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Month: November 2007

Punch and Judy in Belief/Nonbelief

Posted on November 30, 2007 in Agnosticism Spirituality and Being

Check out this thoughtful sermon on the modernist Punch and Judy Show.

Perhaps the literalism that gave rise to the Scientific Revolution is also the sire of Fundamentalism. No one trusts metaphor or understands it.

[tags]atheism, agnosticism, fundamentalism, Christianity[/tags]

Victims and Impunity

Posted on November 30, 2007 in Stigma Violence

square418I have chosen to be “out” about my mental illness. This is doable because I live in the safest part of the country when it comes to crime. It’s not likely that I’ll be bonked upon by a mugger or have my house rifled by burglaries. A new study out of England, by a mental health charity known as Mind, reports that persons suffering from mental illness who don’t share my community’s good policing might be best off keeping their mouths shut — if they can hide it:

A survey by the charity found that 41 per cent of respondents complained of persistent bullying, 27 per cent of sexual harrassment and 10 per cent of sexual assault. Just over a third – 34 per cent – said that they had also been victims of theft or financial crime, and a quarter had their homes targeted.

Comparisons with previous studies suggest that the problem is increasing, with the latest figures showing that people with mental health problems are far more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violent crime. Yet the study suggests that many crimes go unreported, with vulnerable adults feeling stigmatised by the police and legal system because of their illness….

The charity surveyed nearly 400 people with direct experience of mental distress and their care workers. Seventy-one per cent of respondents had been abused or harassed in public in the past two years, compared with 48 per cent in a similar study conducted 11 years ago. Twenty-two per cent had been physically attacked, up from 14 per cent in 1996.

Many crimes against distressed people were going unrecognised, Mind said, with 30 per cent of victims telling no one at all what had happened. Of these, a third said that they felt that they would not be believed, while 60 per cent of those who did report a crime thought that the authorities failed to treat them seriously.

There’s a Latin maxim that might be invoked here: impunitas semper ad deteriora invitat –“impunity always invites greater crimes.”


Posted on November 30, 2007 in Weather

square417The smell of last month’s wildfires came back as rain spotted the roofs, the streets, and the sidewalks of the neighborhood. Muddy water dribbled from the eaves and gushed down ravines that led to Aliso Creek, a downpour that began in the dark hours and continued into the day, a blissful awakening after a dry year.

In a week or so, the first green sprouts should erupt from the hillsides.


Friday Xenartha Blogging – Blame It on the Dillo

Posted on November 30, 2007 in Xenartha

This story hot off Boston.com’s odd news:

A fire at the Indianapolis Zoo is being blamed on an armadillo that apparently pushed combustible material or bedding too close to a heat lamp.

Zoo officials said Wednesday that a fire investigator’s report found no indication that the lamp fell or malfunctioned. The lamp had been double-chained more than two feet above the floor in the armadillo area at the Zoo’s Critter Corner exhibit.

The armadillo, three turtles, two birds, a snake and other small animals died in the November 10 fire.

Zoo President Michael Crowther estimates damages at about $120,000 and says the building should reopen in 30 to 60 days.

Couldn’t have anything to do with the design of the exhibit or the zookeeper who ran it? When in doubt, blame it on the ‘dillo.


Lov Ain’t Jesus

Posted on November 29, 2007 in Agnosticism Social Media

square416Regular readers know how this agnostic likes to tweak the noses of atheists. I want it to go on record that I do not condone attacks on atheists or any other group of believers that either do them physical harm or prevent them from expressing their point of view. Such an attack happened on Myspace recently when the atheists/agnostics group run by Bryan Pesta was hacked and renamed “Jesus is lov”:


The 3000 “friends” of the group are gone.

The regular posters on the group’s message board have been banned.

Many discussion threads were deleted.

I can’t even access the renamed group.

Bryan is working on getting his group back, but things aren’t looking bright.
He told me he was having difficult getting customer service at MySpace to listen to him.

First, I want to state that I am not sure that “Christian” terrorists are to blame here, though it wouldn’t surprise me either. This seems like an adolescent prank. I don’t think you will find any minister or even a person who attends church regularly on Sunday. On the other hand, Christianity is full of self-appointed “ministers of the Gospel” who think it is their duty to silence all opposition/criticism. We need more facts.

Second, this could be a troll. Trolling is specifically designed to get people fighting and from the looks of things at Friendly Atheist, the war has begun in earnest. Atheists are taking the bait and the perpetrator is no doubt laughing histrionically. Classically terrorism is calculated to inspire fear. Even though the damage is relatively small as far as impact on their daily lives, atheists/agnostics are looking over their shoulders, wondering if the next step is going to be a physical attack on their computers or themselves. A troll is a special kind of terrorism: the object is to inspire the kind of fear that causes the victim to lash out blindly. “Damn those Christians! Let’s get ’em!”

Third, a classic net issue has arisen, namely getting people at Myspace to do something. At FA I said that this was probably due to “a bunch of second-rate techies who like to sit on their asses not solving problems”. Oh, they say, we’ll have to go down and find the tape backup. Then we’ll have to close down Myspace while we restore the group. Ya-de-dah-de-dah. The response to this is “There are 34,000 people affected by this. Do it.” It’s like not rebuilding the World Trade Center or not flying after the 9-11 attacks. When you allow a terrorist’s works to stand and the terrorist to go unpunished (oh where oh where has Bin Laden gone?), you encourage further acts of terrorism.

Fourth, We should not rule out the possibility that this was done by an atheist/agnostic who wanted to inspire a jihad of his own. Small chance, but it points to the importance of not charging ahead without more facts. Stick to what is known. The focus should be on restoring the group. That means getting Myspace moving on repairing the problem.

[tags]atheism, agnosticism, Myspace, hacking, terrorism, Christianity, net wars, jesus is lov[/tags]


Spinning, Spinning

Posted on November 29, 2007 in Scoundrels Suicide The InterNet

A strange new blog has appeared: Megan had it coming. Has Lori Drew turned to blogging?

Thanks to Odd Time Signatures.

Do you agree with the grief counselor who says that “nobody is responsible for Megan’s death except Megan?”

Or is this just a platitude?

Police reports on the affair from The Smoking Gun.

[tags]Megan Meier, Lori Drew, cyberbullying, cyberbully, scoundrel, wild wild web, monsters, creeps, suicide, mental illness[/tags]


The Teddy Bear and Peyote

Posted on November 28, 2007 in Morals & Ethics Strange

Courts should not be in the business of deciding which beliefs are genuine and which are frauds


Pets Over (Gay and Lesbian) People

Posted on November 27, 2007 in Insurance Nipper Kettle Relationships

Joy toys are supposed to come with no strings. Ask any closet gay conservative.


Old Man-Dykes and a Hyke

Posted on November 27, 2007 in Fashion Hikes and Trails Humor? Pointers Strange

Teresa, of In Sequence, posted the link for this page “Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians.” Makes you wonder who copies who?

And check out my latest hike report, the Loskorn-Oak Loop at Caspers Wilderness.

And my neighbors worry about the mountain lions!


Suicide Online Again

Posted on November 26, 2007 in Blogging Scoundrels Suicide The InterNet

UPDATED: 27 November 2007 at 18:05

Police reports on the affair from The Smoking Gun.

square413Liz has righteously aimed both barrels at Lori Drew, a mother who impersonated a 13 year old boy for the purpose of seducing her teenage neighbor and then dumping her by posting “a hateful, hurting rejection”, precipitating the youngster’s suicide. Evidentally the girl had attempted suicide before: Drew thinks that this exculpates her from any responsibility for what she did.

meganmeier.jpgWhen some people get online, their common sense and, yea, their humanity disappears. I remember, for example, the case of Brandon Vedas who drank himself to death while other chatters watched. A few voiced concern about his increasing intoxication but a nasty core of others egged him on. When called on their actions, they could only say that it was not a crime.

And Lori Drew says that she doesn’t feel responsible because Megan had tried to commit suicide before.

The mentally ill do not lose the right to be treated fairly and above-board, Ms. Drew. Your sociopathy deserves investigation. What complicated feelings led you to do this? Unfortunately, as in the case of Vedas, what you did was not against the law, but I hope the members of your community ~shun you~. I hope you become unwelcome company in chat rooms. I hope your online identities become known and avoided by others. I hope social workers pay you a call. I hope you find no friends and no succor in the misery you deserve. You do not deserve the company of others.

But will even this put the point across to you?


An Agnostic Critique

Posted on November 25, 2007 in Agnosticism

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto
I am a man; nothing that relates to humanity do I deem alien to me. – Terence

square412Hemant put up a link to an interesting set of propositions governing “non-belief”. As usually happens, I was impressed by the good intentions but poor thinking-out in some particulars. I had to laugh, for example, at #12, “Do not denigrate believers” because the URL of the site is www.nobrainer.me.uk. Yeah, we’re not putting down anyone who doesn’t think like we think here are we?

I will state that when not otherwise expressed here, you can say that I have little or no problem with most of the propositions put forth. (Even my Christian wife said she had little problem with most of them.) But having just had a bizarre conversation with an atheist who tried to convince me that Jesus was imaginary (don’t start) has put me into a little bit of a feisty mood. For a start, look at #3:

Do not accept the intellectual and moral authority of believers or belief systems.

This statement leads to internal contradiction, especially when coupled with #14 which states “Do not confuse non-belief with immorality or an amoral state”. There’s a dogma afoot here, one which states that “we got the truth, so it ain’t belief”. Nice try. It’s the same dodge many religions use. As an agnostic, I believe that by the very limitedness of my all-too-human-senses I can’t be certain about what I might call those “higher absolutes”. Damn if I can tell you if there is a God or not. I don’t fault people who do and I don’t fault people who don’t. I will grant many of them — including the author of this tract — authority on moral questions because they have thought them through. What I don’t grant any of them is absolute authority which this author, oddly enough, seems to be grasping for.

#7 “Do not accept the ‘truth’ of religions, mysticism, or political philosophies” is also problematic for me. What does the author mean by “truth”? I think many religions — including a few that profess concepts — such as the inferiority of women — and prescribe practices — such as [[purdah]] — that I find rank — have takes on reality that are worth listening to. None of them — except perhaps mock religions such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster — is so unreal as to leave me unmoved. I think it takes a very cold heart indeed to read the Song of Solomon without feeling, at least, a mild state of ecstasy. To appreciate that work without acknowledging its concept of the erotic union of divine and mortal is naive. Does making it untrue make it worthless? Do we learn nothing about what it means to be human?

I don’t rush to trash all religious literature, all religious thought in my daily affairs.

#15 orders us “Do not search for a meaning to life.” I would temper this in the spirit of the first proposition, namely to rigorously test your beliefs against the world using the best findings of your time understanding that as a human creature you are limited and can not know all the truths of the Cosmos. If I were to state my principles or poles around which I align my thinking/feeling, I would include humility among them, which implies this sense of being limited by my being. It smacks of the old “earth-centered-heavens” when I hear an atheist going on about how we humans can arrive at final, fully-fleshed conclusions about the universe — when we are less than mites riding half a grain of sand in space. I say “do the best you can, but don’t expect to know everything.”

Why does this last point always seem so lacking when atheists try to explain what they think? I hear the dungy cow-bell clank of absolutism or, at best, naivite….

[tags]atheism, atheist, non-believer, nihilism, agnosticism, religion, faith, reality, belief, meaning[/tags]


Passus Crinibus

Posted on November 23, 2007 in Weather

square411Enough dust has been thrown up into the air that when I look down the street, it appears that a light fog has drifted in. But this cannot be so: winds have been whining like the theme of Doctor Who and blowing the pottery on our deck in strange spirals. No one is on the street this day after Thanksgiving. Feet might have trouble keeping to the pavement.

The Latin means: “With tossled hair”.

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