Friday, July 31, 2009

God created the World

[This is a bit of satire by YouTube user, Jesusophile]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

HJHOP Podcast Update

Fellow blogger Bing has released another edition of the HJHOP podcast.

Check it out if you wish.

New York Times, taking a nap?

I was on the New York Times website just a short while ago when I saw this on the front page.
Now, I don't know how news website works, but I'd figure that the important things should be getting center stage (not that napping isn't important).*
The Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey of daily activities found that people who were unemployed were more likely to nap during the week than on weekends and that those with jobs were only slightly more likely to nap on weekends.
Well, there you have it. If you have a job, most likely you'll be napping on the weekends. If not, the week is yours for the taking.
But many people, and experts, praise the benefits of a siesta or a power snooze. Confessed nappers include Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
I'm a napper too, but I never thought such a big deal about it as to fabricate a news story about it. Perhaps I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but if they're using this for the center news on their website, I'm expecting a news story about people who drink coffee in the morning.
[EDIT: Corrected a few typos.]*

Monday, July 27, 2009

CCSG Chapter 4: Church Involvement

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

In an effort not to feel out of the loop, I looked for opportunities to volunteer at my church. However, not everybody would seek the help of a young, depressed young man. I did, however, find a place for myself. My job included me taking the personal information of newcomers, and given them a complimentary package of Christian pamphlets and brochures. At first I thought I was training myself to be a true soul winner for Christ Jesus. Later, I realized that not everybody wanted to accept Jesus, and some did it because they were pointed out in front of the congregation as being newcomers. Embarrassingly, and unwillingly, they’d go to the front of the church and mutter the sinner’s prayer. Our group (for some reason, dressed in orange vests) would then tend to these people. I didn’t want to be involved in that. For one, it was embarrassing wearing an orange vest for no real reason. Also, I was a bad soul winner. I didn’t volunteer for much else afterwards. According to Matthew Paul Turner, these are the more popular ways to volunteer.

1. Opening up your house for small group meetings- We had small group meetings on Fridays at somebody’s house to learn about the bible for an hour and a half. We might sing a praise song or two. This meant no plans on Friday.
2. Nursery- Probably the most dreaded volunteer service, though popular amongst mothers.
3. Ushering- Pass out bulletins and the offering plate doesn’t seem so hard. Traditionally, older gentlemen would take this responsibility. However, at the local Mormon Church young adults seize this task.
4. Teaching Children’s Sunday School- Popular amongst the young female adults in my church. Involves singing annoying songs, and telling boring biblical stories.
5. A Singer in the Praise and Worship Band- Popular amongst people who couldn’t sing in my church. Also involves singing annoying songs.
6. Janitorial Responsibilities- We didn’t have a need for this job. The reason for that was because we did not have a church. Sunday service might’ve taken place at the local school gym, or at a hotel.
7. Leading an Adult Small Group- This, unlike just lending your house for group meetings, involves you being in charge of the meeting. This may mean lending your voice to an acoustic version of the most recent praise song, and reading a bible verse and trying to make a mini-sermon out of it.
8. Special Music- I don’t see much of a difference between this and number 5. However, Mr. Turner emphasizes that if you cannot sing, then don’t.

This isn’t the only list. There might be other church volunteer services available depending on the church. For example, my church sold books, CDs, and DVDs before and after service. There was a volunteer service for that. (If you ever volunteered for a church, whether you’re a Christian or were, I’d love to read about some of your experiences if you’re willing to share.)

Mr. Turner also reveals two truths that I find myself in agreement with when volunteering for church services. One is that Christians are a group of people that are unpleasant to work with. Another, sexism isn’t out of the question for many church leaders. But this isn’t much of a problem when you multi-church, which is the practice of having more than one church. Perhaps one church is only good in one area, and you need more of god’s word (however, reading a good book is a much better option in my opinion). There are five benefits to "multi-churching".

1. Options- Your schedule is more flexible when you have an array of churches to choose from that offer services every hour of the day.
2. Faith Differences- Because we all know that Christianity has many different sects. Nobody of any sect can point a finger now.
3. Youth Programs- Your child now has more options to choose from.
4. Teaching- You can develop more opinions of your own when you have various “teachers”. However, I’d like to recommend reading literature not just relating to Christianity to get a real solid view of the world.
5. Relationships and Community- You get to meet many different types of people, with different opinions than yours.

I thought church involvement would make me a well-rounded Christian. I didn’t want to displease god. I wanted to be the best Christian I could be.

However, when I decided to research other world views that weren’t mine, I learned more than I ever did sitting in the pew every Sunday. Even if you’re a Christian, or any other follower of a different religion, I recommend joining a community with people who don’t think like you.

Perhaps they can offer you something more than your pastor may be able to- being able to acknowledge that there are other people in this world with their own convictions, their own flaws, but also their own beauty and place in the world(whether they believe in your god or not).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Bad Vicar

Sometimes, it may not be such a bad idea to take a short break from the seriousness plaguing our lives, and devote two minutes to some entertainment. (Also, on a different topic, I will post another Christian Culture Survival Guide entry tomorrow, entitled "CCSG Chapter 4: Church Involvement".)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

CCSG Chapter 3: The Pastor [Part 2 of 2]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Types of Shepherds

My pastor tried hard to appear as a humble person, one who is slow to anger and judgment. My fellow parishioners thought he was just the most wonderful man. He was a singer, who even recorded a CD in church with the whole congregation singing along. He traveled by plane to other countries often, and according to the videos we got to see when he got back, was well received. But to anybody outside the church, he wasn’t somebody to be admired. The author of the book has described five different types of pastors to look out for, and I’m afraid my old pastor fits the description for all of them.

1. Pastor of Politics- My Pastor did not hesitate to bring politics into the pew. The political agenda was rampant, and we often tried to involve ourselves in social issues. We sided with intolerance.
2. Doctrine Man- This is a pastor who puts more emphasis on his own theology, rather than preaching the name of Jesus.
3. End-Time Fanatics- Just about every church sermon, there was talk about the “end times”. We, apparently, were edging closer every day.
4. Career Pastor- Yes, my church in fact was a business. The Pastor did act like a CEO. After church, it was all business.
5. Control Freak- Consumed with rules for you to follow, anything could halt the blessings god would otherwise bestow on you. I remember being led to believe that one quick thought that seemed displeasing to god would leave me without his grace for the rest of the day. I don’t know what basis this has in more mainstream theology.

My pastor, though, never had much of an ego problem. Sure, he’d sing his own songs for worship, but we all thought he wanted to be original. However, we had plenty of guest speakers who might’ve suffered from an ego problem. And as you may have guessed, here are six signs your pastor has an ego problem.

1. Your church plays commercial advertisements from your pastor advertising Wednesday night bible study (I’ve yet to see this).
2. Your pastor preaches… and sings, plays an instrument, etc. (My pastor did do everything. Either he had a problem designating responsibility, or he really did think he was the best candidate for every job).
3. You pastor has a fashion sense more closely related to the younger audience than the older. (Think of him dressing in the finest threads from the most frequented teen/young adult clothing store. Do way with the blazer and dress shoes, those don’t capture his zeal.)
4. Your pastor has a booking agent, publicity representative, and his own stylist. (Didn’t see this much.)
5. You pastor is stylish, and does ministering at places like the gym. And, apparently, is a self-described “metro sexual”. (I do remember some speakers who were concerned with looks over theology, but they were usually youth group leaders.)

When I became an atheist and left my church, I didn’t miss my pastor. I realized that my life was better when I used rationality and reason instead of accepting what another man told me to accept (especially if it had no basis in reality). Seemingly because of this, I was a black sheep who'd separated from the flock.

The shepherd would rather his sheep to stay how they are, and let themselves be fleeced.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CCSG Chapter 3: The Pastor [Part 1 of 2]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Much like the shepherd watches over his sheep, the pastor of a church watches over his congregants. However, it’s blatantly obvious that not all pastors are the same (as not all churches are the same). Some pastors are “old preacher boys”, while others are “rock star preachers”. The author likes to put it this way- searching for a pastor that’s right for you is like picking the perfect ripe melon at the market.

There are three “stereotypical assumptions” to know when searching for the right “man of god”-
1. Over-zealous pastors (they’re hiding something).
2. A pastor who does not open his bible (false prophet).
3. Pastor with a shaved head, dresses in white, and speaks about space shuttles means you need a new church.

The author notes that meeting new pastors while searching for different churches is a hassle, and best to be tackled like a new relationship. Keep distance at first, and don’t get attached too fast. Rushing is never a good approach. And while you’re at it, watch out for these questions you may not want to hear from a pastor on your first visit-
1. “What do you think of my sermon this morning?” The author recalls a time when he was asked this, only to reply with a righteous swoop of an answer- “What sermon?” In my case, I’d just go with “Exceptionally boring.”
2. “So, do you think you’ll be coming back next Sunday?” This time, the author and I agree on the correct thing to do. Enthusiastically ask the pastor if he’ll be preaching next Sunday, then walk away from the conversation.
3. “Do you believe in tithing?” I don’t know about the author’s experience, but mine was one of the pastor telling the congregation every Sunday that not only must they tithe, but it was a necessary act in order for god to “shed his grace on thee”. And aside from tithing, there were several money pledges for extra spiritual blessing.*
4. “Can I visit you sometime this week?” [No, please, don’t.]
5. “You want to step into my office?” [I’d rather not.]

Smaller churches usually have a bigger sense of community, in my experience, so the Pastor is familiar with most people (if not, everybody). When I was a Christian, I preferred small, group bible studies over common Sunday services (My attitude wasn’t well received often in bigger circles, so I preferred this niche).

*On the issue of tithing, my church would usually pass around a yellow bucket with a happy face on it instead of an ever popular collection plate- as if that would make us feel happier about giving god what money we had left. Eventually, the church must’ve found this ineffective because they adopted a new system of tithing which involved having two large vases in front of the pew, so two lines were formed for tithing. If you didn’t tithe that day, not only would the pastor notice, but so would everybody else in the church. Same with the money pledges. I would often be left wondering who couldn’t afford lunch that day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Frank McCourt, Goodbye.

Just one day after I post the news about Frank McCourt, I read this article.

I am at a loss for words, and deeply dispirited.

CCSG Chapter 2: The Church [Part 2 of 2]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

The Church in America, Today

When I was a Christian, I remember having a great deal of respect and fondness for a certain preacher by the name of Paul Washer. There were many Christians who did not like the way he preached, or his message. Many of his topics included rejecting the things of the world that did not necessarily displease god, but simply did not add to the furthering of his kingdom. These things often included enjoying mild things, such as a television program or other inconsequential activities. I, however, could not get enough of his message. Even as an atheist today, I have a great deal of respect for him as a speaker [and not a preacher]. He had a way of conveying ideas. And if ever there were a vividly sincere Christian, it was him.

One of his most blatant criticisms, though, was directed at the church in the United States of America. He believed that the feel good message common throughout the churches, along with ideas such as that of obtaining salvation through a quick prayer, was at the very least mildly heretical. He used his experiences in other countries [mainly a third world country] as the standard. He was correct, however, that the Christian culture in America is different. You won’t find many people in Haiti who treat Christianity like some sort of teen fad.

Circling back to Paul Turner’s book, the author offers us six interesting thing’s he has observed in the mere 50 or so churches he has visited. The list reads…

1. The church in America is beginning to trend towards a lengthier sermon. [I experienced this first hand having to sit through a 1.5-2 hour sermon, on average, most church services. Paul Washer may argue this is a step in the correct direction.]
2. Another growing trend is synchronized dancing. [I experienced this as well, with speeches of how “music and dance do not belong to the devil”. I’m positive Satan couldn’t care less about your silly music and dance moves. Believe me. Also, Paul Washer may argue this is a step in the wrong direction.]
3. The choir being put behind the congregation. [Paul Washer and I don’t necessarily give a damn about this one.]
4. Broadcasted church service, live, via satellite to another location.
5. Pastor’s spewing unexpected and outlandish things in church service. [The author notes a time a preacher decided to recognize the piano player as having a nose ring, smugly telling the congregation “How about that? How about that?]
6. Pastor’s warning their congregation not to treat C-level celebrities any different than any other person in the church. [Of course, the pastor would go on to announce that Billy Ray Cyrus would be playing at the Christmas service.]

The author is also kind enough to give us another list about what to bring if you’re going “church-shopping”.

1. Headache Medicine [I couldn’t agree more.]
2. Tennis Shoes [The amount of jumping around some churches have you do is a form of aerobics.]
3. Bible
4. Sense of Humor [I can’t think of anything clever to say on this one.]
5. Address Book
6. Voice Recorder [The author states it’s good to bring one if you’re ever hoping to write a book about your “church-shopping” experiences.]

The author describes the notion of “church with no church” in America- the very idea of telling the congregation that this was not their father’s religion anymore. That the church service was different from other church services. However, they included the same processes, (such as fellowship, praise, worship, etc] as any other church. That is because the church service is in fact the same as any other.

Perhaps the church in America is going through an identity crisis. I believe it is because the church is trying to remain relevant in the lives of its parishioners, in the lives of Americans. Nevertheless, many American’s are embracing the very thing I have embraced as society advances to a, hopefully, brilliant future.

That is, the practice of having no church.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

CCSG Chapter 2: The Church [Part 1 of 2]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

The beginning of this chapter describes the process of looking for a church. As we can all infer, not all churches are the same. There are an incredible amount of different Christian denominations with their own doctrines and catechisms, and some of them have a different biblical canon. However, parishioners are the most important facet of a church. The author provides us with a list of fifteen church people to look out for.

1. The Bible Geek- Scripture Quoting, King James toting nerds of the Bible. The only people who absolutely enjoy bible trivia. [When I was a Christian, I actually wanted to be one of them].

2. Really, Really Nice Old Ladies- They apparently try to woo you with their free mentos and “God bless you, sweeties”. Also, it appears that they wield a great deal of influence, and are sharper than they’d have you believe.

3. Overly Enthusiastic Church Welcomers- Over the top exuberance is a tool for convincing people into not returning. [I don’t remember hug givers, but I do recall many awkward handshakes and “Welcome Brother”. I’m not your brother.]

4. The Rubberneckers- The people who are constantly looking around the church to see who’s there.

5. Praise Team Rock Star- Almost self descriptive. A rock star type, perhaps with an outrageous hairstyle and a gaudy guitar.

6. The Hippie Pastor- Perhaps a former long haired drug user, this pastor decides to study scripture more than interact with the people who he has trouble relating to. [I’ve seen more youth pastors with these traits].

7. Hardcore Hand Raiser Praiser- With the wild danc
ing, hand raising, and yelling of spiritual proclamations, the spirit of the Lord dwells within them as soon as service starts and lasts until it’s over. [These people made up 99% of my previous, and last, church. I never once felt comfortable].

8. Brother so and so- Perhaps the person who invited you to the church luncheon, this person always refers to everybody as “brother so and so”. These people are also the ones you intently strive to avoid at the end of every service. They might try to be your best friend, but be warned. They have probably tried becoming best friends with the rest of the church. The author suggests creating healthy boundaries.

9. Geeky Church Elders- Perhaps an old, church going couple that may be extremely nice to you, and willing to answer any questions you may have about the church.

10. Perfect Church Family- Composed of a nice-looking husband and wife [although plain], who insist on homeschooling their children [who are “perfect”].

11. The Zany, Abercrombie and Fitch-looking Youth Minister- Enough written.

12. Token Minority Attendee- Perhaps more common in mostly-white congregations, this person is instantly made one of the more popular members of the church due to their unique skin tone, accent, or nationality.

13. Pastor’s Wife- Seemingly meek and mild. She’ll break you if you ever cross her. [According to The Simpsons, the minister’s wife may also be the reason for the spreading of hearsay.]

14. The Desperate Male Divorcee- Middle aged, and possibly a very nice fellow, this guy is also on the prowl. He might’ve tried dating every single female in the church, to no avail.

15. Homecoming Queen- The epitome of perfection in the youth portion of the church. She has a few children by the age of 25. She might also end up “depressed, frumpy, and signing in the church choir before 30”.

And there you have it. However, if you are a Christian reading this post, I would like to add another type of person on this list. The type of Christian that I used to be.

The genuinely conflicted Christian.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Frank McCourt, My Heart Goes Out to You

I needed to share this.
Frank McCourt is gravely ill with meningitis and is unlikely to survive, the author's brother said Thursday.
Frank McCourt has always held a special place in my heart for being one of my favorite authors, along with Victor Hugo and Edgar Allen Poe. His books have kept me company on several occasions when I felt crestfallen. Reading this news article recently left me dispirited.
"He is not expected to live," said McCourt, himself an author and performer.
If ever I was taught anything by Frank McCourt, it was to learn to accept misfortunes in life (and enjoy the less unfortunate moments). I hope he survives through this troubling affliction, even if the chances are slim. I don't care how cliche this next comment may sound, but Frank McCourt is one of the reasons I enjoy writing and sharing my experiences with others.

Thank you for sharing your life with the rest of the world, Teacher Man.

CCSG Chapter 1: The Salvation Experience [Part 2 of 2]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Baptism isn’t a necessary event that you have to endure in order to go to Heaven (according to many Christian doctrines that I’ve come across), but it is always encouraged. Mr. Paul Turner, the author of the book, describes his baptism and gives two reasons as to why it was uncomfortable.
1. Paul’s church’s baptism included getting completely dunked underwater in a pool, in front of the Church audience (all whilst wearing nothing but a blue smock).
2. Your heavy, overweight Pastor is also wearing nothing but a blue smock, and you’re ever so close to the Pastor’s semi-nude body.

I’ve been baptized twice- once when I was a very young boy in a Catholic church, and once when I was an older boy in an extremely fundamentalist church. The former involved sprinkling of the water upon my forehead, the latter involved the complete submergence of my body in a pool full of water. The second baptism in particular didn’t go as smoothly as I wasn’t very trusting of the parishioners in charge.

Before many Christian’s get baptized, they have to make the declaration of salvation. Many times, this is done during altar calls (especially for newcomers). The author’s experience and my own are similar in how our churches would have an altar call at the end of every service. You’d see one or two visitors get up, albeit timidly, and walk to the front of the church where they’d accept Christ Jesus into their hearts. In many cases, you’d never see them again.

Here are the tell-tale signs you’re going to encounter an altar call [according to the book].

1. When the pastor says he wants every head bowed and every eye closed at the end of the Sermon.
2. The people with certain altar call responsibilities (such as deacons, ushers, musicians, etc) will be making their move, rustling about.
3. Hearing the word stanza. (I don’t understand this one).
4. If the pastor claims, whilst looking around the room for potential converts, that he sees “that hand”.
5. If the song during the altar call begins with “just” or “all”.

Altar calls are meant for one thing, and only one thing- soul winning. It is every righteous Christian’s duty to win souls for the kingdom of the Lord, and under that standard I was a particularly bad Christian. Not only did I never win a soul in my time as a Christian, I would tend to hide my Christianity. At the end of the day, I would repent for being a particularly bad Christian, and pray for courage. I never received it.
When a “new dead soul” (NDS) walked through the doors at our church, his or her presence initiated a carefully orchestrated soul winning procedure designed to ensure the best possible odds for a quick and effortless soul conversion… A first-time visitor was labeled as an NDS using preliminary information gathered by the head usher. He would find out the individuals name, age, sex, and current church membership. The usher would then make the call on whether the individual qualified for NDS status.
-Excerpts from the Book
My own church wanted to be as cunning as possible. First, the pastor would begin the service asking everybody to greet those around them. Once the pastor concluded that everybody seemed comfortable, he would ask if there were any new visitors that day. People would raise their hands for recognition, not knowing that this action would haunt them later on in the service. The pastor and the ushers took note, and when the end of the service came about, these people were bumbling targets with minimal chance of escape. I once held the job of getting new convert’s information at the end of the service, for Church records.

Sometimes I would see the reluctance in these people’s eyes, and it is only until now that I can look back and see that something was wrong. Who were we to tell these people what they had to accept. We championed the notion of not judging others, but reeked of hypocrisy.

The author follows up his thoughts about “saving souls”, and condemns the act of portraying salvation as something you can obtain by repeating a variant of the “sinners prayer” and instead calls for establishing friendship first. I’d much rather people establish friendships for the sake of friendship rather than with the hope of “saving” the individual at some point in the future.

I was never at peace with myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CCSG Chapter 1: The Salvation Experience [Part 1 of 2]

Read about this series of posts here, The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Sunday school

The author begins this chapter talking about the ever dreadful Sunday school experience. He speaks about the labor of not just getting the “ticket” into heaven, but living a sanctimonious life until the train arrives. There is a vocabulary word to learn, as well.

1.Holy Spirit Fist- When a preacher slams a Christian on the head with enough force so the congregant falls back immediately on the floor. *

Not all “born again” experiences are the same. Some shout and dance. Some cry silently. Others dance around the church like, what the author describes as, chickens. I can attest to seeing many altar calls which lead to these scenarios (sans the chicken dance). Also, those who claim to have been saved claim a feeling of warmth and calmness after the Lord has entered their life. In my early flirt with Christianity, I cannot bear witness to ever feeling this, or even weeping (and consequently, was labeled a bitter person in my extremely fundamental church). And quite frankly, I tend to feel annoyed when a child who is seemingly unaware for any reason (in most instances, because they are too young) is brought up to the altar. This is because I feel like it is the child’s right to decide what they are willing to believe or not, and that they should come to that conclusion themselves when they’re ready and when they understand. The same goes for baptism. Do the parents earnestly believe it will do the child any good? As for me, I was baptized twice, and ended up rejecting the faith.

A child is usually left in Sunday school class instead of staying with the parent during service. Sunday school can range from being nothing but a one hour story session, to an “old-school revival” type bash. Fortunately, I was never subjected to this, I only observed. The author recalls knowing a Sunday school teacher who was an engaging storyteller, but modest when he claimed to be just an “old farm boy”, nothing overtly special. This Sunday school teacher was also his father. He would not allow the boys to leave class without first having them bow their heads, and proceed to asking Jesus to enter their hearts. And with that, a book reading would go to waste. Winning a soul for Jesus was equivalent to making an incredible play in Football.

* I was once subjected to a form of "holy spirit fist" at a three day long youth "Encounter Camp". While everybody was at the altar, eyes closed and hands in the air, the preacher came to me, put his palm over my forehead, and whispered in my ear a specific set of instructions- to let myself fall on my back. I was young and scared, and in an effort to hide my neglect of religion in a room full of fundamentalist, I obeyed.
Never again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Christian Culture Survival Guide

Near me is a book that I acquired a while back titled “The Christian Culture Survival Guide”. It is not a book for non-Christians, however (though the author might try to tell you otherwise). It is a book written by a Christian to, from my understanding, other Christians on how to move away from the fundamentalist Christian culture in America and adopt a more tame [yet traditional] form of Christianity. I was all too familiar with the topics. In fact, I was quite amused. And there are some truths in the book, such as this excerpt from the introduction.

Why do we need a Christian culture survival guide?
Because it's a crazy Christian world we live in. And it keeps getting crazier.

There you have it.
Also, I've decided to make a blog post for each chapter of the book, going through the various points and comments. It's mildly entertaining, at the very least. Who knows maybe there are some valuable bits of information for the rest of us non-believers, and believers as well.
So, here's a brief title summary of what is (perhaps) to come...

1. The Salvation Experience  [Click here to read part 1] [Click here to read part 2]
2. The Church  [Click here to read part 1] [Click here to read part 2]
3. The Pastor  [Click here to read part 1] [Click here to read part 2]
4. Church Involvement  [Click here to read]
5. The Worship Service  [Click here to read]
6. Getting Along with Christians  [Click here to read]
7. Boycotts and Extremes  [Click here to read part 1] [Click here to read part 2]
8. The Dating Chapter  [Click here to read] [Click here to view cheesy video]
9. Christian Entertainment and Bookstores [Click here to read part 1] [Click here to read part 2]
10. Awakening Your Christian Life [ Perhaps not this one ]

[The posts will have titles containing "CCSG" followed by chapter number, then topic.]

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Roadrunner Finally Dies...

And in a strange turn of events, Wile E. Coyote "finds himself".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Million Dollar Challenge- Another Test Failed

Just saw the live Million Dollar Challenge on the JREF website's live TAM 7 UStream.
The challenger claimed to be skilled at dowsing. She failed the test.
Once again, reality strikes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Google Chrome, avoid the flames.

Ever since it was released last year, I've been enjoying Google Chrome as a web browser. I have to say I was rather satisfied with how quickly it started up, and how simple it was to use. At the moment, tabs in Internet Explorer were nonexistent, and FireFox tabs had to be opened in the file menu- Google Chrome include a new tab button next to the existing tab at the top of the browser [simple, I know, but I'm a simple person].

It was blissful, and I found myself a Chrome enthusiast, even though there are some minor glitches here and there [of course, these might not have been universal]. These include kinks of mine such as not giving me any notice about how much time is left in a download, some Blogger issues when messing with the layout, automatically starting downloads without first asking for consent, and other things I do not care to get into at the moment. However, Mozilla has recently released version 3.5 of their web browser... and I am genuinely pleased.

Coincidentally, FireFox has been getting more usage from me as of late. But do not fret Google, as long as Bing does not include my blog in their search, you're still my number one search engine.

[On a similar note, Google is more or less trying their hand at the Operating System business.]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Human Botfly

There's a reason why I don't typically enjoy the presence of insects.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Outdated, but still good for a laugh...

Recently I stumbled upon a new blog titled Awful Library Books, in which a librarian posts about outdated books that are just too awful now for the general public. Being an avid reader, I enjoy all things literature, even criticisms of books from 60 years ago that deserve a revision [at the very least].

Monday, July 6, 2009

Who knew people could be so violent?

I recently stumbled upon one of Jack Chick's more recent tracts, titled "The Bully". This particular tract is about a grown man who has obsessively violent tendencies when dealing with people who are religious. Mind you, these people do not have to be evangelizing or preaching, they just have to believe in Christianity.

Shameful. Of course, Jack Chick wasn't one to shed positive light on those who
don't believe in his faith- or, even, his own brand of extreme fundamentalist Christianity. Also, it doesn't take any philosophical arguments to convince this bully's daughter that Jesus is fabricated. It just takes a threat.

Truly disgusting. Who the hell in the world is like that? Who could be so disgraceful as to use fear tactics to prey upon the emotionally unstable?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oh Dear, I do believe we have ghosts...

Not really. I don't believe in ghosts. As a matter of fact, you can pretty much say I'm skeptical towards the whole superstition tripe. However, our good friends over at the Banded Spirits website have created a paranormal checklist for us.

How wonderful. The list goes as follows...

1) Unexplained Noises

2) Doors opening and closing

3) Lights turning on and off

4) Items Disappearing

5) Unexplained Shadows

6) Strange domestic animal behavior

7) Feeling of being watched

8) Psychokinetic phenomena--seeing a door open

9) Feeling of being touched

10) Whispers and Muffled voices

11) Cold or Hot spots--major temperature changes

12) Unexplained smells

13) Objects moving

14) Physical Assault

15) Hand or Foot prints

16) Apparitions

And there you have it. Anybody who believes this surely hasn't pulled any of their skeptical muscles. To be fair, the owners of the website do offer some seemingly valid explanation to what somebody may seem to think might be a poltergeist trying to terrify you in your own home. Such as...

Houses do settle over time, resulting in strange noises. Plumbing can
cause some ghostly sounds. The same can be said of the weather outside.
Blowing wind through trees and parts of your home will make noises.

Furry creatures, such as mice, or other rodents can make strange and
disturbing sounds in ceilings, walls and floors, etc.

Wild outside animals, car headlights hitting reflective objects... all can be
mistaken as paranormal.

Our own minds can also play tricks on us. Over active imaginations, tired from a long day at work, medications, and stress are common causes for tricks of the mind, which may seem paranormal.

I do wonder if the owners of the website even believe in ghosts [or a myriad of other paranormal phenomena], or are they just trying to regurgitate the hype surrounding this topic. That is, of course, until I see the typing above explaining to me why I shouldn't use the Ouija Board- it could let anything come through.

Unfortunately, critical thinking isn't one of those things.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Baloney Detection Kit

Just in case you're unfamiliar with Carl Sagan's "Baloney Detection Kit", the Richard Dawkins Foundation has created a video where Michael Shermer takes us through the steps to thinking skeptically and critically about pseudo scientific claims. I encourage everybody to watch it, it's a step in the right direction when it comes to analysing evidence, and debunking the "bunk".

How reliable is the source of the claim?
Does the source make similar claims?
Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
Does this fit with the way the world works?
Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
Are personal beliefs driving the claim?