online deals. Much of the time, this means little more than stocking up on some of the atheist books I have not bought yet and want to read over the holidays. This year was different. This year, I actually bought a new desktop computer and monitor. If I had bought a new setup for my home use, this would be very exciting. I bought this setup for work though, and that makes it quite a bit less of a thrill.
After struggling for several months with the computer equipment provided by the state of Mississippi for me to do my job, I reached the difficult conclusion that it was simply inadequate. The amount of time and effort I have wasted using obsolete computer equipment could be spent elsewhere with much more of an impact. So like many K-12 teachers who end up having to spend far too much of their own money on supplies their employer should provide, I decided I'd just buy what I needed myself. Fortunately, I was able to find a setup that should be more than sufficient for the next 3-5 years at a decent price. I even decided to treat myself to a larger monitor than I've ever had at work before. If I'm paying for it anyway, why not get one a few inches larger?
November 26, 2015
|By Ben Franske, via Wikimedia Commons|
By way of context, I should note that I've always had issues with food. I know that lots of people do, and mine aren't appreciably worse than anybody else's. At the same time, I must acknowledge that they seem to be fairly weird. I say that because of all the people I've met in the course of my life, I've yet to come across someone who seems to derive less pleasure from food than I do, viewing it as something of a necessary evil. Whether it is fair or not (I think it is), I blame my family for this. They had and still have some odd attitudes toward food, and I believe that the manner in which they handled the fact that I was a very picky eater as a child is a big part of why I ended up the way I ended up.
With that out of the way, I'll get back to the memory that came back to me last night. It concerns the traditional Thanksgiving meal in my childhood home. If we were at home that year and not at the home of a friend or relative, the traditional meal was exactly the same every year: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, a green vegetable (e.g., green beans, asparagus, broccoli), and either pumpkin or pecan pie for dessert. This is what was prepared and served every year. I never enjoyed any of this particular meal. I didn't hate it, but none of it was terribly appealing. Had someone told me that they were going to prepare a special meal for my birthday or something, none of the items on this traditional Thanksgiving menu would have appeared on it.
November 24, 2015
|A collage of Native Americans dressed in European attire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Racism, along with Christianity, fueled manifest destiny and the campaign of genocide our ancestors waged against Native Americans. Racism, along with Christianity, justified slavery prior to its abolition and the appalling treatment of Black Americans following abolition. We see their role in how Chinese immigrants were treated as they built the railroads, the Tuskegee experiments, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the conditions experienced by Native Americans living on reservations, and the hatred aimed at Latino immigrants.
We have been hearing a great deal from our politicians these days about how our reluctance to accept Syrian refugees is inconsistent with our nation's history. "We are a nation of immigrants," we are told. And yet, each and every wave of immigrants to enter this country has been viewed with suspicion by nativists, xenophobes, and racists. Ellis Island is a nice image, but we must not forget how the newly arriving immigrants were treated by those who were already here or how previous waves of immigrants would treat subsequent waves. Those insisting that Americans welcomed immigrants with open arms seem to have a very short or selective memory.
November 22, 2015
|Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I was mad at the theocratic agenda of the Christian extremists who voters in the U.S. seemed to keep electing and who had a disproportionately large role in setting foreign and domestic policy. I was mad at the widespread bigotry directed at atheists and the fact that this particular form of bigotry was not just socially acceptable but almost mandatory for politicians seeking office. I was mad that I couldn't even disclose my feelings about religion without losing friends, risking my job, or opening myself up to retaliation from evangelical fundamentalist Christians who were quick to condemn anyone who wasn't "saved."
Just being mad was enough to sustain this blog initially. I'd guess that it was sufficient for maybe the first year. Most of my posts were little more than brief and not terribly insightful comments on various news stories that had something to do with the costs of religious extremism or the mistreatment of secular persons. These would be interspersed with periodic rants in which I vented on a variety of topics.
November 19, 2015
|Raging Apathy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
There are many different scenarios where we label others as "part of the problem" (e.g., the atheist who tarnishes the public image of atheism, the atheist who holds socio-political views with which we disagree, people who are overly inclusive in the manner in which they value human life). It seems to me that two of the most common involve the admission of apathy in response to some form of activism and inaction from a bystander. By examining each of these, it should not be difficult to understand the temptation of labeling others as being part of the problem. We might also be able to spot some of the potential dangers of doing so.
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