Working To Be Positive

“Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.” – Amelia Earhart

I’m working on being a more positive person.

Part of that is being aware of when I’m not being critical but being mean.

It’s perfectly OK to be critical.

Criticize ideas. Criticize poor writing, bad decisions, bankrupt philosophy, crappy political expediency.

Those are OK.

Don’t be mean. Making fun of people can be very fun but it also can be often mean.

SO I’m working on improving my mean gene.

I’ll let you know how it works out.
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The Atheist and the Bear Joke

I’ve found that this blog lacks bears, so, if you’re bored, type in “Christian Bear” in your favorite search engine and viola! You’ll get a link to the same bad bear joke and plenty of Xian interpretations of it.

The joke is barely (bearly) that: An atheist gets chased by a bear, falls down, cries “Oh, God!” and god shows up. god complains that now, when the atheist needs help, he calls on a god he doesn’t believe in. The atheist is honest and says he still wouldn’t be a Xian but asks god to have the bear be a Xian. god says OK and the bear thanks god for providing this atheist as a meal.

Like I said, it’s a crap joke.

And it reinforces the idea that the Xian god is a dick. Even it’s followers must believe that, they gleefully show that their god is a petty, petty tyrant with no concern with anything but being worshipped and fawned over ad nauseum. If I could save someone from being killed by a bear, I would. That makes me a better person than the jerk who thought up this lame joke.

Tonight I was bored and did the search. One I found was by freedomdeliveriance. Add that to your search and you’ll go right to it.

Reading through the “argument” there, the author claims

“It has been witnessed many times that an atheist being in a perilous situation will come to accept God into their life. An atheist proclaims that they don’t believe in God, but when they find themself in a serious life/death situation it is easier for them to consider the possibility that God is real. Prior to surgery and going under the knife, many surgeons witness many of their patients crying out to God to help them live through the operation, so it wasn’t too hard to fathom that this man might call out to God as he realized the seriousness of the situation he was in.”

I’ve been in one perilous situation: I was hospitalized and nearly died.

It was a close thing.

The illness could have killed me. And the treatment could have killed me.

The illness could have stopped my breathing. The treatment could have resulted in massive internal bleeding. Bleeding in the chest. Bleeding in the brain. So not good.

While I do admit that the whole circumstance felt very surreal, I didn’t pray or entreat an un-evidenced deity for assistance. Not once.

Not once did I consider that god was real. Not once.

I didn’t have the time to waste.

The doctors were really surprised that a guy in my condition was still awake. I should have been out cold. And I think they thought I was going to lose consciousness at any time. So when they came in to explain the treatment, I focused on asking questions of the doctors who were treating me.

They gave me the odds of surviving the procedure. 1 in 20 chance bleeding that they could deal with. 1 in 100 chance bad bleeding in the chest that would be more difficult. 1 in 200 chance the worst bleeding in the brain that they wouldn’t be able to do much about.

Hey! Numbers! I work with numbers all day in my job! I have advanced degrees where I had to deal with numbers! I know numbers! Yes! I can make a decision dealing with numbers and I did.

I also thought about my wife and my family the whole time. I signed the consent forms and they whisked me out of the room before I could say goodbye to my wife. And that, quite frankly, was the worst part of that.

It all happened so fast, even though it took more than a week in the hospital.

So, no. No praying, no thinking about god, nothing. And none from my doctors and nurses. They were busy doing their jobs saving my life.

(On a side note, it seemed that in every room in the hospital I was in, I got a direct view of a wall clock–from the urgent care center, to the emergency room, to the CT scan room, to the ICU, to the specialty care wing of the hospital I was put in for a week.

With a wall clock in full view in each one of these rooms, I was acutely aware of how long I was there. I spent most of my waiting time watching the clocks, while my dedicated team of doctors and nurses were working hard to save my life.

I sat there and thought “Hey, I’ve been here in the ER for 15 minutes and the docs are ordering tests” and “It’s 11:30, I’ve been here for an hour and a half. Two tests down.” and “12:50, I’m being rolled into ICU.”

Like I said, it was a very surreal experience.)

Even when faced with death, one atheist still didn’t believe in the Xian fairy tale. I know that I’m not alone.

So, the joke’s really on the Xians. Too bad they don’t see it.
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Thanks for the Insult

“No one is really an atheist. Deep down you really believe in god.”

I’ve heard that one before. Which atheist out there hasn’t?

Quite frankly, it’s an insult.

So, you Xians out there, listen up.

We atheists don’t doubt that you are Xian. We take it at face value when you say “I’m a Xian.”

We take you at your word. Please give us the same courtesy.

We are atheists. We don’t believe in any god: Yahweh, Zeus, Odin, Allah. Even deep down.

Especially deep down.

And so, deep down, when you claim knowledge that you don’t have, i.e. that you know deep down what I believe, then you are being an asshole.

I know this is hard, since you’re used to claiming knowledge that you don’t have all the time (e.g that your god exists), so what’s adding one more unsubstantiated claim, right?

Stop it. Just stop it. It’s insulting.
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Sycophant or Free Thinker?

Over at John Loftus’s Debunking Christianity blog, he’s got a recent post about whether P.Z. Myers is a demagogue, an opportunist or a principled man.

It’s very interesting, because John (who’s blog I read) claims that P.Z. (who’s blog I also read) is an opportunist and states that P.Z. should have fact-checked an anonymous allegation of rape made against Michael Shermer by contacting Shermer to see if it was true (although why John would be naive enough to think that anyone would tell the truth under those circumstances and admit that they’ve committed a crime, much less a sexual crime, is beyond me).

John presents an allegation of the same sort when he fails to fact-check an anonymous source stating that P.Z. received substantial advance money for his recent book. (And, yes, I am aware that allegations of rape and allegations of lots of money aren’t similiar, I’m simply pointing out that anonymous sources have made claims that have not been fact-checked).

So what does that have to do with this topic: sycophant or free thinker?

Simply reading the comments to both posts (John’s and P.Z.’s post on Shermer) and see what you get.

Which prompted my comment to John:

John’s side:

John failed to fact-check with P.Z. about his book advance that an anonymous person claims is $$$$ and accuses P.Z. of being an opportunist.

I like, much less say I agree with, P.Z. and I’m a sycophant.

I like, much less say I agree with, John and I’m a freethinker.

P.Z.’s side:

P.Z. failed to fact-check with Shermer about a rape that an anonymous person claims occurred and accuses Shermer of being a rapist.

I like, much less say I agree with, P.Z. and I’m a freethinker.

I like, much less say I agree with, John and I’m a sycophant.

Wow, can’t win for trying.

How to get past this?

When someone calls you a sycophant, it’s an Ad Hom attack to discredit you.

They’re questioning your motives and integrity.

They’re casually dismissing you without addressing any point you may have made.

And they’re questioning your intelligence and your ability to reason.

What to do about it?

You could fight back, and often that is a good choice.

Some internet fights are worthy fights.

Some internet fights are not.

So you can stop tilting at e-windmills. Shut off your computer and go outside. Have an ice cream cone. Enjoy your life. Ignore the blogosphere. Take a cartooning class. Write a book. Learn to play a ukelele. Do something fun.

Because it will always seem that someone on the internet is wrong. And, quite frankly, let someone else be Don Quixote for today.
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Shibboleth

Words are funny things. They have meanings and sometimes the same word or word sound means different things.

One of my favorite is Shibboleth because it’s a word the describes in- and out-groups.

According to Wkikpedia,

A shibboleth is a word, sound, or custom that a person unfamiliar with its significance may not pronounce or perform correctly relative to those who are familiar with it. It is used to identify foreigners or those who do not belong to a particular class or group of people.

Xianity, and fundamentalist Xianity especially, is filled with shibboleths. Far-right politicians smile and wink and say the right words at identify themselves as True XiansTM. Pastors pass on sage advice using these words. Even lay folk use these words in public and private speech.

The funny thing is that these words aren’t secret or even difficult to pronounce. And most atheists recognize these secret words and phrases and can probably mimic them back, sometimes even better than a member of the in-group.

Do Xians honestly think that they’re part of a secret club or is it that they don’t recognize that there are other, out-group, people around them? Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Perhaps, like most people, we assume that everyone around us is the same as us. I, by default, think everyone between the ages of 25 and 50 is the same age as me. I just don’t think about it, such that I’ve been surprised at times to find a new acquaintance is much younger than me.

The illusion that you are surrounded by people just like you is very strong, so the out-group is perceived as far away and of lesser power.

In the case of Jessica Ahlquist and the Cranston High School West religious prayer banner, the school and community saw nothing wrong with the violation of the U.S. Constitution in their midst. They didn’t even think about it. Everyone around them said the right words and were in the same club. We’re all the same and who even thinks about freedom from religion?

Then along came Jessica and exposed that assumption. Used words that were not shibboleth. And we know the response: insults like “evil little thing” and death threats.

Shibboleth as comfort became shibboleth as division, as righteousness, as defending our way of life against those atheists who want to take our religion away from us.

Shibboleth is a great words because it is all about in- and out-groups. And by thinking about words like this, I become more aware of my in-group assumptions.
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Uppity Atheists

JT over at What Would JT Do, wrote the following in his More Facebook Fun post:

“I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t let it go.”

That one line struck me amid the excellent post.

I posted a response to that line:

“I know why. Because you’re one of those uppity atheists. Thankfully, so am I.”

We’re uppity atheists and that’s a good thing.

We can’t let it go and that’s a good thing.

When we uppity atheists stand up and shout “NO!” to the American Taliban that wants to teach religion in science classes instead of science, put up memorials to their imaginary friends on public lands and marginalize anyone who isn’t “right” with their sky fairy, that’s a good thing.

When we uppity atheists point out the inherent irrationality in believing (sharp inhale, speaking very fast) a talking snake convinced a man and woman to eat a magic knowledge-imbuing apple in a fantasy island garden against the wishes of a non-evidenced god, who then punishes us all for that unless we believe in his son who’s himself after he killed himself then rose from the dead three days later (breathe normally), that’s a good thing.

And to those who think that being an uppity atheist is just as bad as being a fundamentalist theist, perhaps you should stuff that smug condescension. You’re doing the equivalent of claiming that those uppity black folk in the 1960s who were standing up for their civil rights were just as bad as the racists and KKK members that were denying those folk equal rights. Stop it.
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Self-Programmed “Persecution”

Benjamin Corey, in an article on Xian persecution over at his Formerly Fundie blog, states right at the beginning “we’ve been programmed to label any negative experience related to our faith in the category of “persecution””

I’d like to comment on this.

We’ve all had friends whine and complain to us. I’ve done it myself.

But we’ve also all had one friend who does it all the time, let’s call him Bob. Whatever is going on in Bob’s life, it’s never his fault. It’s because of other people, they won’t give Bob an even chance, from the cops who keep hassling him to his boss who keeps giving him shit jobs to his friends who won’t loan him $5 even though he promises to pay them back.

Every time I hear a Xian in America claim persecution, I’m reminded of Bob. You see, Bob has done the same thing with his life like those Xians do: they’ve programmed themselves to label any negative experience as “persecution.”

It wasn’t done to them. It was done by them.

And it’s entirely their own fault. They’ve done it to themselves, both Bob and these “persecuted” Xians, and they’re whiners. Why should I, or anyone, take them seriously?
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