The Watering Hole, 4-16-14: Utopia

Utopia, that perfect world.

But defining that world means different things to different people.

Every religion,
Every political system,
Every economic system,
All are centered on some idea of Utopia.

Fascism,
Communism,
Socialism,
Capitalism,
Democracy,
Republic,
Empire,
Kingdom,
Christianity,
Judaism,
Muslim,
Buddist,

The list is endless.

What is your idea of Utopia?

We are, at this moment, living in a compromise, a Utopia made up of competing visions of how the world should be.

True power lies not in the wanting, but in the not wanting.

Open Thread.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 14th, 2014: For Reals?

Featured

“Believe it or Not: ‘Heaven is for Real’ a Community Conversation-Starter.” This intriguing headline in the local Southeast-Brewster Patch e-newspaper caught my eye yesterday. (I’ll get back to that later.) Until I read the article, I was unaware of both the book, and now a movie, based on a supposedly true story relating a young boy’s experience during emergency surgery. The boy just happens to be the son of a pastor.

[DISCLAIMER: My mind's personal jury is still out on the issue of near-death experiences and the like. There's so much uncharted territory in the human brain, there could be a section that might be labeled "Here there be visions."]

From an article in the Christian Post:

Heaven Is For Real opens in theaters on April 16 and tells the story of the Burpo family, whose son Colton experienced a vision where he traveled to heaven and met Jesus when he was just 4 years old. [Wait - he met Jesus when Jesus was 4 years old? Damn, I wish people knew how to write clearly!]

The details Colton shared with his father about heaven include the fact that people do not age there. Todd Burpo decided to break this down from a theological standpoint.

“Adam and Eve were created to never die and once they sinned the punishment for sin was death so they started aging,” he explained. “We know in heaven there is no sin [we DO?] so if you go to a place where there is no sin, why would the consequence of sin be there?”

If you scroll down past the crap-ads, there’s a video and other related links (if you’re interested.) Fun comments after the article, too. For instance:

ArmoftheLORD 3:45 PM on April 11, 2014
If you want to learn about heaven or Noah learn how to read the bible for your sake. The bible interprets itself and therefore not subject to anyones subjective flight of fantasy. Jesus does not ride a rainbow horse.”

Tammy Roesch 7:46 AM on April 12, 2014
ArmoftheLORD – Excellent post! This story is so contrary to the Bible….but sadly….many people fall for the unbiblical things it teaches, because that is what they want to believe…rather than studying the Bible for themselves and finding out the truth….

ArmoftheLORD 10:21 AM on April 10, 2014
garbage in garbage out. The bible is the final authority on the life after life afterlife not Tod Burpo

Bob Wierdsma (Moderator) 6:08 PM on April 10, 2014
ArmoftheLORD – Of course. But Jesus still is the way which Todd confirmed

["Of course." Really? Amazing how they're so SURE of their "facts."]

From Wikipedia regarding the original book, “Colton also claimed that he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus’ lap, while the angels sang songs to him. He also says he saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.” Wiki mentions a bit more in their section about the upcoming film: “He talked about looking down to see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe. In Heaven, Colton says he met his miscarried sister whom no one had ever told him about and his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. He shared supposedly impossible-to-know details about each. Colton went on to describe the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and His chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help people.”

Now back to the Southeast-Brewster Patch:

“[The movie] tells the story of Burpo’s son, Colton, who said he left his body during an emergency appendectomy around age 4 and visited Heaven. His parents, Todd and Sonja, believed the story after Colton described details about his great-grandfather and miscarried sister about whom he didn’t know…

Besides meeting family members who had passed, talking with angels and seeing Jesus ride a multicolored horse, Colton shared this about the community in Heaven:

“It’s a lot like Earth in many ways, but everybody there would help you out just because they wanted to help you out and not because of their own interests,” he said. “So that’s a pretty good community.”

My favorite comment after this article, with all of its misspellings, etc.:

Joe Rubalcava April 13, 2014 at 04:59 PM

“J Michael you do not understand God word very well. I Not trying to be critical just want to enlighten you and some of the orthers. God created every one, but all are not his children. To be a child of God in the old Testament you had to except God by faith. Since Jesus Christ in the new Testament, you must except Jesus Christ as you Lord and Savior, to be come a child of God, just not his creation. The only way to have the Holy Spirit with in you , is to except Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, read John 17 : 6 – 8 1 Corinthians 2: 9- 16 the Holy Spirit is your helper to gives you the knowledge of God word. With out the Holy Spirit in you, yo can read the Bible but you will not get much of any true understanding of what you read. Michael you were right when you said God has unconditional love of everyone all the way to you death bed, but if you do not except his free gift to except him as you Lord an savior and die in that state he will not except you at that point and you will suffer eternal separation from him. Those who did except his free gift and excepted him as Lord and savior will have everlasting life with him. God said he hopes no one would parish, and that why he gives you all the way until right before you death to except him, but he will not force anyone to except him, he give you the free will to do it or not, and if you don’t you will not at that point be excepted by him. You made a comment that God does’ t need a middleman, and your right, but he does use them. The Holy Spirit to teach you and give you understanding if you ask him, once you have excepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and earthly men as pastors and priest and just some ordinary every day people who believe in God, to keep reminding you why you need to turn to God and except Jesus Christ. I hope this might be able to give some clarity to what some may not understand about God’s ways and word.”

(In an aside: On the sidebar on The Christian Post website, I discovered that there is an annual “State of the Bible Survey” – who knew? I have no idea who The American Bible Society spoke to in their latest “State of the Bible Survey”, but one ‘statistic’, if accurate, could be scary: “56% of America remains Pro-Bible.* *People who believe the Bible is the actual or inspired Word of God with no errors.”)

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 12, 2014: Religion Gone Mad

I do honestly believe it is your right, in both the Constitutional and Moral sense, to hold whatever religious beliefs you want inside your own head. You can even exercise those beliefs provided your actions cause no harm to others. I’ll even go so far as to say that, as a private citizen, you have a right to try peacefully to persuade others that your religious beliefs hold a shred of validity. But what you do not have a right to do, in neither the Constitutional nor Moral sense, is force others to accept, or even worse follow, your religious beliefs. And as long as I draw breath in my body, it will always be that way in this country. It ought to be that way around the world.

Now I won’t sit here and say that Religion has never done any Good anywhere in the world. It’s clearly not true. [NOTE: Before continuing, however, I want to make clear that unless otherwise explicitly stated, when I speak of Religion in this post, I am speaking of those Religions which involve the worship of one or more Deities, of varying strengths, abilities, and fetishes.] Throughout history, many people have been motivated by their religious beliefs to treat their fellow human beings with compassion, or to seek an explanation for how things work. Sadly, and undeniably, Religion has motivated people to perform horribly unspeakable acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings, all in the name of pleasing their particular Deity of Choice. And that’s the dark side of Religion that we Americans don’t like to discuss – the Evil that Men do in the name of Religion. People have been killed because someone else thought they worshiped the wrong gods. Which is really kind of stupid when you think about it, something those religiously-inspired murderers rarely did. These religions often require one to forsake any other gods and worship only a specific one, and not to worship the other gods which they acknowledge exist. They then teach that this one specific god was the one who created everything (including, apparently, all those other powerful gods you aren’t supposed to worship), or that while other gods existed, this one was the only one capable of creating the planet on which we all live. (Some religions – okay maybe just the one – claim that their God proudly claims to be a “jealous God,” but that Jealously is still a mortal sin for human beings because, I don’t know, it’s bad? But okay for a God to have. It’s not just hypocritical, it’s illogical. God is telling you there’s something really bad about Him. But he loves you, and he won’t ever, ever hurt you again. By Flood, anyway.)

Our Constitution prohibits our Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of Religion. It also extends that protection for the People to each of the States so that no state can pass a law respecting an establishment of Religion. (After all, what would be the point of being an American Citizen with the religious liberty to worship as one pleases if the state within which one lives can force one to practice a different religion?) That same Constitution requires any person holding any office of public trust in the United States, before entering office, to take an oath to support and defend that same Constitution. (I took such an oath. To my knowledge, belief and practice, it had no expiration date.) So it’s reasonable to expect that a person taking such an oath would familiarize him or herself with that same Constitution. So as to not do something stupid like this.

The Great State of South Carolina (which holds the record for most Civil Wars started in our country), has advanced a bill (Pregnant Women’s Protection Act) in a Senate committee that would expand their state’s ill-conceived Stand Your Ground Law to protect unborn children, defined as having started from conception. Opponents argue that the bill is unnecessary, as pregnant women already have the right to use deadly force in self-defense, but proponents claim that this bill is intended to extend that right to the fetus, on the theory that there are things you could do to a pregnant woman that might not be deadly to her, but might be for the unborn fetus. Here’s where I have a problem with the bill (besides its existence).

The bill the panel approved also includes a definition of “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.”

Regardless of what its advocates claim, this is nothing but a backdoor attempt to deny women their right to an abortion. And the people that want to do that, almost to a person, want to do so because of their religious beliefs. They are the ones who claim that Life begins at conception, and that the unborn should have the same Constitutional rights as the born. This is absurd. They would be granting rights outside the authorization of the Constitution. It clearly states that all persons born in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein the reside. The key word there, the only one that matters in any discussion of rights, is “born.” You have to be born to have any rights as an American citizen. I recently caught a repeat of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit involving the theft of frozen embryos by activists who felt Life begins at conception. The Assistant District Attorney pointed out that in New York State, Life begins at a baby’s first breath, which is why you couldn’t prosecute a woman for murder who had a stillborn baby (a lesson, BTW, some other states need to learn.) This bill undeniably is an attempt to impose a religious view on the citizens of a state, whether or not they practice that religion. And it is morally reprehensible.

Speaking of morally reprehensible, the Great State of Louisiana is moving forward with making “the Bible” the official book of the state of Louisiana. The bill doesn’t say which version of the Bible would be the official one, because a previous version of the bill that did so met objections from some lawmakers.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn’t designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.

“It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature,” he told the House committee. Again, later he said, “This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana.”

Except that it is. What Conservative Christians often forget is that not everybody thinks or believes as they do. And they forget that other religions do not refer to their holy books as “the Bible.” In fact, that’s pretty much limited to Christianity (in most of its myriad forms.) Jews do not follow a Bible, nor do Muslims. So saying your state’s “official book” is a sacred text specific to one form of religion is endorsing that religion. How could it not be? When you make something your “official book,” you are, by definition, choosing it to the exclusion of all other books, religious or not. That’s the whole point of making it “official.” It’s like saying your state’s official bird is “the web-footed bird,” but not any specific web-footed bird, then trying to say you’re not endorsing aquatic fowl over all other forms of bird. Of course you are. And if the Constitution read “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of bird,” your official state bird would be unconstitutional. And you couldn’t say it’s not to the exclusion of all other birds (because it is), and you couldn’t say it’s not an endorsement of any particular kind of bird, because it is.

Your religious freedom ends at my body. You have no right, neither Constitutional nor Moral, to force me to accept your religious beliefs as valid or irrefutable. And you have no right to force me to live by those religious beliefs. So stop trying to do so.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom, Stand Your Ground, bibles, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, April 9, 2014: What day is it?

Come on, you can say it....

Come on, you can say it….

This just in: Woman sues fetus for civil rights violation.

A pregnant woman filed a lawsuit today in federal court in Lansing, Michigan, alleging a violation of her civil rights commited by her unborn fetus. The lawsuit claims that the fetus, as a person, is violating her rights under the 13th Amendment, the one that abolishes slavery.

The suit claims that the unborn person residing in her womb is forcing her to tend to its every need, day in and day out, 24/7, causing her great physical and emotional distress.

The suit seeks monetary damages equivalent to the value of a full-time, ’round-the-clock caregiver, as well as compensation for pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

In addition, the suit alleges that the fetus has committed numerous batteries against the woman, repeatedly kicking her womb, causing pain to other internal organs.

In addition to monetary damages, the woman is seeking an immediate restraining order to prohibit the fetus from continuing to feed itself through the umbilical cord, robbing the woman of her nutritional needs, as well as to enjoin the person from further batteries on her person.

A three-judge panel is expected to rule on the injunction by the end of the week.

OP
EN

TH
RE
AD

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 7th, 2014: Torture

Over the past month or so, there’s been a lot of talk about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the previous administration’s CIA torture program (oh, excuse me, “enhanced interrogation techniques”.) Chair of the Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein has accused the CIA of accessing Congressional computers and deleting memos and other evidence. Last week brought the news that Senator Feinstein is pushing to have the results of the report made public, in order to “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted…”

Cue the attacks, specifically on FauxNews: First, former CIA Director Michael Hayden questions Senator Feinstein’s possible “motivation for the report” is “emotional.” An excerpt from the ThinkProgress article:

“Citing specifically Feinstein’s line about not using such techniques again, Hayden told Fox News Sunday host Chis Wallace, “Now that sentence that, motivation for the report, Chris, may show deep emotional feeling on part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”

A surprised Chris Wallace asked,

“…You’re saying you think she was emotional in these conclusions?” Hayden did not respond specifically to Wallace’s question, but rather said simply that only portions of the report had been leaked but it did not tell the whole story.”

Despite whatever Hayden believes the “whole story” to be, the portions that have been leaked seem to be quite detailed and very damning, as discussed in this March 31st article from WaPo.

“Officials said millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda — including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 — had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques.””

It does not seem possible that Hayden’s “whole story” could in any way mitigate the fact that torture was systematically used, both here and abroad at “black sites”, supposedly in the name of our “security.”

From the Washington Post article on Hayden’s “emotional” characterization:

“Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden suggested Sunday that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) might have compromised the objectivity of a report on CIA interrogation techniques because she personally wants to change them…Hayden suggested Feinstein feels too strongly about the issue on an “emotional” level.”

Feinstein struck back at Hayden’s comments later Sunday by calling her committee’s forthcoming report “objective, based on fact, thoroughly footnoted, and I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”

In a statement, Feinstein noted that the committee’s investigation began in 2009 and the report’s conclusions “came from documents provided by the CIA and the result is a comprehensive history of the CIA program. The only direction I gave staff was to let the facts speak for themselves.”

“I believe last week’s 11-3 vote to declassify the report demonstrates that both sides agree that Americans should see the facts and reach their own conclusions about the program,” she added.

Raw Story tells it slightly differently:

“Yeah,” Hayden replied dismissively, noting that a Washington Post columnist had reported that “Sen. Feinstein wanted a report so scathing that it would ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation would never again be considered or permitted.” [Emphasis mine, in that I have been unable to find to which "Washington Post columnist" Hayden is referring, nor any such reporting that Senator Feinstein had directed how "scathing" the report should be.]

“That motivation for the report may show deep emotional feeling on the part of the senator,” Hayden opined. “But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”… ““You’re asking me about a report that I have no idea of its contents,” Hayden admitted.

[The notion that Hayden has "no idea of" the report's "contents" seems pretty ludicrous; regardless of his professed ignorance, it didn't stop him from attacking the Senator for one moment.]

Raw Story also provides us with cyborg former Vice-President Cheney’s reaction, which also sparked an invitation from Senator Angus King (I-ME) to have Cheney waterboarded:

“The accusations are not true,” Cheney told college television station ATV last week. “Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture.”

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” he insisted. “The results speak for themselves.”

Sorry, the report’s results do speak for themselves:

“A report that has been completed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, has found that the CIA misled the government and misstated the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation program. The report concluded that the CIA lied when it said it had gotten “otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives.”

“I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney,” Senator King explained. “If he doesn’t think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them a hundred and plus-odd times.”

And finally Cheney’s spawn, Liz, reliably shouts “Benghazi!” Again from Raw Story:

“Fox News contributor Liz Cheney on Sunday argued that a United States Senate report on Bush-era torture was “political” and that lawmakers should spend more time investigating President Barack Obama’s role in failing to prevent terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

“If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,” the former vice president’s daughter said on a Sunday morning Fox News panel. “You’ve got to be willing to say how many American lives would you have been willing to put at risk because you didn’t want to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

“Fox News political analyst Juan Williams quipped that Liz Cheney was the “good daughter,” but the American people had a right to know what the CIA was doing in their name, and if the techniques were effective.

“I want to start by agreeing with Juan,” Liz Cheney shot back. “That we need more congressional oversight… of Benghazi, for example.”

She added that the Senate did not produce a “fair report” because it was “written entirely by Democratic staffers.”

“The Republicans wouldn’t participate!” Williams replied. “People not only wouldn’t cooperate, [the CIA] tried to spy on the U.S. Senate.”

Liz Cheney concluded by saying that she had “missed Juan” during her absence from Fox News for a failed Senate run in Wyoming.

[Yeah, how'd that work out for ya, Lizzie? Finally found out that no one in your home state likes you?]

A couple of the commentors on that Daily Kos thread could have helped Juan Williams bitch-slap that she-devil:

JW: I got a better idea Liz, why don’t we focus on the 22 embassy attacks that happened under your daddy’s watch.

bplewis24:

[Quoting Liz Cheney] “If you’re going to say that we should not have conducted the enhanced interrogation program, if you’re going to say that we shouldn’t have waterboarded three terrorists, then you’ve got to say that you’re willing to accept the consequences of that,”…Yes. I am fully willing to accept the consequences of that. Reports tend to tell us there are no real consequences of it, but even if there were, that’s the “sacrifice” I’m willing to make in order to live in a civilized world.

I think that I would just go with what Sheppard Smith once blurted out “emotionally”: “THIS IS AMERICA AND WE DON’T FUCKING TORTURE!”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 5, 2014: Tea Party Nonsense – Again

Two and a quarter centuries later and some people still do not understand the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment means that we have a Separation of Church and State in this country. And it’s important enough to capitalize it that way: Separation of Church and State. I don’t know how many people realize this but unlike many other countries (including some of our closest allies), the United States by design does not have an official religion. And that’s precisely why no one, not even the government, can force you to worship his God. That doesn’t make us Godless Communists; it means we have a diversity of religious thought in this country. (Which begs the question, “How could any of them be right?” But that’s a topic for another post, as my grandmother used to say. She was very forward-thinking for someone who died twenty years before Al Gore invented the internet.) So I get a little nervous when people start claiming that God is on their side. Because some of the worst atrocities in human history were committed by people who thought that God was on their side.

Howard Kooligan of the Tea Party Express is someone who makes me nervous. Not only does he claim that God is on his side (well, on the side of the Tea Party People), he also opposes the efforts of some of us on the Left to reduce income inequality. The thing is, not only is his rationale completely Biblical, it’s completely wrong.

I think it’s very important that churches get involved and that Christians follow the dictates of biblical principles in casting their vote. I think it’s clear that God has a position on many of the things we deem political today, from life to theft to the doctrine of covetousness, which by the way seems to be the promotion of the left. You know, they talk about ‘income inequality,’ well what is that but covetousness? So how could somebody support that cause if they’re biblical believing Christians?

He’s totally wrong. We don’t covet the wealth of the 1%-ers, some of whom pay a lower effective tax rate on their millions in unearned income than I pay on the money I busted my ass to make. We recognize that too much wealth accumulated in the hands of a few people is not only bad for the economy, it’s bad for Society. We feel that they should be taxed much higher on any new income they make, especially unearned income such as money from investments and stock trading. But we don’t want the money for ourselves, as Kooligan wrongly presumes. We want it used to help people less fortunate than ourselves. We want it used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. We want it used to bolster our public education system, because why should knowledge only be for the privileged? Sure, we could all use the extra money (since we’re not the billionaires who don’t need the money), but we on the Left know that there are plenty of people out there who need it more than we do. But unlike many on the Right, we’re not greedy. Liberals believe in Cooperation over Competition. And many of us Liberals, including those who believe in God, believe that we must solve Humanity’s problems ourselves, and not wish for divine intervention. Did God ever stop a war started in His name?

That’s why Rick Scarborough of Tea Party Unity scares me. He has no interest in Humanity working out its problems. He wants help straight from the top.

If we do our part then I’m confident that the God of Heaven will intervene. This country has been on the brink of complete disaster and collapse in several occasions in our national history. During the Roaring Twenties, socially this country was on the brink and deserved judgment; go back during the pre-Civil War era when we were buying and selling human beings, we deserved God’s judgment. But there was always a thread of Christians active in politics who didn’t lose sight of the prize and did what they could and God intervened, and that’s what I pray for and work for in this latter period of our national history. No matter what we do, if God doesn’t intervene the country is lost. But I know this, all the prayers in the world won’t change this country and God’s not going to act if those of us who I call the remnant don’t get involved, pay the price, like you’re doing, so I encourage you to continue doing that.

First of all, isn’t “the God of Heaven” a redundant thing for a good Christian to say? After all, the First Commandment pretty much settles the issue of which God they worship. Do Christians believe in any other gods, that are located in places other than Heaven? They’re not supposed to, so why say it like that? Second of all, the Great Depression which followed the Roaring Twenties was not the judgment of God but the result of Conservative fiscal policies. And, third, how could anyone who supposedly read his Bible believe that God opposed the buying and selling of human beings? There’s all kinds of advice about slaves in the Bible including how to get them, how much you can beat them (if they survive a day or two, you’re okay), and how much sex you can have with your female slaves. Do we really want the Supreme Being who came up with that to be the one who “saves” us? No thanks. I’ll take my chances with the secular human crowd. They’re free on weekends.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the idiots of the tea party, or any other topic you wish.

HUMP DAY: Wednesday, April 2, 2014: The Watering Hole: Get out of jail free.

Life is a perpetual game of Monopoly where one player starts out owning 90$ of the properties, a ‘get out of jail free’ card, and $2000. The other 9 players start out with no properties, and $20 each. Each time the one player passes Go, he gets $200. The other nine? $2.

The one player wins, and feels he deserved to win. After all, his starting point in the game was bequeathed to him by his father, who got his starting point from his father. He’s ready to play again, to go ’round the board gobbling up what few properties he didn’t get at the start of the game. The other nine begrudginly join in – they have no choice in this – it is their punishment from God for not being born into riches, or so they’re told.

The one will win again and again and again. There’s no way he can lose, and no way any of the nine can ever avoid losing everything they have. And still they play, on and on, each passing their spot on the game board to their chosen heir. And the game continues, generation after generation. The perpetual roll of the dice in hope of a different, better outcome.

*******

In the news recently, one of the 1% was arrested for sexually abusing his three-year old daughter for a period of two years. He played his “Get out of jail free” card and got probation instead of jail time. She’s twelve now. I wonder if daddy cut her out of his will…

“With liberty, and justice, for all.” But the pledge doesn’t say “equal justice” for all.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 29, 2014: Ah, No

A new movie has Christian Conservatives up in arms because of its alleged inaccuracies. It’s called “Noah” and it’s the story of a young boy whose obsession with words leads him to write a novel that redefines the meanings of words commonly in use at the time and — and I am being told that this is not what the movie is about after all. Then it must be the one about the man who works for a shadowy company that tracks people with special abilities — and I’m being told this isn’t the story, either. Ah, I know. It’s got all these right-wingers upset, so it must be the story of a shadowy government agency that tracks weather patterns and tries to warn people that the average overall planet’s surface temperature is rising — and I’m being told that’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Then what’s this one about? The what? Are you sure? Okay, if you say so. Apparently it’s the story of a man who signed up for AARP and — what? Not AARP? Ark? He signed up for an Ark? That makes no sense. Oh, he built an Ark after getting a DM from God. Why would he do that? Read my what? Oh, alright, if you insist.

According to Le Bib (or, as the Gangsters call it, the Bible), Noah was a 600-year-old righteous man chosen by God to build an Ark of a specific size, for the purpose of rescuing a sample of all living land and air animals from a flood He was about to bring upon the Earth, wiping out all living things (except, I presume, the fish.) A version of the original story (certainly not the original version itself) can be found in the Authorized King James Version (AKJV) of the Bible, in Genesis. Chapter 5 gives Noah’s genealogy from Adam (God’s alleged Creation), which tells us that this story takes place about 4,400 years ago, if you believe the earth is about 6,000 years old. It also means it takes place about 2,400 years before the birth of Jesus. Why this movie should bother Christians so much baffles me. It’s not their story. And if you want other non-believers to think the God you worship is an all-loving God, you don’t want to draw attention to this story. God is so fed up with Humanity that he’s going to kill them all and start over with Noah’s family. Why would you believe He wouldn’t kill everyone again? You say it’s because God promised he wouldn’t do that again? That’s not the way I read it, but more on that later.

This two-and-a-half hour movie (which I have not seen, but whose contents I base on the reviews I cite) is based on Genesis Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9. The main complaint of the Right Wing Christian Reviewers (they’re so much alike they might as well belong to a formal organization with that name) is that the Darren Aronofsky film Noah is not true to the story in the Bible. Well, at least the Bible we presume they mean. They never seem to say which one. And as much as I hate to admit it, they’re right. Debbie Schlussel says a better title would be Not Noah. Erick Erickson is not kidding when he says it was “one of the funniest comedies I have seen in a very long time,” and that he’s “Not sure it is worth it for anyone who takes the Bible seriously.” And Ben Shapiro calls it a “perversely Pagan mess.” And they are correct that the short story of Noah that I read in the Bible (Yes, we Atheists do have access to Bibles, as evidenced above) said nothing about warriors battling Noah for a place on his Ark, or of giant stone creatures, or of Methuselah having magical powers. It doesn’t really say much of anything, really. The gist of the story is summarized in Chapter 6. Flood coming, start building. Animals gathering, start loading. Rains pouring, start praying. Storms passing, start looking. Waters receding, start living. Throw in some really awesome special effects (which, when you get right down to it, is the entire point of the movie) and you’ve got a Hollywood movie. Of about twenty minutes. Of course they had to pad it with things not strictly found in the Bible. They could have been a little more in line with the original story. I’m pretty sure Noah’s sons were not named Ham, Eggs, and Bacon. (BTW, why would a vegetarian – Noah is depicted in the film as a vegetarian – name his son ‘Ham’? For that matter, why would anyone who practiced a religion that proscribed pork name one of their children ‘Ham’? But I digress.) And the Biblical Noah did not have a Ford F-150 to help him haul lumber around. And Home Depot did not donate an apron for Noah to wear with pockets for nails. But these are minor things. Okay, I made those last few things up.

What also bothers the RWCR is that the word “God” is not mentioned once in the movie. Oh, does that irk them. Noah makes reference to the Creator, but never calls him God or any other particular name. And this seems to bother them a lot. But if you;re going to make a claim that a movie is not faithful enough to the original book, you should be absolutely certain you have your facts right. Assuming we’re talking about facts. Perhaps “details” would be a better choice of word. Schlussel says that Noah was 500 years old when he began the Ark. Not correct. Noah was 500 when he started having children. He was 600 when he started building the Ark. And Shapiro says that God promised never to destroy Humanity again. That’s not how I read it. There are the thoughts God had to himself, and there’s the words of the Covenant he spoke to Noah. And what he told Noah was that He would never flood the Earth again. That doesn’t mean he won’t do something else, like let the temperature rise so much that the planet became uninhabitable for humans.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you wish.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Breaking Gnus: Supreme Court Allows For-Profit Corporations the Right to Impose Their Religious Beliefs on Workers.

Dateline 9/26/14: The Zoo’s “Way-Foreward Machine” brings us the news from 6 months hence. It all began with a simple question:

“Your reasoning would permit” Congress to force corporations to pay for abortions, Kennedy told Verrilli.

And with that, the door for Corporations to dictate health care was swung wide open. Ironically, the Affordable Health Care Act, or ObamaCare as it was more popularly known, did not force Corporations to pay for abortions – just offer health insurance that would cover such procedures.

But, with the Supreme Court paving the way, every employer soon jumped on the bandwagon. Within months, the health insurance landscape was in ruins as corporation after corporation, small business after small business, began demanding that they dictate their employees health insurance based on the religious beliefs of the board of directors or individual business owner, as the case may be.

Faced with literally millions of demands for differning coverages based on the ideosyncracies of the religions of millions of business owners, the Insurance Industry simply gave up. No company could write policies that covered enough people to be economically viable. Company after company simply stopped writing health insurance.

Now, 6 months later, the only health insurance in the United States is Medicare. Yes, even the companies that underwrote Congress’ health insurance stopped.

So, on the eve of the 2014 mid-term elections, Congress must face the polital piper. Religious Freedom protected individual, for-profit corporations from providing health care. But the Government must act in a manner that neither promotes one religion over another, nor any religion over no religion. Will Congress step up to the task of seeing that every American has a right to health care? Or will we have to elect new representatives that will?

OPEN THREAD
OPEN DISCUSSION

(P.S. The “Way Foreward Machine” is only capable of showing one of may possible futures. The actual future may be different than the one depicted here. Indeed, by publishing the Way Foreward Machine’s prediction, the future may have already been altered.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 24th, 2014: Mixed Emotions

This past weekend’s reading brought an odd range of emotions:

HUMILITY: Geography is not my strong suit. When I was growing up, the continent of Africa was nearly always referred to as “the dark continent”, or “darkest Africa.” However, the amazing maps in “8 Maps That Will Change The Way You Look at Africa” help to shed light on “the dark continent” and its place in the modern world. Some of the maps are truly mind-boggling.

INCREDULITY: Why is David Vitter still a Senator? How was he not so shamed in his constituents’ eyes that not only did they not demand his immediate resignation when his diapered-DC Madam sexual habits were made public, they reelected him? And why is Vitter showing his face in public claiming that “…the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth…God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”? Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog can at least answer the the last question.

BETRAYAL: This one’s personal. My love-hate relationship with my beloved/cursed New York Jets is finally tipping over toward the ‘hate’ side. This weekend, the Jets announced their acquisition of former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, and their release of hapless quarterback Matt Sanchez. My sense of betrayal has nothing to do with Sanchez–he sucked most of the time, but I wish him well. On the other hand, I wish that Michael Vick, of dog-fighting-ring/dog killer fame, would have his throwing arm mangled by a pit bull. Just enough to keep that scum out of football forever. In the meantime (well, when football season starts), I will boycott the Jets until that inhumane piece of shit is gone.

Damn, it's just a toy

Damn, it’s just a toy

Finally, to take that nasty taste out of your mouth:

CONTENTMENT: Although the story is five years old, it’s still heartwarming, and reinforces my opinion that animals are far better than humans. Mankind should really try to emulate Mother Nature.

In 2009, a fire in the Santa Barbara area had firefighters rescuing wildlife, including young animals separated from their mothers. The unlikely pair shown ended up together after their rescuers ran out of crates.
Rescued Fawn and Bobcat kittenfawn and bobcat kitten

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 22, 2014: Will Creationists Never Get It?

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an Atheist, and happy and proud to be one. I believe that our portion of the Space-Time Continuum came into being as the result of a Big bang, an explosion of matter and energy that rapidly expanded, and eventually formed the many, many galaxies of which our own is just one. I said “Space-Time Continuum” instead of “Universe” because I believe there are many, many Universes, spread far apart from one another. The Space-Time Continuum is just the framework within which everything happened, happens, and will happen. It is infinite in size, and infinite in time. It has always existed and it will always exist, but the matter and energy within it will constantly change. It was not brought into existence by anything, it was already there. Matter and energy may be turned into each other, but the infinite framework will still be there. Many religions that believe in a God have a Creation Myth. The one in the Christian Bible is not the only one, but that’s the one that religious conservatives want to see imposed on everyone. Their Creation Myth begins with three simple words, “In the beginning…” And that’s where the Bible and I part company. Because as far as I’m concerned, there was no beginning. People erroneously believe there MUST have been a First Cause, some kind of Force that brought everything into existence. I disagree. You want to tell me that the Space-Time Continuum Framework was entirely empty before some kind of Deity decided to start making stuff in it? For how long must that Deity, that all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing Deity, have sat around in a whole bunch of Nothingness? That makes absolutely no sense at all. None. What makes much more sense is that there was no beginning, that it was always there in some form or another. And it will still be there long after we all turn to star dust. Wouldn’t that imply that Life has no purpose? Yeah, but so what? In the wise words of Peter Falk in The Princess Bride, “Who said Life is fair?”

Which brings us to the Creationists of Answers In Genesis. They still don’t understand the concept of Science. They’re upset because Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the revival of “Cosmos,” won’t allow “balance” and present the view of the anti-Evolutionists. They seem to think that any effort to educate the public about things like the Truth, using such controversial tactics as citing Facts, must be balanced by teaching things what could only be described as “Falsehoods” and “Lies.” They seem to think that young people should be taught all points of view, no matter how absurd or demonstrably false, and then let them “decide” what they want to believe. This is how you raise a generation of stupid people. And stupid people tend to be conservative in their thinking (a well-documented fact), and stupid, I mean, conservative, in their voting. This has always been part of the long term strategy of the Right. People who don’t understand how Science works, who think that every point of view is valid, tend to be easily manipulated emotionally into being afraid. And people who are afraid make bad decisions, like voting for Conservatives to govern them. Which is why the Conservatives let the Religious Right have their way, no matter how wrong, no matter how intellectually void of merit their ideas, no matter how unconstitutional their proposed legislation.

Creationists continue to insist that their views be given equal weight with Scientific viewpoints and Theories. But there is absolutely nothing scientific about Creationism or Intelligent Design. They start with the premise that God exists, and assume that anything that isn’t understood is the Will of God and Not For Mere Mortals to Understand. That is not Science. How can you test any hypothesis when you hope the result is that you can’t discern the answer, so it must be God’s work? Even more, Creationism isn’t even a true Theory in the scientific sense. It’s nothing more than a belief that things happened a certain way, on the whim and time scale of a Power we can’t hope to understand, with no allowance for any belief otherwise. Why should that be given equal weight with the culmination of hundreds of years of scientific discipline and pursuit of the Truth? Especially when it’s been long proven that the Religious views on the nature of the Universe have been proven wrong time and again? The Sun does not revolve around the Earth. The Earth is not the center of the galaxy, let alone the Universe. We are no more important in the Grand Scheme of Things than the people living on a planet circling Alpha Centauri. And they probably think the same thing about us. And you know what? We’re both right.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Creationism, real Science, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or anything else about Neil deGrasse Tyson that you like.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 17, 2014: Why All The Hate?

If you’re like me, not only are you incredibly smart and good-looking, you wonder why so many people on the Right hate, just viscerally hate, the President of the United States. The knee-jerk reaction is to say it’s because the Haters are (Insert Randomly Insignificant Criterion Here) and the President is Not, and that for most of the haters, the randomly inserted insignificant criterion would be race. Not necessarily. There’s a lot of people who hate the president, and there’s certainly a chunk of them with an IQ well below the three-digit range who think the color of his skin is reason enough to hate him. Thankfully, despite this group’s inability to grasp the concept of birth control, Natural Selection will prevent them from becoming a majority in this country. But they don’t account for all the Haters. Some of the Haters claim to be Christians who think the President is Not One of Them. They think he’s a Muslim. What’s really funny about that one is that these are the same people who said Obama shouldn’t be President because he sat in the pews of a Christian church for 20 years listening to the hate speech of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Well, Uptighty Righties, which is it? Is Obama a Muslim, or a Christian who listened to a kind of hate speech that differs from your own? None of your other reasons to hate him make sense, either. At least, none of the reasons coming from the Right. Some of us on the Left certainly have our problems with a number of areas of his Governance, but we don’t hate him for it. We’re disappointed as all get-out, but we don’t hate him. But you do. Why?

I hear many of you claim he’s a “Communist,” a “Marxist,” and even a “Fascist,” all at once. And I laugh, because if I don’t, I’ll start shaking my head in sadness until I’m overcome by sobbing fits, despondent over the intense stupidity of my fellow human beings. You can’t be a Marxist and a Fascist at the same time, and if you don’t know enough about them to understand why, you should really stay out of the political arena. I would also not only recommend, I would beg you to stay home on Election Day, or least don’t go near the polls to cast a vote. Your political awareness is on par with that of sea urchins, who are at least smart enough not to advertise their ignorance. I just can’t see how America’s best interests are served by letting you have a say in who governs it. But you’ll notice (or, more likely, I’ll have to point out to you) that I’m not calling for you to not be allowed to vote. That’s how many on your side of the political aisle solve an issue like that. If they don’t like the way they think someone is likely to vote, they make up some bullshit reason to deny him the right to vote at all. Our side doesn’t do that, nor do we put out fliers telling you the election is being held on another day. We just ask you to do what’s best for your country, and don’t vote until you learn what you’re talking about.

You can’t govern a country based on denying rights to the people who aren’t like you, especially when about 75% of the country is not like you! This is a Republic, and you are a small percentage of its citizens. We don’t need to put anybody in Congress who thinks like you because there’s something wrong with the way you think. You need mental health treatment. And we hope you’ll be happy to learn it’s covered thanks to Obamacare.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss what you think we should do about all the Haters, or anything else you want.

Sunday Roast: Cats & Zooey take a day trip

Yesterday, it was such a beautiful day that Cats and I decided to take a spur of the moment day trip.  We made a loop from Eugene, down past Cottage Grove, over to Reedsport, then up to Florence, and back to Eugene.

The scenery was AMAZING, and here are just a few of the things we saw:

Canada Geese having a rest on their journey home.

Canada Geese having a rest on their journey home.

Roosevelt Elk, looking a bit raggedy and having lunch of fresh green grass.

Roosevelt Elk, looking a bit raggedy and having lunch of fresh green grass.

More Roosevelt Elk having a lie down.

More Roosevelt Elk having a lie down.

Stunning pink rhododendrons.

Stunning pink rhododendrons.

Dunes in Florence.

Dunes in Florence.

It was a perfectly lovely day, and, as you might imagine, we discussed all the issues of the day, and solved every single one of them — if only people would listen to us.  ;)

This is our daily open thread — Get on with it!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 15th, 2014: Strange Views

I had never heard of the Wellcome Image Awards before, but when I saw “Stunning Science Pictures”, I had to check them out. According to the accompanying article,

“The 13th Wellcome Image Awards took place on March 11, 2014, and recognized some truly remarkable feats in scientific image creation. The contest honors “the creators of the most informative, striking and technically excellent images” that have been recently added to the Wellcome Images collection. Wellcome Images are part of UK-based charitable foundation the Wellcome Trust, who are dedicated to achieving improvements in human and animal health.”

Some of the images really are “Stunning”; others range from (what I would call) ‘delightful,’ to ‘disturbing,’ to ‘gross,’ to ‘frightening.’ Here’s a sampling of the 19 images:

Astrantia Flowers (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Dr. Henry Oakley)

Astrantia Flowers (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Dr. Henry Oakley)

I like the description of the image above: “Photograph of flowers from the plant Astrantia major. This particular variety is called Hadspen Blood, and is also known as Masterwort, Gentleman’s Melancholy [my personal favorite], Hattie’s Pincushion, Mountain Sanicle or Black-root Sanicle.” [emphasis mine]

"Wiring of the human brain:  Bird's-eye view of nerve fibers in a normal, healthy adult human brain."  (Image credit:  Wellcome Collection/Zeynap M Saygin)

“Wiring of the human brain: Bird’s-eye view of nerve fibers in a normal, healthy adult human brain.” (Image credit: Wellcome Collection/Zeynap M Saygin)


"Miniature marine organism:  Light micrograph of a miniature organism found in the sea, part of a group called Foraminifera." (image credit: Wellcome Collection/Spike Walker)

“Miniature marine organism: Light micrograph of a miniature organism found in the sea, part of a group called Foraminifera.”
(image credit: Wellcome Collection/Spike Walker)


Zebrafish embryo: "A scanning electron micrograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo" (image credit::  Wellcome Collection./Anne Cavanagh and David McCarthy

Zebrafish embryo: “A scanning electron micrograph of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo”
(image credit:: Wellcome Collection./Anne Cavanagh and David McCarthy

That is one very surprised-looking zebrafish embryo!

Since you may view them with a different ‘eye,’ judge for yourselves: here’s the complete 19-image slideshow, definitely view them full-screen.

This is our daily open thread–go ahead and talk about, well, anything!

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, March 12, 2014: Blue Sky over Beijing

China has finally gotten serious in its efforts to combat the effects of air pollution so thick it blocks out the sky.

An internal memo distributed through wickieleaks reveals that coal burning plants and even oil refineries will soon be adding blue dye to their fuel. The effect of the dye will be to turn smog a healthy sky-blue color. The air will be just as bad, but no one will notice. A test burn was conducted in a small villiage in Mongolia last December, with no lasting ill effects. The villiager’s skin color returned to normal just three weeks after the end of the test.

OPEN THREAD

SPRING, AND BLUE SKIES, AHEAD

Watering Hole: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 – I Remember

I remember when all vegetables were organic and purchased from the local farmer.  As a matter of fact, when I was a very young child, I remember a farmer driving his truck around the city where I lived and selling his produce right off the back of his truck.  Before supermarkets, our food came from the corner grocery store and with the exception of the Birdseye frozen vegetables and canned vegetables (yuk), it was fresh from the local farmer.  If it was out of season, it wasn’t on the shelf. The corner grocery store was often owned by a butcher.  Our little neighborhood supported three corner butcher/groceries.  The meat was not factory farmed and tasted good.  Once a week, the milkman would stop by very early in the morning and drop off farm fresh milk and eggs.  My mother would put money in an envelope along with a note for her next order and leave it in the insulated milk box.

Then the supermarket chains appeared and gradually put an end to the corner butcher/grocery stores.  This was when factory farming became all the rage and the farmers turned to using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  The ranchers discovered that feeding steers grain made them get fatter faster which meant a quicker and higher return on their investment.  Along with the grain came an increase in intestinal salmonella growth in the cattle and the contamination of the meat supply.  Cattle are NOT grain eaters.  They are grass eaters and salmonella does not grow freely in a grass fed bovine.  Besides, grass fed beef is high in Omega 3′s whereas grain fed beef is high in Omega 6′s.  That’s a story for another time.

Now, we pay premium prices for organic food which was once the only food that could by purchased at the local grocery.  Has Monsanto won or are we waiting for summer’s bounty from the local farmers?  I am anxiously awaiting the return of the local farmers’ markets.  Now if only I can find room in my small house for my freezer.

This is our Open Thread.  Speak Up!

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 10th, 2014: Jehovah: IMHO, Not Much of a God

This is going to be a bit long, but once I read it I knew that I had to share it with you. What follows is a section entitled “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” of one of the tracts that the Jehovah’s Witnesses dropped off last weekend. The tract itself is titled “Does Death End It All?” For your examination, in its entirety:

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

“The following is a typical conversation that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses might have with a neighbor. Let us imagine that a Witness named Michelle has come to the home of a woman named Sophia.”

HOW DOES GOD FEEL ABOUT OUR SUFFERING?

Michelle: Hi, Sophia. I’m happy I found you at home.
Sophia: Me, too.
Michelle: The last time I was here we discussed how God feels about our suffering. You mentioned that this is something you have wondered about for a long time, especially after your mother was injured in a car crash. By the way, how has your mother been doing?
Sophia: She has good days and bad days. Today, she’s doing OK.
Michelle: I’m glad to hear that. It must be a real challenge to keep your head up in a situation like this.
Sophia: It is. Sometimes I wonder how much longer she will have to suffer.
Michelle: That’s a natural response. You may recall that at the end of our last visit, I left you with a question about why God has allowed suffering to continue if he has the power to end it.
Sophia: Yes, I remember.
Michelle: Before we consider the Bible’s answer, let’s review a few of the points we covered last time.
Sophia: OK.
Michelle: For one thing, we learned that even a faithful man in Bible times wondered why God allows suffering. Yet, God never scolded him for asking about it, nor did God tell him that he simply needed more faith.
Sophia: That was a new thought to me.
Michelle: We also learned that Jehovah God hates to see us suffer. For example, the Bible says that when his people were going through distress, “it was distressing to him.” [here footnoted "See Isaiah 63:9"] Isn’t it comforting to know that God feels for us when we suffer?
Sophia: Yes, it is.
Michelle: Finally, we agreed that considering the vast amount of power our Creator possesses, surely he has the ability to step in and end suffering at any moment.
Sophia: That’s what I don’t understand. Why does God let all these bad things happen when he has the power to stop them?

WHO WAS TELLING THE TRUTH?

Michelle: We can start to find the answer to your question by turning to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Are you familiar with the account of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit?
Sophia: Yes, I learned that story in Sunday school. God said not to eat from a certain tree, but they went ahead and ate from it anyway.
Michelle: That is correct. Now, let’s focus on the events that led up to Adam and Eve’s sin. Those events have a direct bearing on the question of why we suffer. Would you please read Genesis chapter 3, verses 1 through 5?
Sophia: OK. “Now the serpent was the most cautious of all the wild animals of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it said to the woman: ‘Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But God has said about the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden: ‘You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it, otherwise you would die.’ At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You certainly would not die. For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.’”
Michelle: Thank you. Let’s examine these verses for a moment. First, notice that a serpent spoke to the woman, Eve. Another part of the Bible shows that it was really Satan the Devil who was speaking to her through the serpent. [here footnoted "See Revelation 12:9.] Satan asked Eve about God’s command regarding a certain tree. Did you notice what God had said the penalty would be if Adam and Eve ate from it?
Sophia: They would die.
Michelle: Correct. Then, with his very next words, Satan made a major accusation against God. Notice what he said: “You certainly will not die.” Satan was calling God a liar!
Sophia: I never heard that part of the story before.
Michelle: And when Satan called God a liar, he raised an issue that would require time to settle. Can you see why?
Sophia: Hmm. I’m not sure.
Michelle: Well, maybe I could illustrate the point this way. Let’s say that one day I approach you and claim that I’m physically stronger than you are. How could you prove me wrong?
Sophia: I suppose with some sort of a test.
Michelle: Yes, exactly. Maybe we would choose a heavy object and then see which one of us was able to lift it. Actually, proving who is stronger is pretty straightforward.
Sophia: I see your point.
Michelle: But what if instead of saying that I’m stronger, I claimed to be more honest than you? That’s a different matter, isn’t it?
Sophia: Yes, I suppose so.
Michelle: After all, honesty is not something like strength, which can be proved with a simple test.
Sophia: No.
Michelle: Really, the only way to settle the challenge would be to let enough time pass for others to observe the two of us and see who really is more honest.
Sophia: That makes sense.
Michelle: Now, look again at this account in Genesis. Did Satan claim to be stronger than God?
Sophia: No.
Michelle: God could have quickly proved him wrong. Instead, Satan claimed to be more honest than God. In effect, he said to Eve, ‘God is lying to you, but I’m telling you the truth.’
Sophia: Interesting.
Michelle: In his wisdom, then, God knew that the best way to settle the challenge would be to allow time to pass. Eventually, it would become clear who was telling the truth and who was lying.

AN IMPORTANT ISSUE

Sophie: But as soon as Eve died, didn’t that prove that God was telling the truth?
Michelle: In a sense, it did. But there was more to Satan’s challenge. Look again at verse 5. Do you notice what else Satan told Eve?
Sophia: He said that if she ate of the fruit, her eyes would be opened.
Michelle: Yes, and that she would become “like God, knowing good and bad.” So Satan claimed that God was withholding something good from humans.
Sophia: I see.
Michelle: And that too was a major challenge.
Sophia: What do you mean?
Michelle: By his words, Satan implied that Eve – and by extension, all humans – would be better off without God’s rulership. In this case too, Jehovah knows that the best way to address the challenge would be to let Satan try to prove his point. So God has allowed Satan to rule this world for a time. That explains why we see so much suffering around us–it’s because Satan, not God, is the real ruler of the world. [here footnoted, "see John 12:31, John 5:19.] But there is good news.
Sophia: What’s that?
Michelle: The Bible teaches these two beautiful truths about God. First, Jehovah is there for us when we suffer. For example, cosider the words of King David, as recorded at Psalm 31:7. David experienced a lot of suffering during his lifetime, but notice what he was able to say in prayer to God. Would you please read the verse?
Sophia: OK. It says, “I will rejoice greatly in your loyal love, for you have seen my affliction, you are aware of my deep distress.”
Michelle: So even though David experienced suffering, he found comfort in knowing that Jehovah saw everything he went through. Do you find that comforting–the thought that Jehovah is aware of everything, even our painful emotions that other humans may not fully understand?
Sophia: Yes, I do.
Michelle: The second beautiful truth is that God will not allow our suffering to go on indefinitely. The Bible teaches that he will soon bring an end to Satan’s wicked rulership. And he will completely undo all of the bad things that have happened, including the things that you and your mother have suffered. May I come back next week and show you why we can be sure that God will soon end all suffering?
Sophia: That sounds good.”

Okay, my immediate response to this whole thing is:

- Sophia is amazingly gullible;
- Michelle’s words and examples are hardly irrefutable proof of anything;
- Since Eve did NOT die when she ate the forbidden fruit, it would appear that Satan was right, God IS a liar; and
- It’s a poor excuse on God’s part that he can’t intervene in human suffering because, for some strange reason, God is letting Satan have a turn at ruling the world.

This is our daily open thread–your thoughts?

Sunday Roast: Lichen

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Lichens on basalt, Skinner Butter, Eugene, OR

Photo by Zooey

From the Wikipedia:

Lichens occur in some of the most extreme environments on Earth—arctic tundra, hot deserts, rocky coasts, and toxic slag heaps. However, they are also abundant as epiphytes on leaves and branches in rain forests and temperate woodland, on bare rock, including walls and gravestones, and on exposed soil surfaces (e.g., Collema) in otherwise mesic habitats. The roofs of many buildings have lichens growing on them. Lichens are widespread and may be long-lived; however, many are also vulnerable to environmental disturbance, and may be useful to scientists in assessing the effects of air pollution, ozone depletion, and metal contamination. Lichens have also been used in making dyes and perfumes, as well as in traditional medicines. It has been estimated that 6% of Earth’s land surface is covered by lichen.

This is our very, very, very, very late daily open thread — I blame DST!!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 8, 2014: Forward March

We used to say, “Spring Forward, Fall Back” to help us remember which way to change our clocks during our semi-annual, Unnecessary Activity of the Year. But we no longer change clocks in the Spring, we do it a couple of weeks earlier. So now we might as well say, “Forward March, Fall Down.” But why do we even bother to do it? Whose brilliant idea was it? Does it even do what it’s supposed to do? Is there a better way?

The answers are: Supposedly, to save energy. Ben Franklin, sort of. That depends on where you live and what you wanted it to do. Yes, yes there is.

Save Your Energy
According to a great article in National Geographic, it’s supposed to save on energy, but the results are mixed on that. In some states Continue reading