Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Half-hearted religious ramblings

This post might be a bit incoherent, since I'm a little tired (by a little tired, I mean I was practically falling asleep at my desk about an hour ago). But I caught a snippet of a Nightline report last night about the "Blasphemy Challenge" put forth by an atheist group. It consists of people recording themselves denouncing belief in God or gods. Of course, the religious establishment was up in arms about this, and the group has received death threats. Even the reporter appeared to be questioning the group's motives, calling it "indoctrination" against religious indoctrination, because they advertise to teenagers. Religious types seem to think that people can't think for themselves, can't be presented with evidence and make up their own minds without the hand of God or advertisers. While, like any ideological faction, atheism has its adherents who take the ideology too far and try everything to bring others to their way of thinking, at its heart, all the Blasphemy Challenge is doing is challenging people to reject religion. Whether or not they do it is up to them. No one is saying, "Denounce God or I'll kill you," unlike some fanatical Christians and Muslims still populating the world in the 21st century.
At this point, I have to say that I consider myself an agnostic, not an atheist. Some atheists, as Richard Dawkins relates in his book The God Delusion, consider agnosticism an easy way out, a way of having the best of both worlds. They say the existence of God can be proven. But I myself cannot prove this one way or another. I find the existence of a supreme being highly unlikely, but not necessarily impossible, and for that reason I have decided not to adhere myself to any particular faith. The uncertainty and hardships that populate our world, natural disasters, harsh climates, living things suffering, do not succeed in convincing me that there is any divine hand guiding us. We are just here, evolved from other life forms, some with higher degrees of intelligence and self-awareness than others, and I can see how that can be difficult to face without the promise of an afterlife or faith to guide the time spent on earth. However freeing it is to no longer pledge allegiance to a god, to live life for the here and now, some cannot bring themselves to take that step. As Albert Camus said, freedom is not a gift, but a chore.
Another prominent atheist, Isaac Asimov, said that the Bible is the best argument for atheism that exists. Richard Dawkins appears to agree. He views the god of the Old Testament the same way I do, as a petty, fickle, angry being that happens to have dominion over the earth. This god demands allegiance, and if he doesn't get it, he'll turn you into salt or command one of his followers to wipe out you and your entire race. Some believers, my mother included, have tried to explain that the Old Testament god was simply acting as a parent and disciplining the young human race. But if this is the supreme being I'm supposed to worship, an omniscient being who is preoccupied with how many sacrifices and prayers he gets, you'll have to forgive me for not wanting any part of it. The god of the Old Testament has the personality of a tyrannical dictator, much like the one that would later imprison and kill off the "chosen people," Adolf Hitler. No wonder so many Jews decided to abandon religion altogether and become communists, atheists and secular humanists.
Dawkins goes on to question, in a section of the book I haven't yet finished reading, if the New Testament is really any better, as many Christians insist that Jesus wiped away the vengeful god of old and replaced him with a kinder gentler deity. Jesus says in the New Testament that anyone who is not for you is against you. Bertrand Russell said that Jesus could not be considered truly moral because he believed in hell. Hell, that scare tactic of fanatical Christians since the Middle Ages, where the loving god sends those who commit any sin arbitrarily decided by him to eternal torture. Jesus has some admirable teachings, like love thy neighbor (although, as Dawkins suggests, this might only be intended to apply to other Jews, making Christians and Jews free to torment unbelievers) and turn the other cheek. But the Bible, as many have pointed out, is full of contradictions, not the least of which is two separate creation myths (try telling that to the creationists), and a lot of Jesus' better teachings are just common decency, which most of us practice with or without fear of hell.
Why, as the religious types suggest, do I need faith to be a good person? One of the major reasons Ronald Reagan didn't like the Soviets was because, as he said, they didn't believe in God and were therefore immoral. Recently, the US was attacked by men who believed so much in their god they were willing to die to please his capricious whims in the hopes of being treated to 72 virgins in the afterlife (that's the Muslim idea of heaven, which says a lot about their view of women). The fact is, people do bad things. They kill, rob and rape each other, with or without religious convictions. Just because I don't fear a god sending me to hell doesn't mean that I would rob and murder at will. When I visited Amsterdam, I didn't smoke pot, even though it was legal and widely available, because I didn't want to. I don't believe in violence as a way to solve my problems, whether or not I have a supreme being peering over my shoulder. I help out those in my life who need it because I think it's the right thing to do and I want to, not to gain access into a magical kingdom after I die. What the religious fanatics preach is an ethical system based on reward and punishment, in other words, fear.
I think I've gone on long enough. I was just in one of those moods where the thoughts kept coming and I could barely type fast enough to keep up. I'm sure I'll read this tomorrow and think, "I shouldn't have said that" or "I should have phrased that differently." Luckily, I know my friends won't send me death threats because of the views I've expressed here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Prison Break and faith healers

As you might have guessed, I am ridiculously excited about the return of Prison Break tonight. We loyal fans have been waiting almost two months for a resolution to the killer cliffhanger at the end of the last episode. Aside from T-Bag finally catching up to the woman who sent him to prison, and former CO badass Bellick now sharing a cell with feared Fox River inmate Avocado, Michael and Lincoln are now in a strange spot. Mahone and Kellerman orchestrated an escape opportunity so they could kill the brothers as per their instructions from the company. When they took the bait, Mahone and Kellerman followed them, boxing them in. Then Kellerman, who organized the plan, took out his gun and shot...Mahone. Kellerman, stonewalled by the President's inner circle, now wants to exact revenge by helping Michael and Linc. But I'm not ready to trust him. He's not exactly known for his sincerity, and I think he plans on using Michael and Linc to get back in with the president. As for Mahone, it looked like he got shot in the shoulder, so he might survive. I hope he does, I don't think his story is finished yet. His dynamic with Michael (two similar characters on opposite sides is always a good story) has been the best thing about the current season. Whatever happens, I know I'll be watching, on the edge of my seat, hooked on every last twist and turn.
Onto a more serious topic. I recently read The Faith Healers by James Randi, a book that exposes preachers who claim to heal the sick by divine powers. The researchers for the project could not find one successful healing reported, and several people died after believing they had been "healed" and forgoing proper medical treatment. And of course, these "healers" lived in luxury off the contributions of the faithful. When one woman begged for some of her money back because she was severely in debt after contributing almost all of her savings to this organization, and she was turned away. The healers' techniques are based in trickery. One, Peter Popoff, had an earpiece where his wife relayed information she had received from questioning the audience, information Popoff later called out during the show and claimed came from God. To test this "divine knowledge," Randi and associates made up fake ailments which they related to the questioners working the crowd before the show. Randi says, if this information truly came from an omniscient deity, shouldn't this deity have revealed that the related information was false? But instead, they were "cured" of ailments they didn't have. Some healers even place people in wheelchairs to have them dramatically stand up, although the afflicted person never needed to be in a wheelchair. The "healers" are making millions of dollars from selling false hope to the sick. These people are criminals. But they're criminals protected by the cloak of religion, and to date, none have been prosecuted for making money under false pretenses (if this isn't true, and anyone knows of a faith healer who has been prosecuted, I'd like to hear about it), despite several scathing articles written by dedicated journalists, and Randi's book.
On a related topic, I was extremely disheartened to hear my mother, an otherwise rational woman under the spell of the Vatican, say that she believes in angels and demons possibly populating the world and controlling our actions. Even if an exorcist (and the Vatican still, in the 21st century, has an official exorcist) temporarily eases the mind of a mentally unstable person who believes they have been possessed by the devil, the basic mental illness is still there, and cannot be eradicated through prayers and holy water. The problem is, the fanatics believe that all they need is divine intervention, and disregard the real need for medical treatment as a result of blind faith. And the faith healers of the world are manipulating these beliefs and getting rich off of it, and they need to be stopped.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Missouri kidnapping suspect

To be honest, I don't think I know enough about this case to provide a detailed analysis. All this article says is that the suspect has pleaded not guilty, and that the county prosecutors are reconsidering another abduction case from 15 years ago in light of his arrest. The suspect is 6'4" and weighs 300 pounds, and the man described as being with the abducted boy was "tall and thin." I'll buy tall, but 300 pounds is not thin, even on a 6'4" frame. For comparison, Edmund Kemper, the "Coed Killer" who terrorized Santa Cruz in the 1970s, also weighed 300 pounds, and was 6'9", but no one ever called him thin.
The boys were found in the suspect's apartment, which leaves me wondering how he could plead not guilty. His lawyers say that he couldn't get a fair trial in the county with all the publicity surrounding the case. But in the 15-year-old abduction case, it seems that the authorities are trying to pin a cold case on a new suspect, which has happened before. When Ed Gein was arrested in the 1950s, almost every missing persons case in the Plainfield, Wisconsin area was attempted to be tied to him. Henry Lee Lucas confessed to practically every unsolved murder his interrogators threw at him, and ultimately evidence forced him to recant his staggering confession. When Atlanta was in the grips of the infamous Child Murders in the early 1980s, and Wayne Williams was officially charged with two of the murders loosely linked in the case, he was presumed guilty for all of the murders. Although the murders stopped when Williams was arrested, and there is conclusive evidence linking him to the two victims for whose murders he was charged, most criminiologists now believe that more than one killer was operating in Atlanta at the time. Even if this Missouri kidnapper is guilty of the abduction of the two boys found in his apartment, that doesn't mean he's guilty of an admittedly similar abduction. Sadly, hundreds of children are kidnapped every year. In a desperate attempt to close the case, Missouri investigators might rely on coercion to get a confession, even if the real kidnapper is someone else. In the words of Nice Guy Eddie from Reservoir Dogs: "If you torture him enough, he'll tell you he started the Great Chicago Fire, that doesn't make it so."

Monday, January 15, 2007

A great night at Bound

I had an amazing time at Bound last Friday. Some hot scenes, great music courtesy of DJs Panic and Blacula, and lots of good friends. I saw John and Emily for the first time since SMB back in September. John has been very sympathetic to my man troubles, and he told me on Friday, "You know, you're hot, you're cool, you're smart, why do you care about these guys?" When I hear it put like that, and in the back of my mind, I know I shouldn't care, but I guess I can't help it. When it comes to love and lust, our intellects aren't exactly the deciding factor most of the time. I met a newcomer to the scene on Friday, and was flirting with him all night, and he seemed to respond, but he ultimately went off with another girl. The best part was, after an initial flash of jealousy, I really didn't care. I didn't really like the guy, he was just a guy who was there who mildly appealed to me. I'm sure I'll get another night where I'll have a newbie to break in, one who won't abandon me in favor of someone else.
I think I have a new favorite dom at Bound. Don't worry Todd, Donna, Andy and Klawdya, I will always want your services. But I met Jesse on New Year's Eve, and saw him again on Friday, and he did quite a number on me. He has a great technique, and some very interesting toys. And he was nice enough to drive me and Cat to the Metro at the end of the night. All in all, a great night. I will definitely try to make it to Bound more often.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush says: "More troops to Iraq"

As illustrated by the thoughts of several Iraqi citizens (you know, the people this war was supposed to help), the US presence is not helping. One civil servant says that it is a mistake to focus on the military when the problem is politics. The insurgency is still a problem, but the major focus, now that we've gotten ourselves stuck in this mess, should be on building a solid government, which is what the US promised Iraq, after searching in vain for WMDs, of course.
One Iraqi even called the escalation of troops "undemocratic," since it's not what the majority of Americans want. I have no comment on that, I think it speaks for itself. Another Iraqi said that the government has promised a lot but hasn't delivered. Iraq might become an American-style democracy after all.
But Bush wants more troops put in harm's way in Iraq. Another Iraqi citizen expressed fears that a greater US military presence might even escalate the violence. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein and installing a democratic government was a noble thought, but it didn't quite work in practice. Bush admitted to a "mistake" in his Iraq policy, but will sending in more troops correct it, or will more US soldiers and Iraqis die in pursuit of a so-far elusive goal (and the all but impossible goal of stamping out terrorism)? We'll have to wait and see.
A while ago, Saddam Hussein was executed for his crimes against his enemies. Bush says he didn't watch the video. I'm afraid I'll have to call bullshit on that, but don't hold me to it, I don't have any proof. I find it very hard to believe that Bush didn't watch the man who he said tried to kill his father getting hanged. We all know how much Bush loves a good execution, and this was the biggest one in years, and it was Bush's sworn enemy getting killed. Based on this circumstantial evidence, I have to conclude that Bush and his league of evil were sitting at the White House cheering as Hussein was led to the gallows. But like I said, I have no proof, so don't force me to take an oath and testify.

My political ranting aside, things are starting to look up for me. I've all but forgotten about the last two guys who screwed me over, and I got to see Dolphy and Angie after a way too long absence at Entre Nous last Saturday. Dolphy said she'd have something for me at Bound tomorrow night, so I'll be coming back to Club Lime to find out what she's got. I haven't been to Bound in far too long.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Assorted theological and political musings

As you may have noticed, I changed the name of my blog. The first title was off the cuff, uninspired, and every time I saw it I hated it. But I didn't change it, because I didn't know what to change it to. After seeing another blog subtitled, "From a godless liberal" I thought, this is perfect. What better phrase to encapsulate what my blog is all about? So I am now Salomedesade: Godless Liberal.
On to something I've been thinking about for a while. The Bible, that historical document/holy text that many believers take literally to the detriment of differing beliefs and rationality in general, works best as a surrealist novel. Like all works of fiction, it incorporates elements from the time it was written, so it has historical significance in that respect. The fantastical devices it employs, epic floods, voices in the sky, raising the dead, are not meant to be realistic, but are used to make a general point. Through the supernatural fiction elements, a basic theme of the nature of humanity and how to live comes through to most people, the ones who don't dwell on the gory punishment parts. While the Bible imparts valuable life lessons in parts, altruism and unconditional love, its implausible explanation of the creation of the world should not be taken literally to the detriment of real science and science education and it should not be used as an excuse to murder and pillage those who don't interpret it the same way. Have you ever heard of literature scholars killing each other over differing interpretations of Marquez's or Borges' (masters of magical realism) works? Maybe that's not the proper way to speak of a text that so many hold sacred, but like I said, I'm an unbeliever, and an English major.
My parents and I were talking about Gitmo today (we are all firmly opposed to "President" Bush's foreign "policy"), and my dad said he was surprised that Cuba hasn't kicked us out yet. After all, the US has been at cultural war with communist Cuba and its now ailing dictator Fidel Castro since the 1960s. So I was thinking, the US is housing prisoners suspected of plotting against America in a country they know hates America. For all we know, the Cubans are secretly aiding the "evil" Arab terrorists housed there (if any) in a massive plot to destroy America. But I'm the paranoid type.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Post New Year's Eve report

I had an interesting weekend to close out the year. On Saturday I went to Entre Nous to help my friend Sharon celebrate her birthday, and it was one of my best trips to EN in a long time. I saw a lot of friends who I hadn't seen in a long time, and had a very nice bathroom break with someone (that's all I'm saying here, I'll leave the rest to your filthy imaginations). And Larry B. played some Def Leppard, which got my ass all over the dance floor. At the Bound/Entre Nous bash at the Republic Gardens on Sunday, I had a great time with all my friends, but two exes were also there, both with the new girlfriends they ditched me for. I hope I created a bit of an envious stir in them in my red dress (which I got several compliments on), but most likely they just ignored me. Although that would have been difficult if they were downstairs while James was using his vibrator glove on me. Maverick said they could probably hear me down the street.
I have to admit I got a bit depressed around midnight, with everyone off in pairs kissing each other to ring in the new year, and me all alone. But I got over that quickly, with my amazing friends coming up to me to wish me a happy new year (two asshole guys excluded). All in all, not a bad way to start the new year. Thank you to Todd and Jennifer, and Todd and Elena of LoveVoodoo, for hosting this huge event.
To all of you out there in my MySpace and Blogspot net universe, I wish you a happy new year, and I wish you the very best, even if the best is yet to come to me. Don't let me get you down with all of my complaining about the lack of love in my life.