The least of these…

The weather is getting bad again and I am again reminded of those poor souls left on the streets to get through this without a roof over their head.  I was looking for a quote about the measure of a society is not how we treat the rich, but how we treat the poor.  That precise quote does not exist, but there are others that are very close. 
Mathew 25:35-40 is a goo example:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’
I also found one attributed to Mahatma Gandhi:
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
In either case, you get the point that it is important for the haves to help the have-nots.  In looking for the quote though I found some ignorant thinking.  One person pointed out the the poor here would be considered rich in other countries.  Fair enough, but a burn victim with burns over 50% of their body is better off than one with 90% burns.  It does not make the 50% any less painful.  So to say to our poor “at least you have good garbage to eat” does not reflex well on us as a society.  In fact, it should shame us that we have stores devoted to useless plastic crap and so much food we throw away about 35-50% of it. 
“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” ~ Confucius
The other ignorant statement I hear is that the poor will game the system and just live off the kindness of others.  They will be users and leeches.  First of all, this already happens, not just with the poor, but from every level of society.  The rich are especially adept at getting stuff for little or nothing.  The last few years has shown the very wealthy can commit terrible crimes that ruin the lives of thousands and still get a handout from the government (Thank you Pres. Bush and Obama).  They have taken so much in comparison to the pittance that might be taken by those few who just want to live off handouts instead of being productive. 
It is much like our ideal justice system.  It was created to put bad people away and keep innocent people out.  There are controls put into place to help make sure that happens.  It is unfortunate, but a consequence of trying to keep innocents out also allows guilty to go free.  I’m sure if you found yourself wrongly accused, you would be hoping we made some good decisions as a society to make sure you are set free.  The same can be said of social programs.  The rich and wanna be rich bitch about how the “others” are taking their “stuff” but if the time every came, I am quite sure they would be grateful for programs to help get them back on their feet or a house of worship opening its doors to give them a place to sleep.  
Think I’m a socialist?  That’s fine, but carefully consider why you think that is a bad thing.  Unfettered capitalism is bad for democracy and it is bad for society as a whole.  Think of those less fortunate.

Snowmageddon 2010

Yet again, Texas is hit with normally heavy amounts of snow.  My job has shut its doors again today which means I have the perfect opportunity to get on my liberal soapbox about what all this snow means to me.  How can snow be political?  Well, consider that in the US today, there are basically two main factions, the rich and the rest of us.  Many of “us” worship the rich, we want to be them, so we belong to their political party.  This same party was smart enough to leverage religion to further its agenda and bring in more followers.  This part is the group of the rich, wanna be rich and religious.  
On the other hand, you have those with a more liberal (in Texas thats pronounced Leeeeberal ) bent.  These people think that we should all strive to be better as a whole race; the distribution of wealth should be a little more even.  They believe that good healthcare and shelter should be a right. We should take care of our planet since it is the only one we get.  Finally, churches should not have a say in secular social contracts.
I hear you asking…but what about the snow?  The way we treat out planet, burning fossil fuels at a high rate, causes the environment to become unbalanced.  While this can cause and overall rise in the temp of the entire planet, it can also cause unusually cold conditions in others.  The more “conservative” group are climate change deniers since it is generally bad for business (aka the rich).  These type are also generally christian in the US and most of those have an Armageddon view of the world.  It will all end, so why bother taking care of it now. 
The snow also brings very tough conditions for those less fortunate, especially those without a home at all.  I watched a story yesterday of a man who was sleeping in a dumpster to stay warm and was almost killed when the trash truck came to pick it up.  We was treated, at a high cost no doubt to the hospital, but sent out in a patients gown.  It’s not the hospitals responsibility to make sure the person they just treated stays healthy. That’s bad for business.  So, what do we do with so many without homes?  I mean, it not my fault they are homeless, right?  Why should I be forced to pay higher taxes to make sure EVERYONE has decent healthcare (like our elected officials who generally could afford to buy it privately) and a roof over their head? These are humans and we are watching idiots drive sports cars in the snow.
Finally, one of the ways to fix much of this are churches.  It is a strange world where churches can be polling places for voting, be exempt from taxes and be politically active, yet don’t have to give back to the community where they are in equal measure.  So, how about making it mandatory that if a church is to be tax exempt, it should be required to open its doors to make sure no one has to sleep in the cold or rain or suffer under the Texas heat.  They should also not be able to enforce any candidates for political office or serve as polling places in secular elections.  
Think about the warm and dry place you are right now.  Enjoy every sip of your warm beverage, but be mindful of your fellow travelers.  They are people too and but for some twist of fate, it might have been you.

Fate is fickle

Fate, destiny, serendipity or just plain coincidence; however you describe it, I had one of those moments today. I decided to go home for lunch. I wanted to run outside and I cannot think of a place I can go to do that in the middle of the day where I can change my clothes. I also wanted to get something to eat and it is certainly cheaper eating at home than out. So I was there for about an hour, pack up and left.
On the spur, I decide to go to the library and get a movie I’ve wanted to see. The library closes at 5 pm today, so it was do it now or wait. As I was leaving, I ran into a friend who has recently suffered a terrible loss. We were able to sit down and talk a while about what happened. I don’t know if it helped him at all, but it helped me. Trying to me sense of the senseless can drive you mad. Getting more details, while not making the situation any better, at least puts the whole thing in perspective.
So, while I don’t believe it was fate, destiny or some guiding hand, it did touch me; make me feel more connected.
Sophia S – This is why I can’t be an atheist. My life feels orchestrated week by week. Just the other day watching the 2nd of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Will said, “Mom, are demons real?” and I said, ask your dad.
Then the next day as I was fixin to leave somewhere the J Dubs (Jahova Witnesses) caught me in time to give me their magazines and share scripture. I took them to work with me and read them cover to cover. This one particular issue had a detailed story about whether demons where real or not! According to them/The Bible, they are.
I hear there is a book out that is math based explaining the case that odd coincidences happen more often than we would otherwise expect them to. Since I loath math and all it stands for, AND think logically that nobody could possibly test that theory especially seeing how frequent things happen to me and less to others, I choose to believe I have angels all around me all the time red ones and white ones guiding my journey at my discretion! Better yet, I am sure there is also a network of energy that you are either plugged in or out of based on your thinking. I think we are all little creators of our own lives moment to moment and that we alone can create or be idle. Be in the flow of the source, or out of it. That is why relationships with one another are so important. We are all connected. Living.
James S – How can your life be both “orchestrated week by week” and “we are all little creators of our own lives moment to moment”? Seems contradictory.
Sophia S – Aah twould only seem so if it weren’t for the fact that the orchestration is not my doing but of my angels not an orchestration in a predestined way but in a way where I am a mere horn player creating every note free to follow the conductors influence or do my own thing the end result being creation on my part and orchestration adapting or clashing with me. Good luck trying to adjust your perception to mine. Applause for trying! :o)

Ethics of Belief

I just read this in the Deamon Hauted world by Carl Sagan and wanted to share:
“A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and and refitted, even though this should put him at great expense. Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors. In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance-money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales.
What shall we say of him? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts.”
William K Clifford – The Ethics of Belief (1877)

Republican “Values”

I read this an thought it was ironic:
In one paragraph they state:
“Ensuring Equal Treatment for All
Individual rights – and the responsibilities that go with them – are the foundation of a free society.”
Then we read a little further down speaking from the other side of their mouth:
“Preserving Traditional Marriage
Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it.”
Lol. Why am I not a republican again?

Alma 51 in the Book of Mormon

I was wondering if anyone else has ever noticed how Alma 51 is a rehash of the American Revolution? Take a read tonight if you have the book and tell me what you think. If you need a copy, you can find it electronically at

King-Men = British
Freemen = American Revolutionaries
Moroni ~ George Washington
Standard of Liberty = The flag of the revolution

Key words – Free government, freedom, voice of the people, people of liberty, defend their country.

Key ideas – nobility and high born against the [commoners], defending cities near the sea, the opposition is a greater number and force.

I’m sure there are other similarities, but these are the ones that stood out.

16 Things About Me

  1. I used to be Mormon now I’m an atheist.
  2. I love being a father. I wanted to be a dad since I was a teen.
  3. I clean the house by instinct. I just start grabbing stuff and putting it away…but I can stop anytime.
  4. I really enjoy challenges. If it comes easy, it was likely not worth it.
  5. I can fix almost anything around the house. I grew up with the philosophy of fix it till it completely falls apart, then scavenge those parts for other things.
  6. I have many hobbies, but am trying to reduce them. Currently, I’m focused on leather and wood.
  7. I am an avid reader, but it has to be science fiction, fantasy or learning a new skill.
  8. I love Star Trek. I can almost repeat all TNG episodes by heart.
  9. I’m totally into my wife…see #4 above.
  10. I love technology. I like picking up new programs and hardware and seeing how I can use it to further my entertainment. 
  11. I love discussing philosophical issues, I just don’t know many people who also like to.
  12. I like to workout. I like the pain, the sweat and the ache after.
  13. I like comic books and the movies based on them. I was a Joker and Wolverine fan before it became popular.
  14. I think the federal government is too big. What the hell does DC know about what we need in DFW?
  15. I like being an accountant. I enjoy numbers, analysis, research, etc. I just hate data entry. 😛
  16. I want only the best for my little girls. I want them to be strong, independent and I want them to dote on me always.

Why I disagree with Prop. 8 – Monday, November 10, 2008

I think prop. 8 was a huge mistake. This country was based on the principle that all [people] are created equal. As a law abiding citizen, I should be allowed to be treated equally under the law regardless of my religious beliefs (or lack there of), skin tone, or who I want as spouse. Marriage is a social contract between consenting adults, and as such should be left as a right of every free citizen.

What I find most ironic about the passage of prop. 8 is that is was due in large part because of he African American’s and Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. These two groups more than many others have suffered persecution by being labeled “the other” and not being allowed the same basic rights we all deserve. If you change prop. 8 to exclude any religious or ethnic group, the whole thing never would have made it to the ballot. And yet, two people who want to make commitment to one another are cast aside since they do not conform to some religious standard. Specifically, the LdS church already has a separate marriage different than the rest of the world. By their doctrine, all other marriages are less than the LdS marriage since they end at death anyway. A marriage by any non-Mormon, in a civil marriage, is a secular ceremony that unites people only on this earth. Should a “time and all eternity” marriage be outlawed since it conflicts with the US majorities view of what constitutes a marriage?

What about the procreation of the species? There is no question evolution would not work if only partners of the same sex cam together. However, less than 1% of any population is actually found to be homosexual. It is also not confined to homo-sapiens. Other groups have small populations of same sex coupling. As humans, we can have children out of wedlock, yet no one would ever conceive of banning a person’s right to procreate outside the bounds of marriage. Many hetero couples get together and never have children by choice. Should they have their rights revoked since they do not share in some religious prerogative? Certainly not. Human procreation will never be affected by allowed homosexual couples to marry.

What about the children? Won’t someone please think about the children? In order to have a better society, people need to grow up in a loving environment. Even if they don’t, most people make it into society ok despite how they grew up. It is also true that a child needs positive role models from both sexes to understand how they interact and their roles in society. So, should we outlaw single parenthood? If a mother or father is trying to raise a child on their own, they are not living up to some preconceived notion of how things “ought to be”. In the situations, children find role models in their other family members, neighborhoods, churches, civic organizations, etc. What about all those kids in foster care because there hetero sexual parents did not want them? There are so many waiting for a loving home and now, at least in one state (Arkansas) single parents are not allowed to adopt. So, the kids are left to an abusive system that causes more harm than good instead of getting them to a loving family, whether single or a gay couple. Those left to the foster system will become “screwed up”.

If homosexual couples are allowed to marry, it will justify homosexual relations as an alternative lifestyle. The funny thing, it already is. People already live their lives together in same sex relationships; they just do so without the same rights as hetero couples. There is simply no proof that a child raised by a same sex couple will choose to be in a same sex relationship at a higher rate than those raised by heteros. The simple fact is we are attracted to whom we are attracted to. We have as much choice with whom we fall in love with or find attractive as we do our hair color. You can force a change, but your roots will eventually show through.

I am grateful to live in a free country that protects the rights of individuals regardless of their religion, color or nationality. I am thankful to have a loving father than made sure his sons understood life is short and this is all you get, so make the best of it and help others do the same. Finally, I am grateful to be in a congregation of people where differences are celebrated and welcomes people no matter who they are or what their particular path through this life is. I know there are surely homosexuals among them, but I could not tell you who they are, only that they are part of my extend human family. 

John Adams / letter to Thomas Jefferson

“Hope springs eternal. Eight millions of Jews hope for a Messiah more powerful and glorious than Moses, David, or Solomon; who is to make them as powerful as he pleases. Some hundreds of millions of Mussulmans expect another prophet more powerful than Mahomet, who is to spread Islamism over the whole earth. Hundreds of millions of Christians expect and hope for a millennium in which Jesus is to reign for a thousand years over the whole world before it is burnt up. The Hindoos expect another and final incarnation of Vishnu, who is to do great and wonderful things, I know not what. You and I hope for splendid improvements in human society, and vast amelioration in the condition of mankind. Our faith may be supposed by more rational arguments than any of the former.”

John Adams / letter to Thomas Jefferson
September 24, 1821

You Did What?

In response to some interest in my past, I thought I’d share a piece written by an author that I found influential and share a little of my time as a Mormon.  I joined the Mormon church when I was 16.  I fell for a girl and it was really important to her, so I looked into it.  I loved history mysteries and the Book of Mormon purported to be the history of early indigenous of North and South America.  I met the missionaries, took the discussions and joined the LDS church.
My father was great.  He is not religious at all and his father was an outspoken atheist.  I had to have his permission to join and he did so without much thought.  Later when I decided to serve a mission, he was okay with that too, especially when he found out I was going to Australia.  I served two years over in Oz, came back, dated, met a beautiful girl and got married in the Dallas Temple.  We had three girls, all blessed in the church.  Some time in 2006, I had been reading the Book of Mormon to Kassidy and we came to the passage in 1 Nephi 4:18.  In this section, Nephi (“good” guy) cuts off Laban’s (“bad” guy) head.  Kassidy turns to me and asks why?  I try to explain, you know god kills bad people to make a point.  Then she asks, “Is that true?”  Had it been an adult, I would have said yes without thinking, but I just could not answer that.
So I spent the next year and a half trying to come to grips with the belief system I had come to accept as true.  I spent a lot of time fasting, praying, reading the scriptures and church sanctioned commentary.  I thne moved to other resource not sanctioned, one of which was “Farewell to Eden“.  I was part of a newsgroup and had gotten into some long, heated debates with the author.   I had the book delivered to the library (I was not about to spend a dime to support his “heresy”).  I finished it in a night and realized I’d been duped.  I could see the Book of Mormon was a fraud and a really clumsy one.  A little over an hour spent at the local library would be all that is needed.  It took me a while to understand how I could have been misled for so long.  I read a book “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)“.  While it has nothing to do with religion, it is a good book on psychology and how we justify our decisions.
My wife’s side is still Mormon and mine are still, whatever, mostly non-religious.  We tried the Unitarian Universalists for a while, and my wife still goes.   I am an atheist and really have no need for religion, but I think it is important for my kids to learn about christianity as well as all the other worlds myths.  I find the intellectual honesty I have with myself now is worth the trouble I went through to get here.