A Look Back, and a Look Forward

In the Spring of 2016, American Atheists and a dozen or more other secular organizations will hold Reason Rally II in D.C.

In 2012 I had the privilege of attending the first Reason Rally with my son and roughly 20,000 of our closest friends. Of all the great speakers and entertainers who participated that day, perhaps the one who stood out to me the most was Tim Minchin, largely because he enunciated best a key reason why I am an Atheist. Instead of telling you however, why don’t I show you…

BTW – We didn’t realize it but Tim was trying this song out on us before including it in his 2012 tour, which included performances at the Sydney Opera House.

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Tyranny of the Asses

I have spent much of the day sparring with opponents of marriage rights. Almost to a person they claim it’s their rights being violated, as Christians, and citing the Bible as the source of our Constitution and nation.

In the hours since SCOTUS handed its decision down, I have not seen (read) one Christian use the words “love”, “tolerance”, “understanding”, or “equality”. All I have seen is vitriol directed at SCOTUS, Gays, Liberals, and Secularists. In my home state of Texas, County Clerks are in open defiance of the Court’s Order, as is the Governor and Attorney General.

Governor Abbott, Mr. Attorney General, and Christians everywhere, I have a mind experiment for you: In your statements, comments, and the like, substitute the word “equality” for the word “marriage”. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Sense anything wrong, or embarrassing? If not, you should.

You see, much of the language and and most of the arguments being put forth against equal marriage rights today are little more than a rehash of things we have heard before, and from many of the same circles. Two generations ago it was the outrage over another SCOTUS decision, Loving v Virginia. Same comments, same resistance, same excuses.

A generation earlier it was Brown v The Board of Education – identical howls, identical reliance on tradition and scripture in support of hatred.

And, lest we forget, a bit over 150 years ago pulpits across the South resonated with scriptural justification for slavery, along with the natural superiority of the “White Race”.

So Christians, and I single you out because you are the only ones screeching like stuck pigs, look in a mirror and understand this:

You are on the wrong side of history. Again. You are fighting a battle you will not, cannot win, a battle in support of injustice and hatred. You wrap yourself in the blanket of righteousness, but there is nothing at all righteous about your cause.

A certain segment of our populace has failed to learn the lessons of the Enlightenment, has failed to grasp the essence of our Constitution, or the rights which adhere to all simply by way of their humanity. They would deny to others that which they demand for themselves. It is sad, it should be embarrassing, and it must not be tolerated. Not today, not ever.

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Another Day of Delusion

Another of America’s really bad ideas, the National Day of Prayer, has come around again.

That prayer doesn’t work has been amply demonstrated, both practically and scientifically, so I thought this time I would take a different approach and examine the practice from an (almost) purely religious perspective.

Assume I am religious or, if you are religious, feel free to substitute yourself for me if you like. I (or you) have defined a need for prayer, I’ll make one up, you may choose a real life situation if it simplifies the process.

By entering into prayer, what are we actually doing? I would submit, correct me if I’m wrong (Note: Not if you would like me to be wrong, but rather if you can actually present a reasonable argument for same), but it seems to me prayer is the practice of recognizing a mistake your deity has made and then asking him (her/it) to correct it.

I know what you’re thinking, but yes it is. Aunt Millie has cancer, and has been told she has six months to live. I therefore enter into a dialogue with the almighty and point out that when he was apparently busy with something else, perhaps knocking down the Himalayas and burying 8,000 or so men, women and children, he seems to have forgotten to take care of Millie and now she’s in really bad shape. So, lord, could you please refocus and correct your oversight?

The problem is, god is omniscient, he knows everything. Not just what happened yesterday or what’s going on at present, but what will happen tomorrow and next month and a thousand years from now. It’s all in his grand plan, you see.

Now is the problem clearer? God has a plan, Aunt Millie succumbing to cancer in agony is part of that plan, but I’m going to talk him into changing his plan just for me. (And Millie, of course.) If he responds and Millie gets better, was that part of his plan all along? (In which case my prayer was sort of narcissistic and a complete waste of my and god’s time.) Or did he change his plan because of my intervention, which begs the question how firm of a plan he has and just how omniscient he really is.

In conclusion, prayer is a rather self-serving claim that I (or you) know better than our all-knowing deity. Which, I believe, comes pretty close to clarifying who really created whom.

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Six months ago I made my first (and final) visit to a Whataburger. I’ve been in TX 10+ years and decided to find out what the fuss was all about. Alas, not much, unless you own stock in Morton’s.

The cheeseburger (my standard) was greasy — not moist, mind you, but greasy, and so over-salted it was rendered inedible. That so many Texans find it irresistible is probably a key factor in this state’s life expectancy trailing the national average.

This occurred about the same time the iconic California chain In & Out Burger arrived in North Texas. The first few openings were incredible – half mile long lines and rave reviews from long-standing fans. Maybe, just maybe…

Waiting for a few more units to open and the ensuing lines to subside, I finally made it to In & Out for, yes, a cheeseburger.

The product was moderately moist, not greasy, and in that regard an improvement over the Whataburger product. But…

If I were a betting man, I would wager that salt was the primary ingredient, with a little beef thrown in to enhance the flavor. Again, I gave up, leaving half a sandwich behind. What has happened to burger chains, and the American consumer for that matter?

Look – I add salt to many of the dishes I cook, and have a real affinity for many salty snacks. I am not anti-salt. I am, however, anti-salt as a main course.

I quit McDonald’s 20 years ago, and they both make McDonald’s look almost gourmet. In a way, this is probably for the best. I will never be tempted to stop in either of these chains rather than going home and cooking my own (much better) burger.

As for the taste of Texans? Well, they did elect Bush and Perry back to back.

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How Did We Allow This To Happen?

In 1999, then President Clinton, a Democrat, proposed a budget for the United States government of $1.7 Trillion. That is a huge amount of money, and undoubted more than was needed in order for government to fulfill its principal obligations to the American people, namely to protect their lives, liberties, and justly acquired property.

I mention this quaint historic fact because our present feckless leader, President Obama, just presented his 2016 spending plan to Congress. In it he calls for outlays of, get ready, $3.99 Trillion — over two and a third times more than the aforementioned Clinton budget. Two and a third times more!

Well, of course, there is inflation, the prices government pays for things and people goes up over time, I get that. In fact, prices today stand just under forty percent higher than they did in 2000.

Which begs the question, where in the name of h-e-double hockey sticks did the other one-hundred and ninety percent come from, or, more to the point I suppose, where in the hell is it going?

I don’t care how liberal you are, or how big a defense spender for that matter, there simply is no way such an increase can be justified. None.

Progressives and others lament things like growing income gaps, a shrinking middle class, and the largest block of workers who have given up on looking for a job in American history. Well friends, look no further than your spendthrift President and his Congressional enablers! (Including most of the GOP, which although saying many of the right things, continues to shovel money into the central government pit as though feeding an angry, hungry god.)

Government creates nothing but laws and regulations, Every dollar given over to government is a dollar not available for economic growth and job creation. It is the U. S. government, through the industrialized world’s highest marginal business taxes and unnecessary and burdensome regulations, that has driven good-paying jobs offshore, not greedy capitalists. Greedy capitalists get richer when more people can afford their goods and services, they have no reason to abandon American workers except in reaction to the machinations of government. Indeed, American workers remain among the most productive on earth.

Increasing the tax burden on America’s top ten percent of earners, who already pay more than forty percent of all income taxes, is not only not the answer, it is digging an already deep hole deeper. Ripping a trillion and a half or more dollars than necessary out of our economy to lavish it on already overpaid government employees, and/or those Fortune 500 companies with the best lobbyists, will not create one additional good paying job nor lift a single family back into the middle class.

There was a time when government played a far more minimalist role in our economy and lives. That was a time of incredible economic expansion, as well as the birth of the American Middle Class. We cannot expect the very thing that broke our system in the first place to fix it now. Or ever.

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Rethinking the One Percent

A meme currently making the rounds on the internet attacks what has been derogatorily referred to as “The One Percent”. It takes the following form:

  • “How does trickle down work again?” (Another term designed to smear rather than enlighten.)
  • “The 1% get all the money.” (A gross exaggeration by any measure.)
  • “Then?”
  • “Nothing, that’s it.” (The ignorance is strong in whatever undereducated progressive dreamed this one up.)

First of all, rich people do not keep their money under their mattresses. They buy things: houses, clothes, cars, boats, and (gasp) even airplanes. Every one of these items must be built/manufactured, creating literally thousands of jobs for the 99% the creator of the meme purports to care about. They also save and invest, providing funds for mortgages and car loans, as well as capital to start new companies and create whole new industries.

And they give their money away. Google Buffett, Gates, Carnegie, or even (gasp) Rockefeller. (Did you know that John D. Rockefeller, in his lifetime, gave away almost one-half TRILLION in today’s dollars for charitable purposes?)

Answer this: How many jobs do poor people create? How many libraries, colleges, or research facilities have they funded?

Instead of constantly deriding and maligning the 1% we should be praising them, and giving thanks we live in an economy and nation where they can flourish and work the magic off of which the rest of us then thrive.


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On Turning Away From Zeus…

I just came across a Facebook posting wherein a true (Christian) believer was lamenting the sorry state of America, asserting it was all because we, or some of us anyway, had “turned away from God”.

I began to chortle but, when you get to thinking about such a contention, it begins to make sense.  Seriously. Permit me to explain.

Archaeologists, historians, and comparative religion scholars have identified roughly 120,000 distinct deities that have been created by humankind since we split from our hominid cousins some 200 millennia ago, all to explain what we couldn’t then understand and to instill meaning in life beyond the daily struggle to survive.

Think about that. Americans largely focus on only one god, and a quite recent one to the banquet at that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the chances against picking the correct deity out of that tangle are pretty darned high and, in fact, the odds are only one in 10,000 that the vast majority of Americans have chosen the correct one to worship.

Ergo, it is not just possible, but incredibly probable, the aforementioned believer was correct, albeit not quite in the way she so self-righteously assumed.

Or not.


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