Get Rid of Your Junk in 2015

Continuing a theme from last year, I’m again leading a group of 100 people who want to get rid of the junk that takes up their space and their time. Last year the group collected over 8000 items to donate.  This is my third year, so I’m aiming for only 200 items. This challenge is not about organizing our junk. It’s about letting it go.  You can push around your crap over and over again but it’s still there, getting in your way, taking up your time and costing you money. If it weren’t – you wouldn’t be thinking about organizing it. The better option? Get rid of it!  There are a numbers of ways to go about it. I choose to set a goal for the year and meet or exceed it.

Other options include the 30 Day Minimalism Game where you challenge a friend to toss out 1 item on day one, 2 items on day two, 3 items on day three….and so on, until one of you is finished. Another more dramatic option is the Packing Party, where you essentially put everything you own into a box and unpack slowly. Whatever you do not use in a given amount of time, you do not need. It goes. You could also tailor either of these to meet your own needs. Pack up your child’s toys and see what they miss. Not much? Perhaps they have more toys than they need. Put off of you clothes in an extra closet. Whatever you don’t go pull out in the next six months, you don’t wear and you don’t need. The same can be done with shoes, kitchen items, accessories, tools, art supplies, books, etc.

It’s your stuff and you should make the rules but don’t let yourself off the hook too easily. The goal is to remove the “stuff” from your life that isn’t serving you, bringing you joy or making your life much easier. You may have to carefully consider what is and what isn’t truly adding value to your life. Some people find it very difficult while others have fun. But I’ve yet to meet anyone who regrets giving it a try.

Religious Phone Calls?

My husband and I received a strange phone call tonight. First, two girls argued with him about religion for about 30 minutes and then told him to go to hell when he let them know he wanted to hang up. I’ve never had a call like this and I find it very strange. The girls told him they were Catholic, but I find that suspicious as this doesn’t seem like normal Catholic behavior. I’m curious if anyone else has had these types of calls?

Ark Park Genocide Celebration

Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter has been national news for sometime now. He wrongly accuses “atheists and secularists” of trying to prevent his park from being built. What is really being asked is that he adhere to the law and not try to gain tax incentives for a religious based organization with discriminatory hiring practices. If Ham wants to build a theme park based on genocide, he’s free to do so – but why does he want to? The website describes the park as providing education and entertainment.

The story of Noah is a tragic one. God creates the earth, populates it with humans and animals, which he declares good. Many years pass. He decides that no, in fact, it is not good. It’s all very very bad. Everything must go. Every plant, every land animal, every man, every woman and even every child, except for the small number that were put on the Ark – are killed. God shuts the door to the boat and chaos consumes the globe.

On December 26, 2004 a tsunami hit 14 countries and killing over 200,000 people. A tsunami also hit Japan in 2011. As devastating and horrific as these disasters, one has to assume that a flood intended to kill every living thing on earth would surpass anything we’ve ever seen or could imagine. There would be no survivors to tell their story. There would be no heartwarming tales of parents reuniting with their children or newly married couples finding each other among the crowds. Every story, every devastating moment, would be lost. Every family torn apart. Every elderly couple separated forever. Every infant drowned.

Photos of the 2004 tsunami can be found @ James Robert Fuller Photography. Please be aware these graphic images are not appropriate for children. For video and accounts of the 2004 tsunami, see Tsunami: Caught on Camera which can be found online or on youtube. The documentary does include footage of people drowning, dead children being pulled from the water, and other scenes that you may may upsetting.

The traditionally religious can spin this however they’d like but the central idea of the Noah story is the mass slaughter of an entire planet. This is what Ken Ham would have you believe should be supported by tax incentives in the state of Kentucky. This is what he’d have you believe is the will of a divine creator and something to celebrate. He says this is entertainment. Again, creationists and anyone else is free to believe it to be true, teach it to their kids and build an entire theme park dedicated to the disgusting story. But the rest of us should not let them forget exactly what it is they are promoting. We should not let their visitors forget exactly what it is they are paying to see.

Happy Godless Chanukah

Today marks the first night of Chanukah, which contrary to what some atheists and humanist believe, can be celebrated by non-theists. Just like Christmas, Chanukah has meaning beyond the supernatural miracles and myths. I like the above cartoon because it speaks to what this holiday can be about and it doesn’t necessitate any deities. The light can be any good that humans do – feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, fighting for marriage equality, providing homes for abandoned animals, advocating for the rights of minorities, dispelling myths about the non-religious, defending those whose voices haven’t been heard, supporting our communities and promoting the well being of all people.

In a time when we’re connected to the world 24 hours a day, with stories streaming in about events like that of over 100 children being murdered in Pakistan, we can easily become overwhelmed. There seems little we can do to stop the dark things. Lighting the candles reminds us that we’re not completely powerless. We can still put up a fight. Little lights make a big difference. The light doesn’t have to be god. The light doesn’t have to be any sort of Biblical truths. The light is our work and it’s okay to celebrate it.

 

You Didn’t Leave Anyone Hanging on a Cross

tripe

 

No. You did not leave anyone hanging on a cross. This is emotional manipulation. It is dangerous because it perpetuates the idea that you are an awful person, so awful that a man had to be tortured for you – and don’t you owe that many everything? Shouldn’t you devote your life to him? Shouldn’t you live for him and him alone? But you aren’t that awful. He wasn’t tortured for you. You don’t owe him anything.

Condemning your own children to hell for an eternity and then deciding to have yourself killed so that if they believe you had yourself killed, so you no longer have to serve up horrific, unimaginable pain for a duration of which no human can possibly imagine is not love. It would be evil. Only the most vile and petulant of beings would create such a reality for his powerless children. To save a few based on a story they could never prove would not negate the fact that you are a monster. If such a god exists, it would be absurd for us to believe we could ever do anything to merit his affection or protection.

Love is not wrath. Love is not suffering. Love is not killing someone else for your own shortcomings. Love is not eternal torment. Love is not manipulation. Love does not make itself a martyr and then coerce you believe you owe it your life. Love is trust and acceptance. Love is gentle guidance. Love is compassion. Love is something given freely without punishment or fear.

 

Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line

By Jason Rosenhouse

Among the Creationists was a bit different than I had expected but worth the time. Rosenhouse is a math instructor turned evolution enthusiastic who traveled the country attending creationist and intelligent design conferences. The book includes a number of encounters he had over the years with creationists and ID’s – some positive and some negative. Overall he presents the reader with a picture of a culture where religion takes importance but decent conversations are still possible. He does include an out of place chapter on why he loves being an atheist Jew. I appreciate it because I can identify but if you’re not interested, just skip it. I recommend this book if you want to know more about what motivates creationists to deny science.

Its okay to give creationist park tax incentives because you don’t have to visit.

Just two days after Answers in Genesis revealed their new billboard campaign, the state of Kentucky announced they will not be giving the ark park an incentive that would allow them to keep 25% of their sales tax over 10 years.

Ken Ham has yet to make a statement. I expect he’ll do so today. I’m sure he will accuse atheists of persecuting Christians. In fact, this setback should provide him with at least a year’s worth of persecution complex materials which will please him to no end. So, the state wins, the law wins and even Ken Ham wins. The billboards will go up as planned.

If interested, you can listen to an interview from Wednesday afternoon with an attorney from Freedom Guard. Fast forward to 37:00 for this topic. The host, Scott Sloan, argues that if you visit the park, you understand what you’re paying for and therefore, it is okay if your money contributes to the tax dollars the park would get to keep. If you don’t like it, don’t go. Because…free speech. Both Sloan and the guest, Mike Johnson, ignore the legal issue. Johnson blames the uproar on “radical atheist types who want to silence and censor the expression of people they disagree with.” He then goes on to say the atheist community has misrepresented the Ark Park the billboards serve to drive the public to the website where they can learn the truth.

They do address the fact that the Ark Park will hire only Christians. Johnson points out that other religious organization do the same and says it is a freedom of religion issue. He doesn’t address the tax incentives for said organizations. Sloan then goes on to say that picking fights on religion at this time of the year, going up against baby Jesus (in reference to nativity scenes on public property) makes atheists look like jerks.

The Theory of Everything

There are hundreds, if not thousands of reviews so another is fairly unnecessary. I will say that it made me cry. I’m not talking about a little tear escaping from the corner of my eye. I mean the kind of crying where you try to stifle the sobs but they squeak out against your will as you look around hoping everyone else is so engrossed in the movie they won’t notice. The acting is being labeled Oscar worthy – and it is indeed. It’s amazing, actually.

Stephen and Jane’s marriage was not a perfect love story but love stories are never perfect. And sure, they made it all seem less ugly, less brutal and less painful then what would have been the reality. But it does portray a widely admired and respected man and it is a film. If you want to know more, you can read Travelling to Infinity and My Brief History, both of which are on my upcoming reading list. If it isn’t playing at a theater anywhere near your home, I did notice Netflix has it available to save to your queue.

How should we talk about science?

There is more than one approach to educating the public on science and evolution. Some feel it is best to encourage them to give up religion so that it no longer impedes their acceptance of reality. Others, like Bill Nye, take a less confrontational approach. Both probably have their proper place but I can’t help to think that the latter, in the long run, may do more to accomplish the goal. The National Center for Science Education appears to operate on that assumption as well. I am glad to hear them mention that facts alone will not sway those who are committed to a creationist or intelligence design perspective.

Speaking of the NSCE, if you’d like to read an overview of the history of creationist legal battles in public schools, I highly recommend Eugenie Scott’s Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction. It also includes common objections to evolution and solid evidence for why they are false.

Giant Squid and Their 3 Hearts

Giant Squid

Guerra, A., Gonzalez, A., Pscual, S., & Dawe, E., G., (2011). The giant squid Architeuthis: An emblematic invertebrate that can represent concern for the conservation of marine biodiversity. Biological Conservation, 144 (7), 1989 – 1997.

Inside Natures Giants.PBS.org

Monsters of the Sea. Rutgers University: School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Giant Squid

My Creationists Teachers

Creationists can be frustrating. They can make you want to punch them in the face. Conversing with them is often like trying to debate a two year old with a brain injury. I get it. But I will not accept the notion that all creationists are insufferably stupid. This is just patently false. I did not learn about evolution until college. Zip. Nada. It was an unfortunate position. I feel as though my lack of science education put me at a disadvantage. My education was poorly constructed and I paid for it. That being said, I don’t understand the obsession I’ve observed with pretending creationists are ignorant morons who are incapable of achieving anything at all. I had a tutor for math – she was amazing. I presume she was also a creationist but it did not prevent her from understanding math and basic chemistry. Should she teach biology? No, of course not.. But being a creationist does not mean you are inept in all subjects. When it came to math not only was she perfectly capable of understanding herself but she did a wonderful job at helping a student who was struggling and insecure.

I also had a creationist instructor for English. She was engaging, interesting and always encouraging. She tried to motivate me to practice my writing and consider that perhaps one day I would make a living with it (no such luck, but it was nice to have a cheerleader). She once required that the entire class write a poem. I was not thrilled but we weren’t given a choice. I won an award. I still dislike poetry but I understand why she made me try. She made me push myself outside the limits of my comfort zone and sometimes that is exactly what we need. I’m grateful for both of these teachers. I’m also glad to know they went on to teach at public schools where they could actually be valued as an educators.

Free Gifts for the Privileged Middle Class

A real quote taken from facebook last week..

So I’m walking across a windblown parking lot. I reach into my pocket and realize I left my wallet at home. I only have $4. Cheap lunch for me today. Just then a strong gust of wind hits me and two $5 bills stop right in front of me. Divine intervention at its best.

Praise Zeus, now he can afford a bigger lunch roughly four or so hours after his last meal. He wasn’t even broke. He had $4 which the internet tells me will buy a person in this area of the country a double cheeseburger and a large fry. I also happen to know you can get a couple small vegetarian tacos if dead animals and hydrogenated oil isn’t your thing. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization estimates that close to 3 million children died from poor nutrition in 2013. The flaws in this line of thinking are obvious to many of us but still, it continues. I’m baffled by the speakers lack of consideration for just how smug he sounds. Furthermore, I’m surprised that others don’t more often point it out. I assume it poses too much risk of alienating friends, being labeled a “militant atheist” or some other such nonsense. Quotes like this make the poster look vacuous, self centered and ignorant. And yet we’re worried we may not be well liked? I’m pointing a finger at myself too. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. I’m thankful we have Mrs. Betty Bowers to motivate us to do what is right in these situations. Let’s encourage others to think before they open their mouths and reveal just how little their god cares for anyone else.