Saturday, December 29, 2012

Putting God Back in Schools

I read this letter in the Deseret News today (local Salt Lake Paper):

The National Rifle Association has proposed setting armed guards at all schools and supplying NRA volunteers to help. Concepts surrounding the arming and training of teachers have been suggested. Putting in safety glass and locking doors from the inside of schools has failed before.

Let's go all the way to the top and just put God back into our schools. We would have a fight in Congress, and many secularists would oppose an increase of God in a public place. Yet in courts of law and public monuments, the Ten Commandments are displayed.

If you cannot trust in a God who answers prayers of faith, what can you believe in? Congress?

Lyle Tillett


My eyes were drawn to the author's "secularists" comment.  He is right, I would oppose it - but almost assuredly not for the reasons and motivations he has dreamed up for me in his head.

However, in reality, the "secularists" would never NEED to stop it.  The effort would implode long before any "secularist" had to step in.

The varied religions tend to only play nice together when they have a common enemy... witness how nicely many Mormons and Evangelicals did when they worked together to try to stop the anti-Christ from gaining a second term.  But it never lasts.

Imagine how Baptists would react to a Catholic prayer invoking Mary.  How well would most Christian faiths react to a Mormon prayer thanking God for his revelation to Joseph Smith?  Can we end our prayer with "Allahu Akbar"?  What about Eastern ancestral prayers?  The Hindu pantheon?  Oh, this is America - so Christian only?  So much for our Judeo-Christian foundation.  Then how bout' just no Jesus in the prayer? Watch the Evangelicals have a tantrum!

No, this would never make it as far as the "secularists".

To quote the Joker:

"These... civilized people.... they'll eat each other."

It is the end result of religion.  They tend to think much like the Immortals in Highlander - there can be only one.

Therefore YOUR religion has to go!

I would be inclined to just pull up a lounge chair, a bucket of popcorn, and watch the show - but unfortunately, these religions cause an awful lot of collateral damage with their theological game of King of the Hill.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

600 Posts

In just a few months, this blog will be 10 years old! Crazy. I started out making about a dozen posts a year, which grew to over a dozen posts a month. That has lessened as I have found myself conversing more on Facebook, but I still find a use in writing things here.

For one thing, writing on Facebook thoughts scroll away and are rarely heard from again. Blogging keeps a nice, searchable, topical record. It is easier for me to track my evolution of thoughts on a blog.

As the title indicates, this is my 600th post. My article on the Truth Project is my most popular post with over 8,000 views. It also has the most comments for any article I have written. However, Facebook Faith #5 moved into a quick second the other day. It received over 4,000 views in just a few days after Rachel Held Evans mentioned it offhandedly in an article she wrote - it's not what you write, but who links it. :)

It has been fun to get to know a lot of people though this blog over those 10 years. A number have become Facebook friends whom I interact with so regularly, I have to remind myself that I have never actually met them.

For those of you who stop in regularly or on occasion, thank you! I hope this post finds you well and enjoying life. We'll talk again soon!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Yes Mr. Hackman, There Are Elves!

Notice the similarities...

I have been teaching for 21 years - pretty much exclusively in the upper elementary. A few turns of fate this year sent me to the other end of the elementary spectrum. I am now a 2nd grade teacher. It has been a blast, but every once in a while my "newness" to this age group comes shining through.

For example, today I was going over fiction and non-fiction.... when I forgot I was teaching second graders.

Me: So, for example I took my son to see The Hobbit this weekend and since it contained magic rings, and wizards, and elves, and trolls... that would make it fiction.

Student: Except for the elves... that part could be non-fiction.

Me: The elves could be non-fiction??

Student (looking at me incredulously): Well, yeah.... if they are NORTH POLE ELVES!

Me: .......... ...... ...... yeeeesssss.... I obviously..... had movie/hobbit elves on the brain......

Student (rolling his eyes): Sheeeesh!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Facebook Faith #5 God is Allowed in Schools

Every time a tragedy happens I hope and hope the religious will refrain from saying something mind-numbingly stupid.  I have had to learn to live with disappointment.

Within hours of a school shooting, talking heads are on TV and the faithful are on Facebook declaring that we should expect nothing else - because we have kicked God out of our schools.

It seems god is impotent.  Like a vampire, he cannot enter a residence unless he has been invited.

To be fair, there are plenty of religious folks who flee such theology like said vampire from a crucifix. Throughout most of my time as a Christian (I can't say all), I loudly condemned such a horrid view of the Divine.

Still, it is a thoughtless position that the thoughtless like to proclaim.  Such logic did not hold when an Amish school also experienced this horror.  The view they present of their deity is one that no decent person would want any part of.

I often, as a teacher, have to remind some of my friends and family that no deity has been kicked out of our schools. Their deity has simply lost preferred status.... and to them, equality seems awfully unfair. They want dominance; or they will cry persecution.

Any child may pray in our schools. Any child may read their holy book in our schools. They can talk about their deity.

What the school cannot do is take sides. It cannot show preferential treatment. The Evangelical God must share the space with the Catholic God and the Hebrew God and the Muslim God and the Hindu Gods and ad infinitum.... They even have to share the space with those who acknowledge no gods.

As a teacher, I am to remain neutral. I consider it a good thing if, at the end of the year, my students have no idea what my particular religious proclivities are.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Morality Without Religion

I was recently at a dinner party where I was seated next to an ex-pastor.  I had a very pleasant conversation with him.  He recently had a bad experience with church (thus his EX-ness).

I actually wish that every religious person would be wounded by their fellowship.  I know that sounds awfully hostile of me, but I have found it leaves such people much less enamored with the us/them dichotomy that religious circles tend to foster.  When that happens, they are so much more... real.

As such, when I spoke with him, he did not seem put off by my Atheism.  Nor did I get the sense that he felt an obligation to evangelize me.  We just talked.

He did have a few questions though.  Since they were asked sincerely, I answered them sincerely.

One thing he was curious about was my morality. If all I had to live for was this life, why be moral? Why not do whatever I wanted? This is a common question among believers. Many believers expect a life of rampant debauchery to develop if one is without faith. I have a few friends who left their faith around the same time I did - and we all still love our wives and children, do good jobs at work, and are upstanding members of our community. :)

I can only speak for me, but I don't think a deity is needed for morality. In fact, I think a belief in a deity often hobbles morality and ethical development.

For me, right and wrong, good and bad, can be arrived at by thinking how my actions affect those around me. Does what I do or say cause harm, or does it bring life? Does it build up, or tear down? Empathy is key and no deity needs to be involved with that.

I have also found that, since leaving the faith, my ethical actions have become much more clear. When I was a believer, there were always varied layers of guilt and ulterior motives guiding my actions - it was hard to find my real self under all that mess. Now I do good things BECAUSE they are good. I avoid bad things BECAUSE they are bad... not because I am in fear of some cosmic retribution.

Believers often struggle with morality because they rarely get a chance to develop an ethic on a clear playing field - theirs is very cluttered. Take something as straightforward as genocide... wrong right? Not for the believer. The believer doesn't get to define that as wrong because they have to leave wiggle room for all the times their god did it. Yes, it is bad...but ... not... always..... The Christian scriptures are rife with bad that has to be redefined as good in order to leave the deity blameless. You do that long enough and you start to lose track of which way is up.

Also, many believers defer ethical development for simple obedience. By never making ethical choices, they never flex their ethical muscles. For example, I once heard Mark Driscoll (a hell-fire-and brimstone pastor) say during a sermon, "No hell? If there is no hell.... well, then I am going to the strip club tonight!" Since his faith deems strip-clubs a no-no, he doesn't go; but his only reason for not going is a fear of cosmic punishment. He has never worked out ethically, for himself, whether he should go or not. He has out-sourced his ethical decision making process and in doing so has caused his ethical base to atrophy. Mark Driscoll probably considers himself a deeply moral man, but I would argue that his morals are built on sand.

In the end, if this is all I have, my life becomes MORE precious. My decisions are more pertinent. What I do matters - for my wife, children, friends, community, students. I have no guarantees, so I need to make what I do count.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Missing Element


The first full trailer was released for Man of Steel today.  I am geeked to see it, no doubt.  Still, the trailer was missing something... that heart expanding score!  You know it!  There is something about those horns blaring out that classic Williams' theme that causes the adrenaline to kick in!

It made me think think about other movies of recent years.  To be honest, a lot of great movies lately have lacked an easily recognizable, tell-tale theme,  that begins playing in your mind's memory at the merest mention of the movie title.  When I was a kid, associating a movie with its score was normal.

For example, clear your mind and think of:


You heard it, didn't you?  Now try:

Star Wars

Or how about:

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Heck, even:


The list could go on:  Star Trek, Jaws, Close Encounters, ET, James Bond.....

You left the theater humming the tunes of these movies.  I remember walking home from the Hampton theater in Rochester as a kid, trying to keep the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme in my head.

However, it seems a lot of the super-hero and modern sci-fi flicks are lacking in this department.  I enjoyed Thor and Captain America... but I couldn't hum two bars of their themes.  The Avengers may have been one of the best comic book films to date... but nada on the the music score.  Inception was amazing... do you remember a tune?  Me neither.  Harry Potter is memorable... but I am reaching all the way back to 2001 for that one.

Has the score for  a movie become less important... or is my view slanted by age?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Grumpy Kitty Meme

I laugh and laugh when I see Grumpy Kitty Memes.  His face is just awesome.  If someone adds a good phrase, all the better.

I decided to try my hand at one, but none of the generators had the combination pic I wanted, so I made this one from scratch.

I dedicate it to Bill O'Reilly and all the other good soldiers out there fighting the "War on Christmas."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Product Review: Neato VX-21

Steve hard at work
A few weeks ago we purchased the Neato VX-21 robot vacuum.  We were encouraged to take the plunge because of the wonderful job our Mint was doing with the hard floors in our home.

There are a lot of robot vacuums out there to choose from and the VX-21 seemed to be the one that consistently pulled ahead in the reviews.  I watched a number of videos on Youtube by folks who owned the VX-21 and some other brand.  The VX-21 always won out. One reviewer noted that his other robot was "just a sweeper with some suction", whereas the VX-21 was a full-fledged vacuum. He sent his Roomba around first followed by the VX-21. When comparing, the VX-21 pulled more dirt out of the floor even though the Roomba had first dibs.

My own experience is that it picks up a lot of dirt,more so than what I get by merely using the vacuum cleaner. The simple fact is that both my robots spend MUCH more time with the floor than I am willing to. Our VX-21, nicknamed "Steve", takes about 40-45 minutes to do our small 3 bedroom/loft/hallway upstairs.

Steve can be programmed to vacuum at certain times, but to be honest we haven't used that function yet. I usually do a quick sweep through the upstairs to pick up any small items that Steve might accidentally suck up. Steve has great sensors, so he hugs walls and items closely, but rarely touches them. He will clean to edge of the stairs with no worries of going over. When finished, he returns to his charging station. His dirt catcher snaps in and out easily for quick disposal.

I also carry Steve downstairs to vacuum the basement.  Since his charger is not there, he will simply return to where he began when finished.

My wife and I couldn't be more pleased with our purchase.  Not only does the VX-21 do a great job and give us one less thing to concern ourselves with, but we know our house is cleaner due to the regularity and duration of vacuuming that is now occurring.

Buy it.  You will not regret it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Facebook Faith #4

Continuing with my commentary on Facebook religious posts...

I thought this one was great because, as we approach Christmas, many American Christians find their "Christ-like" behavior flying right out their snow covered window.  Winter and Holiday parties at their kids' school, no Merry Christmas from the cashier, Fox News stoking their already sensitive persecution complex...  they would never utter the words, but their attitude SCREAMS out in a Clark Griswald-like rant :

"Can't we just keep the Mother *******  CHRIST in Mother ******* Christmas???!!! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Facebook Faith #3

Of course, witty sayings and pictures do not merely come from believers on my Facebook newsfeed.  I also have my agnostic and atheist friends whose material floats by.  I thought this one was striking.

It reminded me of the movie The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington.  In it, Gary Oldman's character, Carnegie, is a warlord type leader in a post-apocalyptic town.  In this future, religious books had all been destroyed long ago because of the dissension they created.  Carnegie believes that if he can get his hands on Eli's bible, he can control people on a level greater than he had been able to previously.  He says:

"IT'S NOT A @#$%^ ' BOOK! IT'S A WEAPON. A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, @#$%^' town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they'll do exactly what I tell 'em if the words are from the book. It's happened before and it'll happen again. All we need is that book."

This meme is a play on the old NRA line "Guns don't kill people, people do."  With this phrase, the NRA attempts to move responsibility off the gun and on to the people using them.  Many people argue that the gun gives destructive power to the people and therefore can't be dismissed.

So what responsibility do you think gods have for the destruction wrought in their name?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Facebook Faith #2

Here is another post that goes around this time of year on Facebook. It is a re-write of The Night Before Christmas poem and it starts:

Twas the Month before Christmas 
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.
See the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas -- no one could say.

It goes on to bemoan all of the attacks on Christmas by evil liberals and godless secularists. It uses words like inclusiveness, sensitivity, and diversity as if they were curse words. Of particular note to me was its dig on public school teachers (of which I am one). It says:

The children were told by their schools not to sing
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feelings, the teachers would say
December 25th is just a ' Holiday '.

I had to reply:

Yeah those teachers are the worst. I appreciate the teachers who will take a stand and make sure those Jewish, Islamic, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, etc, children are all coerced, peer-pressured, or shamed into singing praise songs to Jesus (cause that would make Him happy). Makes me miss the days when it was acceptable in America to force convert Native American children in school... and by God we did so! What dark days we are in when children are no longer forced to give preference to the one truth faith.

You can read the entire poem, in all of its whiny glory, here.

See Facebook Faith #1

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Facebook Faith #1 Failing God

Probably half of the posts that drift through my newsfeed on Facebook are from friends and family proclaiming something about their god. Sometimes it is a saying or idea that would fit well into any healthy personal philosophy, but very often there is something damaged being proclaimed. I think I may make it a regular feature to take an example like the picture on the right and address how, I believe, it is problematic.

The writer fails his god daily? Really? He got up this morning, made his coffee, went to work, took the kids to soccer practice in the evening, read them a story before putting them to bed...

.... yet he failed his god?!


Well, in truth he did not; but he has been programmed in his faith to THINK he did. His default position is to think of himself as a failure before his god.

Nice, eh?

The above phrase was posted by a Christian. The common view of God in Christianity is that of a father. Can you imagine a father who would encourage his daughter to think of herself as a failure before him? What would become of such a child?

You don't have to imagine very hard. Most of Christianity holds such a view of their Father God. Look throughout Western culture. Is it any wonder that the Christian religion in the West struggles with control issues? People who carry a broken self-image are going to struggle with relationships.

Here is a lighter version of that same kind of post.

Christians like Lowry are trying to move more toward the love side of the equation... yet he still sees himself as drowning in "sin". Even though he has accepted Jesus, been washed, redeemed, sanctified, justified.... whatever... he still appears to see himself in a largely negative light.

This is bad, bad, bad for the psyche.

My Christian friends and family... you will probably stay Christian... but can you at least eject this very damaging self view? If you do something wrong - repent, make restitution, apologize, make it right as best you can. Then let it go.

Letting your default life position be that of a failure and a wretch is a choice. It is a choice that harms not only you, but all those around you.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Liars ....

I think it is amusing that, after years of listening to my conservative friends bemoan every news source other than Fox and AM talk radio as being hopelessly biased, their sources were not just biased... but deceptive.  Bias means you have a lean because of your starting point... Fox and company just lied... and the numbers show it.  Fair and Balanced is a lie.  We Report, You Decide is a lie.

O Reilly - Liar

Hannity - Liar

Limbaugh - Liar

Beck - Liar

Fox News - Liars

Drudge, Rove, Morris  - Liars

A Host of Conservative Web Sites - Liars!

I'll sift through some bias for the truth any day - over the conscious lies of the conservative newstainment behemoth.


Friday, November 09, 2012

The Sky Is Falling - Once Again

Leaving a birthday party for his father, evangelist Billy Graham, Franklin Graham said that Tuesday's election results sent America further down a "path of destruction," WCNC reports.

In particular, Graham was referring to the re-election of President Obama, a man he has accused of "waving his fist before God" by supporting abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

He added: "I want to warn America: God is coming around. He will judge sin, and it won't be pretty." - via

My goodness... I grew up in conservative evangelical circles and have heard this drivel for 30+ years.  When are these people going to put away their "THE END IS NIGH!" signs and realize they are the biggest "cry wolf" bunch the world has ever seen!?

In 2008, these same folks were predicting the end of the world, economies crashing, churches being forcibly closed, and dozens of other listed dooms that NEVER came to pass.

Yet here they are again, banging the same drum.

These people are the pharisees and goats of their own scriptures, and they can't see it.

Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." ~ 2 Peter 2:22

Sunday, November 04, 2012

God is Good All The Time?

God is good all the time!!

This phrase just floated past my Newsfeed in Facebook... as it does on a semi-regular basis.

What occurs to me when I read this is:

This person either has no consistent marker for the word good, or they feel tremendous pressure to proclaim things as good which they know are not.

A 5 year old gets cancer and suffers a miserable death.

Is this good? Anytime?

Of course, what usually gets tossed back is that, in our finite perspective, we can not judge God using those words. We simply don't see how he sees.

Well, if you can't use that word to judge him, then you shouldn't use that word to describe him. The word "good" in this case has been rendered completely meaningless.

(I note that many of the Old Testament authors wrote in a lament format at times... they did not seem to have these alternate definitions of words to use when speaking of their God.)

It could also be that the person who says "God is good, all the time" has fitted themselves with a thick set of rose colored glasses, that can focus on good events while being blind to pain.

There is a great Ren and Stimpy episode where Stimpy becomes concerned that Ren is not happy enough. He invents a device that MAKES Ren happy. Whether Ren feels it or not... a smile is forced and his eyes shine with glee. Smiling endlessly becomes unbearable.

Sometimes life just sucks. There is nothing to be particularly happy about... and being forced to be happy when you are sad is just one more burden. Grief is something to be passed through, not painted over.

Life isn't good ALL the time... and that is just life.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

On Wednesday, Life Will Go On

Disney's Hall of Presidents
Well, I didn't get a lot of takers yesterday when I offered people the chance to say something nice about the opposition (thanks to the two of you on FB that did).  Perhaps it was a little too optimistic a notion 4 days before the election.

Watching on FB, there are people on both sides of the isle who believe America is doomed if "the other guy" gets elected.  However, history contradicts this postulation.  We have had 44 presidents who also had opponents who were convinced America would end upon their election... but it didn't; neither will it this time.

Come Wednesday, America will go on.  We will clean up the East Coast.  Everyone will go back to work.  Students will go to school.  McDonald's will be serving coffee in the morning for a dollar.  Even Glenn Beck will still be on my radio, predicting the end of civilization and hawking gold.

Like I said, everything will go on.

Jesus and Chicken Pot Pie

My friend Brook and I grew up as committed Christians.  We had many great theological conversations over the years.  However, as we got older our apostasy grew... and this is about as theological as our conversations get now....

  • this picture got me thinking...they should serve chicken pot pies at the Lord's table every once in a while, because I'm pretty sure Jesus and his disciples didn't just eat bread and wine all the time, I'll bet they had chicken sometimes too...
    One of these things is more important than the other...
    One of these things is more important than the other...

    • Andrew Hackman "at the Lord's table we unite"
      Unless it is a closed communion... then we divide again... no chicken pie for you!
    • Brook Downs yeah, but the people serving communion don't know who's in or out, so it's kind of a voluntary division and self-exclusion. they don't ask for id or anything, so you could go up and get some communion if you really wanted to, and then you could be all "in your face!" about it afterwards to them, and then maybe they'd start checking membership cards.
    • Brook Downs plus...doesn't that look like a pot pie in the picture?

    • Andrew Hackman or a donut... or a biscuit... I might be more inclined to take communion if it had good wine and something edible...
    • Brook Downs that does not look like a donut. seriously, wtf is wrong with you?

    • Andrew Hackman You can picture a little jelly, just our of sight, in the middle there.... it is a very fresh jelly donut that is hiding its jelly
    • Brook Downs no. no you can not.

    • Brook Downs that is either a picture of the body of Christ, or it is a pot pie.

    • Andrew Hackman Well, if its a pie, it has a two inch thick crust on top....

    • Brook Downs also, has anyone ever actually been turned away from communion? I mean, if you don't believe what that church believes, then what the hell are you doing in their church anyway? why would you even want their communion? is this some sort of religious affirmative-action scenario? non-believers being bussed in to churches?
    • Andrew Hackman Well no... other than they tell you up front that their communion is for X people.... which is fine... but that dispels the unity line... and your chicken pie with it.
    • Brook Downs I think maybe churches would be more inclusive on chicken pot pie day. in fact, maybe that's the solution - bread and wine for believers, chicken pot pie for everyone else.
    • Andrew Hackman That would be the end of the church... believers would walk up front, have the option of wine from a common communion cup that contains remnants of the previous person's spittle (or a thimble's worth from a brittle plastic shot glass) and a really bad wafer... or pot pie with a two inch golden flaky crust. You are going to have scores of believers announcing "fuck that", and then going off with pagans to eat pie.
    • Brook Downs and that's why there's the doctrine of hell, so people won't choose a chicken pot pie over their eternal salvation.
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