paintball episodes and any other episodes that result in characters having uprisings and destroying the school any and all ridiculous reasons.

The MeowMeowBeenz app episode hit all my love buttons. So much hilarity. So much goodness. So much to say about society and how value is judged by one’s peers, and how this can be manipulated by those with ambition to do so. It’s fantastic.

For extra reading: Community vs Big Bang Theory (a show I also love, but not in the same way.)

Community will reshape it’s [sic] universe to be a mystery, a cop drama, heist movie, science fiction thriller. It can becomes animated, claymated, 8 bit, puppets – whatever the story or the characters need. It looks like a sitcom, but it’s bigger on the inside.

TBBT, on the other hand, has awful worldbuilding. It’s a small, boring little world, one that appears sometimes to consist entirely of a couch and a staircase…

If Community is an almost-genre work all about the possibilities of change, TBBT is like its evil counterpart. It’s a story about stasis. A show obsessed with the power of habit and inertia, a show about stillness and limitation. It’s people sitting on couches together, and being alone. People that have nothing stopping them from reaching out, except that it would require them to be a little braver than they are, a little more insightful, a little kinder. In short, it would require them to change, and TBBT turns that into the hardest thing in the world.

Community takes the loss of characters and character development very seriously. The Hot Lava episode of season 5 is good example of that. In the previous episode, everyone’s just returned from Pierce’s funeral and they all have to deal with their humanity and their capacity to lie to each other, and to themselves. Pierce bequeaths in his will that Troy can have all his wealth if Troy is willing to do what Pierce did not – sail around the world. He agrees to do it. In the Hot Lava episode, Troy’s best friend, Abed, chooses to deal with Troy leaving by calling a school-wide “avoid the floor” game and insisting everyone participate so the winner can receive his mint edition comic book worth $50,000. By the end of the game, Abed manages to explain to Troy and Britta, the last survivors, why he started the game in the first place; he has trouble letting go. Britta and Troy come up with a very elegant solution to his problem, which I won’t spoil.

The Dungeons and Dragons episode that season is awesome. The gang tries to fix the relationship professor Hickey has with his son – who’s an avid player – by setting up a game that’s supposed to help them bond. The son sees through it immediately, though, and manipulates the situation to ruin what he thinks is Abed’s story for everyone. He deliberately switches all the character profiles and actively plays to wound those in his party if necessary. When the group is torn asunder after a tragedy, his only ambition is to kill the necromancer before his dad can. The end of the episode does not result in a father/son happy reunion, but I think it ended as it had to end – with the two of them in a room together willing to work toward a common goal, even if they had to fight for it every step of the way. That’s the way it is with a lot of families, and I think it was smart (and brave) for the Community writers to leave it there and not try to create the contrived forgiveness hug scene that so often happens in other show scenarios.

I don’t know how to end this. Watch the show. That’s all I can say. I’m not a shill. I’m just a fan of good scripts.

From the Department of the Obvious: “Churches use Facebook, Twitter to help tell Gospel story”

December 22, 2011

It’s a slow news day if they need filler like this. From The Observer & Eccentric:

God used angels more than 2,000 years ago to announce the birth of Jesus.

Today, churches are using Facebook, Twitter and other modern technology to help spread the Gospel message.

Though the message is the same — God loves everyone so much he sent his only son to save them — the way that message is delivered has changed over the centuries.

“We definitely see social media as one of the languages of the culture (now),” said Josh Isenhardt, 30, social media pastor at NorthRidge Church in Plymouth Township. This generation considers Facebook a modern-day town square. “Why wouldn’t we have a presence there?”

If you Google “Second Life Church” you’ll get a fair number of hits. Images, too. I don’t know how many people dived into that game wholeheartedly, but it’s not hard to imagine that some of them used it as an opportunity to proselytize in virtual neighbourhoods as they set up worship sites there. Landover Baptist mocks this approach, but via World of Warcraft:

“…the real True Christians™ pick the Horde to play as characters and start their guilds in Horde territory because they like the challenge of sharing Christ’s message in a perilous, lava-soaked, environment. Sometimes you have to pester people for weeks before they listen to you. I followed some stupid gnome around for 8-hours until he finally told me that he would accept Jesus as his Personal Savior if I would just shut up and promise not to contact him anymore. Now that rocks! Praise God!”

Of course they’ll use whatever popular social outlet exists in order to spread their message. They’ll go where the people are and Facebook alone has more than 800 million users. A large chunk of that may already be Christian but others won’t, and some will be the wrong flavour of Christian in need of correcting.

NorthRidge added a virtual campus this year. It has a brick and mortar campus in Plymouth Township, and meets in schools in Saline and Howell.

In the virtual campus, members from around the country and world simultaneously visit the church’s website ( at 7 p.m. Sunday to watch a rebroadcast of the weekend service and participate in a live-time chat room, even praying for each other.

“Church online is for those people who are not ready to step into the physical location,” Isenhardt said.

I got hooked on the internet back in 1995 while in university. Friends set me up on these things called “talkers” which were telnet based on-line hangouts. In its heyday, the one called Resort had a hundred or so logged on at any given moment of the day and an overall population of around 10,000. Maybe more. This was before most people even understood what the internet was or wanted access to it. Maybe it was happening to others but I don’t recall anyone trying to lure me to Christ in all the hours I used those places — they were too busy propositioning me for net-sex. I still keep in touch (via Facebook) with a few spods I net-friended back in the day, too.

The internet is large enough for any type of person to find a group that fits his or her interests, be they religious, or political, or controversial, or down right nuts. And if that group doesn’t seem to exist, it’s easily created and will get found by others who need it eventually. For example, atheist-based internet hangouts have been a boon to those in areas where their lack of belief would make them targets for abuse or worse. The internet is a hell of a good thing for atheists. It’s not always easy to get together in person but if enough people are reading a particular blog or aggregate, it creates a sorely-needed sense of community. And not only that — look at all the money atheist reddit users raised for Doctors Without Borders: $203,000. Talk about awesome.

Yet with all the modern technology available to churches today, nothing will take the place of people personally talking to their family and friends about Jesus and inviting them to go to church with them, Rose said. “At the end of the day there’s one best way (to spread the Gospel message) and that’s being involved in the life of your neighbors.”

True for atheists/humanists as well. I missed out on a Freethinker pubnight last night, alas, but I was too busy packing and sorting out things for my upcoming trip home for Christmas. I hope we manage to lure some more people into our group next year, not just as token members who rarely participate, but some who really want to be active and involved with what we’re doing. We have a great group and I’d like to see it get even better.

What is the purpose of church? Depends who you ask

February 10, 2011

I found a new opinion piece put together by Leon Fontaine at the Winnipeg Sun. I wrote a reply to something else he published recently regarding faith and I’m game for another go.

We live in a world where many don’t belong to a church.

Statistics tell us that church attendance has been in steady decline for the last five decades. However another survey reveals that many people don’t go to church simply because they’ve never been invited.

Fontaine doesn’t elaborate on where or how he found this information. I found a Canadian piece about declining numbers and it splits the stats up between weekly attendance, monthly and yearly. The question asked there is not why people leave the church but why they’ve reduced the number of times they sit in it. They suggest it could be a lack of commitment but are willing to concede changes in community and culture might also play a role.

Christianity Today has the UK survey information from 2007. Three million people apparently stated they’d go to church if someone asked them to attend. It says nothing about whether they’d make a habit of it, mind you. They’d just go “if they were given the right invitation.”

Jesus’ church is to be a place of hope and encouragement, a place where people’s can grow and have their destinies altered for all eternity by coming into relationship with Him. It’s a place where people can feel accepted and unconditionally loved as together they commit their lives to becoming more and more like Him. When you consider the true purpose of church, you can’t help but feel that its decline is very unfortunate.

I think people also like to use church as a community center where they can meet up with their friends regularly, get involved with fund raising and do some nice things for the less fortunate. But church isn’t the only way to get involved with one’s community. There are so many kinds of groups people can join that will provide the same chances to alter destiny .. assuming you buy into the idea of destiny in the first place, obviously.

Governments and community organizations do many great things, but nothing takes the place of a life-changing church. It’s where people learn to become leaders with honesty and integrity.

Any group can promote and encourage the growth of leadership potential. The church doesn’t hold any monopoly on honesty and integrity; as I reported earlier today, billions of dollars worth of church money gets siphoned out of the church coffers by dirty leaders every year (see here).

It is a rescue for those in trouble, a refuge for those in grief, and a place of love, laughter and discovering a higher purpose. Most important, church is about falling deeper in love with God, learning about the good news of Jesus Christ, and growing in a relationship with Him.

I don’t think the Jesus Christ stuff is at all necessary to achieve that. Won’t a Jewish temples can’t offer the same rescue and refuge? Don’t Muslim temples inspire people to find higher purposes? Judging by what’s most likely to get reported, it’s hard to approve of what they might consider a “higher purpose”, but it’s also a major fallacy to assume everyone who practices Islam will become an expert in terrorist tactics in the process. Can’t a Buddhist also know love? He probably thinks an atheist can’t at all, but he’s clueless.

Church should never be a place where you feel judged or condemned. It is meant to inspire you to do good works, to become a better person, discover unbelievable joy and develop faith in God. Where else in society can families learn to grow together, married couples find skills to work through problems and discover a higher level of intimacy, and where men and women find exciting purpose and meaning in their lives?

Psychologists and self-help gurus have to earn a living somehow.

Not very marriage counselor is going to take a biblical tact for dealing with relationship issues, either. Marriage counselors have gotten into hot water by doing that, actually.

If you’ve found a great church, you owe it to yourself to get involved. Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do. It will enrich your life tremendously. You also have the great privilege of growing the church. Make it your mission to share your faith and invite others. Look around at the people in your life. Do they know where you attend church? Have you ever asked them to join you? If not, what are you waiting for? Ask someone new to join you on Sunday morning. You never know, it may change someone’s life—and their destiny—forever.

But keep in mind that the people you ask have a right to say no without feeling guilty about it. The people you ask have a right to live their lives the way they want without your interference or assumed need for intervention. They have a right to believe what they want, think what they want, do what they want, even if it all runs contrary to what you think is God’s plan for their lives. If they want him, they can seek him out anytime. They can seek you out any time and ask for Jesus. Pray for them if you feel you must but it’s none of your business what they do if they don’t.

Maybe they’ve already joined a local chapter of Freethinkers or Humanists and will never want what you’re offering.

“Post-theistic” doesn’t sound terrible

February 2, 2011

A phrase like that sounds like it walks the line between belief in higher power and scrapping the idea in favour of humanism, according to this article I found at The United Church Observer:

Post-theism has quietly emerged in individual United Church ministries across Canada that desire a sense of intellectual satisfaction and nurturing and inspiration in their spiritual lives, qualities they say the traditional format fails to offer. Post-theistic churches use the Bible sparingly, acknowledging its contents as myth — or don’t reference it at all. Many write their own music, use contemporary songs to convey their values or change the lyrics to familiar tunes. Prayers aren’t addressed to God, but to the community and its innate sacredness.

This approach has attracted people who haven’t found what they’re looking for in traditional sanctuaries, ministers say. But it’s turned away congregants who feel they can no longer access their faith without the traditional symbols and language.

The reverend of that church, Gretta Vosper, wrote a book a few years ago that might be worth looking for: With or Without God: Why the Way We Live Is More Important than What We Believe.

“In the United Church, we’re very strong about praying for guidance, praying for strength, praying for courage, and if you take that idea of an interventionist God . . . away, nothing has really changed,” she says. “You’re still asking for strength, except it’s not coming from some supernatural source. It comes from the community that you gather with.”

Vosper is leaving a lot of the post-theistic decisions for her church in the hands of her congregation these days and they’re making some surprising choices, from wanting to pull crosses down (albeit briefly) to rediscovering the solstice.

The congregation is also having more conversations about spirituality, Vosper says, which makes for a much more interactive service. It’s a change from back in 2001 when she discovered through her research that church people had difficulty articulating their beliefs.

Rev. Ken Gallinger, who leads the congregation at Lawrence Park Community Church in north Toronto, says people are coming to Sunday worship there because they feel free to explore deeper questions and discuss some of their conflicting feelings about what they’ve traditionally been taught. “We hear so much about why people are not in our churches these days — that people are busy and they’re going to hockey, etc. But underneath that is a more fundamental thing: they don’t believe it,” he says. “What we’re trying to create here is a safe place for people to talk about ‘How do we develop an authentic spirituality without a guy in the sky?’”

While I might disagree with calling it spirituality, I can get behind their ambition to retain some sense of unity and greater purpose. They’re curious, they’re challenging themselves to rethink their long-held beliefs, and hopefully they come through the experience with the realization that they can still be good and worthwhile people within their families and communities without needing to give a deity credit for any of it.

Gallinger often uses secular music during his sermons and I found this part to be pretty interesting:

following a Johnny Cash and June Carter song played as part of his sermon, Gallinger reminded people that the song’s storyline — a deceased loved one makes sandcastles in heaven while waiting for her dearest to arrive — is complete mythology.

“Of course I don’t believe that — that’s foolish and ridiculous,” he tells them. “We know too much about the world to not know that isn’t true.”

Is he saying that the whole idea of heaven is a myth, or is he just saying our assumptions of what it’s going to be like are false impressions, therefore nothing to put faith in?

Reading the rest of the article, it seems like the United Church as a whole doesn’t really know what to do with these breakaways. Should they be encouraged or ignored and left to fend for themselves? Speakers for UC won’t admit to either tactic, stating that keeping communication open between both styles of church is what’s important. Rev. Robert Dalgleish, the General Council’s executive director of the network for ministry development, sees

post-theistic congregations as just one among many emerging forms of ministry within the United Church, which include into-the-community ministries like the café ministry in Hamilton or the skate-park ministry in Perth, Ont. “We have been so insular that the vigorousness and provocativeness of conversations like this are healthy for us if they’re going to get us thinking out of the box,” he says.

So he doesn’t care where they go so long as they go United. Sounds like the same method Sam Walton used to justify having a store within 20 minutes of another. Maybe each store makes a little less money but all the money made still went to Sam and company so the point was moot. Here, it’s all the credit, I guess.

Well anyway, I have to say that if I did for some reason get the notion that I needed to head to a church service, a post-theistic thing is what I’d go looking for. It seems like it would be less obviously supporting a solely Christian mindset compared to other places I could go.

Quotable president (not that one)

September 25, 2010

In the wake of Hurricane Igor landing on (and decimating parts of) Newfoundland, Lana Payne, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour had this to share:

Poet William Wordsworth encouraged us to let nature be our teacher. What did nature teach us this past week? Perhaps it reminded us just our fragile life can be. Perhaps it taught us that in the midst of great difficulty humanity and compassion have a way of rising to the top.

It reminded me that in this global age where individualism is often touted over the benefits of the collective, just how wrong-headed that notion is. Because when times are tough, we need each other. We need strong leaders. We need kindness and generosity. We need to help each other and we need to rise to the occasion. That doesn’t happen if in good times we only think of ourselves.

Perhaps nature taught us this week not to take things for granted, not to take our humanity for granted, but to practice compassion each and every day so that it’s not so rusty when it’s really needed.

I notice there’s no mention of needing a god in order to make that work, either. That’s nice to see.

I think in each of us there is a great capacity for compassion and generosity. Maybe tapping into that reservoir isn’t everyone’s automatic response to tragedy but I think the majority of us do find small ways to show we care and give what we can of ourselves as we go about our daily lives. And we never know exactly how it’ll pay off in the end, but it’s worth doing all the same.

8,760 hours of community service would be better than…

December 31, 2009

8,760 hours of prayer in 2010, in my opinion.

Brian Nall, pastor of Ferris Hill Baptist Church, is starting a prayer movement for the year 2010. He wants 8,760 hours of prayer.

Nall posted a Web site at the beginning of November guiding Christians to make a difference with prayer.

He believes if Christians in Santa Rosa County commit to one hour of prayer at throughout the year, it will bring transformation not only for the individuals, but also the whole county. Nall said denomination doesn’t matter. All Christians should participate if capable.

“Prayer has been reduced in our nation, in our schools and in some homes,” Nall, 32, said. “And we can see the crumbling in each of those areas. Look at what the absence of prayer has done.”

Right, lack of prayer is totally why kids can’t pass algebra and start using drugs and joining gangs. Right, lack of prayer is totally why parents can’t afford necessities after a job loss or why they never got enough education themselves.

Chip Fox, director of missions for the Santa Rosa Baptist Association, has scheduled one hour of prayer for the year 2010.

“I scheduled for the beginning or the year in January,” Fox, 54, said. “But I intend to do more. The important thing is to fill every spot. I sent out a letter and encouraged all our members to sign up.”

Fox added there are different levels of prayer.

“We are praying for our county from government down to the individual citizen,” Fox said. “It’s not just a southern Baptist thing. Brian is seeking Christians of other denominations. “I can’t imagine what God would do for us with that amount of prayer.”

Same as praying to him does now: nothing. Prayer does nothing but make the people doing it feel like they’ve accomplished something when they’ve really done fuck all about a problem.

Don’t set aside an hour to do nothing but look at a website and pray on it. Use those hours for real community development. Tutor some kids, visit the elderly, pick up the litter at a park or something. Do something, anything that would actually make a positive impact on a person or the town.

“We do need prayer in our schools not only for the students, but also the administration,” Page said. “I think we will see a great shift in the atmosphere if we all stand in one accord. God will be pleased with that.”

I’m always amazed at how people put words into god’s mouth and heart into god’s supposed emotional state. It’s such a stupid thing when it’s used to somehow move one’s position forward in a discussion.

Page said she likes the Web site. It explains other things to do while praying.

I guess that means I should go see what’s over there. The “Getting Started” page offer a few guidelines. I wonder how many people will take up this silly “challenge” over the course of the year. I can’t get the One Hour how-to without signing up but they do have a link to How to Spend the Day which offers some fun tidbits. I can’t copy/paste due to some holy pdf trickery (to make it harder to illustrate how dumb it is, I suppose) but I’m not wasting my ink on this tripe so I’ll just copy the old way with any bold and capital letters being original to the piece:

Remember that true WORSHIP is walking in the Fear of the Lord…

Watch out for distractions … The enemy can use many forms of thought darts, many from TV or the internet…

Be alert! You are in a war zone! Watch out for enemy distractions – thought darts (yes, it’s really in there twice; it’s that serious), worry zones, false-guilt attacks, and thought “parades”…

You may spend longer times or shorter times in this Prayer Guide as the Spirit leads you. That is fine. He may bring up issues that are not mentioned here. Pray over the burdens He gives. Pray concerning the “burning” in your heart. Remember the Holy Spirit is The Guide in prayer. We are weak and ignorant and we must depend on him to guide us…

Ah well anyway, you get the drift. It also offers suggestions for witnessing and how to bring folks back into the fold and how to apologize to God for being a screw up and misinterpreting his Word. How to prep for fasting and how to waste a whole damn day on a selfish “selfless” endeavour rather than spend those hours doing something useful with another person that might actually make a noticeable difference.

Ah well, it’s their lives, they can do what they want. I’m just really glad I don’t have to.