Archive | January, 2011

Israel: Praying itself into obscurity

31 Jan

A very interesting thing is going on in Israel: They are experiencing a demographic shift in favor of the more fundamentalist version of Judaism. That’s right, the more extreme followers of Judaism are having more children and are now the fastest growing faction in Israel. Not only that, but they are making their power felt. Just recently the Israeli minster of transportation moved to allow sex-segregated buses to run is Israel in order to cater to the growing fundamentalist population and their anti-women stance.

If birth rates continue as they are now, these fundamentalists will quickly gain even more power of the small country. Right now Israel’s main export is its technology sector. You can’t export “Torah study,” it’s worthless. Without it’s tech sector, the Israeli economy will drastically shrink. Keep an eye on Israel if you want to watch a country pray itself into obscurity. Or, if you want something a little more action packed, grab your remote and turn to Pakistan where you can be sentenced to death for throwing away the business card of someone named Muhammad.

I’m stuck in limbo…and it’s hell.

30 Jan

Yes, I know those are two different places…

I just got my first apartment. I pick up my keys on February fourth. This is something that I have desperately wanted for a long long time. It is a major milestone for me in my adult life. Just about none of my other friends from college have full time jobs or their own places, so I’m feeling awesome. Just one problem:

I have to wait a week….

Gah! This is killing me! I want to move in right now so badly! I’ve been dreaming of how I’m going to decorate my first apartment for years! In college I always had an amazing dorm room. I would organize it and decorate it as dry runs for my apartment. My friends were always impressed with how all out I went. I figured why not? I was going to be living there day in and day out during the school year, I should make it feel like home! Well now I have an entire apartment to myself! I can spread out and put up all the decoratiosn I’ve been collecting over the years in anticipation!

But I can’t do shit for several more days. I want to run out and buy all my furniture and start moving stuff around, but I can’t. There’s no point even in me going furniture shopping right now since I don’t have access to the apartment. I can’t buy anything without being able to know if it will work in the space I have. I find myself straying onto the craigslist furniture section, or walking through furniture stores, but I have to stop myself. What’s the point? I’m just teasing myself….

The worst bit is when I see something that looks awesome, but that will most likely be sold and gone by the time I get the keys next Friday… It’s agonizing. They whole thing is really throwing a wet towel on what should be one of the most exciting periods of my life! My father is very level headed and nonchalant about all of this, and I know he just wants to make sure I do things right the first time, but he doesn’t have the sense of straining excitement that I do. I’m just so worried that by the time I finally do get the keys, the weeks worth of pain will numb me to any excitement I should feel on the momentous day.

That’s what happened when I got my learner’s permit to start driving. I accidentally miscounted by one month and showed up at the DMV early. I waited in line, got all excited, only to get to the counter and be turned away for being a month early. By the time that month had passed, I was so upset about having my excitement crushed, that I was numb and indifferent on a very important day of my life!

What does atheism have to offer?

29 Jan

Earlier this evening I met up with a group of fellow atheists for a round circle discussion. While there I got to meet the hosts of the A Matter of Doubt podcast and one of them asked a very simple question that honestly stumped me for a bit:

What does atheism have to offer?

That question really made me stop and think, and at first I couldn’t really come up with any serious answers other than “Well, we have the best comedians.”

But really, what does atheism have to offer? Well there’s a lot it doesn’t have to offer:

A reward after you die, the ability to see lost loved ones, a large community safety net, a constant feeling of belonging, etc. Instead atheism, at least on its face, appears to offer a first class ticket to be socially ostracized with no happily ever after. That’s a tough sell!

But after thinking a bit more on the matter, and discussing it with the other people in the group, there is one very important thing that atheism does not offer: certainty.

And you know what? That is perfectly fine for me. “I don’t know” are three very humble yet powerful words. Unfortunately uncertainty scares people. One of the greatest draws for religion is the false sense of certainty is asserts, backed up by nothing but the tenacity of the belief. If I can only will it hard enough, it will be so. I feel a big part of growing up and achieving maturity is gaining the understanding that “I don’t know” is a good phrase, that it is ok to utter it.

As we discussed this question further, I realized there was something that atheism offers that religion does not.

Responsibility

(Now depending on the person, if they shy away from responsibility or not, it could be yet another mark against atheism)

With atheism comes the realization that you are responsible for your own actions. You have no excuses for misdeeds, and no salvation from consequences. You cannot blame things on the work of the devil, and you cannot be forgiven by proxy from a god. There are no bailouts or handouts. There are some theists who would say that atheism is a free ticket to do all the horrible, wicked things you want, when in reality it is exactly the opposite. With atheism you can’t commit evil and then wash your hands of responsibility by asking an invisible man for forgiveness.

Which brings me to the next thing atheism offers:

Freedom

With this great responsibility comes great freedom. You are not born evil. You are not somehow sinful and broken. Your life is not planned out for you, it is not a test that you must pass. You are you’re own person, responsible for your own actions, and free to make your life what you want it. If you ask an atheist who used to be religious, chances are they’ll tell you that when they left religion they felt a great sense of relief. I know I did. Suddenly you no longer have heaven and hell looming over you, no supernatural puppet masters, no self-loathing. You are free, you are in control.

Prayer saved Gabriel Gifford…according to Fox Viewers

21 Jan

A new poll conducted by Fox “news” found that 8 in 10 Americans (aka conservatives who take Fox Polls) believe that god saved Gabriel Gifford’s life. Meanwhile another poll conducted by Reality News found that 8 in 10 people who responded to the Fox “news” poll are morons.

We can all let out a collective groan because here we go again. Just as with the Chilean mine collapse, or the plane crash on the Hudson river, people always find a way to praise their invisibly sky daddy and never blame him. That is just how the game is rigged. There is no possible scenario where they will blame god. Period.

Did gay intern Daniel Hernandez, who held his hands tight on Gifford’s head to control the bleeding and to keep her brains from oozing out, save Gifford’s life? What about the person who jumped the gunman to keep him from shooting more people? What about the emergency responders who rushed to the scene? What about the expert surgeons who spent years studying the advances of science and who spent hours fighting to keep Gifford alive?

Nope. God did it…. but do you know what that means if you want to be logically consistent? It means god had a nine year old girl gunned down… And if you’re not going to admit that then you have to admit you don’t give a fuck about reality, logical coherence, or will ever admit your god did something disgusting.

Judeo-Christian isn’t.

19 Jan

“Judeo-Christian,” there’s a bullshit phrase. Judaism and Christianity are two different religions. Yes Christianity branched out of Judaism, but there is a very important separation: Jesus and the New Testament. What irks me the most about this term is the implied alliance of Jews and Christians. Christian love for Jews (finally after centuries of persecution, torture, and systematic mass genocide) is disingenuous to the extreme.

The only reason why Christians claim to suddenly love Jews so much is simply because they think they need them in order for Jesus to return, at which point all the Jews will be killed and sent to hell, along with everybody else. Jews, wake up! They’re using you! They’re not really your friends!

On second thought, perhaps this mendacious relationship is beneficial to the Jews. They know the Christians are full of it, but hey!, at least they aren’t putting us in gas chambers and instead are giving us weapons with which to oppress and murder Palestinians!

Which brings me to my other point of contention with the term “Judeo-Christian,”: Islam.

What about Islam? Islam is the corrective of Christianity, just as Christianity is the corrective of Judaism. All three of them are similar in that they are the “Abrahamic faiths.” A more correct term would be the “Judaic-Christian-Islamic” religion. (And if that sounds absurd to you, that’s exactly how I feel about “Judeo-Christian”)

Why cut Islam out of a family it has just as much right to claim to be part of? Simple: Christianity is threatened by Islam in a way it is not threatened by Judaism (because they’ve exterminated most of the Jews), and the Jews that are left are concentrated in a state that they can flood with weapons and cash in order to fight a proxy war with Islam. Simple as that. Jews don’t mind because they get weapons to shoot Muslims, and Christians don’t mind because the Jews will help keep the holy land safe for them until Jesus comes back and kills them all. It’s win win!

Is it irresponsible to try and change the world?

18 Jan

A few months back, perhaps a year or so, I can’t remember, I got into a heated discussion with someone over politics and religion. Nothing unusual right? Well it was for me because, at the time, this was a person for whom I had a great deal of respect an admiration for, and to hear this coming from her blew me away. I’ve often thought about what she said from time to time, and it’s always bugged me. We had plenty of fights, but this one really stuck with me.

She told me something to the effect of “It is irresponsible to try and change the world because you might mess it up even more.” Just ponder the implications of that for a moment. Don’t try and improve things because to might make them worse. Sure you might make them better for people, but you could make it worse. What struck me immediately, though I didn’t tell her to her face, was the irony of that coming from her, a woman attending college with me.

She could go to school, she could get an education, she could vote, she could dress as she pleased, do what she wanted, etc. She was able to do all of this and not be married and pregnant at 12 because generations of women before her had the audacity to be irresponsible and fight for change. The next thing that struck me was just how convenient it was for her to be white, upper middle class, and born in the US in the late 20th century when previous generations had already secured the rights she now took for granted. Of course it doesn’t affect you too much if the world stays the same! You’ve already got everything!

And yet I was the irresponsible one for wanting to make it better, for feeling like having the power to change things for the better gave me the responsibility to do so. I’m sorry, but this just boggles my mind. Am I missing something here? Is it really irresponsible to try and make the world a better place because, heaven forbid, you find a way to actually make it worse than it already is?

 

Soundtrack of your life?

18 Jan

First let me apologize for how ridiculously long this post is. I’ve realized this only now that I’ve finished. It’s very rambly even though I’ve left a ton of songs out. (Usually songs that remind me of specific people or very selective memories)

I don’t know about you, but my ipod is like a timeline. I’ve just kept progressively adding more and more songs onto my playlists as I discover them or feel in the mood for them. As a result my ipod playlists are somewhat like a record of my moods in the past. I also really strongly associate particular songs to specific periods of my life. The song that is attached to a memory is usually there because it matched my emotional state at the time, or was what I was listening to at the time around when the memory was made. The earliest I can remember doing this was when I was 13 and I fell in love (so I thought) for the first time.

The song I most strongly associated with her was “Dancing when the stars go blue” by the Corrs. I also associated Tonic’s “If you could only see” with her.

When I eventually found out she had no interest in me and we broke up, the song that sticks in my head the most is Headstrong by Trapt. Ah, young love, disgusting isn’t it? ~_^

Thinking back to my medieval living history group the song that’s stuck with my most is “Southside” with Moby and Gwen Stefani. I know it’s a strange song, but the lyrics, at least how I heard them at the time, made me thing of a band of knights in a foreign land riding around. (Don’t ask, I don’t have a clue why either)

At the same time I had a really good best friend who I was fiercely loyal to. She helped me through the breakup of the first girl and I almost dated her. She ended up dating this other guy and they’re now engaged. She’s thinking about having the wedding on their 10 year dating anniversary. (Yeah, they’ve been dating that long non-stop with no trouble, it’s really amazing) Anyways, this song always made me think of her and how I’d do anything for her.

Moving on, at 15 I found my first true love and we dated for almost 2 years. I can’t remember exactly how I settled on this, but I’ve always remembered our song as being “You and I both” by Jason Marz

When we broke up I listened to several songs a lot. “Every rose has it’s thorn” by Poison and “Porcelain” by Moby come to mind. Yet the song that I most associate with the breakup and how I felt is “If you could read my mind” by Gordon Lightfoot. It’s a really beautiful song and still makes me heartsick when I listen to it, even though it was years and years ago.

Thinking of my friends in highschool, making videos with them, building crazy contraptions, and blowing things up, I’m most reminded of “Hide” by Creed. (Yes, I know, forgive me for this super generic rock)

Fast forward to Freshman year of college: My memory is a little hazy. For some reason the transition from High School to College is really hard for me to remember. It was such a big switch while I was simultaneously burning bridges with all my friends from  High School…but that’s another story. I remember Red Hot Chili peppers and “Cry for you” by September. I’m sure I’ll remember something later and I’ll update this.

Sophomore year of college I met my two best friends. Daft Punk makes me think of them. (This is an awesome vid btw)

It was the same year that I met my second love. We dated all through out college, about 3 years. The song she picked as ours was “Such great heights” by the Postal Service

When we broke up, oddly enough Bad Romance was pretty popular, so that song was stuck in my head. It was at the same time I discovered the awesome group Pomplamoose. Their renditions of “September” really helped cheer me up:

But one of the songs I most strongly associate with my rebound from that relationship is “Bullet Proof” by La Roux

The summer after graduating and leaving my old life behind was tough, but this song by GoldFish cheered me up:

Moving across South Carolina later that summer was pretty physically demanding. At the time I had just discovered Ratatat and listened to them in between moving trips. They really helped me get through a lot of lonely afternoon full of moving boxes in the 115 degree heat. One of my favorite songs by them is “Wild Cat”

Another great track that I discovered at the time was “Don’t touch my popcorn” by the Diplomats of sound. It’s really upbeat and celebratory. For some reason I always confuse it with “Heaven” by RJD2, another really great feel good song that I think they played a lot in the law comedy/drama show Boston Legal. It kind of makes me think of my ex becoming a lawyer, since we watched a few episodes of that show and she loved it.

Sometime after that summer I drove up to my college to see my old friends. It was a really interesting experience namely because I was paranoid of running into my ex (we weren’t and still aren’t talking) and because I may or may not have tried marijuana for the first time in my life. One of the strongest memories I had of that was sitting there in a dark room with my friends, with a burning throat, nursing a can of fresca and listening to this song that one of the guys put on.

Fast forward to this summer and the first world wide internet war between Wikileaks and Anonymous and the US government and corporations: this was the song I listened to the most while surfing the IRC chat servers watching them plan DDOS attacks and what their next move should be.

Finally, towards the middle of December I got a full time job and things really started to turn around. At the same time I discovered 009 Sound System.  I really like them for chillout driving, plus, if you listen to the lyrics they’re pretty atheistic, which rocks.

Lastly, this brings me up to present day. Lately I’ve really been on a Royksopp kick:

(I’ve also been listening to their tracks “What else is there?” and “You don’t have a clue” a lot)

Anyways, I’ve got to be up for work in 6 and a half hours, so I’m going to hate myself in the morning. So what about you? Do you do the same thing with music and attaching it to memories? What are some songs you most associate with important life events?

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