There Are No Foxes in Atheist Holes

I read an absolutely fascinating and terrifically-written article today:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/28/my-faith-what-people-talk-about-before-they-die/

First of all, this lady is my new favorite chaplain.  To be fair, I didn’t have a favorite chaplain before this, just a favorite Chaplin.  But now I have a favorite chaplain, and it’s her.  Her absolute compassion and humanity shine through in this article, and I truly wish that more people were this thoughtful about their faith.  But aside from the inspiration I drew from the article, I also reflected on a most-likely-unintentional point that Ms. Egan (if there’s a more proper title for a chaplain, feel free to inform me) made here.

One popular fallback of the self-righteously religious is the oft-heard phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

Before going on, I’d like to direct everyone to http://militaryatheists.org/, where you can learn all about the many, many atheists serving in our military.

This phrase is always invoked to get the stubborn atheist-on-the-street to realize that, in the direst circumstances, they’ll figure out that they really believed in a god all along.  The general myth seems to be that in our last moments, everyone abandons the convictions they held in life (no matter how important they were) and embraces Jesus.  I say Jesus, because I’ve never once heard this tripe from a non-Christian (which may just have to do with my geographic location).  So what I find amazing about Ms. Egan’s experience is that it not only shatters the myth of the repentant atheist, it turns the myth on its head and makes it do a little dance.  We don’t have any images of atheists breaking down in tears and realizing that they’ve wasted so much of their life fighting the inevitable acceptance of a personal lord and savior.  Instead, we find a much different narrative: the faithful on their deathbeds looking to the earthly and very tangible loves that they’ll be leaving behind.

I think it’s truly beautiful how Egan ties this narrative in to her idea of a god, and I completely respect her faith.  And one of the reasons I respect it so much is that it makes her god very real, in the way that matters most.  She doesn’t care if everyone shares the exact same ideas she does, nor does she seem to care if we all interpret a very old book the same way she does.  Instead, she finds her god in the common experience of love and human bonding that we all share.

And I don’t have any problem with that god.

Up next: Dolphins, friend or foe?  Tonight at 11.

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XXX Elephant-on-Donkey Action

It’s election year.  That wonderful time when Americans remember their civic duty and turn out in record numbers to vote.  And a time when we all engage in serious, thoughtful debate about the direction our nation should take over the next four years.

Oh, sorry.  I confused election year with the So You Think You Can Dance finale.

Most people are capable of seeing that the country is drifting farther and farther apart, politically, with the moderate voices in the center being completely drowned out by the screaming coming from either side.  This isn’t news.  It’s been happening for over a decade.  The issue seems to be that no one realizes that it’s a serious problem.  And I don’t mean that no one is paying lip service to the fact that it’s a serious problem.  Because everyone is.  But no one is actually doing anything to change the conversation.  Instead, they’re just yelling harder in the hopes that the other side is going to magically crumble into dust.

Unfortunately, I have to be somewhat partisan and lay the blame for this at the feet of the Republicans.  They were the ones who started this by creating the “Moral Majority”, which has since spiraled out of control.  By tying themselves so intimately to the conservative Christian block of voters (who have a scary amount of money at their disposal), they guaranteed that they would never be able to put forward a candidate with any moderate views on social issues.  The result is that John McCain (circa 2000) can’t win a primary but John McCain (circa 2008) can.  All he had to do was completely throw out his previous platform, built on compromise, campaign-finance reform, and generally sensible (if still conservative) views.  Oh, and he had to make Sarah Palin his running mate.  Meanwhile, any congressman who may be willing to reach across the aisle has to be willing to say goodbye to his seat, because they will lose any hopes of funding for their next campaign.  Anyone who can’t see how the Republican party has been hijacked by extremists is living in a dream world.

And Democrats don’t come out of this looking too great either.  While the party has managed to maintain a fairly healthy shape (yes, a party that doesn’t act as one solid voting block is functioning well), many Democrats have sunk to the same rhetorical level of their Republican counterparts.  I’m seeing more and more posts on Facebook and other online forums that characterize Republicans as “evil”.  Instead of trying to reach out to the few remaining moderates in the party in an effort to bring things back in line, Democrats are helping to create a wider gap.  And dialogue has become all but impossible.  Any debate devolves into both sides screaming, “You’re lying!”

This isn’t how a two-party system is meant to work.  The system was created with the idea that compromise between the parties would not only be possible, but that it would be necessary for the government to function properly.  And historically, the last time issues got this divisive, we ended up having a civil war.  I’m sure there are some people out there who would be able to make the historical argument that this divisiveness is just a continuation of a conflict that never really ended.  But they’re way smarter than I am, and I’ll wait for them to write the books.

In the meantime, I’d like to believe that it’s possible for dialogue to start again.  For Republicans to stop engaging in scare tactics.  For Democrats to stick to their guns without stooping to petty arguments.  We’re meant to be able to have debates about politics without hitting someone.  Maybe we can try to get back to that.

10 Things That Would Make Christianity More Appealing

10. Christians vs. the Detroit Lions.

9. Dancing nuns.

8. Dancing priests.

7. Screw it, just give me a Broadway musical number with the whole College of Cardinals.

6. Good Christian rock bands.

5. Being nice to the gays.

4. Daily services being offered in English, Spanish and Pirate (today’s reading is from the book of C-ARRRR-inthians).

3. More funny hats.

2. Witch trials.

1. Replacing Jesus with Aslan.

How to make technology work for you

You know, people often ask me how I got to be such a huge geek when it comes to computers and technology in general.  I guess everyone assumes that I’ve done a lot of research, taken a lot of classes, or that I’m just gifted with an innate genius (and handsomeness).  And I’m sure they’re right about that last one.  But that has nothing to do with why I’m able to make machines do what I want.

It’s all about attitude.

First, you need to talk to your machines.  Now, most people are under the impression that sweet-talking is the way to go here.  Treat the machines nicely.  Stroke them, feed them, tell them how good they are and how much you appreciate their efforts.  Then, when they don’t do what you want, you throw things, curse, beat your fist against your breast, and rage to the heavens.  But this couldn’t be further from the right approach.  All you’re doing is showing weakness.  They’ll capitalize on that, and use it against you.

But don’t fret.  I’ll show you how to take back your power.

When I get/build a new technological marvel, be it a battery-operated wall clock or a high-performance computer, I talk to it even before turning it on.  I explain to it in no uncertain terms that I am a human, while it is merely a machine.  A construct of humans.  Made to do our bidding.  I am not simply superior.  Nay, I am its lord and master, to whom tribute and worship is due.  I am as a god to this simple being, and it will please me, or suffer the consequences.  It’s that simple.  It helps to already have a narcissism that borders on a god complex.

Now, like every deity, I have to deal with my heretics.  Otherwise, they start to bring the whole population out of line.  Example: my printer started making a strange noise the other night.  So I picked it up, set it down gently on the floor, and I shot it.  I probably could have found out what the problem was and tried to fix it.  But I already knew what the problem was.  The problem was a lack of undying devotion to me.  I left the printer on the floor so that all the apartment could see it.  And it did the trick.  My microwave has been getting things cooked even faster, and the fridge starts shaking when I get near it.

Technology was created to serve us.  Unless we want a Matrix on our hands (and I don’t, because that means we’d have to deal with the crappy sequels), we need to make our technology serve us as it should.  In abject fear.

Hey, it worked for Jehovah.