left biblioblography: January 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006


There will be perhaps some atheists who blink their eyes, and say, “What?”

Others who’ll shrug, and say, “Hey, it’s just an exercise kinda like calisthenics.”

And yet others who’ll ask, “What is that?” For this group, I gently direct them to here: http://www.answers.com/tai%20chi - for a better definition.

For the second group, it is most assuredly NOT just an exercise: it’s a combination of mental and physical disciplines.

For the first group, there’s going to be something of a response along the lines of, “Hey, you’re an atheist, how can you invest in such a bunch of mumbo jumbo?”

The reason for that response alone is based on a number of misconceptions. Tai Chi (herein referred to as TCC) is based primarily on Taoist philosophy (Taoism in it’s purer form was emphatically not a religion). TCC is based on Eastern concepts, such as ‘Chi’, ‘Shen’, ‘Jing’, and such. We all have Hollyweird to blame, in re: the ridiculous stereotypes accorded to any martial art whatsoever. It’s this marketing ploy, this effort to drape any and all MA(martial arts)  in mystical crap of some sort, to bring in a few extra bucks.

I don’t do TCC (or ‘play’ it, as the terminology puts it) because I believe that it will turn me into some foolish metaphysical superhero that one sees in an overdone movie.  I don’t do it because it elevates me in any way above my fellow humans.

I do it because I’ve felt the results, completely divorced from the mumbo-jumbo draping the MA in this country. It has direct, observable results for the practitioner. Completely free of any religious trappings, denominational underpinnings: in short, it works.

For the skeptic, I invite him/her to investigate that second sentence, and get back to me.

I began back in 1986, purely by chance, having read Robert W. Smith’s Chinese Boxing: master and methods years prior, was intrigued, thinking I’d have to travel to China to learn the damned thing, shrugging and saying, “Oh well.” Rode by a little plaza tucked away on the side of Main St. in Pleasanton, and deciding to ‘give myself a birthday gift’ by taking classes. The rest is, as they say, is history.

For eight years, I practiced. Religiously, you could say. Dropped out for six years. Came back to it. Full barrel, gung-ho again.

Now, I was indeed a semi-theist at the time. I sorta believed in some half-baked deity, but didn’t really pay it much heed.

Now, I encountered (and still do, to this day), results that impact me from the consistent practice of said art. I’m pretty spry and flexible for a man of 47 years. My responses to external confrontations are very relaxed. It keeps me calm and focused.

I had a brief email exchange with one Ron Rhodes, at letusreason.org, as I protested his portrayal of any internal MA as ‘supernatural invocations’ (or somesuch thing). The standard line in some theistic circles, is that the practitioner is relying on some external ‘force’ (read: the devil), citing some truly ridiculous and specious nonsensical anecdotes (for instance, people busting bricks against their bodies, which BTW is an external martial art: us internal stylists don’t do that kind of crap, normally). Also, that the practice of said arts is thoroughly grounded in Eastern philosophical/religious mindsets.

All poppycock, I assure you.

The actual practice of TCC, any internal MA, or Qigong, will have wonderful effects on the mind as well as the body. No real philosophy is necessary. (There will be some discourse, of course: Relax is the main point. Some correction, as no one gets it right the first time.)

Proof’s in the pudding, I always say.

And I can cite anecdotal evidence. For instance, even to this day, if I go out to the park, even on a very cold day, by the time I’m done with my third short form, my hands have warmed up tremendously. Kinda hard to chalk that up to an exercise done in slo-mo, I’d say. When I went to China in 2003, I trained with Chen Xiaoxin, headmaster for the Chen TCC school in Chenjiagou (where it originated). He would put us all into a single posture, mold our bodies in specific ways, correct them, and these tremendous feelings of energy flow would just blossom (at least in my body). I wasn’t directed to feel this way (he spoke absolutely no English). It just happened.

As to it being a real MA, I will gladly get on the matt with anyone, and test it out. It helps that I was a bit of a brawler before I started practicing. Or that I had some background in sparring  (unofficially).  I’ve sparred with external stylists (karate, Shaolin, etc.), and come out about even (or on top). “But you do it so slowly, how does that equate in real life?” you may ask. Well, it relaxes the player. The saying in TCC is that “If you can’t do it slowly, you can’t really do it.” It improves the reflexes. The only negative here, is that it takes a long time normally to be able to use it. Once you get there, though, you can even amaze yourself (yeah, don’t that sound like a commercial ad?).

Now, my fellow atheists will likely point out that the word ‘Chi’ is used in TCC, and is somewhat of a mystic goal to be achieved. More misconceptions. ‘Chi’, translated loosely from the Chinese, means ‘breath’, or energy. Basically, you got it already. As one of my sifu’s put it: “No Chi? Then you’re dead!” It’s what one is born with. Simplistically put, it’s just the resources the individual has already. TCC is one of the arts that enables you to refine those resources already extant.

And no, it’s not easy. Frontis nulla fides: “Do not trust appearances.”

So, in summation: yes, I do TCC. I teach TCC as a sideline. But if you decide to investigate, and you start getting the ‘mystical mumbo jumbo’ crap, likelihood is good that it’s simply a marketing ploy.  It’s better to watch the teacher. And here’s the clue: if the instructor is truly high-level, then it will appear more the dance than the standard MA. It will be soft: it will appear to be as substantive as a fluttering leaf, graceful as a swan. Frontis nulla fides.  Play hands with the instructor. If he/she can’t bounce you off the wall, or at least send you skittering backwards, chances are you’ve got an amateur. If you hear a bunch of vacuous psychobabble, don’t go back. If you hear, “It’s perfect the way you’re doing it,” or somesuch thing, don’t go back.

But most of all: DO THE RESEARCH. Watch various people doing it. An old TCC saying: “The player should practice as a lady dancing, but in combat be fierce as a tiger.”


Friday, January 20, 2006


Well, I figured, shrugging: why the hell not?

So I rented this bloody thing.

Now there was once upon a time it would’ve raised goose bumps on my nape, or made me question myself, and my spiritual strength.

Of course, now I’m an atheist, so my perspective has changed considerably.

Now the production values were fairly decent. The acting was, eh. There were some clever moments, and I actually jumped a couple of times.

Now for the bad bits.

First off, we’re seeing a resurgence of this dreck. And who are the constant soldiers that battle back the encroaching tendrils of evil? Yep, you guessed it. Catholic priests. How come we never see a Protestant, Methodist, or Episcopalian exorcist? That’s right: Mother Church to the rescue.

So we have this poor little farm girl, the minute she goes to a university (this is repeated 3 times in the 1st ½ hour, no less), spiritual problems arise.

She gets a scholarship, but we see her running about in the pouring rain in a dowdy farm dress, no umbrella. How smart is she? Why is she so special? She and her family are especially devout, and that’s about all one can garner.

We are then treated to a trial that’s ridiculous from both the perspective of prosecution AND the defense. The prosecutors use poor medical diagnoses, and are generally painted to be the blind, rational antagonists. “Psychotic epilepsy,” indeed. Schizophrenia and psychosis are used interchangeably (hey, who’s gonna notice?). Meanwhile, we get these flashbacks where Emily eats bugs, tears up the drywall, and shrieks in a variety of languages (which of course, the priest speaks ALL of them, what a surprise!). Credit due, though: the producers of the movie didn’t go for any wild CGI, pea green soup, or bizarre contortions, instead they shot for the psychological, more surreal efforts at fright. Succeeding only occasionally.

At one point, we discover that there are 6 demons inhabiting this spectacularly unimpressive young girl, one of them calling itself Legion (which is contradictory, in context), another Belial, and 1 more: the big Kahuna hisself, Lucifer.

At yet another juncture, we learn that the girl is visited by Mary herself, and is given the option of

  1. Leaving now, or

  2. Stick around for the suffering, so others may learn that God does indeed exist.
3 guesses as to which choice she makes? Yep. You got it. Option B. Immediately, she bursts into stigmata.

So, recap time: farm girl hits university on scholarship, is immediately beset by evil spirits, brought back to farm, priest unsuccessfully tries to get rid of spirit, fails, goes on trial simply to tell the world, “GOD AIN’T DEAD” (gotta love this horse puckey: during trial, priest reads written note, which tells of Mary’s visit, acceptance of sacrifice, and the punchline? “How can anyone say, ‘God is Dead’, if I show them the Devil?”), agnostic defense attorney becomes a believer (finds unknown locket outside apartment complex w/her initials on it, hey, it’s a MIRACLE!), movie closes with captions that tell about people from around the world coming to visit her grave as a shrine.

And there’s just so much wrong with all of this. God selecting people to suffer, to prove he still exists? Demonic possession, of all things? Hey, if God abolished world hunger, or war, hey, I think that’d be more the clincher for me. This blood sacrifice bullshit gets right up my nose, it does.

“Let’s see, people don’t believe in me anymore. I’ll infect some poor innocent young girl with demons, let her suffer, let her die, so her little note can be read at a public trial, to re-ignite the dimming candle of faith guttering in the world.”

It’s goddam savagery, is what it is. I’d think there’d be an easier way to go about proving I was the supreme deity, besides the suffering of innocents.

What’s worse is there are people who buy into this fatuous nonsense.

Sucker born every minute.

That’s my nickel’s worth.



While I am not gay, I am pro-gay marriage. I for one get sick of the ululating nonsense of the Religious/Conservative Right (the line is exceedingly blurry, to the point where one is easily confused with the other, hence the slash).

I shall address these points piecemeal, and show how ridiculous they are for the most part. Let’s dispense with the “Eeeewwww!!” mentality for the nonce, shall we?

1. It’s ‘unnatural’.
If we actually go and take a good, solid look at nature, we find no such thing. Homosexual behavior is relatively common among a wide variety of animals, birds and mammals being the prime candidates. I have even seen one theory about this being the result of overpopulation.
I say that’s poppycock. The Bonobos chimps, for instance, exhibit this behavior regularly, using sex to arbitrate quarrels, with a fair degree of gay/lesbian behavior. Nor does that explain the “Wendell and Cass, two penguins at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, Brooklyn, live in a soap opera world of seduction and intrigue” – article here - where 2 gay penguins are pretty close.
From the article:

“One particular book is helpful in this case. Bruce Bagemihl's "Biological Exuberance," published in 1999, documents homosexual behavior in more than 450 animal species. The list includes grizzly bears, gorillas, flamingos, owls and even several species of salmon.

"The world is, indeed, teeming with homosexual, bisexual and transgendered creatures of every stripe and feather," Bagemihl writes in the first page of his book. "From the Southeastern Blueberry Bee of the United States to more than 130 different bird species worldwide, the 'birds and the bees,' literally, are queer."

Last I checked, grizzlies are on the verge of extinction.
There goes that theory.

2. One man/one woman paradigm’.

Utter crapola. Again, we look to nature. Under the heading of ‘Intersexual’ at answers.com, we see the following:

“Biology. Having both male and female characteristics, including in varying degrees reproductive organs, secondary sexual characteristics, and sexual behavior, as a result of an abnormality of the sex chromosomes or a hormonal imbalance during embryogenesis.”

And as to ‘Intersexuality’:


“An intersexual or intersex person (or animal of any unisexual species) is one who is born with genitalia and/or secondary sexual characteristics determined as neither exclusively male nor female, or which combine features of the male and female sexes. (The terms hermaphrodite and pseudohermaphrodite, which have been used in the past, are now considered pejorative and inaccurate and are no longer used to refer to an intersexual person.) Sometimes the phrase "ambiguous genitalia" is used.
According to the highest estimates (Fausto-Sterling et. al., 2000) perhaps 1 percent of live births exhibit some degree of sexual ambiguity [1], and that between 0.1% and 0.2% of live births are ambiguous enough to become the subject of specialist medical attention, including surgery to disguise their sexual ambiguity. Other sources (Leonard Sax, 2002) estimate the incidence of true intersexual conditions as far lower, at approximately 0.018%.”
And again, at http://www.answers.com/hermaphrodite:
“hermaphrodite, animal or plant that normally possesses both male and female reproductive systems, producing both eggs and sperm. Many plants, including most flowering plants (angiosperms), are hermaphroditic, or monoecious; in these, male and female reproductive structures are present in the same plant, often in the same flower, and many hermaphrodite flowers are self-pollinated. Many lower animals, especially immobile species, are hermaphroditic; in some, such as earthworms, two animals copulate and fertilize each other. Some parasitic species, e.g., the tapeworm, are self-fertile as well as hermaphroditic, insuring reproduction where the parasite may be the only member of its species in the host. Many hermaphrodites are protandrous or protogynous, i.e., gametes of the two sexes are produced in the same organism, sometimes in the same gonad, but at different times; in such organisms (e.g., the oyster and the sage plant) self-fertilization is impossible.”

Upon reading these items (due to a discussion at NGB) it becomes blaringly apparent that even nature isn’t locked into a juxtaposition of male-to-female. Good ole mix-n’-match, it is.

Certainly, the reader can point to the statistics, and say, “This is such a small percentile. What does this have to do with the subject at hand?”

Let us for a moment assume that an individual is born intersexual (hermaphrodite is considered a pejorative term, BTW). The parents don’t elect for the surgery, and allow the child to grow up as they were born, w/2 sets of genitalia (minor factoid here: this surgery actually accounts for some men/women to opt for sexual reassignment surgery).

Who then, can they marry, according to the 1-man/1 woman paradigm? Anyone? This, then, poses an ethical quandary. Flip a coin? Eject them as anathema from society? Apparently, the rules aren’t ‘written in stone.’

3. The ‘Gateway behavior’ theory:

“If we let gays marry, then we’ll have to allow polygamists/bestiality/pederasts [insert causally unrelated sexual behavior here] to do whatever they want!”

This is the traditional debate fallacy of the ‘slippery slope’, from here: http://www.answers.com/slippery%20slope
“Arguers also often link the slippery slope fallacy to the straw man fallacy in order to attack the initial position:
  1. A has occurred (or will or might occur); therefore

  2. B will inevitably happen. (Slippery slope)

  3. B is wrong; therefore

  4. A is wrong. (Straw man)
This form of argument often provides evaluative judgments on social change: once an exception is made to some rule, nothing will hold back further, more egregious exceptions to that rule.
Note that these arguments may indeed have validity, but they require some independent justification of the connection between their terms: otherwise the argument (as a logical tool) remains fallacious.
The "slippery slope" approach may also relate to the conjunction fallacy: with a long string of steps leading to an undesirable conclusion, the chance of all the steps actually occurring is actually less than the chance of any one individual step occurring alone.”

However, if we actually look at HISTORY, it is little known fact that same-sex marriage has been with us since time immemorial.

http://www.answers.com/gay%20marriage - History of same-sex unions – we find a preponderance of gay marriage throughout the known world, from Europe to Asia, to some societies in North America. When was it frowned upon, discouraged, considered anathema? Christian Europe, no less. What a surprise.

I have actually seen one idiot proclaim that the NAMBLA people are jumping on the gay-marriage bandwagon (guilt by association), thereby promoting the ‘slippery slope’ argument he was making. Of course they did. Any societal pariah’s going to do that. Hell, we see that in NON-sexual cultural disputes. Said idiot then proceeded to freely substitute the subject of the debate with the non sequitur.

Debating with some theists is just so…infuriating, because of the distinct lack of logic, the sheer frivolity of their verbal gymnastics, the complete and utter bankruptcy of (some of) their ideologies.

4. “It threatens the moral fiber/backbone of our society! It will unravel the fabric of our wondrous works!”

Drivel. Pure, unadulterated, unmitigated. I live in America: I love my country. But we are so FAR from being morally upright in so many ways, it crosses my eyes. The USA is jam-packed with so many social Darwinists on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin. Yes, I am an atheist. Yes, there are moral imperatives. I borrow this concept from Buddhism (yeah, I get to use it despite my affiliation: someone try stopping me): Ahimsa. Do no harm. That, my friends, is the pinnacle of evolution IMHO. That we rise above the feral, and become civilized. I don’t even want to get started on the inherent racism that helped build this country, the supposedly ‘Xtian’ principles that are so conveniently swept under the rug, or danced about in some gymnastic manner. Not to mention our horrendous track record in re: foreign policy (loosely translated: let’s get these fellers to do it OUR way!).

5. “Gay marriage isn’t a civil right!”

Horse manure. From answers.com – Civil rights – “The rights belonging to an individual by virtue of citizenship, especially the fundamental freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and by subsequent acts of Congress, including civil liberties, due process, equal protection of the laws, and
freedom from discrimination.”

Not granting folks the right to marry due to the “Eeeewww!” factor is indeed discrimination, pure and simple. These arguments could be used (and probably have) to argue against women’s rights, black voters, et al.

One of the more casuistic argument against it, is one that is pure dreck: “Many black people don’t feel this way,” or “African Americans don’t see gay marriage as a civil right.” Well, they did indeed institute the term as well as the change of culture. But that’s hardly a litmus test. The phrase is most certainly NOT locked in stasis.

These people (and yes, they ARE people) have been shoved into closets, ghettoes, forced to behave in a manner contrary to their nature, beaten and spat upon, in some instances even killed. Why? Because the ‘majority’ disagrees with it. As the ‘majority’ disagreed with segregation, inter-racial marriage, female voting, etc.

Couple of quotes for the reader:

“An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental.” -- Thomas Jefferson, to George Hay, 1807. ME 11:341

“There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong.... In fact it is only reestablishing under another name and a more specious form, force as the measure of right....” - James Madison, letter to James Monroe, October 5, 1786

And one more:

“The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy. “
Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations, Circa 1774

6. ‘God will smite us down!’

Oh, like he did all of those other cultures? Detractors will be quick to bring up Sodom and Gomorrah, but another little known factoid: according to the book of fables, it was their lack of hospitality that brought the wrath of YHVH, not their sexual proclivities.
7. ‘God said not to!’
So here we get to the meat of the matter. This is really what it’s all about.

A bunch of priests (no, I doubt very much that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, sorry) made decisions for a small nomadic tribe, and that applies unilaterally across the world? Please.

What if the Council of Nicene had voted NOT to include Leviticus?

I’d say this discussion wouldn’t be necessary.


Monday, January 16, 2006


Well, back when I was a theist (sort of), I’d have waxed poetic (and probably used sweeping, lofty, semi-intelligible prose: baroque meritocracies are good for the occasional laugh, but bear little resemblance to real life), if someone asked me for the definition of God.

Nowadays, I welcome the inclusion of Occam’s Razor into my life. Can’t shave with the bloody thing, but it’s so handy.

I can hear the voices of theists in the back of my head (idle speculation only: I am not prone to aural hallucinations, I assure you): “God is Love, God is Power, God is the great Hand that swept across the vast nothingness, & the flowers of the universe blossomed”, that sort of thing.

It’s a romantic notion, no doubt. But the actuality is, that it is a meme that sprang from simpler structures in this existence of ours. Let’s take this to its simplest level:

Mammalian offspring mostly follow, and mimic. We see this sort of behavior in other creatures as well, but let’s restrain ourselves a bit, and stick to the hairier ones.

Our children look up to us. First, it’s size. Then, it’s understanding how the world works. Mimicking what is seen (monkey see, monkey do). Then it is the juggling of the act, to provide an outcome.

Mistakes are when the reptilian hindbrain kicks in. Acts that are replicated become unpleasant if done incorrectly (imagine the baby chimp missing the branch on occasion, or the chick not getting the trick of flying, and meanwhile a predator lurks nearby).

So Big Daddy (or Mommy) rewards behavior that meets with approval, and degrees of unpleasantness occur when the reverse is true. I trust I need provide no statistics for these events: we’ve all experienced them.

Thusly are the neural pathways built, those miniature electro-chemical freeways that govern all that we do.

Small wonder, as we are creatures that are always looking upwards, having evolved from climbers, that we tend to associate upwards with not only the sky, but the parental role model. It’s a small step, easily explained.

We look upwards, then, farther up than before, and encounter…nothingness. But from infancy, we have created the image that there is always something up there: a tree to climb, a set of behaviors to mimic, that it becomes inconceivable that there isn’t anything.

When combined with the fact that we are inherently herd/pack animals, either leading or (as the norm goes) following, and the equation of identity (in Rollo May’s book, Man’s Search for Himself, the author notes the differential of a chimp baby, and a human one: by the age of two, the most noteworthy differential is that of identity), we then progress to the conclusion: that humanity requires a hero/leader/deity by dint of a very simple set of equations. Size + parent + Pavlovian conditioning + evolution + identity = Allah/YHVH/[insert deity of choice here].

Mental salivation at the sound of church bells ringing. Big Daddy is calling.


Sunday, January 15, 2006


In Part the Third of Original Intent, I will discuss Biblical Premises.

It was many, MANY years ago (operative word here is many, if you hadn’t guessed), I used to toss off this little chestnut:”Well, America was built on biblical premises.” Or somesuch thing. I actually believed this. Till one day, I thought to myself, “Well, maybe I should check that.”

I try very hard to live by this motto: Look it up.

Or, as my literary idol, Harlan Ellison says: “No one is entitled to an opinion. Everyone’s entitled to an INFORMED opinion.” (Mr. Ellison’s other motto is not to suffer fools gladly).

So I did.

Something of a shock it was, too. Mind you, not an atheist. Not yet.

Outside of a few nebulous mentions of a Creator in the DOI, de nada.

Let’s extrapolate here: there are 3 (that I know of) lynchpins in the mechanism of Xtianity.

  1. The resurrection

  2. YHVH

  3. JC as the son of #2.
If there are others I’ve missed, I will gladly cop to it.

I defy ANYONE to point out these 3 cornerstones to me. Hell, there’s not even a mention of the Trinity, fer cryin’ out loud.

And before any knobs out there start pointing out that the SOCAS isn’t explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, that’s implied.

There’s not even an inference of the 3 points stated above. Outside the ‘catch-as-catch can’ reference to a Creator. And that could easily be applied to Allah/Buddha/[insert choice of deity here].

Then we go to the infamous/famous Treaty of Tripoli, wherein it states specifically, w/o any question: "As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion..."

I have heard the argument that it was a suzerainty treaty, ergo that doesn’t count. According to Holding, so is Deuteronomy: does that free the Xtian/Jew from having to follow any of the rules inherent?

Utter crap.

First off, it passed in the Senate of 1789 unanimously. For those who want to quibble, that means without a murmur of protest. Second off, (and I find this telling), the Arabian version, when unearthed, was missing this statement.

And now begins the squabble: yes, the Founders were primarily of Xtian faith (no, not all, but a huge percentile of them), yes they did use biblical quotes (Paine did on occasion, and most literate folk know how he felt about Xtianity!), yadayadayada. I’ve even heard some specious nonsense about how this nation was founded based on a few choice quotes from the bible.

Let’s skip the parts we don’t like. How, for instance, Native Americans had a huge impact on the development of this nation, both agriculturally as well as philosophically, institutionally, etc. Or that John Locke had a major impact on 18th century rationalism – here, from my favorite (yes, you guessed it!) objective source, answers.com – John Locke:

“John Locke was a 17th-century English philosopher whose ideas formed the foundation of liberal democracy and greatly influenced both the American and French revolutions. His contributions to philosophy include the theory of knowledge known as empiricism, which addressed the limits of what we can understand about the nature of reality. Locke held that our understanding of reality ultimately derives from what we have experienced through the senses. The political implications of his theories included the notions that all people are born equal and that education can free people from the subjugation of tyranny. Locke also believed that government had a moral obligation to guarantee that individuals always retained sovereignty over their own rights, including ownership of property that resulted from their own labor.”

It’s this casuistic nonsense about the Founders’ being of xtian faith that irks me to no end. Sure, most of them were (Franklin, Paine, Jefferson: Deists all. The rest were, although some of Madison’s and Adams’ private letters showed them to be rather, unfriendly, but I think that was more towards the R Catholic Church, myself).

It’s the equivalent of saying, hey; Newton was very religious, look what he did. No one remembers that he wrote a number of theological papers, now lost to time and memory. Einstein was a Spinozan: distant, detached creator, if said creator existed. Edison, an atheist.

Sure, one’s denomination has some impact on one’s actions, to a certain degree. Look at the Shrub: or Delay.

I’d say the Founders were way too smart to get caught in that trap.

We also hear these things: God is on our money, in our pledge, etc.

Well, first off, the coinage didn’t bear the motto until 1863: the paper money, 1957. ‘Under God’ was inserted in the pledge of allegiance during the McCarthy years (the 50’s). These are the items that led me to talk out of my ass in the first place.

“But the majority of people in this nation are Xtian!”

Nobody, unconditionally, gets more rights than anyone else. An argument from majority belongs in the venue of those most loathsome of arenas: the talk show. Or an election. Or even in the Senate, Congress, SC, etc. No one is above the law, or beneath it. Unless it harms
  1. Our wallet or

  2. Someone else
You can bitch about it to your heart’s content. 1st amendment and all that. But there’s jackshit y’all can do about it.

In summation: we’re a secular nation. Always have been. Better stay that way. Theocracies never seem to work out too well.

Get used to it.



In Part the Second of Original Intent, I will discuss Separation of Church and State.

This is indeed a bone of major contention between Atheists & theists alike. There’s a huge amount of theists who do insist that the item in question (the 1st amendment) is Uni-directional. Ergo, they feel that the Church (usually theirs) is fully entitled to put another cook in the kitchen, regardless of whether or not it spoils the meal.

Let’s look at the item in question:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

Where anyone with half a brain gets the idea that this quantifies as uni-directional is beyond me.

We have the Establishment clause.

From answers.com – “Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Frequently, the "Establishment Clause" is used to refer to the entire clause referring to religion, but the term is more accurately used to refer to the first part of the clause. The second part of the clause is commonly referred to as the "Free Exercise" clause.

Prior to the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, the Supreme Court generally took the position that the substantive protections of the Bill of Rights did not apply to actions by state governments. Subsequently, under the Incorporation doctrine the Bill of Rights have been broadly applied to limit state and local government as well. For example, in the Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, Justice David Souter concluded that "government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion." Critics of this interpretation argue that it effectively changes the Constitution in a way never contemplated by the founders. However, this is a controversial and evolving area of jurisprudence.”

And yes, the origin of the phrase stems from the famous letter of Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists (one overlooked item, is that ole TJ was president at the time).

Apparently, thanks to revisionism, this little nugget is effectively overlooked when the debate surfaces (from the above source):

“However, Madison himself often wrote of "total separation of the church from the state" (1819 letter to Walsh), "perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters" (1822 letter to Livingston), "line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority... entire abstinence of the government" (1832 letter Rev. Adams), and "practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States" (1811 letter to Baptist Churches)”

Line, wall…tomato, To-mat-toe.

David Barton is the sycophant who claims that the SOCAS is a ‘myth’. I’ll discuss this wanker at a later time. Sufficient to say, he’s one of those knobs who goes about telling religious folk what they want to hear, as opposed to the facts of the matter, performing gymnastics of revisionism that would make Mary Lou Hetton proud.

Yes, Rehnquist had a dissenting opinion about this; the theists are quick to point out.

A dissenting opinion isn’t law. It’s an opinion, nothing more.

Ergo, keep prayer in the church, religion there as well: The Supreme Court decided wisely that it was indeed entirely the venue of the parents to teach religion: not the state, not the government.

Let’s look at this sentence:

“Critics of this interpretation argue that it effectively changes the Constitution in a way never contemplated by the founders. However, this is a controversial and evolving area of jurisprudence.”

Let’s define amendment, shall we?

http://www.answers.com/Amendment - “a·mend·ment n.

  • The act of changing for the better; improvement: “Society may sometimes show signs of repentance and amendment” (George G. Coulton).

  • A correction or alteration, as in a manuscript.

  • The process of formally altering or adding to a document or record.

  • A statement of such an alteration or addition: The 19th Amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote.

Of course it changes the Constitution. Obviously, the founders were smart enough to realize that the times change. Nothing is locked in stasis. All is amenable to change.

The arguments pour in: the founders were religious; they quoted the bible, look at all these items that were done in the name of religion by the founders in their time, blah blah blah blah.

Don’t change a thing. Because it’s in writing. The nature of an amendment is that it’s changeable. Fluid.

Get used to it.

Our government’s messed up enough, without church administrators. Religion is like sex: best kept behind closed doors, unless someone’s invited to participate.

And for those who claim ‘these quotes/concepts are taken out of context?”

Prove it.

And for those of you who proclaim loudly, that the ‘majority’ is in charge, the ‘majority’ is Xtian, ergo there shouldn’t be a separation of state and religion, I leave you with these words of wisdom:

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”
Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801


Saturday, January 14, 2006


In this series of articles, I will be addressing some of the more egregious nonsense propounded: that atheists are not Americans (I will try to stay detached, but no promises; statements like that are likely to promote some enmity, at the very least).

Let’s examine this statement:

From the Declaration of Independence, paragraph the 2nd – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

When I first encountered this argument on the NGB, I thought it somewhat clever, and said as much.
“If you as atheists do not believe in a Creator, therefore can not agree with the Dec. of Independence statement that we are endowed with certain rights from the Creator, "Where do our rights originate from"?

To which (in abbreviated format) I responded: “We have to (yet again!) apply the yardstick of moral relativism here. 1st, I am guessing at the time of writing, it was fairly inconceivable that anyone would be an atheist. Deism/Spinozan concept would be the closest approximation. 2nd, note that it says 'All men'. (Thru the use of sophistry, this could be construed to mean males, & only males. No, no one said this. Just pointing out how open-ended the sentence is). Ergo, even if I DO reject the Creator concept, the FF did not, so in their eyes, I AM entitled to those inalienable rights, regardless of what I believe or disbelieve. Allow me to top this off w/a quote.
I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience. George Washington, letter to the General Committee of the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, May, 1789.
Leave me then, sir, to the dictates of my own conscience, as is my unalienable right.”

But I ran across this argument yet again. I’m going to guess that it’s going to circulate, as on the Internet, these things take on a life of their own.

So let’s put this puppy to rest.

For you strict constructionists out there, if you take away my (or anyone else’s) inalienable rights, because we don’t believe as the Founders did, then you are violating the Original Intent.

The intent, for all intents & purposes, is that all men have those rights, regardless of their belief system(s).

So back off. It’s enough the Founders said it, it’s enough they put it into writing, and there are no, I repeat, NO escape clauses built into the bloody thing.



Thursday, January 12, 2006

Scriptural literalism: the Patriarchal Divide

I was looking up Scriptural literalism, for inclusion to the next GOD OR NOT (#6), when I stumbled across this analysis.
[Author’s note: I do know what the phrase means, but for the sake of clarity, I looked it up anyways, & surprisingly, answers.com DOESN’T have a solid definition, go figure.]

The study is here. (Note to readers: I absolutely loathe having the link spill over into margins: call me anal. Ergo, I went with the shorthand version, many pardons.)

I had originally planned to do some of the usual targeting of scriptural miscommunications (koine Greek vs. Aramaic, vagaries of language, etc, since this WAS one of my first steps on the road to atheism), but rather than trot out the hoary old chestnuts (mistranslation of the word ‘by’ as opposed to ‘on’, when Jesus walked ‘by’ the water, that sort of thing) that have been already spoken by men by far smarter and more eloquent than I, I opted for, as Monty Python puts it, “Now, for something COMPLETELY different!”.

The excerpt from the article as follows -
Authors: Burn, Shawn Meghan1; Busso, Julia1
Source: Psychology of Women Quarterly, Volume 29, Number 4, December 2005, pp. 412-418(7)
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing

“This correlational study explores the hypothesis that religiosity and scriptural literalism (the degree to which one interprets scriptures literally) are associated with sexism. Participants were female and male (N= 504) university students who anonymously completed the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory ( Glick & Fiske, 1996, 1997, 2001a, 2001b), the Scriptural Literalism Scale ( Hogge & Friedman, 1967), and the Religious Orientation Scale–Revised ( Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989). Intrinsic religiosity, extrinsic religiosity, and scriptural literalism were positively associated with benevolent, but not hostile, sexism. Intrinsic religiosity and scriptural literalism were positively related to the protective paternalism subscale, whereas extrinsic religiosity was related to the heterosexual intimacy, complementary gender differentiation, and protective paternalism subscales.”

Allow me to clarify a few points here:

  1. One study doesn’t conclusively prove the point: statistics can be skewed

  2. Not all literalists are male.
However, it does seem, in my eyes, a logical inference.

Let’s place this in an anthropological light.
As hunter/gatherers, it does require a singular focus to ‘bring home the bacon’, so to speak. Whereas, in the matriarchal societies (from whence most civilizations stem), the ability to juggle multiple tasks requires more of a  ‘right-hemisphere’ connection.

Let’s take this a little deeper.

Literalism is in the eye of the gender.

While not positing an absolute here (the topic IS literalism, hard not to), we do see a preponderance of men in literal roles in society. Physicists, biologists, etc. Yes, it is a man’s world, no, women are indeed capable of performing many of the same roles as men (Gah! Political correctness has contributed so much driftwood in the construction of sentences; it makes the head spin and the knees go wobbly!). That’s not the point: we both know it.

Men are better (as a rule) at particular things. Women are better at other particular things.

‘Nuff said. Onwards.

Being as there’s a distinct capacity in the male of our species to adhere far more strictly to given parameters, biblical literalists being (for the most part) male is no surprise to me whatsoever. Of course, we live in a patriarchal society. It is only more recently that civilization has begun to redefine boundaries and language, to be more inclusive, and less strict.

An anecdote, if you will:

I love to play scrabble. However, I’m one of those people (men) who adhere very strictly to the rules: no ‘teaming up’, no looking up the word (prior, during, after the turn), etc.
I can’t play scrabble with my little sis anymore.
If I come up with a word, she asks my mom (if she’s there) if that’s a ‘real’ word, looks at hubby’s letters, makes suggestions, you get the idea.
Drives me into a frenzy, it does. I can pull out the rules, read them to her, spell them out (pun intended), have her read them.
Does not a damn piece of good.
Maybe this is the ‘unrepresentative sample’ fallacy. But somehow, I doubt it.

Let’s examine this from another perspective:
Studies show that men, when they shop, go straight to the items they need, get them, and go to the cashier (I know I do it: there’s no shame for the male reader in admitting this also).

A woman, however, does far more than that.

They squeeze the melons. They compare prices. They weigh all the variables (price, nutritional value, ingredients [sometimes]); need I go on?

Another example that springs to mind, is McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict, wherein McDowell relates an anecdote that his father was such a horrible drunk, the family made a habit of tying him up in the barn (as to the veracity of this story, I am unsure: it could very well be semi-apocryphal). A very poor father figure indeed. This does seem to be symptomatic of literalists.

So, small wonder that most literalists are males.

If indeed the bible had been written by women (and, in retrospect, I’m beginning to wish it had), there would likely be less bloodshed, far more of a nurturing aspect, less hellfire and damnation, less ‘slaughtering of the innocents’ overall.  Less of the old ‘kick school’ mentality (testosterone makes lunatics of us all, methinks). Because, after all, women show more sense in many ways than we do.

Men tend to think with their southernmost regions. Their bellies, and that which dwells beneath it.  Those are stricter parameters. If A, then B, else C.

Perchance we’d have a better world, had the ladies been running it all this time, is all.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Selective perception and the Napoleonic poodle

Due to recent circumstances, I’m currently staying at my mom’s condo.
Sitting at my computer, I look out and see the following tableau:

Two elderly women. One is holding a leash, and on end of said leash, a tiny poodle, snarling and barking at elderly lady the second.
And what, pray tell, is this 2nd woman doing? Talking baby talk to the vicious little shitter, “Oh, you’re so cute, yes you are, it’s okay.”
And I mean, the frickin’ thing is acting nearly rabid at her presence.


I know this little savage. Her name is Ginger. I don’t know elderly lady the 1st. Name, or anything.
That’s the way this critter acts towards everyone.

Trying to be a good son, I take out the newspapers, trash, etc., as my poor benighted mother isn’t charging me rent, PG&E, etc. So I’ve run afoul of this diminutive monster before. Every time I see her (the poodle), she goes into this apoplectic fit. And, I mean, the fucking thing is no larger than a football. I could punt her easily over the complex, no sweat.

I recall this vividly:

As a toddler, we’d visit my grandparents. They had this vicious little poodle. Name? Don’t remember. What I DO remember, is being (5? 6?), being under the table, trying to reach out to this vicious beastie, cooing my delight, and being rewarded with a goodly bite on my nose (the scars are still there, but barely noticeable). And I recall this also: even as Ma (and I think Nana) were tending to my wounds, even through my wailings, I could distinctly hear my grandpa beating the everliving shit out of that poodle.

Now, I love dogs, all sizes, and all shapes. Like I love people. Not scared of either.

But vicious is vicious, no matter what.

So, fast-forward some 40-odd years later.

Taking out the trash, ran into elderly lady the 1st, with Ginger in tow. She accidentally drops the leash. Lo and behold, Ginger, she of the salivating fangs and protective mien, just stands there, does nothing. We look at each other. Her owner picks up the leash, and 3 guesses to the response? Yep. Back to Rabid Pitbull mode.

Hey, she’s old. Probably only a few years left (dog AND lady).
My biggest kvetch here is Elderly the 2nd.  Old enough to know better. All she sees is the cute little poodle. Not the snarling, nasty fangs of some diminutive toy poodle with delusions of Cerberusian proportions, who’d gladly sink her teeth into a stranger’s flesh, just to feel good.

Bit nose teaches best, I think.

Anecdotal in nature, sure. But easily applied on a broader spectrum.

Some people live in their own little worlds, where bears are huggable, religion raises people above their primal natures, violence is the shortest distance between two points, and poodles are infinitely loveable despite their obvious distemper.

Gets up me nose, it does.

Some folk got no lick of sense whatsoever.