Sunday, December 07, 2008

Cat inna box

She doesn't seem to realize that she doesn't fit.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A dose of Christmas cheer

I ought to be studying for my final on Monday, but I thought I'd write a little bit about the atheist sign that was stolen from the Capitol building in Olympia this week. The Seattle Times has been covering the story, important point of which have been missed by all the blog analyses I've read. First, the atheist group that put up the sign was not the first to cause a commotion about Christmas displays at the Capitol. The past couple of years have seen several similar disagreements in WA, involving Christmas trees, menorahs, nativity scenes and all the permits required to put these things on public property. The state government tried to limit decorations on public property to "winter themed" decorations like evergreen trees, wreaths and fake snow (this is western Washington, we don't get real snow that often!), but there was a lawsuit, and now the state allows any viewpoint at all to put up a display in a designated area.

The governor's statement, "The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution's First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of nonbelievers" seems pretty reasonable to me. Really, the state had no other legal option.

This year, there were two original requests for permits: for a nativity, and for the atheist sign. The atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation also recently put up a billboard in Olympia, and had reason to believe that their sign at the Christmas display would be tolerated. Even the guy who sued for the right to put up a Nativity scene, who also sponsored the Nativity this year, Ron Wesselius, said "I think they're being a little divisive there in their saying. But they have freedom of speech and equal access."

This bears out my experiences in this area: most people in Washington are tolerant of atheism. I've seen quoted that 25% of the state doesn't identify with a religion, and although I don't know if that's true or not, it doesn't sound that far fetched to me. So the FFRF wasn't actually being that radical, and I believe them when they say they didn't expect anyone to vandalize their sign (especially considering it was on the third floor of the Capitol building, where they have guards and cameras and locked doors at night).

However, the sign was stolen, and now the entire country has an opinion on the matter. Even more amusing,

The Rev. Ken Hutcherson of Redmond's Antioch Bible Church put up his own sign at the Capitol on Friday that says, in part: "There is one God. ... Atheism is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

There are requests for other displays as well. Someone applied to put up a "Festivus" pole in honor of the invented holiday featured in the 1990s sitcom "Seinfeld." Another person wants to create a religious-themed "balloon display."

And a demonstration against the atheists' sign is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday on the Capitol steps.
I guess once the sign was stolen and accusations began flying, a little bit of circus was inevitable. What surprises me is that there are people I've always considered liberal and progressive who think that we atheists should shut up, and specifically in this case that we should allow a public, government sponsored space, one set aside for expressions of all kind, to be dominated by symbols of religion. I find myself quite taken aback that someone at Shakesville would be less tolerant of atheism than Mr. Wesselius and his Nativity scene. I guess its no different, really, than an atheist saying feminism or disability rights are silly, pointless movements- and I have heard that, although not often at a blog I choose to read regularly. I just wish we could all be true to our progressive principles even when they apply in unexpected situations, and even when a little imagination and the effort to see things from someone else's point of view are required.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

And I need more grace than I thought

Sometimes the wheels of my mind turn exceedingly slowly. I'm sitting here listening to The Congos- Heart of the Congos and Tan Dun's Water Passion after Saint Matthew and thinking about Geds' post, This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours. Do I agree that "by allowing and even celebrating the gates around Christian culture we have diminished ourselves"?

Knowledge of the history of the Christian religion is certainly essential to any attempt at genuine understanding of the world as it is today. I couldn't truly understand The Congos if I didn't understand both the religious and political influences on their music, and the Water Passion would probably be unlistenable if I didn't appreciate the story behind it- I try to be open-minded, but opera is really not my thing. A great deal of art in the modern world draws on a history rich in Christian themes; perhaps all art does these days. Even bands like Modest Mouse, as cynical and atheistic as they come, play songs like Bukowski, songs that would be meaningless in a world without Christ.

So while I agree with Geds that evangelical culture has drawn a wall around itself, the non-evangelical world doesn't seem to be affected. These gates are one-way, I guess.

There are Christians who ignore the gates, too. I recently read The Irresistable Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, by Shane Claiborne, a young evangelical who lives in a commune in Philadelphia. My brother aspires to living in a similar house in Seattle; he and my sister, who recently applied for Mission Year, take the failure of Christian pop culture very seriously. There is a small but genuine evangelical youth movement that is tending toward hippie issues like pacifism, poverty, racism and social justice instead of focusing on banning gay marriage, and there is a part of me that thinks this is great. Religion doesn't have to be about othering people who believe differently and condemning harmless behavior. It could be a force for goodness in the world, even if the motivation is love for a God who doesn't exist.

I'm not convinced, though, that a civilized Christianity is more true to the core beliefs of the historical church. The Christians I know are convinced that their religion is all about beauty and truth, love and sweetness and light, but the core truths of Christianity don't lead to happiness. The idea that morality comes from a central authority, the idea that people are innately evil, the idea that blood is the only adequate payment for sin, and so many other doctrines have caused so much misery in the past two thousand years. Christianity divides the world into sinners and saved, and if heaven and hell are all that matters, any cruelty in the name of saving souls is justifiable. The history of Christianity bears this out. A truly moral religion would be forced to apologize not only for the Crusades, the subjugation of women, the justifications for slavery, and the genocide of the natives in the Americas, but also for the doctrine that led to these horrible events.

A truly moral Christianity would require repudiation of much of what is Christian. Of course I would prefer people to choose what is right over what their religion tells them, and as an atheist I believe that they can, but unfortunately I don't think it likely that most believers would be willing to make that choice. I think that many Christians, if forced to choose between what is right and historical church doctrine, would choose doctrine. They might do so apologetically; I've heard it before, "well of course I believe that women should be respected and treated well, but 1 Timothy 2: 11-15 says 'A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety' so I'm sorry but women can't lead men, that's just what the Bible says so it must be right."

To me the epitome of a mainstream music worthy Christian band is mewithoutYou. They're really good musically, and their lyrics aren't even that pretentious. I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear them on the local alternative rock radio station, and their band members are even cool and indie and run their tour bus on vegetable oil. The thing is, though, they're still a Christian band. Their sweet indie music is full of the effacement of self in favor of loving God that amounts to living suicide. The problem is not how Christian doctrine is being sold; they're doing that very well. The problem is the doctrine itself.

Maybe what Christianity really needs is a break from the past, a willingness to forget how things are supposed to be according to church tradition. The benefit of remembering the past is supposed to be that you learn from it and don't repeat mistakes in the future, but when it comes to religion, you're not always allowed to learn and change. When doctrine forbids deliberate change, maybe it's better to just forget.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

I love autumn in western Washington so very very much, what with the pretty colors and the crisp days and the sunshine in cool blue skies. Its just fabulous. [/sarcasm]

These floods aren't anywhere near where I live, don't worry, and anyway they happen every year and don't usually cause too much damage.

The cat, unlike the weather, is pretty adorable, even when she's going insane with boredom because the rain keeps her inside and she's forced to rely on pouncing on people's feet for entertainment. You can't really tell from the picture, but this is her wiggling her butt in preparation for a pounce.

I have a sort of bleg: I have been feeling quite under the weather lately, so I've decided to do something out of the ordinary to make my life more interesting. I do this every so often; sometimes I just read a book about something I know nothing about, but previous attempts at excitement have led me to learn to knit and take a pottery class. This time, I am endeavoring to educate myself about rap music. I have very eclectic musical tastes, and mostly listen to indie rock bands with cult followings (think Modest Mouse, Joanna Newsome, Belle and Sebastian), but I think I would like rap too. The problem is, the most accessible rap, on radio stations and the like, has about as much appeal to me as, well, the kind of rock you find on radio stations. I know there's neat stuff out there, though, and I've decided to go out and find it. I've ordered quite a few CDs from the library, but if you have any ideas for artists to check out, I'd love to hear them. I'm looking for anything in the hip-hop or rap categories that you might call thoughtful, philosophical, political, or odd.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Man, yesterday was torturous. The internet at our house dropped out at about 2pm and didn't come back until 11pm, so I missed the entire election. On top of that, I had an exam this morning, so I had to study at home instead of going out somewhere. I can watch everything today I guess, but it won't be the same...

I'm starting to think I've found the point where I've taken on not quite too many activities. What with taking a class every day and trying to get to the necessary appointments in Seattle so I can continue my education, I've had very little time for anything else, including blogging. I hate to think that I'll have to take a hiatus until things settle down, but then it's not like I have time to think of things to write.

The desire for an easy life is almost overpowering sometimes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I can't believe the news today

My life has been abnormally busy lately, and my writing energies have been focused elsewhere, but I hope to soon return to blogging on a more regular basis. For now, here is a picture of the pumpkin I carved today, inspired by PZ Myers and his obsession with squid. Also, a link to the place my writing energy has ended up: Crow Woman House, a blog about the end of the world. I'm having fun writing melodramatic fiction.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

washed the dirt off our intentions

Some days I think the only thing keeping me from selling my soul for half an hour of physical comfort- rested, warm, free of pain- is that the devil isn't interested in buying. I start to wish I could remember what it's like to not be in pain, and I get to feeling sorry for myself, and tell myself stories about how brave and determined I am just because I make an effort to stay alive.

Days like this, I don't get a lot of writing, or thinking, done. Obviously. But I have been reading books by Terry Pratchett (Hogfather most recently) and its possible that someday I may be out of this funk.

Yesterday I got a postcard from Elizabeth, which brightened my day. I also had an appointment with VA Voc Rehab in Seattle to see if they'll agree that being able to work ten hours a week as a tutor or something is a goal worth paying my college tuition to achieve, and they didn't say no outright. Which is sort of good, although it means I have to go in for another appointment next week after gathering information on certifications and employment prospects, which, quite frankly, sounds exhausting enough that I almost want to cry. Driving into Seattle for any reason is a horrible horrible task. But hey, its still a good thing, and maybe I'll take the bus.

I just wish I wasn't so tired.