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The Moment I Stopped Believing in Santa is Preserved in Writing

I’ve always preferred communicating with people in writing, even when I was a little kid. I suppose that’s why it’s only natural that I have a blog! Even before I could write my mom would have me communicate my feelings through drawing or painting. So when I wanted to broach a difficult subject I would always write her a note.

I remember writing to her when I found out my classmate was shoplifting and smoking, I wrote to her when I wanted to stop going to Church with the rest of my family, and I vaguely remember drawing her a picture representing my feelings about a war I heard about on the radio (I think it must have been the Gulf War).

My husband and I recently moved, and when I was unpacking I started to dig out my old correspondences and read through them. I found one cute little journal that was full of notes back and forth between my mom and I. Most of it was her guiding me on how I could learn to tolerate my annoying little brothers, and I was also very concerned about a wallet I had lost (I remember finding it in the couch, that was a good day). But my heart skipped a beat when I saw this:

I think that for many children, the first time they really think about and apply skepticism and critical thinking is when they consider the existence of Santa Claus and the other various characters that our parents make up to make our childhood more fun. My mom had the perfect response to the above query:

My response:

And her again:

And me again:

At this point she knew I had figured it out, so the next response from her is her explanation about what Santa Claus is, and about how he represents the spirit of giving.

I have the best mother!

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed finding it!

Happy Holidays everyone 🙂

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Reddit /r/atheism Doing Good for Doctors Without Borders

This is awesome!

I was reading Reddit /r/atheism this morning and I saw that they were starting some friendly competition with /r/christianity over who could raise $10,000 for charity first. They collectively settled on Doctors Without Borders as their charity and set up a page to collect donations about 7 hours ago. As of now they’ve almost raised $7,000 already! (Plus another £433.32 on the UK site)

Here‘s a link to the thread on Reddit, and here‘s a direct link to where you can make your own donation to add to the total (you don’t have to be on Reddit).

Positive Thinking

So, December is proving to be a terrible month to do an anything “of the month”, but I’ve been trying to fulfill my intentions to read up on the subject of positive thinking, and to inform myself on the evidence for its efficacy. I hope to go more in depth at what science says about positive thinking, but for now here are some of my initial thoughts on the topic.

When I told my husband that I would be doing positive thinking as my skeptical topic of the month, he thought it was a little bit strange because of his experience as an athlete. He plays and coaches hockey, so he’s familiar with the effects that a positive attitude can have on the outcome of a game. If your team is convinced that they’re going to lose, they aren’t going to over-exert themselves to try in futility to score. It’s easier for the players to get over their own insecurities and to play their best if they’re feeling confident.

I was an athlete myself back in my highschool and university days. I was a competitive swimmer, and my best event lasted less than 30 seconds. I had to be positive about my training and abilities, otherwise I would get caught up in making sure my hands were positioned correctly or making sure I didn’t breathe too often. But here’s the thing, no amount of positive thinking would have allowed me to go faster than I was physically able to go. If I hadn’t worked hard enough in practice I couldn’t count on my optimistic brain to push me into the lead. I could visualize myself springing from the blocks the moment the gun went off, but it wouldn’t change the fact that I had terrible reaction time.

Thinking about something doesn’t make it happen, no matter what Oprah tells you.

Out of curiosity I Googled “Positive thinking can”, and here are some of the results that came up:

·       Help you feel better, longer
·       Reduce stress
·       Ease back pain
·       Change your life
·       Increase your wealth, health and happiness
·       Help you attract success
·       Help children feel confident
·       Help you lose weight
Etc…

How can thinking possibly do all of this magic? I have back issues myself, and let me tell you no amount of positive thinking is going to dull that sharp pain like loads of ice and an anti-inflammatory. Though I might be able to distract myself from the pain by thinking about how annoying Deepak Chopra is…

Positive thinking may be helpful in some of these instances. Being a positive person might make people want to be around you, which will increase your chances of having a friend that can help you find wealth or success. But looking at websites and videos that promote positive thinking make it seem as though if only you start to think more positively you’ll suddenly find yourself in a beautiful green meadow with a big blue sky and rolling clouds, basking in your own success while you spin around with your arms in the air in loose, white clothing.

Google Image search results for "positive thinking"

Thoughts aren’t magical. Conjuring something up in your mind isn’t going to make it happen. Positive thinking isn’t going to help you pass that test unless you study. A good attitude won’t shrink that tumor. Optimism won’t give you the money you need to buy your dream home.

Yet there’s an entire industry out there of people who want to sell you the idea that you can get anything you want by sending your positive thoughts out into the universe. On the surface it’s a nice idea. Just be positive! Your dreams will come true! But what really disgusts me about these ideas is the implication that if good things don’t happen for you it’s your fault.

Terminally ill? Maybe you should have a better attitude. Didn’t get the job? Keep sending those positive vibes and you’ll get a job eventually. Depressed? Well maybe you should smile more.

This is what protects the cult of positive thinking: it’s immune to criticism. If it doesn’t work for you it’s because you weren’t doing it right.

Postitive Thinking – December’s Skeptical Topic

Every month I (and anyone else who wants to join me) will be exploring one topic that’s commonly looked at by skeptics, to try to get a good feel for it. I/we’ll be looking at the arguments for and against the subject, reading blogs or listening to podcasts to do with both sides of the issue, and trying to gain an understanding of what science says on the topic.

In mid-November I posted a poll asking what the first subject should be and the winner was positive thinking, so all throughout December I’ll be getting better acquainted with the idea that by thinking positively you can improve your life, heal yourself, and attract good fortune. Of course I’ll also be blogging about it!

If anyone has any suggestions for resources I’d love to hear them!

So far, Gem Newman of Startled Disbelief has agreed to join me. If anyone else would like to join us let me know and I’ll link to your blog. By the way, the Winnipeg Free Press did a fantastic piece on Gem and the Winnipeg Skeptics in today’s paper. It’s rare to see a skeptical group written about so fairly and accurately, I love it!

The Winnipeg Skeptics

Hey everyone! Just a quick announcement to say that I’m now contributing to the Winnipeg Skeptics blog!

 That logo’s inspired by the sign for a notorious intersection in Winnipeg known as Confusion Corner. I once ran out of gas in that intersection, that was fun…oh also my family got slammed into by a drunk driver about a block away from there…oh yeah and one time somebody ran a red light and almost crashed into our car there. Oh! And one time a plane crashed there…but that was more due to the cold tempuratures than the confusion of the corner. Fun times in Winnipeg!

Go check out the blog! I’ll mostly by cross-posting from here, but there are a bunch of other contributors over there with unique perspectives.

The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day



Awhile back (a long while), someone named Chris commented on my Reading List page (which I have to update) that I should read The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day. Since it’s free to download I agreed, but so far I haven’t gotten past the first chapter. I thought I would write about the first section of the first chapter, and then maybe you can tell me if it’s even worth my time to keep reading.

 

The first chapter is called A Pride of Atheists (barf). Below is the text of the book in black, and my comments in red.

 ***

don’t care if you go to Hell. Shit! Well that’s one way to kick off your book.

 

God does, assuming He exists and assuming you know the mind of God, or He okay this is only the second “He” in this chapter and I’m already annoyed at the capitalizing of the word “he”…God cares about me but he’ll hold it against me if I don’t capitalize a pronoun? wouldn’t have bothered sending His Son to save you from it. Jesus Christ does, too, assuming he existed, if you’ll accept for the sake of argument that he went to all the trouble of incarnating as a man, dying on the cross, and being resurrected from the dead in order to hand you a Get Out of Hell Free card. Is God not omnipotent? He really had to go to all that trouble to give me a Get Out of Hell Free card? And if he went to all that trouble why is my ticket out of hell so conditional? Free my ass!

 

 

Me, not so much. I don’t know you. I don’t owe you anything. I don’t know you either, Vox Day, but if I thought you were going to hell I would care. I’d be absolutely outraged. Nobody deserves eternal torment. While as a Christian I am called to share the Good News with you, I can’t force you to accept it. Horse, water, drink, and all that. Barf.

 

So, it’s all on you. Your soul is not my responsibility.

 

I am a Christian. I’m also a libertarian. I believe in free will and in allowing you to exercise it. I believe that our free will is a gift from our Creator and that He expects us to use it. I believe in living and letting live. If you’ll leave me alone, I’ll be delighted to do you the courtesy of leaving you alone in return. I have no inherent problem with atheists or agnostics, I have no problem with Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Pastafarians, and I have no problem with the crazies who believe that humanity is the result of ancient alien breeding experiments. To be honest, I rather like the crazies—their theories are usually the most entertaining of the lot. I believe what I believe, you believe what you believe, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t both be perfectly cool with that. Sure, fine, I can go along with that.

 

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are not so much cool with that. Wha?? Wrong, they’re fine with letting people believe what they want too. Just because they choose to talk about atheism and criticize religion doesn’t mean that they want to force their views onto other people. Richard Dawkins was even part of an ad campaign that encouraged letting children choose for themselves what they believe, rather than labelling them from birth as Christians or Muslims or atheists, etc.

 

I’m not asking you to respect my beliefs. Good, I don’t. So far I don’t particularly respect you either. I mean, you just basically told me that you’ll be fine with it if I go to Hell. Why should you? Maybe you think I’m insane because I believe that Jesus is coming back one of these days, but does my insanity actually affect you in any material way? Not insane, but perhaps misguided. But it’s your prerogative if you think zombie Jesus is coming back. Is my religious madness really all that much more out there than my faith that the Minnesota Vikings will win the Super Bowl someday? Umm yeah the idea that some guy that’s the son of God but is also God who died 2000 years ago is going to come back to life and bring everyone up to heaven with him is kinda way more out there than the possibility that the Vikings will win the Super Bowl. Go Vikings! Talk about the substance of things hoped for . . . Vegas will give you better odds on J.C. this year. Who’s in the house? J.C.! As for your beliefs, I really don’t care if you want to question God’s existence or criticize the Pope or deny the Holocaust or declare that Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet. Every member of humanity is at least a little bit crazy in his own special way, some just happen to make it a little more obvious than others. True dat, yo.

 

Vox’s First Law: Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from insanity. I guess that’s supposed to be funny or cute or something, but it just doesn’t really work.

 

All I ask, all the vast majority of the billions of people of faith on the planet ask, is to be left alone to believe what we choose to believe and live how we decide to live. That’s fine by me, if only people were content just believing what they choose to believe. Unfortunately many believers want their faith to dictate what gets taught in the science classroom, or they want to decide who can legally marry or whether a woman can choose whether or not to stay pregnant. In some places peoples’ beliefs lead to terrorism and extreme violence against women. People can believe what they want to believe, but once those beliefs start affecting other peoples’ rights, we have to speak out against it. But the Unholy Trinity have no intention of leaving me alone. Richard Dawkins accuses me of child abuse because I teach my children that God loves them even more than I do. I’m not really sure if I agree with Dawkins that labelling your kid as a Christian (or whatever religion) from birth is tantamount to child abuse, but if what you want is for people to believe what they choose to believe, shouldn’t you avoid teaching your kids that there’s a god and let them discover that for themselves? Shouldn’t you let them be exposed to many different religions and to the idea that there may be no god and let them make their own informed decision without your prodding? Sam Harris declares that I should not be tolerated and suggests that it might be ethical to kill me in preemptive self-defense. Um, what? Sam Harris said that Christians should be killed? I seriously doubt that…anyone know what he’s talking about here? Christopher Hitchens asserts that I am a form of human Drāno, poisoning everything I encounter. He said religion poisons everything, not you. And I would sooner compare you to the clog in the drain, because you’re trying to stop the discourse and have everyone shut up about their beliefs, wheras Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins want to get the debate flowing. A fourth New Atheist, the philosopher Daniel Dennett, is less judgmental, but even he, bless his heart, wants to save me from myself. At least he cares enough to want to save you, you don’t even care if he goes to hell!

 

And now we have a problem.

 

That’s why I’m writing this book. I’m not trying to convince you that God exists. Why not? If you convince atheists that God exists then they won’t be out there doing all those horrible things like talking about skepticism of religion and criticizing the Bible. I’m not trying to convince you to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I’m not even trying to convince you that religious people aren’t lunatics with low IQs who should be regarded with pity and contempt. But I am confident that I will convince you that this trio of New Atheists, this Unholy Trinity, are a collection of faux-intellectual frauds utilizing pseudo-scientific sleight of hand in order to falsely claim that religious faith is inherently dangerous and has no place in the modern world. You won’t succeed if the rest of the book is as full of crap as this first little bit has been.

 

I am saying that they are wrong, they are reliably, verifiably, and factually incorrect. Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel C. Dennett is wrong. Christopher Hitchens is drunk he reminds me of Julian from the Trailer Park Boys, always a drink in hand, and he’s wrong. Michel Onfray is French, and he’s wrong OMG, wrong and French?. Sam Harris is so superlatively wrong that it will require the development of esoteric mathematics operating simultaneously in multiple dimensions to fully comprehend the orders of magnitude of his wrongness. All I can do is roll my eyes here.

 

You make the call. Here’s what I think so far: the rest of this book will be a waste of my time.

 

 

***

 

Okay I’m back to black text now…so what do you think? Should I keep reading?

The UFO Pictures I Took

Here are the UFO pictures I took when I was little. Can you identify it?

(The black thing in the second picture is the strap from my camera case. Also, these are actually pictures of the original pictures because they were taken with a film camera. The dot at the top is a hole from a push-pin that I used to put these on my bulletin board, and there are visible creases in the first pic.)


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