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Showing posts from November, 2011

Faithless courage

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I've seen this video going around Facebook, so I thought I'd share my thoughts about it.  Nelson talks about how his faith helps him handle difficulties.  That's great.  That's wonderful.  People who find strength or support in their own faith, go ahead and have that faith.  If it helps you through hard times, that's excellent.  I have no problem with that at all, in fact I think it's good.  Do or believe whatever you need in order to get through the hard times in life.

But, Nelson takes a condescending tone throughout much of the video.  He implies that anyone without faith, without a belief in Christ, is fearful.  Yes, there are lots of fearful people out there.  But, there are just as many religious people who are scared as there are irreligious people.  And, I would be willing to bet that the woman on the plane who was hysterical was also a Christian.  I don't think believing or not believing in a certain deity will make one more or less likely to have…

Happy Holidays

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I personally know people who refuse to do any Christmas shopping at stores that say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".  I think it's rather silly, myself--and I always did, even when I was a believing Mormon.  Now that I've seen this video, I think it's much, much sillier.

When I first watched this, I hadn't actually heard of this Dr. Jeffress or his church before (yes, the Baptist church, but not his specific congregation).  My first thought when I heard him say he wanted to do something "positive" by  making a grinch list was "How is that positive?"  Yes, it is definitely taking action, rather than simply complaining about something.  But, it isn't positive action.  Putting a business's name on a "naughty list" because they don't say "Merry Christmas" is a negative thing, not a positive thing.

Also, as the couple in the video points out, it's hardly offensive to wish someone a ha…

Rationalism

I've had some people express confusion over what my current beliefs are, and some even tell me that I've only expressed what my views are not and not what they are.  So, I'll take this opportunity to try to articulate them properly.  I believe that that all of the following labels apply to me, at least partially: atheist, rationalist, and secular humanist.

I am a rationalist because I believe anything that I feel has been supported by a sufficient amount of logic and evidence (which, would also make me an empiricist).  That is, I believe anything that is logical and for which verifiable evidence can be produced.  I accept as fact conclusions drawn from repeatable experiments, from logic and reasoning, and from my own senses.

I am not a materialist, since I do not believe that all that exists is material in nature.  I am open to the possibility that there are things in existence which have no physical form or manifestation.  What such things might be, I have no idea, nor d…

Giving thanks

In celebration of the day, I would like to give thanks for the following things.

My dear, wonderful Conrad, who brings so many smiles to my face.My kind, loving parents who raised me well and molded me into who I am.My fun, excitable siblings for beating me up and playing with me.My friends, who love me no matter what happens.My teachers, who brighten my mind with education.My students, who give me a sense of purpose and inspire me to always be a better teacher.The peace of mind and self-confidence that come with being truly happy.Facebook, to keep up with all of my friends and family.Google, to tell me the answer to life, the universe, and everything.Facetime and Google video chat so I can see the faces of my family even when I live 2000 miles away.YouTube, to entertain me and educate me about the world, science, and current events.The sun to brighten my day.The rain to make my surroundings green. May we all be truly grateful for the things we have been given.  May we show our gratitu…

Lessons from my parents

I'd like to share some of the things my parents have taught me and how I've used them in my life this year.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I am truly grateful for my parents and the way they have raised me.  I wouldn't be who I am without them.  The words of wisdom are from my parents, but their applications mentioned herein are my own.  So, if you don't like them, blame me not my parents.

One thing I can remember my mother telling me several times is the importance of corroborant sources.  She'd always say that if you can find something from only one source, it's less likely to be true, but if you can find other sources which agree with it, then the chances are much more likely that it is true.  I used this advice first in deciding that being gay is not a choice.  I was always at odds with LDS doctrine because it taught that being gay is a choice and my own personal feelings said otherwise.  Of course, if it's a question of me or the church, I'd …

Be good to your sons

I am very grateful to parents who nurtured me well as a child--parents who let me have my own interests and follow them, parents who fed my curiosities and encouraged me along those paths that I chose.  My mother is probably the most supportive mother in the entire world.  She taught me how to crochet, even when my brother kept saying that was gay.  She supported me when I decided that I didn't want to walk at my high school graduation, when I told my school counselor that she shouldn't tell me I want to major in engineering instead of math, and many many other times in my life.  I have never felt any pressure from my parents to be anything other than who I am.

I am truly grateful for parents that have done this for me.  For parents who raised me the way I am and not the way they wanted me to be.  So often I have seen parents that break their children.  So often I have seen parents dictate to their children what they should or shouldn't be.  So often I have seen children,…

Sound a trumpet before thee

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
-Matthew 6:2 (also 3 Nephi 13:2) The LDS church is very vocal about its charity around the world--helping out those in need, cleaning up after disasters, etc.  To be sure, these are commendable acts, and I am glad that the church does these things.  But it brags about it all the time.  Wherever they have these disasters, they have everyone helping wear the bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirt, so that everyone will know how wonderful Mormons are.  And they make sure to get lots of media coverage to let everyone know anytime they donate food or aid of any sort.  They have their reward.

But, now let us examine just how helpful the church really is.  It certainly puts on a good front of being helpful and caring about people.  So, let's see how much the church does he…

The criminal mind

I think there was a show on television a while back called something like "America's dumbest criminals". I believe I saw an episode or two and was amazed at the stupid things that people do.  So, I just wanted to take some time to share my own personal experiences with the matter.

I'm growing quite nicely into the stereotype of absent-minded professor.  Twice this year I have lost my wallet.  The first time, I left it on the top of my car at a gas station and drove off.  I figured someone would turn it in to the gas station manager so I could come back and pick it up.  Well, I was wrong.  They took my wallet and started making charges on my cards.  The second time happened just a couple days ago.  I was missing my wallet when I went in to school yesterday, but I thought perhaps it was just in some crevice of my couch or something like that, so I figured I'd look for it later.

The irony that I wanted to point out brings us back to the point of criminals being stup…

The scientific method vs the religious method

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I find it interesting when people cite the fact that science keeps changing as a reason to disbelieve it and to believe instead in the "eternal" doctrines taught by some church or other.  Let's examine why science keeps changing.  Here's the scientific method.

Develop a hypothesis (this means "have a belief").Design an experiment to test the hypothesis.Conduct the experiment.Determine whether the hypothesis is believable based on the results of the experiment. This is why science keeps changing--because people notice flaws in it and correct them.  People once thought the solar system was geocentric, but now know that it's heliocentric.  How did this happen?  By using the scientific method.  Scientists are willing to admit that they're wrong.  They're willing to give up a bad idea when they see evidence that it makes no sense.  Contrast this with the religious method (simplified version). Have a belief.Look for evidence to support that belief.Ignor…

Benefits of ex-mormonism

I do feel that in almost every way, leaving the church has been a benefit to me.  There are the obvious drawbacks--I lose a great deal of my Mormon friends and all of the fun mormon activities that I used to participate in, there is a possibility of wedges forming between me and my mormon family, etc.  But, I think for the most part, it has been good for me and I want to take this opportunity to describe those benefits.

When I was a Mormon, I was very judgmental.  As much as I heard lessons in Sunday school about not judging people, as much as I told myself that I shouldn't judge and wasn't a judgmental person, I really truly was.  I didn't even realize just how judgmental I was while I was mormon.  The realization didn't come until after I left the church and looked back (I've heard that hindsight is always 20/20).  I would see someone with a tattoo (my trainer on my mission had a tattoo on each arm) and I would think they were dirty for having defiled their body.…

Just because it's you

As I was fixing myself a bowl of ramen today, I thought of how Karen always had an aversion to ramen--unless I made it.  (The funniest things can trigger the most obscure memories, can't they.)  When we were first married, I remember talking about how much I loved ramen and that I could eat it all the time (and it's so cheap too), and she said that she thought it was gross and preferred her own cooking.  (I prefer home cooking too, but ramen is so convenient and cheap.)  Anyway, one time I made some ramen for myself and Karen wanted to take a bite, so she did--and ended up finishing the bowl for me.  Then a few days later, she made a bowl for herself, took one bite, and didn't want the rest (she's anything but a picky eater, so it was a complete shock that she didn't finish it).  When asked about the difference, she said that she liked the way I made ramen better.

I would notice that over the three years we were married, it seemed as though the food on my plate was…

Sandusky

I don't watch TV, so sometimes I'm a bit behind on my current events.  I just heard about Jerry Sandusky, formerly assistant coach at Penn State.  As I understand it, the man was found guilty of sexually abusing 8 boys over a period of 15 years.  Apparently, since it has been discovered that the head coach (Joe Paterno) knew about this but did not report anything to the authorities, he has also been fired.  I find this whole story to be rather tragic.

Should the head coach have been fired?  I really don't know.  But, what I do know is that knowing about someone who abuses someone else and not doing anything about it is a dishonorable thing to do.  Sexual abuse is a serious thing, and I think that all too often we take it lightly in our society.  If he had it in his power to stop Sandusky from ruining more boys' lives, he should have done it.  Not snitching on your friend when you find out they smoke pot and not reporting someone who you know is sexually abusing childre…

Freedom of religion

This story is actually a couple months old now, but I just heard about it.  Once again, people misunderstand what it means to have the right to practice religion freely.  As you probably know, same-sex marriage has been legal in New York (the whole state) since July of this year.  What does that mean?  That means that anywhere in the state, a gay couple can go to the clerk's office and get a licence to marry, and then proceed to get married through whichever method they seem best.

One town clerk, in Ledyard, has decided to refuse to issue any licences to gay couples, on the principle that it is against her religion.  She claims that she has the right to keep her job and to remain faithful to her religion (by not issuing licences to gay couples).  Let's examine the issue in more detail.

Under the new law, it is a misdemeanor to refuse to offer licences to any couples, including same-sex couples.  Now let us see how the freedom of religion applies when a different law is in que…

Deconversion

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In voicing the fact that my beliefs have changed from the monotheism of Christianity to atheism, I have been told I am attacking other people's beliefs.  Certainly, I have raised concerns I've had with Mormon doctrine, so I suppose that could be considered an attack.  But, in my opinion, being honest about one's own feelings is a good and commendable thing to do, not something that people should complain about.

Conversion to a religion is a very long process and requires a great deal of effort on the part of the convert, which is why it happens so infrequently.  But converting to atheism (or, more appropriately, irreligionism) is very different.  Yes, it takes a long time and it's an involved process, but for different reasons.  There is no ritual that you need to learn and follow, there are no required meetings to attend on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening.  You don't have to learn a new set of rules and make sure to follow them closely whenever you're aro…

Americans over-democratic?

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I think Americans get over-excited about their right to vote on things.  This spirit of democracy floats around so strongly that sometimes it's quite scary.  (Interestingly enough, most people don't even know definitions well enough to realize that America is not a democracy, but that's not the point of this post.)

So, I just came across one of the many polls on Facebook concerning mathematics.  These always make me laugh because it seems as though people believe that the truth can actually be voted on.  So, if enough people vote that 1+1=3, then it can be true.  I think part of this is that people don't like math, part is that they don't understand it, and part is because they want it to be easier than it really is.

So, here was the question on the poll "5 + 5 + 5 - 5 + 5 + 5 - 5 + 5 x 0 = ?".  This is a very simple question.  Anyone with a third-grade education should be able to answer properly.  The order of operations states that multiplication is …

Emotional honesty

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I've been looking around the Internet for forums and support groups for people who leave the LDS church.  There was one site I mentioned before, postmormon.org, that I really like.  They seem to be focused on maintaining a safe and pleasant atmosphere.  I think I'll be spending more of my time there.

Unfortunately, there are other forums where the focus is on anger toward the church itself.  I can understand why people have anger toward the church and toward its members.  I can understand that people have been through a lot of negative experiences during their time as members of the church.  And I do understand the importance for some people to have a place where they can vent their anger and their frustrations.  But, I've found that participation in these forums where the energy is spent attacking the church only serves to make me more angry and bitter inside and I don't like that.

I have seen people shut out all logical thought due to their religious beliefs, and I s…

True Peace of Mind

One of the selling points of Christianity, and other religions, is that it offers peace of mind.  One of the things Mormon missionaries are taught to say is that we know where we came from, why we're hear and where we're going after this life.  This is supposed to give a peace of mind, having finally answered all of life's big questions and giving hope for a brighter future.

The truth is, I did not have peace of mind while I was Mormon.  Yes, I did believe in a wonderful afterlife, and I did hope for a better future.  But, the simple fact is that I was never certain I would make it to the Celestial Kingdom, I wasn't even sure that I would be able to make it.  I put on a strong face for everyone else, because that's what I do, but I was uncertain.  I struggled for well over a decade trying to overcome my addiction to pornography and masturbation.  I was told by my religion that the innate feelings I had toward males were unnatural, that I needed to "overcome&qu…

Entitlement

So, I ran across this interview with Glenn Beck today.  I'm a fan of Glenn Beck.  He definitely has a lot of things to say that make a lot of sense, and some of the things he says in this interview do make a lot of sense.  I've had people tell me that Americans deserve free health care ("free" as in "socialized").  I've had people tell me that medical treatment is a right, that everyone is entitled to.

I agree that it certainly seems unfair to say that one person gets medical treatment because they have enough money for it and another person doesn't because they don't.  I agree that everyone has a right to live--a right to life.  But, I'm not so sure about the claim that medical treatment is a right.  Where do we draw the line?  Is plastic surgery a right?  Is only the treatment required to keep someone alive a right, but anything above that is a privilege?  Does everyone have the right to food anytime they're hungry?  Does everyone hav…

Lessons from Professor Higgins

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One of my favorite musicals of all time is My Fair Lady.  And one of my favorite songs on the show is Rex Harrison's "Why Can't a Woman be More Like a Man?".  Now, having said that, I don't want to be seen as a misogynist.  From what I have seen, women have their own strengths.  There are skills that men have and other skills that women have, and I think that each should employ those skills however they can or wish to do.  Anyone who knew how I treated my dear Karen knows that I am not misogynistic.  For those who are unfamiliar with the musical, here is the song in question.

The part that I'd like to discuss for this post is found around timestamp 4:10 or so.  I'll transcribe it here.
Why is thinking something women never do?
Why is logic never even tried?
Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don't they straighten up the mess that's inside? Of course, the irony is in the fact that for the remainder of the musical, Higgins doesn…

Reparative therapy

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History books have a way of being cleaned up.  We, as humans, don't like to face the ugly truths of our past.  We pretend that certain things never happened.  We turn a blind eye to Chairman Mao slaughtering millions of his own people.  We bury the holy wars from the past.  Yes, we teach about some of these things in our history classes, but it's usually in a sterile intellectual sort of way, and many of us never stop to think about what it was really like--how truly inhuman we can be sometimes.  And, for this reason, many people do not like talking about this sort of thing--about children being abused because they're gay, or about inhumane therapy that has been (and still is) attempted to try to make gay people straight.

The truth is that reparative therapy exists.  Plenty of places exist that claim to change people from gay to straight.  And too many of them use practices that are wholly unthinkable to an enlightened society.  I have heard of electrodes being strapped t…