God is the Ostrich Burger You Haven’t Eaten

I have a real problem with Atheists. It doesn’t faze me that they don’t believe in God – everyone experiences the world differently and, as far as I’m concerned, there’s about an equal chance that there is a God as there isn’t or that there are many. I respect the Atheist point of view because I understand it, and the recent surge of hard-core atheism promoted by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins seems like a rational answer to the atrocities committed in the name of a god.

But, just as I hate being pushed in a corner by some doe-eyed Evangelical insisting that I need to be “saved”, I’m sick and tired of being talked down to by Atheists, as if a belief in a religion is a mental deficiency. I’m thinking of the advertisements that went up on buses in and around London recently (I heard about them on Boing Boing).

I’ve never been overly religious – as I said above, different people view the world differently and your interpretation is ultimately as valid as mine, so I have no problem with the different belief systems out there, so long as they’re ultimately compatible with a peaceful society. I have had experiences in my life and been exposed to things that I can not easily explain through simple science that are, in some ways, compatible with many of the religious beliefs out there. I believe in the power of prayer, even if I do have a scientific, psychology-based reason for it. At the end of the day, I like the idea of some ethereal force that connects us all and guides us when we call on it. I like the idea of God and, therefore, am a believer because it makes my life a little easier to comprehend.

In college, a good friend of mine had just finished reading Ayn Rand and was, therefore, going through the post-Rand douchebag phase of unjustified superiority. Among other things, reading Rand had convinced him that Atheism was the right belief and it somehow became his duty to promote it. He expounded on the philosophy of Objectivism over and over, of how self-interest is the highest virtue, etc. etc. When we got to talking about religion, though, he dismissed my beliefs and my experiences out of hand. I told him when I was very young, an angel appeared in my room. I wasn’t sick and I wasn’t asleep. She stood before me, beautiful, radiant, just smiling down on me. It was such a jarring experience I can still see it in my mind’s eye clear as day. I called to my mother, who was just across the hall, to come in and see. As soon as my mother crossed through my doorway, the angel was gone. Mom hadn’t seen a thing.

My friend immediately dismissed it as a child’s overactive imagination, or that I was actually asleep and didn’t realize it or I was hallucinating. I said that all were possible, but it had such a profound effect on me in my life and has affected the way I choose to live. It gave me some sense of hope and made me feel special. Any explanation one could give for the experience could be considered valid, but only one explanation gave the experience meaning, and that was the one I chose to believe. He, of course, dismissed me as being willfully ignorant.

I asked him if he had ever experienced anything like that. He could not in all honesty say yes. And here is where I think the biggest failing in Atheism lies – an inability to relate to another’s experience does not invalidate their experience. A more pedestrian example: I love hamburgers made out of ostrich meat – they’re REALLY delicious. But, if you’re weirded out by eating an ostrich or are just not into eating animals, you may think ostrich burgers are absolutely disgusting, even if you’ve never tasted one. You may even go so far as to think I’m an idiot for enjoying them, though you have absolutely no basis for making such an irrational judgement on me. Until you’ve eaten an ostrich burger yourself, you have no right to judge me. And, if even after you’ve eaten that burger you think I’m crazy, the most you should be able to rationally say about me is that I have weird tastes, but it doesn’t make me a bad person.

If you have had no experiences in your life that equal the ones that have convinced me there’s something more going on out there than science alone can explain, you have no rational basis on which to judge me as an idiot or mentally deficient. A belief in God or the beyond is not the enemy of rational thought, nor necessarily is religion. Intolerance and a willingness to follow only those parts of a belief system that fit your narrow-minded world view are the real enemies, which is why I have such a problem with most fundamentalists who believe in the Bible as infallible truth. The Bible is full of contradictions, sometimes within the same passages. If you believe it is infallible, you must also believe that, in Genesis, God placed an upper limit on human life as 120 years, but a chapter later he allowed Noah and some of his kin to live for 600 years plus. In that same story, God admits his own fallibility – he destroys all life on Earth with a massive flood, then apologizes, regrets his decision and promises never to do it again. Therefore, God makes mistakes and, if you believe that God made the Bible, the Bible could contain more mistakes and is, therefore, not infallible.

But religious fundamentalists aren’t the only enemies of rational thought – fundamental atheists are just as bad. Atheists have no right to dismiss the beliefs of others as wrong. While there is no tangible evidence in the existence of God, neither is there any evidence to disprove such an existence. The absence of proof is not proof of the opposite and, therefore, Atheists stand on the same shaky ground as believers when it comes to defending their position. Both are valid points of view worthy of debate, but neither are absolutely right or wrong.

Now, there are folks who will call me a lousy Christian. Christ told us to go forth and spread the Gospel. By allowing Atheists to exist and not trying to convert them, I’m, therefore, doing some harm against Christ.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Gospel of Christ is his teachings, which can ultimately be boiled down to “Be good to each other, respect each other, respect yourselves and strive for peace and justice for all people.” Christ condemned a lot of people in the Gospels, but he condemned them for the way they treated other people. One famous example is the parable of the rich man, whose likelihood of getting into Heaven is that of a camel fitting through the eye of a needle. The moral of that tale is not that rich people are bad, but people who make their riches by subjugating others and looking out only for themselves are. And, sadly, it’s difficult to become extremely wealthy without compromising your morals.

Christ’s message is ultimately one of love, tolerance and inclusion. This is, after all, the guy who told us to turn the other cheek should someone smack us on the face. It’s a message shared by Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even socially-conscious Atheists, even if the source of the message is not the same. Christ’s message has been perverted by zealous followers, many of whom see an opportunity for self-aggrandizement in their public acts of piety. The shame in the pro-Christian, anti-Christian debate is that far too much argument has been made over improper readings of the teachings of Christ. Improper in the sense that many of the folks arguing have never actually read the teachings. The Bible itself has been famously censored and altered over the years – the Council of Nicea determining the ultimate codex 1500 years ago, the various reinterpretations deemed true by groups of cardinals at the Vatican summits – so arguing its infallibility is really a fruitless effort. Which is not to say that the messages in the Bible are irrelevant – speaking of Noah again, if you get too caught up in the inconsistencies of Noah’s age and the practicality of fitting two of every species on a boat, you miss the message of God’s passion and compassion for His creation and how his regret over killing off so much of his creation affects our relationship with him.

Go ahead and be Atheist if you want. If you fervently believe there’s no God, nothing beyond what science can tell you of the world, that’s a perfectly valid point of view. I tend to think it’s a rather unimaginative view of the world, however, which is why I’ll continue to content myself with the belief in something beyond what can be directly observed and measured, and I’ll expect you to continue to respect me for it. Together, we can rise up against those people who use their faith as a sword to punish those they disagree with, who close their minds to the boundless possibilities of the world so that they can feel safer in an artificial, controlled life that shuts out all things that bring them conflict. Religion is not the enemy of reason. A closed mind is.

My Unborn Baby Mooned Me

My unborn baby mooned me

I’ve been bursting with this news literally since the day it happened – my lovely wife Danielle is 11 weeks pregnant. You may recall we tried this once before without success (she sadly miscarried after the seventh week). This time around, so far, so good.

We went in for her third ultrasound today. Though too small for her to feel it, the kid’s kicking up a storm. I had no idea it would be kicking around like that at this point! I didn’t expect any movement outside of the heartbeat! INCREDIBLE! There are toes and fingers, limbs, a head – all very clearly identifiable. There’s no questions, there’s a kid in there!

It’s been like day and night from the last time. During the previous pregnancy, there seemed to be problems from the beginning – the numbers weren’t adding up properly, the heartbeat was too faint, etc. etc. Every trip to the doctor was a trial. This time, they get the ultrasound machine in there, poke around a bit and say, “There’s the sack, there’s the kid, there’s the heartbeat. Boom, everything looks great!” I had no idea it was supposed to be that easy!

So, yes, we’re VERY excited. What follows are blurry blobs of gray and black that I assure you contain images of a beautiful baby… Z of some kind. You will be forced to look at such pictures for the next seven months or so until such time as there are actual, colored blurry blobs of our actual born child. Yay!!!

There's a head and a body in there somehwere

Legs and arms too, but I think s/he's being shy.

Warm Summer Excrement

How vehemently do I hate the movie “Warm Summer Rain“? So vehemently that after reading my wife’s blog post about it and my reaction to it, I feel the need to expand on my hatred.

When a film school student messes himself, wipes the resulting effluence on a strip of celluloid and hands it in as his master’s thesis, you are not supposed to give it a commercial release. And yet, with this piece of shit of a movie, that’s exactly what happened. It is so awful, so painfully tortuous, that I wanted to pull an Elvis and shoot my TV so as to never unintentionally put myself in the direct line of fire of such pure awfulness again.

What’s it about? Kate (Kelly Lynch, trying hard to be like David) tries to commit suicide because “It felt like the thing to do” (I am not making this up). She fails, though, and ends up walking out of the hospital (careful suicide watch there), hopping on a Greyhound to “As far this [money] will take me… [in] that direction,” paying the bus driver $6 to let her out in the middle of the desert (after telling a fat kid whose face is covered in chcoloate not to eat his mother – it’s only vaguely related) where a pseudo playboy (Barry Tubb) in a dingy tux and stolen convertible tries to pick her up, eventually meets up with her at a random bar, and gets knocked out by a dead iguana. The next morning, Kate wakes up in bed next to the stranger (whose name, by the way, we never find out, not even in the credits where he is listed as “Guy”), discovers they somehow got married by the random preacher who was last seen dancing with a weird native American lady around the stranger’s passed-out body, and proceeds to alternately whine, cry and not-so-erotically fuck the stranger’s brains out before their sex causes a fire that burns down the abandoned tarpaper shack they decided to call home. At some point, he steals a baby, but after it cries incessently for a whole, Kate tells him to take it back.

I’m sure the writer/director thought this thing was full of all kinds of great, meaningful symbolism, but that was just the peyote. At one point I thought I got it. I thought, “Oh, they’re in the desert… he says he killed someone… we saw her try to kill herself… they’re both dead and they’re in hell/purgatory! Got it!” Nope. I’m sure the desert was somehow meant to symbolize that, but God only knows how. And it ended in a simpering, sappy and, above all, totally unrealistic and thoroughly lame way that made me want to hunt down the director, tie him to a chair and throw darts at him for a day or so. I don’t think I have ever had such a vitriolic reaction to a movie. I want my two hours back.

Bottom line: “Warm Summer Rain”, a title better suited to a brand of air freshener, is a piece of shit. If you happen to meet the writer/director Joe Gayton walking down the street, do me a favor and smack him upside the head for me. Very, very hard.

Tom Cruise Is An Ass

Perhaps I should stop watching the Today Show in the mornings as, lately, it’s really been agitating me too early. To wit: On Friday, Matt Lauer interviewed Tom Cruise about his new movie “War of the Worlds”. In the interview, Matt asked Tom about his recent comments regarding Brooke Shields and her new book regarding her battle with post-partem depression. Essentially, Tom Cruise railed against her use and advocacy of anti-depressants to pull her out of her hormone-induced depression, despite the fact that they clearly worked for her and, more than likely, saved her and her child’s lives.

I’ll let you watch the Today Show interview yourself. Now, here’s the thing – to some degree, I agree with Cruise. I strongly feel that medical science these days has devolved to “Have a pill”. This is not to say medicine doesn’t have it uses or purposes, but I feel like doctors, pushed by money-conscious HMOs and marketing-savvy pharmaceutical companies to keep costs low and improve the bottom line, are often missing the problems their patients come to them with by throwing drugs at them rather than really investigating the source of the issue. When it comes to things like, say, Ritalin, there’s a lot of pressure on doctors from exhausted parents who would rather have the magic pill that calms their kids down rather than explore the safer, smarter and more effort-intensive process of teaching their children how to focus. I believe that using Ritalin therapeutically – that is, just enough to get the child to focus, but not so much as to “fix” the problem so that correcting the behaviour is made easier – is the best method. The same is true for anti-depressants. It’s been shown that regular exercise can help fight depression. But, if a person is too depressed to get up and exercise, a small dose of anti-depressant may help get the ball rolling.

But it’s not Cruise’s opinions that bothered me. Everyone has their right to take side in a debate, and I respect the opinions of others. Cruise, however, does not, and he was a real ass about it. Here’s a choice piece of the exchange:

Lauer: …A little bit of what you’re saying Tom is, you say you want people to do well. But you want them do to well by taking the road that you approve of, as opposed to a road that may work for them.

Cruise: No, no, I’m not.

Lauer: Well, if antidepressants work for Brooke Shields, why isn’t that okay?

Cruise: I disagree with it. And I think that there’s a higher and better quality of life. And I think that, promoting — for me personally, see, you’re saying what, I can’t discuss what I wanna discuss?

Did you see what he did there? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he misspoke when he said “I disagree with it” as an answer to why it’s not OK to take antidepressants. What gets me is how he took the argument and used it to martyr himself, even though his opinions are not being squelched. Lauer asked him, in essence, to defend his position. He defended it by asking “I can’t discuss what I wanna discuss?”

At this point in a debate, I’d expect a rational, intelligent human being to begin naming sources. “If you had read the American Journal of Scientological Medicine’s third quarterly issue in 2004, you’d have read the article by Dr. Noaydea that clearly shows how the use of psychotropic drugs reduces the mind’s ability to work on its own.” If Cruise had pulled that out of his self-righteous ass, I’d have been impressed. Even if I totally questioned the source I’d at least feel that, yes, he cared anough about this issue to do some research, no matter how circumspect.

But Cruise is not a doctor, and I seriously doubt he’s actually read anything more scholarly on the subject than People Magazine. Given the style of his rhetoric and his seeming unwillingness to even name a source, to provide useful, factual information to support his cause, I’m guessing he got his information out of the Scientology newsletter or some other publication that caters to his point of view and his point of view alone. He didn’t even have a cogent comeback for Lauer’s argument that he’s seen it work in people he knows and lives with. Practically everyone can tell a story of how Ritalin turned an otherwise out-of-control child into a passably good one. What’s Cruise’s response to that assertion?

“Matt. Matt, Matt, you don’t even – you’re glib. You don’t even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay? That’s what I’ve done. Then you go and you say where’s the medical test? Where’s the blood test that says how much Ritalin you’re supposed to get?”

At no point in time does he actually, specifically point out his perceived flaw in the argument that “sometimes, Ritalin works.” Instead he questions the theories used in coming up with dosages of Ritalin doled out to these patients. This has nothing to do with the argument. If he thinks Ritalin is bad, if he thinks it shouldn’t be used, if he thinks it’s destroying our childrens’ minds, then, please, offer some proof and some solution other than “I know more than you do, but I won’t tell you how.”

I know this shouldn’t affect my impression of Tom Cruise the actor, except I don’t honestly believe I can ever look up to the screen at his two-story tall smug grinning mug without having the words “asshole” reverberate through my mind. You’re free to be passionate about your beliefs, you’re free to explore them at your will on national television and you’re free to disagree with anyone who doesn’t share them. But, if you’re going to come to an argument, either bring the tools or go home. I don’t expect perfect recitations direct from scholarly journals, nor do I expect you to be an expert on whatever it is you’re discussing. But, if you’re going to argue and shut down your opposition by saying they’re wrong, back it up with some facts, some quotes, some ideas that indicate this is not just all your personal crackpot theory bubbling in the back of your insane, self-absorbed little mind. You are not absolutely right. You are not an expert. You, Tom Cruise, are, instead, an arrogant ass who is no longer worthy of the $9.50 I pay to see your movies.

But I digress…

Apparently, I’m going to be famous.

I know this because I just received a visitor from the future who traveled all the way back in time to this very moment when I happened to be placing a semi-colon at the end of a line of code. He appeared out of nowhere in a rapid barrage of applause marvelling at my typing.

“What, of all of the actions I’ve performed thus far, makes this particular moment the most important,” I asked.

“You’ll find out in a week or two,” he replied. “I think. I’m bad with dates.”

To commemorate this apparently yet-to-be historical moment, he asked if he could take an image. I smiled and said cheese as he suddenly stabbed me in the thigh with what I had thought was a rather too needle-like camera.

“Ow,” I cried. “What the hell was that for?”

“I just took your image,” he said. “You see, in about 15 years some guy discovers that thought is not isolated just to the brain but is scattered throughout the cellular structure of the body. Therefore, I can take some of your DNA and reconstruct this very moment in a simulation that will not only let me see what you looked like, but also place me in your shoes so that I can experience precisely what you experienced at this great moment of creation. Here,” he said as he squirted my genetic material into a small glass and metal ball he pulled from his pocket, “Let me show you.”

He handed me the ball and I had the most amazing sense of de ja vu as I was taken back in time a whole 15 seconds to relive the moment when a strage time-travelling fan jabbed a needle into my thigh.

“Ow,” I cried.

“Yeah, I’ll crop that out when I get home.”

As I handed the ball back to him, he sheepishly asked, “Would you mind if I also got your signature?”

I looked around my desk. “Sure, do you have a pen?”

“Of course I have a penis,” he said. “But I’d prefer that you used yours.”

“No, not a penis, a — wait, what?”

“I asked for your signature,” he explained as he handed me a small plastic cup.

“OK. But if you don’t have a pen, how am I supposed to sign this?”

“Sign it?” He shot me the kind of look I would have expected had I just exclaimed, “Duck fingers!” Which is to say one of “WTF?”

“Yeah, you asked for my autograph.”

He thought about this, bewildered for a moment. Suddenly it came to him. “Oh, no no no… Sorry, no, I asked for your signature. Your genetic signature. I want you to deposit some of it in this cup.”

Now I was bewildered. “You want me to… in this cup? If I didn’t do it for the army, I sure as hell ain’t doing it for you. What kind of sicko freak are you?”

“Perhaps I should explain myself,” he explained. “You see, we have completely perfected all genetic engineering techniques in our time, hence the experience imaging chamber. I’d like some of your untainted genetic signature to, y’know, show my friends.”

“I’m really not into alternative lifestyles,” I said.

“No, no… I don’t plan on showing off the *actual* genetic material. Just its signature. You know, figure out which alleles are dominant, look for genetic diseases that may have contributed to the madness of your ancestors, find out what the progeny of you and some of my friends may have looked like – that sort of thing. Nothing creepy.”

“And you can’t just extract my DNA from, say, a spit sample?”

He recoiled. “Ew, gross. No.”

“I’ll have to decline my signature,” I told him. “I think playing with the experience ball may give you some idea as to why.”

“Bummer. Well, Thanks for indulging me with this visit. I’ll let you get back to your vital work.”

“What, exactly, do I become famous for?” I asked.

“I can’t tell you,” the traveller said. “Otherwise it may screw things up. And what you create is something wonderful, magical… the apex of culture for your time. That’s something I just don’t want to jeopardize.”

With that, he left in a blinding flash that rattled my windows and knocked my Jenna Jameson bobblehead to the floor.

I turned back to my work writing the code that should soon become www.HotSouthernSluts.com and rubbing the sore spot on my thigh. Fucking futurazzi.

Fashion Forward Heroin Addicts

I recently purchased a brand new Gaggia Espresso machine off of Amazon. This in itself is not that amazing. I take great pride in my mostly non-addictive personality, but we all know that the one crack in that system is caffeine. I love me the coffee and can be a right bastard when denied.

But even in my most fervent withdrawal-induced hallucinations I’m nowhere near as crazy about my coffee as some folks tend to be. I did plenty of research before dropping a wad on the Gaggia having already been burned by a crappy $37 Mr. Coffee espresso machine (damn thing didn’t even spout out water!) and was quite amazed at what I found as far as user reviews. I’ve never seen such eloquence and reverance foisted upon the preparation of an addictive substance before reading user reviews for various coffee machines. Who knew?

I can only imagine what sort of user reviews I’d expect were something like, say, heroin were legal.

5 out of 5 starsSoothed veins, gentler high, January 14, 2004

Reviewer: StreetMonkey7

The Medivac “VesselSmooth” Single Shot kit is the best needle/burner combo I’ve had the pleasure of using. The hand-blown glass free-base warmer gently heats your smack without burning it, which makes for a much smoother glide through the veins and leaves fewer track marks. The needle on the hypodermic is so fine that I barely feel the prick. If only I could say the same for the SomniVein Shooter. If you’re seriously looking at the SomniVein, then you may as well drop the extra $90 for the Medivac VesselSmooth, which is far superior in quality and well worth the extra cost over the long term.

Purchasers of this item also bought:
SmackBack’s “Smooth Morning” Afghani Blend
Medivac No-Pinch Velcro Tournicut
“Girls, Girls, Girls” by Motley Crue

Sax and Violins

Developed a new theory on the way home from Monterey the other night. While Dani slept in the back, I kept mom awake at the wheel with my idle pratter. I’m not sure why, but the topic of sex on TV came up. Mom seemed somewhat against the further erosion of our moral values through the boob tube, but I said I would be in favor of seeing more skin on network TV. Then I mentioned the paradox of why violence, often rather harsh violence, is OK on TV, but show so much of a nipple and the world comes to an end. And this is when I developed my theory — it all makes sense now.

The argument against violence on TV is that it will cause some viewers to become desensitized to it and, therefore, not see anything wrong with it. The fear is that this desensitization will lead to peoplethinking violence is OK and, in some cases, actually funny and thus prompt them to mimic what they see on TV. There have been actual cases where this appears to have actually happened.

If this theory is correct, one should also assume that shows promoting strong family relationships will encourage the viewers to create such relationships among themselves. Shows demonstrating educational prinicples will actually teach viewers about math, grammar, etc. And shows that portray sexual situations and nudity will encourage viewers to, well, have sex.

And this is where the problem lies. Not everyone watching TV is so impressionable that they lead their lives mimicing what they see on the screen. In fact, a small percentage is actually like this. However, it’s that small percentage who can’t think on their own that tend to cause the most problems. They are the ones who immediately think any lifestyle that doesn’t match their own — i.e. an “alternative” lifestyle — is wrong and will fight against it. They’re the ones who drink too much beer because their buddies say they should, then kill innocent people on the freeways. These are the people who make wild generalizations about people and make themselves look like asses in the process.

When these people breed, they make more people like themselves. Since they essentially do whatever they see on TV, showing them how to make babies would be a Bad Idea (TM). Therefore, the powers that be have determined it is better to just let them wipe each other out. Hence the taboo on explicit sex on TV but the relative acceptance of hardcore violence. You are more likely to see a guy get his head blown off than a woman flashing a nipple.

Unless you watch Jerry Springer.

Is it right? Is it wrong? That’s not for me to judge. I’m just here to blow the whistle on the conspiracy. If I disappear tomorrow, you’ll now know why.