Angry Atheists

Last night I got into a “discussion” with an atheist, on the Internet, about religion. I’m sure that my Christian friends are looking at me with their “wow, that was a really stupid fucking thing to do” eyes but sometimes I’m kind of naive.  Eric is a friend of mine… we’re not very close friends as we’ve only met a couple times in person but I thought we had enough common interests and ideas about things that a better friendship could develop. Plus, I don’t actually know many other atheists and I really want to.

Eric says a good way to confront Christians is to ask them hard questions and I couldn’t agree more! He was asking a bunch of questions on Twitter with the same theme but here is the specific one that I was trying to address:

@ericragle: Serious question to Christians: would you kill me if your god told you to? No cop outs. Just answer. #teamjesus

As a fellow outspoken atheist, I thought this was a bad question. I thought it was a bad question based on my conversations and experiences with Christians. To me, this is a strawman question because I don’t know a single Christian who would agree with the premise: That God would ask them to kill a person. It’s a non-starter for all of the Christians I know and probably somewhat offensive.

The question is based on the Old Testament idea that God commands people to be killed. There is plenty of scripture to support this idea in the OT. The problem is that the Christians I know say that since Jesus died for their sins, they no longer have to follow all of the bad bits from the OT. They don’t have to stone their children to death for talking back nor do they have to stone people to death for working on the Sabbath.

The tactic of beating Christians over the head with Old Testament scripture strikes me as Atheist 101; I’ve been there,  done that. I’ve tried to pin Christians down about stuff in the Old Testament but they dismiss my arguments based on the idea of Jesus dying for their sins. It took me a while of asking different Christians about Old Testament atrocities to finally understand that I wasn’t getting anywhere with that line of questions. I was reaching out to Eric with the best of intentions. I felt that I had this experience under my belt and assumed that since Eric was asking this question that maybe he didn’t have that type of experience yet. I was trying to bridge the gap by sharing my own experience and opinions. Hey, I’m an opinionated atheist, what do you expect? 😉

The discussion went off the rails and I’ve been trying to understand why so I don’t make the same mistake in the future. Here is the last tweet in the exchange if you’re interested in trying to follow it. I’m still turning this over in my mind but so far there are 3 main reasons I’ve come with up it as how it went off the rails.

  1. Trying to have a detailed discussion about something as complex and nuanced as religion is very hard in 140 characters. A lot of detail and back ground has to be left out because of that character limitation. I feel that if this discussion could have happened in person, it wouldn’t have ended up where it ended up.
  2. I made the mistake of assuming that most Christians are like my friends and family. My Christian friends and family are all pretty cool and reasonable people… they just have this peculiarity of thinking there is a magic man in the sky. 😛 I think Eric was mostly talking to/about Pat Robertson type Christians. You know, those idiots who think that God sent Katrina to New Orleans because the city was decadent.
  3. I was trying to make my point for too long. I felt like Eric wasn’t understanding me so I kept at it. Looking back, I realize now that he just didn’t agree and I should have just dropped it sooner.

I try real hard to understand Christian logic, such as it is, so that I can pin them down with the questions I’m asking them. Here are the questions that I’m asking Christians when the right opportunity presents itself:

  1. After natural disasters, it’s inevitable that a person is pulled from the rubble of a collapsed building alive and mostly unharmed.  That’s called a miracle by a lot of Christians (i.e., God personally intervened to save this person). If God gets the credit for saving the one person, who gets the blame for the hundreds that perished?
  2. If God loves us, why would he allow so many innocent people to perish in natural disasters like the tornadoes in KY? If he’s unable to effect the weather then he’s not omnipotent. If he chooses not to, does he love us?
  3. The #1 factor in your religion is where you’re born. If you are born in North America, you’ll probably be a Christian. If you’re born in the Middle East, you’re probably going to be Muslim. If you’re born in India, you’ll probably be a Hindu. Why?

Live and learn.

Birth Control Again…

I can’t believe that here it is 2012 and the GOP/social conservatives are trying to prevent women’s access to healthcare. If you’ve been living under a rock, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka, ObamaCare) mandates that insurance companies must provide women with free birth control if they want it as part of their insurance plans. The GOP & social conservatives of course object.

There are two main parts to this issue that I’d like to comment on. I fired off an angry rant a couple weeks ago but I feel compelled to talk about this some more.

First, social conservatives say that since some people have religious and moral objections to women taking birth control, that there should be some sort of opt out clause. That is, if Blue Cross/Blue Shield is run by a bunch of social conservatives, they shouldn’t be forced to provide women with birth control pills as part of their insurance plan. I call bullshit on that. Paraphrasing Barbara Boxer here but what if some religious nutters objected to people being vaccinated? Should there be some sort of option to allow insurance companies and businesses to not include being vaccinated as part of their insurance package? What if somebody objected to providing obese people with insulin for their diabetes? They weren’t living a good life style after all and they did this to themselves so the employer shouldn’t be forced to provide medical coverage to the fatties; personal responsibility! What if I ran a company and I objected to paying for the insurance of idiots? Not suffering idiots is surely part of my religion!

Why do some people think that “religious freedom” is some sort of magic, get out of free jail card? This is really one of the big problems with religion IMO. A lot of people think that their religion is above criticism and it’s been assigned this special place in our society. I get pretty irritated when people try to use the religious freedom shield to defend some asinine idea. If parents pray for their sick child instead of taking them to the doctor, they should be charged with a crime if the child dies. If old white guys are trying to prevent women’s access to healthcare, they should be called sexist idiots. Religious freedom to some of these people must mean the freedom to force their views on their employees.

Second, this really boils down to teh sex. That is, these people are really upset at the idea that women taking birth control allows women to have sex without the consequences of getting pregnant and that really seems to bother a lot of people. It’s surely a double standard. As I’ve said before, it boils down to slut punishment in my mind. Who are all these horny guys taking Viagra gonna have teh sex with if women abstain from having sex because they don’t want to get pregnant?

In conclusion, I fully support President Obama and the Democrats on this issue. Other people’s religious objections shouldn’t override people’s access to healthcare, period, carriage return, tab.

My weekly cook up

Failing to plan is planning to fail. That phrase pretty much sums up why I do my weekly cook ups. When I don’t have my meals planned and cooked up, I make the convenient choices. That usually means that I’m eating McDonalds in the morning and getting some Chinese buffet style food for lunch or five guys etc. The goal is to have my breakfasts and lunches prepared for the work week. I do this preparation on Sundays usually and I store everything in Pyrex containers.

My breakfast is this omelet that I make. I’ve seen it referenced as a Denver omelet but I’m not positive on what it’s called exactly. Here are the ingredients.

IMG_0118

Denver Omelet

  • 2 farm eggs (we have an egg lady!)
  • 3/4 cup frozen 3 pepper, onion blend (Pictsweet – 3 Pepper & Onion Blend from Walmart)
  • 1 oz diced ham from deli counter (Prima Della – Black Forest Ham)
  • 1/2 slice Prima Della (Walmart) – Natural Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese (cut on #2)

I cook 4 at a time so here is my process. I use two pans: one for the 3 pepper onion blend/ham and one for the egg mixture. While I’m mixing and measuring the first batch of ingredients, I usually have the two pans preheating. I use a tiny bit of olive oil to lubricate the pans. Also, I use a digital food scale and measuring cups to make sure everything is to spec. 😉

  • Mix eggs in a bowl using whisk. Cook in 8 inch saute pan on medium heat.
  • Cook 3 pepper/onion & ham mixture in other pan (I use a 10 inch pan) on medium heat at the same time.
  • Flip the eggs when they’re solid enough to survive the flip without splashing egg mixture all over the place. Usually just a couple of minutes!
  • Put the 1/2 slice of cheese on the egg. Be sure to place it on one half because you’re going to fold it!
  • Place 3 pepper/onion & ham mixture onto egg, directly on cheese (remember, I cook both of these simultaneously so by the time the eggs are ready to flip, the pepper/onion & ham mixture is ready).
  • I add salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce.
  • Fold the whole mess in half and put the first one into a Pyrex dish. Repeat 3 more times!

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Nutritional Stats:

Calories – 234
Carbs – 4
Fat – 12
Protein – 20

It’s healthy and pretty great tasting.

My lunches for the past few weeks have been bean and vegetable soup with a salad.

The bean and vegetable soup isn’t very hard; it just takes some time because I make my own vegetable broth as a base.

Vegetable Broth

The basic idea is to get a mess of vegetables and simmer the goodness out of them for about an hour. You can really use any type of vegetable but I’ve been using this as a basic guideline. Here are the ingredients I’ve been using:

  • 1 bag frozen recipe blend from Walmart (it’s onions, celery and a small amount of pepper)
  • frozen broccoli
  • frozen carrots
  • some mushrooms
  • spices (I use salt, pepper, bay leaves and just whatever else I grab out of the cupboard in the moment)

Preparation

  • Put everything into a pot of water (I use 8 cups of water), bring to a boil then simmer for 1 hour.
  • Strain the vegetables out and set the broth aside for your soup!

Bean and Vegetable Soup

  • Vegetable broth from step above
  • 1 package Pictsweet – Vegetable Soup Mix With Tomatoes (Frozen) Pict Sweet (Walmart)
  • 1 can Bush’s Best – Navy Beans (Rinsed & Drained)
  • Whatever spices you want

Put everything into a pot and cook on medium-low for about 20 minutes. This makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Stats:

Calories – 202
Carbs – 42
Fat – 1
Protein – 7

At work, I add a crap ton of pepper and some salt because it’s a little on the bland side. I’ve been looking for ways to spice it up a bit but really I eat it because it’s healthy fuel for my body, not because it tastes awesome.

Salad Shaker

My friend Sally suggested this after I tweeted that I was trying to figure out a way to make a batch of salad that could keep for a week.

Ingredients

  • Oil – Olive, 1 tablespoon
  • Pompeian – Gourmet Red Wine Vinegar (Premium Quality), 1 Tbsp
  • Generic – Grape Tomatoes, 2 oz
  • Bolthouse Farms – Baby-Cut Carrots (454g Bag), 2 oz
  • Cucumber – 1 oz
  • Dole – Spring Mix Salad, 1 oz

IMG_0846

Preparation

As the link above says, the idea is to put in your dressing first then the tomatoes. That’s because the tomatoes can sit in the dressing without any issues. If the salad mix is sitting in the dressing, the salad greens will become wilted and funky.

  • Measure out oil and vinegar
  • put in tomatoes
  • rest of ingredients with salad greens last

Nutritional Stats:

Calories – 168
Carbs – 10
Fat – 15
Protein – 2

In conclusion, the idea is to set myself up to be successful by planning ahead. I do all this so that I have a healthy food routine and I don’t have to think about it much during the week. On workday mornings, I just stick everything in my cooler and I’m out the door in just a couple minutes. It’s pretty delicious and healthy!

 

Fitness Challenge Update 1

3:22pm Update: I had made a mistake on Jessie’s mileage. Fixed!

Today is the 3rd day of our fitness challenge and I wanted to post a progress report.

myfinesspal

Jess – Under Monday & Tuesday

Mike – Under Monday & Tuesday

Result – Tie.

Runkeeper Milage

Jess – 5.02 miles

Mike – 9.8 miles

Result – Mike ahead by 4.8 miles.

Weightloss

Jess – 1.43%

Mike – 1.15%

Result – Jess is ahead by .28%

Overall Result – Tie.

Two week fitness challenge!

So, jharleyxo and I have decided to have a fitness challenge for the next two weeks. The challenge consists of 3 main parts.

First, we will be using myfitnesspal to see who can come the closest to their daily calorie goal as calculated by myfitnesspal. If we both go over, the one closest is declared the winner for that day. The person with the most days is declared the overall winner in this category. Each of us must configure myfitnesspal to post to twitter when we’ve completed our daily log.

Second, will be using Runkeeper to see who can log the most mileage in walking/running during our challenge. The person with the overall most mileage is declared the winner of this category.

Finally, we will be having a weight loss challenge to see who can lose the most weight. We’ll be using our Withings scale for the weigh-ins. The person who loses the most weight as a percentage of their body weight is declared winner.

Try not to laugh too hard at jharleyxo when I dominate all 3 categories guys. 😉

Conservative opposition to birth control

What. The. Fuck. People?

Others have written about it a lot better than I could dream but I just wanted to take a minute to jot down my own thoughts.

In my mind, opposition to birth control is rooted in the sex negative idea that people, especially women, should abstain from having sex unless they’re making teh babies. Women taking birth control enables them to have teh evil, dirty sex (sins of the flesh!) without getting pregnant, i.e., the consequences of being a dirty slut.

The difference between the attitudes between men having sex and women having sex is astounding. Just check out our favorite bobble head, Bill O’Reilly tell us why Viagra is a “medical condition” while birth control is a choice.

Got that? Guys that want to get their dick wet but are unable to should be covered because guys fucking is some sort of right. Women wanting to avoid getting pregnant tho… well, they should just choose not to have sex! Makes perfect sense to old white guys!

And of course Congress had a hearing on birth control today. And guess how many of the 10 witnesses were women? Zero!

Commuting: Why am I doing this?

I live in a small town in Tennessee called Crossville. I work in Nashville, TN. That’s 120 miles from my driveway to the office parking garage, one way. I spend nearly 4 hours of my day driving back and forth to work when I drive to Nashville; that’s a 12 hour work day! My work is pretty flexible and I’m able to do some telecommuting but I still spend over $400/month on gasoline to drive back and forth to work, plus the wear and tear on the car, oil changes, tires etc. That doesn’t even count the stress of me sitting in a car for that long. Or the wasted time that I could be doing something productive or fun. I could be exercising or studying codeyear, or .NET development or reading or or working my side hustle or just spending time with my family.

I usually get home around 5:30pm. By then dinner is usually on and we’re close to eating. Since the wife cooks, I clean up the kitchen. So by the time we’ve ate dinner and cleaned up, I usually have about an hour to myself that doesn’t involve sitting in a car then it’s time to start getting ready for bed because I have to get up at 4:30am in order to get to work.

When I really want to get depressed about it, I read The True Cost of Commuting again. Yikes!! I make the best of the it and try to stay up beat about it. I listen to a lot of NPR and I listen to podcasts a lot (Savage Love Cast & This American life mostly!) to pass the time. Plus, I fiddle around with Waze to report traffic issues.

Why on earth would anybody torture themselves in such a way? There are two main reasons:

First, our finances are pretty shitty. We both went straight from our previous marriages to this marriage. Getting divorced, paying child support, paying alimony ($900/month in my case) and still trying to live tends to fuck up a person’s finances. I’ve had the alimony paid off for over a year now and we’re pulling ourselves out of the financial shit storm we were in but it takes time; especially since we’ve not been as disciplined as we should have. Both of our cars are now paid off , we’re not living week to week, our grocery budget has went up for healthier food and we’re paying off the credit cards that were written off. Finally, we have a mortgage on  this house that I bought in my previous marriage. I don’t think we’ll be able to sell it but even if we could sell it tomorrow and break even (or rent it out), we’d still have the second issue.

Second, we made a commitment to the boys about stability.  When we first moved in together, we lived in a 2 bedroom/1.5 bath apartment with two adults and 3 kids. The kids were piled into a single bedroom with one bunk bed and a single bed. The boys at the time were 8, 10 and 13. As you might imagine, we were crammed into that apartment and it was very stressful on everybody but especially on the kids. Once the alimony agreement was satisfied, we were able to move back into my house. It’s a 3 bedroom, 2 full bath house in a pretty nice neighborhood. We have pretty cool neighbors and the kids have made friends with the neighborhood kids. They have a pretty good and stable life right now.

I could only do this commute if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The ultimate goal is to live in Nashville. I’ve lived in a rural/suburban type areas my whole life and I’m really wanting to live in an urban setting. I want to bike to work and I want to be able to walk or bike to interesting places. I want to get rid of our second car. I want to easily be able to meet new people. I want to have the free time that living within a 20-30 minute bike ride to work will give me. I want to be able to meet up with our friends for spontaneous things.

I realize that my expectations of what urban living is going to be like is probably a little different than what it’s actually going to be. Since we’ll have kids, I worry about the schools and I worry about their safety. Every person that I’ve had the “where do you live” conversation with at work lives 45+ minutes away by car on the interstate. They all live in places like Murfreesboro, Spring Hill and Dickson. I wonder if I’m missing something about living urban or if everybody else at work just thinks people should live in suburbia or maybe they just hate people. My work is in Green Hills so I’ve been looking in Belmont/Hillsboro, Hillsboro/West End, Edgehill, Music Row areas. East Nashville seems pretty interesting too.

So, that’s why I do what I do. Finances and guilt about putting the boys through hell in a dinky ass apartment for 2 years. If you have any insight into living urban in Nashville, I’d certainly be interested in getting some input from people who know.

 

 

Our Atheist-Christian marriage

I’m an atheist and my wife is a Christian. How can this work you might ask? Well… it’s not always easy. I can’t speak to her perspective or experiences but I can speak to my own.

First and probably most importantly, my wife isn’t a fundamentalist, young earth conservative type Christian. I personally would describe her as spiritual but not terribly religious. I hope she’s not offended by that. I’m way more outspoken about my atheism than she is about her religion. Plus, she’s pretty liberal in her politics so we’re of the same mind on a lot of things. I think that if she were a fundamentalist, young earther, I’m not sure this could work!

I find that I do have to pull punches at home sometimes, especially when I’m feeling especially ranty about religion. In the past, I’ve been going off about something religiousy and I’ve hurt her feelings because I’ve said something too forcefully or I’ve generalized too much.  I’ve always prided myself on being able to disagree with people without being disagreeable but that filter would slip at home. It only took a couple times of that happening before I realized I needed to be as careful at home as I am around religious friends, because after all, I live with a houseful of Christians!

I know for a fact that some Christians wouldn’t even consider an atheist spouse and vice versa.  I’m glad this isn’t the case with us! We’re able to find common ground (our love for each other) and focus on the things we do agree on instead of dwelling on the things that we disagree on. I enjoy discussing this topic quite a bit so being able to exercise that part of my brain is pretty important to me and Jen has gotten pretty good at being able to engage back with me and it’s been a while since feelings have been hurt or we’ve become frustrated with each other. I think that if we were going to have kids together, the difference in religion could be more of a big deal. I would have to insist that our kid(s) are brought up in a secular environment and I have no doubt that she’d want our kid(s) to go to church. I’m glad that isn’t a fight we need to have. Her kids with her ex are their kids. I don’t really get a say in their upbringing; I just get to pay for them. 😉

It’s not too uncommon for her to invite me to church on occasion and I generally will accept unless I have something else planned or the weekly chores have just piled up too much. I don’t think she’s inviting me because she’s hopeful that I’ll convert. My impression is that she invites me because she enjoys my company and just enjoys having her husband with her in that environment. I agree to go because I love her and this is something I’m willing to do for her. Some of our friends go to Jen’s church so it’s also nice to touch base with them too.

In conclusion, I don’t think two people have to agree on everything in order to be a happy couple. In fact, I think there are probably no couples that believe 100% the same. I respect Jen’s right to have her own opinion, even if I don’t agree with it. I love her as herself and I think she loves me as myself (as long as I’m not being a dick about it). I’m not sure if that’s helpful but that’s my take on it.

How We Know the Bible is True part 1

My wife got baptized at church today and she invited me along. It just happened that the topic of the sermon was “how do we know the Bible is true” (paraphrasing). As the preacher, Dennis was giving the sermon, I took a few notes and I wanted to respond to a few of the points that were made.

Claim – The Bible is true because it’s historically accurate

Response – Saying that the Bible is historically accurate because it names some actual places is like saying that Harry Potter is real because some of the story takes place in London.

Claim – 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus!

Response – Dennis didn’t really source this during the sermon but I believe that the source of this of information is from 1 Corinthians 15:6:

6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

So, the Bible is true because it’s historically accurate. We know it’s historically accurate because 500 people saw Jesus resurrected, it says so right here in the Bible. 😐 I hope I don’t have to explain how that’s circular logic and why that makes the claim suspect.

Claim – No Archeology digs have falsified the bible.

Response – This is not true. Exodus 12:37-38 says  37And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.  Archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel is “overwhelming,” and leaves “no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness.” (source). At the very least, there is no evidence in the archaeological record that supports the idea of a mass exodus of 600k+ people from Egypt during that time frame.

Claim – The Bible is scientifically accurate!

Response – No, I don’t think this is right. Here are a couple examples:

Leviticus 11:6 says that rabbits chew their cud when we know that they do not:

 6And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

Leviticus 11:13-19 appears to say that bats are a type of bird, when modern science knows them to be a type of mammal:

13 ‘And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 14 the kite, and the falcon after its kind; 15 every raven after its kind, 16 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; 17 the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; 18 the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 19 the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Claim – Using world is flat argument to support idea that Bible is scientifically accurate.

Response – I believe he supported this idea by quoting Isaiah 40:22:

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

A circle isn’t a sphere. It’s flat and round like a pancake. In Job 38:14 the earth is described like a clay seal:

14 It takes on form like clay under a seal,
And stands out like a garment.

Check out the image to see what a clay seal looks like.

I find this specific topic a bit frustrating though as it was the church that found Galileo “vehemently suspect of heresy” and then he was forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. So the modern day preacher gets to sit there and say that science was wrong about a flat earth, when in fact Galileo, who was known as ‘father of modern observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of science”, and “the Father of Modern Science”, was persecuted and tried by. the. church for trying to tell the world what we know now is true today. The irony!

There were more claims but I think I’ve already addressed the low hanging fruit that proves without a doubt that the last claim, There is nothing that isn’t true in the Bible, is flatly false. They weren’t able to finish the sermon this week so I’m pretty tempted to go back next week in order to get the rest of the claims… we’ll see.

I hope you don’t get the wrong idea about what I’m trying to do with this post. People’s personal faith is their business. Believe your beliefs because they make sense to you or it makes you feel good. Think of what the Bible says as analogies or allegories if you want but when somebody stands up and makes verifiably false claims, I’m not one to just sit by and let those go by without comment. All the people at the church want to believe what Dennis is saying. The problem is that what he was saying today is plainly false.

Stick with positive messages, support them with scripture if you must. But you’re not going to convince people like me who care about science that the Bible is scientifically accurate. Your target audience, my wife, doesn’t really care much about the scientific details so what’s the point?