October 31, 2013

Top 5 Scariest Christians in Film

FootlooseAfter generating a list of my top 10 most disturbing horror films, it occurred to me that it might be fun to do a different sort of list, one focusing on the scariest depictions of Christians in film. There are so many to choose from here, and it was particularly difficult to make my selections because some of the best depictions of fundamentalist Christians are not really scary, at least not in the horror sense. They are scary more because they remind us of people we know or used to know in real life. Anybody remember John Lithgow's performance as the dad in Footloose? I remember turning to my best friend in the theater and exchanging a knowing look because the character reminded us both of a mutual friend's father. Now, that was scary!

For this list, I decided to limit myself to the five of the scariest Christians I have seen on film and to think of the depictions that were truly frightening, disturbing, or unsettling in a general way and not simply because they reminded me of someone. On to the list!

October 30, 2013

Childfree or Not

Children at N.Y. Zoo  (LOC)
Children at N.Y. Zoo (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
As a middle aged guy with no children and someone who has never had any desire to have children, I sometimes use the "childfree" label to describe myself. I find that to be an accurate descriptor along with all the other terms I might use to describe myself (e.g., atheist). So yes, I am childfree. At least, I think I am.

What I didn't realize until fairly recently is that "childfree" is a label over which some people are quite protective. Evidently, not everyone without children and who does not intend to have children is supposed to use the label.

After responding to a tweet from someone identifying herself as "childfree," I found myself in an exchange with someone I will call X that looked something like this:
Me: I know what you mean about being viewed as abnormal by some of those with kids and being excluded from lots of activities.
X: Yeah, it sucks. Are you childfree too?
Me: No kids and no interest in ever having them. In fact, I can't ever recall thinking that I might want kids someday.
X: When did you get snipped (vasectomy)?
Me: I haven't. I don't really have a reason to have that done at this point in my life.
X: Ha! Then you aren't childfree!
Me: I do not need a vasectomy because I am not sexually active. I'm not going to get someone pregnant by not having sex with them.
X: Still not childfree.
Me: If I don't have children and I'm not having sex, how am I not childfree?
X: You could still have them. You are not childfree.
Technically, she's right. I could still have children. I could also start believing in gods. Does that mean I should not be permitted to call myself an atheist?

October 29, 2013

How Can Atheists Not Believe?

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I would venture a guess that nearly all atheists have at one time or another asked themselves some version of the following question: With all we have learned from science, how can so many people cling to ancient superstitions in this modern age? I have certainly asked the question many times as have most of the atheist bloggers I read (see a recent example from Dangerous Talk). As tempting as the question is to ask, I wonder if it may be the wrong question.

Why do so many believe such ridiculous stories? Consider the fact that nearly everyone they trust believes the same things, including their families and friends. Also consider the myriad ways in which the culture surrounding them promotes these stories. It is not merely a matter of a brief period of indoctrination; many people will be surrounded by these social pressures their entire lives. And the stories, no matter how absurd, seem to make many people feel good. At least, believing them appears to be a source of comfort to many. The stories may also foster a sense of community among those who believe them (i.e., shared values).

October 28, 2013

Are You Ready for JesusWeen?

What are you doing this year for JesusWeen? Wait…what? You mean you aren't familiar with JesusWeen, the holiday celebrated every October 31st in the U.S.? Oh, you think October 31st is Halloween. No, that was before the fundamentalist Christians decided to co-opt it and turn it into JesusWeen. You see, they are terrified of Halloween and needed to Jesus it up a bit. So now we have JesusWeen. Yes, that's a real thing. I know how it sounds, but they are serious about it.

As Gawker noted in 2011,
Jesus Ween is not, in fact, a celebration of Jesus's ween, but rather "a non for Profit Organisation [sic] also known as JesusWin…focused on helping people live a better life."
Those participating in JesusWeen hand out Christian bibles instead of candy (or at least candy with bible verses printed on the wrappers). They do not allow their children to wear costumes. You know, because that would be evil.

If it is fun or feels good in some way, you can bet that fundamentalist Christians somewhere are trying to figure out how to stop people from doing it. Not only is Halloween fun, but many fundamentalist Christians have decided that it is genuinely evil. That means that those who participate in it are evil. You don't want to be evil, do you?

JesusWeen may be a relatively new phenomenon (it appears to have been born in 2011), but the sentiment underlying it is anything but new. I remember the fundamentalist Christian families not allowing their children to participate in Halloween as far back as grade school. They were a tiny minority back then where I was growing up on the West Coast. They are not so tiny here in Mississippi today. I am not even sure that they are a minority.

You can find JesusWeen on Facebook or follow @JesusWeen on Twitter if you are so inclined.

October 27, 2013

Top 10 Most Disturbing Horror Films

Session 9With Halloween around the corner and most horror films being crap, I figured it would be fun to see if I could come up with a list of the top 10 most disturbing horror films I've seen. What I mean by "disturbing" in this context are those films that made me uncomfortable and that I found myself unable to stop thinking about the next day.

Here is my list in no particular order:
  1. Session 9
  2. Eden Lake
  3. Antichrist (The Criterion Collection)
  4. The Strangers
  5. Martyrs
  6. Irreversible
  7. Cache (Hidden)
  8. A Tale of Two Sisters
  9. Frontier(s): Unrated Director's Cut
  10. Infection

October 20, 2013

Taking a Break

bleak (Photo credit: scjody)
I will be taking a break from blogging for the next week or two. I have some increased demands for my time offline. Even if I wasn't feeling a bit burned out, I'd have to take a break since it is unlikely that I will have the opportunity to be online much for awhile. But because I have been feeling like I should take a break, having an unavoidable excuse to do so is a good thing since I can't seem to follow my own advice.

I will return when I can, and I don't expect it will be more than a couple weeks.

October 18, 2013

This Skeptic Still Enjoys Horror Films

A screenshot of the 1922 film, Nosferatu. Thou...
A screenshot of the 1922 film, Nosferatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have made no secret of my love for horror films. I look forward to October, in part, because a few of the cable stations play lots of horror flicks. I have heard a few skeptics say that they can no longer enjoy horror films now that they do not believe in ghosts, monsters, demons, etc. I have never had this problem, as I can willingly suspend disbelief for 90 minutes to enjoy a movie. This does not mean that I somehow will myself to believe in ghosts or demonic possession; it just means that I am able to mute the skeptical part of my mind for awhile to enjoy what I'm watching. I doubt this makes me unique, as I suspect it is a common experience.

One of the things I've noticed this year when watching the few horror films I've had time to watch is that I can still enjoy many of them even when I do not mute my skepticism completely; I just enjoy them in a different way. I caught Paranormal Activity the other night. I saw it when it first came out but not again until now. When I watched it the first time, I muted my skepticism and enjoyed it a bit even though I did not find it particularly scary and felt somewhat let down by the marketing hype. I watched it this time without the skepticism muted so much and still found it entertaining. It was more funny than scary this time around, and while I realize that this probably was not what the filmmakers were aiming for, the point is that I was still able to enjoy it.

October 17, 2013

U.S. is a Pagan Nation

Of the various holidays recognized in the U.S., Halloween is perhaps the only one allowed to remain at least somewhat pagan. Christmas may have pagan roots, but it has been both Christianized and materialized (in the sense of the modern focus being primarily about gifts). There have been some attempts to Christianize Halloween, but they have not caught on. For the most part, the holiday remains pagan. I suspect this explains why some Christians are terrified of it.

And speaking of Christians and paganism, here we have Christian extremist, Pastor John Magee, explaining during a recent sermon that the U.S. is "a pagan nation without shame." I thought Hagee and his associates were under the mistaken impression that the U.S. was a Christian nation. Have they decided that we are both Christian and pagan now?

Other gems from the clip include Pastor Hagee's claim that "Secular humanism is a pagan god," responsible for practically every social ill (e.g., drug abuse, rape, domestic violence) and even mental illness. Like most Christian extremist pastors, Hagee loves to remind us of sodomy and how it is "an abomination unto the lord." If only we'd be less tolerant of "teh gay," we'd live in some sort of paradise.

H/T to RightWingWatch

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Why Do I Write About What I Write About?

English: IBM AT Keyboard
English: IBM AT Keyboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Of all the questions I receive here from atheists, the most common has to be "Why did you write about [specific topic of post]?" I have noticed that the question is almost always asked by someone who disagrees with what I have written. This leads me to suspect that the questioner might not really be interested in learning about why I wrote the post. And yet, this could be an unfair assumption on my part. Perhaps the question is genuine and the person asking it really does want to know why I wrote a particular post. Fortunately, I can provide an answer that will cover every post I have written and will foreseeably write in the future.

I write about the topics I write about because I find them interesting. It really isn't any more complicated than that. If I don't find something at least somewhat interesting, I'm unlikely to write about it. Most of the time, I write about atheism and related subjects (e.g., what is happening in the atheist community, skepticism, separation of church and state, secular activism). I write about these things because I find them interesting and not because I feel some sort of obligation to keep writing about them. Should the day come that these subjects no longer hold my interest, I will cease writing about them.

October 16, 2013

The Prerequisites of Christian Belief Atheists Are Missing

Vasily Perov's painting illustrates clandestin...
Vasily Perov's painting illustrates clandestine meetings of Christians in pagan Kiev. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many of us, atheists and theists alike, understand that early childhood indoctrination is vitally important to sustaining world religions. Most people believe in the gods in which their parents believed and which their culture promoted. But not everyone grasps this. Some Christians, in fact, appear to overlook this and focus almost exclusively on the acquisition of religious beliefs later in life.

It also appears, at least according to some of these Christians, that we atheists do not worship the Christian god primarily because we have not met the prerequisites for Christian faith. That is, we have not had the sort of experiences that are required before we can become true Christians. Never mind that many of us were previously Christians before coming to our senses; this is deemed irrelevant, explained away by insisting that we were never really "true Christians," or simply ignored.

October 15, 2013

Atheist Women and the Price of Speaking Out

"The witch no. 1" lithograph
"The witch no. 1" lithograph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Strong, confident, self-assured women are certainly present in the atheist, skeptic, and secular communities. You can find them in prominent national leadership positions (e.g., serving as co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and executive director of the Secular Coalition for America), and you will find them running state organizations. They are writing exceptional books and popular blogs. They run blog networks, and they do valuable work as secular activists in their communities. You will find them sharing their art, and you will hear them on blog radio. You will encounter them in your local atheist, skeptic, and humanist groups, and you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook. "Where are the atheist/skeptic/secular women?" They are all around you.

Unfortunately, some atheist women do indeed pay a price for their willingness to express themselves. You see, there are people right here in the secular community who feel so threatened by the willingness of some of these intelligent, assertive, and courageous women to speak their minds that they have developed special insults with which to target them. They call them gender traitors, sister punishers, and chill girls. Yes, they actually accuse some of these women of betraying their gender because they dare to hold different opinions!

The tactics used against these women vary, but they are aggressive in nature and can generally be grouped under the label of intimidation. Some have been subjected to relentless rage blogging; others have had their careers threatened. A few have had their identities publicly revealed, and more have had their reputations assailed online. Many have been placed on block lists and labeled "abusers" and "harassers" for the imagined sin of speaking their minds.

Worst of all, much of this behavior has been carried out by women (and men) who claim to be feminists and advocates of social justice. Their versions of feminism and social justice appear to involve sustained efforts to smear the reputations of women who are willing to express disagreement with them. Many secular leaders seem determined to ignore this behavior or appease those engaging in it. This position seems unsustainable to those of us who value the many contributions of these women and hope to hear more from them.

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October 14, 2013

Do Not Deny Others the Opportunity to Learn From Their Mistakes

A temple
A temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"If you don't agree with someone's religion," they say, "you should still respect it and just keep your thoughts to yourself." That doesn't seem terribly fair to me.

If someone says something stupid - I mean really stupid - and you don't deliver a gentle mocking or at least express disagreement with what the person said, you are depriving the individual of the opportunity to learn from his or her mistake. Why would you withhold such an opportunity just because the statement appears to be based on religion? Do you despise religious people so much that you would deny them the chance to learn from their mistakes? I certainly don't.

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October 13, 2013

What Kind of TV Show is Your Blog?

32px|alt=W3C|link=http://validator.w3.org/✓ Th...
32px|alt=W3C|link=http://validator.w3.org/✓ The source code of this SVG is valid. Category:Valid SVG Deutsch: Breaking Bad Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Some television shows are written in such a way that each episode is entirely self-contained. One could randomly select any episode from such a show and watch it without feeling lost. While such a viewer would probably still have a different experience from a viewer who had seen every previous episode of the show, he or she would at least not feel completely clueless.

This is certainly not true of everything on TV. There are a number of shows, many of them quite popular, that require the viewer to have seen nearly all of the previous episodes to have any idea what is going on. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and the Walking Dead are just a few memorable examples. There is nothing inherently good or bad about designing a show like this, but they do pose a bit of a barrier to a new viewer. To get into such a show already in progress, one really needs to go back to the beginning and watch in the order in which episodes aired.

Of these two types of shows (i.e., the single-episode sort and the serial sort), which type sounds most like your blog? And is that a conscious decision on your part?

October 12, 2013

Malala Yousafzai on the Daily Show

Most of the reactions I have seen to Malala Yousafzai's recent appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart have been extremely positive. Nearly everyone seems to be quite impressed with her, and I share this sentiment. I recently caught that episode and thought she was quite impressive. I had to remind myself while watching it how young she is because she seemed mature beyond her years. The courage to speak out like she has despite the very real threat she faces is awe inspiring.

Watching someone take risks like this to defend the value of education and pursue her rights to obtain an education in an environment so reluctant to recognize those rights is a bit humbling. I wonder how many of us would be so brave and determined in similar circumstances. I don't suspect I would.

H/T to Incongruent Elements

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October 10, 2013

Attend the Florida Freethought Conference Without Leaving Your Home

If you have a spare $12 and have always wondered what a secular conference was like but have never had the opportunity to attend one, you might be interested to know that the Humanists of Florida Association is making their Florida Freethought Conference available via live stream. You can find more information about the speakers and a form with which to order the live stream here (Update: link no longer active).

The Humanists of Florida are also selling a 2014 Florida Freethought Calendar, picturing every speaker from the conference with a personal quote. Calendars are available for order here (Update: link no longer active).

I hope we will see more and more secular conferences offering live streaming like this in order to reach those living in rural areas who cannot afford to travel to attend them. If they offer interesting speakers and are able to provide the stream at low cost, like the Humanists of Florida are doing here, I imagine they will be quite popular.

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Taking Offense at Someone's T-Shirt

Jesus & Mo

If you read Hemant Mehta's (Friendly Atheist) recent post about how the London School of Economics (LSE) recently freaked out over two atheist students wearing Jesus & Mo t-shirts during a student organization fair, you'll know that the title was a perfect description of the take-home message: Wearing Jesus & Mo Shirts Doesn't Mean You're Discriminating Against Christians and Muslims. Indeed, it doesn't. Moreover, it sounds like school officials refused to inform the students of what policy they were violating by wearing the shirts, prompting Hemant to write:
So what was the offense? Depicting Muhammad? Anyone who reads the comic knows that its a satire of religion, not a pointed attack on Muslims. And anyone who works with multiple faith (and no-faith) group ought to acknowledge that there is a serious difference between targeting individuals and targeting their bad ideas.

October 9, 2013

Why Are They Religious?

Young Buddhist monks in Tibet.
Young Buddhist monks in Tibet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many atheists occasionally scan their surroundings and wonder how it can be that they are surrounded by religious believers in 2013. It seems so difficult to comprehend, at times, how is it that this many people seem to be so deluded about the nature of reality. We invent all sorts of explanations for what we see around us, and most of them draw heavily from pop psychology. Maybe they fear death and cling to religion because it offers them immortality. Maybe they are so narcissistic that the notion of invisible entities looking over them makes sense. Maybe it is just ignorance, a lack of critical thinking, and the shoddy education to which they have been subjected. Maybe they don't really believe it at all and are just trying to conform with what they know is expected of them. As intellectually stimulating as it can be to ponder such explanations, most of us recognize that no single explanation will apply to all religious persons. And even though we find them less interesting, I suspect that most of us recognize that more mundane explanations are likely at work.

October 8, 2013

Additional Thoughts on Boredom Among Atheists

English: Boredom Italiano: Noia
English: Boredom Italiano: Noia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Internet may have changed the experience of boredom by making it easier for us to find interesting content, but I do not think it has rendered the concept of boredom obsolete. I suppose this should not be surprising. After all, I still remember when we moved from 3-4 channels of network TV to the 100+ channel packages we now enjoy through cable and satellite TV. They did not eradicate boredom either; we simply learned that 100+ channels of crap is still crap.

I recently wrote a post about boredom among atheists in which I noted that I do find myself feeling bored with online atheism from time-to-time and that I think this happens mostly because the content seems to fall into the same few areas, each of which can seem a bit monotonous after awhile. I find that I tire of writing about the same handful of things here almost as much as I tire of reading about them elsewhere. Cephus (Bitchspot) shared his thoughts on the subject, and something he wrote resonated with me:
One of the problems with being an atheist, we don’t get monthly notices that we’ve liberated another country, or even a city or small town, from the ravages of religion. Very little ever changes, it’s the same old thing, day after day, week after week and month after month.

October 7, 2013

Boycotting Hobby Lobby

Terry Firma (Friendly Atheist) recently asked whether Hobby Lobby should be boycotted for not selling Hanukkah supplies. I'd say no, and Terry seems to agree:
I’m pretty sure the 561-store chain doesn’t sell glittery pentagrams and cute Ramadan calendars, either. There’s no law that says a store owner has to cater to all demographics, religious or otherwise.
Pentagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Of course, if I was determined to have "glittery pentagrams" and they refused to stock them, I might opt to shop somewhere that did. For the record, I prefer my pentagrams inverted and without any glitter. Some might say that my decision to shop elsewhere is a boycott, but I'm not sure I agree. I tend to see it as making a personal decision to support businesses that don't regularly make assesses of themselves and avoid those who do. That means that I do what I can to avoid supporting businesses that push fundamentalist Christianity. And as someone living in Mississippi, that means I don't do much shopping!

A far more interesting question about the Hobby Lobby issue is whether they should be boycotted for how their employee allegedly treated the Jewish customer who asked about Hanukkah merchandise ("We don't cater to you people"). I think this employee should face consequences of some sort as should the person who allegedly suggested that their Christian corporate culture justified what sounded a bit like bigotry. If there are no consequences, and some decide they are not satisfied with Hobby Lobby's apology and want to boycott them, I'd see little wrong with their doing so. It would be tough for me to join in since I decided years ago that they'd be seeing none of my money.

What do you think? Should companies like Hobby Lobby face boycotts for incidents like this? And is there a meaningful difference between making a personal decision not to support a business (like I have with Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, and a few others) and boycotting a business?

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October 6, 2013

When Nuance is Absent, Polarization and Conflict Thrive

Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...
Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We know what nuance means; we often complain about how it is lacking. Whether we are referring to political debates, the manner in which our mainstream news media cover important stories, or even how many talk about "the great rift" in the atheist community, we generally seem to agree that there is a noticeable lack of nuance. What we mean is that complex and multifaceted issues are being oversimplified, often dichotomized, and that the result is misleading at best and drives polarization and conflict at worst.

Freedictionary.com defines nuance as:
1. A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone; a gradation. 2. Expression or appreciation of subtle shades of meaning, feeling, or tone: a rich artistic performance, full of nuance.
So if nuance refers to subtle differences in meaning and the appreciation for such differences, the lack of nuance about which we regularly complain involves the minimization, trivialization, or even denial of such differences. When nuance is absent, we tend to hear a lot about "good" and "evil" or "right" and "wrong." The shades of grey are lost, and we are left with something that many of us associate with religious thinking. Of course, one need not be religious to subscribe to a "you're with us or against us" worldview.

October 5, 2013

Getting Ready for Karen

Tropical Storm KarenI think I am ready for Tropical Storm Karen, expected to come through my area later today. It appears to have weakened considerably since I started watching it, and I'm not expecting much more than a bit of wind and rain. I'm actually looking forward to the promise of somewhat cooler weather for a day or two.

What does getting ready for a storm involve? In the case of a mild one like this, it is fairly simple. I have looked over my supplies to make sure I can get through a few days without power and water, hit the grocery store to pick up a few of the things I needed, gassed up the car, picked up anything in the yard that could do damage if turned into a projectile by high wind, pulled some flashlights and candles out, charged batteries on various devices, and ran the dishwasher in case I can't do so later.

What getting ready for a storm of any magnitude does not involve is prayer or any other sort of superstitious ritual. That would be completely pointless. Better to prepare in ways that could actually make a real-world difference.

Going through Hurricane Katrina taught me quite a bit about the sort of preparation that can make a difference. I had to learn the hard way because I was poorly prepared for that storm and did not fully appreciate what it would be like to have no power or water for several days in the Mississippi heat. There are things I now know to make sure I have on hand that I never would have thought of before Katrina (e.g., garbage bags, paper plates, plastic utensils). In fact, one of the things I remember doing to pass the time without power was making a list of the things I should have had but didn't. Judging by the damage some of my Christian neighbors sustained, prayer is not going to keep a tree from going through one's roof or make safe drinking water appear from nowhere.

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October 3, 2013

What Atheism+ Could Have Been, Part II

English: Rally for social justice, Beersheba, ...
Rally for social justice, Beersheba, Aug 13 2001 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the first part of this two-part post, I reviewed what Atheism+ was and examined a few of the problems that prevented it from succeeding. In this post, I'll take a look at how Atheism+ might have succeeded and how something similar could work in the future.

I recognize that some of you are not interested in seeing anything remotely like Atheism+ succeed. Based on the experiences you have likely had with some of the proponents of Atheism+, this is understandable. If you have tried to offer constructive criticism, you have probably been called all sorts of names (e.g., "chill girl" or "misogynist") in an effort to silence you. You may have even had your reputation assailed through charges of "harassment" and "abuse" even though you've done nothing of the kind. I realize that most discussions of Atheism+ you see on the Internet quickly attract social justice warriors and that this has likely colored your perception of the whole affair. I understand this, but I continue to think that there are aspects of Atheism+ worth salvaging and that much of what we find objectionable is more about the delivery than the idea.

October 2, 2013

What Atheism+ Could Have Been

This started out as one post but quickly grew to be far too long for a single post. So I'm dividing it into a two -parter. This part orients the reader to what Atheism+ was and reviews a few of the problems with Atheism+ that prevented it from succeeding. The second part will take up the question of how Atheism+ could have been successful and how something like it could work in the future.

On August 19, 2012, blogger Jen McCreight unleashed "Atheism+" upon unsuspecting atheists around the world, and some would say our community has been divided ever since. Of course, that is not true. We were already divided, and while Atheism+ was certainly experienced as divisive by many, it would be inaccurate to say that it alone brought about "the great rift."

For those of us who are willing to admit that we make mistakes, our missteps often provide us with valuable opportunities to learn he we might get it right next time. What I'd like to suggest here is that even mistakes made by others might contain valuable lessons from which we might someday be able to benefit. Some will suggest that this post may be premature, and they may be right. Some are not quite ready to recognize the demise of Atheism+. Still, I think it might be useful to consider what was, what might have been, and what could still be for atheists who are serious about social justice.

October 1, 2013

Got My Flu Shot

English: WASHINGTON (Sept. 27, 2011) Chief of ...
WASHINGTON (Sept. 27, 2011) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert receives his annual flu vaccine at the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shannon E. Renfroe/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I got my yearly flu shot this week. It seems to get a little earlier each year. I don't recall ever doing it before the start of October. I am aware that there is considerable skepticism about the flu vaccine and that some of the vocal skeptics are atheists. I have certainly heard their objections after writing something here about the flu vaccine previously. Some do not believe it is effective and/or that it does more harm than good. So why did I get the shot again this year like I have the past several years?

First, my doctor recommended it. He said that the flu vaccine is recommended for people of my age and with my medical history. That seems like a valid reason to at least consider it. Second, the cost of the vaccine is completely covered under my health insurance. Since I don't have to pay anything for it or go out of my way to find it, cost is not a deterrent. Third, several of my co-workers have been sick with colds and flu in the past two weeks, leaving me more aware of not wanting to get it than I might otherwise be at this time of the year. There is nothing like seeing people I've been in close contact with get so sick they have to miss work to make me think that I'd like to avoid the same fate. Fourth, my job brings me in contact with more sick people than I can count. In addition to my co-workers, I must contend with the graduate students in my lab who seem to catch whatever goes around and the coughing and sneezing undergrads in the classes I teach.