Tag Archives: skepticism

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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So Scientology is on TV Now.


Remember that time yesterday when I posted about the dumb things you do that remind you how dumb you really are?

That feeling is only salved by knowing that there exist in the world, somewhere — as a result of sheer statistics — people dumber than you. Honestly, the only person who can’t say there’s somebody dumber than him out there probably died hundreds of thousands of years ago, before our species properly had its feet under it (literally) and had not yet invented the capacity for realizing how stupid one is, let alone the language to kvetch about it. (RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE A POLITICAL JOKE RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE A POLITICAL JOKE RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE A POLITICAL JOKE)

So, you know. There are dumber people than us out there; we just don’t always see them.

But sometimes.

Sometimes they explode into visibility with fireworks and press releases and white-hot glowing idiocy.

Scientology is launching its own line of streaming TV programs.

Yeah.

Their tagline? “The only thing more interesting than what you’ve heard is what you haven’t.”

HAhahahahahahahahaNO.

Nope. Nopenopenope NOPE. Negatory. The cat is out of the bag on you already, Scientology. The horses have left the barn. The bell is rung. The milk is spilled. Choose your cliche; the world at large is already wise to your particular brand of horse puckery.

My first brush with Scientology (man I feel lame for even capitalizing it but rules of English trump even my disdain for acknowledging the titles of idiotic things as things which deserve recognition — heck, rules of English trump even my searing hatred for use of the word “trump” as a verb anymore) was in high school. Way back in the days when this budding atheist still thought there might be something to religion, in the maybe-there-was-a-creator-we-just-can’t-know-but-why-would-it-care-what-we-did-on-Sundays kind of way.

But even then, in the larval stages of my skepticism and the infancy of my critical thinking, all it took was one mention of the word “Xenu” and I ran away faster than you can say Tom Cruise.

So: a network? For Scientology?

This is dumb on at least three fronts:

  1. People already watching religious TV (bless their hearts) won’t be switching over to Scientology TV. It’s not like how you got bored with The Walking Dead and stopped watching it and you’re looking for another show in your life. People like their religious illusions and cling to them fiercely, and — more bad news, I know — IF they leave their religions, most likely end up with NO religion rather than any other religion. (Actually I don’t know if that’s true, but it must be. It has to be.)
  2. People not already watching religious TV are not about to start watching religious TV. We have better things to do with our time. Also, we know better. Move along.
  3. So, the only people who will be watching Scientology TV are those who are a) already members of the “church”, or b) chemically inebriated and watching for a laugh. The B’s won’t be offering up any money to you, and the A’s, given that your “religion” has as a central paradigm the extraction of as much money as possible from its faithful, are unlikely to have MORE money to offer up to you or your advertisers.

Oh, and that’s without even mentioning the nuclear submarine in the kiddie pool: Scientology is terrible. As a religious institution, it’s worse than most. Like, astronomically worse. It abuses its members. It attacks members who leave the “faith”. And its core beliefs about the world and about people — well.

It would almost take a divine being to create something so bad.

In that way, perhaps, Scientology TV might be the evidence for a divine being that will finally settle the argument.

Or maybe it will be evidence that our evolution truly did stop eons ago.

Either way, there has to be something better on TV. I mean, surely there are some reruns of The Walking Dead on, somewhere.


Stream-of-Consciousness: Arm Yourself


Just a friendly little reminder:

Everything is made up. Nobody knows what they’re doing. Even the experts are making it up as they go along.

Sounds good, right? That’s the mantra of the “free thinker.” Unfortunately, that kind of thinking can land you in some pretty untenable places, like for instance, denying that humans are responsible for climate change or thinking that 9/11 was an inside job. You embrace the thinking that “you can’t trust anybody” and the whole world begins to look like a conspiracy theory. Pretty soon you’re driving around in a car that looks like this:

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Which is a pretty good way to advertise to the world that they shouldn’t waste their time talking to you.

Fact is, experts are experts not because they know everything, but because they constantly question whether they know anything. An expert will admit when he’s out of his depth. And then he’ll start asking the questions that expand his depth.

Put another way, when all the fish are swimming in one direction, your first thought shouldn’t be, “I’m swimming the other way.” Your first thought should be: “why are they swimming that way?” There just might be a good reason.

Arm yourself against idiocy. Arm yourself against people that want to take advantage of you. Ask questions. Think about what you see instead of just parroting the party line.

This post brought to you by nothing in particular.

Part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday, even if it’s a day late. Everything is a day late around here lately. Maybe I’ll invent my own time zone.


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.


On a Trump Victory (welp, that happened)


I guess this is what the Brexit felt like.

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What else is there to do for a guy like me on a morning like this, but go for a run under the early morning stars and try to write some things down?

Unfortunately, of course, the stars don’t have any answers for the questions I’m asking today — what went wrong? how could this happen? what the hell do we do now? — in fact, the stars themselves are hidden behind a smoky veil of clouds, like they don’t want to think about it either.

But we have to think about it. We have to deal with the reality that’s been plopped on our plate like a pile of cafeteria mystery meat.

So what do we do?

Well, for one, we can’t rise to the bait. We non-Trumpers are going to face a fair bit of heckling and bragging, and we’re going to have to weather that. Fair’s fair, after all, and we bragged for months that this was impossible. Well, it happened. Let’s not cry about it. Let’s swallow what’s left of our pride and move on.

That means, for better or worse, letting go of Hillary. She needs to retire in the country, or to a mountainside, or to her own private island. I know a lot of us were pretty excited about the prospect of her presidency. But an enormous portion of the country (a majority, as it turns out) were not so jazzed. Even many of her supporters were less than enthusiastic about her as a candidate. Is that fair? Is it justified? Hard to say. The Republican hate machine has been working against the Clintons for decades, and the slime is all over everything. Yes, we’re due for a woman president. But it’s clearly not going to be this woman. Let her go. Give somebody else a shot.

And we’re not going to do ourselves any favors demonizing Trump more than we’ve done. That case has been made, it’s been heard, and it’s been dismissed. The fact that he’s a misogynist, a bully, and a political opportunist has been established, and it turns out, people don’t care.

Nor will it help, either, to bash his supporters. At the end of the day, they are people with hopes and dreams and fears and thoughts about the state of the world we live in, and they made their voices loud and clear. This is their right, regardless of what you might think of what they have to say. The man managed to galvanize his support in a way that Hillary simply couldn’t — helped along in no small part by the case the GOP has been making against her, again, for decades. What the race came down to, I think, is that his supporters felt a lot more strongly about putting him in office and keeping Hillary out than Hillary’s people did, and that’s why they turned out when it mattered. But at this point, it doesn’t much matter how he got there. What matters is that he is there.

So all that’s left is for those of us on the other side to be good skeptics. Republicans are going to find out whether they actually want what they’ve bought and paid for in Trump very, very fast. The rest of us have to watch this thing as it develops and be willing to be proved wrong on some of the horrible things we said about Trump. For instance: is he actually going to attempt to build the wall he promised? Is he actually going to shut down all Muslim ingress to the country? Is he actually going to try to reverse gay marriage? I suspect that he won’t. Pragmatism will dictate that, now that he’s in power, he will have to stay within certain lanes, and there are some things that just can’t be done.

That doesn’t mean I think he’s going to pull a perfect about-face on the things he’s said. But let’s not forget that he famously said in 2008 that, if he ever ran, he’d do so as a Republican. Not because of his ideology, but because of the voters.

I still believe, 100% and unwavering until I see some good evidence to the contrary, that Trump is in this thing for Trump.

Maybe that means that, now that he has it, he’ll put his feet up on the desk and delegate the actual ruling to people who actually know what they’re talking about. Yes, in the meantime, those will be Republicans, but we can only deal with so much heartburn first thing in the morning.

I reassured my wife this morning by pointing out that realistically, I don’t think much changes for us. We’re heteronormative white folks, after all. (And I feel a little bit dirty and shortsighted, pointing that out, but we can’t change our stripes.) But there is a fight to be had if (and more likely, when) Trump and co. come for the rights of people with less privilege.

And it’s a fight that we have to be ready for.

We won’t help ourselves out by being ridiculously hyperbolic, though there will certainly be a lot of that in the coming weeks. We haven’t lost our country. This is not the end of freedom. The atmosphere hasn’t turned into chlorine gas overnight, the bastions of democracy aren’t burning.

The sun still rose this morning.

We just have to stay vigilant. It’s up to Republicans to hold Trump’s feet to the fire and make sure he behaves himself in office.

And it’s up to the rest of us to regroup, figure out what went wrong, and fix it for the next time around.

 


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