Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Demonstrating the kind of leadership that has been typical of his administration, President Bush recently let the American people in on just what it is that the turkey has to do in order to get that pardon:

The other two guys just like to watch.

Cruel? Not really, especially when you consider how Bush has previously shown the turkeys who is boss:

First he chokes the chicken turkey, and now he gets gobbled?

And you thought Bill was insatiable!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving the Sarah Palin way!

As though she hadn't given us a big enough gift this year already, we now have this morbidly hysterical videoclip to keep us entertained on Thanksgiving.

So... yeah... that pardon could have gone better.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If you only read one of my posts on Scatterplot this year...

You should read this one. No, seriously. It presents quite possibly the most bizarre book I've ever seen.

And for me, that's saying a lot.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Why respond rationally when frenzied slander is an option?

Last week I blogged about an unfortunate incident in which a college student killed himself. The reason I blogged about this tragic but otherwise unremarkable event is that the diseased gnomes at World Net Daily publicized the views of the victim's father. Specifically, they promulgated his belief that it was reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion that drove his son to end his life. Now, for the record, though I haven't read The God Delusion, I have commented previously and extensively on the reactions to it. I will also admit that I am divided on Dawkins' attacks on religion. On the one hand, I think his aggressiveness may be counter-productive. On the other hand, I've had enough copies of the f-ing Watchtower shoved into my door and been bothered by missionaries enough times to think that publishing a book advocating atheism- a book that people have to choose to read- is not unreasonable. In any case, my reaction to the claim that Dawkins' book caused a suicide more or less boiled down to, "Probably it was not the main, or even a major, cause in and of itself but if it was assigned by a biology professor, that was probably inappropriate." So, to sum up, someone blamed atheism for a suicide and I more or less responded in a calm and reasonable* fashion.

Well, as it turns out, I am not the only one who noticed this story. Our old pals at- you guessed it- Conservapedia** picked this one up too. And, in a break from the normal, their initial headline was only moderately offensive:

Or, in primitive primate language:

The God Delusion forced upon a young college kid by a professor who hated his Christianity; the sad result is written here:

And yes, for Conservapedia, that actually qualifies as only moderately offensive. Yet, if the headline was only somewhat offensive, the subsequent commentary strays into hysterical ranting. My particular favorites are in spiffy red boxes:

Particularly notice the first two comments which are so ignorant I can't decide if I should laugh or cry:

What a horrible story on the main page. Richard Dawkins must be somewhere laughing that he managed to lead at least one young soul from Christ to an eternity in hell. Is there anyway he can be charged with murder or a similar crime? This should be a Conservapeda project to bring Richard Dawkins to justice.--Saxplayer 19:38, 21 November 2008 (EST)

Quite possibly, if he was American. Counselling suicide is a crime in most (all?) jurisdictions, and the God Delusion does just that. However, as a Brit., he's largely untouchable. RodWeathers 19:41, 21 November 2008 (EST)

Lemme get this straight: Conservapedia is supposed to become some sort of vigilante group that brings atheists to justice? And how exactly would anyone charge Dawkins with murder since, you know, his book doesn't say "God doesn't exist so you should just off yourself"?*** I guess the legal precedent would sure make for some fun debates. You know, Dawkins spreads beliefs that lead to a suicide so he's culpable for murder. Someone actually commits murder because they think god told them to, and they believe in god because the bible tells them so, and some folks claim that the bible is the inerrant word of god so... um... god killed those people then, right?****

And what the ever-loving-fuck is up with that whole "He's British so he's untouchable" thing? Seriously? You think that's the only obstacle here?

Now, you might think that this is just a bunch of kooks complaining in a public forum and, yes, that is a succinct definition of Conservapedia. More accurately, you might think these comments don't reflect the views of Schlafly and his stormtroopers. You might be right but, given this subsequent development on the mainpage, I doubt it:

Or, in plain old English:

Message to evolutionist Richard Dawkins: Do you still stand by these absurd and shameful statements of yours: “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question."? Conservapedia wishes to inform you that the horrendous and barbarous acts done by Hitler are not difficult to condemn as being utterly wrong.

Okay, so, to recap, Dawkins is now responsible not only for the suicide of someone he's never met, but also for the holocaust? That's fairly impressive since when the war in the Pacific ended Dawkins was four. Regardless, however, what of this apparent claim by Dawkins that maybe Hitler was right? Shouldn't we be offended? Oh, hell no. This is just classic quote mining as Dawkins was making a more general point about morality. You can actually see the source of the quote, from a rather negative questioner, here:

“I’m actually rather interested in the shifting zeitgeist. If you travel anywhere in the Western world, you find a consensus of opinion which is recognizably different from what it was only a matter of a decade or two ago. You and I are both a part of that same zeitgeist, and [as to where] we get our moral outlook, one can almost use phrases like ‘it’s in the air.’”

At this point, perhaps a word of explanation is necessary. Zeitgeist is a German word meaning “spirit of the age.” Dawkins here refers to the prevailing moral climate or mood of a given place or time. We may observe that what constitutes moral or ethical behavior differs from one culture to another; indeed, it may even differ within a given culture. This is not in dispute. The question, rather, is this: should moral standards be based on the societal zeitgeist or should they look beyond it to something else?

I asked an obvious question: “As we speak of this shifting zeitgeist, how are we to determine who’s right? If we do not acknowledge some sort of external [standard], what is to prevent us from saying that the Muslim [extremists] aren’t right?”

“Yes, absolutely fascinating.” His response was immediate. “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. But whatever [defines morality], it’s not the Bible. If it was, we’d be stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.”

So, in other words, he's not arguing that Hitler was a great guy, he's just arguing that our reasons for understanding that Hitler wasn't a great guy do not necessarily derive from the bible. And I think he's right.

So what have we learned today? Eh. Nothing much. Conservapedia is still a cesspool of human stupidity and unreason. Dawkins is still being misrespresented. And for all of my flippancy, I still write posts that are at least marginally more reasonable than my alleged "betters."

Situation normal.

* In my opinion, anyway, and since this is my blog, yours doesn't count.

** For those who are wondering about my ongoing effort to stop blogging about Conservapedia- hey, I made it over a month this time!

*** If it did a more appropriate title would be, "The Worthwhile Life Delusion."

**** Yes, I know, suddenly the logic can't be right because it leads to a conclusion we don't like. Awesome.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

That'll learn me.

Yesterday I blogged about a new website that helps parents raise their children with an understanding of evolution. In passing I compared it to an earlier post where I mentioned pajamas clearly intended to heighten a child's religiosity. I find certain unfortunate parallels between my themes during these previous two posts and news I've learned of today through the ever-unreliable World Net Daily, the news site for people who think that Obama is the Anti-Christ. Specifically, I recently learned of a college student who committed suicide. The suicide of a young person is almost always a tragedy but, in this case, the death is "news" because the father is apparently blaming Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion" for his actions:

A New York man is linking the suicide of his 22-year-old son, a military veteran who had bright prospects in college, to the anti-Christian book "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins after a college professor challenged the son to read it.

"Three people told us he had taken a biology class and was doing well in it, but other students and the professor were really challenging my son, his faith. They didn't like him as a Republican, as a Christian, and as a conservative who believed in intelligent design," the grief-stricken father, Keith Kilgore, told WND about his son, Jesse.

"This professor either assigned him to read or challenged him to read a book, 'The God Delusion,' by Richard Dawkins," he said.

Jesse Kilgore committed suicide in October by walking into the woods near his New York home and shooting himself. Keith Kilgore said he was shocked because he believed his son was grounded in Christianity, had blogged against abortion and for family values, and boasted he'd been debating for years.

The article goes on at some length and a couple of points come clear. First, nobody appears to know whether or not the student was assigned The God Delusion or if he was simply encouraged to read it. As such, it's hard to say how much institutional authority was involved here. Additionally, as far as I can tell, all the accounts of the student's thoughts and feelings are coming to us via other religious students. There doesn't appear to be any official response from the school or specific faculty. I mention this for reasons that will become apparent later.

Now, whatever you might think, the father does seem to have at least some reason for suspecting the involvement of Dawkins' book in his son's suicide. Specifically, there have been reports to the effect that:

"The third one was the last person that my son talked to an hour before [he died,]" Keith Kilgore told WND, referring to a member of his extended family whose name is not being revealed here.

That relative, who had struggled with his own faith and had returned to Christianity, wrote in a later e-mail that Jesse "started to tell me about his loss of faith in everything."

"He was pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong," the relative wrote. "I remember him telling me that he thought that murder wasn't wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences - that was all there was - just social consequences.

"He mentioned the book he had been reading 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins and how it along with the science classes he had take[n] had eroded his faith. Jesse was always great about defending his beliefs, but somehow, the professors and the book had presented him information that he found to be irrefutable. He had not talked … about it because he was afraid of how you might react. ... and that he knew most of your defenses of Christianity because he himself used them often. Maybe he had used them against his professors and had the ideas shot down."

So, accounts seem to indicate that the student's loss of faith was happening concurrent with his decision to commit suicide. I, of course, am very reluctant to ascribe the suicide to the conversion event, not least because an awful lot of people convert to atheism without harming themselves in the slightest. So, for all intents and purposes, I expect that this young man killed himself for his own reasons and the role of the book was, in the final analysis, quite minor. Particularly, given that this young man was a military veteran, I wonder if perhaps his experiences in the service weren't a bigger influence on his decision to take his own life. And if a shift towards atheism had any role in this death, I rather expect it was a consequence of an incomplete shift. See, lack of belief in god really only bothers you if you think that you should believe in god. Given that this young man was, apparently, a devout Christian for a lot of years, I suspect that he was having strong doubts on an intellectual level but a lifetime of teaching that not being Christian was bad left him feeling emotionally upset at these doubts. The problem wasn't atheism or Christianity, but perhaps the internal tension between them.

I do not wish to discuss the reasons for the suicide any further, however, not least because I am in no position to speculate on them. I do want to comment on the father's additional remarks on these events:

"I'm all for academic freedom," Keith Kilgore said. "What I do have a problem with is if there's going to be academic freedom, there has to be academic balance.

"They were undermining every moral and spiritual value for my [son]," he said. "They ought to be held accountable."

He suggested the moral is for Christians simply to abandon public schools wholly.

The thing is, the father has a little bit of a point here. As educators we have a lot of power and it is our responsibility to wield it appropriately. I am a devout atheist- and I have written about my atheism at length. Brad Wright, in contrast, is a devout Christian and often blogs about his faith as well. Both of us are instructors at the college level* and, therefore, have a responsibility to our students. And in light of this responsibility I think we both make a real effort to separate our personal religious views from the content we teach our students in class. And I think this may be where a mistake was made in this young man's life. I know that biology teachers have many challenges when teaching evolution- particularly since Ken Ham began exhorting students to disrupt their biology classes by asking "were you there?" in response to claims about fossils, the age of the Earth, etc. The thing is, even amidst such disruptions, I think we have a duty to stick to the material. If the class is a critical examination of modern religion "The God Delusion" might be a wholly-appropriate text but, in the event that the class is about biology, it may be less appropriate.

And while I scoff at the notion that Dawkins' book made anyone do anything, I do think this is a good time to remind ourselves to be professional when we're in the classroom.

* Though, admittedly, he's faculty while I'm just a wee little grad student.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Raising kids without fear...

A long time ago (over two years to be precise) I blogged about a bizarre set of pajamas being marketed for children. These pajamas were advertised as the "Armor of God PJs" and were essentially styled to resemble crusader armor with the exception, as I remarked, of less blood and bile smeared across the front. In this post I asked- in my usual long-winded style- whether the true purpose of these PJs was to reassure children that they were protected, or subtly remind them that they lived in a world of constant peril and- should they turn from the one true path- they would surely be lost.

In an interesting contrast to this style of children's product comes a range of goods from the creepily-named Charlie's Playhouse. The "Charlie" referenced in the name is actually Charles Darwin and his playhouse is filled with toys designed to help kids understand evolution and the natural world. And as you might guess, I think the whole enterprise is frickin cool.

Consider, for example, the 18-foot long timeline map of evolutionary history. Your child can skip, jump and play along it, getting a graphic understanding of the deep history of our world and life. There are ancient creature cards that promise to introduce your kids to the bizarre and fascinating natural world of the past, and help them understand where our modern world came from. And for the big kid in you, there are a wide variety of clothing options available through cafepress. I suspect my very young niece will soon be sporting one item from the selection:

The product line isn't particularly deep as yet but I have hopes that it will grow, supplementing creative educational tools like Jay Hosler's excellent The Sandwalk Adventures. And if nothing else, at least these toys help us teach our children about where they come from and what it means without scaring the crap out of them in the process.

Sounds good to me.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just an FYI...

I'm not dead. I am laboring under a rather debilitating cold, trying to teach class, and working on a paper/grant proposal. So, you know, blogging has slipped a little on the old to-do list.

Look for something more coherent tomorrow.


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Monday, November 17, 2008

Section for the Sociology of Vampires?

The Scene: Drek and his wife are getting ready for work while listening to NPR. During one of the infrequent commercial breaks, they learn than today's news report is sponsored by the upcoming film, Twilight, which is advertised as a love story between a human and a vampire.

Drek's Wife: That's really funny.

Drek: What?

Drek's Wife: They're talking about it like it's real. 'A love story between a human and a vampire.'

Drek: *Laughs* You're right. It would have been great to have been in the recording booth to see him bust that line out so seriously.

Drek's Wife: Yeah, you gotta watch that inter-species love. It's even harder to manage that cross-class marriages. 'He was a socialite, she came from the wrong side of the tracks...'

Drek: *Laughs* Yeah, you know what the theme song is for Twilight?

Drek's Wife: What?

Drek: Uptown Girl.

Drek's Wife: *Laughs*

Drek: Mor-tal girl, she's been living in her red blood world!

Drek's Wife: *Laughs*

For the curious:

Mortal Girl With apologies to Billy Joel:

Mortal Girl

She's been living in her red blood world
I bet she never had a fang-ed guy
I bet her mama never told her why

I'm gonna try for a mortal girl
She's been living in her red blood world
As long as anyone with cold blood can
And now she's looking for an undead man
That's what I am

And when she knows what
She wants from her time
And when she wakes up
And makes up her mind

She'll see I'm not so dead
Just because
I'm in love with a mortal girl
You know I've seen her in her red blood world
She's getting tired of her mortal coil
And all her presents from her human boys
She's got a choice

Mortal girl
You know I can't afford to see the sun
But maybe someday when my ship comes in
She'll understand what kind of guy I've been
And then I'll win

And when she's walking
She's looking so fine
And when she's talking
She'll say that she's mine

She'll say I'm not so dead
Just because
I'm in love
With a mortal girl
She's been living in her red blood world
As long as anyone with cold blood can
And now she's looking for an undead man
That's what I am

Mortal girl
She's my mortal girl
You know I'm in love
With a mortal girl

My mortal girl
Dont you know I'm in love
With a mortal girl
My human girl
Dont you know I'm in love
With a mortal girl
My human girl

Gotta bite her!

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Science: 1, Pseudoscience: 0

Presented for your edification without further comment because- let's face it- further comment would just ruin it:

A study comparing the effects of real and placebo acupuncture on pregnancy rates during assisted reproduction has found that, surprisingly, placebo acupuncture was associated with a significantly higher overall pregnancy rate than real acupuncture.

The study, published online in the journal Human Reproduction, looked at real and placebo acupuncture given on the day of embryo transfer in 370 patients in a randomised, double blind trial (where neither the patients nor the doctors knew which treatment was being given).

The researchers found that the overall pregnancy rate (defined by a positive urinary pregnancy test) for placebo acupuncture was 55.1%, versus 43.8% for the real acupuncture.

Dr Ernest Hung Yu Ng, Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Hong Kong (People's Republic of China), said: "We found a significantly higher overall pregnancy rate following placebo acupuncture when compared with that of real acupuncture. In addition, there was a trend towards higher rates of clinical pregnancy, ongoing pregnancy, live birth and embryo implantation in the placebo acupuncture group, although the differences did not reach statistical significance."


It is difficult to design a suitable control for acupuncture – a treatment that involves the insertion of fine needles into particular points on the body. In this study, the researchers used a placebo needle that looked identical to a real acupuncture needle, but which was blunt and retracted into the handle of the needle when pressed on the skin, while still giving the appearance and sensation of entering the skin. A trained acupuncturist applied the placebo to the same acupuncture points as for the real acupuncture.

You can see here for more.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

'Code Veronica' my ass.

Folks who know me- and presumably a lot of you feel like you know me by now- are aware that there are certain topics I blog about rather frequently. One of them, as you no doubt realize, is boobs. That isn't the topic we're discussing today. No, the frequent topic I am referring to today is zombies. And, particularly, a zombie apocalypse. I have spent an unfortunately large amount of time considering a possible zombie apocalypse and have even purchased instructional materials to aid in surviving one.* What can I say? I like to be prepared.

You can therefore imagine my pleasure upon realizing that Valve, the company that brought us Half-Life and Half-Life 2 (about which I have written previously), has been working on a new game. A game that dwells on the experience of surviving a zombie apocalypse. This game, named Left4Dead, is now available in demo form on Valve's content delivery system Steam. And on a whim, I downloaded that demo yesterday and took it for a spin. So how was this experience?

Frickin awesome.

The basic premise is that you take the role of one of four "survivors" trapped in a city full of the undead. You then cooperatively- either with human teammates or computer-controlled bots- try to make your way to safety. As has become common in recent games, your ability to carry weapons is limited and restrictions on explosives and medical equipment are pretty extreme. Additionally, the undead are not the shambling sort we saw in Romero movies but, instead, are the fleet-footed type from the "28 ____ later" series of movies. So, more or less, when the zombies spot you, you'd best start shooting and keep shooting as fast as you can. The total result of this is an experience that is frenetic, unsettling, and terrifying. You feel a palpable sense of dread on seeing a horde of zombies sprinting your way as well as the excitement of realizing that you and your compadres have put the last one on the ground... for now. Word has it that there is a "versus" mode as well, in which a four-person human team will face off against a four-person zombie team. I admit, this sounds very interesting, even if it negates the main advantage humans have over zombies: our ability to think. In any case, take a look at the intro movie and see if you don't get at least a little bit psyched:

And believe it or not, the in-game graphics are more or less as good as the trailer would suggest- we are not looking at the usual Bullshot here.

So is this that rare game that I might actually purchase and allow myself to play? Well, yes and no. I definitely want to see more of this thing, and Christmas is coming up,** but it's also being released at the same time as Fallout 3, which also looks to be, in a word, awesome. Maybe if I can get enough papers out in the next few weeks, I can make the hard choice and allow myself some time to play.

Either way, it looks to be a fun winter break.

* Fun fact! The Zombie Survival Guide is kept in my office at work in the section of my bookshelf I devote to "methods."

** Helpful aside to my wife: Hint, hint honey!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And here I thought it was just me.

Folks who keep an eye on science news have probably heard about the supposed new phenomenon of dark flow. For those who haven't heard, there's a nice article about the subject from National Geographic:

On the outskirts of creation, unknown, unseen "structures" are tugging on our universe like cosmic magnets, a controversial new study says.

Everything in the known universe is said to be racing toward the massive clumps of matter at more than 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometers) an hour—a movement the researchers have dubbed dark flow.

The presence of the extra-universal matter suggests that our universe is part of something bigger—a multiverse—and that whatever is out there is very different from the universe we know, according to study leader Alexander Kashlinsky, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

The theory could rewrite the laws of physics. Current models say the known, or visible, universe—which extends as far as light could have traveled since the big bang—is essentially the same as the rest of space-time (the three dimensions of space plus time).

Now, this is a big deal. We're talking about an effect that is occurring on a massive scale, dragging objects of literally astronomical size in particular directions. If such a finding turns out to be correct, we will have to revise our models of the birth, and nature, of the universe considerably. Or, then again, maybe not, because one possible explanation is compatible with ideas we're already working on:

To explain the unexplainable flow, the team turned to the longstanding theory that rapid inflation just after the big bang had pushed chunks of matter beyond the known universe.

The extra-universal matter's extreme mass means it "could still pull—tug on—the matter in our universe, causing this flow of galaxies across our observable horizon," said Kashlinsky, whose team's study appeared in the October 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

So, in other words, early in the lifetime of the universe spacetime itself may have expanded at superluminal speeds, spreading matter apart such that the light cones from different regions of the early universe do not- yet- intersect. Yet, if true, this implies that either gravity itself propagates faster than the speed of light or, alternatively, that the galaxy clusters affected by dark flow have passed within the light cone of the distant material while we have not. Either way, we're looking to find out some interesting things about our world.

Unless, of course, xkcd has it right, in which case the answer isn't interesting so much as cliche:

That's what she said...

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another day, another post...

Today, like friday, is a Scatterplot day. So what is my topic? Oh, just a brief discussion of whether Barack Obama is really Adolf Hitler in blackface.


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Friday, November 07, 2008

You already know what I'm going to say...

Today I'm posting over on the always interesting Scatterplot. Just a short little nothing on the joys of grad school.


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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Well, since the Republicans brought it up...

A lot of you have probably heard about the bit of nastiness that went on in the race between Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Kay Hagan. Specifically, when Dole accused Hagan of being "Godless." Seriously, the second much tamer attack ad on the subject can even be viewed on YouTube:

And if you want to see the first ad Dole released on the subject, Campbell Brown does a nice job of talking about it:

Now, as an atheist, I have pretty mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I find it pretty annoying that Dole tried to "smear" Hagan by accusing her of being, more or less, an atheist. On the other hand, while I know why she did it, I'm annoyed that Hagan had to deny the accusation in strenuous terms. As a friend of mine remarked, the situation is analogous to Obama having to assert- repeatedly- that he isn't a muslim.* That it even matters is the real issue, not whether or not he happens to be one. So, I'm just going to settle for being happy that Dole lost.

And as long as we're on the subject, in other atheism-related news check out this narrative from someone who went from being a born-again Christian to being an atheist:

I grew up as an hard-core fundamentalist, and have been slowing drifting secular since the beginning of high school. In sixth grade, my parents got rid of Aladdin due to Jasmine’s inappropriate garb. My church started playing contemporary music in the evening services, and as this form of music is displeasing to God, we changed churches largely for this reason. Together with being home schooled and highly gifted mathematically, I was not what you would call a normal child.

It's long, and pretty heart-wrenching, but it also describes in broad outlines the experience of a lot of atheists who grew up in religious families or in religious regions. Contrary to popular opinion, atheism doesn't just happen. Often, it's the end result of a long and difficult struggle that can make religious conversion stories seem cheap and easy by comparison. Don't worry, though- this conversion story has a happy ending.**

On a related note with a less happy ending, check out this article on Nate Phelps, the son of Fred Phelps, leader of the ever-crazy Westboro Baptist Church:

The mattock, a close cousin of the pickaxe, is used to dig through tough, earthy surfaces—it loosens soil, breaks rock, and tears through knotted grass. Its handle is a three-foot wooden shaft, twice the density of a baseball bat and its dual-sided iron head is comprised of a chisel and a pick. It was Pastor Fred Phelps’s weapon of choice when beating his children according to his son, Nate Phelps.

“The Bible says ‘spare the rod, spoil the child,’” explained Nate, “and he would be screaming that out as he was beating us.” One Christmas night, Pastor Phelps hit Nate over 200 times with a mattock’s handle, swinging it like a baseball player.

Nate would hide out in the garage with his siblings, where he could escape his father’s wrath. What he couldn’t escape, however, was the fear of going to hell. He suffered much abuse growing up under the roof of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)—he still suffers today.

And if that isn't enough to make you a bit cross at Phelps, consider the first comment in response to this article- from Nate's sister Shirley:

Amazing stuff. At the end of the day, rebel Nate who is a man of the flesh according to the Bible, cannot get it into his head the the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The child crying over a fear of hell is exactly what is intended by the plain language of the scriptures. You can love that and live that and own that and be one with that, as they say, or you can foolishly fight against that. WHO thinks they can beat God? YIKES! He never one time mentions HIS duty to teach HIS children every day in every way with every thing that does and says what the Lord their God requires of them. God is a consuming fire. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, WE PERSUADE MEN! Just look at the way you two brutes got together and tried to put a fluffy spin on rebellion AND the consenquences thereof.


This is the generation that is about to see the rise of Antichrist, THAT WICKED, also called The Beast. He will pursuant to the promises of God arise from the sea of humanity and he has some work to do, and then, he will be destroyed with the brighteness of the coming of the Lord. YAY!

Meanwhile, each of you, while you have the breath of life in your hands, you can eat from this hog traugh, and try to put a nice happy spin on ADULTERY and REBELLION AGAINST GOD, but if you are NOT GOING TO OBEY, shut your mouth about the God Smacks that you have coming to you! For all these things, the WRATH OF GOD ABIDES UPON THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE! This is NOT rocket science, it is blessedly simply! OBEY YOUR GOD! It is time for cry-baby, rebel Nathan to man up and take responsibility for HIS ACTIONS! Amazing that he abandoned his family sniffing after a bimbo in Canada and you all are PERFECTLY good with that! Well that first wife so-called WAS NOT HIS WIFE, she had a husband and the Lord your God says that if you marry someone that is divorced, you are living in adultery, so stop lying about your conduct! If he wants peace, he can put away his filthy manner of life and OBEY HIS GOD! Otherwise, he can go to hell with Dawkins and the rest of the rebels that are in great supply in this generation.

You each better understand that when you stand before your God in the Day of Judgment that is in sight now, you will STAND ALONE!

So, yeah, you've got to feel for the guy.

And just to lighten the mood, take a gander at this handy Born-Again/English phrasebook put together by a former Born-Again Christian. A lot of it matches up against my experiences though, I will concede, not everything:

“All you need to do to go to heaven is ask Jesus into your heart.”

Translation: “You’re going to burn in hell if you don’t say this prayer, little boy.”
Acceptable Response: “Dear Jesus, thank you for coming into my heart and saving me…”
Unacceptable Response: “Dear Jesus, where in the Bible do you tell us to ask you into our hearts? That seems kind weird. And why did the ancient world think the heart was the kidney? Hello? Can you hear me? I guess this is just a one-way intercom. How can I know if you’re still around if you don’t say anything back? Okay, if you’re really there, appear to me right now in person like you did to Paul.” Or, “What exactly does Jesus do in my blood-pumping organ?”


“What’s God doing in your life?”

Translation: “I’m getting ready to judge you.”
Acceptable Response: “I’m conquering pride and lust!” Or, “Oh, Jesus, Jesus, I love Jesus my beautiful King and Savior!”
Unacceptable Response: “God’s been teaching me about how much evidence there is for evolution.”


“It takes more faith to be an atheist than a Christian.”

Translation: “I don’t really understand atheism or how it’s possible not to believe in a god.”
Acceptable Response: “That’s right, brother. Denying God is like denying gravity.”
Unacceptable Response: “Believing in something without evidence takes faith. Not believing in something without evidence takes intelligence.”

Good stuff. Check it out.

* For those who haven't heard about this already, check out the claims on Conservapedia for a particularly elaborate hatchet job. It would be more effective, though, if the claims that Obama is a muslim didn't follow the claims that he is, in fact, a super-villain.

** Granted, I define "happy" in a manner most born-again Christians would probably take issue with.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I'm having a good day.

Yesterday's election can only produce one response which, in the style of this blog, is both hopeful, ironic, and rather crude. Wait, is that three things? Well, also in the style of this blog, I can't count. Anyway, your Total Drek electoral celebration awaits:

And if a victory by Barack Obama isn't enough to get me fired up today, after I taught class one of my students came up and said, "You know, I'm just telling you because you probably don't hear this enough, but you're a really good professor." Isn't it cute when they call grad students professors? In any case, I'm actually pretty touched by this and, since this student is doing pretty (though not excessively) well, I can hopefully take it seriously.

Academia! Fuck yeah!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A predictable post.

In lieu of any actual post today I'm just going to encourage y'all to go vote. I mean, if you're in the United States and eligible, anyway. I voted early this morning and pulled the lever with an unusual sense of hope. Let's just see if it was justified, eh?

And tonight when you're waiting for the outcome, consider Tina's invitation to a Scatterplot election night chat. Seriously, the room is right here. Looks like Tina will kick things off at 7:00 PM EST and "party" until the results are clear.

See you later, kiddies.

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