Sunday, December 31, 2006
Four To Go

Well, there's that, then -- we're that much closer to the end of this wretched decade.

I'm getting to the point where I'm wary of being overly-optimistic on New Year's Eve. How many years in a row now have I said, "well, that year sucked, but I'm sure this year will be better?" Without bothering to go back and check, I'd bet even money that it's once for every New Year's Eve post I've done. And to be fair, this last year wasn't too bad. It wasn't especially good, either, but nothing really bad happened. Honestly, it felt a lot like marking time -- a few good things happened, a few difficult things happened, a few interesting things happened, and I got a bit done but not as much as I'd wanted. Pretty much a wash, really.

New Year's is always an introspective event for me. My habit the last however-many years has been to try to spend the last part of the 31st reviewing the receding year, and then to spend the first part of the 1st imagining what I want to do in the coming year. I don't make resolutions, but I spell out a few hopes quietly to myself. Some years I find that I've managed to do everything I wanted to do; some years I haven't accomplished any of it. What I know is that this year, while I'll probably still do my personal review, I think I'm going to leave the future-projection out of it, and try instead to simply make myself open to whatever's coming.

That said, I'm feeling optimistic; there are a few things that I'm looking forward to seeing come to fruition. Here's hoping it pays off for all of us this year.

PS: Do you believe in omens?

PPS: What he said.

And finally: If you need some help reviewing, I recommend this brief review from my favorite-ever magazine.
6:44 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, December 29, 2006
Home, Bored

It seems I'm stuck for the time being -- my car exploded* last night, as it now seems wont to do around this time every year. So here I sit with nowhere to go -- or at least no way to get there. (It's cool -- I didn't have anything I had to do today anyway.)

What it all boils down to is that I've been spending some time reading online. There have been an unusual number of interesting articles about atheism floating around lately, so, y'know, here are a few of 'em. Read them if you like, or if not, don't. (I'm not offering much commentary, since it's not like I have much to say that isn't already covered in the pieces themselves.)

10 myths -- and 10 truths -- about atheism, by Sam Harris

Atheism is dogmatic.

Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity's needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn't have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

Not yet the majority, but no longer silent, by Daniel C. Dennet

Why, then, are we atheists in general so unnoticed, and why is this changing? Since atheists, in general, think there are much more important and interesting topics to discuss than whether or not God--which God?--exists, we seldom raise the issue, but recent trends in America have suggested to many of us that this diplomatic reticence has been exploited by sectarian ideologues, evangelists, politicians, and others intent on maintaining the illusion that we are a negligible fringe community, so we are encouraging those who agree with us to come out of the closet . I use the idiom advisedly. A few decades ago, homosexuality was looked upon as so shameful that few dared declare themselves, and as a result, most homosexuals had to lie their way through life, for fear of losing their jobs, their reputations, their friends and family. How times have changed -- and for the better! It is now possible for homosexuals to be elected to Congress, to star in television shows, to be honored for their accomplishments and treasured by their friends. Could an atheist be elected to Congress? Probably not now, but if we can just raise the consciousness of Americans to the fact that some of their best friends are atheists, this will change.

Why are atheists so angry?, a debate between Sam Harris and Dennis Prager

As an atheist, I am angry that we live in a society in which the plain truth cannot be spoken without offending 90% of the population. The plain truth is this: There is no good reason to believe in a personal God; there is no good reason to believe that the Bible, the Koran, or any other book was dictated by an omniscient being; we do not, in any important sense, get our morality from religion; the Bible and the Koran are not, even remotely, the best sources of guidance we have for living in the 21st century; and the belief in God and in the divine provenance of scripture is getting a lot of people killed unnecessarily.

God's enemies are more honest than his friends, by Sam Harris

As I pointed out in my subsequent book, Letter to a Christian Nation, we do not have a term for a person who rejects astrology, nor do we need one. If legions of astrologers sought to bend our public policy to their pseudo-science, we wouldn't need to dub ourselves "non-astrologers" to put them in their place. Words like "reason," "evidence," and "commonsense" would suffice. So it should be with religion. Still, one can only spend so much time quibbling over words, and there are far more consequential matters for believers and nonbelievers to discuss. Despite my misgivings about answering to the name "atheist," I consider the stigma now associated with the term to be entirely unwarranted. This stigma is, of course, the continuous product of the inane and unctuous declarations that still pass for argument among the faithful.

Update: Here's another one -- the Grand Poobah Atheist takes his turn:

Athorism is enjoying a certain vogue right now. Can there be a productive conversation between Valhallans and athorists?

Naive literalists apart, sophisticated thoreologians long ago ceased believing in the material substance of Thor's mighty hammer. But the spiritual essence of hammeriness remains a thunderingly enlightened relevation, and hammerological faith retains its special place in the eschatology of neo-Valhallism, while enjoying a productive conversation with the scientific theory of thunder in its non-overlapping magisterium.

Militant athorists are their own worst enemy. Ignorant of the finer points of thoreology, they really should desist from their strident and intolerant strawmandering, and treat Thor-faith with the uniquely protected respect it has always received in the past. In any case, they are doomed to failure. People need Thor, and nothing will ever remove him from the culture. What are you going to put in his place?

* not literally
1:30 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, December 22, 2006
Official War On Christmas Post

It's true: I love Christmas. I don't believe in virgin births or heavenly hosts or wandering stars, and I'm skeptical of the existence of Jesus even as a historical figure. But I loves me some Christmas, in the most paganish sense possible. I'll be spending most of Christmas day cooking (which is a good thing) -- I've got quite the slap-up meal planned. I don't get many chances to really pull out the culinary stops these days, so when an opportunity comes along, I grab it and throttle the gravy out of it. Literally. I hope you get an opportunity to do something you don't do often enough, too.

Therefore, as it was so nicely put by Prof. Dawkins:

" ...understanding full well that the phrase retains zero religious significance, I unhesitatingly wish everyone a Merry Christmas."

And the Priest, with his priest-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without Jesus! It came without gods!
"It came without reverends, ministers or frauds!"
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Priest thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a church.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...needs a bit more research!
And what happened then...? Doubt-ville they say
That the Priest's small brain
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his brain didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the books! And the logic and reason!
And he...
The Priest skipped church for the season!

(from Pharyngula)

PS: Or if you're bored, there are a lot worse ways to celebrate the holiday than by doing a little blaspheming.
12:06 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, December 08, 2006
Congratulations Are In Order

I do believe I've finally kicked my blogging addiction.

And I think that's a good thing. The almost-four-years since I started this thing weren't exactly, you know, the best I've ever had. I've had darker days, but this kind of activity is usually a sign that I'm living in my head more than might be best for me. And lately, for various reasons that don't need going into right now, I haven't been doing that as much. Not that one is better than the other, but each serves its own purpose, and my aims have begun to change.

Like I said previously, I have no intention of ending this blog -- like anyone but me really cares anyway, but that's kind of the point. This blog has always been first and foremost for me, and I just don't seem to need it very much anymore. I intend to keep it around and functional -- there'll always be days when I have something to say -- but let's face it: she's not getting the action she once was. I am becoming a very infrequent poster.

But hey, that's what the RSS feed is for.
6:26 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Got In First This Year

Happpyyyy Birthdayyyyyy Sister Novena!!!!

I note that you are now THREE years older than I was when you first called me "really old and stuff". Wow, that is soooooo old!

Have a great day, Amy - I'm thinking of you.

12:49 AM ::
Mr Smithers :: permalink