This evening, I was waiting for my new laptop to get through all its updates and my wife and I were watching NCIS while waiting, which allowed my eight-year-old daughter to stay up a little later than usual because… you know… we didn’t want to miss any of the NCIS episode to go tuck her in and I needed to be there to click “Next” on my laptop. Priorities.
While my daughter was, in turn, waiting for my wife and I to finish our important “tasks,” she grabbed some paper and colored pencils and wrote and illustrated a four-page book. Though the book doesn’t show off her graphic artistry (she can do much better), when I read the book, I was delighted… and proud. Here’s the book (click to embiggen).
Now, of course she doesn’t know everything, but if you’re going to learn everything, history and science are pretty good starting points. This creation of hers happened without any prompting on my part tonight, so I was especially pleased that she felt it was a cool enough topic to illustrate… in the 10 or 15 minutes she was waiting! She read it to me and my laptop and NCIS got ignored from that point.
I think my laptop is still prompting me to click “Next.”
I had a 25% off coupon for Borders that expired today, so I headed there to pick up a couple books. I ended up getting (among other things) Losing My Religion by William Lobdell and 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison. I also picked up The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias to see what kind of straw men he was going to set up for his attack.
When I got to the checkout counter, the woman ringing me up paused briefly to look at 50 Reasons and then paused longer to look at the cover when she was bagging my items. I smiled and said, "That one seems to fascinate you, huh?"
She looked up and smiled and said (a bit tentatively), "Yeah. I’m kind of an agnostic. You know, I could go either way. The books in the religion section can be pretty interesting."
I nodded in agreement and simply said, "I’m an atheist."
The reaction was priceless. Her whole face lit up and she said, "Oh, our atheist section has some really great books! The God Delusion and The Portable Atheist… I haven’t read those yet, but I’ve read some of the others."
I told her that The God Delusion was, indeed, very good and that The Portable Atheist was a huge collection of essays, also very good. I think she mentioned one other book in the atheist section, but I don’t recall which one. It was as if she’d found a kindred spirit. Her statement about agnosticism was very tentative and casual, something a disinterested person would have just said "Oh" to, but after I said I was an atheist, she very nearly gushed with enthusiasm.
It was refreshing… and heartening.
I stopped at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet today to check out what they had this week. I love browsing the book section because they frequently have literary classics in hardbound editions and I get them for my library. One other thing they always seem to have is an overabundance of Christian books… Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Lee Strobel, and a lot of other names I’ve never heard. The Ollie’s I went to today had over 6 rows of "Inspirational" books, almost 100% of them were some sort of Christian denomination (as a side note, I found it humorous that there was a Battlestar Galactica book that had been "mis-filed" among them).
The abundance of Christian books at a bargain outlet got me wondering. Are the proprietors of Ollie’s religious folks? Are Christian books notoriously hard to sell and wind up in the bargain bin because of it? Are Christian bookstores going out of business because they can’t compete with the big chains like Borders and Barnes and Noble? I don’t know the answer, but the situation is the same at both Ollie’s stores in my area.
It turned out for the best because I picked up a Max Lucado book for 99 cents.
It’s a perfect gag gift for Craig.
I was talking to a friend a couple days ago about some new books I’d just received from Amazon. I got Only a Theory by Kenneth Miller and Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer. He doesn’t really follow all the “Intelligent Design” shenanigans, so when I told him that one of the books was a sort of thrashing of ID.
He said, “Man… isn’t that horse deader than SeaBiscuit?”
I replied that sadly, it was not.
He said, “Maybe it got resurrected. It died, lay in a cave for three days, and then came back out.”
I’ve been following the John Freshwater trial, mostly via the write-ups by Richard B. Hoppe over at The Panda’s Thumb, but also through following some other articles on the case. For those of you unfamiliar, John Freshwater is a 8th grade science teacher in Mount Vernon who is accused of teaching Creationism and burning crosses on students using a Tesla Coil. I’m a bit skeptical about the crosses after seeing pictures and reading about the trial, but the “teaching Creationism” accusation seems to be spot on based on the evidence so far. The trial isn’t over, though, so no jumping to conclusions.
What I found blog-worthy tonight was a writeup by Lee Duigon on The Chalcedon Foundation’s website. Mr. Duigon focuses mostly on the branding issue, which is fair since that is one of the accusations levied against Freshwater. He starts by showing some early reactions from a number of sources about the branding issue and they (as one would expect, sadly) over-react in a grand fashion based on little evidence. Assuming Mr. Duigon is disgusted by this type of “string him up” reaction, I share his disgust.
I don’t have all the facts of the case. Nobody does at this point and the case is still ongoing. However, based on Freshwater’s reputation, my guess would be that he’s a good guy and probably a good teacher and there isn’t really any kind of underhanded conspiracy that he’s heading up to delude students. I don’t agree with teaching creationism (or intelligent design… same thing) in a science class, but I doubt Freshwater is any kind of monster.
However, there is some side commentary in Mr. Duigon’s article that shows a lack of understanding about science and the scientific process.
I’ve read quite a bit recently about Barack Obama being the Anti-Christ. There’s a chain email (in multiple versions) going around giving the Biblical predictions for this. It’s been covered on Snopes, but I just wanted to re-emphasize the nonsensical nature of it because I personally know someone who claims this to be true, citing the email as one of the pieces of evidence to back up her claim.
Here’s the gist of the email.
According to The Book of Revelations the anti-Christ is: The anti-Christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal…. the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything. Is it OBAMA??
Read the Snopes post for the full debunking, but there are a few points I want to reiterate here.
I am tired of hearing Christian theologians try to make the case that Hitler’s atheistic beliefs caused the deaths of untold millions. Â Hitler was not the poster child for atheism. Hitler was the poster child for nationalistic bigots. Let me set the record straight for all of the historically challenged who keep asserting this incorrect belief.
Hitler was NOT an atheist.
I’m fascinated by this quote by Carl Sagan from his book The Demon-Haunted World.
Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my childrenâ€™s or grandchildrenâ€™s time â€” when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and whatâ€™s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
I couldn’t agree more. When critical thinking and scientific know-how give way to complacent acceptance of unverified (or unverifiable) declaratory statements, whether they be dogmatic or not, human existence starts to lose its luster.