Sunday, June 20, 2010

The street

I came to slowly…it was a Wednesday afternoon.

The man told me that I should be dead. I struggled to compose myself and to remember, but my last recollection was of lying on the wrong side of a locked door, at a time when I thought everyone who knew me would be gone for a while. The rest was fuzzy.

After three bottles of antidepressants and a handful of blood pressure medication, this was my punishment. This man with a wilted mustache and a bad haircut was going to remind me how lucky I was to be alive, and he was going to fill me in on the true meaning of life.

I was hooked up to machines. My motion was restricted, spare left and right movements of my head. Regardless, he implored me to look out the window. Our view was of a congested east Memphis street on a gray winter day.

“Don’t you see, don’t you SEE?”

“See what?”

“Don’t you see that life is ugly and meaningless? Without the Lord, Jesus Christ, life has no meaning. Life is ugly and dark. Life is shallow and petty. If you don’t find strength in Christ, you will be dead by this time next year.”

Though this was nearly eighteen years ago, I sometimes wish I could find that guy and shake his hand. Though his reverse psychology was unintended, I remember thinking that perhaps there was more to life than the bleak vision that clouded his perception. As the days progressed, my resolve to straighten out my life grew stronger, yet this man’s determination that my only route to salvation was a spiritual one never faded. I tossed aside a Bible that he left on my bed, and I was sentenced to another month of treatment as punishment. Though I began eating again and faced therapy with an air of determination and resolve, he still offered me only one prognosis…damned…and dead.

Oh, little man with the sad mustache, do you still see only crowded, lonely streets?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Doomsday Psychology

I will not deny that 2010 has gotten off to a rocky start. This year has brought along with it a myriad of earthquakes, oil spills, floods, volcanoes, and other disasters (both natural and manmade). Every time the big media outlets begin their zealous over-reporting of these happenings, I have to force myself not to read the comments sections. Doing so reminds me why the media gets so excited over “Doom and Gloom” stories: People in general (and fundamentalist Christians in particular) absolutely love to fantasize that the end of the world is nigh and God is in the process of casting his final judgment.

Throughout history, man has attempted to foresee the end of the world. Some of the greatest examples of failed doomsday predictions include The Prophet Hen of Leeds of 1806, the Halley’s Comet hysteria of 1910, our dear friend Pat Robertson’s 1982 prediction (along with his more recent suggestion that God smited Haiti), Heaven’s Gate in 1997, the Y2K panic of 2000, and God's Church Ministry of 2008. Each time a prediction never materializes, doomsayers just brush it off and eagerly start looked towards the horizon for the next evidence of a coming cataclysm.

The 2012 Mayan prophecy amuses me more than any others. The blatant misinterpretation that the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar predicts the end of the world in 2012 is an absolute insult to an extinct society; it was nothing more than an attempt for movie producers and book publishers to cash in. Amazingly enough, cash-in they did, for fundamentalists will even turn to extinct pagan societies and religions in search of evidence pointing towards “the end”.

Why are Christians so seemingly eager for the apocalypse? When I try to imagine what is going on in the mind of a typical doomsayer, three distinct possibilities emerge: 1) The Bible always speaks of war and strife (both internal and external), and the apocalypse signals an end to struggle. 2) Christians use the apocalypse as an attempt to convert non-Christians and sinners. “Repent, the end is near!” 3) Christians are really, truly miserable with their lives, and their only motivation is the hope that one day they will get to look down upon other sinners and doubters as they ascend into heaven.

The first scenario is very general and makes the most sense to me. The second scenario is based on my personal experiences with fundamentalists - lacking any true evidence of God or a coming tragedy, they attempt use fear and guilt as a motivator. However, the final scenario probably most accurately depicts the true psychology of a doomsayer. How many times have you heard a fundamentalist say things like “may God have mercy on your soul?” or “I will pray that God forgives you?” Such statements disprove actual concern for the sinners and instead indicate that the doomsayer considers him/herself to be in a higher position than that of the sinner. (Let’s be honest…everyone likes to feel superior in some way or another). But I digress. I am going to assume that the real reason Christians anticipate the end of the world is because they are simply sick and tired of their lives.

The Bible itself clearly states that no one can predict the end of the world. Granted, the Bible also contradicts itself by offering “teaser visions” of the apocalypse in Revelations and other chapters, but we all know that there is not one subject that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself on.

Luke 12:46 – “the Master will come on a day and at an hour when He is not expected.”

Matt. 25:13 – Jesus says “watch therefore, and be prepared, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

James 5:7 – “be patient until the coming of the Lord. Those who try to predict disregard this inspired teaching.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

something a little different....

As you all know, I am not a follower of any religion. The narrow-minded teaching of organized religion has contributed to multiple wars, cultural divides, hate crimes, racism, and sexism. The repressive nature of religion hinders education and progress; hell, without the Dark Ages, it is hard to imagine how far our society could have come.

However, people often assume that atheists do not believe in anything. Religious people are often surprised to learn that I find life to be complex, exciting, and full of meaning. I simply do not claim to have the answers to what might lie beyond. I believe it is human nature to need to understand things that are beyond our grasp, and the easiest way to cope with fear of death and what lies beyond is to have “blind faith” that a supreme deity is waiting on the other side, ready to give us all a big hug.

While I do not believe in Gods and other mythologies, I am open-minded about the possibilities of other metaphysical aspects of life. As we open our minds to new ideas such as string theory and parallel universes, we realize that we are playing a part in something that is just too big to imagine.

The past few months, something strange happened to my family. My sister, mother, and I are extremely close, and we have always had an unexplainable connection. Around October of last year, my sister and I both became inexplicably ill. My hormones suddenly went haywire, and my reproductive cycle simply crashed. I was devastated to learn that I might be going through menopause at the age of 32. At the exact same time, my sister began having heart problems and debilitating dizzy spells. She went in for testing, had an abnormal EKG, but nothing definitively could be found wrong. However, my sister (who is not prone to being dramatic) decided that she was dying. My sister and I would call each other every day to talk about how we were falling apart, physically and mentally.

My mom got swept up in our constant obsession over our physical problems and decided she needed to have herself checked out as well. She went in to have her first mammogram in seven years. The next week, she received the call that she had breast cancer. She has since had the tumor removed, and we were happily amazed to find that it had not had a chance to spread. She doesn’t even need chemo.

The doctors said that if she had waited any longer, the prognosis would not have been good. They estimated that the tumor had been growing for several months - right around the time my sister and I began getting sick. The crazy part is, the day my mother received her diagnosis, I got my first period in six months, and my sister’s heart and blood pressure episodes immediately disappeared.

I don’t know how or why this happened, but I do know that it did happen. There is so much in life that I don’t understand, but there is one thing that seems clear; we are ALL interconnected in some way. Love yourself, and love those around you. We are all we’ve got.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Time to retire "Scary Bible Verse" feature...

I decided over the past couple of weeks that there is not much point to posting about scary Bible verses. Most religious fundamentalists are already aware of them, and many have chosen not to take them literally (thank goodness). Atheists also already know about them; in fact, most atheists I have met are extremely educated about the readings of the "Good Book". Therefore, I simply don't see much point in excessively mocking other people's religion. I will still continue to write about the many problems I see associated with organized religion, but the buck needs to stop at blatant slandering.

However, I will be adding a new feature called "ridiculous Fox News comments". One of my guilty pleasures is finding some of the most inflammatory headers for a Fox News article and then have a laugh fest at the many misspelled, grammatically butchered, and uniformed comments. Of course, some liberal and progressive readers are also guilty of bad writing and poor manners in the comment sections, but Fox News commenters...well, you will just have to read for yourselves.

Today's Fox New fun surrounds this title link: . There have been quite a few "missing link" findings over the past year or two, and nothing seems to stir the ire of creationists more so than any possible findings that prove we didn't form from a pile of loose dust shaped by the hand of the Almighty. Please note that I have left all statements in their original form, with no spelling or grammar corrections.

Comment #1 "You did read this carefully right? Before they based evolution on parts of bones they found. I found a deer skeleton and elk skeleton which one evolved into what? Who evovled into plants to be eaten. Just think about evolutions answers. If you wait billions of years there is a change based on a need. Well if the water was drying up how can you take billions of years to grow a lung. Forget about where the 1st cell came from. Never, not even in the science lab has a mutation resulted in a stronger or more improved species only weakness and death. you don't have to believe the Bible but you have to question evolution as an answer. Try reading actually reading what Darwin wrote. Not what people say he wrote but read his writings you will see how ignorant you are for following evolution."

This comment isn't exactly horribly written, but it proves that this guy is horrifically uninformed. Studies have proven that genetic mutations where the proteins were involved usually lead to undesirable results in 70 percent of cases. DNA repair is often used to correct such mutations. Therefore, the optimal mutation rate for a species involves a trade-off between the costs of a high mutation rate, such as deleterious mutations, and the metabolic costs of maintaining systems to reduce the mutation rate, such as DNA repair enzymes.

Some of the examples of such "good mutations" can be seen in lice. It has been learned that exposure to lice shampoo has caused genetic mutations in some of these critters that cause them to be resistant. This is great for lice, but not so great for the scalps of affected children. There are many other examples, and the species we see all around us have been improved through various mutations over the years which threw them into the ranks of natural selection and allowed the species to transform and flourish. But I digress; let's move on to the next comment!

Comment #2: "WHY does anyone want to believe we came from the apes? Better yet, from a rock, as the 'Big Bang theory" suggests...or from nothing, or smaller than the period at the end of this sentence?!? Come on people read what is being taught and paid for with OUR tax $$$$!!! We are NOT that DUMB!!! Are we??"

Yes, I believe very much that you just might be hopelessly dumb. Next comment.

Comment #3: "Question? Your car evolve? How about the computer you used to submit you brillant comment? How about your house? How about the toothpick; did it evolve? It must have right? Billions of years ago branches fell from the trees and the slowly evolved into tiny toothpicks? If you stare at your house long enough it will someday evolve into a million dollar mansion. The car you drive everyday just oozed up from the ground from prehistoric crude; right? The only missing link is from the brians of those who actually believe in evolution! Just purchase a new car and set it your back yard and wait twenty years. Quess what will happen? It won't evolve, but fall apart, just like your useless theory!!!"

I do believe that this guy's ancestors endured some mutations somewhere along the line, but these must have been the protein mutations I discussed earlier.

Final Comment: "And WHY are intelligent people still discussing evolution? EVOLUTION IS IMPOSSIBLE! And here is the cold, hard, non-partial, unbiased math to prove it. Did you know the probability for one protein to have evolved is 10 to the 75th power. Cool huh? Did you know that you need 60,000 proteins in 100 different configurations just for ONE simple cell? That means that the probability for ONE SIMPLE CELL to evolve is 10 to the ready? 4,478,296 power. That is a BIT of a problem. Did you know the number when something stops being statistically possible and becomes statistically IMPOSSIBLE? The number is 10 to the 150th power. So, for a simple cell to have happened by chance is statistically impossible by a power of 4,478,146. Face the fact: evolution is IMPOSSIBLE."

Suddenly I have doubts! This guy obviously took quite a bit of time off from studying Quantum physics at Yale to leave this impressive comment.

Friday, March 12, 2010

short post on prayer

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last week. I live in the South, and most of my friends are Christians. Therefore, I have received many prayer requests for the swift recovery of my mother.

Please allow me to make the point that I am not offended by the prayers. I believe that prayers are a powerful resource for many people, and if you find value out of something, then so be it. My mom, however, has hinted that she is tired of it all.

If mom were religious, she would be praying along with the thousands of others who are suffering from the same condition. Wouldn't it be haughty of her to believe that God would consider her more special than the thousands of others who are suffering from the same ailment, and therefore grant her leniency from the disease?

While this website may sound ridiculous at first glance, it raises a very important question about the true capacity of prayer.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Gender Gap: Will women ever move ahead?

A new study conducted by the World Economic Forum yielded completely unsurprising results - American women are making zero progress in terms of workplace pay equity and job satisfaction. In an era where corporations always seem to pay lip service to workplace equity, why does this gender gap remain?

The 2010 WEF project was the first study to cover the world's largest employers across twenty countries and analyze the workplace environment for women, effectively benchmarking them against the gender equality practices that should actually be in place. The survey contained twenty-five questions regarding representation of women within their establishments and the use of gender-equality practices such as target-setting, work-life balance policies, and availability of training and mentoring opportunities for women. The results were staggering.

While the US has the highest percentage of female employees (52%) across all levels, these workers are concentrated primarily in entry or middle-level positions and remain scarce in executive, board director, or senior management positions. The pay gap was found to be a universal problem, and American women still make only 78 cents for every dollar that equally qualified men earn. 72% of companies surveyed admitted to not even tracking gender pay gaps, though 40% claimed to be setting quotas or other affirmative action devices to help close the gap.

While the study didn't address regional differences within the U.S., it is well-known that the South boasts an even greater gender pay gap. I once had a male manager from a prior job attempt to justify this inequity by explaining to me that women cost corporations about 25 percent more than men do, considering the "extravagant expenses" associated with health insurance for expecting mothers and FMLA pay. I was stunned that anyone would even try to argue this point. If all women stayed at home, then the added insurance costs would be pushed over to their working husbands. Additionally, the average U.S. woman has two children and takes only six weeks off for each child. Does three months out of a woman's entire life justify a 22 percent pay decrease? I think not.

I noticed one major exception in the WEF study: Sweden. Sweden has a government regulation in place that mandates a minimum of 40% of each gender on the boards of public companies. Apparently, compliance is not a issue, as more than 40% of Swedish women are executives or board-level. Why can't other countries follow suit? While I do have some personal issues with quotas and affirmative action, if American minorities and religious groups deserve to be protected by such means, why don't women deserve the same treatment? At the very least, shouldn't there be some loose regulatory force that actually analyzes pay across American corporations and identifies and investigates unexplained gaps?

The practice of pay discrimination benefits no one. The WEF estimates that closing the pay gap could increase U.S. GDP by up to 9 percent. Research has also indicated that workplace morale and productivity generally increase in environments where men and women work together in tandem. I can only hope that by the time my three-year-old is out of college and entering the workplace, he will be joining an environment where professional, educated women are treated with the same dignity and appreciation as their male counterparts. However, considering the amount of progress we have made in the past 30 years, I honestly have my doubts.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Daily scary Bible verse

"And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:"

Deuteronomy 28:53