Only A Few More Hours Before 6 PM, May 21st–Those Expectiing “The Rapture” from Earthquakes Might Get It from Tasmanian Bomb

Sex bomb, that is.  This rapturous bomb got three big yeses from the judges in “Australia’s Got Talent” this past week.  It’s long past 6 PM in Australia.  Haven’t heard about any earthquakes there yet, but if they’ve got more “bombs” like this one, let the rapture begin!

It’s Already 6 PM, Saturday, May 21st, Somewhere in the World–Has Anyone Heard the Rumble of Any Big Earthquakes Yet?

This is just another reason that shows why religion is whack.  If one preposterous story is whack, it’s all whack.

I’m going to bed, not worried that any earthquake is going to blow me out of bed, but wondering if these hand exercises I’ve been doing will help with the carpal tunnel aggravation of the last couple of mornings.

Don’t y’all take too many wooden lava rocks!

Watch Christian TV Direct From This Site; See Previously Unseen Interpretations of the Word

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On the Road Home: Shut Up and Hang Up, or Why Don’t You Just Stop for a Psychic Reading?

They should pass a law that mini-vans always stay to the right.  The people (I’ll avoid stereotyping, but we all know who they are) that drive them are never going to drive anywhere near the speed limit.  With SUVs, though, it’s unpredictable.  Some of those drivers are the bullies of the highway and will never give the right-of-way to another vehicle.  On the other hand, sometimes, you’ll get stuck behind an SUV barely moving down the road, and you can almost predict who’s driving it–a soccer mom jawing away, waving her hands talking on the cell phone, oblivious to everything else happening on the road.

Tonight on my commute home, I wondered if there haven’t been surveys made that deal with the effect of cell phone drivers on the overall speed of the traffic.

Just in the middle of that thought, I had to stop at a red light, and noticed a business I had never seen before.  Right there in a semi-industrial area sits a Psychic Reader/Fortune Teller.  It’s close to a very busy intersection, but how many pull over in the middle of the morning or evening commute to get scammed out of few bucks to hear some fairy tale about their future?

I’m sure it’s mostly people for whom the $10 or $25 would be better spent on groceries or some other necessity.

But I went to a reader once, one time when I was feeling poor and low.  I didn’t feel any better after I had heard my fortune and was on my way home.  Nope, not better, just had even less money in my pocket.

Seeing that Palm Reader place tonight made me think of two other things that I’ve tried, and after a bit, decided that like fortune telling, they too have a lot of  hocus pocus involved:  gambling and religion.  Though others might not put them in the same category, both seem to make a lot of promises without any proof, and left me with less money in my pocket.

If others feel good for getting all the hocus pocus and pocket-fleecing, more power to them, but I’ll take a little dog’s lick on the ear to these any time.

And, yes, there have been surveys.  They say drivers using cell phones make our commute about 5-10% longer.  So all you yappers:  shut up and drive!

It’s 2:15 AM, But You Should Read This Book

Boswell book(Yes, it’s 2:15 AM, and luckily, tomorrow starts my vacation, and I will only have to wake up to take Annie out to do her business, and then I can crash again if I want. But someone posted a comment to one of my old posts, and responding to took enough time and effort that I decided to add a bit and use it as its own post.)

Beliefs. When it comes to beliefs, we have to make some distinctions.

If I put a pan of water on the stove, add some salt, turn on the burner, and wait until the water starts to boil at 212 degrees fahrenheit, I believe that if I dump the linguini into the water, it will be cooked a little more than al dente in about 8 minutes. On the other hand, maybe I’m cutting the grass, and I spy a four-leaf clover at the edge of the sidewalk, and say to myself, “Hey, I believe I’m in for a bit of good luck. Then, if some positive happens, I can attribute it to finding the four-leaf clover; however, if nothing significant takes place, I can just forget about it, and say, “Oh, well,” and wait until another “sign” like another four-leaf clover comes along.

That’s my take on beliefs, and if I haven’t drawn a clear enough picture for you, you’re not ready for Philosophy 101.

So that’s what applies in my comment below. (If my transition is weak, now it’s 2:30 AM.)

I always get tickled when religious people want to come back and say to me, “You’re angry.” Obviously, you haven’t read much else here on the blog.

You say you’ve made sacrifices. Most people in their lives have made sacrifices, but there is a difference between rights as a citizen of this country and whatever personal sacrifices people make to have the life they want. Just because some people have certain personal religious beliefs should not mean that others in this country should be prevented from having the same rights as everyone else. You as a married person have a whole slew of rights granted to you by the government besides the most obvious–marriage itself, but also the many spousal benefits that go along with it, not to mention being able to be open about who you are in the military, or even more simply to give blood.

When you start to add god into the picture, I say, “Whose god?” There are many denominations that have no problem accepting gay marriage and full equality across the board. We don’t have a theocratic government system in the U.S. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have governmental laws based on Islam, and whatever side of the political fence you sit on in this country, I have heard few people advocating they would like a government like that in this country.

You say: “I don’t think gay people are less than others, I never said that, so I don’t know where you got that. I think that gay people choose to believe that God is okay with their choice and I believe that they are mistaken.”

I “get that” because you chose to comment to my post and indicate that you are against gay marriage. What is inherent in what you say is that you think your beliefs are the correct beliefs and based on those beliefs, gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married in this country. You say “they are mistaken” and that indicates that they cannot have what you have–marriage–which indicates you do think gay people are less.

This is really no different than in theocratic countries where women are treated as “less”. Based on those laws, the wife has to walk behind the husband, cover her head and most of her body, and in some countries not be able to drive a car. Oh, but sure, he doesn’t think she’s “less” than he is, does he?

One thing that always gets me and every other gay person I know is that when people tell them being gay is a choice. I just don’t buy that you have any gay people whom you are really close to; otherwise, you just would not say or even think that.

Did you make a choice NOT to be gay? Chew on that a moment, and you have to realize that gay people don’t make a choice NOT to be straight. Are you left-handed or right-handed? Did you make a choice about that? Back in the good ol’ days, especially in parochial schools, left-handed kids got their hands whacked with a ruler or even had their left hands tied behind their backs to force them to use their right hands because being left-handed was thought to be wrong by some people. I guess in your way of thinking being left-handed wasn’t in god’s plan.

There’s no fork in the road of life where people choose to be left-handed or right-handed. Likewise, there’s no fork in the road where people choose to be gay, straight, or even something in the middle. Like being left-handed or right-handed, it just how we are wired.

The problem is that some religions and some people want to attach some kind of moral significance to that wiring.

Where there is a choice, however, is in what people choose to believe. As part of their beliefs, the Aztecs sacrificed other human beings; the people of Salem believed that some of the local women were witches and burned them to death; some people from Latin countries believe that if a pregnant woman looks at a full moon, the baby will have a mark on its face; some Hindus believe that cows are sacred; and the Pope of the medieval church believed that the earth was flat, and, thus, Galileo was a heretic and driven out of the church.

Through the ages, beliefs have changed. People learn, people grow, people use logic and knowledge. (Others, however, keep on with the same ol’ superstitions and fairy tales.)

But just what is it with christians and homosexuality anyway? The bible really doesn’t say that much about it, and the lines there are come from way back in the part where there are all sorts of weird old Jewish rules, like not letting dwarfs or invalids anywhere near the altar and not touching the skin of a pig. There’s a bunch of stuff like that back in Leviticus, but nobody, even those people who say they take every word of the bible literally adhere to any of that, but somehow they pull out homosexuality as being just about the worst thing anybody could be.

Never mind that it’s not on the top ten list of biblical no-no’s. I mean shouldn’t adultery be written into U.S. law? I’m pretty sure it’s there on that big ol’ tablet that Moses came down the mountain with. But I didn’t see any christians advocating for any laws against adultery when Governor Sanford was/is having his fling with his Argentine “soul mate” or after Senator Vitter got caught cheating on his wife with prostitutes. Why aren’t all the christians up in arms about that? (Remember that ol’ song “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”?)

Why did the Aztecs believe they should sacrifice other humans? Why did the people of Salem believe some of the local women were witches and burn them to death? Why did people believe the world was flat?

(But based on your thinking, not those sacrificed by the Aztecs, the women put to death in Salem, nor even Galileo were “less”, because, of course, the Aztecs, the people of Salem, and the medieval church were all just following the laws based on their beliefs.)

And I think this should be a question for you. WHY do you believe what you believe. (I heard that ol’ Sunday School song “Cuz the Bible Tells Me So” many times, but that just doesn’t cook the linguini any more than the four-leaf clover cooks it.)

In the end, you can believe whatever you believe. If you want to believe a rock is a hairbrush, you can believe that, especially if some church elder has convinced you that a rock is a hairbrush. And would you dare question that with a “Why?”.

In the same way that some parents’ religious beliefs should not prevent their child with cancer from being treated, your own and others’ religious beliefs should not prevent gay people from marrying the person whom they love.

Finally, you need to read this book: “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality” by John Boswell.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Would Not Stop Anyone’s Religious Free Speech; Read the Bill, Then Shut Up!

hate-crimeFirst of all, I can’t say I am whole-heartedly in favor of the hate crimes bill in Congress. For my tax dollars spent on social issues of this kind, I’d much rather see Congress, first, get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The bill, which if enacted, would be called the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. (Click to the bill from the Library of Congress. Read it; it’s just one page.) After reading it for myself, I’m getting sick of all the christian whiners all over the net crying that they are going to lose their ability to spew out hate. The bill does basically these things:

  • Gives the necessity for having such laws
  • Defines what hate crimes are
  • Says the support, both financial and otherwise, can be given to state and local jurisdictions, especially when the crime involves more than one state or in rural areas, basically in the form of grants
  • Gives more specifics on what hate crimes are (those involve bodily injury and death)
  • Explains in what situations the federal government can get involved
  • Explains what evidence is admissible
  • Explains that the Act follows the Constitution, which gives free speech.

In fact, the bill directly stipulates that speech, including religious speech, is still protected; read from Section 10:

    • (3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.
    • (4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

If someone says that his religious speech will be limited because of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, he hasn’t read it, or he is just lying and trying to stir things up for others who won’t bother to read it.

Grandfield, Oklahoma, Small Town Teachers, and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”

photolaramiepjct1I feel sorry for Grandfield, Oklahoma, its people, and its school. I’ve never been there, but I feel like I know it. I doubt that it’s much different than many small towns dotted all over the Great Plains.

Bigger than many similar little prairie towns, Grandfield has a population of around a thousand people and sits out in what some would call “the sticks” between Wichita Falls, Texas and Lawton, Oklahoma. The high school itself is a small one (74 students in the 2006-2007 school year).

But now this small town and its school are getting national attention because of the dismissal of one of the high school’s teachers, whose students were working on a production of “The Laramie Project”, the story of Matthew Shephard, the Wyoming college student brutally murdered in an anti-gay attack a decade ago. (Read the story from the Lawton, OK newspaper here and here.)

If you look at the school district’s website, you realize that Grandfield probably has a good school. The fact that a school this size even has a website is evidence of this, but aside from the fact that some of its sports pages could do with some updating, the school’s site is well done.

From what I’ve read about the main players in this controversy (the superintendent–a Mr. Ed Turlington, and the dismissed teacher–Debra Taylor), it seems likely that there probably have been some “philosophical differences” between them. Added to that, by looking at the school’s schedule of classes, it’s not difficult to see that there could have been some varying points of view among the faculty members about what should be taught in classes in this school.

In most small schools, the teachers generally have an overlap of the subjects they teach; for example, a math teacher might have to teach some of the science courses too, or the physical education teacher might also teach history and driver’s education. Sometimes, because of class size or lack of funds, even the superintendent or the principal (who might also actually be the same person) has to teach a class or two.

On the other hand, because of the small size, teachers who have a special interest may be given the opportunity to teach more topic specific courses. By looking at the class schedule again, this looks as if what might have been the case in Grainfield. Ms. Taylor’s schedule includes an Ethics class and a Street Law class, not your run-of-the-mill courses generally taught in small rural schools. Likewise, there is a class listed as the Bible as Literature, taught by a C. Turlington, (whom we can assume has some relationship with the superintendent), also not a course that we’d find in most small public high schools, nor for that matter, even large public high schools.

Just looking at those course listings, at first one might think how lucky the students are to have such choices. But courses like those are not instituted without some push from somebody who wants them to be taught or who wants to teach them. When you see the outcome of the teacher’s being dismissed, it’s seems like there probably was some undercurrent of discord because of differences of opinion about what should be taught in this school and in these classes long before the “Laramie Project” situation.

Even so, this problem seems to be one that should stay a local one. The biggest story about this small school should be one about a sports team winning a championship or an FFA member taking a Grand Championship ribbon at the state fair.

PFLAG groups getting involved on the side of the teacher and the Phelps family coming to town to rail against “The Laramie Project” should not be what brings attention to this school and town. Issues in small towns are small town issues, no matter what they are. In the end, it is the locally-elected school board that decides what is best for the school.

Outsiders getting involved only exacerbates the conflict and will make it much harder for those in the town itself to come back together. Because come back together they will have to, one way or another. You just can’t avoid people in a small town like you can in a big city. People who do not grow up in a small town just have no understanding how close-knit the people who live there are. People from outside trying to favor one point or the other are going to be looked at as “meddlers”. That’s why I feel sorry for the people of this community. They don’t need all of that interference.

But even I am taking a side here. First of all, there is no reason for a class like “The Bible as Literature” to be taught in that school or any public school. If students need more literature than they are getting in their English classes, the school should offer AP (Advanced Placement) Literature to get them ready for college. I’m sure Grandfield has a number of churches that have Bible Study classes, Sunday School, and Summer Bible School, from which anyone interested could get all the Bible Lit. they wanted.

On a more personal note, years ago, I had a “Debra Taylor” as my English teacher. Her name, though, was Mrs. Anna Herman, and she was my English teacher for all my years at Dorrance (Kansas) High School. Not only was she the English teacher, but she started a speech and debate program in one of the smallest schools in the state at that time (about 40 students in grades 9-12). This gave us the opportunity to compete against schools much larger in size, something that sports usually doesn’t do.

virginia-woolfWhat makes this situation in Grandfield seem so similar is that when I was a senior, Mrs. Herman suggested that my classmate and I do a piece from Edward Albee’s play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. At that time, this controversial drama had just come out as a movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton cast as the leads. The cutting that our teacher wanted us to do was from some of the Taylor-Burton scenes. However, before we could work on the piece, she asked that we get our parents to go watch the movie at the theater.

Back in the 60s, the film’s subject matter was considered raw and the language strong, but when compared with today’s films, or even TV shows, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” would  seem fairly “tame”. But in 1966, it was a cutting-edge movie, and not an easy one for 17-year-olds to watch with their parents, let alone 17-year-olds with farm parents from a town of about 300 people .

The 15-mile drive home from the show was a very quiet one.

However, we got to do “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” as our speech competition piece because our parents trusted and believed in Mrs. Herman. To this day, after all these many years, I’m proud to say that we got a first place in every speech contest that we entered, including the state competition.

We also presented our piece in front of the school and parents a couple of times, and always got a positive reception; even though the people from my little town were both conservative and religious, they also were the type of people who recognized the importance of their kids’ getting an education that would prepare them for life beyond the farm and our little town.

And you know what? Mrs. Herman wasn’t some sort of liberal interloper from the outside. She was a farmer’s wife who had gone back to school later in life to get her degree and teaching credentials, but she was a teacher who gave her all so that her students would have more opportunities and realize that the world goes a lot further than just the county line.

I don’t know Debra Taylor, but I have an idea that she might be the same kind of teacher.

This may be the problem with some of the people in Grandfield, Oklahoma: that narrow-mindedness is interfering with giving kids an education to help them prepare for the world beyond their town.

(Just for the record: Anna Herman was the sister of Johnny Locke, who coached basketball for many years at Natoma High School in the 1950s and 60s and was one of the winningest coaches in Kansas high school history.)