Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Weeds? Adam's fault.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Tonight I have six minutes left to throw up a NaBlo post. I was going to post the second installment of my ski-trip journal, but it’s all the way across the room on the table, and I really can’t be bothered.

Instead I’ll quickly pass on this link to John Scalzi’s review of the Creation Museum. It’s long, but it’s worth the read. At least that’s what I think so far—I’m only a quarter of the way through it.

If reading isn’t your thing, he also has a Flickr photoset of 101 pictures. Look, now you can save yourself a trip to Kentucky.

All kinds of crazy

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

I’ve harbored an abiding hatred for Stephen Baldwin ever since he ruined a brilliant television show by appearing on it and generally being an asshat.

I expected to loathe the man until my death (or his, preferably). Obviously I don’t know him personally, but his personality and demeanor get under my skin and, like, poke at my insides with little bitty knives of irksomeness*.

Then today I read this Salon article and discovered that the world is slightly more insane than I’d thought possible. Apparently “Stevie B.” is now a super-fundamentalist born-again Christian. What’s more, he’s taking his “gnarly” skateboarding-themed revivals on the road, targeting teenagers around the country, and *kids are listening to him*. His message is pretty disturbing:

Baldwin preaches that free will is a lie of Satan — we must shut off our brains, he says, and be led by what God tells our hearts. Furthermore, he writes, efforts to end global poverty and violence are just the sort of “stupid arrogance” that incur God’s wrath, which we’ll be feeling any day now in the coming apocalypse.

Stephen mfing Baldwin encouraging kids to stop thinking so hard and drink the Kool-Aid already…this frightens me. “Jesus Psycho” is NOT a title to aspire to, okay? Please, children of the world, don’t listen to the crazy man. Go home and read some books. Watch TV, even, as long as this nutjob isn’t on it.

I hereby propose we add to the D.A.R.E. program a segment entitled “Just Say No to Religious Extremism.” It would recognize that young people are often tempted to experiment with religion and would encourage them to do so only when they’re older and able to make an informed decision, and only in the presence of people they know and trust. Lesson one: If a strange man comes up to you on the street and offers you a “decision card,” you should knee him in the junk, run away, and tell a grown-up. That first step is VERY IMPORTANT.

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* Hat-tip to Dooce. “Hot forks of displeasure,” anyone?

I can tell without looking at the clock that it's Monday already

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Attention, high schoolers* everywhere: The post below is a phenomenal example of what can happen when you start without a clear sense of purpose, a common mistake students make on their SAT essays.

I got a new couch today (thanks to my mom, who drove all the way down here to sit around my apartment all afternoon while I was out teaching and let the delivery people in). It’s big and red and fabulous. I also got a $500 coffee table with a piddly little scratch across the top for 99 bucks. Dump at the dump at the dump dump dump!

Sammy approves of both couch and table, though my mom says he cracked his head mightily on the latter while trying to leap onto the former and sat around dazed for a minute or two. Poor thing. He’s not so good with the leaping and the looking beforehand. The repeated blunt trauma to the head probably doesn’t help, either—it’s a vicious cycle.

I got home around 5:30 and did absolutely nothing with great vim and vigor for the next five hours, then suddenly fell into a wretched mood. Sometimes I get really scared, and I just want someone to hold me and tell me it’ll be ok…but there’s only Sammy. Half the time he doesn’t even understand that I’m sad and trots off to go chew his bone in another room. I thought dogs were supposed to be good readers of emotion—what part of “sobbing heap” don’t you understand?! Kidding. I love my puppy. He’s awesome.

Anyway, I distracted myself by researching grad schools, in the hope that it would give me some clue as to what I want to major in. It turns out that most of the programs I looked at only required a Bachelor’s in something, with maybe some advanced coursework in your graduate field of study. So, really, my undergrad major doesn’t matter for poo. I have mixed feelings on this—it’s nice to be able to keep my options open, but I’d also like a little guidance.

This is my first serious foray into grad school research, so I don’t know how to tell the high-caliber programs from the shoddy. One thing that seems apparent is that the best programs (some of those at Rice, for instance) make no mention at all of a recommended GPA or test scores. At the other end of the spectrum, if you have a 3.0 and a 470 (that’s 50th percentile) on the GRE Verbal, the Linguistics department at UT-Arlington will AUTOMATICALLY ADMIT you. Um, no thanks.

Right now I’m only looking at schools nearby–within maybe six hours of here. That includes a good part of Texas (Dallas or Austin, but not Lubbock or El Paso) and Louisiana (New Orleans, Baton Rouge).

Of course, I’m probably not going anywhere for another two years (I might be able to graduate in a year if I only did a Math major, but what’s the fun in that?), so this is all still wild speculation. When I withdrew from Mudd, I think I subconsciously assumed that I’d never make it to grad school, but now that I think about it…why the hell not? I’ve been dreaming of grad school ever since I found out such a thing existed. Sure, things have turned out a little differently than I thought they would when I was in high school, but even if I can’t get into the *best* programs any more, there must still be some worthwhile schools that’ll take me.

I’ll be a Ph.D. someday, just you wait. In Physics. Or Linguistics. Or Classics. Or Mathematics. Or something else. Or all of the above.

I’m going to stay in school forever and it’s going to be wonderful. And then I will be very, very poor and it will be less wonderful. And then I’ll die. Or maybe I’ll die before then. Either way, all of this is meaningless. Which is horrible. See? The obsession. It’s everywhere—as soon as I think about my future, BAM! I’m reminded of my impending death and the emptiness of existence.

Blah blah blah. Whine whine whine. Complaint about the late hour and how I always do this. Emote emote emote. Pity pity pity. Look at me, I’m becoming a nihilist. Everyone loves a nihilist—always so upbeat and optimistic, spreading good cheer and butterfly sprinkles wherever she goes. More whining. Sammy just farted, and I can smell it all the way across the room. Damn, that’s rank. What did you eat, dog?

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* No, I’m not so vain as to think high schoolers read this, much less come here looking for test-prep tips. I’m being facetious. Did you know that an obsolete meaning of facetious is “gay and witty”? I’m not sure how that differs from “characterized by pleasantry and levity,” but who am I to challenge the illustrious Messrs. Merriam and Webster?

Thoughts on Embryos

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

I don’t often make politically-tinged statements on my blog, or in normal conversation, for that matter. Although I’m pretty smart and better-educated than most, I know that I’m not well-informed enough about many of today’s big issues to participate seriously in a political debate.

And that’s okay. The amount of misinformed, narrow-minded political twaddle in the world (and especially here on the interweb) disgusts me, and I’d rather not add to it.

That said, this article about scientists’ responses to ethically-based attacks on stem cell research got me thinking. Now, I may not know jack about war or diplomacy or the economy, but I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on stem cells (for a layperson, at least).

I was originally going to post a question that the article planted in my head, namely, “Why are the people who protest animal testing and the people who protest stem cell research rarely the same people?” But I think I’ve already answered that one to my satisfaction, aided by a rereading of the article.

The moral basis of the pro-animal claim is that it’s unethical to cause suffering in a living creature (or through inaction allow a living creature to suffer). This makes sense to me. I’m okay with animals as test subjects, but only if they’re treated humanely. We have laws regulating this, and scientific progress is allowed to continue.

The moral basis of the pro-embryo claim (correct me if i’m wrong) is that it’s unethical to kill a human, here defined, I believe, as an entity which is genetically human and which is complete (i.e., not just a leg, a tooth, or an unfertilized egg). This makes slightly less sense to me. I don’t know the particulars of the laws regulating this field at the moment (or proposed laws), but I get the feeling that they’re fairly restrictive.

I initially didn’t see why these causes were all that different, and why there would be so little overlap in their supporters. I support both humane animal research and humane stem cell research* for the same reason: they make good science without being unethical, in my opinion.

But I see now how they differ. Animal-rights people are all about preventing the suffering of animals, but embryo-rights people are all about…something else. It’s not about the suffering of the embryos per se, but about their potential human-ness. (Right?) I want to pin it all on religion, but I’m sure there are other reasons behind the pro-embryo position. I can’t think of any good ones right now, though—anyone care to enlighten me?

But ANYWAY, the point that I was really trying to get to was one made by the second commenter.

[Scientists] can point to the development of IVF which has created the “problem” of leftover embryos and yet has mostly escaped villification from the anti-abortion crowd (no doubt because it’s bad PR to deny a mother the chance of conceiving a child).

This is an interesting point, and one that I’ve never considered before. Why *don’t* the people who loudly oppose stem cell research also loudly oppose in-vitro fertilization? Or do they? Have I not been paying attention?

It seems logically inconsistent to attack the stem cell scientists without attacking the IVF doctors. The scientists don’t create embryos for the sole purpose of killing them in the process of their research, they merely use extra embryos left over from IVF that were never going to be allowed to develop in the first place. Without stem cell research, IVF would still be chugging along, creating and discarding hundreds of thousands of potential humans every year**.

Yet, as far as I know, there is no strong political/religious/ethical movement to outlaw or restrict IVF. Why not? Why don’t the anti-stem cell people add an anti-IVF plank to their platform? Or, why are those groups okay with IVF but ethically opposed to stem cell research?

I’m (mostly) not trying to poke fun here. I do want to know where the debate actually stands, and what the real issues are. Thoughts? Corrections?

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* By humane, I mean that nobody suffers unduly. The embryos themselves do not suffer, and the ones used in research were going to be killed anyway.

** This is a made-up number, but I think it’s order-of-magnitude correct. I’m sleepy right now and don’t want to bother looking it up. I’ll let you know if it turns out to be way off.

P.S. I personally think IVF is a Good Idea™. I figure this should be obvious, but I’m just clarifying here in case you were reading too fast and think I’m nuts.

If you've been having a good day, you'll probably want to skip this one

Monday, January 9th, 2006

Have you ever been smacked in the face by your own mortality? You know, when the philosophical idea of death and leaving-things-behind and non-existence suddenly becomes SO REAL and you feel like you’re in the worst nightmare you’ve ever had but can’t wake up? When it’s so terrible and unfathomably gut-wrenching that you can’t even cry?

Despair doesn’t even begin to describe it. There is a chasm of difference between knowing that you’re going to die and KNOWING that you’re going to die, that all that stands between you and utter annihiliation is this body, this fragile, aging, disease-prone lump of flesh. And you realize that time is passing, and that there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it, and you feel powerless and alone. There is no solution; all you can do is distract yourself somehow with day-to-day trivia. You wish you could forget. You wish there were a God out there you could talk to and be comforted by. You wish you were religious; if it doesn’t matter in the end, why *not* be blissfully ignorant?

Has this ever happened to you every couple weeks or so for several months? Because it’s fucking depressing. Crushing, spirit-shattering, heavy, ugly, horrible, unbearable. There is no worse feeling—how could there be? At least I have a puppy now; although he’ll never understand, he can at least be warm and cuddly and distracting. I only wish he were bigger than me and could hold me when I’m scared.

I’m going to bed now. The sooner I fall asleep, the sooner I can forget and go back to actually living like a normal person. God, sometimes I wish I were shallow. I’d been having a pretty good day, but all of a sudden my whole evening’s been ruined. I hope I didn’t ruin yours as well, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

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P.S. I feel like I should reassure the world that I really am a happy person. Really. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. It’s just every now and then that I remember the tragedy that is life and fall into utter despair. The feeling disappears by the time I wake up, after which I can go about my life again. I promise I’m okay.

On a scale of one to jump-off-a-cliff, today is an eight-point-five

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

I don’t feel like paragraphs. A list, in vaguely chronological order:

  1. A long, complicated dream in which I was nearly run over by a train, nearly crushed between two steel beams wielded by angry construction workers, and nearly killed in a head-on spaceship collision. I was leading a team of girls who suddenly ganged up on me and mutinied, so I tried to join a commune, but I picked a blue flower and no one wanted to be my friend any more. I tried racing ice-carts (no, I don’t know what they are either), but I missed my exit, and everyone made fun of me because I didn’t know how to get to Wisconsin. Then I was a black man searching through a haunted house for bits of magazine cutouts that I could put together to solve a puzzle, but before I found them all a mafioso in an alligator suit shot me for being gay. I woke up when I was bleeding, but not quite dead yet. This was around 4 in the morning.
  2. I woke up for real at 9:something when Wendy called to ask where my timesheet was. Hooray, I’ve neglected to do something important. Again.
  3. Had things to do, but spent most of the morning obsessing over things I SHOULD NOT be obsessing over because I’ve DONE this before and I KNOW where it goes and it’s NOT PRETTY. Stop it stop it stop it.
  4. The healthiest thing I ate today was a cup of yogurt. The second healthiest was a bag of fruit snacks.
  5. Today’s Narnia class was nearly useless. The only thing I learned is that I become more defensive than I expected I would when “secular academia” is dismissed off-hand as a tyrannical, monolithic, closed-minded institution.
  6. Having left class ten minutes late, I took a “shortcut” to make up the time, only to get my ass handed to me by traffic. I lost fifteen extra minutes trying to get around four exits of 59 and ended up *twenty* minutes late to my Kingwood class. I clawed my own arm hard enough to draw teeny tiny drops of blood. You might find this hard to believe, but I HATE being late to things. With a passion. It makes my chest twist up in knots.
  7. Made a girl cry in class today. Not boo-hooing—I don’t think anyone else noticed—but still, I felt guilty. The reason won’t make sense unless you know a lot about the course to begin with, so I won’t bother trying to explain it, but this is the second time one of my students has cried during this particular lesson. I know what the problem is, but I haven’t found a way around it yet, so I always dread teaching it. I’m teaching the same lesson again tomorrow to 17 students I haven’t yet met. Fan-fucking-tastic.
  8. The good thing about being able to switch into perky-fun teacher mode at the drop of a hat is that I can forget about the rest of the world for a few hours and concentrate all my energy on teaching. The bad thing is that when I snap back out of it, the weight of the real world seems extra-burdensome in comparison. It’s like Minesweeper, but slightly more fulfilling.
  9. My entire life these last few days (weeks?) has been one big existentialist crisis. All of a sudden I find myself constantly reminded that one day I will DIE and then I will NOT EXIST and everything will be OVER and the world is RANDOM and MEANINGLESS and ARBITRARY and there are so many things that I don’t understand but none of it even MATTERS because it’s NOT REAL it’s all pretend and how can everyone go on living their lives and not be CRUSHED by the EMPTINESS of it all. I dare say there never has been a more depressing thought.
  10. I’ve wasted a good chunk of yesterday and most of today, and now I have at least twice as much to do as time to do it. Same old same old. And now I’ve spent even more time writing this when I’d rather be asleep. And I feel like everyone’s stress level is running high right now, and there’s just tension tension tension, or maybe that’s just me, but anyway I don’t want to contribute to it but look at me I’m doing it right now.
  11. Can the weekend be here now please? And by weekend, I mean two days in a row when I don’t have things to do. Or even one day in a row. One day? Maybe one day when I only have one thing to do?
  12. This really isn’t a list of bad things about today any more. Now I’m just rambling. To think, I was happy(ish) this morning. (I didn’t remember the dream until right before I started typing this.) But somewhere along the way I got to feeling angry. Angry and sad. And if you know me, you know that I’m not an angry person. I hate anger; I think it’s pointless and only makes things worse. Like today. Ok, hush now. Go to sleep. You don’t have to type everything you think. Filter. Edit. Or they won’t come back. Ramble ramble ramble. Oh, I just remembered how I’d planned to end this post, but I’ve wandered so far off-topic that it doesn’t make sense any more. So I’ll stop here. Good night.

Mmm, blood

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

This morning one of our neighbors from down the street came by and told us they were having a quick five-minute communion at their house at 3. Well, my mom thought she said ‘communion,’ but I thought she said ‘meeting,’ so we went. Turns out Mom was right.

Not that I have anything against communion, but my family isn’t very religious. We only go to church on Christmas Eve, and even then it’s mostly for the sake of tradition. During the service my brother will sometimes go take communion…if he’s hungry. I personally am not at all religious, though I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about religion, mostly in the context of, “How can anyone seriously be religious at all when there are so many different flavors to choose from?”

But that’s a topic for another post, when there’s not a hurricane on its way. The point is that we went to this communion-thing. It was all very pleasant and friendly—reading some Bible verses, praying a little, eating Jesus crackers—and I haven’t seen most of my neighbors in a long, long time, so it wasn’t bad overall. I’m glad I went. It was a little eerie, though, when we all threw back the Dixie cups of wine in unison and I imagined that *this* must be what it was like to be in a cult.

Most of the people on our street are staying. A few tried to leave but got nowhere, so they gave up and came home. We’re mostly out of the storm’s way (see below), so I’m expecting all of our houses to survive with minimal damage. I heard that when Alicia came through, our neighborhood didn’t get power back for seven days, and needless to say I’m hoping Rita won’t repeat that performance.

Anyway, five minutes turned into forty-five, and by the end of the party I was wishing they’d given out refills. Making small talk with people I barely know is NOT my idea of good time. But we’re home now, and we’re finally seeing some cloud cover. No rain yet.

Our water district sent out an email this morning instructing us to limit non-essential water use after 6:00 this evening in case the power goes out and they have to turn on their backup pump. Mkay. We’ve still got power, and water, and cable, and I’ll be here blogging until the lights go out (after which I’ll grab pen and paper and go old-school). I’m a little bummed that Rita keeps getting weaker, but still…isn’t this exciting?! Yeehaw!