Category Archives: atheism

Sunburned Eggs (or, Atheists at Easter)


My son and I were in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart today.

Okay, so mistakes were made (never enter the toy aisle at Wal-Mart with your kid — better yet, never enter the toy aisle at ANY store with your kid — better still, never enter Wal-Mart) but it led to this interesting tidbit:

Me: Hey, bud, you like this one? Looks like he does magic.

Sprout: Magic isn’t real, daddy.

Me: Oh, really? It’s not?

Sprout: Well (he prefaces all his profundities with “well”), magic tricks are real, but real magic isn’t real.

(Whoa.)

Me: (the militant skeptic, hoping that this, right here, standing in the toy aisle, is the end of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and all manner of insufferable BS that parents pretend at for the “benefit” of their kids, but not wanting to come on too strong) oh, really?

Sprout: Yeah. Nobody has real magic.

Me: I see. Well — do you think the Easter Bunny is magic?

Sprout: Well, he only brings eggs filled with candy. That’s not magic.

So, you know. His skeptical instincts are apparently well-formed but still developing.

None of which kept me (a staunch atheist) and my wife (a wobbly atheist) from taking the kids to a local church for an Easter Egg Hunt (what gets capitalized there, really? Easter is the holiday, but Easter Eggs are specific things, and Hunts for Easter Eggs are certainly specific things too, though eggs and hunts are not typically specific things, and sometimes I hate the the fact that I taught English). This was not a purely cynical exercise, mind you. We were invited by one of my wife’s co-workers who, I think, thinks she can “snap us out of it.” And because we apparently think these kinds of things are good for the kids to take part in — as a cultural phenomenon, if not as a religious one — we went.

Anyway.

At said hunt, the organizers were dropping eggs from a helicopter, which is a thing that’s become more of a thing in recent years at your bigger Easter events. Of course, this is all flash without substance — it doesn’t change the intrinsic sugar-frenzy of the kids scrambling to get all the eggs before their peers, it just hypes them up and instills a good, solid bloodlust beforehand. But at this particular event (which was the first helo-drop), all the bugs had not yet been ironed out. So the helicopter circled the field once or twice, with the anticipation building, landed nearby to collect the eggs, then descended and dropped (apparently) thousands of eggs in a single spot on the field.

Thanks to all the rigmarole with the helicopter, the waiting for the “hunt” to begin (and the field in question was a literal soccer field, so it was less “hunt” and more “frenzied Thunderdome for all the clearly visible eggs in the grass”) took over an hour. Which resulted in a lot of cranky toddlers, frustrated parents, and at least one seriously sunburned bald atheist.

Which left my wife and I wondering why we went through it all.

Of course, the kids had a ball.

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I want you to note how really, thoroughly, unimpressed my kids are by all this.

So I guess there’s that.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.

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Hands Across Canada


Right now, there’s a dead hand touring Canada.

That’s not the name of a metal band; don’t don your blacks and your eyeliner and venture to the North to bang your head. No, the dead hand is the literal hand of Saint Francis Xavier. Why is it touring? For … publicity, I guess?

The story is here. Watch the video and marvel.

Here’s a thing I’ll never understand about religion. The claim is that the hand is a “relic”, which means it contains some sort of divine power. This power is bestowed, apparently, because it’s “the hand that baptized hundreds of thousands of people.” (The rest of his body, apparently, can Fargo right off.) Great, cool, awesome. I guess if you’re the sort of person who believes baptism actually does something and is therefore a thing worth doing, I can see holding in some regard a man who had done a lot of them. Of course, there is no mention of this man, or his hand, in any holy book; its divinity is tacked-on after the fact by a bunch of dudes in robes (and only dudes, let us not forget. Whether women could come up with something so ridiculous — I imagine they couldn’t — is irrelevant, because we’re talking about the Catholic church, here). But still, no, seriously, it’s a relic. It’s holy. It has powers.

By that rationale, they could sanctify my left earlobe (after my death, of course — one presumes I’d still be using it, and they could not therefore cart it around the world touting its holy powers, while I was still attached to it) if I could sufficiently convince them that God tickled it.

(By the way, it’s the hand of a dude. It did a lot more than baptize people, is all I’m saying. Consider that for a moment, and consider, then, the fact that people are pressing overpriced medallions and cards (which you can buy at the venue!) and pictures of their loved ones to the hand for blessings. [Okay, fine, the hand is tucked safely away in a glass case. But still.])

Consider the cost of this exercise. The hand has a caretaker who presumably draws a salary (we can’t just drop the thing in UPS after all — there are laws against the 2-day shipping of dead bodies and their parts). The venues that host it have to bring in volunteers to wrangle all the faithful flocking to see it. And the faithful! Imagine dropping what you’re doing to cross the countryside (this is Canada, where I understand it’s 99% countryside and 1% silly accents) and gawk at a bit of dessicated flesh attended by men in expensive suits. Then they come away crowing that this “experience” will have a tremendous effect in their lives.

Spoiler alert: the experience of being taken for a fool only positively affects your life if you learn from it.

Pretend you’re an alien. You voyage across interstellar space and come across this pale blue dot. They’re sending out radio signals, and the planet is swarmed by satellites and rocket ships and space stations and you’re thinking to yourself, hey, maybe the people of this planet have got things figured out. You look a little closer and see, I dunno, the internet and our politics and you say well, maybe not so much.

Then you train your telescopes up toward Canada and discover that there’s a whole lot of hubbub being made over some guy’s skeletal dunkin’ hand. (And we’re not talking about Michael Jordan’s dunkin’ hand, either — that at least you might have heard about. Space Jam exists, after all.) Literal worship of a dead man’s appendage.

You’re an alien. You see humans doing this.

In what universe would you not drop your spaceship into high gear and leap away at lightspeed?


Things Not to Say to an Atheist


The title of this post is probably a topic for a weekly feature all its own. Perhaps even a daily one. Fear not, This blog is not about to go full militant atheist.

Still, when somebody wanders into my house and starts flinging poo at the walls, I think it’s only fair to feel some kind of way about it.

I present to you the following comment, which landed on this post just yesterday (emphasis mine):

I wonder why some humans take no personal responsibility for what happens in the world? Just because you have never had a personal relationship or experience with God, doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. It just means you may not be one of the humans He has chosen to show Himself to. Even if He did, the way you think would cause you to attribute His interaction with you to something you did to make it so. I feel such pity for humans like you. If you had lived my life, you would KNOW Him as I do. But He has given you freewill, and thus, the option to say He does not exist. All will become clear when you encounter Him after death. Humans are wrong about many, many, many, MANY things. Believing there is no God is the most tragic of all.

I could pick this thing to pieces, but again, that’s not my schtick — I’m a more-or-less friendly atheist. There’s at least four or five questionable assumptions and dubious claims in here, but the one sticking in my teeth like a popcorn kernel is the bolded line.

Pity.

Pity assumes that the pitied party is in really dire straits. (Sidenote: are you familiar with Puddles’ Pity Party? You should be, and I say that even though my comfort level with clowns is barely inches above the pavement.) Pity assumes that the pitier is in a superior position, somehow, to the pitied. And pity is, therefore, pretty much innately condescending. Someone up high feeling badly for someone down low.

Get the hell out of here with that.

If I’m to be pitied, it’s only for thinking that I could somehow start turning a dime off my words after almost 40 years walking this earth, not because I don’t believe in the specific god that you happen to believe. I’m doing just fine in my heathenism. Good house, good job, good family.

And, somewhat off the point: what’s up with calling me a “human”? Are you not a human? Am I somehow less than a person? I can’t prove it, but it definitely feels derogatory, so minus points for that, too.

This is not the humble, shrinking atheist you were looking for.

You can go about your business.

Atheist Symbol


Liechtenstein!


It finally happened; I’ve had a visitor from Liechtenstein!

Actually, a lot of folks landed here after the interweb dumped them out of the tubes from Eastern Europe. Funny story actually.

Turns out, some douchenozzle hijacked a photo of my son from my blog. You know, the gross one — the one immediately following his birth, where most of his small intestine is in a toothpaste tube attached to his belly button (he had gastroschisis, but don’t worry — he’s fine now). Said douchenozzle then used said picture to fuel one of those garbage social media posts. You know the ones. Look at this suffering baby. Like = 1 prayer, Comment = 10 prayers. Essentially, a ploy for attention and clicks using my son to bait the faithful.

Which is shameful, but I guess not shocking. The internet is a place for all sorts of deplorables to get together, after all. Funny thing, though? That picture is lifted from my “Why I Am an Atheist” post. Which goes to show you — not that it’s shocking or anything — just how hard this particular deplorable worked when he stole my picture. (Spoiler alert: not hard at all. Searching that picture brings you straight here.)

But wait!

The hits, it seems, are coming from this site — which is in German, thanks Google Translate — which appears to be something of an aggregator for skepticism and debunking fake news. Two of my favorite things! And somebody at that site saw the post, researched it, found out it was a load of hot garbage, and pointed out the proper home of the picture. Along the way, they cheekily pointed out that the picture, property of an avowed godless heathen, was being used to garner prayers. Ha!

So a handful of Eastern European atheists — a gaggle of Germans, a smattering of Austrians, and my one Liechsteinian (that’s so much fun to say!) are landing here. That kind of makes me smile.

Although I have to wonder how well the stories about toddler poop hold up when they get translated into German.


Harry Potter and the Unfalsifiable Speciosity


Yes, “speciosity” is totally a word. (I googled it after I decided that I needed it. Sometimes things work out in your favor. Oh ah.)

‘I’m sorry, but that’s completely ridiculous … You could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist!’ – Hermione Grainger, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

author J.K Rowling

Thanks to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe for reminding me that there are things to love about the Harry Potter books that go way beyond the whimsical. (The SGU wraps up every episode of their (really quite excellent) weekly podcast with a skeptical quote, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear this one.)

What? My commute is over a half-hour each way. I listen to a lot of podcasts these days. (To be fair, I listened to this episode while running. BTW, it’s still effington hot out there.)

Happy Sunday!


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