Not-So-Intelligent Design

I recently found out that my girlfriend's father does not believe in evolution! This despite the fact that he has no religious need to fight it, as his church has never come out on one side or the other where evolution is concerned. Using his asinine position as inspiration, I've decided to pose some questions for anybody who believes that the human body didn't evolve, but was instead "designed" by a god:

  • Why can we choke?  What designer would think it was a good idea to bring the food in through the same entry point as the air?  It would be so easy to make the eat hole completely separate from the breathe hole… it's just stupid that they aren't closed systems. 
  • Two words: vestigial organs.
  • What is the point of human hair?  Alright, the stuff on our heads keep us somewhat warm (that is, until cruel nature takes it back from some of us- what's that about?), and eyebrows and eyelashes seem useful- but what about our body hair?  Patterns that make no sense, and that vary from ethnic group to ethnic group, and from person to person… where's the design purpose?  Aesthetics?  Believe me- other than as a carry-over from very distant ancestors, that is, a species that never needed clothes, there is absolutely no reason I should have a furry ass and a sparse field of individual hairs all over my back.
  • I am a man. I have nipples. Explain.
  • Why do women have periods? Surely if there were a designer, he would've been able to come up with a reproductive system that didn't involve leaking blood for days on end every month. That's just stupid. And THEN the bastard has the nerve to declare it "unclean," and tell men not to touch women when they're on the rag, and that the women should have to go away until it's over, and when it's finally finished they should sacrifice a turtle or a pigeon or something to apologize to god for being so icky (that's all somewhere in Leviticus). That's fucked up, y'all.
  • What the hell is up with wisdom teeth? We have teeth come in that don't actually fit in most of our mouths? Isn't that kind of messed up?
  • Hiccups- is that just a joke on us, or what?
  • As we are meant to be designed "in God's image", and the god in whose image we are designed is meant to be a perfect being, why are we so woefully lacking?  We're bi-peds, so we're slow as hell.  We can't fly.  We can't breathe under water (which covers 60% of our planet's surface).  Our young are worthless for years after birth (a baby horse or giraffe walks on day 1!).  If we hadn't evolved these big brains our species would've been hunted to extinction many millennia ago.  This pathetically weak, defenseless body is what a perfect god designs as his pinnacle of creation? Riiiiiight.

What did I miss? If you feel like it, add some questions (or offer some possible answers) in the comments.

ATTACK!!!

When I heard that someone had hacked a local construction sign to read "It's official- God does not exist," I got a nice little giggle out of it. It's the kind of harmless prank that I always kind of wish I had done myself.  And it happened right here in Salt Lake City, which means it pissed off all the right people to make me happy.

Now I'm pissed off.

I wanted to see an image of the sign for myself, so I Googled it, and found this story from a local TV news station:

 
Who can tell me why this angered me so?  Anyone? Anyone?  That's right, little Jimmy- this pissed me off because they chose to frame the story as an attack on religion.  The lead-in called it a "message against religion".
 
What the huh?  Where's the attack?  It's a belief statement.  Sure, the "It's official" adds a little emphasis for humor, but honestly, I don't see any attack here.  I hate to sound like all those whiny atheists out there who piss and moan about how unfairly we're all treated, but would anybody see a sign that reads "It's official, God does exist" as an attack against atheists?  If so, then we're under semi-constant assault.
 
I've heard this crap too many times to just let it go. My mom lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (that's that big land mass North of the U.S. with the scary free medicine). It's one of the cities where some folks bought ad space on buses and put up a very nice atheist message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Nice, right? It seems to me that the only thing this campaign attacks is worry.  So I'm talking to mom about this, and she tells me that a friend of hers, a man whom I've met and who I mostly like, has written a letter to the editor of the local paper decrying the ads as anti-Christian.
 
Anti-religion, anti-Christian… it all sounds so damned angry.  But that's the point, isn't it?  The believer crowd LOVES to paint atheists as a bunch of hateful, vitriolic assholes.  Pastor Rick Warren famously said he'd never met an atheist who wasn't angry.  Of course, he's such a douche, I defy any thinking person not to get angry in his presence, but that's not the point.  The point is that a lot of believers have this view of atheists.
 
It makes sense to them.  We couldn't have just come to atheism through a simple application of reason and logic, and we certainly couldn't have studied the sacred texts and prayed heartfeltly (not a word, I know) about them, and gotten no response… If a believer thought that, it could open the door to doubt and actual inquiry, and as we all know, inquiry is the first step down the evil path. No, most believers know that what's obviously happened is that someone in whatever church we were attending did something to offend us, and now we reject the whole belief system based solely on that. Oh, and Satan did something to trick us somewhere in the middle there.
 
It's actually kind of fun, when I think about it.  I can make a believer feel attacked simply by stating my own beliefs.  I don't have to say anything about them at all, which means I can hurt their feelings without actually doing anything mean (I'm against actually being mean). That's a pretty easy goat to get.  It's like picking on the sensitive kid in school- you know you shouldn't, but it's so damned easy and you get such a great response! 
 
Hey believers: There is no god! Take THAT!

Mormons Are Sooooooo Queer!

So you may have heard that there was a bit of a scuffle at the Mormon temple grounds in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago. A couple of boys were walking home from a concert and were *gasp* kissing as they walked through a thoroughfare which is owned by the LDS church.  Well, anyone who was paying attention during last November's election news remembers that the Mormons are none too fond of the gays (remember how they donated something like $25 million to back California's Proposition 8?). So they got their panties all in a twist over these young men kissing, and they asked them to leave, and the boys got a little belligerent… long story short: the queers are pissed at the Mo's again (as are all of us non-bigoted straights).

Penetration? Really? 
 Any film buffs out there?

This hatred of the gays is totally ingrained in the Mormon mind. It is considered an absolute truth that homosexuality is "wrong," whatever that means, and that heterosexual love is the only valid love. Ok, so there's nothing special in that- bigotry is the hallmark of dozens of religions. What makes this issue so particular to the Mormons is that the cornerstone of their belief system is a very specific view of what a family should look like, and a laser focus on family as a concept.

This view of family is so exacting that Mormon housewives in Utah turn out to be one of the largest demographics for the consumption of anti-depressants in the Country. The expectations are ridiculous, and for most women unattainable.  Of course, the expectations of the men is entirely unequal. The men are the holders of the "priesthood," which is not like priesthood in other Christian traditions, but is given to all the men and has associated magic powers that women can't have.  Thus, the men are the power mongers, and the women are to be the subservient, obedient little balls of happiness. It's all very Leave it to Beaver in Mormon land. [For more info on the ideal Mormon marriage, see if you can track down the "Natural Family Resolution" that was drafted by the Mormon "think tank" The Sutherland Institute. It might be a little hard to get to- they seem to have buried it deep in the recesses of their collective unconscious. There's a fun snippet of it here under the heading "Controversy"]

 
 Note the women's toothy smiles and dead eyes

The leaders of the Mo church, their "first presidency" validated and codified this thinking back in 1995 in an archaic little document they titled The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  Gross.  It basically says that everyone who doesn't have a nice Ozzy and Harriet lifestyle is going against God's wishes, and will be forever glared at and distrusted by the good people in their neighborhood, amen.

There is, of course, a delightful irony in all this: we're talking about MORMONS here- these are the people who introduced non-traditional marriage to America! The fact that they now march in lock-step with other hateful conservative douchebags chanting "one man, one woman" is a complete betrayal of their God-ordained history.  And don't let them fool ya, either: they still believe in polygamy, they just don't practice it here anymore. The best example of their continuing belief in polygamy is LDS apostle Russell Nelson, who has been out front in the mormon "one man one woman" push.  Oh, and he has two wives.

Shocked? Confused?  It's true! 

In fairness, I suppose I should mention that one of them is dead, and he didn't marry the second until after the first one passed on. The problem is that in Mormon belief, that doesn't matter.  Brother Nelson was "sealed" to his first wife in the temple "for time and all eternity." Which to them means just that- they're married here and in the afterlife. Forever. He was also sealed to his second wife for the same duration.

Now, had the roles been reversed- that is, had Russell died and his wife had wanted to remarry- she would've had to obtain a "cancelation of sealing" nullifying the old marriage, or she would not be able to be sealed to the new beau. They're very strict about that. Women can only be eternally sealed to ONE MAN. However, our boy Rusty, being a man, can be sealed to as many women as he likes.  This is because polygamy is still sanctioned by the church- just not practiced. 

Make no mistake- by LDS theology Russell M. Nelson is married to two women and will be with both for the rest of eterniy.  By their own rules, he is a polygamist.  And by his own stated belief in the "one man, one woman" rule he is a hypocrite. A big, fat, ugly, stupid hypocrite!

Shit. This was supposed to be a short entry to introduce my new category of entries on this site: Redacted.  Damn you, tangential mind!  I'm going to have to make that the next entry. Poop on a stick! Well, now you have something to look forward to.

Uhhhhh… Wow.

Erm…

Ever had the experience of sitting in church and somebody is singing an excruciatingly lame song?  Ever wish you could be the center of attention instead of the douchebags that are hogging the spotlight? Ever wonder what it might look like if your balls were suddenly attacked by fire ants?  This video may help:

 

See? Christians Aren’t The Only Douchebags…

Today I drove past the tree in my fair city where somebody saw the image of the virgin Mary.  Well, actually they saw one of the most commonly occuring patterns in nature, but it looked kind of like Mary to somebody.  I actually went to see it when it was first reported.  It was dumb. It has since changed quite a bit, but originally, it looked kind of like this:

Lazy artist's rendering

  Which I assume is meant to look like this:

 
 Non-lazy artist's rendering

Well, it's a stretch, but fair enough. Same basic shape, I guess. Then it started changing, though.  At first, the supposed neck area began oozing sap. Not quite the same as weeping, but interesting. I'm not sure, but the neck-ooze may have been the result of mild pocket-knife-style vandalism.  If so, it explains what happened next, which is that a hole started to grow where the sap was coming out. This made poor Maria look like she had suffered a mild case of shotgun-wound.

Later, some homeless guy tried to burn the thing down, and I'm sure there were other vandals.  The long and the short of it, though, is that it now looks like this:

 

 Old college game: spot the virgin

 Clearly, this looks even less like any discernable holy icon. Don't worry, though: the utter lack of any kind of resemblance to anything remotely like the blessed lady hasn't stopped the faithful from seeing her.  I stole this comparison from somewhere on the web:

 Madonna with child or Skeletor? You make the call.

 Uh…. O…K…

Whatever.  If they want to feel like something special is there, that's fine with me. It's no crazier than 90% of the other shit they believe.  But just so you don't think that this nonsense is strictly a dopey christian phenomenon, here's a fun video.  You can ignore the first two and a half minutes, as it's just boring footage of a lion yawning and licking himself. At the end, though, he very clearly roars the word "rrraaaaaghhhhhle" and then "mrrrooooooorrrrrggggh" and then goes into what sounds like a sneezing fit.  But somewhere in there, he theorectically spits out "Allah".  Enjoy:

 

And the Lord Said [unintelligible screaming]

In my last post, I posted a picture of a product somebody was trying to pawn off on believers called "Baby's First Bible." I saw it at Barnes and Noble, and was astonished to find that it was not, as I first suspected, a dumbed-down book of child-friendly bible stories. It's just the bible with a duck on the cover. Horrifying. Well, as fortune would have it, an astute friend of mine recently sent me a link to a video which, I can only assume, shows us the direct result of giving one of these to an actual baby:

This video represents one of three things:

1. Child abuse

2. A very convincing sign of the apocalypse, or

3. An extremely compelling case for mandating mental health screenings for evangelical christians.

Makin’ Money in the Lord’s Service

"Yes, Bible sales.

The trade is not a complicated one; There're but two things to learn: one bein' where to find a wholesaler- the word of God in bulk, as it were. Two bein' how to rekanize your customer. Who're you dealing with? An exercise in psychology, so to speak. And it is that which I propose to give you a lesson in right now."

-Big Dan Teague

And the Lord said unto the duckie…

I've got a project in the works for this site about which I am extremely excited (no, I'm not going to tell you what it is yet). Unfortunately for me, though, my research for the project involves actually having to read the bible.  Oy.  It's such a mixed bag, that book.  There are some truly interesting stories there separated by the most amazingly boring lists of who-begat-whom. But you gotta read it all, because if you skim, you could miss the one or two verses that would totally blow your mind if you were paying attention. It's especially fun if you think you know the story you're reading, because if you read carefully you're almost bound to find some utterly messed-up detail that they skipped in Sunday school.

As you may know, there are dozens of versions on the market these days. Unsatisfied with the dusty old King James version (KJV for those in the know), the believers have come up with all sorts of alternatives.  There's the New King James version (not quite sure where they found a new King James…), the Standard, the Revised Standard, the New revised Standard, the American Standard, the New American standard… they got new versions of new versions coming out of their patoots!  For the most part, the differences are things like using the word "lads" as opposed to "children," or "dome" instead of "firmament"- basically taking the poetry out and replacing it with updated dumbed-down bullshit. 

So I've been bible shopping. Uggh. Barnes and Noble had many bibles for sale, including the ridiculous one pictured above (I guess it makes sense to give a bible to a baby- most adults who own a bible don't read it either). First complaint: every bible I found, even the leather-bound fancy ones, has those flimsy see-through pages. What's the deal with that? What I really wanted was a bible with space to make notes and pages that could withstand highlighting. No dice. And on top of that, all the bibles were at least $20!  For that price I could just check into some sleazy motel, do, y'know, whatever it is I happen to do at such establishments (hint: the meth I bring is not for me- it's for the animals), and then just steal the damned bible from the dresser (it's the New Gideon Standard Revised version).

Fortunately, I managed to find a totally acceptable used bible at a local thrift shop for a couple of bucks. It's working just fine. I'm actually kind of having fun with it- I keep waiting for somebody to see me studying this thing and gleefully approach me. What a fun conversation we'll have!

Hope for a Beloved Believer

My girlfriend and I were out a couple of nights ago with her sister, who is a devout believer.  The thing is that she's a really smart lady, and the way she uses those smarts both gives me hope and makes me worry.  We're convinced that one strong, well-timed push could force her to actually examine (and therefore subsequently abandon) her faith, or could land her squarely and permanently in fundamentalist-style conspiracy-theorist crazy town. It really is the finest of lines she walks. Well the other night we had a lovely talk, and I saw glimmers of hope that rational thought and intellectual inquiry might win out… someday.

For over a year now, she's been saying that she wants to homeschool her kids.  Now I have nothing too strong against homeschooling as a rule (although the national spelling bees don't do homeschooling advocates any favors…), but in her case, I could see it was going to be a problem. 

And he said "suffer the children, that they may go to recess"
 Jesus hates school more than I did…

 As with so many homeschoolers, one of the major reasons she wanted to homeschool her children was that they weren't going to get any (or enough) Jesus talk at public school.  To me this was a bit of a weird argument because she's not an intelligent design freak or a literal-bible type, so there's not much public school curricula that I imagine she could object to. I tried to point out the obvious: that she would still be teaching all that religion stuff at home and at church anyway, and that pluralism of thought and experience helps a child learn to process information better, and that interaction with other kids their age would aid her children socially. I stopped short of pointing out that pretty much everybody in their entire community goes to the same church she does, so it's not like there's some danger of activist Satan-worshipping teachers tricking her kids into bad beliefs…

The truth is that my main reason for wanting to talk her out of it had nothing to do with any of that. Her kids are great, but they are way more than a handful, and she was really struggling as a parent. My thought was simply that if she was having that much trouble dealing with her kids at home all day, why the hell would she want to keep them there??? Public school is free!

Here's where religion muddies all the waters, though: she had a dark feeling about public school. Ugh. The dark feeling– the argument for which there is no counter. The intuition which you never need question, 'cause it's from god. God told her personally (though without anything so concrete as, y'know, language) that she should homeschool. Here endeth the discussion.

I HATE this crap. It is such obvious bullshit! We all have dark feelings and light feelings about things.  We all have intuitive notions about situations. If we're scared or worried about something, we get a dark feeling; if we're excited or happy about something, we get a light feeling. If it's nighttime and the lights are off, we get a dark feeling; if it's daytime and the sun is out… you get the idea. This isn't divine inspiration, it's psychology.

Even if I believed in a god and that he could communicate with me I'd have to wonder: Why the fuck would god give two shits about whether or not I homeschooled my kids? I realize that there's a lot of pressure on parents because your choices for your kids could have long-term impacts and all that, but be reasonable! This is not good vs. evil here- it's my kid gets educated one way or he gets a slightly different education another way. Some public schools are great, some suck- same with parents who teach.  Whichever you choose, there are pros and cons, but neither choice is sinful and neither is exalted.

Anyhoo, the upshot of my story is this: she's decided to put her kid in public school! I'll reiterate that I don't really care much whether or not she homeschools her kids. What I'm excited about is that reason and thought won out over supernatural sensations. It may not mean that she's anywhere near abandoning her beliefs, but at least we can have a conversation.

(By the way, here's another homeschooler-at-the-spelling-bee clip for your viewing terror/enjoyment)

Glenn Beck Explained

Around the Country, and on pretty much every comedy talk show out there, if someone’s talking about Fox News douchebag Glenn Beck, they’re talking about the extremely uncomfortable moment on a recent show where he started to cry.  It was all over the place. If you haven’t seen it, here’s Jon Stewart playing a clip of Glenn, and then of the extremely weasly looking Shepard Smith (from his own damn network) making fun of him:

[Note: Hulu took down the original video I had displayed here. This is Mr. Beck’s stuff without Mr. Smith’s Mockery]

When I saw this, I realized immediately that I had insight into this event that most of the country doesn’t have, and that I needed to share.

Here’s the deal: Mr Beck is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka LDS, aka the Mormons, aka the nutty bunch I grew up with.  “What does a man’s religious affiliation have to do with him acting like a fourteen year old girl on TV?” you might ask.  Well, if he’s Mormon, quite a bit.

Y’see, what most of the Country doesn’t realize is that Glenny-boy was doing something that happens regularly at his church.  Mr Beck was “bearing his testimony”.   This is a monthly ritual for the Mormons where their normal “Sacrament meeting” is converted to “Testimony meeting”. On the first Sunday of each month, members of the congregation stand before their fellow believers, and affirm to all that they actually believe the nonsense that’s preached there every week, and that. . . sniff. . . they know that God loves them. . . sniff sniff. . . and they know that the church is true. . . sniff, weepy chuckle- I’m sorry awkward smile, chuckle, sniff. . . and that they are so grateful for the gospel. . . lip-tremble, sniff. . . and they love their Country so much. . . wipe eyes. . . and they fear for it. . . .

he knows his colors, too!
 Glenn Beck- in touch with at least four emotions!

Sound familiar?   In many Mormon churches (though not all, strangely), it is not uncommon for grown men who have never shown more than three emotions at home to their kids (apathy, annoyance, and “pleased with your performance in sports”) to break down completely in front of everybody.  In that context, not only is this behavior acceptable, it’s downright applauded.

You gotta understand, Mormons can get pretty competitive, and crying is a damned good way of proving how good you are at being Mormon.  It says “I love Jesus way more than that guy who bore his testimony and didn’t cry!”

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not a complete cynic.  It’s not that I think these guys are consciously thinking about this stuff when they turn on the water works.  That would require me to believe that they are capable of conscious thought.  Nor do I think it’s always bad for men to cry (is there a man alive who can get through The Joy Luck Club dry-eyed?). No, I just think that Mormon men (or MorMen) have found a place where it’s socially acceptable to cry in public, and since their lives are pretty devoid of any kind of fulfillment or meaning, they’ll take whatever chance they can get to let it out. In the case of Brother Beck, I think he thought that he’d get the same cachet out of crying on air that he gets at church, so he let it fly.

Did his gamble pay off? Who knows. I have no idea how the poor saps who actually watch his drivel responded to his outpouring of emotion. What I do know is that Glenn Beck is a weepy ass-hat, and I think he and his kind do nothing but hurt America with their bigotry, and their negativism, and their. . . sniff. . . fear-mongering.  I think he represents so much of what is wrong with journalism and . . . sniffle, sniff. . . political discussion in our Country, and. . . tremble. . . I just love this Country so much and. . . and. . . AAAAAAAGGHHHH HUH HUH HUH. . . sniff. . . sob. . .