Athiest, Agnostic, Disinterested Party

Fandango recently posed the question:

Do you believe that atheism is a set of religious beliefs or is a religion in any sense? If so, why? If not, why not? Or, do you have no opinion on the matter or just don’t care one way or the other?

First, for a variety of reasons, I do care. I was exposed to some “Bible Belt” Christianity at a young-ish age and I took it seriously. Later in life I realized I never did actually believe what I was told, but some mechanism, a survival mechanism of sorts, you might say, made me try hard to. But even as a third grader, I was puzzled at some of the logic.

These Christians–the family of my “best friend” back in those days (they lived across the street)–did truly believe in what they said. They believed in God. I never questioned that, but I noticed they never really produced any real evidence of the existence of God, but only a form of logic that led them to it. Stuff like, how beautiful and complex and perfect the world is, and how that never could have come about accidentally. And there was the anecdotal evidence. One example among millions: there was the man who was shaken awake as he lay soaking in the bathtub, about to slide beneath the water and probably drown, (?) and as he opened his eyes, he saw an angel walking out of the room. And their religion had its own prophet who wrote enough books about her visions and revelations to fill a four-foot bookshelf.

She wrote that Jesus had red hair.

What was I supposed to do with this information? Now to proceed in life I had to choose, I guess, to be either deluded or guilt-ridden. Or, you know, become an atheist. And this is where Fandango came in. Is atheism, or Atheism, a religion in itself?

Paula at Light Motifs said it all but it brings up Agnosticism, the solution for people who are too superstitious to come right out and say that they don’t believe in God. They say, well, I’m not an atheist! I’m an agnostic. I’m not a bad person, I just haven’t seen proof–I need more information. The jury is still out.

It’s a copout. I don’t believe in UFOs. No lightning bolts, no probes, no harm, no foul. There is no terminology, in this particular field of study, for the cautious, superstitious naysayer, but you might say, when it comes to UFOs, I am an atheist–little “a.” Not a zealot, but more like the disinterested party. I don’t care if you believe in UFOs, though I might steer clear of you if pressed.

No patience for Atheists with a capital A. For them, it is indeed a religion. I’m not saying their belief (or lack of) is wrong; I put them in with vegans who accept your Thanksgiving dinner invitation but forward a list of acceptable ingredients for their dinner.

Where I Am (Some of the Time)

Looks like a nice writing nook until you realize I sit with my back to the dining table. I’m kind of old to be living like a college student, I guess, though I can’t say as I really care.

Somewhat Photoshopped pic of my desk and the dining room window.

Reality Check

I suppose no one really wants to know my political or ideological beliefs, but I think we’re safe here. Anyway, my blog.

Biden’s speech in Poland, which was filled with a lot of strong ideas, (though Biden is really not the best orator we’ve had in office) ended on one odd note that was perhaps satisfying to hear but also perhaps just a bit provocative, concerning Putin. President Biden said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

As usual, and I don’t blame them for “doing their job,” the media started speculating just how bad, or thoughtless, or damaging or provocative this kind of language might be in this sensitive time in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But, here’s my point, c’mon. Does anyone really think Biden is capable of hurting Putin’s feelings? Or does anyone seriously think that by uttering one relatively benign sentence, Biden can somehow goad Putin into doing something he did not want, nor plan to do in the first place?

And Another Thing

Seriously? A guy walked up to another guy in front of millions of television viewers and hit him? And didn’t get arrested, as I would surely have if someone saw me walking up to someone and hitting him? And then got an award, and a standing ovation? Will Smith would have been much more laudable had he just stood up and said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

Questions and Answers

I’m not sure where this originates from, but from Light Motifs ii comes this:

What fictional family would you like to be part of?  (think TV shows, cartoon or books or some fictional family that you admire?

We make fun of shows like Leave it to Beaver, or Little House on the Prairie, etc., but there is a certain calmness and order in them that I found reassuring as a kid, but I can’t say I’d like to be a part of any of them today. But, corny as it may be, that points to my answer, even though I can’t be specific. Otherwise, the family on the show, Roseanne. Just kidding. OMG.

Which band or artist would you like to play at your funeral or memorial service? (the artist can have passed on too)

It’s tempting to wax intellectual and start spouting references to classical music, and to be honest, there’s a bunch to choose from that I would like to go out on, but I’ve always been a fan of Moby Grape, and to keep it short and sweet and maybe just a tiny bit relevant, I’d like to play for my friends the song, About Time. The song lasts about thirty seconds. The lyrics:

Would you let me walk down your street
Naked, if I want to?
Can I pop fireworks
On the Fourth of July?
Can I buy an amplifier
On time?
I ain’t got no money now
But I will pay you before I die

Preference.   Popcorn, M&Ms or other.   Choose something you love snacking on.

2 part answer is called for here. As a disclaimer, I’ll have to pretend I don’t have type-2 diabetes, and also add, parenthetically, that type 2 diabetes is not the catastrophic health thing many people think it is–so I’m not fishing for pity. 4 pills a day and what I refer to as a diet-under-duress. The anti-climactic answer is either caramel corn, or movie theater popcorn and Junior Mints crammed into the mouth simultaneously. Those of you who would suggest replacing Jr. Mints with little Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups–you’re disgusting.

If you could be any supernatural (fantasy) character, what would you be?  (Think Elves, fairies, dragons or whatever)

Elves seem to be one up on everybody. Plus, a la J.R.R. Tolkien, living in perpetual autumn sounds nice.

Please share the best advice you’ve ever gotten which you feel ought to be shared with everyone.

The funny but strangely thought provoking answer is, if you can choose between smart and lucky, always pick lucky. There is a message there beyond its simple instruction. Lucky is lucky, period. Smart is debatable, as well as its usefulness.

The advice I think I benefited from over the years that I like the best came from something Kurt Vonnegut wrote, and I apologize for not being able to pin down the source any more precisely. He said the most important thing about a successful marriage, or any relationship, above all else, is courtesy.

Life Here so Far

We are finished moving in, I think it is safe to say. At least 98% of everything is within a few feet of where it’s supposed to be, or where, it is hoped, it will wind up with minimal extra effort expended. We’re tired, but the apartment is homey, and incidentally we’re relieved the heating bills won’t be so bad. We had a very cold winter with low temperatures that compelled our viciously inefficient electric furnace to frequently crank up and blow hot around with a seeming vengeance. That’s over, and spring is here and, like I said, we’re finished moving. It is safe to say.

Because the project my partner, significant other and resident molecular biologist is working on is actually something important–as opposed to my virtually non-existent work-in-progress–she gets the extra bedroom for her office. Her book will be finished soon (it is hoped) but for now the room is hers. I have no special claim on it anyway, and like I said, she needs the work space.

I have a desk set up in the dining room. This is not optimal, but it gives me a place to sit down and waste time on the Internet. We live downtown, so when I’m not doing that, I can sometimes be found walking around. It’s a short trek to the grocery store, or the library, or my favorite coffee shop. But, frustrated with no where to sit down and write, however futilely, I started thinking. Just how much would it cost to rent a small office space in one of the many old office buildings around here? I never did find out, specifically, but it dawned on me that we have here an awesome public library that occupies a historic old bank building, the First National Bank, which was built with an apparently slavish budget in 1906. In the classical tradition, the library features lots of little nooks and crannies to provide peaceful, quiet places to read–or write, in my case.

So here I am. This morning I wrote for about an hour to gently expand the WIP. I’m sluggish, for not writing for a few weeks, but I’ll keep at this. I like sitting here, too.

Pluto Restoration Society and ‘Droid Refurbishment

A Word About Pluto

In 1957, my third grade teacher, Miss Lusardi, told the class about our solar system and how the nine (yep) planets revolved around the sun. One of them was Earth, she pointed out.  Earth is a planet! But at the top of her list was Mercury, since it is closest to the sun. From there she worked her way outward, eventually getting to Pluto. Now, maybe we were too young at the time for this sort of harshly critical reality in expository science, but she said that Pluto’s orbit was nothing like the orbits of the other planets. (I now know she was referring to the plane of the ecliptic.) She went on, adding wistfully, “Some scientists say Pluto might not even be a planet.” 

And now look where this sort of thinking has got us. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union declared that Pluto is a “dwarf planet” since it fails to meet all of the criteria to qualify it to be a real planet. Where Pluto fell short, apparently, was it had not cleared its neighboring region of other objects. 

Picky, picky. 

The mission of the Pluto Restoration Society is to restore Pluto to its rightful place in the planetary hierarchy, that stable of old Sol, our sun, (which is also a star.)

The droid refurbishment is our bread and butter–our day job–there only to pay the rent and keep the doors open, said doors open 6 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed Sundays and Holidays. 

Snow Day

Out my back door.

It seems funny, to start with, that I’m happy to post pictures of my back patio view, which resembles some urban, high-crime area, or Moscow, or whatever, instead of the happy, sunny, scenic suburban setting in which I lived just, like, five weeks ago. But I like it here. Maybe it’s less personal, or less judgmental in some way. I think living downtown lends one a certain anonymity. Maybe I just needed a change. At any rate, this is me.

This is our fourth snow storm, I think. That’s not unusual for this part of the country, but I think the wild temperature swings are a bit weird. Several times this year so far, and more to come, the temps have swung from single digits to around 60 degrees in the span of 36 hours or so. (I mean, that change in the high temp for the days.) I moved here about 50 years ago, and although my memory is far from perfect, I just don’t recall this kind of a winter.

I’m from a place where it might snow about once every 35 years. When I was 11 years old it snowed one Sunday and paralyzed the whole Bay Area with a one-inch coating of the dreaded white stuff. Radiators filled with plain old water burst and kids ran around outside just for the novelty of getting snowed upon. That day, it was planned, me, my mom, step-dad and his brother and his brother’s girlfriend went to the beach. On the way “over the hill,” which was what we called the drive on Highway 17 over the relatively tame Santa Cruz Mountain range that separated Palo Alto from Santa Cruz and the beach, we encountered most kinds of weather known to man–rain, sleet, hail, snow, more rain–and ate fried chicken in two cars connected by a blanket stretched across the open doors to form a sort of tent, in an empty lot somewhere near (I assumed) the beach.

I attribute this venture, in hindsight, to the general state of alcoholism and low impulse control that characterized the grown-ups in my life at that time. But it was kind of fun, in a crazy sort of way. We returned unscathed and I got to run around outside for the novelty of it all and witness the strange beauty of a landscape transformed at least temporarily. (The heavy fog did that, too, but was a much more common event.) The next day I heard that later that night “Uncle Teddy,” my step-father’s brother, was driving drunk in the snow up in the foothills and was approached by three uniformed police as he left the car to take a leak. The thick stand of trees and the snow and the uniformed men approaching him jolted Teddy into a World War II flashback and he attempted to fight off the police, thinking they were German soldiers.

My day is nothing like that. Rather boring, actually, and low impulse control has long ago been mitigated by common sense informed by repeated lessons.