Friday, May 30, 2008

Government-Sponsored Bigotry

I just got a heads-up that our wonderful government may be giving money to a bigoted organization. Cleared by the House and now before the Senate, new legslation is on the books to create $1 silver coins to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.

Ah, how sweet.

Except that this means (as Penn Jillette so clearly pointed out): GOVERNMENT MONEY ON GOVERNMENT COINS GOING TO BOY SCOUTS. Why is this bad? For those who don't know, the Boy Scouts of America don't allow gays, atheists, or agnostics into their little club. They also receive government money and government perks (such as renting out government-owned properties for events at a dollar a year).

It's fine if a private organization wants to exclude people; it's their right. But when you're sponsored by the Government of the United States?!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You Saw God, Didja George?

So after an awesome weekend out on the lake with my relatives, I got the opportunity to listen in on the current country music status quo provided by the local "non-stop continuous today's hottest country music with less talk and fewer commercials...we'll be right back" radio station. I'm not a huge fan of country music, but I was raised on it and there aren't many places around here where I can escape it.

Fallacy With A Twang
We're sitting around talking, waiting on the food to come off the grill, when this lovely line comes over the speakers: "I saw God today". My ears refocused immediately. "Oh?" I thought. "You don't say. Tell me more."

Ah yes. Good ol'fashioned teleological argument writ large -- and with acoustic guitars -- fed straight (or Strait, rather) to a willing demographic. George Strait granted my motion and gave me the chorus:

I've been to church
I've read the book
I know he's here
But I don't look
Near as often as I should
Yeah, I know I should
His fingerprints are everywhere
I just slowed down to stop and stare
Opened my eyes and man I swear
I saw God today

"Great," I thought with a sigh. "How many other toothless inbreds have you convinced using that rhetoric?"

There IS Beauty in Nature
After I returned to civilization, I immediately found the lyrics to this imbecilicly quaint little rhyme. I know...I'm a deviant. The song is about a guy who's wife is in the hospital having a baby. The father steps out for a break, sees beauty and happiness and peace in sunsets and rainbows and puppies, and finds God there. The chorus paints a clear -- and very common -- picture of a man who's been raised in a society where God is "there", but the man's not religious. I can relate.

In the song, the father sees another couple who's expecting a child while he's outside pondering the sunset. How many times have you, the reader, stood slack-jawed gazing up at the grandeur of the universe? Some, like George's character, see God there. I see something bigger.

There is wonder and magnificence in the universe. But positing a supernatural being that lacks any explanatory power whatsoever cheapens the true beauty, I think. Why 'God', George? Why not 'Allah', or 'Brahma', or 'Kukulkan', or 'Adora', or 'Tonacatecuhtli'? Why didn't you see any of them? Could it be the culture of your upbringing (one that I hope you won't stuff your children into)?

The narrator also contemplates the beautiful flowers and thinks about how it's almost like they were "planted right there for me". So does the puddle who thinks that the hole it's it was made for fits so perfectly!

A Conclusion That's 'Good Enough For Me'
The final verse goes like this:

Got my face pressed up against the nursery glass
She's sleepin' like a rock
My name on her wrist
Wearin' tiny pink socks
She's got my nose, she's got her mama's eyes
My brand new baby girl
She's a miracle
I saw God today

I know many people who became more spiritual after the birth of their first child. I know it can happen. Again I'm not trying to diminish the ideals of the song, as far as the notion that nature is beautiful, and so are babies. But "miracle"? How many times does something have to happen over and over again before it isn't considered a miracle anymore?

The man in the song was convinced before his child was born. He wasn't a nonbeliever beforehand. He's one of those people who already has an ingrained image of God. And whenever something wonderful happens -- like the birth of his daughter -- he immediately credits this image. He hasn't thought through any of it because, like most religious occurrences, it's purely emotional. I'm not trying to undermine his faith here; I'm saying that if he'd really THINK about it without letting the emotional agitation of childbirth to get in the way, he might not be so quick to give credit of a natural and ordinary process to a supernatural and extraordinary idea.

We atheists can find beauty, peace, and joy in nature and babies, and we don't need a God to have it. In the immortal words of Douglas Adams: "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

More of my adventures with Country music can be found here.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Uh, Well Yes But...

STA: ", God sent Jesus to be killed as payment for sin?"

Theist: "Yes, the Bible tells us so!"

STA: "All sin?"

Theist: "Before and after; from now until the end of days."

STA: "So, there shouldn't be evil in the world."

Theist: "What?!"

STA: "Yeah. You said that evil 'came into the world' because of the Fall -- the Adam and Eve thing, right? What the Catholics call Original Sin?"

Theist: "Uh...yes. Bad things happen because of the sin of Adam."

STA: "But you just told me that Jesus paid the price of forgiveness for all sin!"

Theist: "Yeah, but..."

STA: "So bad things shouldn't happen in the world. Either that, or Jesus didn't have enough to cover that one. So evil shouldn't exist, and no one should be going to Hell for Original Sin."

Theist: "Uh...well yes, but..."

Silly Christians, logic is for nonbelievers!