This is a truly beautiful song. Even if I am not able to spend today with my dad, mom or Ruth, I’ll be thinking about them.
I was in Los Angeles, California last week for the 37th Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention. This is the fourth convention that I have attended and I am looking forward to many more in the future. FFRF is a great organization with a mission statement that all should support – even if one holds religious beliefs.
This year’s speakers were every bit as excellent as I expected.
Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson spoke about his discovery of the famed fossil Lucy. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll gave a somewhat tongue-in-cheek talk about death and physics.
Professor Anthony Pinn gave a moving and inspiring talk. Just as inspiring were Christopher Johnson and Scott Clifton. Barbara Mancini’s story was utterly heart-wrenching.
Constitutional lawyer and scholar Erwin Chemerinsky discussed the philosophies of the current Supreme Court makeup and how this influences their (sometimes awful) decisions. Marci Hamilton showed the history of the wretched federal statute RFRA (what drove the horrid Hobby Lobby decision).
Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens talked about their experiences with the Supreme Court and the Greece v. Galloway decision.
This post is a week late – things got really crazy at work! Sorry! I’ll also post about the travel hiccups that I had later.
I had a great time at the latest FFRF Convention! This was only the second convention that I have attended but it will definitely not be the last. As a Life Member of FFRF, I’ll be aiming to attend every annual convention from here out.
After registering, we had group bus tours through the Columbia River Gorge. The Pacific Northwest had been experiencing an almost unheard of drought of over 80 days without rain. Unfortunately, this was the day that the drought broke. The rainy weather could not drench my enthusiasm though. This was an informative tour with some spectacular views. The tour made stops at a salmon spawning river, Horsetail Falls, Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls.
My Flickr set of photos of the gorge trip is here.
On Friday evening we were given updates on Jessica Ahlquist’s and Max Nielson’s situations. Their stories have fallen out of the ADD-ridden news media; but they are not yet over by a long-shot. I wish all the best to both of them and look forward to successful conclusions.
A major highlight of this year’s conference was hearing Richard Dawkins acceptance speech of FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes award. It was really two speeches in one. The first half examined the excessive use of metaphor by “sophisticated theologians.” The fundamentalists in America appear to honestly believe the things that they say they do; but the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury (who both believe in the correctness of evolution) often speak about Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden like they were real places. No doubt, their less sophisticated congregations are not picking up on the use of metaphor and are believing this material literally.
Dawkins then deviated into the political, what with the impending Presidential election. He opined that a candidate’s religious views should be put under scrutiny just as much as their economic or social views. Of course, Mitt Romney provides the best example of this. He allegedly believes provably false ideas (Israelites in the Americas!) and racist ideas. If he wants to be the most powerful man in the world, he ought be accountable for these ideas.
Of course, I had Professor Dawkins sign my copy of The God Delusion and I thanked him for throwing me the first life-line toward reason.
Saturday was a busy but interesting day. Katherine Stewart discussed how the Good News Club slimes its way into public schools. Rather chilling and something I’m going to watch for in my school district. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel gave an excellent presentation about debunking the myth that America is a Christian nation.
We heard from “graduates” of The Clergy Project. This is an important initiative; one that I hope sees many more graduates in the future. I suspect that there is a large population of atheist pastors, priests and such that are forced to live a lie.
The convention ended on a high note for me personally. I won one of the raffle drawings for “clean money.” These are American currency bills that were printed before the 1957 law that tainted them with “In God We Trust.” I won a $20 bill printed in 1934 – a thing of beauty!
I hold on to a vision of a world that is not choking under the stranglehold of religion. The human race deserves to rise to fullest potential without being dragged down by a past that it is growing out of.
In a couple of hours, I’ll be flying out to Portland, Oregon to attend the 35th FFRF National Convention.
I loved last year’s convention in Hartford, Connecticut. This year’s will be every bit as wonderful. All the more so if I get a chance to meet Richard Dawkins!
Once I return, I’ll post more about the event.
Last Wednesday the Australian government voted against marriage equality. That depressed me since polls show that a majority of Australians support equality.
I suspect that much of my disappointment stems from trying to understand Prime Minister Gillard. I am thrilled that an out atheist is the head of a major country. I was impressed when she cancelled speaking at a Christian group when they made statements equating being gay with the health hazards of smoking. Wow! I wish American politicians had a commitment to reality like that.
Yet, Gillard does not support marriage equality. I don’t understand it.
Of course, atheism does not automatically equate with certain social issues. We are seeing the emergence of so-called Atheism + that tries to tie atheism to these social issues. Once I became an out atheist, I almost immediately began supporting rights and equality for LGBT people. Simply put; I realized that all the arguments to supress the LGBT community was entirely religious – I could not think of a single purely secular reason. Since I rejected religion, I had to reject the idea that fellow human beings could not be permitted to marry those that they loved.
I’d love to chat with Ms. Gillard about that.
In the mean time, several more states in the USA have marriage equality votes pending as part of their participation in the November federal election. I am hoping that more of this country sees the light and removes the pointless barriers that block fellow human beings from happiness.
Last week, every time that I began to write about this something new would crop up. The brouhaha seems to have finally calmed down. Of course; any one who knows me already know which side of the argument that I am on.
At first I applauded when the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco stated that they didn’t want a Chick-fil-A store in their cities. However, I am glad to say that reason returned to my mind. It was wrong to politicize this issue (though it was important for political leaders to speak out as they did, it is preferable to allow the free market to deal with it). I owe a nod to Matthew Paul Turner – a Christian writer – who wrote 5 Reasons Why The Church Failed Yesterday about the failure of the politicization of this issue:
People felt hate and we ignored that. At the end of the day, regardless of whether or not your Christian understanding of scripture harbors hate or not, a large group of people felt hated…
Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people. Oh I know that most Christians will say, “I don’t hate gay people!!”
But did supporting CFA Appreciation Day prove that?
As a humanist, I want the best for everybody. If two people love each other and want to marry, they should have that as a right. Religion has often (always?) been at the forefront of supressing people’s rights. In spite of this, we humans have slowly moved forward and made life better.
There was a time when a group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them larger breasts, wider hips and even a different way of peeing, were regarded as inferior to the rest of the humans. These humans were treated as property for far too long. That slowly changed. There is another group of humans with some genetic differences that gave them darker skin; these humans were also seen as inferior and treated as property for too long.
Those struggles still continue to a certain, sad, extent. Today, we have a group of humans with some genetic differences that give them a predilection toward the same gender. This group is often marginalized and treated as inferior or broken. Yet, in time, they too will win out.
I can hardly wait for that day to arrive.
I so desperately want to attend the Reason Rally next week!
Alas, I felt like a heel starting a new job and almost immediately asking them for a day off (I figured take Friday off to fly up to Washington D.C.). For that reason, I won’t be attending.
What a spectacular list of speakers that they have lined up though! I’m definitely poorer for not being there. I hope that the consciousness of this nation is raised by this event. The United States is not a Christian nation. Jefferson’s wall between state and church is important and valuable; it frees the state and the church to do what the each do best. Most important of all, I want the Reason Rally to show Americans that secularism is a rising force in this nation – we are growing up and finally starting to throw off the shackles of Bronze Age mythologies!
From October 6th to the 10th, I spent my vacation in Hartford, Connecticut to attend the FFRF Annual Convention.
What an amazing time!
After pre-registering on Friday morning, I attended one of the first trips to the Mark Twain House & Museum. Samuel Clemens and his family lived there for 17 years until he had to sell it in 1903 due to personal bankruptcy. What I found most amazing about this was the hardcore geek that Clemens was for his time. The house features indoor plumbing, forced-air heating, telephone, intercom and even a burglar alarm system.
I met many wonderful people, including some of the people being honoured at the convention. The student activists were truly inspirational – indeed; I wish that I had my current convictions when I was their age and their courage to stand up for the First Amendment.
Three new books have been added to my ever-growing freethinking reading list. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s 36 Arguments For The Existence of God: A Work Of Fiction. Lastly (and this one I have nearly finished reading already) is Professor Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True.
Awesomely, I was able to get each of them signed by the authors.
I will definitely attend next year’s convention in Portland, Oregon!
I am honestly worried about the upcoming American
circus election. As a resident alien, I cannot vote but I am stuck living with the outcome of choices made by delusional people.
I keep annoying my colleagues by quoting temperatures in Celsius rather than the Fahrenheit scale that they refuse to let go of. Regardless, the temperatures around Texas have been brutal for the last few weeks.
Like many others here, I was looking forward to tropical storm Don and the rain that it would surely bring. Wow! I don’t think anybody expected this:
POOF! Now you see it, now you don’t!
Of course, many Texans are trying to link this weather to the wrath of some fictional deity. Even the governor is in on that delusion; Perry is sponsoring a Christian prayer and fasting rally. Unfortunately, the FFRF lawsuit against him was dismissed. I wish I could be in Houston to help protest this foolishness.
Tomorrow I am flying up to Canada for a short vacation.
A tiny minority of people seem to think that Jesus will come again sometime during my flight. Of course, I have every confidence that I’ll land safely in Toronto.
I can hardly wait to check out the www.wecanknow.com website on Sunday!
"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason."
No Benny. Bad Benny! You are wrong, very wrong.
A little bit earlier, Benny confirmed for everyone that he had never read the Bible! In an Italian TV broadcast he told a Muslim woman in Ivory Coast:
"Violence never comes from God…
I completely agree with Bill Maher’s speech at the end of Religulous:
The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having in key decisions made by religious people. By irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken.
Last week, the wonderful Hubble Space Telescope helped provide fresh evidence for the expanding universe. Very cool stuff! Once more, observed data refutes supernatural claims about our existence.
Of course the ignoramuses in the Texas government introduce a bill to protect supernatural claims about our existence.
The ever-awesome xkcd comics displayed the following comic when I was clicking the random link. It is so true.
No wonder Texas feels the need to file meaningless bills.
I intentionally delayed my first post of 2011 so that I would not get caught up in the hype of summarizing 2010 (though my hero Paul Randal did make an excellent summary of the books that he read during 2010) or making silly resolutions.
I have a few things planned for the first half of this year – yes, this are dangerously close to being called "resolutions." I think they are different though.
More Ray Tracing
I am really enjoying experimenting with this. It is fun to see what can arise visually from one’s "programming" efforts. I’ll be exploring POV-Ray’s color_map feature as it is something that I see used quite often but didn’t grasp. A shout-out must go to Friedrich Lohmueller again for helping to explain color_map in an approachable way.
I am going to be purchasing Daylon Graphic’s terrain editor Leveller program in the very near future. I am excited to see what I can create with this. One of the key reasons that I chose this program is that much of what it produces can be exported to POV-Ray.
Work With The SharePoint Team
I have proposed to my manager that I leave the DSD team for the last quarter of our fiscal year and incubate with the SharePoint CSS team. We help that team a great deal since SQL Server is the back-end storage support for it and few SharePoint engineers really understand the nuances of that.
My goal is to be the first point of contact for all things SQL Server related. After directly assisting with their cases; I will be producing training and exploring ways to improve our data collection and analysis tools. I am hoping that ultimately both CSS teams will benefit from this in the long run.
Improve The House
This coming May will mark two years of house ownership. It is time that I make my mark with this place and turn it into my home instead of just a place to store my stuff. This goal is still very fuzzy on details and I am open to ideas in the comments (Oh! That could be a mistake…).
Keep Working Out
It is around this time that my second anniversary of hiring Patrick as a personal trainer is due. I have made a lot of progress. I have no doubt that I am at the healthiest that I have been in at least 20 years.
This picture was taken by Patrick on December 21. He says that my back is getting into great shape and now has some clear definition. Of course, I cannot see my own back so I’ll try taking some pictures here at home (I’ll spare the global community the horror of that and keep them for my eyes only!).
My last body fat percentage was 17.3%. I’d like to get just below 15%. My diet is the toughest obstacle there, I have always known that. The fact is, I dislike a great deal many vegetables; I find that their flavours are unpalatable. I also dislike cooking; so I am often consuming quick and dirty options like frozen dinners (even brands like Healthy Choice probably do not stack up to doing it yourself).
There are new tools that are helping me. Gold’s Gym now has an online food journal that can total calories, fat and other dietary statistics. This is giving me quick visual feedback – especially when I slip and consume some fast food or make a poor snack choice. I also bought a Polaris watch to monitor my heart rate and compute calories burned.
Read More Books On Religion
Last night I finished Bart Ehrman’s excellent Misquoting Jesus. The subtitle, "The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" drew me in right from the start. I have a certain conservative, Christian friend who immediately rolled his eyes upon hearing the title. It is sad that people dismiss things out-of-hand without first seeing what the subject is really about.
Textual criticism is a fascinating subject and it is a shame that our children do not learn about in school.
I need to finish Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures too.
He has a superior style of writing that takes a complex subject and makes it accessible to the lay-person.
Sam Harris (another hero of mine) recently blogged the Afterword that he wrote for his Letter To A Christian Nation. Both are excellent reads. I was very glad that my father read Letter twice while I was visiting him in Australia last year. I will definitely be reading Harris’ newest book The Moral Landscape very soon.
To be fair to my former Christian beliefs, last year I read Patrick Glynn’s God: The Evidence. This was, unfortunately, pitifully written. It was unconvincing on all levels. To me, it felt like just about every chapter stopped short. Almost as though Glynn believed that he had presented his "evidence" sufficiently for anybody to connect the "obvious" dots together. He failed. Badly.
I have many others in my ever-growing queue thanks to Amazon constantly recommending purchases.
Bring It On 2011!
In one month, I’ll be heading to the Dominican Republic for a week to attend a friend’s wedding. All the old crew from my Proctor & Gamble slumming days will be there and we’re all looking forward to ensuing mayhem we’ll cause. A vacation is a great way to start a year!
So now, we’ll see what the next 50 weeks bring!
Five years ago today the Kitzmiller v. Dover case ruled that so-called "intelligent design" theory was "a mere relabeling of creationism and not a scientific theory." What a wonderful thing!
I highly recommend the Nova documentary "Judgement Day – Intelligent Design On Trial" for more information about this trial and its awesome conclusion. You can find this documentary on Netflix.