Sunday, December 14, 2008

Royalties Results

So at the end of September I got my first royalty check for my book.

I sold a grand total of 51 copies of my book. My royalty check was $61.25.
I figure I'll wait for one more check before I retire.

So after hearing the rumors online that my publisher rips people off, I have no way of telling that. I can account for about 25 copies of the book that I know family and friends (and myself) bought. And that's only half of the copies sold. There was even one person in England that ordered it.

I have a friend in Los Angeles that said he randomly saw a coworker reading my book one day, so I know it's drifting out there somewhere.

And since it has been seen in Los Angeles, I hope Will Smith sees and and wants to star in the movie.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

filling the hole.

damn, I sure didn't expect to be gone this long!

This school year I set myself the professional goal of going paperless, and dramatically increasing the use of technology in the classroom. I mean, we are a school district that just gave every single student Apple laptops, but students (and teachers) are really only using them to write reports and check email. I'm teaching myself how to use the various programs in iLife and iWork. Then I'm constructing my own tutorials for students.

The internet is little more than useless at school, since the content filters are positively draconian. But of course, like any censored population, we find ways around it. I'm an active member in the proxy underground with students.

So anyway, I bought a nice scanner and now scan all work by students into the computer. I grade it on the computer and then email it back to them.

I'm taking a topology course as my semester master's degree class.

And all this stuff takes up so damn much of my time that I don't do much else. Seriously, I've played video games one time since September. Those that know me will be concerned about that.

And I kept putting off blogging. Until now.

I finally gave in and got a Twitter account. If you Twitter, you can follow me @ uncertainwonder.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Our President is Still at the Olympics

Here, our Commander in Chief is representing Christian America in classy ways by supporting the US Olympic swimming efforts:


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Our president at the Olympics

So President Bush went to China and gave a speech the day before the opening ceremony criticizing their government for repressive rule over human rights and religious freedom.  He said,

Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and its own traditions.  Yet change will arrive. And it will be clear for all to see that those who aspire to speak their conscience and worship their God are no threat to the future of China.

The Chinese government got pissed off and told him to mind his own business.

Anyway, after letting the Chinese government know that Christianity is cool, he went and hung out with the Olympic women's volleyball team.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hater's Corner: Movie Review

(If this is the first time you've read Hater's Corner, read this)

I'm not sure how many people saw the Will Smith superhero flick Hancock this summer. The critics were split on this one, but I really liked it.

Anyway, tooling through the scummy underbelly of the web, I came across this review of Hancock from a person known charmingly as "Reaper for the Reich". Just so you know, he goes through the whole plot of the movie, so there are spoilers if you haven't seen it yet.

Um, enjoy... or something.



What a pile of negro loving trash this film is.

I knew it as soon as I saw the trailers. Some negro superhero movie. I refused to give it a dime or my time. However the “Whites” at work were raving about how great it was so curiosity pressed me and I wanted to know what the deal was. I didn’t give it a cent but I did waste my time watching it. Anyone who knows about the net knows how to get movies for free. So that’s what I did.

The movie stars:
Will Smith (rap negro)
Charlize Theron (one of the most beautiful White actresses in Hollywood)
Jason Bateman (a no talent Hollywood jew actor)

The film starts out well enough with Hancock (Will Smith) being a drunken foul-mouthed ebonics speaking negroid with “superpowers”. He goes on a few jaunts stopping criminals and flies around town like a bum with a liquor bottle in his hand reminding me of “Handy Man” from the TV show In Living Color.
Finally he rescues some jew carpetbagger (Jason Bateman) from getting hit by a train who is trying to peddle a sham heart icon to corporations in the name of charity. Jew boy sees Hancock as a new moneymaking opportunity and P.R. tool and invites him home for “meatballs”.

As soon as jew boy brings negro Hancock home his wife (Charlize Theron) immediately begins giving Hancock the “F*#k me” eyes. Which continues for the rest of the film. The sexual tension between the two is extremely blatant. This culminates with Charlize and Hancock sharing a kiss that reveals her super power, and that they were married some 80 years before. But jew boy (Jason Bateman) is cool with the love affair between his negro pet Hancock and his Aryan wife (Charlize) and takes it all in stride because he knows he would get his ass kicked if he said anything and he has profit on his mind.

However it turns out that some goofy White criminal who looks like a casting call bank robber reject from the movie Heat has it out for Hancock and when Hancock and (Charlize) are together they are no longer immortal. The bank robber and his gang attack Hancock and (Charlize) while they are together and what one suffers the other does as well. When Hancock gets shot Charlize suffers it as well and she is on the verge of dying until her husband (jew boy Jason Bateman) disposes of the bank robber ringleader. But Charlize is still on the verge of death so Hancock starts doing what he does best. He jumps over busses and cars and finally to the moon. Somehow this restarts the heart of Charlize and he saves her life.

It ends with Hancock perched atop a skyscraper with a “blue toof” on his ear letting jew boy and Charlize know that they will change the world. Charlize then longingly stares at the moon as if she misses and can’t wait for that big black Hancock to come back to her.

This is probably one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The story and content are absolutely repulsive, the cgi is terrible, and it is about the most ant-white movie I have ever seen.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A rain of "biblical proportions" for Obama

At first, I didn't believe it when I heard this mentioned.  But after following the story, it really is true.  Conservative Christians are praying for a torrential downpour on top of Mile High Stadium when Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention next month.

And not just any rain. No, they want a rain of "biblical proportions", one that will trigger flood advisories, "swamp the intersections", make conference attendees "want hip-waders", and prohibit the news cameras from seeing Obama on the podium.

Upon thinking about it, this actually is pretty consistent for conservative Christians.  Instead of compassionately letting people express their views, they want to convince God to destroy the competition.  As if he wouldn't have thought about it on his own.

If you want, you can watch the video here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Angels and Demons and Nothing, Part 1

I have decided to write down an account of my various and sundry adventures in the religious/spiritual realm, in order to make my present opinions more clear to myself and others. 

This will be done in a series of posts, updated whenever.

Some readers may find some of my experiences surprising. Undoubtedly it will lead to questions on the part of anyone who is not me.  Feel free to ask questions.  I will do my best to answer them, either as a response, or in future chapters of the story.

I will write more-or-less in chronological order, mixed in with other topics as the need arises.  At this time I do not know how many installments there will be, nor how long it will take.


It was the summer of my 13th year when I began having religious visions.

I had always been a religious kid, growing up in a hyper-Catholic family, going to Catholic school.  But I also always have had a strong imagination, and when I was bored sitting in Church, I would imagine various monsters or demons destroying the church and killing people until I used my divine powers to save everyone.

There were times, receiving Communion in late grade school and into middle school, when I would experience a type of ecstasy.  I would reflect on the idea that I had literally brought Jesus into me, and I felt a type of Greater Bond, an excited, awe-inspiring happiness.  I told one of my nun teachers about it, and she considered that to be a very good thing.  The parish priest suggested I think about becoming a priest.  But the only reason I would have considered being a priest was if they let me perform exorcisms.

By 5th grade I had developed the habit of listening to music with my eyes closed, letting the sounds influence my daydreams.  It was one of my favorite things to do - constructing my own surreal musical worlds.

When I was 13 years old, I was, like many American boys, trying to earn money by mowing lawns.  One hot day I had just come back from mowing the lawn of my neighbors, two pretty college girls.  I collapsed on my bed in my basement, and put on my newly favorite record (yes, record) - the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Closing my eyes, I submitted myself to the flow of the music, constructing and conducting soundscapes.

Towards the end of the record, however, I lost control of my daydream.  It took over, and I was just along for the ride.  The music led me through fantastical visions, both terrifying and exciting.   The record ended and I was feeling very small and awestruck.  There was an image similar to the space baby at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I opened my eyes and found myself curled up in the fetal position.

Once I pulled myself together, my fear at what happened was small compared to the fascination of it.  I did not feel threatened in the slightest - I felt fresh, reborn, different.  Though I can't remember for sure, I'm sure I took it as a sign from God.  Doors had been opened to me. 

I was going to start experiencing the world in a whole new way.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I've been added to the Atheist Blogroll!

Happily Godless has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Holy War Heats up in Florida

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about Webster Cook, a Florida college student who went to Communion at a Catholic mass, but didn't eat the communion wafer; he stuck it in his pocket. He was later physically harassed and Catholic officials want to charge him with a hate crime.

Here's an update: Cook, who is a member of the student Senate, is being impeached. The vote was 35-2 in favor of impeachment after 15 minutes of discussion. This starts an official investigation about whether Cook violated Senate ethics rules, which is based on allegations that he represented himself as a student government official at the religious service when it happened.

If that's not bad enough, his friend Benjamin Collard, is in trouble too, just for being at the service with Cook.

Collard says that he was trying to look at his class schedule and found out that a hold had been put on his account, and he couldn't sign up for classes. When he went to find out what was wrong, he discovered that Catholic Campus Ministries had filed charges against him - the exact same charges as against Cook.

These are the charges filed against both young men:
1) misconduct
2) disruptive conduct
3) giving false identification

Collard says he never talked to anyone during the whole controversy. He didn't participate in the "wafer-napping", never lied about who he was, never talked to a university official.

If the charges stick to the two men, they can be expelled from the university.

Now, I wasn't there. I didn't witness the godnapping. I don't know if there was a big disruption or not. But come on. This modern-day witch hunt, a Christian jihad, against two college students? One just for being friends with the "criminal"?

I'm not saying Catholics shouldn't be offended. I understand their feelings towards their holy bread. But they're making themselves look like sadistic idiots. And it actually kind of scares me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

In a godless world...

What happens when an armless lady and a legless man dance together?

Pure art is made.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blowing for Jesus

Do you know what a shofar is? I learned today that it is a horn made from a ram and used as a trumpet for religious purposes, traditionally Jewish.

A shofar made from the horn of a kudu, in the Yemenite Jewish style.

I also learned of Pastor Mark Biltz, who runs a Christian church in the Hebraic roots movement (which basically means taking Christianity and mixing it with Jewish traditions). 

And I learned that Sept. 29 is known as a biblical holiday, the Feast of Trumpets.

What do those three things have in common with a large sporting event?  Well, let me Pastor Biltz explain his global "Day of Shouting":

You know how at sporting events they have "the wave" where one group starts it and then it cycles all the way around back to the beginning? Do you remember how at the year 2000 they showed on television all the New Year celebrations going on around the world as the new millennium began? ...

Let's have an around the world shofar assembly in every time zone on the Feast of Trumpets at sunset announcing to Messiah we are awake and anxiously anticipating His return. What a dress rehearsal! Won't that stir His heart?

What this means is that he's organizing a world-wide "wave" of shofar trumpets.  People and organizations are going to his website and committing to blow a shofar at the time of their sunset and then shout some version of God's name.  This is done to let God know that they are ready for Jesus to return to earth.

Biltz asks everyone, "Will we show Abba a Tsunami or a Splash?"

You can see the list of people around the world who have committed to doing this here.  Maybe you can find the people in your state doing it, and go ask them what the hell they're doing.

My biggest question is, if God can see into people's hearts, why is this even necessary?  Does God need people blowing into animal horns and shouting to get His attention?  This is such a literal interpretation of a supernatural deity, almost like the "primitive" gods that lived on mountains and stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why would God...

... come up with Harlequin Ichthyosis?

It's been awhile since I did a post like this. I stumbled upon this stunningly cruel birth defect by accident through YouTube (more on that in a minute).  You can read the Wikipedia entry, but here is a general description of the condition:

Babies born with this condition have skin that basically consists of large reddish scales, diamond shaped.  The skin doesn't bend or fold, it cracks.  The eyelids are turned inside out.  Ears, nose, and mouth and genitals may be malformed.

This was almost always fatal within a few days, either due to infection of the skin, overheating because the thick skin prevents heat loss, or breathing failure due to the skin restricting the chest from expanding enough to draw air. In recent years, some success has been had in helping the afflicted child live longer.

Here is a drawing of a fetus with the condition.

Normally, I include actual photos or videos of the topics I'm talking about.  However, the drawing above is as far as I'm comfortable going with this topic on this page.  For those who want to see more of the disease in real life, I offer the following two links.

PLEASE, BEFORE YOU CLICK ON THE LINKS, be certain you want to see them.  These images are distressing beyond what you are probably imagining. I myself was not prepared for them when I saw them, and I can handle a lot.  People who know me know I don't exaggerate things like this. 

You don't have to see the images to understand the rest of the post.

Here's a link to a single photo:  PHOTO

Here's a link to a YouTube video:  VIDEO.  It's heartbreaking and extremely difficult to watch all 3 minutes of it.

It's the video I want to discuss for a minute.  For those who have decided not to watch the video, it is filmed by what I'm assuming are the parents of a child with this condition in the hospital.  A man (the father?) is holding the child and singing a prayer to Allah while someone (I think the mother) is moving the camera all around the child's body.

I understand the man's prayer. However, what kind of god would create a situation like this? It's helpful to no-one, child or parents. A comment on the video says the man is saying that Allah is merciful and that everything has a reason. But possible reason could torturing a baby and its parents like this have?

Theists often report visceral reasons to believe in God - rainbows, beauty, etc. 
For me, this is another visceral reason to say God couldn't exist - it's a product of blind genetic malfunction. 

Sunday, July 20, 2008

World Wide Weird - conjoined twin birds

A farmer in Arkansas found a pair of birds that fell out of their nest last Thursday. 

They were joined at the hip.  Which means that they had to have come from a double-yolk egg.  This is extremely rare.

By the time a wildlife official came to get them, they refused to eat.  One bird died Friday morning, and a vet later euthanized the other.

Natural history museums are reportedly interested in displaying them.

Two baby conjoined barn swallows rest after a fall from their ...

Friday, July 18, 2008

A note on "Hater's Corner"

Today's Hater's Corner brings us a young Hispanic man, "PleaseDontKillMe", posting on a White Nationalist forum:

Hopefully you guys will not ban me, I was hoping to speak to intelligent white people, not just someone who's going to call me names like spic or whatever. But please feel free to call me a spic, I will nod my head and agree with you .

Ok to start off I am a Puerto Rican. DON'T SHOOT ME YET!, I respect your opinion on wanting to preserve your own race and culture. I kind of believe in something similar without wanting to hate other races . I have always been intrigued by the kkk and Nazis and just racist people in general. Not because I agree just because It's fun to know people believe in different things. Now heres my questions:

He asks several questions, but the most interesting, I think was this one:

If your daughter was dying or getting raped or mugged or something (god forbid) and I saved her, would you still hate me for being a spic? lol

And here are some of the interesting answers he got:

* Yes. One kind action is not going to make up for you or your entire race.

* I don't hate people just because they are "spics". I would thank you, reward you even for saving my daughter, but that doesn't make up for the mistakes of others within your same racial group. Your redeeming act does not redeem the entire race, but you personally, I would be thankful for having save a beautiful white girl from torture or death. Of course, I'd still want you to have sovereignty of your own - just because you helped me out wouldn't make me see you as an exception for removal from America, assuming you were in America.

* go back to puerto spico.

* I don't hate you for being a "spic", but I don't want you in my nation.

* Ya, LOL. I don't hate you now, why would I hate you after saving one of my family members. The only question might be how long before you visa runs out?

* if you stick the races together racial hate will become the norm. As the races have a natural apathy towards each other. But crammed together develop hostility. It's a natural law that exists to help stop the races from mixing and killing their diversity and hindering their evolution.

As you can see, the amount of hate is varied, but all responses share a common theme among White Nationalists - keeping America pure from any non-white influence. 

Those poor deluded souls

A note on "Hater's Corner"

Some people wonder why I decide to sometimes give a little blog space to what the racist Neo-Nazis, KKK members, anti-gay bigots, etc. are up to.

Other people wonder where I get this stuff from.

Let me answer the first question first.  It's easy for most of us to assume that racism, homophobia, etc. are just rare blots on the face of an increasingly compassionate, educated, and reasonable world.  And I do think that things are getting better every day, with every generation.

However, those haters are still there, still thriving.  They tend not to advertise their opinions to those of us in the mainstream, because they know they're not appreciated.  But that doesn't mean that they've all "learned their lesson".  In fact, with Obama as the nation's first real African-American candidate for president, issues of race are pushing closer to the surface than they have in awhile.

So I put examples of this dark ignorance up for examination, to expose it, to remind myself (and by extension, you) that the world is not all warm and fuzzy, that we still need to fight for human rights for all people.  Besides which, religion is often an underpinning for these beliefs.  The technical term for activities like this is "opposition research".

As for where I get this stuff, well, I'll just say that it's not too hard to find these websites and forums if you really want to find them.  I generally will not give out web addresses just because I don't want to help publicize them.  I do this research and report on it so you don't have to.

It's all part of my atheistic belief that we can't rely on supernatural beings to take care of us - we need to do it ourselves.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Christians are gunning for kids

So there's this Baptist church in Oklahoma that puts on a yearly summer youth camp to encourage teens to connect more with God.  Last year the camp included a shooting competition.  Well apparently a local news channel reported that the church wanted to really encourage turnout this year, so they spent $800 to buy an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle to give away to some lucky camp goer. 

Yes, an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle:

AR-15 SP1

To give to a Christian teen summer camper.  Or at least to a teen who puts up with the camp in order to get a free assault rifle

Controversy ensued and the giveaway was suddenly canceled because the guy that ran the competition, Jim Vineyard "injured his foot", and wasn't able to come.  The church then denied that they had bought a gun for $800.

However, God intervened, because according to the camp website, someone donated a shotgun to the church camp so that the shooting competition/giveaway could continue.

God works in mysterious ways.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reflections on getting published by Publish America

As many readers know, I had a book published about six months ago, entitled Happily Godless: A Young Adult's Guide to Atheism. It can be ordered from most bookstores, or online at places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at a discounted price directly from the publisher.

Speaking of the publisher, some people are curious to hear about my experiences because of past controversies regarding them.

The publisher of my book is Publish America. After I signed with them, I began hearing stories that they are kind of scammers. If you google, you'll find several stories of lawsuits against them. At first I thought I had screwed myself. But then I did further research. Here's what I found:

There were several complaints against the company:
1. It was an author mill that took any manuscript and approved it without looking at it. There were several hoaxes perpetrated to prove this.

2. They did no editing of manuscripts before printing them.

3. They did no publicizing or special effort to get books on actual bookstore shelves.

4. They cheated on paying royalties.

5. Authors must buy copies of their own book.

6. The books are priced higher than they should be.

The first thing I noticed about these claims that the most recent of them was from 2005. There have been no new allegations or news in at least 3 years. Also, despite looking like a widespread problem, I kept noticing the same names (or forum posters) over and over again.

Here is my experience of the four allegations above:
1. I have no idea. My book was a real book, and they approved it. That's what's most important for me.

2. This one seems to be true. They said they edited it and sent it back for my approval, where I found a good number of additional typos.

3. This one is true. However, they said that before I signed with them. They did not promise to do any ad campaigns, did not promise that my book would be on physical shelves. They emphasized the online presence of my book and said that it would be listed on all major book websites. This happened like they said.

4. I don't know about this one yet. They pay royalties twice a year. I will receive my first royalty check in September. There doesn't seem to be any way for me to check their numbers - I'm going to have to trust them. This makes me a little uncomfortable, but I'll wait and see how it plays out.

5. This is basically true. I got two free copies of my book upon publication. After that I must buy additional copies. However, I do get a discount of up to 50%. And there is no pressure to buy copies. I can buy or not.

6. This one is true. They priced my book at $19.95, where I think it should be something like $12.95-$14.95. They have probably priced it out of the reach of some young people, who I wrote the book for.

I have also found the publisher to be very communicative. The people I've spoken with on the phone are friendly. They respond to my questions promptly.

So, on the whole, so far I'm happy with them. It didn't cost one penny to get published. No matter what my royalties are, they're basically pure profit. I've bought copies of my book, but that was my decision. I've never felt any pressure to buy anything.

So do I recommend using Publish America to get published? Yes, with reservations. You need to be sure on your own that your manuscript is in good shape, and find your own editor if you're not. You need to be ok with the fact that it's an independent publisher and will not do your advertising for you.

Of course, Publish America is not as good as the big guys. But it was much easier to get my book in print, to get my message out. That's what's most important. And in 7 years, my contract with Publish America expires. Perhaps I can use this experience to get noticed and picked up by the bigger guys after that.

Perhaps Publish America really was bad, and did some cleaning up of it's act over the past 3 years. But personally speaking, a lot of the complaints against Publish America have more than a little smell of sour grapes. These may be people that are pissed off that their books didn't turn into instant best-sellers and want something to blame other than the fact that their writing was probably pretty terrible (I've read some other books from the publisher, and they do seem to have pretty low standards for acceptance. A lot of the writing is crap).

I hope I'm not deluding myself into thinking that my writing is better than most of those other books.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Communion wafer hate crime!

As an ex-Catholic, I find this story really funny.

College student Webster Cook goes to school in Florida.  He went to mass, and as people do, went to communion. 

Now, let me pause for some explanation so this story will make a little more sense to non-Catholics.  The Catholic church believes very strongly in the doctrine of transubstantiation, which means that once the priest does his hocus-pocus over the communion bread wafer, the bread actually turns into the body of Jesus.  Not physically - the bread doesn't turn into human flesh - but spiritually. When you eat the communion wafer, you are eating Jesus.  A sort of holy spiritiual cannibalism.

Anyway, back to the story.  Webster Cook went up to communion, took the wafer, but didn't eat it.  Instead he took it out of the church and walked around with it.

As people found out, they became furious.  He took the communion wafer back, but apparently that wasn't enough.  He says he's getting death threats for messing with someting sacred.

The University says that Webster Cook is not in any trouble.  This really pisses off the Catholic League, which is a national organization concerned with Catholic rights.  The Catholic League expects the University to take this seriously, to send a message that "this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated".  They also believe that "if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like it might be it."

So let me get this straight.  Eating Jesus is fine.  But taking him for a walk is a hate crime.  If it were all that serious, why didn't Jesus make an escape from the godnapper?  Why didn't God strike him dead or paralyze him or something?  No, Jesus just sat there in the guy's hand.

Kind of like a plain old piece of bread would do.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Pentacostalgon and Hater's Corner

There is a story making the news right now about an Army soldier down the road from me at Ft. Riley.  He was a Baptist and went to Iraq at 19 years old.  Then he became an atheist and was discriminated against.  He's actually suing the government for trying to make the military a Christian organization.

There's a good video about it from "AC 360" on CNN.  I can't figure out how to put a CNN video on this page, so you'll have to go here.

It almost makes me want to join the military just so I can be an open atheist.  And an open gay guy.

Except I would probably end up being killed by "friendly fire".


In today's episode of "Hater's corner", we have a White Nationalist (which are people like members of the KKK or neo-Nazis, etc., who want to keep their countries racially, ethnically, and sexually "pure") who is wondering why so many other white people don't agree with him.  Here is his post:

I just want to know how much stupid liberal brainwashed anti-racist white people are against, are white nationalist beliefs. It seems like alot of people are against us and are movement, so does anyone have an estiment of how much retards disagree with us white nationalist?

And here is the answer, from another guy who has apparently thought this through:

jews if you consider them white. white homosexuals, white liberals, white diseased, mixed raced whites, whites that want to save the world, whites that do drugs, whites that molster and rape. etc etc its just commonsense just keep it simple
Blogged with the Flock Browser
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Monday, July 7, 2008

Superstitious Presidents

I really try to not make this a political blog, but since today's times are hopelessly intertwined with politics in one way or another, the topic comes up.  It's no secret that I'm an Obama supporter, but I also do think that McCain is generally a good guy and I wouldn't run off to Canada if he gets elected.

However, there is something about McCain that has gotten a little bit of press (though not a lot) that really does bother me.

John McCain is superstitious.
Really superstitious.

It was first noticed in his 2000 campaign.   It has continued on to this year

Here are some highlights:

* He thinks it's bad luck to take a salt shaker from somebody's hand.

* He won't throw a hat on a bed, because then someone in his family will die.

* In his pockets he carries a lucky feather, a lucky compass, a lucky penny, a lucky nickel, a lucky quarter, and a laminated 4-leaf clover.

* He won't pick up a coin if it is tails up.  This is why his pockets above don't have a lucky dime - when he found a dime laying on the stage of a debate in the Reagan Presidential library, he bent over for a closer look. It was tails up. So he left it alone.

(McCain is of Irish descent.  According to lore, the Irish have always had a thing about coins - If a coin is heads up, it's lucky.  If it is tails up, the poor should get it. I wonder if the poor get the bad luck, too?)

McCain's superstitions are spreading. Starting in one of his stops in Kansas City, his staffers began knocking on wood along with McCain.  His top advisor refuses to shave until the election is over.

And to top it all off, his official campaign headquarters are on the 13th floor of a highrise in Arlington.  Of course, 13 is a bad number, so McCain had the building change floor 13 to floor M.  For McCain.  Even though M is the 13th letter of the alphabet.

Yeah, this stuff is funny.  But what worries me is how much of his superstitions may influence his decisions as president. 

Saturday, July 5, 2008

praying for oil and selling votes

Rocky Twyman is a Seventh-day Adventist, who realizes that high gas prices are a bad thing.  So he has been holding prayer services at various gas stations around the country in order to bring them down.  Apparently that wasn't effective, so he decided to move his prayer vigils to the Saudi-Arabian embassy in Washington D.C., in the hopes that God would move the oil country to release more oil barrells.

Interestingly, Twyman has also decided to do more than just pray, now - he is asking passersby to sign a petition.  When he was asked about this, he replied,
"I think we have just entered a new phase. We were in the prayerful phase, but now we're going into a more activist phase, because we feel that whole faith without works is dead," Twyman told reporters.

Hmm.  I can just see these groups of people gathered around gas pumps, praying, probably like our ancestors did when they prayed for rain.  It's also interesting that as prayer alone doesn't seem to be working, they do more active work.  But of course, it won't be their actions that bring success, it'll be the prayer.


I'm not sure how I feel about this one

19-year-old Max Sanders lives in Minnesota. Like many young people (unfortunately), he doesn't really care much about politics or the presidency. So he decided to put his vote up for bid on eBay.

He set the beginning price at $10, and offered to take a picture of his vote as proof he voted as the winner wanted.
Here's the problem: his auction was halted right away because he broke a state law prohibiting selling your vote. 

The law had good origins, I think, as it was designed to combat the practice during Prohibition when people would go into bars and give drunks $20 to convince them to vote.  We do need to make sure things like that don't happen.

But is this that kind of case?  It seems more of a joke or a sarcastic comment on society than a serious problem.  The county prosecutor even admits that he isn't aware of people really trying to buy votes in modern times. Is this a "slippery slope" case?  If this were allowed to happen once, would it happen more and more until it became a real problem?

While the charge technically carries up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine, nobody expects the student to get more than community service. The prosecutor says the charge is is more of a statement to respect such an important process.

But who is making the better statement, the apathetic college student or the patriotic prosecutor?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Faith Healing and Violence

I would like to introduce you to Todd Bentley. Born in 1976 in Canada, his parents divorced and he fell into a life of drugs, alcohol, and criminal activity that included sexual molestation.

Now I would like to pause right here. If you read the title of this entry, you might suspect that this story will continue with a weird story of Bentley being "saved" by a faith healer. But no, actually, Bentley became the faith healer! He converted to Christianity at 18, and has caused some controversy with his revivals, where he recounts his adventures healing people. The highlights are below:

This is utterly bizarre to me, and I'm used to bizarre. If what he is saying is true, how can he get away with that stuff without being arrested?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

fist bumps are all the rage

Everyone pretty much knows about the fist-bump that Barack Obama gave his wife during his victory speech of clinching the Democratic nomination a month ago:

ST. PAUL, MN - JUNE 3:  Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) (R) and his wife Michelle Obama bump fists at an election night rally at the Xcel Energy Center June 3, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination following today's primaries in South Dakota and Montana, although his rival Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has not yet conceded the race. From Getty Images.

Of course, FOX News then suggested it might be a "terrorist fist jab":

But not one to get left out of the hipness, George Bush tries it out with a youngster:


I love America!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

racist fashion

As hinted at in a recent post, I have long been fascinated with the neo-Nazi/White supremacist movement. It stems from an earlier job working on civil rights issues. I read their forum posts and peruse their websites. I'm a firm believer in what's called "opposition research" - keep an eye on the enemy.

Because of that, and because of the nature of society today, I have decided to occasionally put posts here of what's going on with members of that community. It's an effort to shine the light on a murky subject and subculture. I don't think I have to state that the opinions of the "White Nationalist" movement are not mine. Besides, being a white, openly gay teacher in a minority school gets me branded as a faggot race-traitor, and they would happily give me part of the tree that they might use to lynch people of color.

So here we go:

I was recently surprised to learn that the hate movements are starting to open up to non-believers; it was generally accepted that one's religious affiliation had to be either Christian (like the KKK) or followers of a Nordic mish-mash of gods and philosophies (the neo-Nazis). Here is a recent forum post:

I attend gatherings that have C.I./Odinist/Athiest/Etc... As a
Christian I serve God through service to my race. I don't argue
religion or anything like that. I respect your beliefs and will never
turn my back on Jesus. I do not believe for 1 second that he was/is
Jewish but I salute those who are racially aware and wear the uniform
of white skin, no matter your faith. In the trenches, in this war, we
are allies! I am hoping for the day that all of us - KKK/National
Socialist/Skinheads/etc... can stand in unity and quit the infighting.

Doesn't that make you atheists out there feel all welcome?

I've also been struck by current racist fashion: Here are two shirts that are popular right now:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Converting aliens to Christianity

The possibility of alien life on planets other than Earth is a source of endless discussion, perhaps even more so now that the Mars lander has found that Martian soil has the requisites for organic life. I've always been fascinated by Christian perspectives on the idea.

I've talked to Christians who simplified the whole conversation by saying that of course aliens do not exist because the Bible never mentions them.

However, last month, according to the Times Online, Father Jose Gabriel Funes, who is the Vatican's chief astronomer, said that it is not against Christianity to believe in aliens; that it is perfectly possible
to "admit the existence of other worlds and other forms of life, even those more evolved than ours, without necessarily questioning faith in the Creation, the incarnation and the redemption of mankind".

At first, that sounds cool; the Vatican is open to such ideas. However, the chill crept into me a moment later when Fr. Funes continued by saying that like Christians, aliens would be able to benefit from hearing about Jesus and being redeemed by "the mercy of God".

So great. While it is ok for Catholics to believe in aliens, the aliens must also be able to be converted to Christianity. I just keep thinking about the masterful movie The Mission.

What's even more interesting is that in the comments at the end of the article, someone from the US has another common response that I've heard before:
This is why I am an Orthodox Christian, because we are still the same
and never changing like the Catholic church. Orthodox believe aliens
are demonic. Why would they work under the cover of darkness and be
able to manipulate time ans space and move through dimensions just like
the bad/good angels!

So it looks like the options for Christians regarding aliens are to
1) deny their existence
2) convert them to Christianity
3) fear them as agents of Satan, and, I'm guessing, go to war with them in an attempt to destroy them.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Boxing match between Obama and Dobson

Ok, stick with me here.  There have recently been jabs taken at Obama's take on religion, but Obama is jabbing right back. Through all the articles posted about it over the last couple of days, I've tried to find the actual passages being talked about.

Two years ago, Barack Obama gave a keynote address at the Call to Renewal conference about the role of religion in politics. It was recently found and discussed among the media.  The whole speech is worth reading, but he's said a couple of especially interesting things. First, here is his comment on morality and "leaving religion at the door".

In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they're something they're not. They don't need to do that. None of us need to do that.

But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

However, the Religious Right is turning rabid at this part of his speech:

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

James Dobson, the crackpot head of Focus on the Family, reacted by verbally smacking Obama in the face.  Here are some of Dobson's quotes:

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology”....

“… He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.”

“What the senator is saying is that I can’t seek to pass legislation that bans partial birth abortion because there are people who don’t see that as a moral issue,” ...“Now that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution. … We don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality which is what he is suggesting. Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?”

When asked the next day about Dobson's attack, Obama responded gave as good as he got:

"Either he didn't read the speech, or he's just trying to score political points," Obama said. "Somebody would be pretty hard-pressed to make the argument" that he was distorting the Bible.

“I think you’ll see that he was just making stuff up, maybe for his own purposes.”

I must say, I admire Obama's take on religion in American politics. Of course, he can't realistically call on everyone to leave their religion at the door. But he did give us secularists the best acknowledgment I've seen from a politician.

I'm also impressed that Obama seems to be holding his own in this presidential race against such bizarre attacks.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Obama and the KKK

I've long wondered what the attitude of the white Supremacists are doing and saying about Obama's rise to power and the Democratic nomination for president.

I recently saw that David Duke, the famous Neo-nazi and former head of the KKK, thinks that it is a good thing for America. Not because Obama is an acceptable guy, but because... well, here it is in his words:

Obama is like that big dark spot on your arm that finally sends you to the doctor for some real medicine. Obama is the pain that lets your body know that something is dreadfully wrong.
Obama lets the American people know that there is a real cancer eating away at the heart of our country...

Ok, I'll stop there. You get the idea.  Basically, Duke believes that America needs Obama to win in order for whites to realize that they've given up their country to blacks and to begin to take it back.

The Southern Poverty Law Center published an article quoting a forum comment on a Neo-Nazi website:  "He will make things so bad for white people that hopefully they will finally realize how stupid they were for admiring these jigaboos all these years."

Wow. And here I was, afraid that they'd just try to assassinate him. I'm so old fashioned.
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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Atheist Elves!?!

Man, it sucks being sick. I've had some form of cold/flu that has been running around my school like a rumor for the past week.


A student recently got me to read the book Eragon. Now, I like fantasy as much as the next math teacher (which is surprisingly a lot), and I enjoyed the Harry Potter series, so I read Eragon. It was a decent book, a little simple, but likable nonetheless. Then I saw the movie and I was definitely "meh" about the whole thing.

Two weeks ago the same student then asked me to read the sequel, Eldest. I decided to read it, as much to find a point of commonality with the student as anything else.

By the stars, that was a good book! Much better than Eragon. And while I suspected that the author, Paolini was trying to make some sort of secular statement in the first book, it was a blatant underlying message in Eldest.

Yes, there is plenty of magic and dragons and elves and dwarves, but Paolini's main character, Eragon, finds himself quite skeptical of all legends and religious practices. One of his tutors goes so far as to basically give an atheist worldview for Eragon's education. It was a quite remarkable move.

Nobody really seems to have noticed this yet, as only two books in the series have come out, but if they plan on making a movie out of Eldest, it will be interesting to see how they handle that.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Christian Bias and Republican Presidents

I'm coming off of last night's Super Tuesday feeling pretty good about our country.

I mean, sure I voted for Obama in my state's primary, but that isn't what I'm talking about; I'd be happy with either Obama or Clinton as the nominee. No, I'm talking about the Republican race. Getting John McCain as the Republican nominee is just what this country needs.

As anyone that has been paying attention knows, Mitt Romney's faith is an important part of his political beliefs. He seems to make clear that there really is no room for people who have no faith. Even worse is Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister who all but admitted in a televised debate that he's a creationist. These two men should raise chills in anyone of rational thought.

Luckily for us, there's two of them.

Since Romney is a Mormon, we can see the results of conservative Christians who don't really feel that Mormonism counts as Christianity, and who are voting for Huckabee. Yet conservative Christians are seeing they don't have as much power as they like to bluff - while Huckabee has the South in his grip, he's a distant third with no chance of winning.

As pundits have noticed, with Romney and Huckabee splitting the religious wackos, a more reasoned candidate is coming to the fore, one who really doesn't feel all that highly about the evangelicals.

And now conservatives are starting to say... "Ooops."

Yes, I have a smile on my face today, wider than the one I already had because of my snow day!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Necessary Intro stuff, I guess

Lord, I hate these intros.

For those of you new to me, I am the internationally unknown math teacher and atheist author Paul Donovan, who wrote the book entitled Happily Godless: A Young Adult's Guide to Atheism.
It is available from, or your favorite old-fashioned-building-store. You know, the place that looks lke a library, except more expensive.

I have been blogging on xanga for a couple of years now, in which I mused on atheist subjects and regaled my readers with exceptionally exceptional thoughts on writing a book. Looking back on it, it has been an interesting couple of years. I started out posting under a pseudonym, because I was fearful for my job as a gay atheist in a public school in which most of the administration was conservatively Christian.

However, I've never been one for being in the closet - I was actually out as a gay guy before my first month of teaching was done. I did keep kinda quiet about the atheist thing for awhile because I didn't want people's brains to explode as all their preconceived notions about such beasts as myself imploded in their heads.

However, having achieved tenure this year (and relying on the fact that it's damn hard to find math teachers), I'm feeling much more secure in my job and started posting under my own name last summer.

Besides, I figured the little matter of the book would eventually unmask me. It's my considered opinion that I wouldn't be able to stay anonymous, anyway. In this hyperconnected world there are no such things as secrets... only delayed transmission of information (However, please note that I have no intention of turning this space into a dish-serving gossip hole about my coworkers or students. So I will refrain from actually mentioning the name of the school; and any time I speak of the people inside, I'll be using fake names or initials).

Anyway, with this new book, I've been encouraged to get a blog that has the potential of catching more traffic than the suburban streets of xangaland. So while I will not be abandoning xanga, this blog will probably become my home base.

OK, I need to end here. I've already broken my rule of making blog posts less than about five paragraphs long. I mean, who has time to read anything long anymore? If you're a glutton for reading, feel free to spend your time perusing my old posts on xanga.