Tuesday, October 30, 2007

And Adding Insult to Injury...

I didn't post about it here, but some of you know that there was an electrical fire in my apartment building last Monday. It was in an apartment on the 2nd floor, and I live on the 4th. The firemen evacuated the building at about 8 am, and let us in about 20 minutes or so later. Not terribly disruptive. It was very smoky in my apartment on Monday, but the smoke and smell had dissipated by Tuesday. They sent 4 fire trucks and shut down all of the street, which seemed excessive.

Well, I was woken up at about 2:30 am this morning because my roommates were yelling. I really thought I would kill them if they were yelling about the Philadelphia Eagles again. But no. I came out of my room, and the kitchen floor was an inch deep with water. It was flowing from the bathroom, because the hot water pipe under the sink had burst.

A plumber came out (eventually) and turned the water off in our apartment. He came back this morning at 8 and said he'd be done in a half hour. Great. I called my boss to tell him I'd be late today, and went back to sleep. An hour later, the plumber finished and I was able to get into the shower. I was only about an hour late, and I would've been in sooner, except for my hobbling and the Red Sox parade jamming the T full of overly enthusiastic idiots, most of whom were cutting school.

I'm really hoping this completes the bad luck trifecta and I can get on with my life.

(Oh, and the doctor told me to elevate my ankle, ice it, and take ibuprofen. I'm assuming it's not broken, because they let me leave the hospital without a cast.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Comedy is Tragedy that Happens to Other People. Or to Me.

It's Monday morning, and if yours has started like mine has (forgot my T pass, so I get to pay $4 to take the subway instead!), then you could use a little bit of a laugh. I'm going to invite you to laugh at my expense.

So, yesterday, I realized that I could no longer put off doing laundry any more. I decided to do just the lights/darks, and to do towels/sheets in another trip, because that's a lot to carry to the laundromat. Which is the most expensive laundromat ever, wtf? Anyway. I'm all done with my laundering, and start walking back to my apartment. It's like a five minute walk, not bad. Carrying my laundry in the little pop-up hamper, my brain full of thoughts of tidying my room and actually putting things away where they belong. (No, I'm serious. Stop laughing!)

And then my phone rings. So I dig it out of my pocket and answer it, and it's my friend calling to go to the Garment District and go a-costuming. I still needed a few final touches for my costume (flapper), so I am all for it, and we are just setting up our plans when a family is coming down the sidewalk. I always get out of the way of larger groups by going to the edge of the curb. This is not really the best of ideas when you are a.) on the phone, b.) carrying your laundry, and c.) have a backpack full of detergent on your back.

My right ankle betrayed me. It was always the good ankle--I've sprained my left ankle twice, and my left knee once. Perhaps it was jealous. I don't know. It gave out. I went down. The hamper went flying (though luckily not my expensively cleaned clothes!). The phone went flying...

...and landed an inch from the edge of the sewer grate.

Ladies and gentlemen, I may be the luckiest ankle-sprainer in the world. I haven't gone to the doctor's yet (trying to make an appointment), so I don't have confirmation, but the bruising, swelling, and general pain are usually pretty good indicators.

ETA: Thanks to everyone who helped me yesterday. And didn't laugh (too much) at my gimpiness.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Probably Wasting My Breath...

Always, I mean to post, I mean to post, I never get around to it. Until something lights a fire under my ass. Like this article.

I feel sorry for atheists. They are so much in the minority in American society and they are bound to feel some marginalization if not persecution.

I feel sorry for theists. It must be really hard being told by some book or organization how to live your life, and be denied the opportunity to think objectively about your choices.

Christians should be the last people to persecute anyone -- including atheists. But that doesn't mean Christians have to accommodate atheism as they tolerate and love atheists.

We have to recognize atheists' full freedom to believe God does not exist, but we don't have to embrace atheism as a social good. In fact, I would argue that atheism has no redeeming social value.

Atheism undermines values. How? Let's look at care for others. Yes, an individual atheist might care for other people. But when have you heard of an entire atheist organization serving the poor, the sick or the hungry?

You do not establish how not having an atheist organization that helps the poor, the sick, or the hungry undermines values. Nor do you state whose values are being undermined. The values of atheists? The values of theists?

So far, at least, atheists haven't demonstrated their concern for others in any organized way.

So we need to be organized for our concern for other people to be worthwhile? Why?

Also, Amnesty International, along with many other organizations who make it a mission to help the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the oppressed, states on its website: “AI is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.”

But more importantly, atheism undermines values such as care for others because it cannot explain why anyone should care for others. If there is no God or anything at all above nature, then nature is all there is. The law of nature is survival of the fittest. Why help the less fit survive unless there is a God who loves them because they are created in his image?

And this is where you REALLY lost me. “Survival of the fittest” is not “the law of nature.” It’s something that has often been said, but rarely by scientists.

As an atheist, I can assure you that I do not structure my life around this “law.” I’m not nice to the less fit because someone (in your case, God) told me to be nice. I’m not nice to them because I think I’ll go to Hell if I’m not. I’m nice to them because I think we only get one chance on this earth, and that’s it. I’m nice to them because I think every form of life on this planet has intrinsic worth and something to add to the greater whole. (Okay, I struggle with mosquitoes.) I’m nice to them because I treat other people the way I want to be treated.

It makes me glad you have your God telling you to be nice to people, because otherwise, you would obviously be out of control.

What argument can atheism marshal against "might makes right"?

Might makes right only benefits the strong. Everyone deserves the chance to live and thrive, because we are all the same, we all share similar genetic code. And if only the strong are thriving, then we have a problem.

Many atheists argue that caring for others can be encouraged based on self-interest.

Which atheists have you been talking to? I’ve never heard this argument before. Please cite your sources.

I don’t care for others based on self-interest. I feel no one should care for others based on self-interest, because humans have strong selfish streaks, and the system would fall apart. People should care for other people because we all deserve the same chances at life. Because we’re all people.

But what answer can an atheist give (that is consistent with atheism) to the question, "What if I figure out a way to be personally happy and fulfilled while oppressing other people?"

There is no answer to that without appeal to someone transcendent to whom we are all accountable.

You are blinded by your own faith. Because you can’t imagine a world where there is no higher being.

Oppressing other people is bad for society, and it’s bad for other people. We should be living our lives for the betterment of ourselves and other people.

And atheism has no answer to social Darwinism -- the idea that society should not help the weak because it's nature's way to weed out the less fit.

Sure we do. Social Darwinism is a bad idea because it’s bad science. It has no value to add to society. ALL people are intrinsically valuable, weak or strong, rich or poor, sick or healthy. If we govern society according to social Darwinism, we lose their contributions.

Helping the weak goes against nature and if nature is all there is, well, why should we fight it? A person might choose to, but not because of any transcendent, objective obligation (such as that all persons are created in God's image).

I still don’t see how “helping the weak goes against nature.” You’ve never established this point, so this whole paragraph is moot.

Not only does atheism undermine values; it also undermines meaning. I'm talking about meaningful reality -- life with meaning and purpose.

German theologian Hans Küng wrote Does God Exist? An Answer for Today. In it, the maverick Catholic thinker argued that atheism can provide no basis for "basic trust" in the meaningfulness of reality.

The only logical option for the atheist is nihilism -- belief that nothing has any objective meaning or purpose.

What? How does this follow?

Küng admitted that atheism is a rational "basic choice" and it cannot be proven wrong in any kind of absolute way.

But most atheists demonstrate their basic trust in the meaningfulness of reality by being outraged at evil and injustice, thereby demonstrating that atheism cannot be lived out consistently.

You haven’t proved that nihilism is the only logical option for atheists—merely stated it. Stating something doesn’t make it so.

What makes something evil or unjust if nothing like God exists -- if nature is all there is? Only subjective choice either by an individual or a society. But that can change and it often does. Without God, the social prophet has no way out of relativism.

Of course it changes. Up until the 19th century, most people didn’t see a problem with owning slaves! Most THEISTS didn’t see a problem with owning slaves. Even the Bible mentions slavery without condemnation.

Baylor and universities like it exist to promote objective values and meaningful existence.

For them atheism is not benign, but the enemy -- even if atheists themselves are not.

That’s funny, I thought universities existed to promote higher learning and critical thinking. It was critical thinking that led me to atheism.

“Atheism is not benign, but the enemy.” Wow. Just, wow. That’s such a dangerous, close-minded way of thinking. That sentence is antithetical to the pursuit of higher learning and critical thinking, and is therefore antithetical to universities. Universities are places where these things should be debated, not where they should be stifled.

Finally, let me repeat that I have nothing against atheists as persons and neither does Baylor University.

But in my opinion, they are people of character and virtue in spite of their philosophy of life -- not because of it.

And in my opinion, a professor should be capable of formulating a better argument than this. If I handed this in as a paper in high school, I would have failed it, and rightfully so. You make sweeping generalizations without backing them up. Too many straw man arguments to count. And you get paid to teach?

PS, thanks for respecting my (lack of) belief system! Might really does make right, huh? Would you have written this letter if Christianity was the minority religion? Didn't think so.

Maybe I should write a letter to the editor of the Lariat about how Christianity is dangerous and damaging to society.