Thots and observations about our culture  2005-2008

Black professors at a university in Oklahoma complained that their percentage makeup doesn't match the percentage makeup of the general population. Here's how ridiculous that argument is - the NBA determines its starting lineup based on skill, talent, and expertise; not on the percentages of ethnic populations (which would probably be 3 white guys, 1 Hispanic, and one from black, Asian, Native American populations). Why are we okay with the NBA having racially unbalanced starters? Because we accept that a basketball team wants to win - they don't care about employing the underrepresented - they want to win. In education, apparently, its not about assembling the best, its about providing a job service. Educators don't care about 'winning', just fear of reprisals.

Who Would Jesus Bomb? Have you noticed the fad of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets and bumper stickers has ended. Abruptly. Even bracelet-wearing believers had to admit that Jesus would not attack Iraq, kill innocent people, and lie to people about the attack. But then, there is not much about the behavior of George Bush nor the Christian right that is very Christ-like.

At the World Trade Center site there is a symbolic Christian cross made of I-beams that is mounted on a concrete base. Isn't it likely that there were Jews, Muslims, atheists, Mormons, etc. who died that day and suffered the same tragedy as the cross-believers? Some agency or group of people made a concerted effort to express a specific viewpoint and send a specific message. But that message is not inclusive nor appropriate on the site. At nearby churches it would be appropriate, but not within Ground Zero. I was told by a government agency (when I wrote to complain) that some people feel the cross is a symbol of hope. That's true, some probably do; but others do not. This religious expression suggests that the USA is in a Holy War, after all - one between religions, not governments or politics. Why is that cross there - why would tolerant and ethnically diverse New York City allow such a blatant and obvious display of exclusion and favoritism towards one belief system on such 'public' property? Can't we do better?

Have you noticed that the climax of Christmas parades is Santa Claus, not Jesus? There are at least two versions of Christmas now - the minor spiritual observance (who really celebrates a birthday at Christmas?) and the major frenzy of consumerism and one-upmanship. The early American Puritans (who were probably more religious than any of the Christian-right today) even banned celebrations at Christmas as they felt it cheapened the birth of their savior. They were so right. Almost all the traditions associated with Christmas are pagan in origin - Christmas really is not about the birth of a mythological character from a book. Its more about culture, greed, pride, and excess. In 2005, some churches even canceled Sunday services on Christmas day.

Symptoms of how gullible and naive some Americans are: 44% think Christ (a character from a book) will actually return to Earth sometime in the next 50 years. More than 50% of Americans believe that the universe was created 6,000 years ago (the Sumerians invented glue about 7,000 years ago). 73% believe in the existence of a place called Hell (again, from a story in a book). Its little wonder why we are fighting holy wars, murdering the non-believers, and clutching to religious icons. Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, states, "The President of the United States has claimed to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim any more ludicrous or offensive."
When I read about the continued efforts of religious extremists to make the USA a theocracy, I feel that our society is stepping backwards into a new Age of Mythology. While some societies move from ignorance (God of Thunder, God of the Harvest, etc.) to enlightenment, America is coddling its ignorant and paranoid masses, apparently for the sake of power and control, by relying on belief in supernatural mythical characters. Statistics from PEW, Gallup, and Newsweek.

Fun at the Oklahoma State Fair • Pizza on a Stick!

Documents of the early Christian movement were a mixture of Jewish, Persian, and Gnostic beliefs, Greek mystery cults, and Egyptian concepts of the hereafter, the kind of religious diversity that flourished in the Roman Empire, until it became obvious that Roman authorities looked disapprovingly on theological differences that turned into civil disturbances. Ecclesiastics decided that peace with Rome was preferable to theological convention. Hence, with the insistence of the clerical community, clerics sought a unity of dogma in 325 that, once established with imperial favor under Constantine, made heresy and dissent unfashionable and then dangerous. That lives on. Don Sharpes, author of Lord of the Scrolls

What Intelligent Designer came up with cancer and toothaches? Who ‘designed' your appendix and tonsils, organs that do nothing but get infected and cause you grief? How intelligent is the famously fragile human spine or the narrow pelvis that makes childbirth harder for humans than for almost any other species? There are evolutionary explanations for all of these, but I hardly think there was much intelligence in designing halitosis, acne, and flatulence. Lawrence Dorr, Letters, Time magazine

Science is just beginning to explore religion as a phenomenon of the brain, not the supernatural phenomenon of gods, spirits, and demons that most people still believe it to be. Atheism is a positive and uplifting worldview. Liberation from darkness, superstition, and irrationality of religion brings great happiness, along with a serious commitment to do what is right for our fellow humans and for our natural world - the only world there is. John Wathey, Letters, US News & World Report

Question: Some books say that Jesus was married, Judas was faithful, etc. How do we know Jesus was really like the Bible says he was? These books might be right instead of the Bible.
Billy Graham's answer: Most of the books you've been reading are fiction - the product of an author's imagination. Thus, they shouldn't be taken as fact. The Gospels alone are reliable. We can trust them because they were written while thousands of people were alive who heard Jesus teach and they witnessed His miracles. If the Gospel writers had distorted the facts, these people would have complained? But they didn't, because their record was tight. We can trust the Bible because God watched over its writing: "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21)
Jim's response: Excuse me, what did Graham say? The Bible is not fiction, but fact. What does he base that on? Just because the very same book says it is true doesn't really make it true. How do we know no one back then didn't complain? The Bible was put together to meet an agenda - complaints about its content wouldn't be included. That doesn't mean there weren't any. The Gospels differ in their detailed ‘facts'. How do we know God watched over the writing of the Bible? Well, because the Bible says He did, that's why. That reasoning does not stand up to any level of scrutiny or scientific study.

Former Representative Katherine Harris of Florida says "God is the one who chooses our rulers. If you are not electing Christians, then, in essence, you are going to legislate sin."
President Bush stated "I believe government has an obligation to open its coffers to faith-based groups in order to make sure America's souls are saved one person at a time."
James Dobson, Focus on the Family, said "Marriage is under vicious attack now from the forces of hell itself. I believe with the destruction of marriage will come the decline of Western civilization itself."

I don't quite get all the flack against Walmart. Some say they pay low wages, have poor health coverage, and hurt communities where they open up a new store. When I was a kid, we had these same conversations about shopping malls - they were killing downtown shopping. And they did. But we liked the convenience, ease of free parking, and selection of stores and activities. Malls became the new 'Main Streets'. We flocked to the malls just as we now flock to Walmart. Here are some statistics from George Will of the Washington Post:
• 325 jobs available at a new Walmart in a suburb of Chicago - 25,000 people applied, 25,000 people who felt they would be better off with the alleged low wages and poor health coverage.
• Walmart accounted for 13% of the nation's productivity gains - makes Walmart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation.
• Walmart causes the loss of about 50 retail jobs among competitors - but Walmart creates 100 new jobs (net gain of 50 new jobs).
• Walmart saves shoppers over $200 billion a year - more than food stamps ($29 billion).
• Walmart saves grocery buyers 17% (Walmart has 20% of the USA's grocery business).

Got into a discussion with Beau (who lived in Australia) and Julie (who lived in London) about Aussie rules football, soccer, and American football. Calling soccer, a sport where the hands can't touch the ball, football makes a lot of sense - its mostly about running and kicking. American football is not really about the feet - its passing, running, and some kicking; but the ball is mostly touched by hands. Should we call it Handball? No, that's already the name of a game that uses hands extensively. How about Runball or Passball. That makes sense. Okay, from now on, I'll call it Runball. Or Passball. Or Touchdownball. Just not Football.

Approved for Washington DC in 2006: a new African-American War Memorial and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Should we then remove all references and exhibits concerning Negroes in the Museum of American History and other existing non-racist War memorials? Negroes have played a major part in the development and history of the United States and there are vital stories to tell. These contributions should definitely be recognized and included in our national heritage and archives. But, a separate museum? Why segregate Negro history and contributions? Why not integrate? What did MLK, Rosa Parks and the countless others fight for - segregation, discrimination, or integration? What a terrible insult to their suffering.

A constitutional amendment to prohibit burning the American flag will be the first amendment (with the exception of the prohibition of alcohol - which was later repealed) that gives Congress the power to restrict individual citizen's freedom. It also will be the first to restrict a material object. Some proponents say the flag deserves special protection because it is the most important symbol of America and the constitution. However, if the amendment does pass we may likely see an increase in flag burning as it will become an even clearer and stronger form of protest. Those who favor amending the constitution probably don't really care about someone burning a flag (we have flag underwear, frayed flags on government buildings, and all sorts of disrespectful flag displays) - they probably are using this as a political issue in these paranoid times when Americans are deeply divided (thanks, George). As another said, "It is a sign of a democracy's fragility to use a constitutional amendment as a test for patriotism". If our government sees fit to amend the constitution to protect a symbol of freedom, then it will mark the beginning of the end of our democracy, a major turning point in the continued eroding of the effectiveness of the US government. There will be no clearer symptom of the downfall of the USA than creating legal protection for a symbol.

There is now a serious police presence in downtown Manhattan - and not ordinary police, but these decked-out military style soldiers. There are also National Guard kids stationed throughout the city. Seeing these quasi-soldiers on street corners and in Grand Central reminds me of seeing soldiers in Egypt - a third-world, unstable government. This is the United States of America. What is going on? Is it paranoia? Security precautions? Overreaction? Have we finally acknowledged that terrorists have made a major impact on our culture and lifestyle?

The ratio of large corporation CEOs pay to the average worker's pay was 10 to 1 in 1980 (if a worker earned $100, the CEO got $1,000). In 2006, the ratio jumped to 430 to 1 (the worker earns $100, the CEO gets $43,000). That's a 4,200% increase from 1980 to 2006. The former chief executive of ExxonMobil was paid $686 million over 13 years. That is about $211,000 every single work day. The average annual salary in America is about $32,000. This guy received that much in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Again - he got more in an hour and 15 minutes than the average American got in 1 year. This disparity seems obscene and way out of balance. Remember, ExxonMobil made more corporate profit in 2005 than any other company ever in history. Excerpted from Playboy magazine and The New York Times

There is a subtle move that people (mainly males) do in New York City - I call it the Pocket Pat. Its to check, when leaving one's apartment, to make sure one has keys and phone in the pockets before the apartment door locks behind you. Its a quick movement to check for the bulges - simple pats on the pockets.

The illegal immigration issue seems pretty much based on greed. Mexicans risk their lives to come here to get more money. US companies hire them in violation of INS laws in order to save on salaries and make more money. Consumers prefer products with lower prices. Good ole fashioned American greed seems to be at the root of the problem. Now people are demanding something be done, yet they don't want prices to go up to cover the higher salaries that will be required to hire American workers to replace the illegal immigrants. Isn't it really our fault?

Edited excerpt from The New York Times, April 9, 2006: A study, appearing in The American Heart Journal, showed that cardiac patients who were prayed for had no better chance of recovery than those who were not. Even worse, patients who knew they were being prayed for actually did worse, (possibly because of performance anxiety). However disappointing the outcome of the $2.4 million project was to the researchers, most believers are likely to remain unfazed. One of the coauthors of the study, a chaplain in Minnesota, noted, "You hear tons of stories about the power of prayer, and I don't doubt them." That is all the evidence most believers require. This has always been the quandary - science and religion are not playing by the same rules. No laboratory finding can compel a person to give up what is taken on faith. Looking to science to prove a miracle is a losing proposition, for both believers and skeptics. The skeptics continue to trust in science, and the believers in miracles. Science and religion become neither closer nor more distant, raising the question of just what the research was supposed to accomplish.
Most people acknowledge that nothing fails quite like prayer. Every plane that has crashed probably had several people on board praying for a safe flite, victims of Katrina most certainly had prayed to God to save them. We know most prayer fails, but the value of prayer is that it makes the one praying feel better. They know God is not likely to change the preordained order of events just to suit their selfish wishes, but they feel better turning over their problems to a perceived higher power.

I was sitting at the Border's Books on 59th and Lexington (I had just come from seeing the Frank Gehry collection of jewelry at Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue). I was watching people meander around the store when one person approached this narrow passage, stood on the floor, and the floor moved. First it moved her forward about two feet (her feet didn't move) and then - and I'm not making this up - the floor she was standing on began to move up at an angle, like a staircase but she didn't have to climb the steps. By golly, she just stood there. What a great invention that is. You stand on the floor, don't move, and the floor takes you up to the next level. You just stand there. Holy cow. What's next - a small room that goes straight up and down?

Basically, I am a pacifist. I prefer not to kill. I'll even catch bugs and release them outside rather than squash them. I am opposed to the death penalty and to aborting fetuses. But, as much as I strive to love all creatures, I absolutely hate mosquitoes, yes - hate, detest, abhor. They are miserable little creatures. I enjoy killing them. I can't find any positive value to the planet from these damn things. I do not understand why Noah did not swat that one pair of mosquitoes when he had the chance and save all the rest of us from the misery of bites and malaria. Damn you, Noah.

The other day, I got inside a machine that I store at my house in a special room. I sat in a comfortable adjustable chair and by moving my feet and arms this machine smoothly transported me to wherever I guided it to go. I sat in a lounge chair, in a climate-controlled environment, and listened to music on a custom sound system of songs that I had programmed earlier. I was quite comfortable and without having to exert much energy, I was transported to stores and restaurants, all in a matter of minutes. I call this amazing machine my PTU, Personal Transit Unit. What a great age we live in. We no longer have to walk or ride a horse to get around.

I just authorized the euthanasia of my dog, Dallas. I signed one form. Now I wonder - why is it socially acceptable and even encouraged that we euthanize our pets to end their suffering, yet it is illegal to show the same respect and consideration for our human friends? Is it because we are more sensitive to our pets needs? Is it partly because we don't compromise any religious values killing pets? I don't know, but this makes me more sympathetic to the cause of allowing terminally ill people to die with dignity at their own choosing.

In Buffalo, there is the remarkable story of a local firefighter who awoke from a coma after two years. When his family was interviewed about the seeming miracle, they said "we prayed, and God answered our prayers". When the medical staff was interviewed, the doctors said "we tried a new medication". Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, asks - if you had to rely on only one treatment, prayer or the new medication, which would you keep and which would you give up? Wise people chose medicine. More from his essay.

Showing the credits for a movie after the movie has begun is like putting a picture behind text in a print ad. Its annoying - if the director wants me to get into the picture, don't interrupt with stuff to read - stuff that I don't need or even want to read. And if the director wants me to read these credits, don't interrupt them with dialogue, visuals, or plot. I came to see a movie. Boosting the egos of the production crew and stars is useless. Let me just watch the movie. If I really care or want to know who the cinematographer, costume designer, or grip was, I'll sit through the credits at the end.

The ichthus symbol of the fish was used by ancient Christians to show that the resident was part of this new underground religious movement. After Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire (renamed the Holy Roman Empire), the secret symbol was no longer necessary. Now it is used to express faith on the back of SUVs and in ads of shopowners who want Christians to spend their money in their store. To play along, non-Christian freethinkers used the same fish symbol but added legs and put the name Darwin inside the fish. To counter that, some Christians have come back with the fish symbol with the word Truth inside. Yikes. We're in trouble when we think that truth comes from an old book of stories and superstitious myths.

Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans, has predicted that New Orleans will be a "chocolate city" once more and has asserted that Hurricane Katrina happened because "God was mad at America." In a speech he made during the Martin Luther King holiday, he also stated that the hurricane was a sign of God's anger toward the United States and black communities and that New Orleans would be a black city again because "It's the way God wants it to be." Is there any wonder why there is still racial and religious tension in America?

Apparently, In the religion of Islam, Muslims participate in a hajj at Mecca in Saudi Arabia where one must throw stones at three 'pillars' - that represent the devil - to absolve oneself of sin. Does this sound primitive and unenlightened? But, anyway, this is done to please God. However, in 2004, 244 people died in the crush of people trying to throw their stones and on January 12, 2006, 345 people died. Were these people sinners who God didn't like and chose to let die, were they uncoordinated and couldn't hit the pillars so they were deemed unworthy of life, or were they trampled by the herd of non-thinking zealots but not protected by God? Seems like another example of sheep/people (sheeple?) that worship ancient superstitious mythology just because everyone else does.

Update on the 'miracle' of finding 12 trapped miners alive: John Casto was at the local church when the false report arrived and later, the terrible news. After the first report, "they were praising God," he said. And after the second "they were cursing." Casto said the tragedy has shaken the faith of some in the community. "Some of us are saying that we don't even know if there is a Lord anymore," she said. "We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us." One of those gathered at the church was Lynette Roby, who said the scene turned quickly to mayhem upon the announcement. People began screaming, "You lied to us!" and "Hypocrites!" before charging officials, Roby said, further describing the church as "a mob scene." Police intervened. "They started running everywhere, and then next thing you know we see fists flying everywhere," her son, Travis, said. "Cops and people was hitting each other." (It was simply a matter of miscommunication).


All men really are not created equal. Modern genetic science is finding evidence that the races are not the same. In evolving in different environments on different continents, Caucasians (primarily Europe), Negroes (primarily sub-Sahara Africa), and Mongoloids (primarily East Asia) developed a long list of differing traits that have enhanced their survival. Negroes mature much faster physically and have better eyesight while Mongoloids mature more slowly but live longer. Caucasians have an average IQ of about 100, Negroes (in Africa and in the USA) average 70-85; and Mongoloids from 106-113. From William Saletan in

Osama Bin Laden means Sama, son of Laden. Ben Hur means son of Hur. Although now the antiquated son of often means family of or descendant of. Here are a few name prefixes that mean descendant of:
    Mc or Mac - Celtic, Scottland
    O' - Celtic, Ireland
    Fitz - Norman
    Di or De - Italian and French
    Bar - Aramaic
Some name suffixes that mean descendant of:
    -ez - Spanish
    -ich or vich - Russian
    -sky or -ski - Eastern European
    -tse - Chinese
    -czyk or -wiak or -wicz - Polish
    -idas or -ides or -populous - Greek.

Concerning the issue of underage drinking - the problem is not one of underage drinking. If we state that it is, then we will likely fail. Alcohol doesn't force itself on us - we make conscious decisions to drink it. People not of legal drinking age will chose to drink - its a part of the rite of passage in American culture, whether we like it or not. The problem is drinking too much - more than the body can safely metabolize, often brought on by binge drinking. If we recognize that, then we might be able to address the problem and make things better, with the goal to help develop drinkers who are willing and capable of making intelligent and responsible decisions. We have learned (hopefully) that prohibiting something is simply not effective. Prohibition seems to increase desire, as it did in the early 1930s. Prohibiting the American teenager (no matter the age) from drinking is not working, nor will it ever work.
Some recommendations to consider:
    1. Continue to educate young people through schools, churches (just declaring drinking alcohol a sin won't do it), and, especially, in the home. Provide materials and incentives for educators/parents to discuss the harmful effects of alcohol. We may then minimize ignorance - to help one make a more intelligent decision concerning their physical and mental health, the burden on society and the judicial system, the dangers of drunk driving, relationships, embarrassing behavior, and one's own dignity.
    2. Change the legislation that requires 3.2 beer in Oklahoma. 3.2 often encourages young people to drink more in order to feel a 'buzz'. So, the 3.2 legislation helps develop habits of overdrinking - probably the opposite of what it was intended to do.
    3. Remove inducements for binge drinking, such as Nickel beer night, Bottomless cup, Ladies drink free, Happy Hour drink specials, Half-price drinks, etc. These all encourage people to drink too much and/or to binge drink. Bar and restaurant owners should impose this on their own. If not, legislation may be necessary.

Snowwoman and excited snowman in the park down the street, Edmond, Oklahoma

Fun trivia from the Internet
• No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple (other than, of course, bunth, flornge, pilver, and slurple).
• 'Dreamt' is the only English word that ends in the letters 'mt'.
• There are only four words in the English language which end in 'dous': tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous (I can also add baldous and gregaldous to that list).
• There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: abstemious and facetious.
• A 'jiffy' is an actual unit of time - 1/100th of a second.
• Almonds are a member of the peach family.
• If the population of China walked past you, 8 abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

Brad Pitt, born in Shawnee Oklahoma, grew up in Springfield, Missouri, in a conservative Southern Baptist family. As a kid, he had lots of questions, such as “If I’d grown up in some other religion, would I get the same shot at Heaven that a Christian has?” During high school, his religious doubts increased “I had crises of faith. I’d go to Christian revivals and be moved by the Holy Spirit, and I’d go to rock concerts and feel the same fervor. I was told - ‘That’s the Devil’s music! Don’t partake in that!’ I wanted to experience things religion said not to experience.” By the time he entered college, Brad had scuttled his fundamental beliefs. “When I got untethered from the comfort of religion, it wasn’t a loss of faith for me, it was a discovery of self. I had faith that I’m capable enough to handle any situation. There’s peace in understanding that I have only one life, here and now, and I’m responsible.” From Parade magazine

Just talked to a friend who mentioned he was going to church on Sunday morning, but, instead of calling it church, he referred to it as 'Celebration of Mythology'. What an appropriate phrase.

Many churches continue to focus on their numbers of baptisms and church members to gauge whether they’re doing a good job of reaching people for Christ. One needs only a general study of the ministry of Jesus to realize the lack of emphasis he placed on these. Better standards would be:
• Is there hunger and poverty in the world?
• Are children being bused and some of our elderly being neglected?
• Are drugs and alcohol abused?
• Is anyone being denied the medicine and medical care they need?
• Is there still crime? Racism?
•  Are there orphans who need loving homes?
• Do the lonely and depressed still seek solace in suicide?
• Are homes still being torn apart by divorce, hatred, and dissension?
There are more appropriate indicators of whether we’re doing a good enough job of reaching people for Christ. Counting the number of people who pass through baptismal waters or put their name on church membership rolls each year has little to do with whether we’re really doing the work of Christ. But it is a lot easier. By DL Tucker, Altus, The Oklahoman

I'm sitting in a Starbucks listening to a group of young people talk about their love for Jesus and how often they pray to their Lord. They are also comparing the differences in beliefs among their various churches. Now, they are discussing the question, "Is it wrong to pray to Jesus, instead of to God?" They feel that it is okay since God and his Son are one. I suspect they haven't truly thought about it (if they did, they'd realize how ridiculous it is) but are simply reflecting what they have been brainwashed to believe. Witnessing their gullibility, arrogance, and ignorance confirms that I need to keep researching, writing, and talking about the horrors and stupidity of choosing to be delusional concerning religious faith.

Do we need religion to alleviate suffering?
    Or are there other ways to alleviate suffering?
Do we need religion to do good works?
    Or are there other ways to do good works?
Do we need religion to love others?
    Or are there other ways to love others?
Do we need religion to feel good about ourselves?
    Or are there other ways to feel good about ourselves?
Do we need religion to have hope?
    Or are there other ways to have hope?
If there are other ways to do those things, then why do we need religion?

    Do we need religion to feel guilt?
    Do we need religion to feel shame?
    Do we need religion to feel arrogant and superior?
    Do we need religion to be intolerant of other's beliefs?
    Do we need religion to hate?
If there are other ways to do those things, then why do we need religion?

What defines a ‘good person’?
• Do no harm to others
• Do no harm to other’s property
• Use products that respect the environment, minimize waste,
• Help others, take care of the sick and needy
• Work towards peace, tolerance, and cooperation
• Be courteous and considerate of others
• Be an independent thinker, with skepticism
• Work at being physically healthy
Does one need to be religious to accomplish anything on the list above? Some people believe that a person is defined as ‘good’ only if he/she believes in weird superstitious and supernatural events. Delusional beliefs do not make someone good. Christopher Hitchens says there's something inherently insulting about the proposition that we humans would be incapable of choosing right from wrong if we didn't fear that a despot up in the sky would condemn us to hell. Another flaw in the assumption that we need religion to choose good behavior over bad. If that were the case, this world - which is full of believers - would be a far better place.

A preacher was walking and comes across a boy with a box filled with newborn kittens. "What kind of kittens do you have there?" The preacher asked the young boy. "They're Christian kittens, sir" the boy replied. The preacher, nods, smiles and walks along. Two weeks later he comes across the same boy - "How are those Christian kittens doing?" The boy smiles at him, looks up and says "Oh, they're not Christian kittens anymore." The preacher, shocked by this exclaims "What... why not?" "Well, now their eyes are open and they're atheists." From Jason

Mother Teresa, one of the the most celebrated exponents of Christian dogmatism in a century, had her doubts about the whole story - the presence of Christ, the existence of heaven, and even the existence of God:
Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? Where is my Faith - even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness - My God - how painful is this unknown pain - I have no Faith. So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them - because of the blasphemy - If there be God - please forgive me - When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven - there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. - I am told God loves me - and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?
Teresa's recently published undated letter (addressed to Jesus) reveals a mind driven by doubt (as it should have been). Teresa's response to her own bewilderment and hypocrisy (her term) reveals just how like quicksand religious faith can be. From The Sacrifice of Reason by Sam Harris, best-selling author of Letter to a Christian Nation.

Do we really have to believe in superstitious fairy tales to love our neighbors, refrain from killing people, or find a purpose in life?

Why did God create the devil, since he must have known the devil would turn against Him and do all sorts of evil things? According to Dr. Billy Graham (America's premier religious leader and spokesman), as written May 10th in his daily newspaper column:
The Bible doesn't tell us exactly why God created the angelic being who would one day become the one it calls Satan. It does, however, hint to us that this powerful angel - to whom God had given great authority - became filled with pride, and one day, before time began, he decided he would lead a revolt against God and try to take God's place. He apparently tried to convince the other angels to join him in his revolt - and because they had a free will, some of them chose to follow him. But the revolt failed, and Satan was cast out of heaven. From that point on, Satan would forever stand opposed to God and try to block His work at every opportunity. The Bible says, "How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star. ... You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God' " (Isaiah 14:12-13). Satan's greatest victory was when he led Adam and Eve astray, bringing sin and death to the whole human race. But listen: Satan is a defeated foe! By His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ conquered death and Hell and Satan! And someday that victory will be complete, and "the devil, who deceived them, (will be) thrown into the lake of burning sulfur" (Revelation 20:10). Until that day, make it your goal to live for Christ and walk close to Him every day.
Graham's explanation shouldn't really make sense to you. It is too fantastical - the stuff of science fiction and fairy tales. True believers have to invent some weird justification in order to accept this explanation.
Questions: Since "someday that victory will be complete", why the wait - is God still mad at us? Why did God create Hell? "Before time began" - how could they set their watches? Who cast Satan "out of heaven"? And why did Satan go? If Satan brought "death to the whole human race", why are non-Christians still alive?

I am confused by the name, Little Bo Peep. Did Mr. & Mrs. Peep name their tiny daughter 'Bo' or did they name her 'Little Bo'? Is Bo even a good name for a girl? The Peeps? See, this kind of stuff baffles me. Here it is 2:30 in the morning and I'm awake and confused by this name (and why would anyone name someone Humpty Dumpty). I checked online to find out how to contact the Peeps (I thought I would just ask them why they chose that name) but could only find businesses named Peeps. One was an insurance agency and the other was a restaurant in Florida - Le Peep.

So I was walking somewhere in New York and saw a slogan or title that said - 'Power Up'. It occurred to me that Power Up backwards spells Pure Wop. Now, I'm not real sure what Pure Wop is (or even wop that isn't pure) but there must be some cosmic connection there. Power Up to Pure Wop. Maybe like 'give someone a wop upside the head'. And a powerful wop, at that. Just something to think about.
I also wonder if, somewhere in the universe, there is a woman named Pam Yawbus. Google found no such name. But Pam Yawbus is Subway Map backwards. That just can't be a coincidence. I suspect it is some sort of code used by transit workers (or the Yawbus family while in New York). There is likely some deeper meaning that is just not obvious to us mere mortals. More shit to think about.

When I drive to and from Edmond OK and Manhattan NY, I pass numerous Interstate highway interchanges that are full of services for motorists - fuel, food, stores, repairs, motels, amusements, etc. Some of these interchanges are small communities that rely on the traffic stopping for their survival. They are a unique part of the American landscape - created and maintained for the convenience and pleasure of mobile Americans - tourists, business people, and truckers. We need a name for these places. Travel Plaza, Services, Service Center. How about 'Stopping Center'. From Shopping Center but expressing the unique attribute - we stop at these places to interrupt our journey for a few minutes or overnight to take care of our needs and wants.

From the Not what it seems department: According to recent research studies - wearing a seat belt allows drivers to feel more secure and confident and, therefore, take more risks and drive more dangerously. Wearing a bicycle helmet allows automobile drivers to feel the cyclist is more experienced and more in control of their bike and, therefore, can be approached with less caution, resulting in more danger for the cyclist.

Some names that were originally trademarked but lost their legal trademark status: aspirin, cellophane, dry ice, escalator, heroin, kerosene, linoleum, nylon, raisin bran, shredded wheat, trampoline, zipper.

Okay, I'm confused - how should we drive when we're not in the Traffic Safety Zone? With unsafe driving skills? Shouldn't we be encouraged to always drive with safe driving skills?

The story of the Miracle Pen
On the flite to Las Vegas, I worked on sudoku and a crossword puzzle. I was always conscious about where I set down my pen - a favorite Space Pen. Sometimes I put it in my bag, sometimes in a crack in the armrest. As we prepared to land, I could not find the pen. I thought I had put it into a zippered compartment in the outside of the bag. While waiting on the other passengers to head up the aisle, I searched frantically all through that bag pocket. It had some folds where things had gotten lost before so I checked all those. No luck. Checked my pocket, the seat pocket, the floor. No pen. Nowhere. Oh well, not the first time I've lost one of these pens. I lose so many, in fact, that I bought several backups and even packed a second pen in my luggage. I let it go and moved on out of the plane. That was Thursday evening. On Sunday, I took the bag to the conference to carry my laptop. I accessed the bag several times throughout the day. About 6:00pm, after the last speaker finished, I opened the bag pocket and there was the lost pen - sitting right in the middle of the pocket where I thought I had put it. I was amazed. For a moment, I believed it was a miracle. Then, I accepted that God is just not likely to play games with me and a pen. But for just a moment, I considered the possibility that it was a miracle. This probably happens to many people, but instead of searching for a rational explanation, they just go with 'God must have done it'.

Seemingly normal people able to shed their childhood beliefs in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus, are unable to do the same when it comes to their belief in God. Continued belief in any of these other childhood fantasies would be considered a sign of mental illness in adults. However, when the same magical thinking is used to maintain a belief in God, it becomes sacred and not open to discussion. Belief in God and its accompanying myths relinquishes personal responsibility and opens the door to potentially abysmal behavior. Fundamentalists are a danger to non-believers and those who believe differently. They are willing to kill in the name of their God to protect their religious dogma or to attain personal spiritual goals. The terrorism now being perpetrated by Muslim extremists is no different than the atrocities committed by the Israelites in the Old Testament or the centuries of mass murder carried out by Christians during the Crusades and the various inquisitions. When world political or religious views are not based on logic and reason, the resulting behaviors are likely to be neither logical nor reasonable. Source unknown, maybe Richard Dawkins

- I'm still digesting this one - a combo new word for More Info. On websites, linking to another site for more information is quite common. Usually written just as More Info, it is becoming a single entity - visually and orally. So, maybe a shorter word - morinfo was the first suggestion, but then, mornfo based on the pronounced phrase, like 'seeya' for 'see you' and 'sup' for 'What is up'.


Letter from Glen Tibbits, in The Oklahoman:
A few men who go to Thunder (the OKC NBA team) games feel it necessary to use curse words during the game, in restrooms, and when leaving after a disappointing loss. For men to be talking like this speaks of a heart that's hurting; the overflow of darkness in the heart comes out of the mouth. Wouldn't you rather have blessings and joy coming out of your mouth instead? I pray that these men ask God to clean their hearts and restore them to the men that they should be.
Let me see if I understand Glen's concern: he chooses to attend a sporting event with these characteristics - testosterone-pumped men are rooting for professional basketball, there is a bevy of provocatively-dressed Thunder girls on the court, beer is consumed at the arena, and the men are cheering a losing team. Sorry, Glen, but that's simply an ideal recipe for men to cuss.
Greg states that they should be restored "to the men that they should be"? According to whom? Why does Glen feel he is qualified to dictate how others should behave?

When I was a devout Christian, I kept the Sabbath somewhat holy - I fasted (only juice and water) and spent the day in quiet meditation after church and I would read the Bible each day, often memorizing a verse before going to sleep. I also refused to buy car insurance. Before starting the car, I would pray for a safe trip and for God to protect me, the car, and others from harm. I realized that if I paid for car insurance (beyond the state-mandated minimum) that I would be insulting God. "Lord, I know I have prayed for you to protect my car and I do believe that you will, but, you know, just to be safe (because I really don't think you'll take care of me) I bought some car insurance. Hope that doesn't piss you off. In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, Amen." It really did seem to be a lack of faith if I bought car insurance. Jesus instructs us to believe with all our hearts, with faith and trust. So I did - and I refused to pay for more insurance than required by law.

The other day, I asked a 'Christian' if she paid for car insurance beyond the state minimum. She said she did. I mentioned that it seemed that was an insult to God and a sign that she did not trust the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe. She was aghast, "No, I trust Him." Then why pay for insurance? "Well," she said, "it doesn't make sense to not have additional car insurance." I remained silent and let the absurdity of her comment sink in - it doesn't make sense for God to take care of us and our property and it doesn't make sense to trust implicitly in God's grace and protection. She was somewhat confounded as she now had to wrestle with this conundrum of reason and faith.

From Angels & Demons: A spiritual conundrum
Although he studied religion for years, he was not a religious man. He respected the power of faith, the benevolence of churches, the strength religion gave so many people, and yet, the intellectual suspension of disbelief that was imperative if one were truly going to 'believe' had always proved too big an obstacle for his academic mind. "I want to believe, but its not that easy. Having faith requires leaps of faith, cerebral acceptance of miracles - immaculate conceptions and divine interventions. And then there are the codes of conduct. The Bible, the Koran, Buddhist scripture, they all carry similar requirements - and similar penalties. They claim that if I don't live by a specific code that I will go to hell. I can't imagine a God who would rule that way."

Numerous studies confirm that the more intelligent one is, the less likely one is to be religious. Albert Einstein spoke about religion in an ambiguous way - the religious and non-religious have been searching his remarks for evidence that he was on their side. In May, 2008, a newly unearthed letter, written in 1954, was put up for auction in London. In that letter, Einstein called religion a "childish superstition" and "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses." He described the Bible as "a collection of honorable but still primitive legends." I guess that's about what you'd expect from one of the smartest people in history.

Two of the most dangerous men on the planet. The Pope heads an institution that doesn't allow its members to practice birth control, encourages large families, and practices delusional thinking and worship with fairy tale antiquated rituals. The other seems to have little regard for human life as he condones and authorizes murder and torture of those who stand in his way or disagree with him. Tyrants both. Together, these two have done much to inhibit the humanitarian progress of the human species and harm the integrity of the USA.

Ron Reese, in The Oklahoman: Your Views January 16, fondly recalls the good old days of more Christianity and less violence. He thinks still more Christianity now can bring them back. Today, Christians predominate in the USA; we're uniquely religious among developed nations. Norway, Iceland, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, and Denmark are among the least religious countries. Yet all have lower rates of homicide, teen pregnancy, teen abortion, illiteracy, and infant mortality; and greater life expectancy than the USA. They're also more inclined toward peace. Their policy decisions generally are based on rational discourse. In today's world, perhaps we'd be better off relying more on sound reasoning and less on unquestioning faith.

Last April, Pope Benedict XVI declared that hell is not a metaphor, but a place where the damned actually burn in everlasting fire. "It really exists and is eternal even if nobody talks about it much anymore." My Lord, talk about being delusional - and people revere this guy

To call somebody ignorant is not an insult. All of us are ignorant of most of what there is to know. If, for example, someone does not believe in evolution, that person is one of these: ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked. To refer to that person as ignorant is to pay him/her a compliment - one is assuming that he/she is not stupid, insane, or wicked. However, a 2004 newsweek poll shows that 48% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form in the past 10,000 years. Are those people ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked?

Christopher Hitchens asks, in his book, God is Not Great, "With all this continual prayer, why no result?" He then chronicles the horrible results of predicting one's existence on make-believe. Example: Belief in one's personal god makes people want to kill people who don't believe in Him. And God has achieved a mighty large body count.

Gist of a letter I sent to
RE: the USAirways emergency landing in the Hudson River
Some reasons why the broadcast media has lost credibility:
1. The waters were not "icy" nor "freezing" if the water temp was 40 degrees. We would not tolerate a weather forecaster being so inaccurate, why do we tolerate it from news reporters? The water could be frigid, cold, or something similar, but not icy or freezing.
2. Calling the landing a "miracle" is an insult to the training, expertise, and intelligence of the flight crew. The safe landing and low injury count is due to humans acting appropriately, not to divine intervention (if it were divine intervention or a 'miracle', then we will have a tough time explaining the planes that do crash and kill people).
3. Was it really a "crash"? There was no wreckage and no damage (other than what the birds caused - the birds crashed, not the plane). Wasn't it just an emergency landing or a water landing? I realize that doesn't make for sensational copy on-air, but it does seem more accurate.

I stood and pondered the message on this billboard. The only clue I can find to help me answer the question posed is that the sponsor seems to be the Special Olympics. I assume, then, that the 'R-Word' is 'Retarded'. This billboard asks the reader to wonder and figure it out - thereby making the word even more dominant and memorable. The result backfires - instead of encouraging the reader to erase a word, it is reinforcing the word and making it a part of our vernacular. There are also too many image messages - the eraser competes for attention with the prohibited symbol over the R - which is the dominant message? Is the content asking us to erase the word or prohibit it? Do we really need two messages? A reader typically doesn't have much time to read the message on an outdoor billboard. Is the message conveyed here that the 'R' is prohibited, but the word 'retarded' is okay? Should we replace retarded with the R-Word? Doesn't that seem a bit retarded? There sure is a lot of bad design around. Weak concepts. Weak messages. Weak communication of content   Photographed on The Drag in Austin

Egossism - Egotism + narcissism. Remember when media pundits labeled the 1980s as the 'Me Decade'? It was due to our putting individual needs and desires first. But the 80s have nothing on '08. I notice so many people who are true narcissists - they are driven primarily by their own egos.
    Definition: nar·cis·sism [nahr-suh-siz-em]
    1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity -
        being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.
    Synonyms 1. self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.
It seems that many narcissists are hiding deeper insecurities and fears - the 'me first' is quite likely just a cover so underlying deficiencies can be masked. Maybe this is just an appropriate and expected result of this era of fear-mongering from the government and the media. This commitment to self may help explain why so few people are involved or seem to care about the consequences of The Worst President Ever, climate change, and other social issues. I wonder if facebook, myspace, blogs, and chats have an influence on this - much of this digital socializing encourages self-centeredness - 'tell what you are doing', etc. The illustration to the left, by Ron Barrett in The New York Times, July 2008, is so right-on. It portrays the extent of the universe in the minds of many people. It accompanied an article discussing this trend among us.

Homecoming at Oklahoma State University. LEFT: Walkaround on Friday evening. University Avenue was closed to traffic and it filled up with hundreds of people, food booths, vendors, photos of Pistol Pete at Theta Pond, and more - it was like the state fair or a carnival without rides. The highlight is viewing the elaborate animated and pomped house decorations at 12 fraternity houses. Earlier in the week, I helped judge the sign competition on the Library Lawn and the same theme was carried out on the HouseDecs.
RIGHT: At the front deck of a pita shop on the Washington Strip, I stopped off to get a beer. I got to chatting and joking around with the guy selling the beer. When he needed to go get more beer to put in the tub, he left me in charge of selling beer. Cool, I can do that. What I wasn't prepared for was the line of people that would periodically form. I would reach in the tub of ice to get their beer, check IDs when necessary, open it with the opener, take their money, and make change. I just stuffed wads of bills in my pocket. When he got back, he counted up the money I had in my pocket - it was about $130. It was a lot of fun.

1. I don't understand the phrase, 'get a kick out of this'. Why would anyone want to be kicked? Why do we say that in reference to something good - like getting kicked is good.
2. In Manhattan, I take the two dogs to a nearby dog park. Once, while they romped with their pals, I realized that 'dog park' backwards spells 'krap god'. I'm not real sure what the cosmic connection is between these phrases. Holy shit? Supreme turd? I just don't know. Maybe it will come to me one day in the dog park.
3. Emily coined a neword in an email about my leaving New York City for Oklahoma - she referred to the home state as Oklahome. Nice.
4. Have you heard the phrase, "As much fun as a barrel of monkeys"? Help me on this one. Who has ever played with monkeys in a barrel? Wouldn't monkeys in a barrel be pissed off and desperate to get out? Is that fun? Doesn't it make more sense to say, "As much fun as monkeys at an amusement park." or "As much fun as a barrel of whiskey."
5. Since a teacher teaches, an actor acts, and a baker bakes, does a carpenter carpent?
6. Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" ? Yuck - what's that about? Horse meat, hooves, horse head? I don't get it. Why don't they just say, "I'm so hungry I could eat a big steak (or Caesar salad or a large pizza)", anything but a horse.

I found a new way to waste less. For years, I was getting a cup every time I ordered coffee at Starbucks. I requested 'no lid' since I didn't need one and it was just a waste. Then I bought a reusable plastic Starbucks cup that I took in with me and reused. In April, 2008, I was given a great gift of a ceramic cup that is all white and looks like a paper coffee cup. So, I started using that one at Starbucks. Then I realized, why not take it into every restaurant? Why get a new cup or glass every time I eat out (which is a lot). I keep the cup in my car and rinse it out at the restaurant before putting it back into the car. This eco-friendly ceramic 'I am not a paper cup' was designed by James Burgess and is a double-walled thermal porcelain cup with a silicone top. I used to get 12-15 cups per week. Now with this reusable ceramic cup, I am saving the materials, manufacturing, shipping, storage, disposal, and landfill of about 700 cups per year. April 22 (Earth Day - a nice coincidence)

I have turned off the ringer on my landline phone at home. I have a recorded message that just says "I don't answer this phone anymore. Please call me on my cell." I had reached my lifetime quota of tolerating telemarketing spiels. I was never quite comfortable with hanging up on a sales rep so I would sit through the scripted pitch. But no more. Its also quite nice to not hear the phone ring at home anymore.

This foto just baffles me. A parking area for wheelchairs? Providing a safe haven for them is considerate but how do the users move from here - do they hobble?

My driver's license expired on December 31, 2007. Flying back to OKC from NYC on January 2nd, I was marked for special security screening - the whole package - double pass and hand search of my stuff, thorough pat down. So, I asked the pat-down guy, "Wouldn't a terrorist make sure they didn't have an expired license or anything to draw extra security screening? In fact, doesn't my stupidity about letting a license expire put me in a category of 'Least threatening'?" That made too much sense, so he just gave me a sheepish 'I dunno' smile. Security measures at airports have been and are absurd and completely unproductive.

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