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.
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