25 June 2014

Six-Word Memoirs for the (mostly) Non-Religious

I ran across a book recently called "Not Quite What I Was Planning, Six-Word Memoirs." I found it when researching information about Piper Kerman who wrote the non-fiction "Orange is the New Black" (which is very different from the fictional Netflix series.) One of the editors of the Six-Word Memoirs series is Larry Smith, Kerman's husband.

The book features six-word memoirs from mostly unknown people, but some from names you might recognize, including Larry Smith, Piper Kerman, Arianna Huffington, Dr. Jane Goodall, Deepak Chopra, Nora Ephron, Amy Sedaris, Joan Rivers, A.J. Jacobs, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephan Colbert, Daniel Handler, Michael Finkel, and Roy Blount, Jr.   I skimmed through the names quickly, so may have missed some. There were some common names such as Steve Allen. In most cases I decide it wasn't the famous one.  In the case of Steve Allen, he died in 2000 and this book was published in 2008, so I figure it was not THAT Steve Allen. And, of course, you might recognize names I missed.

The ones written by famous people were not distinguished from the regular folk.  I didn't even notice most of them until I went back to search for them.

You can read more six-word memoirs in this book or the additional ones (below) or online at http://www.sixwordmemoir.com.  You can also submit your own at that web site.

I was surprised that relatively few were about a complete and total devotion to God or Jesus. On the other hand, there were more than expected about the loss of faith or rejection of religion. My surprise was based on the 15% of our population that fall into various freethought categories as opposed the the 85% who considered themselves religious. Of course, the ones in the book were chosen from many more by the editors, so we don't know the total number of religious vs. non-religious six-word memories submitted.

Here is a sampling of doubters, the lapsed religious, non-believers, freethinkers, disenfranchised, and even one excommunicated......

Catholic school backfired. Sin is in!     ~Nikki Beland

Being a monk stunk. Better gay.     ~Bob Redman

I lost god. I found myself.     ~Carinna Tarvin

Raised Jehovah's Witness. Excommunicated at 22.     ~Kyria Abrahams

Lapsed Catholic; failed poet; unpublished prayers.     ~Marc Sheehan

Baptist Mom. Jewish Dad. Atheist. Surprised?     ~Sara Faith Alterman

Suburban Christian child. Hippie agnostic adult.     ~Shannon Barnes

God chose. Said no. Now what?     ~Adam Blackman

Atheist plus Methodist make Jewish children.     ~Richard Michelson

Beat death thrice. Still not religious.     ~Shan Palmer

God who? Oh, him. No thanks.     ~Carin Rhoden

Friends all Jewish. I'm merely neurotic.     ~ Brian Mahon

Met Jesus early, then ran fast.     ~Cher Tushiah

And a few from the religious (with commentary from me):

Living for Jesus because earth sucks.     ~Johnny Johnson

(Is this one implying that God didn't do such a great job with creation.)

Not a good Christian, but trying.     ~Alexander Tsai

(Does he mean trying as in "very trying"?  At least he's honest ---doesn't come off as holier-than-thou.)

Montana Jew ---drives Toyota, holsters pen.     ~Michael Finkel

(Talk about a fish out of water....)

Mormon economist marries feminist. Worlds collide.     ~Michael McBride

Mormon feminist loves husband, hates patriarchy.     ~Caroline Kline
(I wonder if these two are married.)

Still a very bad Mormon. Yay!     ~Marsha Brown

(Not sure if she is saying "Yay!" to still being a Mormon or being bad at it.)

Atheist alcoholic gets sober through God.     ~Bob Todd

(Maybe he is not longer alcoholic, but could still be atheist.)

Working with what God gave me.     ~David Schmoyer

(Do I sense a bit of disappointment here?)

Girl loved Jesus.  Girl loves boys.     ~Lindsay Robertson

(I notice that "loved Jesus" is past tense---maybe now loves boys instead.)

28 March 2014

March Badness ---vote for the most outrageous right wingers

March Badness is a way to vote for the most outrageous actions or statements by right wingers.

Click HERE to see who is in the running and to vote through April 7, 2014
Small-minded Metcalfe

One of my votes goes to Darryl Metcalfe (unfortunately my own state representative) for preventing an openly gay state house representative to speak.  I guess Darryl forgot we have a Bill of Rights that includes free speech.  

Darryl is one of those little men who can't see beyond his own image in the mirror. He votes against anything that would benefit anyone who is not like him.  He is, of course, white, male, straight, and Christian.

After last June’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which overturned most of the Defense of Marriage Act, Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state representative, Brian Sims, wanted to share his joy in the decision on the House floor.  As soon as he began speaking his mic was cut off by Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.

Why? Metcalfe said:
“His talking about that [marriage equality] on the House floor would have been an open rebellion against Almighty God and God’s word, against God’s law. And as a Christian, if I would have sat there and been silent, it would have violated my conscience because of my beliefs as a Christian.”
Metcalfe has risen to a leadership position in the GOP-controlled House, serving as the chair of the powerful State Government Committee.  This is despite (or because of) his history of attacks on LGBT, immigrant and non-Christian Pennsylvanians.  Metcalfe has even called veterans “traitors” for supporting cap and trade.

Vote in the #MarchBadness Bracket - #18 (PA) State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe http://www.marchbadness.org/?year=2014&rnd=2&seed=1

26 March 2014

Should Your Employer Control Your Birth Control Options?

If we allow employers to control birth control options based on their own religious beliefs, what else will some be able to control based on their personal belief system?

Some religions don't believe in blood transfusions. If you need one, will your employer's religious beliefs determine if your health insurance will cover a necessary transfusion?

If your employer were a Christian Scientist, could s/he decide you don't need to have any health coverage at all?

Shouldn't all medical options be covered ---and then if an individual chooses not to use birth control or have a transfusion, the individual could refuse to use that benefit, not that person's boss?

I'm a senior citizen who will never need to use birth control again. I'm willing to have it in my health plan if it means that those people who want it or need it will have the option of using it or refusing to use it themselves.

Religious freedom should be an individual choice, not mandated by anyone else, not an employer, not anyone.

Medical decisions should be made by a patient with input from a doctor, not an employer.

Read more HERE.

31 December 2012

Secular Holidays

On Austin Cline's About.com Agnosticism/Atheism website, he asked readers if they thought we should create secular holidays.

In a comment Bill Haines lists days that already exist.

I thought readers might want to add these to their calendars.

January 13 — Ernestine Rose’s Birthday
January 29 — Thomas Paine’s Birthday, Freethinkers’ Day
February 12 — Charles Darwin’s Birthday, Darwin Day
March 14 — Albert Einstein’s Birthday, Pi Day
March 16 — James Madison’s Birthday, Freedom Of Information Day
March 16-22 — Sunshine Week
April 1 — April Fools’ Day
April 12 — Cosmonauts’ Day, Yuri’s Night
April 22 — Earth Day
May’s 1st Thursday — US National Day Of Reason
June 21 — World Humanist Day
July 1 — Chevalier De La Barre Day
July 4 — US Indivisible Day
August 11 — Robert Ingersoll’s Birthday, Ingersoll Day
September’s Last Full Week — Banned Books Week
October 12 — Freethought Day
Novermber 7 — Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s Birthday
Novermber 7 — Carl Sagan’s Birthday
November’s Last Full Week — Church/State Separation Week
December 10 — Human Rights Day
December 23 — HumanLight
December 25 — Isaac Newton’s Birthday, Crispness, Newtonmas

01 December 2012

Silent Monk’s Hallelujah Chorus

Despite my atheism, I do appreciate some holiday music. However, when I was in the Junior Choir and then the teenaged-girls' Chapel Choir at my church (when I was a closet skeptic) we performed the Hallelujah Chorus every year. After countless rehearsals year after year, the music used to make me cringe. But I finally am to the point that I can stand listening to it once a season, then I'm done for the year.

This video presents a very clever rendition of it. (I suggest changing to full-screen mode.) I actually laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks. It made me realize that I might not have been so quick to shun my parents' Christian religion if there had been a little more laughter and a lot less imposed shame and guilt by the church and my parents. I probably would have ended up non-religious anyway, but I might have had more motivation to stick around longer than I did.

15 November 2012


Where does the GOP find the religious nutjobs they allow to run for office?

Here are just three examples of Christians who ran for office in Arkansas, and thankfully lost their elections. 

Three Republican House candidates simply shot themselves in the foot with their own words.  Rep. Jon Hubbard, Rep. Loy Mauch, and former Sen. Charlie Fuqua could not win their races after their extreme writings came to light.  It is likely that Republicans would have won at least two of these races without these self-inflected wounds.  The blame for these losses lie with the candidates who not only had bizarre points of view but published them in written form.

Charlie Fugua, who ran for the Arkansas House, in his self-published book (filled with numerous spelling and grammatical errors) "God's Law: The Only Political Solution" advocated:

The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:

The minimum wage should be set at zero. It is simply a lie that raising the minimum wage helps people at the low end of the pay scale.

We cannot continue to sustain the percentage of our population that is in prison. No prison term should be longer than two years. Prison should be unpleasant and rehabilitative. Anyone that cannot be rehabilitated in two years should be executed.

I see no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Fugua said, "I think my views are fairly well-accepted by most people."  Apparently he was wrong.  "Most people" didn't vote for him.

State Rep. Jon Hubbard (R-Jonesboro) told the Jonesboro Sun on Tuesday that he continues to believe the viewpoints he expressed in his 2009 self-published book, "Letters To The Editor: Confessions Of A Frustrated Conservative," that slavery was a "blessing" for blacks, TalkBusiness.net reports. In the book, Hubbard argued that blacks received a better quality of life as slaves in the U.S. than they did in Africa, and that African-Americans would not be in the U.S. were it not for slavery.


State Rep. Loy Mauch (R-Bismarck) starting in 2000 wrote a series of letters to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, defending slavery and attacking Lincoln, the Arkansas Times reports.

He has called Lincoln a "fake neurotic Northern war criminal" and said the 16th president committed "premeditated murder" on the Constitution. He called Lincoln and Civil War generals "Wehrmacht leaders" -- the name for the armed forces in Nazi Germany. He also praised his ancestors for standing up to "Northern aggression" and said the Confederate flag is "a symbol of Christian liberty vs. the new world order."
In two letters, Mauch wrote about the Bible and slavery. The Arkansas Times quotes from a letter Mauch wrote in 2009:
"If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?"
In 2010, it was reported that Mauch was a member of the Sons of Confederates Veterans and the League of the South, which has been described as a "neo-Confederacy" group advocating for second southern secession. Mauch was also reported to have chaired the western Arkansas chapter of the League of the South, which he downplayed as an honorary title. He also helped organize a 2004 conference calling for the removal of an Abraham Lincoln statue in Hot Springs. The conference included a keynote speech entitled "Homage to John Wilkes Booth."

Talk Business
The Arkansas Blog and another post from The Arkansas Blog
amazon.com reader reviews
Huffington Post and another article from the Huffington Post

12 November 2012

My best advice for Pat Robertson...

My best advice for Pat Robertson is:
It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt. (quote attributed to various authors)
"Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."                 –Pat Robertson

Now, let me get this straight, Pat.  The fact that non-Christians and non-believers demand that we uphold the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution that prevents evangelical Christians from receiving special treatment, those evangelicals are suffering more than anything suffered by any minority in history.

Has he never read a history book? Does he not know that Christians still make up about 70% of the U.S. population?  How could they possibly be considered a minority?  And how could they be victims of such widespread discrimination when Christians are in the majority even among liberals, the media, homosexuals and Congress? How can they say they are victims of bigotry when the Republicans have been pandering to evangelicals and the Religious Right for years?

I must have missed hearing about the terrible abuse, discrimination and bigotry Pat is suffering. If it is more terrible than anything suffered in history I must assume that:

Liberals ---just like the Nazis did to Jews (1933-45) ---are taking evangelical Christians from their homes, confiscating their belongings, putting them in concentration camps, starving them, and exterminating them by the millions.  I'm shocked because I haven't heard anything about this.  But then, I guess the liberal media is keeping it out of the news.

Homosexuals ---just like the Inquisition did to Jews (c. 1100-1794) ---are putting evangelical Christians on the rack and torturing them until they agree to become gay.

Congress ---just like slave holders (before the U.S. Civil War) ---is keeping evangelical Christians in captive servitude, beating them, raping their women, denying them an education and the right to vote, and selling their spouses and children to other members of Congress.  

Liberals ---just like the Libyan government (ongoing) ---are bombing its evangelical citizens, destroying their homes, killing thousands of people who don't support them, denying fair trials, and arresting them without formal charges.

Congress ---just like the Communist Chinese (1923-87) ---is responsible for 100,000,000+ deaths of evangelical Christians.

Until  one of those things actually happens, treatment of evangelical Christians is now and never will be more terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.

Pat recently supported the legalization of marijuana.  Maybe he's been smoking too much weed.

You might enjoy the Unreasonable Faith Blog where I originally found this Pat Robertson quote.

11 November 2012

Look in the Mirror, G.O.P.

Whenever a student would complain to my high school English teacher about a grade, she would ask, “What can you do differently to make sure you earn a better grade on the next test?”  Whenever we complained about anything, she  suggested looking in the mirror first to ask ourselves what part we played in the problem before blaming others.

Five days after the 2012 elections, I’ve heard Republicans blame the nation’s demographics, the weather, Democratic attack ads (as if the G.O.P. never aired such an ad themselves) and 50% of the voters who are lazy and just want “stuff.”

I heard very little about looking in the mirror or asking what they, themselves, could do better next time. From the party who insists we all need to take personal responsibility, one would think that would be the first thing they would do.

I know political climates change often and the Republicans may win in 2016 because everyone is tired of the Democrats, but the G.O.P. might ask, “What can we do differently to earn more votes?” because if they keep doing what they’ve been doing, they will not win.  They need to recognize that the majority of Americans cannot accept the far-right ideology they spout.

They cannot win by alienating women.  Most women, even if they are morally against abortion, can accept abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.  Most women ---even a majority of Catholic women ---want access to contraception information and want their healthcare providers to cover contraceptive services.  Women who are against any type of abortion or contraception are not and never would have to avail themselves of either.  Those clueless Republicans who make ridiculous statements, such as those by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, now see the result of not caring about nor understanding women and/or women’s issues. Even the suggestions that there are legitimate and illegitimate rape or that rape pregnancies are a gift from God are insults to every woman in America. By not making a huge outcry, en masse, the Republicans missed an opportunity to be seen by women in a favorable light.

Republicans cannot win when they continue to dog whistle, to use code words that are offensive to specific groups, mostly blacks and other minorities.  To give just one example, Romney’s advisor John Sununu called President Obama “lazy.” Did he not realize that all blacks were considered “lazy” in the deep south before the civil rights movement?  He certainly could have chosen a different word that would have conveyed his thoughts rather than a word to which blacks are so sensitive.  Romney's referring to 47% of Americans as “lazy” emphasizes their dog whistling ---for anyone who is not in the top 53% of wealth in this country. Paul Ryan divided the electorate into “makers” and “takers” ---code words to whip up resentment. Other code words are “welfare queens,” “urban rioters,” and “slackers.” Many of the people who these words described were white, but in the partisan world of the G.O.P., most “slackers” are assumed to be African American. Many Republicans who are the beneficiaries of government pay outs, those who receive crop subsidies or corporations who receive tax benefits for example, don’t consider that to be welfare.  It’s only welfare when someone else is the recipient.

They cannot win by taking a hard-line against the government’s giving people a helping hand. Most of us know that everyone needs to take responsibility for him/herself.  But, some people aren’t smart enough to do that. Others are disabled. Some find themselves in circumstances through no fault of their own, such as those with debilitating illnesses or the victims of hurricane Sandy.  That doesn’t mean that we are Socialists or Communists.  It just means that we are kind-hearted and empathetic.  We know that, at times, some of us need help to keep from falling through government cracks. Most of us don’t want to take anything from the government, but we are comforted to know that help is there if needed. When Romney implies that 47% of us are freeloaders, those of us who have worked hard all of our lives and have never taken anything from the government took offense.

When the G.O.P. initiated state election policies requiring I.D. ---which is much harder for minorities, senior citizens, and the poor to obtain ---there was an appearance of trying to exclude these groups from voting.  In PA, when the legislature was asked to give examples of voter fraud, they could not produce one example.  So what are they afraid of?  Those who know their history, know that in the south, all kinds of chicanery resulted in African Americans being barred from voting.  People who have been oppressed have long memories.

They will not win as long as they seem to care more about the rich than the middle class or the poor.  I saw a poll on NBC’s election night coverage which asked who would be helped by each candidate’s economic policies.  While 29% thought Obama’s would help the poor, 0% percent thought that Romney’s would.  It’s pitiful that a potential leader of our country would be perceived as having policies that would leave out an entire segment of our population. When McCain stated 4 years ago, and Romney recently agreed, that middle class income is about $250,000/year, they were so far off to be laughable.

They cannot win by continuously refusing to raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens.  Everyone complains about paying taxes, but realistically most understand that they go to build roads, educate our youth, and keep us safe.  Many of us who are not in dire economic straights, are even willing to pay a bit more to ensure that others have at least the minimum of necessities. Most Americans only resent paying more than their fair share.

Republicans cannot win by blaming the current economic condition entirely on Obama. Have they forgotten how much the deficit increased because of George W. Bush’s two wars and that the economy collapsed under his watch?  As a nation we refused to impose regulations on an increasingly-greedy banking system.  I don’t say Obama is blameless in the slow recovery, but when the G.O.P.’s main goal was to oust Obama instead of passing needed legislation and doing what was right for American citizens and the economy, they lost credibility.

They cannot win by being against something rather than for something.  In 2004, many people voted against Bush rather than for Kerry.  Bush won.  I don't have statistics to prove it, but I am convinced that a candidate can't win when most are voting against the opponent instead of for that candidate. By being against Obama instead of giving the public strong and specific alternative proposals on key issues ---policies the country could embrace ---they defeated themselves.

Unless they begin to accept people for who they are, the G.O.P. will not win in a society in which more than 50% now accept the idea of gay marriage.  In four more years, the percentage is sure to grow. Gays have been alienated by ridiculous statements from people like Mississippi state Representative Andy Gipson who have not only rejected marriage rights but have said that all gays should be executed. Statements like that from a member of a political party that embraces Christianity is despicable.  Those who think homosexuals can be cured or who can pray themselves straight appear to be clueless, if not harmful.  

They will not win if they continue to be hard-liners about immigration policies and treat foreigners as second-class citizens.  With an ever-increasing Latino population, they will lose more and more votes to the Democrats if they don’t  compromise on a humane immigration policy.

They will not win by staying to the far right of center.  By pandering to ultraconservatives, they lost support from middle-of-the-road Conservatives and Liberals ---the kind of people who enthusiastically supported Reagan. In a recent poll of undecided voters, the majority supported Republican economic policies, but they feared that a Romney/Ryan White House would try to push through a social agenda born out of the Religious Right and Tea Party movements.  

They will not win if they take their social stances from religious conservatives. By pandering to the Religious Right, Republicans alienated many members of mainstream Christian groups as well as non-Christians. Santorum, at times, sounded more like he was running for pope than for president. At last count 20% of the population is not affiliated with a religion.  When asked why, many said that religion’s increasing interference with political issues drove them from organized religion.  They don’t want to be told who to vote for from the pulpit and they don’t want religious leaders to influence political issues any more than policemen, dentists, miners, teachers, or fast-food workers. 

Republicans cannot win by cozying up to people like Rush Limbaugh or Bryan Fischer, a radio talk show host and spokesman for the American Family Association. Fischer verbally attacks gays, lesbians, American Muslims, Native Americans, progressives and other groups he detests. He wants to redefine the Constitution to protect only Christians, persecute and deport all American Muslims, and prohibit gays and non-Christians from holding public office. What’s more, he wants to impose a system of biblical law ---you know, those laws that would require you to kill a disobedient child, stone an adulterer, permit you to sell your daughter into slavery or require a rapist to marry his victim. During the primaries, Republican candidates were attempting to win Fischer’s approval instead of denouncing his attitudes as un-American and un-Constitutional.

The G.O.P. will not win if they alienate young people by refusing to see that the world is changing and that attitudes have changed.  When Romney stated that students should borrow money from their parents to start a business, he alienated many students, especially the children of the unemployed or working poor who cannot afford to loan money to their children for college or to start a business. As long as young voters see Republicans as out-of-touch, stodgy old men who are stuck in something akin to the Victorian era, the G.O.P. cannot win.  

They cannot win by hating Big Bird.  Many parents rely on PBS’s programs to help their children learn, while entertaining them.  Why do Republicans fear educational television?

After 11 years of war, they can’t win by saber rattling about Iran or any other country unless there is a direct threat to the United States.  

They cannot win by threatening to scrap the entire healthcare program, especially when it was based on their own candidate’s Massachusetts plan.  Although the current national plan is not perfect, even the healthiest of Americans realize that, at any time, anyone might contract a devastating disease that would not be covered by an employer’s old-style plan. Without coverage, such an illness could easily bankrupt the patient or his/her family. The coverage of preexisting conditions is one of the program’s best provisions. Instead of threatening to scrap the plan, Republicans and Democrats need to work together to improve it.

They cannot win as long as their overwhelming support is from rich, old, white men, and especially those who throw millions of dollars into the Republican coffers. Despite those millions, many Democrats who pitched in $25, $50, or $100 were able to defeat Romney.

Both parties will continue to be perceived as obstructionists as long as they take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to legislation. Almost everyone hates to compromise, but in matters of state, it is a necessity. However, recent polls showed the public blames the Republicans in Congress who blocked important legislation far more than Democrats.

Currently, anyone who is a member of any (and sometimes more than one) of the groups the Republicans managed to alienate, one had the choice to vote for Obama or a minor-party candidate who had no hope of winning. In the popular vote, Obama won by only 2 percentage points.  In this prolonged down economy and high unemployment, if a mere 3% of the various groups who felt alienated could have been convinced that the G.O.P. cared about and understood their problems or beliefs with a party platform that was more inclusive, many Americans would have thought they had a real choice. Romney could easily have won the popular vote and perhaps the electoral vote, too.

That being said, I don’t mean to say that Republicans have to scrap basic human values. However, they would do well to tweak them.  Many of them claim to have "Christian" values, but the one value they seem to have forgotten is to love their neighbors, be they male, female, young, old, gay, straight, rich, poor, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, non-religious, conservative, liberal, independent, black, white, yellow, red, or brown. 
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