Archive for December, 2011

The Reason for the Season

December 23, 2011

There is something that happens every year: people say that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Let’s look at that for a minute.

Physically, axial tilt is the reason for the season(s). Axial tilt is what causes the northern hemisphere’s days to be shorter and colder in December and longer and warmer in June. But obviously that’s not what the claim is about: what about the reason for the celebration?

Northern European peoples would set evergreens on fire near the winter solstice as a sacrifice of one of the only  obviously living plants to the gods who controlled the sun, basically asking that the sun get back to doing a decent day’s work. They would also sacrifice animals as a sacrifice of life for their continued survival. It is the combination of evergreens, blood, and snow that gets us the “Christmas” colors of green, red and white. Since it was a sound survival strategy to have food gathered up before being snowed in, people would spend a lot of time indoors with family and large hot meals, thus feasting. But what about celebrating today?

It isn’t about survival the sun or burning evergreens anymore: we have electric lights on them instead. Why do we still celebrate Christmas today? For many people, because it is fun to gather with family and friends. It is fun to make dishes too complicated to make at other times of the year, or to bake pies and hear people give each other compliments on home-made foods and dishes. It’s fun to think about what your family and friends would enjoy as presents and to get the -in my family- traditional pajama set and orange in the stocking.  But maybe you are asking- what about religion? What about the sacrifice of Jesus?

Well, even if that had happened, you are thinking of Easter (and if you believe in gods, poor Ester, having her holiday stolen out from under her). But, since that’s what people think is special about Jesus:

Yahweh/Jesus is far from the only god who sacrificed himself to himself. Odin sacrificed himself to himself before Jesus was even a glint in his own eye. And since Odin sacrificed himself for wisdom rather than as a way to justify cooling down his temper, he is obviously the superior fictional deity.

Which may be why Odin, or W’din, gets one day dedicated to him every week while Jesus has to steal other deities’ holidays.

Sokka was sick, but now he is well.

December 17, 2011

Emily and I feel much safer with our guardian cat at his post:

Constant vigilance!

Women have it bad. But it gets better.

December 15, 2011

I know, things aren’t exactly great for women even here (rant to follow about congress) but things are even worse for women and girls in much of the world.

But there is this wonderful thing called the internet where people can collaborate to try to solve problems. Please watch this video (origin here). After it makes you cry and then smile, donate and spread the word.

I don’t know what to hope for…

December 14, 2011

If I wanted the Republican party to become such a laughingstock that their brand would never recover…

Who would I want to become the Republican nominee?

Gingrich, he of multiple affairs and divorces? Who took more than $1.6 million from Freddie Mac while claiming he wasn’t a lobbyist?

Romney, of the casual $10,000 bet and the bending with the political wind?

Perry, who disrespects people in uniform if they don’t conform to his sexual binary and wants to make the country a theocratic one?

Or, alternatively:

If I wanted to have a few good ideas to enter the popular consciousness, who to root for?

Huntsman or Paul? One a moderate Republican who hasn’t lost his mind with most of the other nominees, the other a Libertarian who, despite seeming to have lost his mind, has some really good ideas and articulates them well?

Parody may be a great tool, but it’s not the only one.

December 12, 2011

Here’s another great response to Perry’s ‘Strong’ ad, but this isn’t a parody as are most of the others. Although there is plenty of mockery here, it takes the form of one incisive comment after another. Enjoy:

Thanks to Friendly Atheist for introducing me to this great vlogger. I have to go through all of her videos now.

Rapists are to blame for rape. How is this not obvious?

December 11, 2011

Here, read this: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Pulls Ad That Blames Women For Getting Date-Raped

I’m glad the ad was pulled, but about that thought process that led to the ad:

Holy shit. And what, murdered people are to blame for their deaths? “Well, he just shouldn’t have been walking around without a scarf – anybody could have seen his arteries just under the surface of the skin. What did he expect?”

And are robbers off the hook for robbing? “Well, they were on vacation for more than 2 days and had a TV you could see through the window. They were asking for it!”

Hell no. This only comes up in cases of rape and it is because of a deeply unhealthy view of women and sex that permeates our society. The view of many religious and governmental authorities seems to be: If she wasn’t running away fast enough, she consented. If she wasn’t completely covering her skin from head to toe, she not only consented, she was asking for it. If she dared flirt, she consented, because how was the guy supposed to tell the difference between flirtation and an invitation? What was he supposed to do, ask? Or pay attention when she said no?

This is sick, and this is wrong.

And this also points to an unhealthy view of men. A view which trivializes their perceptive abilities and their moral judgement while accusing them of having no restraint, thus giving all burden to women instead.

This is sick and this is wrong.

And frankly, those views, held by people in government and religion? They are the same views that allow people to rape. So when we hear them voiced by figures in authority, that should be not just a warning sign but a klaxon calling us to deny them power. If they are in elected office, recall them. If they are in a position that can be denied by their superiors, pressure those superiors. If they are of an organization that you give money to, stop that financial support.

We cannot allow these views to flourish, or we are giving a pass to rape.

Sokka Sunday -Throwing down the gauntlet

December 11, 2011

My cat is not only Water Tribe, my cat is a Ravenclaw:

"I'd like to spend my vacation AT THE LIBRARY!"

Sokka: born water tribe, sorted into Ravenclaw

In summation, my cat out-geeks your cats. What now, Pixel? What now, Houdini?

Also, Ravenclaws are adorable when sleeping:


Tired from long days spent in the company of books.

I bet Romney $10,000 that he will not be President.

December 11, 2011

I know, I know: For the majority of my adult life it would have taken me 10 months to earn that much money, and I would have had to spend most of it on living expenses. Even now, it would take months for me to earn that much.

But this is the surest bet I’ve every seen. Come on Romney, bet me.

You can obviously afford it.

Stockholm syndrome?

December 10, 2011

I’ve previously posted about mental health issues, but there is one that I think I recovered from without ever knowing I had it.

Stockholm syndrome. Let me tell you about the situation I was in:

I was convinced that I had no chance of escape. I was told that if I didn’t do exactly what my captor required of me, I would be punished without possibility of appeal, but that if I followed all instructions and helped my captor, I would be spared punishment, and even rewarded.

Sometimes the things that my captor asked of me would make things worse for other captives. If I didn’t go along, I would be punished in smaller ways than the way I feared, so that fear never diminished but grew as I imagined it. The captor never intended to let me go, and when I escaped, other captives tried to capture me again, since they too had Stockholm syndrome.

That captor was religion.

Now before I go on, I should point out that Stockholm Syndrome isn’t like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or depression. Stockholm Syndrome, rather than being a disorder, is a survival response to being a hostage or prisoner, or to abusive or controlling relationships.

This comparison occurred to me today while reading statistics about belief. Quick- who in America has suffered the most from religion in the United States?

If you said black people and women- on the one hand because of biblically sanctioned slavery and on the other because of biblically sanctioned male dominance- you’d have also pegged the most religious groups in the United States. Unfortunately the Pew Forum didn’t seem to have a similar break down regarding the beliefs of people by sexuality, or we could pursue that with the same questions.

Just as a caution: the questions differ between graphs, and the statistics are presented differently. The one about gender shows the difference between the views of women and men. The one about race shows the difference between the views of black people and the U.S. population as a whole- which means that the racial chart shows a comparison between the complete group and a subset of that group. With that in mind:

58% of women compared to 45% of men “have absolutely certain belief in a personal God.” When the question is broadened to whether a person has “absolutely certain belief in God or a universal spirit” the numbers are 86% of women and 79% of men.

Let’s think about this: The religions that have the greatest effect on American society have historically placed women in subservient roles. Those who were willing to reinforce the status quo by keeping other women in line either directly or by example got limited power over house and instruction of children and as much respect as women got in such a society. Those who opposed the status quo were branded as ungodly and unfeminine or dismissed as sexually deviant, promiscuous or as bitter old maids. Even though more women have achieved greater autonomy- through much struggle- these trends continue even today.

Could it be that between fighting people trying to fit government into women’s collective uteri and trying to avoid both sides of societal double binds placed on women (Such as avoiding being seen as either ice queen or whore) they -on average- simply don’t have as much energy to spare to resist religion as -on average- men do? Umm… YES. Yes it could.

And, on the question of race, almost 90% of black Americans said they “have absolutely certain belief in God” compared to just over 70% for Americans as a whole.

This one is even easier to analyze. In the early days of this country, Abrahamic religion was used to condone, support and encourage black slavery. The plantation owners were white, as generally were their lead overseers, but the overseers managed to maintain order not just through direct brutality but also through a system where those willing to help keep order were rewarded with more food or better bedding.

They were also given bible lessons, with emphasis placed on verses such as Ephesians 6:5-9 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. ” There was literal textbook Stockholm Syndrome going on there.

Even though slavery is gone, there is still a great deal of prejudice towards black Americans.  They are seen as an angry group- much like feminists and atheists, what a surprise- as well as seen as uneducated, often by the very people who don’t want to spend money on education to level the playing field.

The double bind I will mention here is that of either “being whitewashed or acting black.” My stepmom was talking with one of her relatives from Illinois and was told she was acting white because of how she talks. Now, we lived in California and my stepmom was to my ear just talking like a Californian. But there was almost an accusation of betrayal under the joking. The idea being that if you talk too proper you are betraying blackness. But let’s look at the other side of that- there are grammatical structures that aren’t common between Illinois and California, there are words that have completely different meaning, and differences of pronunciation that would lower your chances of being hired in California if you talk in a way that would be perceived as “acting black” by her family in Illinois. Another aspect of “acting black” in America is being christian. Despite the fact that christianity was inflicted on African-Americans (term used to denote Americans born in Africa, ‘black Americans’ is the term I use when talking about black people born in America) against their will when they were hauled across the sea into slavery, since it was almost universally adopted thereafter it is a point of cultural unity, and is very hard to break free of as a result.

Could it be that this history causes more black Americans to be trapped in christianity than would otherwise be the case? Hell yes.

Politics and parody

December 8, 2011

I was a little irritated with this:

And then my friend Mitch sent me this:



Update: Two more responses to Perry’s ad.