Ninjasexuality


George Takei recently posted the follwing image on his facebook page, titled “Gay Test.”

I’ve always found these things to be outstandingly stupid, personally. However, I would like to share with you all what I saw in this image, courtesy (as always) of MS Paint. I invite you to make your own conclusions based on this result.

*A ninja preparing to do battle with Keanu Reeves in The Matrix

According to this test, I must assume that I am subconsciously a Ninjasexual.

Honestly, I can’t complain with that.

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God Voltron and the best April Fools Day (?)


This past Sunday, some fellow AAAers and I made it out to our first church as part of the “Send an Atheist to Church” fundraiser. The fact it was palm Sunday seemed fitting, but I’m not quite sure why.

My last name is a tree. That makes us tight.

Anyway, we arrived at our destination without any trouble: University Lutheran Church. Part of Tuscaloosa’s “God Quad” of off-campus churches.

The building is pretty cool looking if you ask me. Like a tee-pee for Jesus.

The people of the congregation were incredibly friendly and receptive to us, and seemed very interested in the project. Couldn’t have asked for a better starting point.

The congregation itself was primarily elderly, but with a smattering of younger members. There were only maybe 50 people there altogether, so it was an interesting change from the church services I remember from childhood. The community was clearly very close-knit.

The sermon was far more liberal than I had imagined. My skeptic alarms were ringing the entire time of course, but overall it was on the reasonable end for a sermon. It included some mention of God as an entity beyond the Universe, that only pokes in every now and them. I’d say that is still plenty ludicrous, but it at least doesn’t disregard the sciences.

The thing that stuck out most in the sermon for me was the repeated theme of “believe, and then you will see.” From a skeptical standpoint, that just can’t work. That is just straight confirmation bias in a can for our silly pattern-seeking brains.

FROG ON A TREE FACING DOWN!

HORSE ON THE GROUND FACING UP!

Something like that. Just watch this.

Anyway, after the service the entire “God Quad” joined together to form a “God Voltron”, something that they apparently do as a ceremony for Palm Sunday. We got to stand around with tree leaves and look for shade.

"God Voltron"

Formerly a segment of tree

Overall, it was a pretty swell way to spend a Sunday morning. This weekend, we get to experience a Southern Baptist church. I have never been to one before, so this should be something.

Also, in conclusion, all of University Lutheran’s materials were in Comic Sans.

But wait…

hmm...

I think we may have been trolled. Maybe. Too hard to say…

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Glenn Beck <3's Correlations


Earlier tonight, I was reading about Glenn Beck’s coverage of the Reason Rally when I saw this:

"Beck and Hallowell compared the new, official Atheist symbol and the original Anarchist symbols. Bear a resemblance?" (original caption)

…yeah. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to catch it. Here’s what Hemant said about it over on The Friendly Atheist:

“Look at the official (?!?) atheist symbol! It resembles the anarchy symbol!

I didn’t even know we had an official symbol. Maybe that’s because we don’t. In any case, I’m shocked that two versions of the letter A look kind of similar. SHOCKED, I TELL YOU!”

Here’s a few things on that:

1) there are a number of “Atheist symbols”, none of which are official to all of atheism and of which that is not even the most popular one in my experience.

Oh look, there's a few of them

2) The symbol for anarchism: here’s a google image search for “anarchy symbol”

Notice something interesting here? The most popular version of the anarchy symbol by far includes a continuing crossbar on the “A”, beyond the boundaries of the circle. I didn’t even recognize the apparent “official” version (there must be an irony there), because that isn’t the insignia in the public consciousness. So, what we have now is that one of the atheist symbols looks slightly similar to an archaic symbol for anarchism.

3) What would it even mean if it were true? Did some secret council of super-atheists design the “official symbol” in an attempt to subliminally hypnotize the fraction of the 15 percent of Atheists in the American population that they have organized (and can barely keep banded together as is) to tear down the American government system that is the only thing guaranteeing our freedoms in a country where we are vastly outnumbered by the religious? REALLY? IS THAT IT? DOES THAT MAKE SENSE TO PEOPLE?

4) Last point, and the most obvious one: the logic here is bizarre. Both logos are A’s, as Hemant said. Just because two logos incorporate an “A” does not imply a connection, apart from a mostly common set of characters. By that initial logic, look at all of the other organizations in on the conspiracy:

doubly involved

20+ Logo Design Tutorials

How far down does the rabbit hole go, Glenn? How far?

Because I love being able to link this

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They love the Governor…


Alabama Governor Robert Bentley came through town to speak to a University of Alabama campus group a couple of days ago. Given his track record, I was thoroughly unsurprised to hear about the content of the event. Here are some highlights from the Crimson White article:

Bentley said it’s hard for him to separate his personal beliefs. He accepted Jesus Christ as the savior of his life when he was nine years old and believed he should give his life to Christ…

(Referring to becoming a Medical Doctor) “God opened those doors,” he said. “He allowed me take care of people and care about people.”

Bentley said he knows God is always in control of his life. He said he likes to live his life in a way that glorifies God.

“God put us in the position that we are in,” Bentley said. “I truly believe that I have been put here as governor of the state of Alabama at this time.”

Bentley told the crowd to live by faith every day, and said that their faith in God would lead their lives in the right direction. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” he said, quoting the book of Hebrews.

So, to put that in perspective, the sitting Governor of Alabama was hosted on campus to preach to a group of students. This guy just baffles me to no end. It is fine that he is a faithful person, but to do this sort of thing while in office? Not to mention that he did this in spite of his track record with non-Christians (which is again, not good).  This is the kind of thing I could see a  former governor doing. But as a sitting governor of the state, an individual chosen to represent all of the people who reside here? He should really hold off on the sermons until after he is out of office.

I was called after the event concluded to comment for the article. This was before I had all of the details, apart from a general outline of the event:

Gordon Maples, president of Alabama Atheists and Agnostics, said he was not surprised Bentley spoke at the University.

“I do wish he would acknowledge the large community of non-theists in the state of Alabama, but he typically doesn’t do it,” he said. “He rides the line as far as whether he is using this position to directly insert his religious belief.

“He’s definitely riding a very fine line. There’s no problem in someone who holds a public office to talk about their personal belief as long as it doesn’t become part of his position or try to enforce those beliefs on his constituents.”

Now that I have read his quotes, I can’t help but feel a little disturbed by this bit:

“He (God) allowed me take care of people and care about people.”

Is he really saying that he wouldn’t care about people if not for his faith in god? Because I see that as just a tad horrifying.

Man, would I love to have a chat with Gov. Bentley. Just a little sit-down sort of thing. I think there is as likely a chance of that happening as of me becoming a professional zeppelin captain, though. Oh well, I would have loved that zeppelin.

I would feed it and water it and everything

That’s all I’ve got for today, heathens. Have a good one!

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Thoughts on Godless Death


Just about a month, ago, Greta Christina (of Greta Christina’s Blog, of course) came through Tuscaloosa and gave a talk titled “Happy Thoughts On Godless Death.” Since that time, I’ve been thinking about the subject quite a bit. It is without a doubt one of the most frequent topics brought up to atheists by believers, primarily because it isn’t easy to get your head around secular death without a good frame of reference.

It is easy to claim that there is no comfort to be offered by the secular view of death, especially when compared to the fantastical religious alternatives. But honestly, I have to humbly disagree.

For someone who thinks and sees the world in material terms, the religious afterlife offers no comfort whatsoever. It isn’t something we can choose to believe in; it just doesn’t fit with the way we think and see the world around us. It is a classic round-hole/square-peg situation as far as I can see. So, when someone says “it must be so depressing to not believe in an afterlife”, it doesn’t really register for me. I am going to live this life, and then break back down into the physical bits that made me up. I, in the sense of my body, will be back in the big ol’ carbon pool. Maybe part of me will wind up as part of a 20 ft mutated squirrel creature in the future. That sounds pretty awesome to me, and about as far from depressing as possible.

Top Google image result for "mutated squirrel creature"

It is the loss of personality and “mind” that really seems to bother people, though. I see life in that sense as something of a magnificent fireworks show of neurons and other science-y things. It is both outstanding and precious, but as with all great shows, the curtain has to come down. We may not want it to, but a closing is really necessary. Think about television shows for a minute: sometimes a great show will come along, and it will blow people away. Sometimes these shows get cancelled far before their prime, which is sincerely regrettable.

Other shows are desperately clung on to, and kept alive far longer than they should. Without a timely ending, the luster and amazement that came with the show’s prime is lost.

Basically, I am saying that eternal life would eventually wind up like House or Stargate SG-1 (drawn out and ultimately stale), whereas our mortal lives as they exist are akin to Arrested Development or Firefly. Even The Twilight Zone (which I love and have written on before) only lasted an even 5 seasons. And I am honestly happy that it ended there, and didn’t spiral into mediocrity by pushing into the 10-12 season mark. Maybe that isn’t the perfect metaphor, but I think you can get where I’m going with this. Speaking of, check out The Twilight Zone episode “A Nice Place to Visit”, it compliments Greta’s talk quite nicely.

I'm saying this guy was pretty amazing

I’ll just conclude with a song: The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” I think the tune covers the basic outlook of many materialist thinkers when it comes to the topic of death, but condensed into a simplified and catchy form. Also, the video is visually pretty entertaining.

Do You Realize??

Peace be with ye, Heathens.

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Oh, Canada…


Earlier today, I was doing my regular browsing of r/hockey over on Reddit when I came across this fairly bizarre video.

Recently, Vancouver Canucks star player Daniel Sedin sustained a fairly serious hit to the head, and is showing concussion-like symptoms.

What is happening in this video is a large-scale prayer rally, pleading for his quick return to health. That part to me doesn’t seem so odd or unique. What does strike me as a little out there is the use of Daniel Sedin’s actual helmet for the event, and the fact that they are in Rogers Arena, the home ice of the Vancouver Canucks. I imagine this is just a tactic to get the locals on board with the movement (a pretty predatory one at that), but the whole thing just strikes as outrageously bizarre, and a tad culty. I will admit that I am quite the hockey fan, regularly contributing on a podcast and such, but this takes it a bit far. Just check out this image from the video:

That is Pastor Louie Giglio of the Passion Movement, who were in Vancouver as part of a world tour. And in his hands is, of course, Daniel Sedin’s helmet.  The reactions over this are very mixed thus far between the comments on the video, the yahoo article, and the reddit post.

I suppose athletes are known for their superstitious ticks, but I guess I was most surprised to see this happen in Canada for a Swedish player. Goes to show that you find this sort of thing everywhere, I suppose.

To end on a lighter note, here is a brilliant commercial from a few years back featuring Daniel Sedin and his brother Henrik:

 

Here’s hoping the doctors have Daniel back in action soon.

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Reason Rally Wrap


The Reason Rally was magnificent. If you were there, I certainly don’t have to tell you that. I was thrilled to be a part of such an event, and even more ecstatic to see so many of my contemporaries and friends out there as well. I spent nearly the whole rally shaking hands, hugging, and taking pictures with people (something about the pope hat fascinated them). I’m expecting to see quite a few shots of me as the Atheist Pope hit the internet over the coming days.

Speaking of the Pope Hat, it managed to make it through the Rally. But just barely.

Current state of the Pope Hat

The general sogginess of the event really did some damage in terms of the hat’s structural integrity. This means that I will have to retire the mitre, and move on to a new ridiculous hat for the future. I’ll cook up the chimney once my next one is ready.

On to the Rally itself: there was a clear disparity between the good speakers and the lackluster speakers. Essentially, you could gauge it by looking at the line at the display table tent. The comedians did an outstanding job; most notably Tim Minchin; who is now being crucified for his vulgarity by conservatives as a result. Given, he did get away with performing his infamous “Pope Song”. However, as per the lyrics, I think the vulgarity in the context is absolutely justified:

And if you don’t like the swearing
That this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral
Or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you, motherfucker
This is language one employs
When one is fucking cross
About fuckers fucking boys

-Tim Minchin’s “Pope Song”

As far as the negatives of the Rally, I feel that Ed Brayton really hit the nail on the head in his wrap-up:

Now, the bad: Way too many speakers. Way, way too many speakers. Most of them had a few minutes to speak at the most. And several of them did the standard protest rally speech, the kind I absolutely hate. I hate chanting. Hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. I hate call and response even more than I hate chanting. And when Elizabeth Cornwall had everyone shouting things at Congress, I couldn’t have cringed any harder if Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter made a sex tape. That kind of thing just makes my skin crawl.

And I kind of felt bad for Dan Barker, though I think his wound was largely self-inflicted. Dan is a great speaker and a great guy, but he likes to do some really cheesy anti-religion songs. Unfortunately, he did a few of them shortly after Tim Minchin performed and the contrast was as stark as it could possibly be. The effect was like an open micer following George Carlin on stage. Why he attempted to pull it off is beyond me.

I honestly couldn’t say it better myself. Barker in particular seemed to suffer incredibly in contrast with the top-bill entertainers. It was like watching an endeared, cheesy uncle with a fondness for puns attempt to hold a stand-up comedy special. He just seemed uncharacteristically uncomfortable up there.

One of the big positives of the Rally that I have heard few mention was Sean Faircloth’s stellar 5-minute snippet. I’d be willing to wager that most of the crowd was not familiar with him, yet he managed to win them over with gusto by the end of his brief presentation. He continues to be one of my favorite speakers in the movement, primarily for the raw passion with which he speaks and partially because of his impeccable hair.

The hair of a true politician

Other obvious high points of the Rally were the heart-felt speeches by Adam Savage of “MythBusters” fame and Nate Phelps, the estranged son of the Westboro Baptist Church patriarch Fred Phelps.

The question that seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues is whether there will be another Reason Rally in the future, and if it will become a regular event. Personally, I feel that having an annual Rally could harm the numbers, especially if it is confined to a single location. On the other hand, this event has done wonders towards promoting dialogue between the numerous organizations, creating a true united front to the movement. That cooperation is something I don’t want to see lost, but even that could become strained given the stress and friction of co-hosting such a large event. I feel like another rally in the future would be a good thing, but not on an annual basis. Biannual perhaps would be most effective, confined to election years. That is just me speculating, though.

Here’s what Hemant had to say over at Friendly Atheist:

Contrary to what people are saying on Facebook and Twitter, while all the organizers appreciate the sentiment about having another Reason Rally soon, we’re *not* doing this again next year. Or the year after that. We’re probably not doing this again in five years. It takes a lot of time, it costs a lot of money, and it’s a major investment on the part of the sponsoring organizations. It took *years* to make this event happen. The media was interested because this was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of event. It won’t be “fresh” or “interesting” if we make it an annual thing, even if that was feasible. And I’m also not sure the enthusiasm would be there if we did it annually.

Not terribly surprised by this news at all, and I honestly think it is for the best. Hey, there are still countless amazing conferences to attend! No big loss there, they should keep us all occupied until the time arises in which another rally is held.

In non-Rally news, AAA broke 500 dollars in the “Send an Atheist to Church” fundraiser over a week of tabling, and there is a high possibility of more coming in yet. I’m going to type up a proposed schedule for church visits in the next few days and get to work on fulfilling our end of the bargain. I have to say, I am quite exited about a number of these. We are notably being sent to a Latin mass in Birmingham, and there was quite a good deal of money raised to send us to a mosque. Hopefully all of the logistics will work out, and we will be able to attend all of our specifically requested services. This whole event should provide some fascinating insight into the Religious communities of the Tuscaloosa area, which interests me quite a bit. I’ve heard countless stories from members about church services that they grew up with, and I am curious to see how this experience compares. I’m planning on  blogging on each of our stops, as well as podcasting intermittently with fellow participating members. Stay tuned in for updates!

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Pope Hat!


Here are the pictures of the hat that have popped up so far:

One guess which "Fair and Balanced" new outlet this is.

I’ll post more of them up as I find them. Peace be with ye, Heathens!

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Truck Stop Gospel


On the way to the Reason Rally, my bus made a stop somewhere in Virginia. The truck stop was for the most part unlike any other, and I took no specific note of it. Until, of course, I laid my eyes upon the Holy Grail.

Sitting outside the restrooms was a display bin that was packed to the brim with free sermons on cassette tape. I decided to pick up a few, listen to them, and write up a review or two. First I need to build a time machine to get a tape player. That should only take so long, right?

Anyway, here are the tapes in question:

I can’t wait for the 90th Birthday sermon.

So I decided to look this fellows up, and the website does not disappoint:

"Yes, this is the perfect top image for our organization"

I’m going to give these a listen in the next few days, and post about my general thoughts on them. I’m holding out hope for some entertainment value at the very least. Then again, I suppose you get what you pay for.

 

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Reason Rally and South Park


I’m just a few hours away now from departing for the Reason Rally. I am highly optimistic as to how the event will go down, and most extremely pumped.

Anyway, the whole lead up to the Reason Rally reminds me quite vividly of something in particular: the South Park episode “Go God Go”, which lampooned organized atheism. Specifically, it reamed the movement for the many grudges held over semantic variation in identification. Personally, I feel like they hit the nail on the head with that one.

Or at least they did.

The fact that the Reason Rally is being co-hosted by so many different organizations gives me hope that the future will not hold so much animosity. The various groups can exist and go about their various methodologies, but they can come together when the need arises. Maybe that is too much to hope for based on this one event, but I feel like this is at least a stepping stone towards progress as a movement as a whole.

Screw the sea otters though. Those bastards are not invited.

Pictured: Bastard

In other news, AAA’s “Send an Atheist to Church” continues to roll along, with the grand total now over $430 over three days. Looks like we will be going to church for quite some time to come.

I’ll be back in a few days with a Reason Rally wrap-up, but until then I will mostly be on a bus. Have a good one, Heathens!

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