Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Miley Cyrus, Christians, and the Death of English

Enough with spreading the word on atheism, because I’ve got a new mission now: saving the English language. So if you’re here looking for some snark about religionists, you’ve come to the wrong ... well, OK, just skip to the last few paragraphs.

But let’s begin by boarding my train of thought, shall we?

Yesterday, my local rag saw fit to devote nearly a page and a half to an article about Miley Cyrus, a teenage superstar and the envy of every prepubescent girl in America. Apparently, if the hype is to be believed, when those young women are not obsessing over boys or whether their tits will ever grow, they’re fixated on every detail of Miley’s life. Of course, you may know her better as Hannah Montana, the character she plays on her Disney-produced TV show. Or, if you’re like me, you may not know her at all.

Now, had I been the editor-in-chief of the paper, I might not have opted to devote so much room to that article and its huge accompanying pictures. I mean, y’know, what with all the, like, stuff that’s, you know what I mean?, like, happening all over the ... um ... world and places like that. But, hey, everyone knows that the newspaper audience in a smallish city filled with retirees is made up mostly of tweenage girls, so I guess it was a sound editorial choice to run that story.

Miley's answers to questions reflect the glib talk of someone who has no idea that words are supposed to have meanings. And reading what Miley said has me wondering whether we as a country have already started devolving in our ability to communicate verbally. Granted, Miley Cyrus is no orator; but she is the trend-setter for millions of kids who want to be like her. Here are some sample answers she gave.

When asked about her new “adult” CD, recorded under her own name rather than that of her character’s:

To be played on these radio stations is awesome, to be able to rock out to it in your car without planning it, without it being just a kids’ channel.... I’m making it a little more fun and edgy, and I think being able to step out of the “Hannah Montana” thing — not in a way where I’m forgetting her completely, but as my fans grow up, me growing up, too, and kind of having my own person.
When asked about “mistakes” she has made:
It’s kind of hard to let someone that was so young when they started kind of grow up. You just have to realize that people make mistakes and that makes you almost a little more relatable.
When asked about the songs that she, herself, wrote:
I hope I get respected a little bit more as a writer. I want them to respect me and know that I have a lot to say. I have a lot for the world to know and take away from what my life experiences have been.
When asked about allowing the character Hannah Montana to age along with her:
There’s some things that I want to reinvent with her look, and not make it all sparkles and butterflies, you know? Some stars, and some black rock ‘n’ roll stuff. I did want it to grow up a little bit.
When asked about touring as Hannah Montana:
I’m kind of past that stuff. But I definitely wanna keep doing my show. I love doing it and I wouldn’t wanna give it up quite yet.
OK, so why am I clogging up the intertubes ranting about a semi-literate young lady?

Here’s part of a Christian’s comment that I’ve lifted from chappy’s blog, with her kind permission. I’ve combined paragraphs, but otherwise the quote is verbatim:
If all existence is nothing more than the interaction of matter and energy, then there can be no knowledge, no science. Practical science is predicated on the philosophy of science, but that philosophy is itself not physical. Ideas, reason, logic… are all held to be a part of reality, but they deny any sort of physical description. In fact they require some semblance of personhood to exist, and personhood itself resists a reductionist, naturalist description. The concept that metaphysical concepts such as logic and persons are as fundamental to existence as empirical things is why I remain a theist.
Here’s another Christian’s writing, from the same comment thread. Again, I’ve sewn the paragraphs together, but left the language intact:
The narratives of the Bible have a deeper complexity of meaning then meets the eye. The human race is in intellectual obscurity as to the nature of the Holy Word’s expanded meanings within its literal sense. This is why the Lord has promised to return “with the clouds.” One may take this literally and believe that the Second Coming will take place on an overcast day, or elevate the natural meaning of these words to their psycho-spiritual equivalent, and understand that the Lord’s return is not a physical event, but His clearing up the obscure ideas we have about ultimate reality and the divine scheme. These new ideas are now being made available to the world.
Both Miley Cyrus’s interview and those comments by Christians are evidence of the debasement of our language. Words readily flow, but they have no relationship to one another. Vague ideas are presented by piling on what are essentially nonsense phrases in “Jabberwocky” style. Compare:
  • ... kind of having my own person
  • they require some semblance of personhood to exist ...
  • I have a lot for the world to know and take away from what my life experiences have been.
  • These new ideas are now being made available to the world.
  • I love doing it and I wouldn’t wanna give it up quite yet.
  • The concept that metaphysical concepts such as logic and persons are as fundamental to existence as empirical things is why I remain a theist.
  • You just have to realize that people make mistakes and that makes you almost a little more relatable.
  • The human race is in intellectual obscurity as to the nature of the Holy Word’s expanded meanings within its literal sense.
Please do your part to help keep English alive. Do NOT speak or write like Miley Cyrus or like Christians. Thanks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Puzzling Atheists #6: Crunchy Gods

We’ve all been reading about PZ Myers and his desecration of the “Host,” which is basically a cracker with Jesus in it. Or is it a cracker that (who?) IS Jesus. In either case, Jesus and the cracker are definitely intermingled into one unitary entity that (who?) can send you to hell if you bite it or feed it to your dog.

It turns out that our pal the Christ isn’t the only god who uses a crunchable for camouflage. As a matter of fact, twenty such gods appear below. Since the gods and the snacks are wholly holy, none of the names have been fucked around with; the letters appear in the correct order for both omnipotence and maximum crispiness.

For example, if you look closely at ORJESEUOS you may find Jesus inhabiting an Oreo: ORJESEUOS. You might also be able to see Thor peeking out from a piece of Papadum: TPAHOPADRUM.

Each deity and snackable is written as one word, without punctuation. Some of the gods are, admittedly, a little obscure. Crackers, cookies, and other crunchables, are always written in the singular. They may be generic (like TACO), a specific type (like GRAHAM), or even a brand or trade name (like RUFFLE or KITKAT). I’ve tried to be a good scout, but I do apologize to my non-American readers for any particular treat they may not have heard of. Note: The use of an edible in this puzzle does not necessarily mean that I endorse it as delicious. In fact, some of the following items, both foods and gods, are pretty vile.

Your challenge is to separate the gods from the crunchies. The first correct solver of each item will have his or her name listed, although not in a cracker. To give solvers maximum opportunity, please limit each comment to ONE answer only. You may, however, submit multiple comments. Thanks.


Good luck and happy chomping. But be careful not to ruin your appetite – or your intellect – on this junk.

[Update: All crunchies and gods have now been safely disunited, so no deities were desecrated in the making of this puzzle. I'm not listing the answers, though, in case some of you latecomers want to give these a try. You can look through the comments to find the solutions.]
: 1. yinyang; 2. iambilly; 3. yinyang; 4.
yinyang; 5. yinyang; 6. John Evo; 7. yinyang; 8. the chaplain; 9. iambilly; 10. yinyang; 11. the chaplain; 12. iambilly; 13. yinyang; 14. iambilly; 15. John Evo; 16. the chaplain; 17. the chaplain; 18. iambilly; 19. Kira; 20. Kira]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The "God" Deletions

That’s a purposely ambiguous title up there. Is this post about deletions of the word “God”? Or is it about deletions by “God” or — given the quotation marks — people who claim to represent some supernatural character whom they call “God”?

Well, it’s about both.

Deletions OF “God”

If I had my way, which is not really my way but, rather, the way of the framers of the Constitution, the word “God” would be removed from all enterprises sponsored, directly or indirectly, by the American government. Article VI and The First Amendment are quite clear on that point: “God” has no official business here. Let’s take that silly, but loaded, word off our money and out of our pledge. Let’s banish it from our courts, from our legislative chambers, and from the mouths of our elected representatives. And, since, according to the third clause of Article VI, religion can’t be used as a test for official office or “public trust,” let’s keep those fucking spiritual advisers away from the president. The views of religious leaders who counsel our elected officials are selected, weighed, vetted for conformity to America’s alleged Christianity. That’s a religious test, folks.

There’s nothing more unAmerican, more anti-patriotic, than elected and appointed governmental office-holders intoning the word “God.” Why? Because the wise men who drew up our Constitution and its Bill of Rights consciously and purposefully chose to leave that word out of their formula, and to take steps to make sure it would never be included in any future activities done specifically under the auspices of the government they created.

Perhaps the writers of the Constitution didn’t foresee the loopholes. They mistakenly thought that all our laws would be passed by the legislature, instead of many “laws” being enacted by the executive branch and by governmental agencies. With that erroneous thought in mind, they voted to include the First Amendment, which specifically banned our legislature from pandering to the superstitious: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. Notice that they didn’t write “an establishment of a religion,” which would argue against elevating a specific belief system over others. No, what they said was “an establishment of religion,” with no article, no qualifier. Religion, itself, cannot be established by the legislature. The spirit, if not the letter, of their ideas should be extended to the Oval Office and the Supreme Court, and, therefore, to every executive office and courtroom under the titular jurisdiction of either.

Stop forcing “God” on me, you tyrants.

Deletions BY “God”

OK, let’s start by admitting the obvious: There are many reasons for blogging. Not everyone is interested in sharing ideas, discussing their own and opposing views, or debating with passion and at least some degree of coherence.

In this neck of the Atheosphere, though, we all seem to enjoy doing those things. If you check out my list of frequent commenters, you’ll see the names of lots of people with whom I’ve engaged in intellectual smack-downs, people who have eagerly and effectively jabbed me back. Almost everyone on that list has argued with others in that “honor” roll, although many of us consider one another to be friends. We may get nasty, satirical, or just plain silly. Sometimes, we even piss each other off. A lot. Yet, when we cool down, we can acknowledge that the attacks aren’t personal, they’re back-and-forth thrusts about ideas. To me, taking part in a vehement verbal dispute is a way of showing that I respect another person, although not necessarily his or her opinions about a particular subject. You’ll never see me (and most of us, I think) whining — as one commenter did here: “Obviously you don’t like me.” How stupid and irrelevant is that?

One thing most of us don’t do is delete comments. We may refuse to engage in debate with some people who do write ridiculous remarks, even urge our readers to avoid feeding the “trolls.” But we don’t ban anybody’s ideas from our premises. Most faithfreeists champion Freedom of Speech. In our opinion, it may well be the most valuable right we possess.

But go take a look at some religious blogs. I’m not giving you any links; just pick a few sites at random. What you’ll find, for the most part, are “moderated” threads. If the blog-owner doesn’t care for what someone says, if it offends “God,” then, bam!, it’s gone. Back to the ether. Deleted. The attitude seems to be:

Hey, I have an idea. Let’s have a debate. Only I’ll remove most of the things you say because they’re offensive and they’re aimed at me personally.

I win!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!

Whether you agree or disagree with anything I've written here, feel free to leave a comment. I promise: I will not delete it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Barack Obama Jokes. And Some McCain Jokes, Too.

Comedians have already begun complaining that they can’t come up with jokes about Barack Obama. But that may just be because of misplaced political correctness.

Still, when The New Yorker published its satirical cover of the Obamas last week, many folks on the Left — including the Obama campaign staff — raised a stink about the alleged inappropriateness of the gag. So perhaps we humorists do need to be careful about inadvertently insulting the candidate.

I recently wrote six great jokes about Barack Obama, but because I’m always scrupulously careful not to offend anyone, I submitted them to the Obama people for vetting before publishing them here. A few minor changes were suggested, which I wasn’t too happy about, but the upside is that now no one can accuse me of insensitivity. Here are the edited versions of those jokes.

Why did Barack Obama cross the road?
Because he’s the candidate of Change.

Why does Barack Obama wear red suspenders?
Because he’s the candidate of Change.

Why did Barack Obama throw the clock out the window
Because he’s the candidate of Change.

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Barack Obama.
Barack Obama who?
Barack Obama, the candidate of Change.

A rabbi, a priest, and Barack Obama are drinking American-made beer (not too many bottles though) in a bar together. Obama turns to the others and says, “I’ll bet you guys don’t know who I am.” The rabbi says, “You’re right. It says nothing about you in the Talmud.” The priest says, “You’re right. The Pope didn’t issue an encyclical about you.” The bartender, listening in on the conversation, finally asks, “OK, who are you?” “Well,” says Obama, “I’m the candidate of Change.”

How many Barack Obamas does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one, because he’s the candidate of Change.

The McCain staff, on the other hand, said that their targeted electorate doesn’t get jokes anyway, so whatever I said wouldn’t matter. Here then, for your chuckle-hungry enjoyment, are my original knee-slappers.
Why did John McCain cross the road?
Because George Bush was on the other side.

Why does John McCain wear red suspenders?
Because the bright color distracts Americans from looking at his wrinkles.

Why did John McCain throw the clock out the window
Because he was angry that people were making jokes about how old he was.

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
John McCain.
John McCain who?
I told you. John McCain. Could you let me in, you cunt? I forgot where I put my keys.

A rabbi, a priest, and John McCain are drinking Iraqi democratically made beer (produced only as a result of the surge’s success) in a bar together. McCain turns to the others and says, “I’ll bet you guys don’t know who I am.” The rabbi says, “You’re right. It says nothing about you in the Talmud.” The priest says, “You’re right. The Pope didn’t issue an encyclical about you.” The bartender, listening in on the conversation, finally asks, “OK, who are you?” “Well,” says McCain, “I was hoping one of you could tell me. I can’t remember.”

How many John McCains does it take to change a light bulb?
None, because he outsourced the job to India.

Ahhh, now that’s comedy, eh? The presidential contest promises to be hilarious, doesn’t it?

But maybe the joke’s on us.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Quazy Quistian Question # 7

Whenever my wife and I have an argument – which, given our confrontational natures and unpleasant personalities, is fairly often – one of us usually winds up saying, “I’m not convinced.”

Ex: You know I can’t mow the lawn. I’ve got allergies.

Mrs. Ex: How come your allergies only kick in when there’s yard work to do?

Ex: It must be something about disturbing the greenery. All the crap flies up my nose.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.

Ex: Well, I’m not convinced you’re not convinced. I’ve told you hundreds of times that I’m allergic. How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head?

Mrs. Ex: You’ll never convince me. I think you’re making it up.

Mrs. Ex: I wish you wouldn’t spend so much time on your stupid blog.

Ex: It’s not stupid. I’m changing the world through humor.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.

Ex: You’re not convinced that I’m changing the world?

Mrs. Ex: Yeah. And I’m also not convinced that there’s any humor.

Ex: What if I could offer you evidence?

Mrs. Ex: I wouldn’t believe it.

Ex: I’m not eating those French-cut canned stringbeans.

Mrs. Ex: OK.

Ex: You’re not gonna get all pissed off if I don’t enjoy the vegetables you’re trying to push?

Mrs. Ex: I just opened the can. Why would I care if you eat them or not?

Ex: I’m not convinced.

Mrs. Ex: OK, if you care so much, I don’t see why you couldn’t open a can yourself. It’s a well-known fact: Everybody needs vegetables. What do you have to offer?

Ex: I wasn’t able to find any canned vegetables I like.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. Did you look?

Ex: I know what we have.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. Did you know we have creamed corn?

Ex: Really? I’m not convinced.

Mrs. Ex: It’s in the cupboard, under the fruit cocktail.

Ex: I didn’t notice it.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced. You didn’t look, did you?

Ex: Well, I looked but I didn’t dig around.

Mrs. Ex: I’m not convinced.

Ex: What would it take to convince you that I looked?

Mrs. Ex: You couldn’t convince me, because I know you didn’t.

So there you have it. You couldn’t convince me, because I know ... whatever.

Change a few details in the dialogues above, and you’ve got three so-called debates between an atheist and a religionist. (Note: In real life, neither my wife nor I is a believer; we just play one on this blog. Don’t struggle to figure out which one of us represents whom in what scene. In our fictional personae, we’re not consistent. I have the authority to write that way because I’ve just renewed my literary license. For any Christians interested in obtaining one: You will be tested in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. So if I was yourself, Id practiss, pracktis, PRACITCE!!!!!!!!!)

A few weeks ago, a quintet of atheists discussed what evidence we’d need to believe in a god. The stars spelling out “Jesus says ‘howdy’”? The sun turning into a big, sad bunny face? A burning bush suddenly singing back-up for Johnny Evo? Our conclusion: It’s not entirely out of the question that there’s some evidence for a god somewhere, but we’d be skeptical. Really skeptical. All other possible explanations would have to be absolutely disposed of. Most atheists are open to accepting irrefutable evidence for the existence of a god, even though we’re 99.9999999999...% confident that no such evidence exists.

On the other hand, lots of us here in the Atheosphere waste our time laying out our case for freedom from faith. We debate, discuss, and argue — often civilly, but sometimes sarcastically or in a broadly comic way — with theists. We point out inconsistencies in the bible. We cite similarities of biblical stories with other ancient myths that preceded them. We offer science and explain the scientific method. We discuss historical events, as recorded by reliable sources. We attack flawed logic and bogus philosophical reasoning. We appeal to the common laws and moral traditions of many cultures and societies. Most of all, we insist on evidence. The religionists, ultimately, dismiss our rants with a mere I’m not convinced.

Now, there may be the odd Christian/Jew/Muslim/Hindu/tree-worshipper who waters his or her seed of doubt with the spray from our scattershot hose of reason. But for the most part, the great majority of theists try to sell their beliefs with: How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head? When atheists ask What if I could offer you evidence?, religionists respond— without having heard that evidence — I wouldn’t believe it.

You couldn’t convince me, because I know ...

Many Christians, claim to be “open-minded,” even though they’ve got the most tightly shut brains in the universe. Some won’t accept evolution, despite a century’s worth of biological discoveries and data. Why? Because the science conflicts with the ideas of a tribe of primitive, ignorant desert-dwellers living more than three millennia ago. That’s like rejecting the advice of a good lawyer for the counsel of your neighbor’s five-year-old. Other Christians accept evolution, but only if they can add the extraneous hypothesis: “God started it.” Those people don’t have open minds; at best, their minds are slightly ajar. Their ideas make no more sense than the premise that Jamie Leigh Curtis controls your bowel movements.

Is America a Christian nation? The evidence, in the form of our Constitution, cries out a resounding NO. There’s not a word about any gods or Jesi in it. It doesn’t even refer to the Twelve Commandments. The Founding Fathers left that stuff out because they specifically did not want the new country to be established on religious principles; they wanted it to be a governmental embodiment of the Enlightenment. The most ignorant Christians respond, “Yes, but we know what those men believed; we understand what was in their hearts.” With such an assertion, I might be able to prove that the words to “God Bless America” are secretly buried somewhere in King Lear; I understand what was in Shakespeare’s heart. And besides, he told me so himself.

Hurricane? God did it? Deaths of innocents? God didn’t do it. Survival of some people? God did it. Destroyed churches and Christian businesses? God didn’t do it. Economic benefits reaped by exploitive but prayerful construction companies? God did it. Financial ruin for the local citizenry? God didn’t do it. Or else: Man cannot understand or explain God’s mysterious ways. But everything happens for a reason. The storm was part of his plan. How many more times do I have to say it before you’ll get it through your head? And anyway, everyone secretly believes in a god, particularly in extreme situations. I’m not convinced you’re not convinced.

All of which leads me to wonder: Despite the continuing lack of evidence for the existence of god, as well as the implied evidence against his existence, why do religionists continue to believe? Are they actually faithful, as they claim? Or are they merely smug, stubborn, and stupid?

Quazy Quistian Question #7
What arguments might convince you to even question the existence of your god? What evidence would you need to decide that your god’s existence is highly unlikely? Explain your response.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

If It's Adultery, Of Course It's Not Marriage

Ah, the Ten Commandments. Christians and Jews would have us believe that they're universal, so I decided to test that hypothesis.

I had a little difficulty at the very beginning, because actually there are Twelve Commandments. Different religious traditions organize them in various ways. But in the simple English version of Wik-sodus, these Twelve Commandments are:

  1. I am the Lord your God.
  2. You shall have no other gods before me.
  3. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
  4. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God.
  5. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  6. Honor your father and mother.
  7. You shall not murder.
  8. You shall not commit adultery.
  9. You shall not steal.
  10. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  11. You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
  12. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
OK, I'd gotten my Commandments in a format easy enough for a child to understand, and I wanted to see how they'd make their way around the world. How could I do that?

Only one way: Google Translate.

So I carefully entered the Twelve Commandments in Wikinglish, and then I sent that text flying all over the linguistic globe. Here's the route: English to Arabic to Bulgarian to traditional Chinese to Croatian to Czech to Danish to Dutch to Finnish to French to German to Greek to Hindi to Italian to Japanese to Korean to Norwegian to Polish to Portuguese to Romanian to Russian to Spanish to Swedish. Those are the 23 languages that Google has made available. From Swedish, I made the final translation back to English, since — as any American fundamentalist can tell you that's the actual language of Jesus.

The final result is the True and Authentic Universal Version of the Twelve Commandments, just as God meant them to be:
  1. I am your God weeks.
  2. Also from all other sins.
  3. "The presence of the image.
  4. In order to combat violence in the name of God.
  5. Do not forget, Saturday, in order to protect a sacred animal.
  6. His father and mother.
  7. Sueopseup dead.
  8. This is not marriage.
  9. If the state.
  10. It is perjury and neighbors.
  11. This should be away from home sueopseup people.
  12. In May a woman was approaching.
Forgive me for not knowing exactly how to pronounce the character " in the Third Commandment; I think it may be a variant of the click sound found in Xhosa, although I have no idea how it made its way into the translation. My guess is: the Bulgarians snuck it in.

I should also point out that we learn, from the final translated version of the Fifth Commandment, the name of the person to whom God was speaking. It was not Moses, as commonly believed; it was Saturday.

I'm sorry that I can't identify exactly who the Sueopseup people are, but I suspect that they may be the Hittites. In any case, they're either dead or away from home, so don't expect them to protect your sacred animal.

Even though I have no evidence, I'd like to believe that the approaching woman was beautiful. But I do wish she had chosen to wear something other than traditional Sueopseup garb.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Polls That Make You Say "Pew"

You may not have read about all the following recent polls. Here's the way the yes answers were further classified.

Are you an atheist?

  • Yes, I don’t believe in any gods (79% of atheists)
  • Yes, but I believe in one or more gods (21% of atheists)
Do you accept the theory of evolution?
  • Yes, I believe in natural selection without any supernatural “intelligence” involved (19%)
  • Yes, but not without a god hypothesis (76%)
  • Only until I get my Ph.D. so I can go to work for the Discovery Institute (5%)
Are you a vegetarian?
  • Yes, I never eat meat of any kind (54%)
  • Yes, but I have a steak sandwich twice a week (27%)
  • Yes, unless my spouse makes that terrific meat loaf (11%)
  • Yes, but only if you count veal, pork, beef, possum, and squirrel as vegetables (8%)
Are you pro-life?
  • Yes, I don’t think we should kill any person, animal, or plant, including fetuses and seeds (1%)
  • Yes, but I don’t mind pulling weeds (22%)
  • Yes, but I believe in experimenting on animals to test cosmetics (13%)
  • Yes, but I think it’s OK to bomb non-Americans (38%)
  • Yes, but I’ve been known to snipe into crowds of infidels (10%)
  • Yes, and I’d gladly kill anyone who isn’t (16%)
Would you vote for a woman for president?
  • Yes, it’s about fucking time, regardless of her political views (Knee-jerk feminists)
  • Yes, but only if she’s hot (Sports Illustrated readers)
  • Yes, but only over my dead body (He-Man Woman Haters Club)
  • Yes, but only if my wife insisted (Hen-pecked husbands)
  • Yes, but only if her bowel movements are regular (Jamie Lee Curtis)
Would you vote for an atheist for president?
  • Yes, but only if he or she weren’t some asshat neo-con (Chappy, Evo, Ex, OG, Philly, SI)
  • Yes, but only if he or she were a person of faith (the Democratic Party)
  • Yes, but only if he or she were one of the 21% who believe in God (Pew Forum staff)
  • Yes, but only if he were a guy (He-Man Woman Haters Freethinking Club)
Are you a supporter of the U.S. Constitution?
  • Yes, I think the Constitution is the Law of the Land (0.5%)
  • Yes, but not the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (Barack Obama)
  • Yes, but not the Fourth Amendment (Barack Obama)
  • Yes, but not the parts about how to run the government (Republicans)
  • Yes, but only when I can tell you what it really means (The Supreme Court)
Have you read any books other than the Bible this year?
  • Yes, I’ve read many books this year (3%)
  • Yes, but only the ones advertised on TV (most Americans)
  • Yes, but only if the BIBLE COUNTS!!!!!!! (Fundagelicals)
  • Yes, if you include text messages ROFLMAO (Milliennials)
  • Yes, I’ve straightened up hundreds of them on our shelves (Barnes & Noble employees)
Do you vote? If so, which is more important to you: Who wins American Idol or who wins the U.S. Presidential Election?
  • American Idol (Your neighbor)
  • U.S. Presidential Election (the Founding Fathers)
  • They’re equally important (John McCain)
  • Neither is important (Oil companies)
Have you ever lied to a pollster?
  • Yes, but not to you (43%)
  • Yes, but only to you (56%)
  • Yes, I can’t stand people from Poland (George W. Bush)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Breaking Obama News: Read It Here First

Barack Obama’s campaign staff announced today that he would be giving his acceptance speech during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. The fact that he will not yet have been formally nominated does not deter him. “Formally shmormally,” an Obama supporter of unknown ethnicity told the AP.

Previously, the Democratic nominee had intended to give his speech at Denver’s Invesco Field, but plans fell through when a number of NFL All-Stars refused to take part in a mock Super Bowl beforehand. Said one unnamed source, “We felt that there was too much danger of getting stabbed if we had to wear those official Barack Obama flag lapel pins.”

A number of major musical acts will travel with the candidate to perform at his ceremony in China. Among these will be the reunited Beatles.

“He’s more popular right now than Jesus Christ,” John Lennon’s ghost said of the Democratic mega-star. “And more powerful, too. George and I have been trying to get Jesus to give us one more chance, but he kept saying he couldn’t. Obama got the job done.”

When questioned about the wisdom of the venue, Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee Chairman, said, “Look. The guy is running for the biggest job in showbiz. It’s only fitting that the entire planet be able to see the big changes we have in store. Barack Obama will definitely not be your father’s King of the World.”

Dean warned the globe’s populace to wear protective sunglasses during the speech. “Believe me,” he said, “when you see that giant Obama head projected onto the sun, it’ll knock your eyes out. But I don’t mean that literally. We want to make sure that no one stares directly into his face without taking the proper precautions.”

Since the candidate hopes to appeal to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, or geographic location, plans are also underway to beam his image onto the moon. Dean said, “Barack Obama wanted to make sure that even those unfortunates who are experiencing night-time during the speech can bask in his light. He’s that kind of caring person.”

Obama’s appearance will be preceded by seventy-two hours of prayer led by leaders of thousands of religious denominations. Even atheists will be included, Obama promised, as long as they’re people of faith.

John McCain, not to be outdone, has also changed the venue of his acceptance speech. He will now speak in the solarium of Dr. Olfarts Senior Center in Babbitt City, Minnesota. Tickets are free for anyone presenting a Depends box-top.

Libertarian candidate Bob Barr and Socialist candidate Brian Moore could be reached for comment, but we didn’t feel like printing anything they said.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Same Ol' Fucken Political Story

This will get political, eventually; I promise. But just bear with me while I think with my typing fingers for a while.

To start with, I’d like once again to discuss, this time briefly, the word fuck here. Aside from the pleasurable physical sensation (which I described in this previous post) of saying it, there’s something about fuck — the “outlaw” nature of it, maybe — that tickles me.

I'm going to give examples of (1) a person who was recently embarrassed (unjustifiably, I think) by fuck, and (2) a person who wasn't.

Example 1: Mojoey laments that he said fuck in the presence of a child, albeit one he didn’t know was nearby. I think his ruefulness is wrong. Apart from in elementary school classrooms and at Disneyland, fuck should be perfectly acceptable. It’s a signal from one adult to another that he or she is taboo-free and refuses to be a prisoner of prevailing social mores.

Example 2: I’ve always enjoyed listening to Cyndi Lauper. Any woman who can record an entire song about female masturbation rates pretty high in my book. On her latest album, Bring Ya to the Brink, there’s a number called “Same Ol’ Story.” The powers-that-be have chosen to let the public know that the cut is “explicit.” So, of course, I was curious. Well, it turns out that the title is not exactly a verbatim quote of what Lauper says over and over again in her lyric. Here’s what she does say:

It’s the same ol’ fucken story.
Don’t you get a much better sense of what the song is about when I include the term omitted from the title? Am I wrong to find the singer’s anti-conventional attitude appealing?

Enough about fuck. There’s also Jesus Christ as an expletive, which many atheists, including myself, use freely. Again, we’re talking about a societal proscription: It’s bad to take the alleged lord’s name in vain, particularly when you yell it after you’ve stubbed your toe. But shouting JC's name has no more to do with believing in him than saying “it’s the same ol’ fucken story” has to do with asserting that the previous speaker’s tale was about sex.

I’m troubled by self-censorship. My attitude is: If people don’t like the way I fucking write, then Jesus Christ, they can stay away from my blog. That goes especially for you, kids!

I also hate it when someone says fudge, or intones Jiminy Cricket or Jeepers Crow, instead of what he or she really means. We all know what you’re thinking, pal; just come out with it.

There’s something slightly dishonest about saying fudge or Jiminy Cricket. But, really, it’s only mildly annoying, not terrible. What would be terrible would be to hear someone say, without a tone of irony, hooray when he dropped his ice cream cone, or fantastic when she banged her shin. Children, bereft of the power of expletives, cry when these things happen. Adults “curse.” A person who speaks a positive phrase in the light of either of these happenings would immediately be branded as a lunatic, or, at best, a liar.

Which brings me to my political point. We used to be able to depend on Barack Obama to say fuck and Jesus Christ — maybe not in so many words, but we knew what he meant — if someone had accused him of:
  • being untrue to his commitment to public campaign financing;
  • accepting the passage of FISA without a built-in telecom-immunity provision;
  • wanting to propagate George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives;
  • tolerating handguns;
  • allowing anyone to take away a woman's right to obtain an abortion if her well-being, either physical or mental, is threatened;
  • expanding the circumstances under which the death penalty can be applied;
  • reneging on his vow that, if elected, he would set a timetable for the removal of all American troops from Iraq;
  • practicing exclusionary politics by, say, banning from his photo ops any women who showed up in Muslim regalia.
In the last few weeks, though, we’ve learned that he no longer says even fudge or Jeepers Crow about those things.

He says hooray.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Course of Human Events: A Quiz

What better way to celebrate Independence Day — OK, this is a few hours early, so sue me — than by taking a quiz? Forget the fireworks and the patriotic band concert, put down that hot dog and bottle of tasteless American beer, turn off your Mel Gibson double-feature (The Patriot and The Passion of the Christ), and don your thinking caps. (Note: Yarmulkes and bishops' mitres don't count.)

If you believe that America is a Christian nation, you might not do very well on this little test. All others ought to get most, if not all, of the questions correct. You earn no extra points for wearing a flag lapel pin, so don't feel obliged. I haven't provided the answers, but will do so if commenters need them.

1. Which of these terms for a deity did Jefferson not use in the Declaration of Independence?

A. Divine Providence
B. Jesus Christ
C. Nature's God
D. Creator

2. Before the Declaration was edited by the Continental Congress, Jefferson wrote scathingly of the King who had

waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thereto.
Which entirely capitalized adjective did Jefferson use negatively to describe this King?


3. In the Declaration of Independence, how many times are the Ten Commandments referred to as a source of Law?

A. none
B. one
C. four
D. ten

4. According to the Declaration, governments draw their powers from the __

A. "Bible"
B. "Word of the Lord"
C. "Consent of the Governed"
D. "Religious Heritage so Beloved of all True Christian Men"

5. Fill in the blank:
[We] … solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, _______ FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES …
A. by the Grace of Him Who Died for Our Sins,
B. by the Blessings Bestowed unto Us by the Author of the Universe,
C. and of Right ought to be,
D. in Accordance with the Wishes of our Heavenly, not Earthly, King

6. Which of the following was a self-evident Truth to the signers of the Declaration?

A. Abortion is Murder
B. All Men are created equal
C. Homosexuality causes Hurricanes
D. Scientists hate American Values

7. One of the colonists' grievances against the King of Great Britain was that

A. he prevented immigrants from coming to the colonies.
B. he refused to provide funds for religious charities.
C. he allowed doctors to perform abortions.
D. he approved of homosexuals marrying one another.

8. Which of the following grievances against King George, equally applicable to George W. Bush, is NOT mentioned in the Declaration of Independence?

A. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws.
B. He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
C. He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of new officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
D. He has held persons captive without charging them with crimes and empowered his representatives to commit the most egregious acts of torture upon them.

9. How many of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were, in 1776, active clergymen?

A. none
B. one
C. two
D. three

10. Thomas Jefferson, main author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote all of the following quotes EXCEPT:

A. Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.
B. The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Miverva in the brain of Jupiter.
C. I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and hope to God Almighty that our country be recognized as a Christian nation.
D. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

Bonus Question:
Of the following people, who is LEAST likely to understand the religious ideas that led to the Declaration of Independence?

A. a historian recognized among her peers as one of the foremost experts on the American Revolution
B. a scholar who has made an extensive study of Enlightenment philosophy and how it influenced America's founders
C. an academically well-respected authority on eighteenth-century deists' attitudes about the role of religion in government
D. televangelist and Christian shill Pat Robertson

Now that you've answered the questions, you might want to take a few minutes and actually read or reread The Declaration of Independence. (My British friends are invited to do so, as well. No hard feelings, eh?)