Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense


Increased absurdity

Huh?!?I didn’t think it was possible. I mean, Sarah Palin has pretty much been the definition of the phrase "inane absurdity" (I know that comes perilously close to being redundant) for well over half a decade*, but today she appeared on The Today Show and was briefly interviewed by Matt Lauer. She has a new book about the (fictitious) "War on Christmas" but he first asked her some questions about the health care law, Chris Christie, and general politics before getting to the book.

I’m almost sure there wasn’t a single thing she said that was not either blatantly false or patently absurd. I cannot fathom why… no… wait. I can fathom why this woman still has a public platform, but it pains me to think there are  enough people in this country to voluntarily and enthusiastically provide it for her. That so many either agree with or believe her is truly indicative of a sad state of affairs in this country.

If only McCain had chosen someone else.

* Palin would occasionally lend the definition to Michele Bachmann.

Christmas Eve Revelation

Me: Are we planning on going anywhere today?

Lori: No.

Me: Then why am I wrapping presents without an iced vodka drink?!?!? FFS!!!

(the situation has been remedied)

Christmas Animatronics

There’s something creepy about animatronic bears.

I was  at a friend’s mom’s Christmas party yesterday and her house is amazingly decorated with animatronic characters, four Christmas trees, animated villages, lights, bows, bells, garlands… the works. It’s wonderfully festive.

Some of the animatronic characters are in a bit of shadow and while looking at the slowly-moving bears, I was just a little bit creeped out… so I decided to run with it and took some video using my phone. Adding a bit of not-particularly-festive music changed the whole vibe from festive to disturbingly creepy.

There you have it!

A Better Approach

At the beginning of last month, I wrote about the Freedom From Religion Foundation‘s sign at the Olympia, Washington capitol building, stating that I wasn’t all that pleased with the approach they took with the wording of the sign. Since then, I’ve read a lot (and I mean a lot) of commentary about that situation and have decided two things.

First, I think the point of displaying the sign wasn’t to further atheism, per se, but was more to demonstrate the point that government buildings shouldn’t be hosting religious displays of any kind. Not only was the FFRF’s sign displayed, but because of the “open door” policy required due to the Alliance Defense Fund’s lawsuit, there were displays requested  for other “religions” as well (Pastafarianism, Festivus) including an application by the Westboro Baptist Church to put up a sign declaring that “Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell.” It turned into quite a fiasco which, to anyone who wasn’t too incensed to miss the point, demonstrates in grand fashion just why religious displays have no place in government buildings.

Second, I still don’t think it was the best approach. FFRF’s stated goals are (from their bylaws) “to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.” I think both of those goals are admirable and could have been accomplished in a way that would have brought far less scorn to atheists.

I read this article today by David Gleeson (who has a similar view about the situation) and was impressed with his suggested alternate message.

At this season, may reason triumph over fear and superstition, and may we renew our commitment to life, love, and the bonds of our shared humanity.

That’s good stuff.

David makes a number of other good points in his article as well and I especially agree with him about the absolute statements in the FFRF’s sign. Dan Barker of the FFRF should know better. Lack of evidence does not necessarily mean lack of existence. It might. It might not. We don’t know and we cannot possibly know… for certain. Claiming to know with certainty cripples us in the same faith-based trap as religion. Based on the evidence (or lack thereof in this case), I can believe there is no god, but I cannot know there is no god.

So David’s softer, more positive message is a winner in my book. I think it would have been a much better approach. It  probably still would have stirred up enough controversy to make the “separation of church and state” point, but it would have done it without putting another black mark on atheists.

Time to Relax

Well, almost all of the Christmas festivities have ended around here. We have a little more gift exchanging to do tonight and then I think all the focus goes to New Year’s Eve.

It’s a very quiet day today. I can almost hear Bill O’Reilly’s blood pressure dropping as he packages up his imaginary “War on Christmas” for next year. The various frenzies over religious displays are beginning to wind down, with people on all sides of the issue meandering off shaking their heads in disgust or dismay (or both). Christmas seems to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.

Here at our house, however, Christmas just rocked. Everyone at the various family gatherings got along wonderfully and there wasn’t even an inkling of tension or annoyance (that I noticed, anyway). The people were fun, the food was great, the gifts were wonderful and, once again, my wife did phenomenol job with the decorations and the cooking… and all the other stuff that she does behind the scenes to make things go smoothly.

Now if I can just keep from gaining 10 pounds from all the leftovers in the fridge…

Not the Best Approach

In Washington state, Olympia’s Legislative Building has a new display up for December along with a traditional Christmas display. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (of which I am a member) has been allowed to place an engraved sign for the month. The sign is in response to a religious group suing to be allowed to display a manger scene, which is now displayed in the building. The FFRF sign reads:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Now, while I usually fully support the endeavors of the FFRF and their actions that promote the separation of church and state, and I support the right to display this message when other religion-related displays are allowed, I just seem to think that the chosen wording was not the best choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with the words and their meaning. I just think that it comes off as too confrontational and hostile to be of any benefit. It’s the type of wording that will elicit responses of equal or greater hostility. It immediately puts believers on the defensive. It immediately offends believers. It’s a negative message.

I think it would have been perfect if it would have glorified reason and the natural world without the second and fourth sentences. It could have touted the wonders of natural selection. It could have promoted freethinking and rationality. It could have lauded the benevolence and charity of the human spirit. Instead, it acts as a red hot poker of divisiveness.

The Foundation’s billboards and other signs do a better job of positive promotion. Their “Imagine No Religion” billboards and “Reason’s Greetings” billboards are perfect examples. Even the American Humanist Association’s ad that says “Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness sake.” doesn’t convey the same confrontational tone.

Getting people to think about religion and why they believe what they believe is key. I truly believe that most religious people don’t think about it… truly think about it. It’s something that has been ingrained in them since they were old enough to understand words and it’s taken for granted. Most religious “study” is study of the Bible or of other holy books… the theology… and doesn’t address whether the basic premise makes sense or not. Having people start thinking about it at that level is what will open minds.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s latest sign stops it from happening altogether.