Monday, February 27, 2012

Tragically Teen

The gun control debate has just entered the political discourse again, as another young man has decided to solve his problems by taking a pistol to high school and kill other teenagers.  This time the tragedy occurred in Ohio, and this time there are four injuries and one death.  Update: Now there are three injuries, and two deaths.  My thoughts are with the two families of the children who were murdered...

People have already begun to blame anything from his "gothic" dress to his parents lack of involvement.  (As if anyone knows anything about this boy's parents.)  I've read he was bullied.  I've read he was an outcast.  I've even read a report that he actually told another student that he was bringing a gun to school.  No real surprises there, right?  All of these stories and judgments are quick and easy.  And our society just loves quick and easy, because I know a lot of people that need to believe that there has to be something wrong with those damn "goth" kids.

And like clockwork, the media runs with quick and easy.

The real tragedy here is what most people are missing - any person that thinks that killing other human beings is the only solution to their problems has a serious mental disability that by now should be able to be diagnosed.  It doesn't matter what age that person happens to be, what that person chooses to wear, or what music that person chooses to listen to.  What really matters is that our society hasn't bothered to take the time to actually study the brain of these madmen so that we can learn what symptoms we should look for in fledgling killers.  We won't acknowledge the fact that our brains are just organs.  We refuse to recognize that we really don't understand a healthy brain, much less understand an organ that doesn't function correctly.  No, our society's solution to this kind of "random" atrocity is usually one of two scenarios: to lock them up and hope that the prison system takes care of them - and by "take care" I mean brutally beating them on a daily basis, or to satisfy the public vengeance immediately by putting them to death.  (Hopefully you noticed the quotes around random.  I don't believe for a second that these events are ever random.)

And speaking of mental disabilities, I'm really anxious to hear from those that still fight for gun rights.  Inevitably, someone will suggest that if everyone is armed, this sort of thing would never have happened.  As if a group of immature teens with loaded pistols wouldn't escalate to a gunfight; as if none of these stressed out, gun wielding adolescents would pull the trigger; and as if none of those ricocheting bullets flying about would find a home in any of the vital organs of the those doing the shooting.

No, there's absolutely no way any of that would happen because everyone has guns...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Baby Jesus and the End of Your Nose

After a few weeks on Facebook, I'm reminded why I decided to leave in the first place.

I can cut most people a bit of slack when it comes to their global perspective, but I admit that oftentimes I struggle with keeping myself from confronting the most outlandish, ill-informed, thoughtless, childish, and self absorbed posts/replies that show up in my news feed.  Then again, I should be grateful to the various people in my news feed, simply because they are as absurdly informative as they are depressing.  I find that after just a few minutes of reading what people think is funny, what people believe the government should control, and what people believe is factual, I can't decide if I'm uncommonly charmed, or simply surrounded by racists and bigots, or both.  If I were religious, I might just think I was being tested.

I recognize that as I age, most people choose not to educate themselves beyond their immediate interests.  Most people only care about that which affects them directly.  I admit, on most days and during most controversies I, too, ask myself how this affects my life.  Then I read.  I take the time to put myself in the shoes of others, attempting to do so without bias and without judgment.  In doing so, my perspective changes; I realize why we are extraordinarily lucky that there are people that have focused so much effort and so many hours of their lives to keep other people informed.  Of course, the tragedy occurs when, in most cases, people stop at the, "Why do I care?" and don't take the time to find out why you SHOULD care.

I'll give you some examples.

There's the current controversy surrounding contraception and why the Catholic Church deserves a special exemption from the law.  As I'm sure everyone is aware, this controversy quickly spilled over into the current Republican Presidential primaries where men like Rick Santorum latched onto the controversy and began to expose himself as an unimaginable misogynist.  One would think our society would immediately lash out and Santorum would be another victim of his own rhetoric, but instead he surges in popularity.  Why?  We've lost our ability to see beyond the ends of our noses.

This recent controversy segues directly into the reproductive rights of women, and more indirectly into the business of men and women having sex purely for fun.  Take this article for example, where the perspective of a modern, naturally sexual woman is put plainly and succinctly.  After I read her article, I was mesmerized by my own ignorance when it comes to women and what they must endure day after day.  (I won't quote her directly because I think it's your responsibility to follow my link to that blog and soak in her words; because her article is far more important than this one.)  But then again, I've had a run in myself, actually, where a Catholic priest informed me that I deserved better because when my wife and I enjoy each other, we no longer do so with the possibility of creating an unwanted pregnancy.  How dare a celibate man try to reduce my bond, my life and my love to simply an act of procreation!  I've never wanted to hit a man so much in my life.

Then there's this post on Reddit, where a teen is abducted from his home at the order of his own parents because he proclaimed himself to be an atheist.  Reading what he experienced during his abduction and subsequent internment sent me into an immediate depression.  I cannot imagine how a parent could consider these people as a viable solution.  But then again, his parents are religious; and for reasons that make me ashamed and nauseous, I'm not at all shocked that these places exist.  You see, in his parent's brainwashed minds, they had but one solution - send their sick and twisted atheist son to one of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools to be rehabilitated.  The particular "academy" that this young man was subjected to is located in Nevada, where they also offer an "escort service" to transport teens to their campus to attend a minimum of 12 months of what they call therapy.  And by escort they mean authorized abduction.  And by therapy they mean torture.

I say we take this guy's advice and start teaching people what's really in the book they claim is the word of god.  My hunch is that most modern religious people don't realize how horrible that book really is.  Let them finally get some perspective of what it is they are asking for.  And maybe, just maybe, they can compare this perspective to other countries around the world that are doing exactly what they are suggesting - taking an ancient, brutal, bloody, and immoral book as a means to govern.

But don't worry, I think I'll stay on Facebook.  Sometimes, all the crazy makes me giggle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Robertson's Faith Lies in Santorum

With every remaining breath that Pat Robertson has left, he spews forth the absolute worst of ignorance known to man.  Take a look:


This "chorus" of negative comments about Rick Santorum that Robertson refers to, is simply a responsible blogosphere, and sometimes the media, reminding the general public who it is we're really dealing with.  Saying that the man - Santorum - is simply bringing faith into politics is the wildest of understatements.  Yes, the current political climate of our country makes it necessary for me to have to listen to politicians wax-poetic over their faith.  But this Santorum fellow is our worst nightmare; he's attempting to bolster his campaign with some ancient, maniacal, brutal, and misogynistic version of Christianity because he thinks that will get him more votes.  Not to mention that Santorum has never quietly insisted he's a man of faith and left it at that.  I would go so far as to say that what Santorum would consider himself a proper steward if he could replace the Constitution with the King James Bible.  (I couldn't help myself, Santorum just loves to use the word, "steward".)

As a matter of fact, when it comes to wearing his religion on his sleeve, I'd say the guy makes Dubya look like a Benedictine monk.

Anyway, in Robertson's mind, our society is moving from the criticism of a religious lunatic who's running for President, and straight into a secular atheist dictatorship.  Well I have but one question, Pat...  Are you out of your Christian mind?  Criticizing a Presidential candidate over his overtly religious comments does not correlate to a society on the verge of a dictatorship.  It's the absolute opposite!  And Pat, surely you must realize that there are several secular European countries that enjoy much more freedom than the United States, with some of the lowest crime/prison rates on the planet, lowest homicide rates, lower rates of teen pregnancy, lower abortion rates, higher education rates, and higher per capita incomes - all with a predominately atheist society.

Give Christians like Pat Robertson and Rick Santorum what they want, and we'll be headed right back into a religious, Christian dictatorship.  But both Pat and Rick would love that, I'm sure.  Of course, anyone with a remedial understanding of history would realize that humanity has already tried that kind of governing on more than one occasion.  And it didn't work out to well for the masses.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Knee Deep in Crazy Santorum

Rick Santorum...  The type of crazy that authors have based entire novels upon.

I never intended to spend any of my time write about this guy because I never even dreamed that anyone would ever take him seriously.  Sure, he spends most of his time catering to the fundamentalists in the United States.  And sure, much of what he stumps for is pure shock politics.  Normally as the voting public begins to tire of the rhetoric, and a candidate like this guy will fall by the wayside as his claims get more and more outlandish.  I have been counting on this phenomenon to take Santorum back to Pennsylvania.  I suppose I gave the electorate of this country far too much credit.

Well, today Rick said something that I believe deserves my time:
"It’s so funny that this party that criticizes the right for being anti-science, but when it comes to the management of the Earth, they are the anti-science ones!  We’re the ones who stand for science and technology and using the resources we have to make sure we have a quality of life in this country and maintain a good and stable environment."
Is Rick out of his mind?  He wants people to believe that the same political party that has been fighting against global warming, teaching the Theory of Evolution, stem cell research, pollution and environmental protection, are the REAL advocates for science?  This quote stinks of newspeak so much so that George Orwell would be proud.

Once I got past my initial rage at this moron, I started thinking that Rick has found a slick way to confuse science with technology.  We're not talking about how efficiently we use current resources, nor are we talking about how comfortable you are being the beneficiary of the spoils of modern technology.  But this is NOT science!  Not even close!  Sure, modern science bore these technologies out, but equating one to the other is utter nonsense.

But you wait and see, the United States has enough scientifically illiterate people that this scumbag will convince a fair percentage of voters that he has a point.  And that makes me want to vomit.

I've never spit my drink so fast as when I read this final quote:
"Freedom isn’t to do whatever you want to do, it’s to do what you ought to do."
What you ought to do?  According to whom, you idiot?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bench Slap!

Today while reading the Dallas Morning News, my wife noticed a quote in the Talking Points column that she thought might spark my interest.  I swiped the paper from her hand and read the quote...  Boy was she right.

I swiftly made my way to my laptop to find out more about this guy and what he meant by what he said.  Oh, and you know what?  My wife didn't so much as give me the stink eye for rudely yanking the paper from her, either.  Is my wife perfect for me, or what?

Anyway, here's the quote from US District Judge Fred Biery:
"To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously cursed the court family and threatened bodily harm and assassination: In His name, I forgive you. To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will someday be answered, as inevitability trumps probability."
Even if this federal judge spoke in the name of his god, which quite frankly gave me a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, I really like this guy!  Not only does he spit in the face of the religious right in this country, he does it with both cold, vicious honesty as well as snarky, self-righteous politeness.  In just two measly sentences, this Federal Judge has flawlessly placed himself upon the moral high ground; looking down upon the vile, conniving vultures of the religious right.

And rightfully so, pardon the pun.

Here's a brief summary of the complete story behind this quote.  US District Judge Fred Biery ruled that the Medina Valley Independent School District (San Antonio, TX) cannot officially make a Christian prayer part of the graduation ceremonies.  Poor persecuted Christian babies can still pray, they just can't be sponsored by the school,  nor can prayer be required during graduation.  Now I am not a lawyer, but this ruling seems to me to be a no-brainer since Lee v. Weisman 1992.  Then there's Engel v. Vitale 1962.  And the list goes on...

But rulings like these, when made during an election year, tend to make headlines.  And the only reason that blatantly obvious court decisions like these make headlines is simply because the religious right in this country are comfortably predictable when it comes to their outrage.  So, you have the remaining GOP candidates busy trying to win the religious right (after, of course, they convince the corporate moneybags to fork over absurd amounts of money), and a US District Judge making the same ruling that dozens have made before him.  In 2012, these two events mark the ideal definition of a political controversy.

Thus, Judge Biery's ruling didn't go over very well with the GOP or the perpetually persecuted religious right.  Big surprise there.  As a matter of fact, his ruling was so unpopular that Newt Gingrich, one of the current Republican Presidential candidates - well, one of the ones that are still relevant - described Biery as a, "dictatorial religious bigot" for his decision.  If that sorry excuse of a human being said that about Judge Biery, well then that judge is alright by me.

Nice work, Judge Biery.  Nice work indeed.

Oh, and my new word for the week is, "vomitously".

Remember the Abusers?

Now that we've had a recent surge in political rhetoric regarding religious freedoms and morality, I think it's important to remind everyone exactly who it is that has been crying, "religious persecution".  In no uncertain terms, those in the media, current politicians, and the general public need to remember that the people that continue to dictate what is, and what is not moral are in fact the ones that are sexual deviants - NOT the rest of us.

Religious leaders and religious apologists, particularly in the Catholic church, have been flexing their political muscle over the past 10 days or so, in a struggle against providing health insurance coverage for contraception.  And of course they have plenty of conservative bedfellows, who aren't even Catholic themselves, that are willing to wage political warfare while they continue to NOT practice what they preach.  Now I realize that I have a cynical worldview when it comes to both politics and religion, but what this collective group of misogynists is trying to do is beyond reprehensible.

Many women with much more eloquence than I have noted that these celibate men are forcing themselves on the reproductive rights of women.  And sadly, thus far it seems they are getting much of what they want.  I'm forced to wonder if medicinal science finally develops a reliable, sperm killing pill for men, will the Catholic church be equally outraged at the "killing" of potential, baby-making sperm cells?  Somehow, I honestly doubt that the church will even bat an eye.

Couple this supposed outrage against the church's moral direction with the constant barrage of new indictments against sexually deviant Catholic priests, and you have the perfect example of dissociative identity.  On one hand you have a set of priests lecturing their congregation on the sins of contraception; and on the other, a set of priests with such criminal arrogance that they willfully and repeatedly ignore our country's rule of law.  Even today, MSNBC reports that some 200 priests are suspected of sexual abuse of CHILDREN.  And why aren't these sexual deviants being prosecuted to the full extent of the law?

Well, I think that's a very good question.  As a matter of fact, since this is an election year, I think this is the perfect year to start asking why the hell these wretched men aren't being charged as sexual predators.

The evidence is clear, and it's high time we as human beings take responsibility for the protection of our children and finally address the growing cancer in our global society.  Most, if not all, religious leaders are monsters dressed in a fraudulent veil of eternal salvation; and they no longer deserve the luxury of wholesale exclusion from criminal prosecution by our state or federal government.

Our children deserve better.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I BELIEVE! I BELIEVE!!!

This video is absolutely fantastic!



I felt like that eager kid in elementary school that always wanted to be the first to answer, "OOH! OOOOH!  I DO!  I DO!!!"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tweeting With a Man of the Cloth

I had an extremely interesting and rather amusing exchange with someone on Twitter over the past 24 hours.  What made this twitter exchange so interesting to me was not the subject matter.  Instead, it the person to which I spoke.

I had my first rousing, written exchange with a bona fide Catholic Priest.  Yup.

The point of contention between the two of us was the recent announcement that religious institutions were not exempt from the new healthcare law, and must provide the contraceptive and sterilization benefit to female employees who want it.  Father Daniel began simply with this:


I tried to remind him, using the restrictive 140 character maximum of Twitter, that Father Daniel's argument is moot since the money from his insurance policy isn't isolated.  In fact, in the grand scheme of things his and his religious institution's money has already been used to cover other women for birth control and sterilizations due to the nature of insurance companies.


Father Daniel agreed, but wanted to get back to the subject at hand: covering those heathen women with their immoral and perverted reproductive rights.  So, our conversation moved quickly from money to the contraceptive called, "Ella" which he referred to as an abortifacient.  Look it up, he's dead wrong.  And of course, I did my absolute best to correct his misunderstanding of the drug by providing several links to refute his arguments, including proof that Ella has never been proven to be an abortifacient.  This, regrettable, fell on deaf ears.

He remained steadfast and consistent, maintaining the idea that he (and his church, I presume) does not want the funds he pays for his insurance premium to be going for birth control, sterilizations, and of course, certain medications he and his church have deemed as abortion pills.  His consistency faltered when he then began to insist that an embryo that has not yet attached to the uterine wall was, according to his church, considered abortion:


Now to me, this is just complete madness.  By definition, in order to abort something, it has to begin that something in order for it to be stopped by something else.  Thus, preventing implantation of an embryo cannot be considered abortion.  But the Catholic Church and my new Priest Twitter bud can't be deterred, they move the goal posts and contend that abortion can happen even before a pregnancy begins!  Once I reached this point with Father Daniel, I realized the deranged mentality of the person I was dealing with, and the unadulterated futility of my efforts.

Thus, I bid Father Daniel farewell by telling him I was done, and gave him two reasons why I could no longer oblige his tweets.  First, I said, he and his Church want to classify everything as abortion - and that is a very slippery slope.  Second, he and his Church want complete control over women's reproductive rights and do not want anyone to be able to have sex for fun.

Now, here's my absolute favorite part of the whole thing - and be warned - you shouldn't have any liquid in your mouth when you read this:


Right from the mouth of a man who is supposed to be celibate - sex for fun is not good.  Well, I for one, respectfully disagree.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mandating Contraception Coverage

Catholics are still in an uproar that President Obama's administration (Kathleen Sebelius, to be exact) announced that nonprofit religious institutions must follow the healthcare law and cover contraceptives as part of their healthcare insurance.  These misguided people see the mandate as a direct attack on their faith - that somehow they are being forced to violate some cosmic law because their religious institution's insurance has to cover the cost of birth control if a woman (yes, a Catholic woman) chooses to have her prescription filled.  Some Catholics are even pulling the, "Christian persecution" card by saying that Obama is waging a war on Catholics...

What planet do these "outraged" people live on?  First of all, if Catholics were really that concerned with the moral implications of contraception, then 98% of Catholic women wouldn't be using some form of birth control.  That's correct - the vast majority of these poor outraged Catholic women are the ones that are using the very technology that is banned by their church!  And even if a Catholic man or woman is genuinely concerned with being immoral in the eyes of their church, they could still fall back to the most blatantly obvious choice in this matter - DON'T USE CONTRACEPTION.  It's just that simple.

Now let's get to the heart of the matter here; this mandate has nothing at all to do with the religious beliefs of Catholics and everything to do with making sure that every person is covered by the law.  It doesn't matter what perverted and antiquated belief your religion decides to  inflict upon its followers, it cannot trump the laws in this country.  The same applies to religions that believe animal sacrifices are necessary, or Sharia Law should be followed, or any other barbaric ideals many religions still cling to.  There can be no exceptions to the law of the United States.

Next thing you know, some Catholic pharmacist will be refusing to fill his Catholic friend's birth control pill prescription because his church assigns him the moral responsibility to imbue himself into his patient's life.  And in that instant, another human being's rights will be taken away in the blink of an eye.  All in the name of the Catholic church.

But I suppose that's just crazy talk from an angry atheist, and it'll never get to that point, right?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Texas Education Gets A Pity Grade

On Tuesday, Thomas B. Fordham Institute released the, "State of State Science Standards 2012", with a complete report for each state.  This year, Texas received a grade of C (a 6 out of  10):

State of State Science Standards 2012
Fordham Institute: Texas (PDF)

If you've spent any time in the state of Texas over the past 3 to 4 years, you know that the Texas State Board of Education has been anxiously awaiting the Fordham Institutes evaluation.  Why?  Because the last time Fordham released their Science Standard grades, Texas received an F.  Deservedly so, since the Intelligent Design movement had all but solidified itself as legitimate science - which we all know is nonsense - and the State Board of Education began modifying science standards to include the newest version of "god did it".

Creationists activists that have been elected to the school board have been largely to blame for the abysmal Fordham grades, in particular the former chairman, Mr. "Strengths and Weaknesses of Evolution" Don McLeroy from Bryan, TX.  Armed with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and the Gideons International, McLeroy decided it was time to turn back the scientific clock to the early 19th century, because he knew better than thousands of Biologists studying the Theory of Evolution over the past 150 years.  And no, electrical engineers do not have the appropriate scientific background in Biology and Evolutionary Biology to make that kind of judgment (sorry, Dad...)

After somewhat of a public backlash, several of the Creationists on the SBOE were replaced by more pro-science Board members in the November 2010 election.  (YAY!)  So of course, this makes the new Fordham Institute Science Standard a bit of a relief for the Texas SBOE.

But to be honest, this C doesn't really sit right with me.  It doesn't feel at all like a step in the right direction; it feels more like a pity grade.  These Fordham Science Standards that received an average score for 2012 were the exact same standards that received an F in 2009 from the National Center for Science Education.  Is this a sign that the Texas SBOE is actually addressing the atrocious science standards, or did the Fordham Institute just throw Texas voters a bone for cleaning house at the SBOE?

*** UPDATE 2/2/2012 ***
Don McLeroy claims in the Texas Independent that he is, "very pleased" with the study and the, "work of religious conservatives has been vindicated," because the state of Texas received a C from the Fordham Institute.  I've seen some crazy political spin in my day, but this takes spin to a whole new level.  Honestly, is McLeroy actually boasting that the Texas education system is nothing more than average?  What a guy...

I'll let my readers decide.  Do you push your kids to strive for better grades than a C?  Should Texas parents be satisfied and "very pleased" with average?