Tuesday, October 27, 2009

♪♫Very Superstitious...♪♫

I love Stevie Wonder. Yeah, he proselytizes at the end of his concerts. They're his concerts, he can do what he wants. He's still one hell of a musician.

As you may have guessed, this post is not about Stevie Wonder. It's about superstitions. And it may be somewhat disjointed and hard to follow, because I have several concepts fighting for top spot in my head. And I'm drinking rum.

When I was a christian, I claimed that I was not superstitious. Of course, I did not consider Christianity to be superstition; that was faith. It was different. Superstition was believing in something based on intangibles such as folklore and hearsay, notable coincidence, and random trial-and-error. My religion was nothing like that.

[pausing for laughter]

Of course religion is superstition. Prayer has no more effect on the physical world than a black cat crossing your path; but there are those who believe in one or the other, or both, and can cite you several accounts to back it up.

"I prayed that the mole would be benign, and it was! Praise Jesus for answered prayer!"

"That cat crossed in front of me this morning, and I got a speeding ticket! Damn cat!"

Both of those statements sound ludicrous to me now; but there was a time in my life when I gave much credence to prayer, and at least some consideration to the traditional "old wives' tale" superstitions. In fact, the most difficult step for me after becoming an atheist was giving up prayer. There were things I prayed for every night when I believed in God: my mother's health, my daughter's continued health and well-being, and safety and protection for my entire family to name a few (it just occured to me that there's a theme there). My nightly prayers were long, and I could not fall asleep without doing them. Once I came to terms with the fact that there was no one in any mystical place called Heaven who was listening, I had to learn to sleep without that nightly ritual. It took a while. For a very long time, when my daughter was going to go do something without me, I would almost instinctively think, "God, keep her safe." It was just a learned thought pattern for when I wanted something very, very much. I haven't prayed for a long time now, but it took a lot of retraining of my brain.

The thing is, once I let go of religion and prayer, I easily let go of all the other superstitions that I had once casually held. I no longer avoid opals (they are supposed to be bad luck); in fact, I recently bought an opal ring that I now wear every day. I'm not afraid of ghosts, or "haunted" places (though I still won't go through a Halloween haunted house because I can't stand the idea of putting my hand on something gross and slimy in the dark; THAT'S A LEGITIMATE FEAR). I don't worry about what shirt I wear on the day my favorite team is playing. In fact, I can't think of a single superstition I still hold.

I have heard several of my atheist friends talk about silly superstitions they still have. They understand that they're irrational and can't possibly be real; but they just can't ignore them. I find that fascinating. I wonder why humans are wired to think that way?

Do any of you still have any lingering superstitions, despite your embrace of reason? What are they? Why do you still believe it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I could not stop smiling through this whole video. Beautifully and artfully done.

Monday, October 19, 2009

And Now For a Post That Has Nothing to Do With Anything

How can a person be this drunk and not be passed out?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sometimes, I'm Serious

This is one of those times.

Occasionally, someone lives on this planet who is so special, so wonderful, that he or she can make an atheist wish she still believed in Heaven. My precious, departed cousin Ron was one of those people.

Ron passed away years ago of the avian flu. He was a homosexual recovered alcoholic child of an (also recovered) alcoholic.

None of those things are what defined Ron. But he was not afraid to talk about any or all of them to anyone who was interested, or to anyone who he thought he could help by sharing.

This post is a tribute to his memory. I've been thinking about him a lot lately.

What did define Ron was this: he was a kind, loving, thoughtful, funny, honest (sometimes brutally so), and unselfish man. There are two particular memories of him that I think represent all of these qualities, when put together.

The first is a memory of the time that his mother (my aunt), my mother, and I went to visit him in New York City. He was a hairdresser (cliché, I know...), and a damn fine one. He did many models and movie/TV stars' hair regularly. Still, NYC is an expensive place, so he lived in a tiny studio apartment (his partner and he also had a home in the Poconos, but Ron spent the week in NYC). Still, he was happy to have us stay at his place, and made accomodations for us all. I ended up in the floor on an air mattress. On the morning that we were to leave NYC for the cabin in the Poconos, Ron graciously woke me up by pulling the plug on the mattress and watching me crash down on the floor and wake in a dazed stupor wondering "what the hell just happened, and why did the bed turn hard??" He laughed like a little girl. As did my mom and my aunt. Hilarious, y'all.

The next memory happened a few years later. Ron's father (my mother's brother) passed away. Ron and his father had a very volatile relationship. Ron came out as a gay man before my uncle quit drinking, and he suffered severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his father because of his homosexuality. After my uncle quit drinking, he was able to come to terms with the truth about his son, and they eventually formed a somewhat healthy relationship. These types of memories about someone that you love cause the grieving process to be much more complicated, and even more painful than average grieving. I knew that Ron was in a lot of pain.

When I arrived at the funeral home, I found Ron and went to give him a big hug. After our hug, he put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Is this hard for you? Being here?"

He was referring to the fact that I had lost my father at such a young age.

Take a minute to let that sink in. He was going through terrible grieving, and his first thought was to comfort me.

That is who he was. He loved to laugh, he loved to make others laugh, and he cared deeply for the feelings and well-being of others.

It was because of Ron that I was able to finally accept my sexuality. It was from Ron that I learned that it is safe to forgive, even when someone has done terrible wrongs to you, if that person has made a true and sincere effort to make things right. It was Ron who taught me to embrace my curls (although I have been betraying him lately by using a straightening iron...). Ron made me feel beautiful, inside and out, because he was beautiful. Inside and out.

Rest in peace, Ron. If there is a Heaven, and if there is any universal justice, then you are there, having a blast. I love you, cuz.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Quickie for My Canadian Friends

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

I'm thankful for good health and modern medicine, all my readers, and llamas.

The llamas deserved a shout-out after I dissed them the other day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No Pollack Jokes, Please

Even though they are funny and my very good friend who is Polish and a first generation American finds them funny and isn't offended at all.

But this post isn't about racial jokes. It's about this article.

Apparently, there was a miracle in a Catholic Church in Poland.
The miracle happened during the mass. One of local priests was giving the Holy
Communion when suddenly it fell down on the floor. So he took it and put into a
chalice. After several days the chalice was filled with red water which was
poured out on a special ceremonial tablecloth. As it turned out, there was also
a strange things examined by the doctors. According to them it was a part of
human heart at the point of death condition.

I have both questions and observations regarding this alleged miracle.

First, I should point out that I was an evangelical christian, not a catholic, so I never believed in the literal transubstantiation of the host. We believed that communion, or the "Lord's Supper" as we called it, was a purely symbolic ritual. We still took it very seriously; but we did not believe that the crackers and grape juice (obviously we couldn't use real wine!) literally turned into human flesh.

From what I understand, catholics do believe in literal transubstantiation. So, if they believe that communion turns into literal flesh and blood every time it is blessed and given, then why call this a miracle? Is it because it turned into a heart? Is it supposed to turn into pancreas or gallbladder instead? I'd think that heart would be just as normal as any other organ or body part. Is it a miracle that it transfigured in a chalice rather than in the digestive system of a devout believer? Maybe that's it. We'll go with that.

Obviously, I don't believe that an actual miracle occurred. What disturbs me is that the article claims that a doctor examined the thing and declared that it "was a part of human heart at the point of death condition."


Two possibilities immediately come to mind. Either 1) the doctor was lying, hoping that a for-real miracle would be attributed to his church and he'd have some measure of fame for confirming it, or 2) someone hacked a hunk of heart out of a human corpse and slipped it into the chalice.

That's just gross.

It's also a crime. I don't know about Poland, but in America, people donate their organs to save lives, or they donate their bodies to science for medical and forensic studies, but they don't just sign their bodies over for people to hack away at their organs for practical jokes or miracle-making.

Although that would be quite funny. Maybe I'll donate my body to Penn & Teller so they can do some kind of sick magic trick that can be verified by a medical examiner. Hilarious.

Anyway, whatever happened in Poland, I'm quite sure it was not a miracle. It was either a lie driven by a fame hungry doctor or a really sick attempt at manufacturing a miracle. I would not put either past those who hold religious power.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Things I Hate

A little bitter tonight.
  1. I hate that I have to be careful who I let know about my atheism. In this country, christians can prattle on about their churches and their faith and their bullshit stories about how "God did this" and "God did that," and to a lesser extent, muslims, hindus, jainists, wiccans, and just about any other religion you can think of, can talk about their silly superstitions all they want, and they have some sort of automatic respect, because you have to respect people's faith. But I tell someone that I am an atheist, a believer in the concrete, a lover of reason, and I could lose my job and many of my friends. There are lunatics who would even like to take my daughter away from me for raising her in an atheist home. It is outrageous and infuriating. I have no problem with anyone believing whatever they want, as long as they don't hurt others as a result of their belief, whether you believe that some guy walked on water and rose from the grave, or if you believe that breaking a mirror is seven years of bad luck. Believe it; that's fine. I don't. Live happy. I DESERVE THE SAME REACTION.
  2. I hate that I have to hide the fact that I am a bisexual. I hate even more that my upbringing has instilled a deep rooted shame about my sexuality. I should not feel ashamed of who I am; but I do. Some people I know IRL read this blog because I put a link to it on our meetup site. I debated removing the post that outed me as a bisexual before I posted that link. Why? Because I was embarassed. It really, really pisses me off that I was embarassed and ashamed about something that is a part of me and has never caused anyone any harm. More people know about my sexuality than know about my atheism; but I still take great pains to hide it for the most part. Now, I'm not saying that I want to go to work and shout it from the rooftops, but it would be nice to be able to talk about past relationships without having to be careful to use gender-neutral pronouns.
  3. I hate llamas.
  4. I'm just kidding. I don't hate llamas.
  5. I hate that I'm overweight and I am probably going to always be overweight, at least to some extent. I'm not obese; I'm not unhealthy. I have several extra pounds that really need to come off because my body does not need them. I love food, and I love wine and beer. I wish I were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make my goal weight. I enjoy being active; I eat healthy foods. I just eat too much of them.
  6. I hate that I have to double check my spelling of the word "necessary" every damn time I type it. I'm a phenomenal speller. I just have a fucking mental block with that word.
  7. I hate that now that I've bragged about what a great speller I am, I am paranoid that I've misspelled something simple elsewhere in this post.

I love, however, that my list of things that I hate tonight is short, and that I felt like injecting some humor into it. I am an incredibly fortunate woman with a life that is better than I deserve. That makes up for the list of hates.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wow. Just Wow.

So, my good friend and fellow skeptic Lord Runolfr sent me this information in my comments via Fundies Say the Darndest Things:
We had been concerned about our much-loved dog being cared for when we
leave in the Rapture. Bailey was only seven and in good health when he just
upped and died on us the other morning. He died quickly and peacefully with the
family surrounding him, but when we started questioning why it happened (as we
all do, even though it all ends with "blessed be the name of the Lord"), we
remembered the rapture connection. Suddenly we felt like the rapture was going
to be very soon and God was sparing us the worry.

It just seems weird that we've been praying for Bailey to have a long
and healthy life and then he just drops dead!! Could be the devil just making us
miserable, but God could've spared him, so since we believe it's God's will that
he died, we don't want to get another dog. Hopefully and just maybe, we'll see
Bailey again someday!! But, hmmm, get ready everyone!!

Wow. Where do I start?

I'm going to focus mostly on the three big contradictions I see in this testimony.

Contradiction 1: Dog will be left behind in the rapture, but they expect to see him again someday.

So. Only the faithful followers of Jesus are going to be taken in the rapture. I get that; but I thought that the rapture-waiting fundamentalists believed that humans were the only creatures made in God's image, meaning we were the only ones who had a soul. How the hell do they expect to see their dead dog again? This truly baffles me. If they think he has a soul and is going to heaven, then why wouldn't he be taken in the rapture like all the other heaven-bound souls? And even if he doesn't qualify for rapture, why worry about his care? After he starves to death, his soul will be reunited with his loving human families, right? Or am I missing something?

I think this is a good example of how people just make shit up in their religion to make themselves feel better about a situation. The Catholics are real pros at this. They really like to mix shit up to increase their profit margins membership levels.

I'm probably missing something. I have heard so many different stories on what exactly the rapture is supposed to be, it's ridiculous. I know one group of people who think it's already happened. AUWTDA.

Contradiction 2: "...we've been praying for Bailey to have a long and healthy life and then he just drops dead!!" and "...when we started questioning why it happened (as we all do, even though it all ends with 'blessed be the name of the Lord')"

This goes back to my issue with prayer. These people were praying for their dog (who they claim was perfectly healthy, so why the daily prayers, anyway?), and when God does exactly the opposite of what they were praying for, they question for a moment, then jump straight to BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!!1!1!! I have never understood this, not even when I was a christian. What good is prayer if you have to turn right around and kiss ass when it didn't do a fucksworth of good? Either God knows what is best for you and you need to just shut the fuck up, or your prayers are valid pleas that God takes into consideration and sometimes answers them, and sometimes takes them and tells you to shove them right up your ass. Seriously, people, you can't have it both ways.

Contradiction 3: "Could be the devil just making us miserable, but God could've spared him..."

I don't even know where to begin with this. It is so simple in its ludicrousness. Either the Devil has the power to make you miserable, or God has the power to stop him. If God "could've spared him," then it was not the Devil making you miserable, it was God. If this god is omnipotent, then he can STOP ANYTHING THAT IS NOT HIS WILL. That means the Devil can't do anything to make you miserable, honey. Unless he can. Which means God isn't all-powerful. Which means that your dog's death may not necessarily have been his plan. My head hurts.

Of course, if these people had only known about Eternal Earthbound Pets, they wouldn't have been worried about their dog's post-rapture status in the first place, and he'd still be alive. So basically they killed their dog with their ignorance. Way to go, dog killers.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Probably My Worst Post Ever

I'm writing this post for two reasons. First, I see that I'm getting hits every day, sometimes from the same location, and I know how frustrating it is to go to a blog day after day and see the same damn post up there. So I thought you deserved an update, however horrible it may be.

I forgot the second reason.

Anyway, here it is. My totally uninspired, probably really poorly written post. Because I care and I love you. You're welcome.

I remember as a christian often wondering about Heaven. I knew that it was supposed to be this wonderful place that was going to be the eternal reward for our belief/faith/obedience; but I always had a hard time imagining what it actually was supposed to be like. I mean, Hell was described in no unclear terms. It would burn you with fire (Matt. 5:22; Matt. 18:9); that fire burned forever and nothing can put it out (Mark 9:43, 45); and not only was it fire, but a lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). That's all I needed to know.

I don't remember many biblical descriptions of Heaven, though. I remember something about milk and honey, and that sounded nice*, and streets of gold, which sounded kind of gaudy and impractical, but what else was there to know about Heaven? Funny that they didn't talk about that more in church.

So, I decided to look for myself and see what the Bible had to say about Heaven.

The first reference I found in the New Testament describing Heaven (the old testament uses the term "heaven" pretty much synonymously with "sky") was Matt. 6:20:
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth
corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."
That's a good start. I hate it when my stuff rusts, and moths are annoying; and don't even get me started on thieves. I had my wallet stolen once and it was a total nightmare. If I could have found the asshole that stole my wallet, I would have punched him in the throat and set him on fire. Or her. I guess I don't have any real way of knowing.

The next few descriptions weren't so helpful.

Matt. 13:24:
"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is
likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field."
Matt. 13:31:
"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like
to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field."
Matt. 13:33:
"Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven,
which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was
It goes on like this for some time. I'm sure if I read the rest of the parables, it would all be clear. But who has time for that? I just want to know what we're supposed to do in heaven. So far, it looks like a lot of working in the garden and baking. Fuck, I have to do that shit here. I don't need it after I'm dead, too.

Then there's Matt. 19:14:
"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me:
for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
I hate kids. Well, except for mine. I like her, because she's awesome. Other kids can suck it, though. I don't need them running around screaming with flailing arms while I'm trying to keep from falling on my ass on the streets of gold and enjoy my milk and honey (a reference I have yet to find, by the way).

And oh my fucking Flying Spaghetti Monster, read Matt. 24:35:
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Heaven is going to pass away? WTF?

So I kept looking. I found a lot more weird parable things that liken the kingdom of heaven to this and that, but I wanted to learn more about what it was going to be like there.

Then I noticed that the milk and honey reference was in the Old Testament, and not even talking about heaven at all. It was talking about the promised land.

Deuteronomy 26:15:
"Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel,
and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land
that floweth with milk and honey."
Well fuck.

Then I finally came across where the gold streets were mentioned. It mentions the pearl gates, too. I had forgotten all about that part.

Revelation 21:21:
"And the twelve gates [were] twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl:
and the street of the city [was] pure gold, as it were transparent glass."
But that's in Revelation, which no one understands what the fuck it's about, and so everyone says it's all metaphor. So, yeah. Probably no gold streets, either.

So, basically what I gathered from my research is that I'm not really going to be missing out on a lot by not going to heaven. That lake of fire is sure going to suck, though.

*Actually, thanks to some information I received from a fellow atheist in our group regarding acceptable quantities of blood and pus, milk doesn't sound all that great to me anymore. But the milk in heaven would be pure and clean milk. Probably.