Friday, June 29, 2007

How Bush could redeem himself

Let me put this out in front: I am a liberal. Not a shocking revelation, but true. I hate the current administration and almost everything they've done. (I say "almost" because there might be something I didn't hate even though I can't think of an example right now.) I used to hate Bush. I say "used to" because...well, I don't anymore. I don't like him, and I would never vote him into any office higher than "guy in charge of picking up the keg".

I think I really stopped hating him when I watched this video. For the first time, I didn't see him as a cocky, defensive, incompetent asshole. I saw him as a man who has been defeated. He fought for his immigration bill--I think it was the first thing that he did as president. Not his staff, not his advisors--this was his bill, and he got destroyed. For the record, I thought it was a pretty good bill. It wasn't perfect, but nothing is--and like he said in the video, the status quo is unacceptable and we need change.

Bush is a great politician. He can campaign like no one's business--he was reelected in 2004 despite the fact that his administration screwed up, everyone knew it, and people were really getting pissed off. You have to respect that ability to win despite everyone's better judgment. So--good politician, horrible president. I don't think he's as dumb as he acts, I don't think he's a bad person, I just think he's an incompetent leader.

The shitstorm surrounding Dick Cheney has really shown that Bush has not acted like the president. He has consistently allowed his advisors and staff to make decisions, leaving him to sign the papers. He should have paid attention. He should have been well-informed. He should have been involved in these decisions. He should have been a leader.

He wasn't.

I don't hate him for it. I can't respect him because of it. I feel sorry for him because of it. I feel sorry for us because of it.

So, how could he redeem himself? Politically, I think that the best possible move for him is to force Cheney to resign and to apologize for what he and his administration have been responsible for.I think that if he just stood up and said "We screwed up. I screwed up, a lot. Dick Cheney will be resigning from his post, and we plan to move ahead for the next year and a half to try to correct some of our mistakes. I'm sorry." I think he needs to stand up, be a leader, and stand firm against Cheney. Honestly, I think that if he did that he would avoid impeachment. He would finally get the place in history books that he wants so badly--and at least that would be favorable.

If he did those things (and I doubt he will) I still wouldn't like him. It wouldn't undo the past seven years. We'd still be in Iraq, we'd still have warrantless wiretaps, we'd still have torture and abuse and secret prisons. But for the first time in seven years, I would have some respect for George W. Bush as a person and as a president.

[ end ]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I've been discriminated against!

Ok, not really...I just thought it might make a good title. I've been tagged to do this meme (8 facts/habits) simply because I'm new on the atheist blogroll. Maybe the title should have been "Help! I'm being hazed!" Oh well, I'm too lazy to change it now.

  • We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  • Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  • At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  • Don't forget to leave them each a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

  1. FACT: I partially severed the extensor tendon of my index finger about a month ago. I like to tell people I was bitten by a shark (in the mountains of southwest Virginia) because it sounds cooler than the real reason. I was actually being uncharacteristically domestic, washing dishes while dinner cooked. I dropped a (very heavy stoneware) plate on my knuckle, where it broke and partially severed the tendon. This has really slowed down my typing, so I'm not posting as much as I'd like to.

  2. FACT: I'm a voracious reader. I've always read constantly--anything I can get my hands on. Right now I'm reading Uncle Tungsten (Oliver Sack's biography), which is the 2nd or 3rd nonfiction in a row--I need to find a good novel in the next day or two. If I don't have anything else to do, I can and will read a 300-400 page novel in a day. It sucks, though--that means I have to buy/borrow/check out a LOT of books.

  3. FACT: I'm a speech-language pathologist, and I love the hard stuff. I love working with kids/adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, MR, developmental's a challenge and I love it. I've only been bitten once (and it didn't even break the skin). I love the kids that no one else knows what to do with--it keeps me interested and on my toes.

  4. FACT: I violently disagree with the theory that vaccines cause autism. There's nothing to back it up, and it seems to me like parents just want (need?) to blame their kids' problems on something external.

  5. FACT: I hate Noam Chomsky's theory of universal grammar. Thinking about it makes me angry, which makes my friends and family avoid talking about linguistics with me.

  6. FACT: I could never marry someone who was deeply religious or politically conservative. I know that sounds's not that I don't want to be around opposing views--I think it's good and necessary to hear the opposing view! Religion and politics are just too important to me to be able to get past fundamental atheism and liberalism are too much a part of who I am and how I see the world.

  7. HABIT: I can't leave the house without a book or something to read. Even if I'm just going to get gas, I always think "Well, what if...?" and I have to take a book with me. (see also: Fact #2)

  8. HABIT: I suck at sitting in chairs. I don't know why, but I just can't do it. Sitting up straight with both feet on the floor is really uncomfortable to me--I perch on things. I'm always tied up in knots when I sit down, which kills my back.
Here's the shitty part--I don't have 8 people to tag, which is just sad. I could just pick some people at random, but that would be weird. Here's my two (but they each have to do it four times):

Anonymous Atheist
Atheist Self

[ end ]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

of drugs and religion...

I read this article on HuffPo and it really made me think about the use of drugs as a religious sacrament. Christianity, traditional Native American religions, and Rastafarianism all use drugs as religious sacraments--alcohol, peyote, and marijuana respectively. Where are the legal lines?

Let's look at Christianity first. Communion (traditionally) uses wine. I don't know how many congregations/denominations still do (especially in the US), but that's not the point. A core religious sacrament of Christianity involves a drug, which is provided to minors. How many priests. reverends, etc. are getting arrested for that? I don't think I've ever heard of it, even though it's illegal. (I'm not going to go into the fact that the concept of communion gives me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies...that's another post entirely.)

Well, peyote is ok for traditional Native American religions...the only problem is that you don't qualify unless you are at least 1/4 Native American--at least one grandparent. There are a few states that allow peyote use by non-Native Americans as a religious sacrament, but not many. This seems to make sense--at least on the surface--but that's some pretty serious racial/ethnic/religious discrimination, when you think about it.

Rastafarians regard marijuana as a religious sacrament given by god to enjoy. As with traditional Native American religion, practice of the religion involves an illegal substance. Rastafarians, however, can be arrested for possession of use of their sacrament, regardless of race or ethnicity. I'm not endorsing a racial requirement for Rastafarians--I don't think they should have to prove that they are at least 1/4 Jamaican--but it doesn't make sense to me.

For the record. I am not a recreational drug user and I never have been, nor do I condone the use of recreational drugs. Hell. I rarely even drink, and even when I do it's not to excess. Even though it's not my thing, I'm pro-legalization of marijuana. I think it should be legalized, closely regulated, and taxed to hell and back. To be completely honest, drunk people scare me a lot more than people who have smoked pot. Beyond that. alcohol is physically addictive, while marijuana is not (although it is psychologically addictive..but so are video games and wikipedia.)

I'm not sure where I stand on the use of drugs as religious sacraments...but I do feel that the rules need to be consistent across religions. If marijuana were legal then it would be a much easier issue, but that complicates things a lot for Rastafarianism. If it's legal for Rastas to smoke marijuana, then it would truly be a church to be reckoned with! Entire college towns would be Rasta strongholds.

As an atheist and a drug-free zone of one, I don't think I am in any way qualified to comment on these issues....but that hasn't stopped me yet. ;) So what do you think? Discuss!

[ end ]

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I'm officially an atheist now (I guess). I'm now a member of the Atheist Blogroll, along with my husband, brother, and a lot of other freethinkers. Check out their blogs--blogroll is on the sidebar! Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2007


As an atheist, is it strange for me to consider using Buddhist mediation techniques and practices to find peace with myself? I don't think it is. Allow me to explain...

First of all, I think there is a question of whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. Does religion require a deity, or can it simply be a cohesive philosophy on which one may base life? Does the belief in reincarnation qualify Buddhism as a religion, even though Buddha himself is not necessarily considered to be a deity? Personally, I think that as soon as a philosophy requires a leap of faith (deity, reincarnation, mysticism, etc.) it becomes a religion. So...yes, I think that Buddhism is a religion, but in a very different sense than western religions.

When thinking about applying Buddhist principles and meditation to my own life I do not consider it a religion, simply because I cannot make the leap of faith required to believe in reincarnation. I view it as a philosophy, and I have no compunctions about treating philosophies as a buffet. It's limiting at best to take only ONE philosophy to the exclusion of all others--there are good things in many philosophies, so why should I pick just one? (This is a huge, scary problem with religion, no?) If I think that there is something of value in a certain philosophy, I see no reason not to take advantage of it and incorporate it into my life and my worldview.

Here's the thing: religion or not, Buddhism makes some really good points about life that I think we could all benefit from. It's a good philosophical fit for me--the Eightfold Path is something that I tried to live even before I knew what it was. The major teachings of Buddhism are the Four Truths and the Eightfold Path.

The Four Truths:
  1. Suffering: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.
  2. The origin of suffering: The craving which leads to renewed existence (reincarnation).
  3. The cessation of suffering: The cessation of craving.
  4. The way leading to the cessation of suffering: The Noble Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path:
  1. Right Speech — One speaks in a non hurtful, not exaggerated, truthful way
  2. Right Actions — Wholesome action, avoiding action that would do harm
  3. Right Livelihood — One's way of livelihood does not harm in any way oneself or others; directly or indirectly
  4. Right Effort/Exercise — One makes an effort to improve
  5. Right Mindfulness/Awareness — Mental ability to see things for what they are with clear consciousness
  6. Right Concentration/Meditation — Being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion.
  7. Right Understanding — Understanding reality as it is, not just as it appears to be.
  8. Right Thoughts — Change in the pattern of thinking.
Disregard the bit about reincarnation and it's a great set of guidelines for living a peaceful, harmonious life. I have to say, it's much more clear, concise, and cohesive than a lot of religions! I think that as a philosophy, Buddhism is hard to argue with. Be moderate, be mindful of yourself and others, work to improve yourself by alleviating your own suffering and that of others. What part of that is negative? Presented without the label of religion, it's a set of instructions and a philosophy that's hard to argue with.

So why am I considering Buddhist meditation practices? Briefly stated, I want to find peace with myself. I want to be able to be without having to do all the time. I have a fortune from a fortune cookie taped right over my desk that says "To do nothing is to be nothing." That's how I live, and I'm really quite tired. I want to be able to exist for myself, not what what I do. I think that mindfulness meditation techniques might be a useful tool for me to reach my goal. We'll see what happens...

[ end ]

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On atheism...

Religion never really hit me on a spiritual and emotional level when I was a kid. It was a collection of stories, sometimes interesting, but still just...stories. I never felt that it was more than that, and I was always confused by people who thought it was true and a key part of their lives. I went to dinner with just my brother (also an atheist, but more closeted than I am) when I was in middle school. Somehow the discussion turned to religion, and he explained to me that he was an atheist, and that he saw god as a human invention to make people feel better. God can be used to explain ANY unknown--and isn't the unknown humanity's greatest fear? That conversation stuck with me and is really what made me first examine religion and my own beliefs.

I see myself as an atheist, a moral person, a humanist, a scientist, a skeptic. I do attribute my skepticism (at least in part) to the way my parents raised my brother and me. I can't remember a single time that they blew off a question or clearly made up an explanation--it was always "go look it up" or a true explanation followed by "go look it up." Our parents (and Montessori school) instilled a love of learning and questioning in me that defines a lot of who I am. I've pursued my education, written a thesis, and plan to do my Ph.D because I want to KNOW. I want to know just to have the knowledge. I don't have any goal, I don't see a finish line, I just want to know and understand. That gives me more joy and wonder about the world than any kind of faith could.

Morality has always been very important to me. Over the years, I've developed my own moral code--what is right, what is wrong, when things can be bent and when I must stand by my convictions regardless of the consequences. Because my morality is based on my own experience and intellect, I feel that (in many ways) I am more moral than the majority of believers. This may be presumptuous, but since I was not handed my moral code, I feel like mine is more true. I examine my morality and beliefs regularly--they are not static, but rather a work in progress and a vital, dynamic part of my life.

My atheism does not mean that I do not believe in anything, contrary to popular belief. I believe in many things--the power of science, the potential of all people, the intrinsic goodness of humanity (I'll explain that in a moment), the wonder and beauty of the natural world as created BY the natural world...the list goes on.

It took me a long time to come to see and believe in the intrinsic good of humanity. Looking around at the horrible acts committed every day, it's hard to see how people can be good. I realized, though, that (with the exception of sociopaths and mentally ill/incompetent people) that people universally do things because they believe it is the RIGHT thing to do. Distasteful as it is, if you look at many of the most brutal dictators in history--men and women who are responsible for atrocities--most of them committed horrifying acts because they thought is was the right thing to do. They were horribly misguided and caused unknown tragedy, but with few exceptions they did what they did because they thought it was for the greater good. I can't bring myself to believe that humanity is bad or that people are evil--I think that people want to do the right thing, but that intention is sometimes the reason for atrocities. Does that make sense?

Hmm....this seems to be running a bit long, so I'll stop here. I hope that this does provide some insight into my atheism, my morals, and what I do believe in.

[ end ]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

[ insert title here ]

I'm not really sure what I'd planned on posting about when I signed into blogger. Too bad for you, dear reader--I'm just going to make something up!

First of all, I hate typing right now. I partially severed the extensor tendon for my right index finger, which means a have a splint on and I have to type with just three fingers on my right hand. I'm used to typing quickly and without looking, so the modified 3-finger hunt-and-peck isn't fin. Maybe I'll just stop using words with the letter "n"--I hit "m" instead every time. It's really getting old, and it's another 3 weeks before I get the splint off. Not cool.

My husband (who will be referred to as "the Big Guy", since that's what I usually call him anyway) showed me a great article tonight--check it out here. The idea (in case you're too lazy to read it) is that there is a verse in the Bible--I Kings 7:23-26--states that god created the sea that was 10 cubits in diameter with a 30 cubit circumference. Since pi=c/d, the bible states that pi=3.00. As we all know, the approximation of pi that we all know and love is 3.14152etc... So, what does the biblical calculation of pi mean? Well, if you want to teach intelligent design in schools, then you should also teach that the bible says that pi=3.00.

So maybe this post is a preview of what's to come--a combination of uninteresting, trivial details about my life and political/religious/scholarly thoughts of the moment.

[ end ]

Brief (but non-test) post

I'd love to use this as a chance to preview what's going to come of this blog. Unfortunately, I have no idea. I've jumped ship on my old blog. I felt like it had been so long since I updated that I really should just get a fresh start.

I'm hoping that being out of grad school will give me enough time to actually post. I've spent the past two years being too overwhelmed, busy, and exhausted to think about much of anything outside of school. Now that I've graduated I have time on my hands...scary. I'm hoping to update regularly, even if it's nothing important.

I'm off for now--errands are calling my name. Check back to see what's new and exciting in the life of a (currently unemployed) speech-language pathologist. Who knows, you might even learn something...

[ end ]


[ insert meaningless test post here ]