Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

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Project Daniel – Not Impossible

This made me cry.  It is one of the most inspiring and amazing things I have seen lately.  Maybe I’m behind or something but this is the first time I’ve seen this particular thing being done with 3D printing.  I have seen all the slippery slope cautionary tales of how it can be used to harmful ends(it can print an undetectable disposable gun).  It can also be used to make some useful things, too.  But none of those things are any good if you don’t have freakin’ hands.

If only everyone would use their knowledge for good like this.   This, by the way, is how amputees are healed.

You can find out more at Not Impossible Labs.


Breaking News….


I ripped this off of Google Images. It’s from one of those cute Disney Ice Age films. For some reason Scrat is my favorite character.

I’ve survived the Snowpocalypse!  The next Ice Age is upon us!  This has been a storm of Biblical proportions!

I kid!  But seriously we are not really equipped for ice and snow in the south. We don’t have the infrastructure for it. Atlanta has been shut down and there is gridlock on I-285.   A baby was born on the side of the road there where conditions deteriorated more quickly than anticipated.  Or the powers that be (and a whole bunch more people) scoffed just the same as I did at the idea of the severity of the storm. Whichever. It happened and lots of people ended up stranded on the side of the road around Atlanta.  They didn’t decide to cancel school until it was already snowing. Staff and students ended up spending the night either on stranded school buses(as they made the brilliant decision to try to get the kids home after the storm was under way) or at the school(which was a smarter decision IMHO).

People have abandoned cars where they sit on the interstate and walked to the nearest open restaurant, store, or hotel to take refuge.  This kind of thing often brings out the best in people. Heartwarming stories are emerging of people carrying food and supplies out to stranded motorists on atv’s.  They’re opening their homes to complete strangers to give them a warm place to stay.   They’re delivering babies on the side of the road.

It also brings out the crazies.  The news keeps showing a young lady(a high schooler) after emerging from her encampment at the school.  She tells the reporter that she was warm, that the staff fed them dinner, breakfast, and then lunch again.  Her father is picking her up and he turns to the camera and says, “Somebody should have to pay for this.  For the lack of planning.  This was avoidable.  Somebody should have to pay!” Pay whom?  And for what? While it probably was, indeed, avoidable as he could have kept her home from school or picked her up earlier, she was cared for.  He knew where she was, that she was safe.

I live three hours due South.  From my house I can see the “Welcome to Florida” sign. 6767979825_bc3ca443bf_z It didn’t get nearly that bad here.  The local School Boards here made the decision on Tuesday that schools would be closed on Wednesday and then revisited the issue Wednesday and cancelled most schools for today.  We don’t have fleets of sand trucks sitting on ready to salt the roads. They know this so they did the sensible thing. So while I did think it was going a little overboard to buy the grocery stores out of water, batteries, milk, and eggs a little prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We had sleet. Then a snowflake fell.  Then more sleet. Then lots of rain. There was just enough snow to disappoint people that wanted to see some. We were under a hard freeze warning and kept the roads mostly clear due to a fear of black ice.  That did occur in a few low lying places but in most places the ground was still much too warm so now it’s just wet.  And cold.  The temperature didn’t climb above 35 degrees F here yesterday.  The forecast for today is supposed to be 54 F but it’s already 1:00p.m. and it’s still 35 F.  I don’t think it’s gonna make it.

Yesterday, as I was freezing my tuchas off, I thought about how much worse other people have it.  Brrr…it’s a lot colder in a lot of places.  Didn’t make my tuchas any warmer, though. So I was still cold.  And that started me thinking that maybe this is a storm of Biblical proportions.  Localized rain that comes in suddenly causing flash floods that people aren’t prepared for.  Snow storms for people in places, like here, where people aren’t prepared for them.  We don’t sport ski apparel even in the dead of winter around here.  It’s a bit ridiculous to see people in ski caps, scarves, puffy jackets, and Uggs in 50 degree F weather.  You just make yourself colder because you’re sweating.

On the bright side, the weatherman says I can break out my shorts and flip flops by Saturday.  We shall see.


Climate Change is a Hoax


I live in South Georgia in the United States, y’all, not to be confused with the country of Georgia.  We have two seasons here; hot and cold.  We don’t get a change of seasons like a lot of the country.  Leaves don’t change pretty colors.  They’re either green and on the trees or brown and not.  The grass is either pretty and green or dead.  We have to travel a good three or four hours north to see any seasonal changes.  When the hubs got off the airplane in July of 2012 my best friend greeted him, “Welcome to hell.”  He only thought she was exaggerating.

In comes this massive winter storm and, voila, proof positive there’s no such thing as climate change.  It’s all a hoax.  My facebook newsfeed is blowing up with questions like, “Where’s that global warming?”, and conspiracy theories about it’s veracity.  Nah, human meddling, don’t have no impact on this here environment.  God’s got it all under control.  It won’t blow up until he’s good and ready for it to.

Meanwhile folks around here are preparing for the worst.  Buying out the grocery store of things like batteries, milk, water.  Tomorrow the forecast is for a 54% chance of freezing precipitation which will most likely be in the form of sleet, but people are making their preparations for a blizzard. If it does, by some chance, do either of those things everything will shut down. 

By Thursday the temperature will be a balmy 60 degrees again. 



Life is not a Meme

strengthofcharactermeanstheabilityto_zpsb301397fHide hurt feelings.  Forgive quickly.  Hold no resentments.  Forgive and forget.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Turn the other cheek.  These are the characteristics of the strong.  How many times are we supposed to forgive?  Seven times seven?  No, seventy times seven.

What does forgiveness look like?  What does forgiveness feel like?  What does forgiveness mean?  Is it restoration of relationship?  Is “I’m sorry” even enough for this?

Let me tell you this:  Forgiveness is mine and yours to give.  It is not something that can be demanded of us.  “I’m sorry” does not look like this:

unoforgive I may choose to do this:

forgivethemeveniftheyarenotsorryAnd if I do it will be for my sake, not yours.  But don’t expect it.  Don’t expect me to be the “bigger person”.

When you do things that hurt others you do not get to choose the consequences. When I do things that hurt others I do not get to choose the consequences.

Just because forgiveness is extended does not mean the hand of friendship is.  Some abuses of relationship just make this so.  The injured party gets to decide if and when that is even possible.  Forgiveness is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

What if an atheist feels a remorseful sadness–in your heart of hearts you recognize that you’ve done something that hurt someone else, so it is true guilt for something you are truly responsible for–and you need help to cross a “bridge” in order to mend the brokenness in that relationship?

Whether you are an atheist or theist is of no consequence when you have hurt another.  This should be the response:

sorryYou do not need divine intervention to know this.  Make no excuses, make no demands, have no expectations.  You have no right to do so.  Pray or don’t pray. When you know you’ve hurt someone else the best course of action is apology and/or restitution. It doesn’t take God for me to know that’s what I should do, and it doesn’t take God to make it happen. I’ve found that neutral third party real people build bridges that are less…invisible.  It doesn’t make me feel better to think that God has forgiven me if I’ve injured a real person.

You see, for too many people forgiveness looks like forgetness.  Sometimes “I’m sorry” isn’t enough.  Sometimes you can earn your way back into a relationship and sometimes you can’t.   If you’re given the key to someone’s inmost places, if you’ve been awarded trust, and then you’ve broken it; you don’t get to be disappointed in having to relinquish the key.

Life is not a meme.


Southern Baptist Yoga

Several years ago one of my Southern Baptists sisters was really into fitness.  Strength and resistance, aerobics, flexibility.  You name it, she was doing it. So she approached our young Southern Baptist pastor about hosting some fitness classes in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church of Small Town.

He was very receptive to the idea.  He thought it would be a great way to get some more butts in the seats new blood new members. He didn’t ask any questions, really, about what type of exercise would be done.  He just knew that some ladies would be meeting there three days a week to get their exercise on.

Weeks passed and my friend held all types of classes. She led step aerobics, jazzercise style classes, light weight training classes, and flexibility classes.  Young Pastor was good with all of this because it was, it seemed, accomplishing his ultimate goal.  Women were excited about learning new things, losing a little weight, and feeling better about themselves.  Non church members were starting to attend not only the classes, but worship services too.

All was well until he happened to peek in on one the flexibility classes one day.  He was appalled to find fifteen women sitting quietly…meditating.

yoga2He broke the silence, “What’s going on in here? Is this what I think it is?”

Laura, startled, answered, “I don’t know.  What do you think it is?”

“Well, it looks like Yoga to me”, he replied.  “Please tell me this isn’t Yoga.”

“Very basic Yoga, yes.  We just started into our meditation.  Would you like to join us?”, Laura managed, not at all sure what he seemed so upset about.

“Uh, no.  I think you need to wrap this up and we need to talk about what’s going on here.  When they’ve all gone I’ll be in my office.”

courtesy: douyouyoga.com

courtesy: douyouyoga.com

They did talk. She attempted to explain that they weren’t practicing transcendental meditation; she had given a Bible verse to meditate on.  It was harmless. They were using their meditation more as a prayer time. Then she tried to explain the physical benefits of Yoga.  To no avail. He was having no part of it.  Even if we weren’t using it in an evil manner, spiritually, some of the poses were just so suggestive.  We’d be positioned in ways that displayed our hoohas! Downward Dog was entirely too provocative.

The following Sunday Young Pastor preached from the pulpit about the dangers of mystic religions(oh, the irony), how Yoga was of Satan and no good Christian should practice such things.  Even the mere appearance of evil should be avoided.  Yes, Yoga was straight from the pit of hell.

She didn’t hold any more Yoga sessions. In fact, after the lashing from the pulpit, the classes fizzled altogether.  Women quit going.  As with many things people get excited about in church a big bucket of icy cold water does wonders to drown any ideas outside of the teeny, tiny box of ideas you are allowed to choose from.  Please, do not think that you can think.  That thought was not in the box of choices.  You must have brought that one in from outside.  Take it back out.

As a result I viewed Yoga as evil, sinful, bad. Even after my defection from Christianity I retained a strangely negative view of the practice.  I viewed it as mysticism; something I certainly wanted no part of.  I’m learning that I have developed some, mostly ignorant, preconceptions of anything even remotely spiritual. It’s funny how even after we’ve thrown off a worldview pieces of it linger on without examination.

Well, no more.  Pardon me while I go try to tie myself into a knot.


Chemically Dependent – The Devil’s in the Details

Last night I attended a meeting about substance abuse. The meeting’s moderator/leader was energetic, excited, excitable, and, frankly, much like some preachers/Bible teachers I’ve sat under.  He reminded me of a used car salesman. You know the ones…they have amateur commercials, screaming about how they’ve got the best deals in town.  He did have the gift of gab and I found him very entertaining.  In short, he probably could sell ice to an Eskimo.

Using a dry erase board, saying medical terms he probably wasn’t pronouncing correctly – nor spelling correctly, he listed the things that happen in the body of an addict, and why it’s a disease or an illness and not just a will power thing.  Stuff I already knew, having done a ton of reading on the topic.  Enzymes don’t break down drugs and alcohol in the body of an addict the same way they do a healthy person. He likened addiction to diabetes.  I’m not sure if that’s true; it’s what he said.

Then he said something about faith in God and this is what I heard:


Good grief, Charlie Brown!

BUT then he asked a very pointed question. “Is there anything you’ve ever had an obsession about?”  The other members of the group started spouting off things like food, shopping, men, etc.  I was pretty quiet because I’m still trying to suss out this crowd.  But my ears perked up when he said that part of the reason addiction is so hard to break is that they have some belief about the object of their obsession. Beliefs are what?  A form of faith.  What do we normally associate faith with?  God.

The belief doesn’t have to be true; they just have to believe it. For example, ‘alcohol makes me smarter, or more witty, or more likeable’, or ‘food makes me feel better’, or ‘I’m saving money buying this on sale’ – even if it’s something you’ll never use.  People who are addicted had a chemical reaction in their brain the first time they did any one of those things that told them it would always be true.  It’s the same chemical that is our connection to God, he said.

At this point he had my attention.

He went on about how strong our beliefs are and how we stand on those beliefs.  No matter what negative information we receive, no matter what we’re threatened with, no matter how our lives come off the wheels, we stand on our beliefs.  We’ll say or do almost anything to defend them.  That is why it is so hard for an addict to break the cycle of abuse because of their beliefs about whatever they are addicted to.  Their belief in their substance or action has become a god.

The members of the group made a connection that addiction was a chemically induced connection with a substance that, only when the addict understands this, can they change their beliefs or start forming new beliefs about the substance.  Only then can they start to combat the lies they’ve believed about the substance.

As with everything else, I guess, the devil is in the details.  None of the group members, nor the group leader, recognized that their faith in God is also chemically induced and could possibly be based on erroneous beliefs. They heard it, but did they believe it? Thus their faith remains unexamined.  I have previously written about being Addicted to God and what it’s like to break that addiction.

I’m not certain how scientifically sound any of what he said actually is.  In a cursory Google search I came across this NPR piece that seems to support the idea that God is a chemical in our brains.  Geez…why couldn’t I have believed in a cool god that has sacred herbs as sacraments?


Why do possessed people have their pupils enlarge?

And other reasons people visit this here blog.

I will admit I don’t have a huge following owing to the fact that either:

1) My writing is sporadic, at best.  I don’t post daily, or weekly, or even monthly.  I post when the notion strikes me and so there is no specific schedule.


B) My writing isn’t of interest to a wide variety of people.  It’s either navel-gazing for my own purposes or it’s niche writing that is of interest to a handful of people.

I’m cool with that because my writing has been mostly therapeutic and largely not audience-oriented.  Most of the traffic I seem to get here is through search engines and because of that I get, probably, some very disappointed visitors.  They query their search engines for important things that their inquiring minds wish to know such as, ‘Why do possessed people have their pupils enlarge?’, and then they click on the links that pop up on their screen.  I’m sure they’re disappointed when they find I don’t have the answer posted, only that it makes me angry that any rational person would believe such a thing.  So in an effort to accommodate I’ll give it a go.

Scientific research shows that pupils dilate, or enlarge, for a number of different reasons – none of them having anything to do with demon possession. Drug and alcohol use, sleepiness, mental illness, sexual arousal, depression, and even thinking, depending on how smart you are, can cause pupil dilation and constriction.  So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you’re looking at someone and their pupils are dilated they probably aren’t possessed.  No, better yet,I’m going to go out on a limb and say they definitely aren’t possessed since, y’know there’s no such things as demons.  Unless it’s their own personal demons.  Then, yeah, you could call it that, I guess.  But you wouldn’t be helping them any because exorcisms don’t work on that. Okay?

Seriously, that’s the fourth most asked question that gets people to this blog.

The third?  People wanting to know what size pvc pipe to discipline beat their infants with.  Who knew there were that many people interested in this?  WTF?!?  For the love of Pete, put down the pipe and go figure out what is wrong with your kid that is making him or her cry!  And it isn’t the need of a spanking that is causing whatever the problem is.  You do know spanking your infant will make him more cry, right?

Then there are all sorts of queries about narcissism.  ‘What does it feel like to be in a one-sided relationship?’, ‘relationship feels a bit one-sided’, ‘What does the Bible say about narcissistic relationships?’.  They go on and on – probably a hundred or so – but my personal favorite has to be, ‘Should a Christian be in a relationship with a narcissist?’.  To which I say, Honey, if you are a Christian you’re already in a relationship with a narcissist.

Finally, the number one query that brings people here – sluts.  Liberal sluts, sammich makin’ sluts, dirty sluts, slutty sluts.  You name the kind and its generated a hit here.

Needless to say I find this all slightly disturbing.


That Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ Is (or what is the definition of person) Part 2

If you’re just joining in it probably be helpful to read my last post: That Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ Is (or what is the definition of person) Part I

*Trigger Warning – This is a difficult, complex, controversial, and divisive subject.  As such people become highly impassioned.  For that reason I’m going to ask that if you can’t be respectful please move on.  This is the final installment of a two-part series.

So when exactly is a person a person?  Does it help to define it?  Does it even matter?  In the last several days I’ve come across new information. It’s not really new information but it is new information to me. Not even so much new information as a new perspective.  It is a perspective that has caused me to re-think my unabashedly pro-choice position.  Have I learned nothing from my Fundamentalist Christian group-think days?  Don’t important positions require re-examination?  Have I not just become a fundamentalist of another kind if I’m not open to new information?

There are a number of distinct moments that can be thought of as the beginning of personhood and there is no scientific consensus. Personhood is a question of philosophy – not science.  As an atheist shouldn’t science inform our philosophy – especially if we also call ourselves Humanists? It is a question of ethics. So what does science tell us about the beginning of human life?

Embryologists agree that human development, and thus human life, begin at fertilization.  How could development occur without it being a living organism?  A human living organism.  Did we really need an embryologist to tell us this?  Not really.  We know that’s when life begins.  A sperm and ovum meet, become a unique living organism, implant themselves(if they are healthy) to a woman’s uterus, and begin growing(again, if they are healthy). There are terms for this.  Zygote, Embryo, Fetus.  These are stages of maturity within the human life – the birds and the bees; the facts of life.

The conversation about abortion is not one of life but of one personhood.  If a human being is a person and a person is a human being then how is a zygote not a person? Just because there are medical terms for these stages of development do not mean they are any less human or any less a person.  There are medical terms for every stage of human development.  Infant, toddler, adolescent, adult.

We would call a brain-dead individual a brain-dead person.  They don’t cease being a person because they are dead.  On the whole we would agree that even a brain-dead individual should be treated with respect.  Would we dismember them?  Typically not without their consent obtained beforehand.  Even when it isn’t obtained before hand family members make this decision based on what they know of the individual and their wishes.  Even in death we take their well-being into consideration.  We are, rightly, mortified when we hear of cases of illegal organ harvesting or postmortem dismemberment.  It is a question of ethics.

According to Wikipedia Humanism is a movement of philosophy and ethics that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism).

Being pro-life, in my opinion, has more of a basis in Humanism than any other.  We should be ever evolving based on what we know based on facts.  Scientific fact is that human life does begin at conception. And this human being is a unique individual – not just a part of the female. It is completely separate and whole, though not mature.  A fetus is a human being at the very beginning of maturity.  Human beings do not begin at birth.  Shouldn’t we protect the weak?  Does personhood even figure into the equation, then?  In my personal opinion a human being is a person regardless of status.

What does that mean for legalized abortion, then?  Does that mean we should criminalize the practice?  Throughout history, in every civilization, in every era there has been the practice of abortion.  Women have undertaken the risky practice of drinking all sorts of concoctions, using crude and unsterilized tools, and enlisting the help of others to perform abortions.  Women have both obtained abortions legally and illegally.  Isn’t criminalization really just an interest in punishing the participants?  Laws against abortion seek to penalize practitioners and not necessarily women who obtain abortions but, either way, it really is only dealing with punishment.  What should we conclude about this?  Criminalization doesn’t work.  It is like treating the symptoms of a disease with no cure.  It is much like America’s War on Drugs and it’s War on Poverty.

I don’t think that abortion will ever be eliminated completely.  For all their religiosity and their piety concerning abortion between 1973 and 2008 Protestants make up 37% of women obtaining abortions and Catholics make up 28%.[1]  That’s more than half.  These are women who, while the practice isn’t illegal, supposedly violate their own consciences.  Is a law going to change that?  As a pro-life advocate shouldn’t the goal be reducing the number of abortions – not punishment?

I submit that the answer lies in our attitudes toward women and their rights and autonomy before pregnancy occurs. If you want to reduce or end abortion ask yourself why a woman feels the need to have an abortion in the first place and address those needs.

I would suggest that we stop, as a society, slut-shaming women who enjoy sex.  Stop making women feel as if having sex in general is wrong and something to be ashamed of regardless of marital status. If you belief that every life is valuable don’t you think it devalues a woman when you make her feel ashamed of her own body and her own sexuality?  Isn’t that committing murder in and of itself?  Many religious women consider having or do have abortions because they know that the world will know that have have been having sex.

If you want to make laws regarding reproductive rights start with requiring employers, regardless of religious affiliation, to cover contraception as part of their insurance coverage.  Let contraception be between a woman, her partner, and her God or lack thereof.  Start effective sex education which includes abstinence and proper use of contraception.  Prepare people to be responsible with decisions with regards to sex, not as a matter of religion, but as a matter of pragmatism.  Let people who can’t afford contraception know that there are options.  In my particular state the Department of Health issues contraception to those who are unemployed and minors free of charge.  This is not a known fact.  Advertise it.  Contraception is less expensive than pregnancy.  My state’s Department of Health also provides prenatal care on the same basis.

Offer practical solutions to women who are not prepared to be mothers.  Sometimes, even used correctly, contraception fails.  Stop being so high and mighty, get off your high horse, put your damn picket sign down and put your money where your mouth is.  Begin to act with compassion instead of judgement.

[1] http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

*Edited to add:  If you would like more information about arguments from pro-life humanists please visit http://www.prolifehumanists.org/.