Crash pilot who paused to pray is convicted

I am a private pilot, so I have only a fraction of a the training and responsibility that a commercial pilot requires. But it is completely incomprehensible to me that a professional pilot should act so cavalierly towards his charges.

I can’t imagine throwing up my hands and not working until the last possible moment to save all those lives that are depending on my skills.

Obviously, I don’t have the full story. However, to me it seems that this is another answer to the question, “What’s the Harm?” if people want to subscribe to silly, superstitious nonsense.

And don’t even get me started on the Pope’s recent baloney trying to justify the Catholic Church’s antipathy towards condoms by claiming they *increase* the likelihood of aids…

George Carlin – RIP and on Religion

In my opinion, George Carlin’s peak was a few years before my time. Had I been born about 10 years earlier I think he would have been a far greater influence on me than he was.

But that doesn’t mean I was not aware of and didn’t appreciate what he did… His wry observations and inflammatory wit always made you feel that you were doing something naughty just by listening to him.

I think it was his views on religion that I always looked forward to the most. He was definitely a “no holds barred” kind of person on all topics, but I appreciated it in this sphere especially.

Better than anyone alive now, George knows the truth – RIP

Atheist (non-theist?) Resources

Whether you’re of a religious bent or you favor a more naturalist view of the world, these resources are well worth the effort to review. For the religiously inclined, exploring supposed flaws and inconsistencies in your faith can either help you to better understand and concretize your world views or it can allow you to honestly evaluate those views against new criteria.
Those who are not religiously inclined will find that understanding some of the myriad religions, especially those prevalent where you live, gives you new perspectives. I have personally found it very enriching to actually read the bible and to be able to recognize its influences on other literature and media.

There are a few problems with using the word “atheist” to identify one’s religious affiliation. Strictly speaking everybody’s an atheist. It really just depends which god(s) you choose not to believe in. Most Christians could be considered atheists where Thor is concerned for example.

Another issue is that the word is so very charged. Every word has a degree of charge, ranging on a spectrum from Positive, through Neutral to Negative. Calling someone a “Freethinker” or a “Humanist” brings about subtle, yet important connotations versus labeling them as “atheist” even though we may understand rationally that they all imply the same things.

The other really big problem with the word “atheist” is that it defines someone, who has no stake or attaches no significance to religion, in religious terms. So the label is misleading.
Being a-theist or non-theist is very different from being anti-theist. This can be a subtle distinction, but it is one that most people get wrong.

Regardless of your religious leanings, developing your skeptical toolkit is paramount and so these skeptic resources are very useful. I believe that skepticism and religious faith can and do coexist well together. Whether traditional religions can withstand skeptical inquiry is perhaps another question, but if skepticism leaves your faith intact but not the institution representing it, well you can decide what to make of that…

Some of my favorite resources:

The Institute for Humanist Studies – Humanism, per their website, is “a philosophy of life inspired by humanity and guided by reason. It provides the basis for a fulfilling and ethical life without religion.” They have a pretty good monthly podcast if you want to keep abreast of developments or if you’re simply interested in hearing folks discuss Humanist topics. They have several links on their site that may also be of interest but I have not perused these.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation – A major objective of this group is to maintain the separation of Church and State. This is something that is in everybody’s interest as, with so MANY religions including sects within these religions, if any one were to gain authority as the state religion what do you suppose would happen to all the others? And what do you suppose are the odds that your religion would emerge victorious? No, the freedom to practice your religion, or to not practice any religion at all, rests with ensuring that no group, not even humanists / atheist / freethinkers, gets into a position to dictate how the citizens of this country may pursue their faith.
I enjoy listening to their weekly podcast – also on Air America – it can be a bit corny at times (I’m not a real fan of their brand of music) and sometimes one of the show’s co-hosts, Annie Laurie Gaylor, can seem a bit strident at times. But they do have a lot of relevant things to say.
An added bonus is that the other co-host, Dan Barker, is actually a former minister. His knowledge of the bible and Christian teachings is extensive and gives him a solid background for when he conducts interviews or offers editorials.

American Freethought – I have only recently started listening to their podcast and have not had a chance to thoroughly check out their website. The podcast seems to come out every 2-3 weeks. Right out of the gate it was professionally done and obviously carefully prepared. They seem to focus more or less on a single issue per episode and I find them to be quite appealing. The background of one of the hosts involves a fair amount of activity in this realm (non-theism) and he brings some good insights to the show. I don’t know about the other host’s background as I don’t see much about him on the site, but he is also very engaging and they make a solid duo.

There are a plethora of freethinker, humanist and other non-theist resources available. Probably you can find most of them through the links in the sites above. But, with a day job and other interests, these are the ones that I’ve had the chance to check out and would recommend.

Oh, and no list would be complete without including Mr. Deity. This video series (they are still producing new shows) pokes fun at some of the inconsistencies or perceptions of the Judeo-Christian faith and expand on them. Apparently a number of religious groups show these at their gatherings to use as talking points, so they can’t be all that offensive. But they are entertaining.

Anchored thoughts

Marc ThinkingDo you find yourself repeatedly remembering some things via a circuitous path?

I, for instance, consider myself to have size 10 1/2 feet. If you ask me, that’s the answer that comes immediately to mind. The *reality* is that they are size 11 1/2. But in order for me to recall this I start with the immediate 10 1/2 thought which then triggers a memory of mail-ordering some running shoes of the wrong size, which then triggers a memory of getting my feet sized at a local running shop where I get the final result of being shown that my shoe size is 11 1/2. But the answer is not automatic.

Similarly, if someone asks me how tall I am, my initially triggered memory is of the doctor who measured me for my pre-university physical. He said I was 5′ 10″. If you know me, you know this isn’t at all true. I have no idea what he put on my report but that figure sticks with me to this day. But to come up with my height when asked, I start with that 5′ 10″ which triggers a memory about an acquaintance scoffing about that figure, which triggers a memory of showing an absolutely useless doctor once how she is supposed to use the height measure tool on a medical scale where I saw my 5′ 8″ height clearly represented and that is the figure I give.

In thinking about this, assuming I’m not hopelessly abnormal, it makes me wonder to what extent childhood stories and allegories muddle or slow down the thinking of folks in later life. If you’re told something is true from an early age, by an authority figure, what does that do for your recall ability when you later find that the truth is otherwise?

For example, Santa Clause. You spend the first 8 years (give or take) of your life being told there is a Santa Clause, with a lot of exciting pomp and ceremony surrounding it only to discover later that he’s just a cultural icon rather than the beneficent gift-giving elf that you formerly believed.

Admittedly, Santa’s not a huge deal and serious questions about his existence don’t come up very often. But what about other things to which we have been confidently given an answer which is now incorrect?

This applies to many areas of our life: Foods that we may have believed are good for us turn out not to be so because of new findings. Practices in diet, exercise or other skill areas become outmoded as we either learn more about how things work or as different cultural fads come in and out of vogue.

Of course, there is religion with pat and incorrect answers for just about everything, but if you’ve read my blog you already know about my opinion of that so I won’t go into it in detail here.

I suppose the thrust of my thought for this posting, is how much change can a person accept and still function effectively? Is the “anchoredness” of the original memory or thought as I express it above a normal way of recalling things? Or do we routinely discard/dissolve/destroy incorrect information and replace it with new information as it is presented to us (and we choose to accept it)? Does this explain why some older people seem to have a stake in the ground and refuse to learn anything new after that point? What does that say about the ability of people to function as our average lifespan continues to increase year after year?

I must say that the circuitous memory path above is the exception and not the rule for me. But I cannot say if it’s just that the path followed happens to be noticeable in those instances and not in others, or if I truly just pull up the information directly when I need to recall other things.

Go Kathy Griffin!

I’ve always been intrigued by the notion of a god (y’know, the one responsible for creating life, the universe… everything) that would hang around to help folks win at basketball or achieve individual [insert sport or event here] notoriety.

It was interesting to me that we have no problem listening to folks stand up at award ceremonies and thank mythological figures for their success yet we balk when someone stands up and says that a mythological figure had nothing to do with the achievement being recognized. In fact Kathy’s acceptance statement was excised from the broadcast.

I can’t say I really blame the network. They, after all, need to cater to majority opinion in order to maximize market share and profit. But I can’t help wondering if little incidents such as this tell us an awful lot about who we are as a culture.

Emphasis on the word “awful”…

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Mich and I just finished watching Nova’s “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” on PBS.

I was very pleased to see that the ID proponents got their butts handed to them in their outrageous attempt to further dilute what is already considered to be a shaky science curriculum. We very much need to grow up, put away the fairy tales and begin to accept what life has to offer us without hiding behind our mother’s skirts.

What was very clear to me from the statements of the ID proponents was that the point of the judgment against their actions was completely lost on them. I too believe, as George W. Bush was stated to have said, that ID needs to be discussed and presented to students so that they understand these issues. But the proper forum for ID is NOT a science class. *Social Science* perhaps, for it’s relevance in society today, or mythology, for it’s quaint point of view for folks unable to grasp epochal aeons of time (check out my opinion in the 7th paragraph of this blog entry) .

I have to say that the scariest part of the show was the discussion about “The Wedge” strategy whose primary instigator seeks nothing less than a complete regression of folks’ literacy and life outlook to a more religious perspective. Let’s see… can we think of a time when that was the case?  Hmmm.. Yes, indeed, it was called “the dark ages”.