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Archive for April 2007

The Humanist Symposium Inaugural Edition

As I mentioned earlier, there is a brand spanking new blog carnival in town: The Humanist Symposium. Atheists tend to spend a lot of time evangelizing against religion. This regrettably fills our time with negativity focused on the problems we perceive in theism. This new carnival hopes to change that by collecting articles which focus on the positive aspects of humanism. It looks like there’s a lot of good reading ahead. I can’t wait to dive in.

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A View from the Outside

I ran across a couple of statements about Mormonism from outsiders to the religion today. The first was an excerpt on Mormonism from Christoper Hitchens’ new book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. He got some Mormon trivia wrong here and there, but his take on Mormonism was largely well informed and unsurprisingly negative. May I never be on the wrong end of Hitchens’ scorching eloquence.

I also watched Bill Maher’s recent discussion on Mormonism. Yes Harriet, Elder Mark E. Petersen did preach that “If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.” and President Brigham Young taught that a white man who “mixes his blood with the seed of Cain” (i.e. descendants of black Africans) should be punished with death. I had to look those statements up (this was news to me), but I’m not too surprised that they in fact taught exactly what he said.

What these critics say is substantively accurate. It is not anti-Mormon lies. It is based on the unvarnished, un-correlated facts. Apologetics only works on the faithful. To most everyone else, it looks like excuses. This is the greatest threat that I can see to Mormonism: the truth.

I feel a kind of sympathy for Mormons over the next few years. Mitt Romney’s candidacy for President of the United States is going to put Mormon beliefs in the spotlight of American consciousness even more than the Winter 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. People are going to want to know what a potential Mormon President’s beliefs are all about. Mormonism is going to get publicly scrutinized, and I have a feeling that it isn’t going to be pretty in a lot of cases if these two examples are a good indicator. They will watch as their religion is attacked in the public arena. They’re going to learn facts about their past which have been censored from church approved materials. Many will retreat behind comfortable lies to excuse their religion, but some will take the truth to heart. I feel sympathy because I remember how painful it was to unlearn what I thought I knew.

More and more, I think the public is going to see all the uncomfortable secrets hidden in Mormonism’s closet. Personally, I hope (probably without good reason) that seeing Mormonism’s foibles will cause them to examine the skeleton’s in their own closets.

By the way, don’t forget to watch the Frontline and American Experience documentaries about The Mormons next Monday and Tuesday.

They’re all crazy!—Bill Maher

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Hero Worship

Mother Theresa lived her life with supreme compassion for the poor. Mahatma Gandhi struggled against the oppression of all people and lived a simple, virtuous life. The Dalai Lama crusades tirelessly for the freedom of the Tibetan people and the end of violence in the world. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. [warning: strong language] If you don’t want to sit through all 30 minutes, you can jump to the good bits about Mother Theresa.

We want to believe that people can reach superhuman levels of virtue. We want it so bad that we will latch onto someone, ignore their faults, and proclaim them a hero. It gives us hope that we can be better people. We want to believe that Mother Theresa, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Joseph Smith, Jesus of Nazareth, or the Buddha somehow transcended their humanity.

The wonderful truth is that we are all human, even our heroes. No one of us has been more than that: human. Many of us have led exemplary lives of service and heroism. But none of us have ever been something other than human. Humanity encompasses a broad field of virtue and vice.

Though we don’t like to consider it, our favorite demons like Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, child rapists, terrorists, etc. are none of them truly demons. They were and are human beings every last one. That human beings—not so different from us—could be capable of such savagery is a dark thought. If there is any hope of preventing future cruelty, it is in our capacity to overcome the desire to pretend we are not like those villains and to acknowledge and accept our own capacity—as human beings—for the darkest of deeds. But we are also capable of great virtue and heroism.

People are not perfect. Not one perfectly virtuous person has walked the earth. Not a single perfectly villainous monster has been born of a woman. Good and evil are found everywhere and in all things. To worship our heroes as infallible gods and revile our villains as inhuman demons shows a profound lack of self-awareness.

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Lotus in the Mud

An atheist professor from Virginia Tech has taken the opportunity provided by a piece of throwaway bigotry to express my source of hope and meaning better than I can. (Thanks to Jewish Atheist for collecting this story and bringing it to my attention.)

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100 Things I Love About Lacey

In the spirit of one-upmanship, here are 100 (give or take a few) things I love about my wife, Lacey, in response to her list of 100 things about me. Note that I’ve upped the ante by making it things that I love about her and making it 118 things. Thus I have turned this 100-thing into a competitive sport, obliterating the original idea of getting to know a person.

Without further ceremony, in no discernible order, here is the list:

1. She was actually willing to marry me. This despite all of the reasons that she had to the contrary. I still can’t believe that I’m married to Lacey!
2. I love to put my cold hands on her and see her reaction.
3. She’s so ticklish on her feet.
4. She doesn’t demand material things that it would be unrealistic for us to get in our situation—she isn’t materialistic.
5. I love the enchanting green color of her eyes.
6. She has this way of smiling when she talks that makes me happy.
7. I love the mischievous twinkle in her eyes when we’re playing.
8. She laughs out loud in the movie theater even when other people don’t.
9. She gets the chills when I nibble on her ear.
10. We don’t keep secrets from each other.
11. She accepts me for who I am.
12. I love the way she laughs when she can’t stop laughing.
13. I love it when she calls me silly.
14. She comforts me when I’m down, even when she’s not feeling very good herself.
15. We can talk about anything.
16. She forgives me even when I don’t deserve to be forgiven.
17. I love the warm color of her hair.
18. She shares her innermost feelings with me.
19. She’s seen the darkest parts of me and she still loves me.
20. She is willing to go through the pains and troubles of pregnancy to bring our children into this world.
21. She cuddles up to me at night when it’s cold. I love to feel her soft warmth.
22. She almost pushes me off the bed at night because she gets so close.
23. I love the feeling of her legs intermingled with mine when we sleep.
24. I love how her hair smells.
25. She lets me keep all of my books even though they take up so much space.
26. She has a beautiful singing voice.
27. I love the way she laughs when I tickle her.
28. She is fascinated with my skin blemishes. She should be a dermatologist.
29. She is adaptable and willing to compromise.
30. She likes when I play with her hair.
31. She rubs my head when I have a headache.
32. She sincerely wants our relationship to continue to grow and become stronger.
33. I love the sleepy voice that she has in the morning.
34. I love how her hair feels when I play with it.
35. She lets me give her fashion advice, and even pays attention to it.
36. She teases me about being old.
37. I love how soft her cheek is against mine when we hug.
38. She tries hard to fulfill her responsibilities.
39. She helps me feel young at heart and have fun, despite my advancing years.
40. She worked hard to understand where I was coming from when we first started dating.
41. She was willing to become a mother even though I wasn’t able to provide her with everything that I thought she should have.
42. I love the feeling of holding her in my arms.
43. She isn’t jealous.
44. I can be myself with her.
45. We have lots of fun together.
46. She has maturity and strength beyond her years.
47. She’s given me hope that I can learn and grow.
48. She’s taught me that I’m lovable.
49. She’s sexy.
50. She doesn’t insult me or make fun of me.
51. I love how stubborn she is sometimes about not getting up in the morning, even though it can be frustrating.
52. She is self-sacrificing.
53. She supports me in my weirdness.
54. She kisses me hello and goodbye.
55. She’s talented in many things even though she may not think so.
56. I love to talk with her.
57. She has a gentleness and kindness that amazes me.
58. I love her bright smile.
59. I love the feeling of her hand in mine.
60. She gets along with my little brother and sister.
61. She has an inner beauty that draws me to her.
62. She amazes me by applying mascara in a moving vehicle.
63. She is a devoted mother.
64. She is optimistic in the face of setbacks and copes well with my failures.
65. She is patient with my long goodbyes.
66. I love the easy way we talk and laugh with each other.
67. She makes dinner for us even when she’s tired.
68. She doesn’t surrender to despair easily.
69. She shares her food with me.
70. She sometimes snorts when she laughs.
71. She helps me to be a better person.
72. She can’t stand the tension of knowing that a surprise (e.g a present) is in store but not knowing what it is.
73. She is so adorable when she tries to frown but can’t keep from smiling.
74. I love her silly moods.
75. She’s always aware and attentive to when I start to feel bad.
76. She put up with my ineptitude when it came to dating.
77. She cares about my appearance and helps me to look better.
78. She tries really hard to not be a nag and succeeds very well.
79. She remembers to say “thank you” for small things that I do for her.
80. She’s patient.
81. She thinks my jokes are funny.
82. She deals so well with my past. She’s helped me to find solace and hope.
83. She had faith in my ability to raise children without having a real reason to do so.
84. She doesn’t do things to intentionally hurt my feelings.
85. She has faith in my ability to provide for our family.
86. She puts up with my strong opinions even when she doesn’t completely agree. She’s not afraid to disagree.
87. She takes wonderful care of our children.
88. She makes my day go more smoothly without me noticing.
89. She’s patient with my pickiness. I try to express myself without criticizing, but it doesn’t always come out that way. I’m grateful that she understands.
90. I love to see her eyes light up when she sees our children playing.
91. I love to see Lilah and Eden’s eyes light up when they see their wonderful mom.
92. It’s cute how much Chapstick she uses (and where she stores it). She’s not addicted. Not at all. ;)
93. She helped me to feel like a wonderful husband and father.
94. She’s adaptable even when she doesn’t like the changes.
95. She plans well. She often sees the big picture better than I do.
96. She understands my need for quiet time to myself.
97. She makes cute babies with me.
98. She gets so into holidays. She wants to dye eggs for Easter, carve Jack O’Lanterns for Halloween, and so on.
99. She’s photogenic.
100. She made her education a priority even though it would have been very easy to give up.
101. She’s more creative than she thinks she is.
102. She’s easy to get along with.
103. She’s not manipulative.
104. I can trust her.
105. I love when she makes that pouty face.
106. She’s a good cook. I can’t remember a bad meal with her.
107. She makes me laugh.
108. She gives very thoughtful gifts.
109. She looks good in jeans.
110. I love how concerned she is about her family and friends.
111. She has a good eye for design. I respect her aesthetic judgments.
112. She understands me better than anyone else despite our differences.
113. She doesn’t hold grudges.
114. She believes in us.
115. She was such a beautiful bride. I still remember how radiant she looked walking with me in the temple.
116. Sometimes I can’t put my finger on why I love her. I just look at her and feel grateful that she’s there.
117. She inspires me by making positive, courageous changes in her life.
118. Lacey is simply the most wonderful, charitable, intelligent, kind, loving, forgiving, beautiful woman. I love her with everything I have. The love that I have for her just keeps growing and growing through all the good times and bad.

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