petra anderson

yet another horrible thing being called a miracle. an innocent woman got shot 4 times while watching the dark knight rises premiere, including once in the brain. but because that shot happened to not cause any brain damage, it’s a miracle!

why do miracles so frequently have this pattern? horrible thing X happens, but because of Y, it was not as horrible as it ultimately could have been: miracle!

conveniently, we ignore the fact that a 6-year-old girl was shot and killed in the same shooting. the pastor who who blogged about this “miracle” responds in the comments about the little girl, saying “I gain some peace because my worldview tells me the six year old is now experiencing heaven, full of life and love.” life on earth is supposed to be nothing compared to the afterlife in heaven. so is it such a miracle that petra anderson survived? can’t have it both ways.

all door boarding

just a few days ago sf muni (the public transportation system) began a policy of all-door boarding of busses. i experienced just one unintended consequence of the new policy today. a homeless man boarded the bus without paying and asked people repeatedly “can you spare some change?”

he asked me at one point. so i responded
me: do you believe in god?
him: yes, i believe in god.
me: wrong answer.
him: can you spare some change?
me: not for you.
him: (mumbling) what’s believing in god got to do with me getting some change?

the woman sitting next to him suddenly had a handful of change to give to him, despite denying his request minutes earlier. perhaps she also believes in god. do i get credit for her donation? right after she gave him a handful of coins, he asked her “can i also have a dollar?”

they already get free health care. i don’t get near as good a deal. ironically, it’s because i am employed. someone should write a book about the homeless people of san francisco.  it would read just like that kids’ book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

miracles

i want nothing to do with them. i have never heard of a really good one, have you? miracle (like tragedy) has become meaningless with overuse.

usually, a “miracle” is when something horribly, catastrophically bad happens to you, but then it turns out not being quite as bad as originally estimated. like, when your anencephalic child doesn’t die within hours of birth, but holds on for 2+ years. or when you’ve sustained 2nd to 3rd degree burns on over 70% of your body from a car crash and you manage not to die. or when you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic cancer and given 3 months to live, but end up suffering for 6 months before finally dying.

other “miracles” are banal things that any reasonable person should expect would happen, given the circumstances. like, someone who is regularly having unprotected sex becoming pregnant.

even the miracles of the christian bible are just meh. yay, more bread and fish! probably wouldn’t have touched the stuff in the first place, but now we’ve got more. any god worth worshipping would have a better imagination than me, so a miracle by such a god would be at least as awesome as a real live dragon. but no such awesomeness has ever been documented.

Loki is my god

I promised a full entry back here about Loki.

He was certainly the most interesting character in the movie. Maybe that’s because he was brilliantly portrayed by classically trained British actor Tom Hiddleston. Eton and Cambridge? Excuse me while I swoon.

There’s something sweetly vulnerable and human about him and his desire to prove himself and out-do his golden boy brother, Thor. He’s honest about his desire to control humans. Not having to think — just accepting god’s word and god’s plan — is what comforts many religious people. Loki claims this outright. Maybe I want to take a vacation and let him make my decisions for me. It might be refreshing.

True story: a few weeks ago, I prayed to Thor for cookies, and I got them. (Thank you, Thor!) I haven’t tried asking Loki for anything, but knowing his desperation to compete with Thor, I should be able to ask for a whole bakery and get it.

Kansas and contraception

This is the conundrum with attempting to protect religious freedom. Pharmacists in Kansas may now refuse to fill prescriptions that they believe may lead to an abortion. “Belief” is important here. They can refuse to sell Plan B and not worry about losing their jobs even though Plan B doesn’t actually cause abortions.

The most important aspect of freedom of religion is that no one, not even the government, has the power to interfere with the religious beliefs and practices of anyone else. This is why atheists are upset. Whose beliefs are more important? Why should the beliefs of pharmacists and doctors trump the beliefs (or lack thereof) of their clients? Especially in a case like this, when the outcome probably has a much more profound impact on the life of the client?

A pharmacist should not be able to force his* religious beliefs on his clients. Think of any other profession. A waitress, for example. Let’s say an Orthodox Jewish waitress gets a job at Red Lobster then wants to refuse to serve diners who order items that aren’t kosher. Would the government ever pass a law to protect her job if she chose to do that? No, because it’s part of her job. A necessary part of her job that she knew about when she applied to work for Red Lobster.

It is just as absurd to allow pharmacists and doctors to refuse to perform necessary duties of their jobs due to religious beliefs when they knew all along that those duties would be required of them.

But there’s some good news! Plan B is apparently available for purchase online, and Amazon ships to Kansas. Better stock up. You’re welcome, much beleaguered women of Kansas:

* As always, gendered pronouns for notational convenience only.

I lost her to god

My best friend freshman year of college was religious. I tell people that we aren’t that close anymore because I lost her to god. Then I have to explain “no, no, she isn’t dead… I just lost her to god.”

I really did. At first, it was just a few seconds of silent prayer at mealtimes. Then it was that and church every Sunday. Then there was bible study on Tuesdays as well. Soon, Fridays were also booked with singing in dark auditoriums. By the time her Thursdays were consumed by some other god-praising activity, I didn’t even bother to find out what it was. I had lost her to god.

This was very sad for me. She is an intelligent, talented individual who majored in architecture — one of the most demanding and time-consuming majors. We’d keep each other company through late nights before projects and tests. We ate dinner together most nights and played pranks on our friends. I think we understood each other well. After graduation, she feel even deeper into the god delusion and dedicated her life to writing and performing songs about god. Now, she’s married a pastor and moved across the country. As far as I can tell, she’s a housewife. A housewife to a man who doesn’t understand analogies or first order logic.

To me, this is a fate worse than death. Sometimes I just let people think that my dear friend died. She may as well have. People who let parasitic religious memes dwell that deeply in their minds are nothing more than zombies looking to infect the rest of us. My poor friend.

I love hate mail

This is Richard Dawkins reading his hate mail. This is wonderful beyond words. I have said it time and again: I will consider myself a great success this lifetime if I ever receive the caliber of hate mail that Dawkins does.

I’ve found a, well, I hesitate to call it a news article. So, we’ll say… an opinion piece that seems to be hate letter to all atheists. It’s called You Whiny Sniveling Little Atheists Are Pathetic! 

Since it was written to all atheists, I like to pretend it was for me. She exhorts atheists to “Go start your own damn country” for simply wanting protection under the constitution to have freedom from religion. One wouldn’t think that an all powerful being would need his minions to use this sort of language towards non-believers. It shows the underlying insecurity and defensiveness that many believers have. If she’s right and I’m wrong, then there’s more room in heaven for her and her righteous brethren. So rather than being so hateful towards us doomed non-believers, you’d think religious people might feel sorry for us and show us a bit of kindness while we’re here for our brief mortal existence. I guess it’s too much to ask that they leave us in peace.

Pastor Sean Harris on homosexuality

He advises physical violence against boys:

Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch.

But merely harassment and rigid gender roles for girls:

And when your daughter starts acting too butch you reign her in and you say “Oh no, oh no sweetheart. You can play sports. Play ’em. Play ’em to the glory of god. But sometimes you’re gonna act like a girl, walk like a girl, talk like a girl, and smell like a girl. And that means you’re gonna be beautiful. You’re going to be attractive. You’re gonna dress yourself up.”

We may laugh at the other extreme, where parents refuse to tell anyone the gender of their baby, but if Pastor Harris’ views are anywhere near the norm, it’s easy to sympathise with their reluctance. There are so many problems here that all I can do is make a list.

  1. You can’t beat/harass/punch the gay out of a child.
  2. Even if you could do (1), it still wouldn’t be ethical.
  3. It also wouldn’t be something Jesus would approve of.*
  4. How sad for boys that what they do is dig ditches.
  5. How sad for girls that their purpose is to be attractive.

But this is the narrow world that this pastor and his flock live in. You heard them laughing and cheering along. More moderate religious adherents may argue “that’s not me — they make us Christians look bad!” The fact is that these people also believe they’re the true Christians doing god’s will. Unless the moderates aren’t also appealing to the bible as absolute truth to be interpreted at will, they’re just as bad. They affect what society sees as normal and acceptable, and this acceptance includes those who interpret the bible in more draconian ways. If we’re to find religion acceptable only when it corresponds with secular mores anyway, why bother giving religion any credence at all?

If you wonder why I give these ideas any attention, here is your answer: I want to give exposure to every case I see of someone using religion to lend authority to their personal prejudices. With enough incidents like this, we might turn public opinion to disdain and revile religion. It is my dream that one day soon, the majority of us will be rid of it entirely — that parasitic meme. People like this should be too ashamed of themselves to ever admit their bigotry aloud. Let’s make it so.

* Presumably a pastor cares about this.

Meet your maker

When I hear someone say that, it gives me a thrill.

I imagine I’m at something like a cotillion taking place in San Francisco’s city hall. My debut into undead society, if you will. I’m wearing a Vera Wang wedding gown to represent my purity (having never before been with a vampire) and my humanness. I descend the stairs to Tchaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto while everyone in their white tie finery watches, transfixed. Not by me, but by my maker.

At the bottom of the stairs, I am introduced, “Meet your maker.”

He looks barely older than a boy and is an English lord with a title like “2nd Marquess of Hartington” — or at least that was his title when he was alive. He died of hemophilia or consumption but was really too gorgeous to die, so a vampire turned him. I curtsey and he bows gracefully. His nearly translucent ice blue eyes betray only a hint of affection as he gently takes me and ends my human life, transforming me into a vampire as well.

Everyone applauds.