Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I've been busy working on my book, so I haven't written a post in almost two weeks. But for anyone who is interested, I have made some decent progress on "Too Stupid To Be An Atheist", and I am optimistic that my goal of having it completed by the end of the year is looking good. (Side note: I have created a Facebook page for the book and a Twitter account if you are interested in checking them out).  Ok, enough of the self promotion.  On to the post...

Hurricane Irene hammered away on the east coast over the course of the last several days.  High winds, storm surge and torrential rains have left at least 42 dead and caused that has been initially estimated between seven and ten billion dollars (yes, that's with a 'b').  My personal "Irene experience" was minor compared to many (I live in Maryland, about thirty minutes from Baltimore, if you were curious).  Our yard was covered by fallen branches from trees and our power was interrupted for about 24 hours.  I also had a very brief day at work on Sunday due to no power.  Luckily, we made it through unscathed.  But it was a powerful storm and many people weren't so lucky.  To appreciate the size of the storm, check out this amazing video of Irene from space:

Many people I know (either in "real life" or on social networking sites) were upset at their weather person (it doesn't get more PC than weather person) for not getting the timing right or predicting a bigger storm than we actually got.  People ignore the fact that it wasn't that long ago in human history (the first weather satellite was launched a little over 50 years ago) that a few trees being leveled in your backyard would be the first warning that a bad storm was headed your way (ok...there might be some hyperbole in there).  We knew about Irene well in advance.  A guy I work with is always saying, "the weatherman is the only guy who can be wrong a hundred percent of the time and still get a hundred percent of his salary".  This is unfair (of course, I should point out that this is the same guy at work who complete bought into Harold Camping's most recent prediction...he may be suspect).  Weather predictions are getting more and more accurate all the time.  But it tough to predict what is going to happen more than a few days out.  In fact, here's a quote from a weather guy in a really good Freakonomics article on the subject: “We have no idea what’s going to happen [in the weather] beyond three days out.”  So to cut this rant short, GIVE THE WEATHER GUY/GAL A BREAK!!!

The other thing that drives me nuts is the number of people without electricity praying for the lights to come back on.  Okay, I get want your power to come back on.  Mine was out for a day as well, and I wanted it to come back on as bad as anybody (I don't need much, but I need air conditioning and my internet connection).  But I have a few questions for anybody who found themselves "praying for power".  First, if prayer works (and I assume you think it does, or you wouldn't be doing it), why didn't you pray before hand for your power to not go out?  Better yet, why didn't you pray for the hurricane to miss you altogether?  Also, how would you feel if you found out the crew working on restoring your power had stopped working and was praying instead?  Do you think the power would come back on quicker that way?  I have a sneaky suspicion that you would be pretty angry if this happened (but, I'm wrong a lot).  If that did happen and you were angry, wouldn't that be an admission on your part that prayer doesn't work?  I'm not telling you not to pray.  I'm just asking you to think about it.

That's all from me...Peace (oh and did I mention the Facebook page for the book...."Like" it here)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

God, No!!

My Mom and Dad are my heroes. They are everything to me and I owe my life to them (literally!) After my parents, there is a group of people whose words or actions have been inspirational to me. I consider them heroes as well (I suppose you can say they are a "notch" down from the 'rents, if the rankings are important to you.) Some of them are people I actually know in real Uncle John for example. I worked with him at his auto garage when I was thirteen. He is the hardest worker I have ever seen!! I've done a poor job of following the example he set, but I'll never forget the love he showed me by sharing it. Many on this list of heroes are people I've never Charles Darwin. Not only have I never met him, but I'm not going to meet him (he's dead..seriously, check his Wikipedia page). But his theory of evolution informs so much of who I am and what I believe. (If more people in our country accepted it, no one could be a racist anymore...We are ALL AFRICANS!!)

Near the top of this "secondary" list of heroes, is definitely Penn Jillette. I've gone into detail before about what Penn's radio show meant to me (a big deal!!). But it's more than just the radio program. I own the seasons of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! on DVD. I watch all of his video blogs, the older Penn Says and the current Penn Point. He's written many articles that you can find online on a wide range of topics...from his thoughts on gas guzzlin' Hummers to his favorite candy. In 2008, I saw the live show in Las Vegas (my first chance to meet the man...and move him off the Darwin, "never met" list...visual evidence below.)

So, when it was announced that he was writing a book on atheism, of course I was "all in". I've read other books he has written...his novel "Sock" (which is SO unique and great) and his poker book, "How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker: The Wisdom of Dickie Richard". I preordered a copy of his new book, "God, No!: Signs You May Already be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales", for my Nook the first day it was on the Barnes & Noble site. When the Center for Inquiry in Washington D.C. announced that he would be making an appearance at George Washington University to talk about his new book (his ONLY such East Coast event), we bought tickets right away. I waited up until midnight the night before the book was released to make sure that it was "delivered" to my Nook. Once I confirmed that it had been, I couldn't help but start reading it (did I mention that I wake up each morning at 4 AM for work.) Are you getting the idea yet?

I had read about half of the book before the event in D.C. last night. It was a very entertaining Q & A between Penn and moderator Melody Hensley (Executive Director of CFI-DC). He told some of the stories that he shares in the book. My wife and I took our eleven year old son...yes, I'm the parent who takes his 11 year old to hear a magician tell stories about his adventure in a gay bath house in San Francisco, circa 1981 (I didn't want your "Father of the Year" certificate anyway...being a Dad isn't something you get an award for). Once the talk was over we got the opportunity to go on stage to meet Penn (not just us...everyone who wanted their book signed got to meet him). Once we got there, I thanked him for retweeting all of my Penn Point announcements (he does retweet them...his twitter feed is @pennjillette ). He responded with, "That's you?!? You're the guy?!?" I've been so moved by so much of what he's done, it was CRAZY for him to use the words "the guy" to describe me. He was kind enough to sign my Nook, sign a three of clubs for my son (Penn & Teller always use a three of clubs in their card tricks) and posed for a picture with Jeffery and I (see below...we're calling it "Two and a Half Atheists").

Afterwards, my son was very excited. "He recognized you Dad...he recognized you!!" (kids are funny). I'm probably not qualified to write a real review of Penn's book. But I can tell you that it is GREAT!! It's Penn doing what he does best...sharing his heart and thoughts in an honest way. He writes in an easy to read, conversational style. He tells amazing stories about some of his life experiences. In the stories he tells about his family, you can feel his love for them in every word. It made me laugh out loud (that has ONLY happened before while reading "Fletch" by Gregory McDonald and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson) and made me cry (which admittedly is easier than I am proud of). I've read many books about atheism. I love the books by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc. They are wonderful to read and you should read them (well...if you're interested in atheism you should). But Penn's book is the only one that's moved me to tears AND laughter. It is full of "heart" and that is why it is my new favorite. But if you've read this post (and I assume you have...who skips to the end of my blog posts?), you are aware that I may be biased. He's a hero of mine. And now that I am attempting to write my own book on the topic, it has inspired me to be better. THANKS PENN!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blast from the Past

I have been hard at work writing my book, "Too Stupid to be an Atheist", so I have neglected this blog for the past week or so. This post is not going to change that much. I was reading some internet articles/blogs earlier this week and one reminded me very much of a blog post I put on MySpace (remember that) and I wanted to share both of them here. First will be my post. I wrote it almost four years ago (September 5, 2007) and was the first "blog" post I ever wrote. It went something like....

This will be a great way to start off my blog. Hopefully no death threats will ensue, but if they do, it will prove one of my points. I recently watched Superman Returns. This in not the Superman of my childhood (Christopher Reeves), but an updated, metrosexual version. Aesthetics aside, I couldn't help but notice the way that Bryan Singer (director) had turned the last man of Krypton into a Christ-like figure. Arms out to the side, crucifiction (and Scott Stapp) style, looking down on Earth. Marlon Brando (or God) telling him that we wish to be a good people, we just need him to show us the way, and that is why he has sent him to us. I have to admit, I was really turned off by this. Superman is a comic book superhero. He stands for truth, justice and the "American way" (pre -Bush administration). That American way is about liberty, freedom and secularism (see Thomas Jefferson). I didn't like the spandex clad hero of my youth converted into a religous figure. I imagined a world where a myriad of televangelists asked for and received millions to help spread the word of Superman. I could see teary eyed villagers claiming that they had started to eat a grilled cheese sandwich, only to discover that the face of Clark Kent could be seen on the bread (then them selling it on eBay). What a disaster. And then it hit me. This would never happen, and for one very important reason. No one over the age of ten believes in Superman. He is just a character of fiction. And this is what makes him superior to any religous icon. Not believing in him means that no one flies a plane into a building, or shoots someone outside of an abortion clinic in his name. It's not possible that people would blow themselves and others up over a difference of opinion over whether he was really the son of Jor-el or not. Believing in him might mean less homophobia in the world, mostly because Brandon Routh gives off such a gay vibe in this most recent film (no argument is perfect). No one could believe that some ancient text was the word of Supes, and then proceed to judge how well others live their lives based on those words. All he does is teach us how to help and care for others, and how to fight for freedom and justice. I was very fortunate to have parents who served as excellent role models. Not everyone is so lucky. I guess my point is that works of fiction (new or old) can serve as a guide to morality and it's compass, but that it turns bad when we believe those stories to be "true".

Nice, huh? I wouldn't change much about it. Anyway, enough about me. Click here to see the article I read earlier this week. I don't want to copy and paste their entire post, but I will share the last blurb...

While Superman is certainly an iconic hero, he never asked anyone to worship him. Even after Superman died to protect the people of Metropolis and came back to life, he never asked anyone for anything. Why? Because he’s an imaginary character, you dumbass. Superman is as real as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and snipe hunting. God is also an imaginary character…and approximately five billion people on earth believe he (or another form of him) exists. It might be time to start the cult of Superman…because he’s better than God in every way.

I like their post better, but mostly because of the pictures (I like pictures). I actually prefer both Batman and Iron Man as superheroes (no supernatural abilities...super rich guys with character flaws fighting bad guys). But Superman is a perfectly adequate fictional character (and he played a big role in "defeating" the real life KKK). There's also way less violence in Action Comics #1 than their is in the Bible (i.e. little kid friendly). Anyhow...I know this is a cop out and not a "real" blog post. It's the kind of recycling that would make Al Gore proud actually (which is never my goal). But writing this book is important to me. And it is dominating most of my thinking right now. I'll try to have something "fresh" here next promises though. Some of my MySpace and Tumblr blogs were pretty decent (I may share one more).