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Saturday: Sean Faircloth on the political fight against the Christian Right

I installed new lighting in my bathroom without electrocuting myself!  Whoop! Whoop!  Now, I can finish the sucker off.  Just need to finish up painting and replacing the faucets.   THAT should be fun.  What are the chances that I can do my own plumbing without recreating the Great Flood?

Anyway, I’m going to be a bit busy this weekend doing this home improvement stuff and some other job related stuff, like more endless applications and cover letters.  I see a lot of low level analytical flunky jobs like the kind I did when I first graduated.  Not my cup of tea anymore.  It’s too much like flipping burgers (no offense to burger flippers) and once you get used to 4 weeks of vacation, going back to two just doesn’t cut it.  But every once in awhile, a gem shows up in the list of dead end jobs.  So, I’m going to write a nice cover letter and see what happens.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to podcasts while I spiff up the bathroom.  As I’ve mentioned before, the New Atheist movement seems to have sprung up in the last few years out of nowhere.  It’s got a lot of different coalitions and flavors and with the Reason Rally coming up on March 24, a more visible political presence.

The podcast I’m recommending for your listening pleasure today comes from the show Ask An Atheist based out of Tacoma, Washington.  This podcast from last year features Sean Faircloth, former Maine legislator who is now involved in representing secular interests in Washington, DC.  His take on the religious right and organizing a secular presence fills in a bit of the background of what is going on with our federal legislators and Obama administration.  One of the questions about the Obama administration is telling in the way Sean answers it.  Pay close attention.

Sean gives very good answers why secular people should organize as quickly as possible. Even if you are a religious person but strongly believe in the separation of church and state, you will want to get in on the act.  Sean makes a compelling case and explains why your perfectly reasonable representative votes the way he or she does.  Time to change that.

(Why is it that so many of the regulars on these radio shows look like linux system administrators?  Strange…)


Other things of interest: I would LOVE to have one of these in my backyard.  The Vorizo model costs about $14000.  Now, which of my kids do I have to sell for this and how do I schlepp it back to the northeast from British Columbia?

Katiebird could visit and stay in my gypsy caravan!  How cool would that be?

43 Responses

  1. RD,

    Are you working with any headhunters?

    • I have sent my CV to several of them and have had calls but their clients want PhDs, for some unfathomable reason, and I don’t have one.

      • Probably the hiring gate keeper has no idea what the department head needs and figures the more degree the better.

        • I’m pretty sure they know what the client wants. This is a specialized area. They want a phd. Doesn’t matter whether that phd actually helps or not. In fact, I don’t it bestows any great advantage on the bearer, especially once they get into industry and see what’s actually involved. There’s not a lot of carryover to actual applied problem solving. But that’s what they want. Short sighted and snobby? Yep. Not much I can do about it. I’m not going back for a degree that isn’t going to help me do my job just because someone thinks im like the scarecrow and without my degree in Thinkology I can’t possibly have a brain.

          • If you ever feel you must go back to school, an MBA would be of more use than a PhD.

  2. I love the house!

    Also. Don’t worry too much about the faucets. They make them for self-installers now days. And there are tons of youtube videos of people showing you how to install almost every make and model.

    And one of the ladies in my knitting group is a head-hunter… hm.

  3. I built a utility room (washer/dryer) and did all the plumbing…water supply and drain/waste/vent as well as the dryer vent. I just finished renovating my kitchen and did all the plumbing…gas stove, dishwasher, new sink with re-located faucets and dwv. It’s not that difficult. There are lots of YouTube How Tos. Go to the Home Depot plumbing department and ask for help. You might want to take little sketches with you or even pictures. These people will patiently explain it all and tell you exactly what you need. I was afraid of sweating copper pipes, so I used SharkBite fittings to cut into and attach to the copper and then PEX tubing from there. SharkBite is expensive, but it’s pretty fool proof. No leaks either. Lowe’s has different PEX technology, but SharkBite is the best, IMO.

    • Thanks, Sharon! In fact, I already did the plumbing in my kitchen. Never done it before but they make compression fittings so easy to use that even a complete novice could do it.
      Bathroom faucets are a bit trickier because of the sink stopper thingy. And I hate having to get under the sink on my back with my headlamp. It never fails that the tool I need will be just out of reach.
      You are right about the videos. I used them to install the dishwasher and run the lines to the garbage disposal. Priceless.

  4. If you get stuck, ask me questions.

  5. RD, The seeds of unbelief were planted in me when I read the Book of Mormon as a teenager. I was sorely troubled by how atrocious the writing was. Like Mark Twain said of the B of M, it’s chloroform in print. I’d only read selected passages from the bible and sanitized “bible stories” until recently when my sister urged me to read the bible (she’s another mormon atheist). I’d always assumed the bible was at least saner than the B of M. The writing’s better for sure, but this is one wacky tome. It’s the ravings of psychopaths in comparison to the B of M. Holy cow! There’d be a lot more atheists if more people read the bible starting from page 1.

    • For me, the seeds of unbelief were planted the day my mother was baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness. I was three and for some reason, that event is seared into my brain as one of my first memories. I think it’s because I knew from the start that there was something very, very wrong. My mother’s personality must have undergone a significant change for me to pick it up and afterwards, she was not my mother. You can’t hide that shit from kids. They know. It made me suspicious of everything connected to her new religion. There wasn’t a day when she was a Jehovah’s Witness that I ever believed any of it and there wasn’t a day that I didn’t hate it with a passion. In fact, I can’t think of another religion that is more destructive of a kid’s childhood or personality development than the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Plus, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society should be prohibited from baptizing anyone younger than 18. That’s because once you are baptized and your family is baptized, if you decide to leave, your family is forbidden from associating with you forever. Apostates are like dead people. Family members are only supposed to have contact in order to settle legal issues. It’s that extreme.
      I saw some survey the other day about which religion had the most sexually dysfunctional believers. Right at the top was Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s because the society has the power to tell you how to have sex and what you can’t do in your own bedroom. It’s seriously fucked up shit and why my mother decided to pick that religion out of all of the religions in the world still defies logical explanation. Now, she’s in a rapturist fundamentalist belief system which is just as bad. I think it’s a problem with her neurological wiring because she’s not stupid. But whatever it is with the wiring, my siblings inherited it and I didn’t. I am incapable of seeing the world like they do and I would be lying if I pretended otherwise.

      • Yep, I do suspect it’s a wiring issue. Six children in my family…3 were properly wired for Mormonism, 3 weren’t. Strange. I’ve discussed it ad nauseum with my sister. We were both obedient, good students, good kids. Chaste, church-going teenagers. Eager to please. Neither particularly rebellious nor defiant. Sister Donna said she would pray and pray but it just wouldn’t take. She always felt like a fraud. She couldn’t get over the sensation there was no one there. It took a long time for her to get over the guilt that it was a flaw within herself. I fantasized endlessly about marrying a returned missionary and being the perfect, docile Mormon wife. But, curses, I just didn’t have a docile mind. Being the oldest, coming out as an unbeliever was an intensely painful, wrenching experience. I cowered, but Donna, bless her, finally announced, “Mama, we’re not going to church any more,” and that was that. Like you, I’m fascinated by the religious mind. I remember this 70s movie where Rex Harrison and Richard Burton played a gay couple (wish I could remember the name of the movie). They got caught in a rainstorm and took shelter in a phone booth. They caught sight of a man and woman copulating in the bushes. They stared at them in wonder, fascinated, as though watching gorillas in the mist. I feel that kind of fascination with believers.

        • Ditto, Sharon. I kinda get my grandparents attraction to Catholicism 60s and 70s style. They had a great church community and I’ve always found catholic masses meditative. But to just didn’t feel the thing that others feel for intense religious experience. It is completely foreign to me. Whatever they feel, I don’t get it. Instead, I’m way too aware of all the rules that make no damn sense. The catholic and fundamentalist Christian attitude towards women was really stupid. Early in my adolescence I remember thinking that the human race is pretty messed up in some respects. If there is a god, why would he/she reject the help of half of the population? It looked like god could use all of the assistance he can get.
          Anyway, Mormons enjoy sex slightly more than Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is not much at all. Do you ever get the impression that for some religions it’s all about sex? Compassion, justice, charity, all that is waaaay down in the totem pole compared to policing people and telling them who and what they can or cannot touch under which circumstances. I can’t think of a bigger waste of time.

          • I read this comment from another thread and am kicking myself that I didn’t get the name of the commenter and can’t even remember the name of the site, but I think this is it in a nutshell:

            “Skepticism’s foundations come from the child’s persistent questioning of the world, demanding answers that fit coherently together.”

            You were a lot more precocious than I was, RD. I played the pious, judgmental, good Mormon through my childhood and early adolescense. The first crack in my world view came when I read the BofM, as I said above. It was so awful and so conspicuously plagiarized. Then, when I was in the 10th grade, an LSU Professor, a poet named Miller Williams (he’s Lucinda Williams’ father) did a short stint as our biology teacher. Mr. Williams was a true exotic to us Dog Patchers. The first question anyone ever asked back then was what church do you go to. (It had always been an exceedingly uncomfortable question for me being one of only two Mormons in a class of mostly Cajun Catholics.) When Mr. Williams said, “None. I don’t believe in God,” it was a thunderbolt. Forget whether I belonged to “the only true church.” Up until that point, I had had no idea that the existence of god was even debatable. That was the second crack. That’s where my long journey of demanding answers that fit coherently together started.

          • Precocious? Brooke has us all beat. One day when she was about 9, she walked into the kitchen and said quite clearly, “I don’t believe in God. I think it’s just something people believe when they want comfort. Can I have a cookie?”
            The kid had no idea that she had said anything controversial. I told her that it was ok but she really shouldn’t tell her girl scout troop leader. Or anyone at school. Let it be our secret. She didn’t get that part.
            Recently, she told me it took her a lot longer to get over Santa claus than god.

          • But to just didn’t feel the thing that others feel for intense religious experience. It is completely foreign to me. Whatever they feel, I don’t get it.

            Try Zen Buddhist meditation.

          • That would assume there is a defect I need to correct. I don’t see it that way. Maybe those of us who don’t have a religious mind are experiencing something else that is just as satisfying and much more realistic.
            Besides, if I want meditation, I’ll just go to mass. I always get a Zen state in a Catholic church. But this is quite different from the religious ecstasy or speaking-in-tongues or presence that a lot of believers experience.

          • How do you know the Catholic mass puts you in a Zen state if you’ve never done Zen meditation. 🙂

          • I’ve tried meditation. Never actually could get there. Catholic mass does it for me. Instant focus and relaxation. Go figure. You’d never catch me in church for any other reason.

      • The wiring can be unwired, er, re-wired. But she has to take the initiative to begin the re-wiring process.

    • One of the reasons I became an agnostic for a while is that I couldn’t stomach the uglier parts of the Bible. I was only able to return when I realized I didn’t have to take ALL of it as genuinely inspired by the Deity; I could be a Christian without being a Biblical literalist. While I was NOT raised in a literalist, fundamentalist church, I somehow acquired the all-or-nothing approach to the Bible as a child.

  6. Pantheism is a metaphysical and religious position. Broadly defined it is the view that (1) “God is everything and everything is God

    A 4th stage mystic’s view of religion makes so much more sense than atheism. Why would a mystic keep encouraging people to go backwards to a stage 3 Atheism? Is it because atheists are so comforting in their surety that they hold the ultimate truth, just like fundamentalist Monotheists, Christians, Muslims and jews? Do you long to belong to a group which will tell you “hey, you are right and smart and they are wrong and dumb”?
    Most people, when they leave the religious dogmatic flocks and get their atheism on become quiet evangelical about it. The thing is, unless they are making a profit on their evangelism, sooner or later they sense it is empty and that there is some sort of higher meaning to life and connection to the universe and to other people.
    Frankly, I would rather hear more about your Pantheism, seeing as I believe it to be a more evolved view than atheism and a view more likely to save the nation and the world.

    • I.E., God is nothing and nothing is God. That’s stage 5. LOL!

    • Pantheism is not the same thing as panentheism. Pantheists believe that the universe is god. Panentheists are inclined believe that there is an entity which exists beyond space and time and whose essence is shot through all things. Most atheists say this is really indistinguishable from atheism because it is still a naturalistic worldview without supernatural elements. You might say that it straddles the divide between agnosticism and atheism. One thing is absolutely true, I am an atheist when it comes to the biblical god. That god does not exist.
      Here’s my reasoning: It all depends on evidence. If God exists, there’s no good reason for him/her to not give us proof. For god to rely on humans to have faith is pretty stupid given that religious humans tend to treat each other very badly in the name of their faith and lock women up and put each other to the sword and are mean to gays and lesbians and fly planes into buildings and make a nuisance of themselves in government and the classroom. If god exists and does not show him/herself, that is not a god I care to worship. That is a demon, not a god. That god lets people who are terminally ill suffer and worry about an afterlife. In any case, there is no evidence for a biblical god. Period. None, zilch, nada. Never was.
      But what if there is evidence of a God but we just don’t recognize it because the human concept of God is anthropomorphic? Where might we look for evidence? Well, the only place that you might find evidence is right in front of you and all around you. This is your natural world and universe. And what preceded the universe? We don’t know what preceded our known universe but whatever that is, you *could* call it God. With this God, the world and the universe makes the most sense. Your natural world and universe is shot through with the essence of god and you are a part of creation and have a reciprocal obligation to the universe to evolve with it and make it as perfect as you can. It is the very Tolkienish belief you can’t change all of the ills of the world. All you can do is the best you can with the time that is given to you. Don’t worry about death because no one knows where we go. Focus on the task before you. This is more like the Einsteinian god. Some atheists would say we’re just dickering over semantics and I should just come to the dark side once and for all because they have cookies. I’m fine with that but I think panentheism is more open to possibilities that strict atheists tend to eschew. For sure panentheism is a very abstract conceptualization of “god”.
      There are plenty of very smart people who are fundamentalists. This is where I think the left has it wrong. My personal opinion about people who are evangelists and fundamentalists is that they have an anxiety disorder that is either natural or induced and that this overrides their reasoning process. I would exclude more liberal theists because they seem to have no problem coexisting with their intellectual centers. Whatever rationalizing they have to do to make their Christianity mesh with their connection with reality is working fine for them. But fundamentalists and evangelicals can not get their emotional consciences and their intellectual consciences to mesh. I’m convinced that it is a neurological issue, not one of intelligence.
      Because once you start to point out to them the awful truth of the bible, it doesn’t take long for a couple of things to happen. The display signs of intense anxiety and discomfort and then they shut you down. They have scripts in their heads that are triggered and circumvent the thinking process. Those scripts are there to protect them from the truth and anything that will make them feel too uncomfortable.
      This much I can tell you, Teresa, the bible is a piece of historical fiction. The old testament pentateuch was written by a collection of authors who drew from a variety of resources. There are multiple stories of creation, the flood, Abraham and Sarah, and a multitude of other stories. One creation story is lifted straight out of the Babylonian polytheistic creation myth called the Enuma Elis. The author kept many elements of the Enuma Elis and dropped the multiple gods. The talking snake story is another pre-existing story. The flood story is right out of a Sumerian myth down to the size of the ark in precise cubit measurements, the birds Noah sent out and the altar he worshipped at.
      The stories predated the biblical versions by almost 1000 years.
      There was no Exodus. Moses did not write any of the bible. The bible uses several names for god because there were several gods depending on whether you came from Canaan or Judea. They were not the same god. It took another author several hundred years later to merge the two. The oldest part of the bible is the song of Deborah which recounts the victory of one of the first leaders of the Israelites, a judge named Deborah. It looks like the Israelites picked women to lead them after they overthrew their Egyptian kings in Canaan and headed to the hills. Otherwise, the bible is chock full of some really awful “morality” like Lot throwing his virgin daughters to a bunch of rapists, and cutting off the hand of a woman who touches a man’s junk during a fight and nice stuff like that.
      In the new testament, the Jesus Seminar of biblical scholars have determined that only about 18% of the stuff attributed to Jesus is stuff he actually said. That is the parables, the beatitudes and not much more than that. The crucifixion was real but the resurrection was not. Some modern theologians say that there is no doubt that the apostles and disciples saw a real thing but that real thing was a trauma induced hallucination. When it comes right down to it, the reason why Christianity persisted is because Jesus’ message of non-violence, acceptance and dignity of all human beings as well as his struggle against his own culture and the Romans for economic justice and freedom was unlike any that preceded him. Jesus was an Occupier. He lead an unpermitted march into Jerusalem and had an Occupy Jerusalem Temple event without permission from the Romans. For this he was arrested and executed by a bunch of thuggish Temple guards and Roman riot police.
      There’s much more about your religion that you don’t know. The youtuber Evid3nc3 can explain it all to you and knock down every pillar of your belief in god. I figured out most of this stuff myself before I was a teenager. Some people who deconvert have a feeling of disorientation and panic as the barriers that are erected in the mind to keep the emotional brain apart from the rational brain are removed one by one. The anxiety floods in and it takes a few days or weeks to master it. But I don’t think that anyone who has deconverted regrets it. And if you can get over the “pain of independence” that sets non-believers apart from believers, there’s no reason to go back. Suddenly, all the things that never made sense but which we forced ourselves to believe and had to erect barriers around so we didn’t freak out, those things disappear and just leave us with clarity and internal peace.
      There is no meaning to life but to recognize that for a very brief period of time you are alive to witness the unfolding of the universe. When you realize that, you can concentrate on living because it’s gone all too soon and there is plenty for you to do to make sure your fellow human beings enjoy their lives with as little suffering as possible. That’s the whole entire meaning of life. There is no heaven. There is no hell.

      • Wonderful! Preach it, Sister. This is a lot better thing to do on a Sunday than go to church.

      • You are a very prolific writer, RD. You clearly are very passionate about this.

      • I suspect that RD is correct that many of the differences between believers and non-believers, and between different kinds of believers (example: fundamentalist vs. non-fundamentalist) boils down to inherent neurological differences. Not all human brains work in exactly the same ways.

        Still, this life is too irremediably disappointing for me to abandon the hope of a better afterlife. Sorry, folks, but “witnessing the unfolding of the universe” just isn’t good enough for me. There’s my neurological difference.

        • And we would never stop you from believing that.
          However, I’m sure that even you have to acknowledge that you have no evidence to back up your belief. Given that all religions rely on faith and not evidence, what is the basis on which we give religions so much freedom to operate in structuring our lives and government? Why do we give churches so much money in tax exemptions that we don’t allow other organizations? If an atheist group set up an organization that held weekly meetings and served the poor and set up clinics in Africa, would we give it the same status as the Catholic church? Would it give the same tax deductions to it’s appointed leaders as clergy get? Just askin’, because that’s how we set this country up. We exempt religious organizations from a lot of responsibility that other tax paying citizens are expected to do. And we ask those tax paying citizens to subsidize the activities of these religions that they may not believe in and may actually be in contradiction to.
          So, I don’t have a problem with your personal belief. You don’t have to believe anything I believe and I would never persecute a religious community (well, except for forcing some Jehovah’s Witnesses to sing Christmas Carols and go trick-or-treating). But when they start throwing their weight around in MY life based on what I and other scholars have determined to be myth and superstition, that’s where I think we have to draw the line.

          • Atheists can certainly set up a tax-exempt charitable organization that did exactly as you say, RD. Is that something that atheists really want to do, though?

          • I would also like to remove the churches’ tax exemptions, at least if they start meddling in politics (I’m looking at you, Religious Right).

            I think my religion got off on the wrong track when it became the established religion of the Roman Empire, and so acquired vested interests in the maintenance of an unjust social order. The nature of talking apes being what it is, some of us talking apes saw, and still see, opportunities to gain earthly wealth and power by manipulating the faith.

            Also, a religion that depends on the state for at least part of its income will find itself in a poor position to denounce the sins of the state.

            I could come up with other reasons why separation of religion and state is best for both of them, but I need to get to work now.

        • While there are inherent neurological differences, such differences are not at all fixed. Neurological systems are very plastic, at all stages of life.

  7. Is Newt Gingrich protesting GCB the height of irony or hypocrisy.? My new favorite TV show. I can hardly believe the right wing is all condemning GCB with all the world problems we have.

    • What is this GCB of which you speak? Global Chocolate Bunnies? Gargantuan Cock Bollux? Gamma Carbon Bonds? What?? I’ve never heard this acronym before.

      • Maybe worth looking into?

        … ABC’s new sitcom GCB, which is based off a book called Good Christian Bitches …

        And then again, maybe not?

        • I cut the cord several months ago to save money. Besides, it sounds like the absolutely LAST kind of program I would be interested in. I read the description and why the heck any woman would want to reward a series about adult mean girls is beyond me.
          That means it will a be wildly popular cultural phenomenon.
          Women are their own worst enemies.

          • It made me wonder if ‘The B-word’ would ever be considered as unacceptable as ‘The N-word’. Searching for the meaning I noticed that the show was almost exclusively referred to by it’s acronym. As if it’s ok to say B as long as you dont add …itch. Somehow I doubt a show named GCN wouldn’t raise a media-storm of protest and condemnation.

            ‘Women are their own worst enemies’. Well, they sure seem ready to wait their own [gender’s] turn and accept taking a back seat to black men.

            In a debate on March 8th, a long time female member of our parliament, former minister, former mayor of Copenhagen, a strong, outspoken, trailblazer for women, of Hillary Clintons generation said approvingly, that to the US it was more important to chose the first black president, than the first female. She then went on to praise Obama for his boldness(!) in chosing Hillary Clinton as SoS. Despite her being his fiercest opponent in the primary!

          • Yeah, I never could understand the European’s mind wrt Obama. I get the impression that Europeans still see the United States as a segregated country. It’s not that racism doesn’t exist. It’s that sexism never got the same kind of attention that the civil rights movement did. Danish women have a much different life than American women. There’s really no comparison until you actually live here and see what your mammoth taxes don’t pay for in terms of healthcare and childcare.
            I don’t know how long it will take for Europeans to wise up but I sure wish they would.

  8. But, but, but, did you know that lamenin is in the shape of a cross! Proof of God!

  9. Jeebus, you can do electrical? I’m really impressed, no irony at all.

    * * *

    Ever considered that as a career? Could be a very useful skill in a lot of worst case scenarios I can imagine…

    • Lol! I can wire my bathroom vanity lights. It hardly qualifies me as an electrician.

  10. They might. But I think there are specific write offs that are unique to religious institutions that other organizations do not benefit from. FFRF refers to them frequently. One of them has to do with housing for clergy.

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