Monday, October 24, 2016

The Function of Apologetics

I have few evangelical Christians in my life or on my Facebook page anymore.  However, the other day one of them made a comment regarding Yahweh, Hillary Clinton, and abortion. Hillary was bad because of her pro-choice position.  I commented on his page that, Yahweh does not serve as a good moral contrast, citing Deuteronomy 21 where Yahweh instructs his followers to stone their children if they are stubborn and rebellious.

Another friend interjected that I was taking that verse out of context (no one ever complains about context when the pleasant stuff is quoted). She provided a link to an article that explained why that verse didn't really say what it seemed to say. I responded:

As I read through that article, it does little to alleviate the severity of that scripture. For me, at the end of the day, there is no context where I am going to watch the stoning of a child and walk away with an explanation that would justify it to me.

I suspect that when a Christian reads a similar scripture in the Koran, an apologetic explanation would carry no further for them either. They would read it and find it horrific, regardless of explanations their Muslim friend might offer them.

I live in the heart of Mormondom. My evangelical friends have dozens of critiques of Mormon scriptures and history – and Mormons have an answer for every one of them (e.g. Do those answers work? For the Mormon, yes… but not for the evangelical.

The function of apologetics is not to change the mind of the unbeliever- it is to quiet the mind of the believer. No matter the religious stripe, a believer will readily accept an explanation that holds zero water for someone outside the faith. Why? Because the believer is already 95% convinced. They just need the assurance that somewhere out there, the question has been asked and answered. With that assurance in mind, they can proceed along the path – calm and content.

It was the same for me back when I was a believer. The shift came when I began to apply the same standards of judgment to my own religion as well as to others. If something was unacceptable for another religion, then it had to be unacceptable for mine. No longer would I use one set of rules for my beliefs and a different set for the belief of the other. Goal posts did not get to change location depending on whose side was being defended.

I encourage everyone to use the same measure for your faith that you do for others. If you are giving your faith a pass, give that same pass to other faiths. If you have a criticism of another faith, use that same scale for your own.

Rather than engaging my thoughts on the article, she replied, "You are an apostate so I expect that from you."

This exchange was a reminder of why I rarely engage these kinds of exchanges anymore. Outside the evangelical sphere I am a father, teacher, friend, husband, actor, singer, writer, etc. Inside the evangelical sphere there is no need to look any further than apostate.

Her shared article served its purpose. It did nothing to change the mind of this unbeliever, but it soothed her believing mind and halted any possible questions right there.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Does Anyone Listen To The Radio Anymore?

The morning after the Hillary/Trump debate, I decided to pause my usual podcast/audiobook listening to hear radio commentary on the event. What a miserable time that turned out to be. On my drive in to work, over half that time was spent on commercials. What talk there was, occurred in snippets.
I have become spoiled by podcasts. I am used to listening to hour long conversations, rather than 8 minute segments.
Yesterday, I accidently killed my podcast list within the app and have been slowly rebuilding it over the past 24 hours. Here are my primaries that were added back immediately.
  • Skeptics Guide to the Universe - This one is fairly new for me, but has become a favorite. Great science and critical thinking information and discussion - and accessible to a layman like me.
  • Nerdist - A deep catalog of conversations with various artists, musicians, actors, etc. My music and movie choices have been expanded due to this show. Did you know Iggy Pop is fascinating to listen to and seems to be a really great guy? My world expanded.
  • Real Time - I don't have HBO, but they put the whole show up on Podcast each week. I think Bill has some of the best panels out there.
  • Fatman on Batman - I love Kevin Smith. He is a great guy and his enthusiasm for life, comics, and movies is contagious. He also is crazy profane, so it's not for everyone.
  • Beyond The Pale - My brother and sister-in-law do a podcast in Hong Kong. It focuses on the more progressive end of Christianity, but also includes plenty of movies, politics, and adult beverages. I have been on their show a number of times and we are talking about doing it again soon when a topic presents itself. Got any ideas?
While I am rebuilding my podcast database, what are your suggestions for must-listens?

Friday, September 23, 2016

More Podcasting With Beyond The Pale

This past July we three Hackman boys headed back to Shelby Township, Michigan to bid a final farewell to the Hackman Homestead.  My parents, after 40 years on Woodbridge Drive, are doing what most retirees in Michigan do... move to Florida.

While there, my Hong Kong based brother and sister-in-law brought out their podcasting equipment and we sat down with some adult beverages to record an episode.  This was the second time they have had me on their show, Beyond The Pale.  Like last time, our conversation was long enough to justify it being split into a few episodes.

As always, we had a great conversation.  However, this time had the added benefit of my wife chiming in about half way through.  Mary Lee and I have similar, and very different, tales to tell about our journeys out of the evangelical faith we were brought up in. I am glad we were able to include some of her story in our conversation.

You can listen online here:

Episode 021: Time For Christians To Grow Up with Andrew Hackman

Bonus: Race In America

Episode 022: "So I Married A Heretic" with Marylee & Andrew Hackm...

and our previous conversation last winter...

Episode 004: My Brother's Journey to Atheism (Pt 1)

Episode 005: My Brother's Journey To Atheism (Pt2)

If you are an Apple user, you can find Beyond the Pale at ITunes.

You can also keep up with Beyond the Pale on Facebook

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trump - San Dimas High School Football Rules!

I have been a teacher for 24 years.  As such, I can't help listening to Donald Trump with a teacher's ear. I get a student or two like Trump every year. Trump is that student who doesn't study or prepare for a presentation, but skims through the material for a few key words.  He then stands in front of the class and BS's his way through, hoping that getting a laugh or two from his fellow students will distract from the fact that he doesn't know his material.

Trump is the alpha bully student who has the admiration of his fellow trouble makers.  When they insult minorities, women, and the disabled, they get in trouble. But somehow, when he does it, he gets away with it. This earns him a backwards form of respect from the ne'er-do-well.

Trump is the high school jock at the end of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure... mumbling through an ill prepared history essay.  Having nothing of substance to offer, he throws up his hands at the end in a victory salute and shouts, "San Dimas High School football RULES!" This brings the student body to their feet in applause, while the teachers roll their eyes.

But this isn't high school. We aren't voting for prom king. Popularity and adolescent adulation are not going to get the work of the United States presidency accomplished.

Trump is no more qualified than Biff Tannen for the highest office in our land.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Perfect Storm for Trump

Trump literally knows nothing when it comes to the issues he would handle as president. Yet, that does not matter for much of the electorate because he taps into some fear or red meat point that they cannot resist. He :

1. has team support. For many republicans, it simply does not matter how unprepared he is - there is an R next to his name, end of story.

2. has "frat" boy support. Certain personalities love alpha male bluster. His tendency to upgrade his trophy wife every decade or so and bling his name everywhere is seen as a sign of strength.

3. has the racist/bigot crowd. From the blatant David Duke to the person who starts every bigot rant with "I'm not a racist, but..." These folks get all warm and fuzzy every time Trump announces, "I am NOT politically correct!"

4. has the xenophobes. America is a country of immigrants where many fear the latest batch of immigrants.

5. has the bumpkin vote. Trump will get the vote of every moron who resents people who have a high vocabulary. The more ignorance he shows, the more they like him - he speaks their language.

Any of these groups, on their own, do not have a lot of voting power. But for the first time, we have a candidate who can appeal to all of those subgroups. Their combined awfulness may just get him in the White House.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Children and Religion

The video above is an enlightening watch. As I viewed it, I had a number of flashbacks to my own childhood. I traveled in religious circles and attended a school where being "slain in the Spirit", as shown here, was very normal.

The expressions on the faces of the children are so telling - Is this what I am supposed to do? Am I supposed to fall? Is that what you want? Should I be scared?

You can see which children have not yet been brought into the culture and which ones know the game.

And it is a game. It has rules and rewards. You can play it well and you can play it poorly. Acceptance and popularity within the community are determined according to your participation. Whatever one's flavor of religion, you are often instructed from your youngest age how to navigate the culture of your religious community. There are behaviors and rituals which will give you words and looks of affirmation if you partake. There are also ideas and practices which solicit community dismay.

This can sound nefarious, but I don't think that is necessarily so. Impressionable children accept these things because the community encourages it... but likewise, the community received the same directives when they were children... and so on... and so on.

I do think parents can instruct their children without indoctrinating them.  Parents can present information impartially and teach their children to make reasonable judgements. However, it takes a lot of intentionality.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

See You At The Tee Box!

It took until my late 40s, but I finally am into sports. Playing that is, not watching.  Also, it is only one sport.

Disc Golf.

My love of disc golf, like most things in life, happened by chance. I went with some friends one evening to give disc golf a try.  They had played before, years ago, and wanted to give it another run. I did not imagine that I would particularly enjoy the game, but it was something to do.

One game led to another game, and another.  I became interested enough to buy my own discs. I watched some videos to improve my throw.

Before I knew it, I was hooked.

As I thought about it, I realized it grabbed me on a few levels:

1. It is a chatty sport - I enjoy conversation and this was a sport that let me do that.  I grew up playing baseball, and baseball was enjoyable, but not very talkative.  Most sports are all about the game itself.  Disc Golf is another way for me to further conversation.  I have played a few rounds solo, but this sport is best when played with friends.

2. It makes me walk - Most of my pleasures in life are pretty sedentary.  Disc Golf gets me moving. A course it typically 2-3 miles of walking, often at varying elevations.

3. It is FREE - Well, mostly free.  I have invested a few hundred dollars in discs and bags, but to go out and play a round only costs you the gas to take you there.

4. Disc collecting - I have a strand of my personality that likes collecting things.  Discs tap into that. Discs have three distinct purposes -  Driver, mid-range, and putter.  A disc will then vary according to a scale on how far it will throw, and where and when it will turn.  There is quality of plastic. They also differ in weight from 130-180 grams.  Then there is color and print.  I presently have around 40 discs... which is probably 25 more than I actually need.

Disc golf is often compared to traditional ball golf, but I actually find it more analogous to miniature golf.  In disc golf, you spend a lot of time going around, under, and over obstacles.  Big, open power drives exist, but probably on less than a third of the baskets.  Some disc golf courses exist entirely within the woods.

By the way, disc golf goes great with beer.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

It Doesn't Matter. It Just Doesn't Matter.

After Donald Trump hugged the American flag yesterday I created this meme.  My brother questioned why people were offended by his hugging the flag.  I replied that, in my case, there is no offense but plenty of recognition of pandering... on a dark comedy level.

There is this great scene in House of Cards where Kevin Spacey's character, a senator, has to say a few words at a funeral because it is politically expedient. The senator has no particular interest in Jesus or religion... but he took the measure of the crowd and when he spoke to them, he LOVED Jesus and the bible and God above....then he left the podium and turned it right back off again. But the crowd loved it.

Donald Trump loves the spotlight. However, in all of his years seeking the public eye, I don't think anyone would have used the word patriotic when describing him. Patriotism has never been a marker of his public persona. There is nothing in his business practices that shows he would put dedication to country over dedication to profit.

But when he stepped up to the podium, he took the measure of the crowd, realized what would get their juices flowing, and he went and hugged a flag.

Things that would disqualify most folks don't matter to his base.  After every pandering episode or outrageous pronouncement, I hear the chant of Bill Murray at Camp North Star- "It doesn't matter!  It just doesn't matter!" Degrading comments and behaviors toward women? It doesn't matter. Racism? It doesn't matter. Display of thin-skinned pouting? It just doesn't matter.

That is why it will be a long and painful election season. We have many more of these episodes to endure.  Last year if he had hugged a flag, I would have been sure that using Old Glory as part of a political stunt would have ruffled the feathers of a fair amount of his audience - but I know better now. I knew yesterday when I saw that picture that it would have no negative effect. It doesn't matter what Donald Trump does, it just doesn't matter.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Morality Over Obedience

One of the questions I often get as an Atheist is, if I don't have a deity that I worship, where do I get my morality? I contend that receiving a moral code from an authority is always going to be problematic.

People who receive their morality will always be living with contradictions - what they have been told and what they have experienced. In addition, if people have a deity and a holy text like the one I had, they are going to struggle with their authority being inconsistent.

I find that non-belief gives me a much clearer playing field and encourages me to engage my ethical code in ways that I did not when I was a believer.  When I was a theist, I was concerned with whether or not I was obedient.  Now I am concerned with how much help or harm I bring to my world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Love God - Love Your Loved Ones Less

Yesterday, my brother shared an article on Facebook concerning Evangelical pastor Francis Chan's challenge for Christians to stop idolizing their family and put Christ's mission first. He asked for his readers' thoughts. After perusing the article, I wrote:
"A: Chan believes anyone who does not "have a relationship" with his god will be tortured for eternity by said god - so out the gate, I am convinced that his view of god is going to be harmful to humanity. Ergo any thought he has to add about how a believer should go about spiritual pursuits, in my view, is going to be highly suspect.
B. Chan is encouraging you to put the most important relationships of your life on the back burner so you can go out and... well, at this point it gets vague... be radical, and all out, and live over the edge! This too will probably end badly. Not for Chan, Chan will get awesome book deals and speaking engagements out of this. He will get lots of perks.
The followers of Chan? Not so much. They will probably mess up relationships, wax and wane between guilt and euphoria until something gives, and make a lot of financial and life decisions with no more consideration than a role of the dice.
My challenge to Christians... stop idolizing... period."
Then this morning, I read an article by Libby Anne over at Love, Joy, Feminism, where she shared about growing up with that evangelical mindset of near paranoia about making sure everything and everyone in your life was undervalued when compared to God.
"I also remember worrying that I loved my family more than I loved God. I was taught that this was wrong—that it made my family idols. I felt so conflicted over this, and purposed time and again to love God more than I loved my parents or siblings."
Reading both of those articles made me reflect on how real that topic was to me growing up. I regularly saw folks give up various past times and pleasures because they were concerned these things were becoming an "idol" in their life. I many times abandoned enjoyments, passed on opportunities, or sabotaged relationships because I thought these things would "hinder my walk with God". Jesus needed to be ultimate (whatever that meant) and nothing could even be a close second.

One of the musical heroes in my circles growing up was named Keith Green. I lived and worked at Green's ministry for 6 months when I was 18.  He wrote a song where he pointed out that everything in his life took 2nd place to Jesus. Keith speaks of his marriage in this way:
"As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead, than to love her more than the one who saved my soul."
There was a time when I heard that song and that line and felt it was a powerful testimony of dedication to Jesus - now I see it as a dysfunctional mess.

Imagine a husband insisting to his wife that she love him more than the children. Contemplate what kind of mother would tell a daughter that, if the daughter loved her brother more, then the daughter was unworthy of her mother's love.

Does any reasonable person consider this jealous, competitive perspective in any way loving?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Journey to Atheism - Part 2

Here is part 2 of my discussion with my brother about leaving the faith. We talk about why I couldn't stop at Agnosticism and what effect this all had on my family. If you haven't listened to Part 1 yet, you can find it here:  Part 1

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Journey to Atheism - Part 1

I want to recommend to you my brother's podcast. Steve is a Christian believer whose faith journey has led him to ... more open pastures ... in the past half dozen years. Steve and I have both gone through a lot of changes over our decades as brothers, but no matter where we were politically, philosophically, or religiously, we have always managed to have excellent dialogue. One reason is because Steve, at his core, is a great conversationalist and that really comes through in the podcast. Be it discussions of faith, stories from his month long walk on the Camino de Santiago, or opinions about the latest Star Wars movie, his new podcast has proven to be a worthy listen on my list.

In his latest episode, Steve interviews me about my journey from a life of faith to atheism. We talk about Hell theology, life among the Mormons, and how Evangelicals respond to diversity.  We had a great conversation, in fact, it lasted over 2 hours. So Steve split it in half and this is part one. Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2016

In Defense of the Smartwatch

When the Apple watch was first coming out, I remember an Apple friend of mine arguing on Facebook that there was no point to it.  In fact, he felt that watches in general were passé. Why wear a watch when you have a phone in your pocket?

I couldn't disagree more.  I started with my first smartwatch back in the mid 90s.  I had a Timex Datalink watch which housed my contacts, tasks, and calendar from my computer. In transferred the information by flashing lines across the screen which the watch read with an "eye" on the watch face. This was before anyone was carrying around a Palm Pilot.

Admittedly, PDAs and smartphones seemed to remove the need for a smartwatch.  Once I started carrying a Palm, the need to export my information to my watch seemed redundant.  However, the smartphone added a whole new layer to the personal assistant experience, and I find that a smartwatch really allows one to better use all the functions of their phone.  Let me list the ways my smartwatch makes my life easier.  I have a Samsung Neo Gear 2.
  • Texting - I do not need to fish my phone out of my pocket to see a text or respond to it.  Sure, for longer responses I do.  But often, I am in a meeting or in class and can look at my watch and reply with a number of pre-set responses like yes, no, or I'll text you after my meeting.
  • I can take a call on it.  I admit, when I first saw this as one of its features I thought "Why in the heck would anyone talk on their watch rather than pull out their phone?!"  Actually though, I find myself doing it all the time.  Most often it is when I am at home, and my phone is on a charger somewhere.  Rather than running upstairs or downstairs to grab my phone, I just take the call on my watch.
  • Vocal commands.  My watch is connected to my phone's AI.  So pretty much anything I could ask or command on my phone, I can do on my watch.  Weather, setting appointments, general questions.  A press of the button on my watch is often more convenient and faster than grabbing my phone out of my pocket.
  • Pedometer.  My watch replaced my Fitbit.
  • Find my phone.  If I can't find my phone, I hit a button on my watch and my phone will ring. Concordantly, my phone can find my watch.
  • Never forget my phone.  If I step more than 30 feet from my phone, my watch vibrates to let me know I have moved out of range.  This has kept me from leaving the phone on a charger at home or at work dozens of times.
  • Silence the ring or alarm.  So often in a meeting or class, someone's phone starts blaring and everyone looks over in annoyance as the owner fishes through purse or coat to silence the foghorn that is their phone.  Actually, I have all notifications silenced since my watch merely vibrates to notify.  But even if there were a noise coming out of my phone, a quick tap of my watch would silence it.
In addition to all of that, there are apps being added every day that may be of use to you in particular. I use my timer app at work almost everyday.  I have a flashlight app that helps me navigate the house at night.  There are also hundreds of watch faces that will cater to your particular tastes or information needs.
Smartwatches may remain in the niche' market, but may they ever remain.

Monday, February 08, 2016

What To Do With An Old Tablet

If you are like me, you tend to collect old electronics.  You upgrade, and the old item falls out of use.  It still works, but like Woody and Buzz, they end up under the bed or in an old drawer... unused.

This was the case with two old android tablets I owned.  Having upgraded, they sat.  With the market flooded with cheap tablets, it is hardly worth it to try to sell them on Ebay.  Besides, they are both quirky.  One only charges when the power is off and the other has a battery indicator that always says full.

So, I have brought them to my classroom.  My second graders use them for Klotski, chess, and other logic games.  There are also apps where they can practice their grammar and math.

I am guessing that some of you also have unused tablets lying around gathering dust.  If you would like to give them a second life, would you consider sending them to my classroom?  Here they can live out their twilight years with a child.  If I get enough of them, I may start using them for centers.

If you have one that is ready to move on, drop me a line at, and I will send you my school address.  Thanks!

***** You may have noticed my previous page requesting old Palm Pilots.  We have been making good use of those but, honestly, they are a lot of work to maintain.  The older ones are always needing battery swaps, the newer ones don't hold charges very long - plus syncing them is no small chore.  Also, getting apps has been difficult as most links are long dead.  So, I am hoping I can do something similar, but easier, with old tablets.
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