Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blogging the First Year


I have completed my first year as a blogger. I have posted on topics from the legislature in Utah to my children and from Community Theartre to many posts on Atheism. I have transformed in the last year from an atheist to a militant atheist willing to challenge openly what seems to be absurd. No worries friends....No guns...I became militant when I openly stated my opinions.

I have gained 9 followers in the last year. Two are my own family members and the rest are friends and strangers who I have come to know from their blogs. I have found my blog listed on blogrolls on other bogger's sites and I have been flattered. I lost 1 facebook friend that I know of and could have lost more who silently blocked my content.

I have had prominent exmormons like Jeff Ricks leave comments on my blog and other known Mormon apologists like Valoel leave their marks.

The blog has been a jumping off for conversation in my home. Sometimes comments have included exasperated remarks like "what have you done now!" The conversations have raised interesting points and I have also been emphatically forbidden to discuss some topics..."I don't want you to write about this....not now!"

I hope to continue to blog at even a more frequent interval than I have in the last year. I suspect my content will be as controversial as it has over the last year. For that I will not apologize but I will say that I don't set out just to stir the pot. I write about things that are important to me and that I feel strongly about. I believe that free speech is not free and there is always a consequence to stating your opinion. I hope to gain new friends and to keep old ones.

Here is to a second year! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas...means less now that my baby doesn't belive in Santa!


This time of year is very aggravating to me. We have a bunch of expectations to meet and even in times of plenty I struggle to succumb to the commercialism of the holiday.

When I was a kid who still had a belief in Santa...and in a god...this season was all magic. From the decorations to the cookies and fudge to the gifts and the anticipation. I loved the stories of a Night Before Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy, and A Christmas Carol.

As I grew older Christmas became tainted by the domestic issues my parents had and the expectations that my father had failed to meet or the unrealistic expectations that my mother had of him. But, for most of the years I lived at home there was someone who believed in Santa Claus.

I easily shed my belief in god at about age 16. The belief in Santa had be be pried from me at age 12. I suffered greatly at this time of year. I worried about the emotional health of my family and if Santa knew what I wanted for Christmas. The night before Christmas I would lay awake the entire night listening for Sleigh Bells and wondering how Santa would get down that chimney; which would lead him to the basement where I slept, and get upstairs without me hearing him. I became a Santa apologist. I was a hopeless romantic!

When I started having children of my own I still loved the whole idea of Santa...but hated the financial pressures the season brings. We did little to raise our children as Christians in fact we avoided most references to Christ in the season. When my oldest, Skyler was about four he was watching a "First Christmas" program on TV. He turned from the TV and asked emphatically..."who is this Jesus dude anyway?" When my youngest boy, Michael, was about 10 he was helping my wife set up a small nativity in the great room. He handed her a figurine of the baby Jesus and said, "Don't forget Noah". He only knew about Noah from the Veggie Tales cartoon that my Mother-in-law lent him despite my objection.

My youngest, Kiera, shed her belief in Santa last year telling us she had caught us a couple of years ago. She kept up appearances because of the "If you don't believe...you don't receive" mantra my wife would repeat all season.

For a Curmudgeon, I love to entertain, decorate my home, and to cook great meals for my family and guests. I am a designer at heart and each tree I put up is an experiment in a new theme, color pallet, each center piece is an opportunity to show Martha Stewart up!

I started this blog as a result of struggling with this question...'Why does an atheist celebrate Christmas at all?' A year later I an no closer to answering this question. I spent most of today shopping for gifts and supporting this artificial economy we have built around this holiday. I believe more this year than I did last that Christ was a legend and not a real person. I struggle to justify the celebration in his name or the financial stress this holiday puts on me and most of middle America. I celebrate it because my wife still loves it.....And I design a mean Christmas Tree!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beware Vitriol Disguised as Benevolence


Lavar Christensen appeared on KCPW the other day pushing the Sutherland Institutes agenda. He believes that religion is under attack in the country and that the United States is a religious nation and that is what the founding fathers wanted it to be. Okay, I recently addressed the Christian Nation thing in a prior post and I am not going to rehash that now.

During the interview Lavar Christensen spoke in the soft monotone we are used to hearing during the LDS General Conference. But is is what he says not the manner that he says it that is troubling. When asked what he sees as the biggest threat to religious freedom now he says:

I think it is the loss of our moorings and our anchoring faith. The
confidence that our nation exhibited demonstrated in its first 150+ years as a
nation, marked by the adoption of the adoption of our national motto 'In God We
Trust', and the of the Pledge of Allegiance. All of those signs of
faith which are so much a part of our American culture are now being
chipped away.


I know that history is inconvenient when it does not support your position. The national motto that his country was founded on and one that still appears on our money is "E Pluribus Unum" which is Latin for "One from many" or "One from many parts." That is the secular motto that was born with the country.

The new motto "In God We Trust" did not come to us until 1956 at the beginning of the cold war. It is not the motto that gave us our exceptional ism as he alleges. The pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, it was edited again in 1924. Both versions excluded references to god. In 1954 in the middle of McCarthyism and the "Red Scare" congress added "Under God"

You see we have not been marching away from god in the country. We have been marching toward god. It is in the last 50 years that we have pushed god on to our citizens because if they believe in god they are not communists. It has been less about god than it has been about pushing fear and imposing religion on the citizens in the same manner that "god" was taken from the peoples of communist nations.

Today it is the assertion that we are a Christian Nation. Because if we are a Christian Nation we are not Muslims. We use religion as a way to homogenize our people, a way to bind the tribe and to be able to determine who our enemies are. God is not a benevolent tool....It is a way to direct our vitriol

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sex Ed...Health Issue or Moral Issue?


KSL, had an artice on it's website today that I found interesting. Syphilis rates are up dramtically in Utah. Whenever we see this as a trend it opens up a debate as to whether we give more sex education to our children or we push abstinence. One method reduces infection the other has proven to not. The following comment was posted with the article and I found it disturbing:

No, this is NOT a health issue, it IS a MORALITY issue. And those who choose to use their agency incorrectly will suffer both the spiritual consequences and in this case many times the physical consequences. People can try to ignore the consequences of sin, but they can not change them. Many people have become so far desensitized they are almost "past feeling" and no longer remember what it felt like to be pure and clean and have almost fully adopted their fallen state of being as "normal" reality. To them, the world is dark and to them it seems normal. These are the voices who usualy speak loudest agains purity and righteousness because they can no longer see or feel it and to them it is as if it no longer exists. They find their daily feed in the media which helps them to reinforce in thier minds thier fallen state as a normal reality, which keeps them from coming to the Lord and repenting so they might be healed. Indeed, as Paul said, "of such, turn away..."


Really? I am not sure how you can use your agency incorrectly...you either use it or you don't. I wonder what the conversation will be at the poster's kitchen table when this poster's child comes down with syphilis or worse...HIV? Darling child you have a disease that was delivered to you by god because you ignored his teachings. Sorry you need to suffer because you were unclean.

COME ON PEOPLE! What are you thinking. Humans are sexual beings. It is in our DNA to have sex. Kids make decisions based upon emotion and desire. There is rarely any thought given to going to hell but tell them they could get sick....They will think twice about the method if nothing else.

Utah needs to pull its collective head out of the sand. Parents do not teach sex ed. They fail in that regard in every way in this state. When you combine religious voodoo with an ineffective policy you write a recipe for disaster. I believe the argument for comprehensive sex ed is the fact that your son might date my daughter!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christian Nation?

We are romping into the holiday season and in the United States that means Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas season. I personally have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I decorate for the holidays and have a great time doing it. I do not believe however that Jesus was the Christ or even a real person nor do I think someone else's death will give me salvation.

This season also brings out the pre-legislative session bills and those who claim there is a war on Christmas and Christianity. I read a facebook status today that for some reason got under my skin.

Let's see how many people on fb aren't ashamed to show their love for God and admit that Jesus is their Savior... We need to get God back in America... If you're not ashamed, copy and paste this in your status... P.S. - "Question with boldness, hold to the truth, and speak without fear!" - Glenn Beck


Now I personally do not care how many people on facebook profess their love for god or admit that Jesus is their savior. I think that is their right and conversely they should leave me to my atheist rants as well because that is my right. I am however concerned about the idea that we need "to get god back in America"!?! I watched a Brian Dalton lecture the other night resonated with my feelings on this subject. Brian Dalton does the popular "Mr. Deity" series on YouTube. Here is a clip;




We continue to operate under the premise of American exceptional ism stating boldly that 'god wanted us to settle this country and we are the greatest country in the world because god wants us to be'. This belief is not only foolish but it is dangerous.

When we are demanding that god be returned to our country are we demanding it be the Christian god only? Or if we bring god back can it be the Muslim god? How about a Hindu god? You see I firmly believe that god only exists in our individual minds. Your definition of god is not the same as your neighbors. In fact no two people in the same congregation will see god in the same way. The problem is that as humans we are willing to kill each other over who we believe is right.

As we move into the 2010 legislative session our conservative legislature is lining up a series of bills that will help return god to our country. The first in the series now out is a push to remove the phrase "Liberally Construed" from the rules. Not because it is bad for the agencies who are charged with the rule to "liberally" interpret or to loosely apply the rule but because it has the word "liberal" in it and liberals are against god. The Salt Lake Tribune Columnist Paul Rolly recently drew a line between the movement of Conservapedia to the Eagle Forum who is pushing to have the language removed from the rules(and there are many). The Eagle Forum has the second biggest voice on the hill next to the LDS Church. This gives the Neo-Conservative Fascist Gayle Ruzicka more access than the average citizen because she represents what god wants.

I would challenge any and all religious people to put their focus on their fellow man. This year especially. Forget about getting god back into America and look out for all Americans not just your fellow Christians. Don't do it because god wants you to or because its what Jesus would do but because it the the right thing to do.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Organic Community - Arts


I had a discussion last week with a friend about community. I live in a planned community (Daybreak) where many of our early experiences, when the community was in its infancy' were socially engineered to bring people together. We all had one thing in common: we chose to buy homes in a neighborhood that was designed from the sidewalks up to create a tight nit community. When we first moved here there were activities and they were well attended by the community members. Over the last five years something has happened to change the community. The community has grown to over 2000 individual family homes and the quaint community that we enjoyed in the beginning has been eroded.

I see the cause of this threefold. The first is the size. When you have two thousand homes and three villages you are going to see a regionalization of community. Folks will opt to know, do service with, and recreate with their neighbors. Second, the community management has failed support organic community in such a large neighborhood and also has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the local culture. The third reason was partially discussed in the last sentence. As our community started to grow the neighborhood started to develop the majority of its community inside of local LDS ward houses.

I guess that the community management recognized on one level that the community was fragmented and there was a need for a change. They fired Lifestyle Director and started a search for a replacement. However, that replacement must also come with a plan to stimulate organic community. It is fair to recognize that people with huddle in their neighborhoods and there is nothing wrong with celebrating a block, region, or village. There is also much to be said about formation of groups that serve niches inside the community as a whole.

The new community manager also has to figure out how to open the relationships between the local LDS community and those who are not members. The LDS community has a self contained social structure that dominates daily life and there is limited opportunities for cross over. Children and adults have a regimented schedule that does not leave much time for activities outside. Many families find that between church, school, and maybe some sports activities there is little time or energy left. As my friend and I discussed, they do not need community outside as much as those of us outside need community.

I have been involved in a form of organic community that seems, for some, to have bridged the gap. It has not been perfect and it is certainly not been a panacea but, it has worked very well and filled a void in our community. That specifically is our local community theatre group, South Jordan Community Theatre. This group formed as a local group of friends got together and produced a show in the neighborhood. The obvious need for this type of outlet was immediately apparent. Our neighborhood management declined to be involved in this project long term and so four of us formed a board a directors and have produced 5 shows in 12 months with great success. Our organization serves our local area and has expanded into other counties and cities. It has brought together people of all walks of life including religious and non religious folks. We have an advisory board of 19 members who are teachers, lawyers, carpenters, authors, and politicians who all have a common goal of providing quality performance arts opportunities to children and families of our local community.

I believe we have been successful because it has addressed a need, taken into account the three things listed above, and has a very targeted focus. Additionally, it has a board of directors that has made it about the product and not the individuals who serve on the board.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Children are the Challenge-Kiera


Kiera is my youngest child. She is spunky, spirited, manipulative, smart, and cute. Of my five children she has the strongest need to fit in and to be liked. This makes her very susceptible to peer pressure. I have seen this child make decisions that are contrary to her own personal welfare or interests to keep friends and she is only 10. Unfortunately she believes what her friends tell her and does not frequently challenge them. I personally think that Kiera’s has more of a fear of rejection than a need for acceptance.

Kiera has lived in three different homes two in the same neighborhood. It was our last move that has proved to be the most difficult. Kiera has found herself on the outside looking in. In our other neighborhoods we had plenty of non-religious families in the neighborhood and Kiera had a choice of peers. The one we are in now she has been excluded from Sunday play while the religious families and their kids associate and play together.

Recently, Kiera has been invited to attend “Activity Days” with the girls who attend the local LDS Ward. I have, until this last week, approached this cautiously. Wanting to provide her with the opportunity for association but wanted to limit opportunities for indoctrination. This unfortunately proved disastrous this week. Two weeks ago they all went up to the Temple to have their picture taken. This week they made frames for those photos. Now on its face it seems okay. I don’t have an issue with the Temple. It is a local landmark and my daughter is cute!

The one thing that rocked me back on my heels was a booklet that I found on the end table: “Faith in God for Girls.” The booklet was distributed at the activity last week. The booklet outlines what the child must do to achieve their potential as a child of god. It assumes that first the child had been baptized and second the parents are on board. In my neighborhood it is not secret that I am not on board. I explained to Kiera that I do not agree with the contents of the booklet. She became very upset with me and demanded I give her the booklet back. She went on to tell me that she wanted to go to the activities because she had fun. She also stated they had started a binder for her to track her “personal progress”.
The content in the booklet may be fine for the parents of her friends but it is not acceptable in our home. There is little probability that she would be able to meet the achievement or the award at the end of the program because she is not a baptized member and her dad does not see it as harmless.

I do not spend anytime indoctrinating my children to be atheists. We just do not give them a religious identity. One of my favorite quotes from Richard Dawkins is
“There is no such thing as a catholic child…Only a child with catholic parents.”
In his example he applies this concept to other religions and political philosophies. Religion has to be taught and as a result, for most of us, the religion we end up with is the religion of our parents. It is that phenomenon that allows religions to regionalize. There is a certain smugness that results from believing we have the answer and as a result we do not have to stop and consider the other person or family that may be affected. In Kiera’s case the activity days are agenda driven and she will not be attending in the future. This will be viewed as a harsh decision but they would feel the same way if I invited their children in and told them why I don’t believe there is a god.

This video illustrates the above paragraph. The discussion starts at about 5 minutes in.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Facebook is Sorry



I emailed facebook. They responded and aplogized for blocking my ability to share my blog through the internal email and messenger.

Sorry for the confusion. It appears that you were shown this message in error.


Unfortunately they have not fixed the error. I am working with the Facebook team to reslove the issue. I should have been a little less harsh with the Facebook team.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

By what Authority.....with what Basis in Fact?


As a young Mormon, one thing that always left me scratching my head was the idea that a church calling was a calling from god. I was taught that through personal revelation the the stake president called the bishop. I began to question this on a very literal basis first when our first bishop in the American Fork East Stake 12th ward was so outwardly hostile to my parents because they were "Jack Mormons". It came into question again when I was a teen and our bishop was arrested for molesting the boys in the ward.

As an adult I find it concerning that these folks are put in a position of authority over others. They are, for the most part, lay people with no real training in either their religion or other social science issues. They are allowed to council others and to give advice on issues such as sexual abuse, divorce, marriage, sex, homosexuality, and depression among other things.

Several years ago I was writing a pre-sentence report on a young man, returned missionary, who had plead guilty to Enticing a Minor Over the Internet, a Third Degree Felony. According to the investigator's report he entered a chat room solicited an investigator who was posing as an underage 13 year-old female for sex. In the same chat room was an age appropriate girl who was interested in his proposal. He turned down her advances in favor of the 13 year-old.

During the interview I asked him if he was seeking sexual offender treatment. He said he was meeting weekly with his stake president. I asked if his stake president was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a State recognized specialty in Sexual Deviancy? He said he thought his stake president was a HVAC technician. I told him that his stake president was grossly unqualified to counsel him on this matter. I asked him if his bishop was better qualified. He said, "No. He happens to be my father."

Later his mother told me that because his stake president spoke highly of the young man; it should warrant leniency from the court. Additionally his father, the bishop, and his mother both engaged in a plot to conceal the offense from his fiance's parents even though the court would likely impose sentence that would keep the young man from joining his fiance on their honeymoon(which happened).

Not only were both men not qualified to provide real world counsel to his young man they assisted in keeping relevant information from the fiance and her family.

For me, this came in to focus again on Sunday while I was reading the Salt Lake Tribune. An article discussed a LDS General Authority's stance on whether homosexuality was genetic. According to the article, Elder Bruce C. Hafen, stated, same-sex attraction is "not in your DNA,". The article refutes this statement with cites to the APA and other research that indicates that homosexuality is normal and may have a genetic component.

http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_13377659

Elder Bruce C. Hafen, a General Authority is not a geneticist, a psychiatrist, he is not an LCSW or a psychologist. He is a lawyer. He has the expertise to take an argument to its absurd conclusion but to represent that behavior and sexual orientation is not normal when science indicates it may well be is reckless and callous. It also flies in the face a recent studies published out of BYU.

http://newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/49488

In the above examples these men of god are in a position to inflict pain without accountability(they represent the broad view of their doctrine or their congregations). They are all put in positions of authority over others and in the statements, actions, and naivety have undue influence on the emotional well being of fellow humans. The LDS church does not have a professional clergy that interfaces with the congregations like other churches do. It puts men, most with a limited understanding of church doctrine, in a position to excommunicate or otherwise discipline or pass judgement their neighbors. In many cases it it their own prejudices disguised as authority from god that lead them to cause harm.

Monday, September 7, 2009

McCarthyism on facebook


McCarthyism is the politically motivated practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.

McCarthyism is alive and well on facebook. I was chatting on facebook this evening to a friend in California who I had not spoken to in years. She asked me to send a link to my blog. So I did. I copied the blog link and pasted it into the chat window and got a message.
Warning: This Message Contains Blocked Content “Some content in this message has been reported as abusive by Facebook users.”

Okay, facebook users….the exchange of ideas represents abuse? I question, do not believe and challenge conventional religion and because you are uncomfortable with the discussion you report the post as offensive.

I am more upset at facebook. This is a social networking company that was founded by the concept of the free exchange of ideas on a peer to peer platform. I understand the need to limit content to exclude pornography, child pornography, hate groups etc. But there is no notification to the user that his post has been reported. There is no independent peer review of the content to determine it is offensive and no appeal process.

I guess I have run afoul of my religious friends and now a portion of my content has been blocked. I can’t mail it out on the facebook inbox or send via the messenger. No allegation of abuse has been sent to me, no opportunity to respond, no review of the evidence. I am not going to claim that my constitutional rights have been violated…because the government is prohibited from restricting legal free speech not facebook and not my facebook friends. I again ask the question….WHY IS THE CONVERSATION SO DANGEROUS!?!

Is the way the "War of Ideas" gets prosecuted?

It begs the question.....


I have been doing a bunch reading of late. I just finished the book God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens and am currently reading godless, by Dan Barker. They both discuss in great detail why they are atheists and how they came to that conclusion. I also found Sam Harris’ foundation the ”Reason Project”. Some of the concepts ring very true to and I have really wanted to discuss them out loud. I started a conversation with my lovely wife. It went kind of like this:

Her: I believe there is something more.

Me: what is your basis for that belief?

Her: Don’t try to change me. I have not tried to change you!

Sam Harris discusses a “War of Ideas” and I touched on that discussion in a previous blog post. I am finding that it may very well be ‘a war of ideas’…especially when an atheist asks questions. There is a rush to a defensive position. If someone asserts “I believe the moon is made of cheese” and you submit arguments based in science to refute the claim that is acceptable. If someone says” I believe the earth is 6,000 years old” (an assertion based in religious dogma) and you attempt to refute the claim you may be in for a very impassioned defense.

By asking questions and challenging the assertions contrived out of generational dogma, we are perceived to have crossed the line. By questioning we have lobbed the first stone. This brings me to the next point.

I read the following quote in an essay published by D. Todd Christofferson, an LDS Apostle.

“We need strong Christians who can make important things happen by their faith and who can defend the truth of Jesus Christ against moral relativism and militant atheism.”


I find two things interesting about this quote. The first is the concept of Moral Relativism. Stated simply moral relativism is the idea that morals and social moirĂ©s adapt to the needs of time and culture. It additionally accepts that the morals of one tribe may be vastly different the morals of another. To deny that Moral Relativism is alive and well in the truest believing Christians and their religions is manipulative. Ask, "why it is we do not sell our daughters into slavery anymore" and you inevitably get the response that ‘it was okay in that time and culture but it is not okay now.‘ Why don’t we practice polygamy in Utah now? Moral Relativism!

The second thing I found interesting was the term Militant Atheists. I Googled the term . I found several calls to action by Christians to defeat the militant atheists but I did not find a single atheist militia. The idea of actively pursuing the truth and questioning everything is considered a militant act? Are fundamentalists militant? What about Mormon missionaries who wish to bring me a message of Jesus Christ, are they militant Mormons?

On a daily basis I am the recipient of messages from religious people. Their facebook posts, blogs, politics, invitations to attend meetings, and television programming. I am not sure why, when an atheist asks a question or directly addresses what he/she believes to be a fallacy of religion, we are being militant.




Why is the conversation so dangerous?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hey Conservatives....Your Team!!!

My kids used to play a game during our long commute home from their charter school. They would point out the most unique, strange, homely people who were on the street and say " your team". Now the superstition was that you would be tied to that person in heaven. The idea was to assign the oddest menagerie of people to your opponent. I think Glenn Beck is about the oddest guy you could be tied too. Hey conservatives....Your team!



Saturday, August 29, 2009

We cannot depend on humans to do the right thing when they think god wants them to do something else!



In a recent interview with KUED our new neo-con governor Gary Herbert said the following:

We don't have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to do
the right thing because it's the right thing to do," Herbert said. "Where do you
stop? That's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going
to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes."


This is a ridiculous argument. We have laws and “rules” because we cannot depend on humans to do the right thing. He is implying that we will just not discriminate because it is wrong. He is wrong. Humans do not do the right thing because it is right when they can find a self serving loophole. In Utah god is that scapegoat.

Nationally we have become more accepting of the fact that homosexuality may have a genetic component and that someone who is gay may be normal in that sense. That means they are not an abomination as the mean-spirited Sen. Chris Buttars alleges. I have written at length about my journey in this realization and believe that we have to start asking ourselves:

  • Does this hurt anyone?
  • Am I being forced to participate?
  • How would I feel if I was treated similarly?


What about the threat to marriage? Marriage is often defined as the fabric of our society or the cornerstone of our society. It probably will not surprise most of the readers here that I disagree. I am of the opinion that marriage is the function of claiming property. In the beginning marriage was a tribal way to define a man’s property. Women were chattel to be assigned and controlled by men in the same way livestock and crops were divided and controlled. In today’s society marriage is still a way of making claim to another but with a few modern refinements and a little more equality for women. Civilly it is also the way we divide the property in the marriage when the relationship falls apart. Why cannot gays engage in these civil contracts?


This issue is not about marriage it is about civil rights. It is about not discriminating against a vulnerable minority of our population; a minority that contributes to the success of our state and our nation. I challenge anyone to take god out of the argument here and defend on a secular level why the government should not provide this group with the same protections you and I receive through our majority status.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who would have thought Roger Ebert Ponders Such Things

I liked this essay. My Facebook friend Fred Hunting posted this link and I think it is a worthy read. My favorite line was is final sentence. "I am more content with the question than I would be with an answer."

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2009/04/how_i_believe_in_g.html

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This Sums it up



I have not seen a more comprehensive explanation of what atheism is. The video takes a few jabs at what most religious folks have to say about an atheists morality and other agruments against atheism.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Reason Project


I was watching Bill Maher last night and he had Sam Harris, the founder of The Reason Project, on. Bill Maher apparently sits on the advisory board for this organization.

Mr. Harris and his organization supports an open direct dialogue regarding religious dogma using science and secular arguments to dispel the irrational notion of God and to explore trans formative events using the same.



I found the concept that we are engaged in a war of ideas to be very intriguing. I recently watched a video production with Richard Dawkins in which he said we need to confront the nonsensical ideas of astrology, mysticism, holistic medicine, and religion because they are retarding the growth of the species. In the above clip Sam Harris discusses a similar notion.

I would imagine, with most of my religious friends, actively confronting their beliefs would make me an unpopular guest. However, I do believe when someone uses religion as a justification for poor behavior or bad public policy it is fair game to 'prosecute the war of ideas'.

The Reason Project did have some tools on their web page that I found useful and somewhat exciting. The one that has the most use to me is "The Scripture Project" which has annotated versions of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Qur’an. I started reading the Book of Mormon recently and I found some of the annotations made here were similar to the things I had noted myself.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Gracious Old Lady at 114th and Redwood


A couple of days ago I was driving home and I saw a couple of men standing on the side of this home. They were pointing at the home and walking around it is some official capacity and I said to myself, "that house has limited days left." Today I was on my way home and I discovered to my dismay that the old home had come to and end. Alas, a deep sigh, and a moment to pause.

I photographed the home this last spring. I wanted to have a study of if it so I could watercolor it when I got time. I am certainly glad I didn't procrastinate any longer or I would have missed the opportunity.

It did leave me in a nostalgic mood to see the disruption of the dirt where the foundation once stood. How many months did it take to build? How many families did it provide shelter and more importantly a home where dreams were nurtured and realized. How quickly it came down and how quickly it will be forgotten.

.... a moment to pause....

Friday, August 14, 2009

Children are the Challenge-The Argument

My last post addressed how I have chose not to give religion to my children and how that affected my daughter Jessica. I have thought the post may leave the reader with the impression that I am a typical religion hating atheist. While that may be true to some degree it is a judgment made without context.

I grew up in American Fork, Utah. My mother moved to the community when I was about 5 years old. She had recently divorced my father. When I was 7 we moved into our family home after my parents reconciled and remarried. I remember the first contact my parents had with the local LDS bishop. We had been moving in all day. The LDS bishop came to the door to welcome my parents to the ward. My father greeted him at the door with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The bishop’s response was “Well I guess we won’t be seeing you in church!”

My parents made the attempt to become active in the LDS church. This was a religion handed down to them from their parents and grandparents. They didn’t have any real understanding of the church or its teaching and I dare say none of them have read the Book of Mormon. I was the beneficiary of the passing of generational superstition. My folks believed that sending me to church would give me a good moral foundation.

I took to my calling as a little boy. I faithfully attended church services every Sunday and the meetings for Boy Scouts and Mutual. I was so dedicated that I often got my siblings up on Sunday morning, (while my parents slept) had them get dressed and took them church with me. Mind you I was about 8 or 9 taking my 6 year old and 7 year old sisters. I probably new very little about making sure their hair was combed and their clothes matched.

At 8 years old I was eligible to be baptized and become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At eight, I knew I had doubts that I could live up the expectations. The doctrine indicated that I would be baptized and my sins would be washed away and I would have a new start. I am not sure what sins I had committed up to that point or that I needed to be free of them. I found it odd that I was going to have them washed away at my one and only chance at salvation at age eight. I thought it might be better to wait until I had committed a really big sin first so that I could get more bang for my buck out of this washed away sin salvation thing.

Despite sending me away to church to get my moral foundation my parents were still active in my upbringing. Alas that is what ultimately spared me a lot of pain as I moved into early adolescence. My bishop called me in for an interview to determine my moral ability to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. He asked me about my testimony and my church attendance and then the interview digressed into my sexual habits. He wanted to know if I was sexually active with the same sex, the opposite sex and if I masturbated. I was 12. I denied all of the above because I had no idea what any of it really meant. I was a late bloomer and still prepubescent. I later told my mother about the interview and she was outraged. It was discovered that he had also asked the same questions of my 10 year old sister. My Father and Mother both met with the Bishop and told him the line of questions was inappropriate and they forbade him to ask them of any of their children. That man was arrested and convicted of Sexual Abuse of a Child several years later. When I was 20 I found out that he had told several of the boys in the ward to stay away from me because I was a homosexual. The boy who told me about it was this man’s victim. He wanted to isolate me from the group and the only reason I was not his victim was because my parents were active in my upbringing.

My father has advised me often that I should send my children to church. His rationale is, “What can it hurt at least they get a good moral foundation.” I have said before that there is a ton of emotional baggage that comes from religion. Guilt, irresolvable double binds, hate, intolerance, and self loathing are but a few. We worry more about what our children see on TV and who their friends are than who we let play with their minds in a religious context. We have no proof that there is salvation on the other side but we are willing to damage our children in the hope there is. I have seen religious people allow horrible things happen to their children at the hands of a religious leader because they believe he is called of god. These things range from emotional abuse to physical and sexual abuse.

Religion was not the basis of my moral conscience it was my parents’ involvement in my life, my own personality traits, and an innate sense of guilt and responsibility that provided me with character to be a moral person. There has been as much evil done in the name of god and religion as good and I do not think that with the mixed results that religion has delivered it is the appropriate mentor for my children.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Children are the Challenge-Jessica


As a parent we make decisions we hope are right for our children and we don’t find out if it was the right choice until many years later. For me it was the decision my wife and I made to raise our children without religion. 23 years ago I was an agnostic with atheist leanings and Lisa was a quiet Christian with Mormon leanings. Today as you well know I am a full blown atheist. Lisa is, I believe, a quiet Christian who has little to do with the LDS faith but allows her husband to go on and on about his beliefs.

I have been known to say out loud that exposing your children to organized religion is tantamount to child abuse. I recently finished Christopher Hitchens’ book God is not Great- How Religion Poisons Everything. He makes a case for religion as a form of child abuse but mostly focuses on the ritualistic abuses including circumcision and other forms of genital mutilation. From my experience it is the emotional fodder that I was most concerned about with regard to my children.
This is the first in a series of five entries I will make on this topic( I only have five children so five is enough and six is too many). I am starting with Jessica. She is not my first born and so you can see I am addressing her out of turn but she is the one I feel represents the best argument for avoiding indoctrination but also represents as a parent how I have failed to fully mitigate the results of the outcome.

Jessica is now 19. She is a beautiful child with a strong spirit. She is smart, very empathetic, and wracked with guilt. According to her mother, she is closer to her Dad in personality than to her mother. When I became the father of a daughter I thought the most important thing I could do for her is to help instill in her the belief that she could do anything and be anything she chooses. I wanted her to know that she could be successful without a man in her life and to find her version of success independent of her relationships with men.

When Jessica was about six she stopped dinner to tell us we needed to have a blessing on the food. This had been modeled at her grandparent’s home but not in our home. She was told that she could pray quietly to herself but the rest of us were hungry and we would continue on with the activity of eating, Several months later we were at my in-laws’ home having dinner. They asked one of the family members if they would give a blessing on the food. Jessica piped up and said, “Ooohhhh my dad doesn’t like it when you pray at the table. Well actually, it’s okay to pray….Just don’t say anything about god or Jesus Christ!” This of course brought an awkward moment of silence to the table with disapproving eyes fixed upon yours truly.

During same period in her life her uncle made a point coming up to our home in Taylorsville, Utah and picking her up to take her to the LDS ward in Lehi, Utah. Her grandmother bought her a children’s version of the Book of Mormon. For me this was intrusion and I objected loudly to both. The visits to church ended. However I was not permitted to throw the BOM out. I believe the book is in a box in my basement this very day.

I mentioned before that Jessica is wracked with guilt. I have empathy for this trait because I personally feel guilty for things I haven’t done yet. When she was in first grade she came home from school and I asked her how her day went. She looked at me and burst out in tears. “I think I cheated.” I asked her why she believed this and she said,” I was taking a test and I looked up and I accidently saw the answers on my friend’s paper.”

Irreconcilable guilt is my number one reason for avoiding indoctrination of my children at a young age. For a child like Jessica this guilt can be debilitating. Jessica is very obsessed about doing the right thing. Not because she has a Christian background and is concerned about heaven and hell but because she really tries to be good because it is the right thing to do. She has a strong moral compass and has not had a significant exposure to Christianity. Now this strong moral compass has not inspired her to do the dishes when she asked or to clean her room but she will not mistreat anyone intentionally and would not sleep for days if she had believed she had. Jessica has relationships with homosexuals, Mormons, and kids on the fringe. She is able to appropriately determine what is appropriate and what she wants no part of.

Some of the most heated discussions with her brothers include sexist comments, homo-insensitive remarks made without regard to sensitivity. So ask you can see the experiment worked….success! Not so fast. There have been other consequences to raising my oldest daughter without religion.

Jessica has attended some functions with the young women’s group attached to her friend’s LDS ward. On one event she was wearing a shirt that both her mother and I approved of and felt that it was flattering on her. She was pulled aside and told the shirt showed too much and was asked to pull it up. Jessica was very self conscious afterword and has never worn the shirt again.

Jessica is at the age where she is looking for relationships and dating is definitely on the agenda. However, in Utah where Mormonism dominates the culture, she finds that she is not “good enough” for many of the boys in our community. There is significant pressure to assimilate into the LDS culture. Most of the boys who find her cute cannot reconcile their desire to date her with the fact she will not be able to go to the temple with them and she is not willing to convert. Unfortunately, Jessica takes this personally.

I am not without fault in this dilemma either. As she would let it be known that she liked a boy whom we knew to be LDS I would ask her, “…to what end?” I would then cite one of my favorite lines from The Fiddler on the Roof: “A bird may love a fish but where would they make a home together.”

I live in an area dominated by the LDS church and it is not normal to allow your child to date a non-Mormon without significant parental intervention. If the subject of your affection is not willing to convert, significant pressure is placed on the child to terminate the relationship. Now I know this tribal response is common in other religions….my point of reference is the LDS church.

Jessica doesn’t know, at 19, what she believes. She is reluctant to challenge any of her friends’ religious beliefs or to ask direct questions about the doctrine because she wouldn’t want to offend anybody. She really struggles to find where she fits in and sometimes believes that she will never be taken seriously by the boys because she is not willing to convert. As her father I believe she is an amazing young lady with a ton of actual and potential assets. It is my desire that she not convert to any religion because I think it would be disastrous for her in the long run. I want her to fit in but there is reality that as a family we are slightly different.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Out of the closet

In my first post I indicated that I posted my religious beliefs as agnostic on my Facebook page. I changed that about two months ago and last week I put my first link to my blog on my Facebook page. Most folks who know me know that I am not a religious man. Many also know that I have strong opinions and that I am not afraid to speak my mind. Most are still a little uncomfortable with the idea that I am an atheist.

This is not new information for this blog but I did find my oldest daughter Jessica's response kind of interesting. She said something like 'why do you have cause trouble.' Jessica has some difficulty with the fact that we do not fit into the traditional LDS (Mormon) mold in our little LDS neighborhood. During the recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat the cast (most) met to have a pre-show prayer. Jessica, was asked to join and she opted out. For her there was and admitted awkwardness. She feels like we don't fit in and that further exasperated by the conversations about the LDS faith, garments and when it is appropriate to not wear them, issues of morality that she does not agree with, and the idea that she wants to fit in but doesn't.

So this simple display of my atheism was troubling to my daughter because she is struggling with much doubt and still exploring what the world holds for her. She also finds that she runs up against folks who profess to "know" and she does not find any solace in their "knowing" because it does not ring true for her. Having a father who is an open atheist is like having parents who are hippies in a yuppie neighborhood. I think she finds the prospect of people knowing a little uncomfortable because she is already on the outside looking in.

My proclamation of atheism is not about knowledge but about doubt. What I do know is that religion has not given me any comfort. There are too many unanswered questions and too many folks who with arrogance fail to answer the questions but tell me I need to have faith.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

staylds.com helpful? dangerous?

A recent Salt Lake Tribune article discussed a website that was designed to help those who are having questions about their faith in the LDS (Mormon) Church reconcile the church’s short comings and misrepresentation and to encourage them to stay anyway (www.staylds.com). I have reviewed some of the content on this website and think it is a sad statement about our addiction to religion whether the facts support the claims or not.



On the above website I found a link to this video clip which discusses the discrepancies between what is taught as church doctrine and history and what the fact of the record reveals. It is designed to help faithful members understand why folks leave and then to encourage them to help their friends and neighbors to stay and accept the fact that although there are huge problems with the official doctrinal history they can choose to accept the portions of it that resonate with them personally and ignore the portions that do not. If that does not work it encourages them to stay active for the association with good people and opportunity of service. I watched the entire 57 minutes of the video and found nothing new but I did find it disturbing that, at the end of the day, the reason for membership is now “association” and not the truth. The one point that I found fascinating was the idea that if you leave because this church has problems; you have to consider what church does not and then you should choose the lesser of the two evils.

As someone who struggled through a crisis of faith and moved on, I find the strategy of staying for association unhealthy and potentially emotionally dangerous. First, there is the constant exposure to the idea that you will not reach your spiritual potential. There is nothing in the official doctrine that supports an a la carte approach the religion. Either the prophet, and all of his predecessors, were infallible and the mouth piece of God or they were not. If the latter is true then the church is not. If the prior is true, then you must follow the doctrine as it has been outlined historically or risk judgment in the last days.

In the video and the website there is an acknowledgement, that once someone decides to leave the Mormon Church, they face ostracism from family, friends and neighbors who already know and love them for the content of their character but are threatened by their crisis of faith. I had a recent discussion with a devout member of the LDS Church who acknowledged they shun information and people who are potentially threatening to their testimony. As an open atheist and a former Mormon in a tight-knit Mormon community I found this ostracism to be a factor. We have had our children come home crying because they were not allowed to play with children in the neighborhood. There is also the pervasive cliquish mentality that tends to make non-believers feel inadequate. So what is the push to keep these folks in the religion if there are doctrinal doubts for both the producers of the video and the administrators of the website? What is the motivation to encourage the doubters to avoid websites like www.postmormon.org or www.exmormon.org? Both the video and the website claim to not endorse the apologist sites like FARMS and FAIR but both make reference to these organizations and the Staylds.com links to the sites. There is no link to www.postmormon.org or www.exmormon.org. Why would you ask someone to stay with an abuser or encourage them to drink poison after adding sugar to make it sweeter. Both postmormon.org and exmormon.org have empathy and understanding for the stress that comes with first finding that your faith is not true and then realizing you may loose your family and neighbors over it.

For me this brings the larger question regarding religion. If you doubt the divinity and infallibility of the prophets then why is it so hard to acknowledge that religion is man made? What is the drunkenness that drives us to attend church, any church, and then obscures our ability to ask questions and demand answers that actually answer the questions? The most frustrating pro-argument for me is the response “this is what I believe”. What is your basis for belief? A feeling is not proof. I have found that most Mormons, Christians, and other religious folks do not understand the context in which their religions were formed. Religion was not given to us by God it was created by man. We find ourselves at odds with an established religion and we create another to suit us. And thus, we are creating another religion when we become a la carte Mormons.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Guns Don't Kill People....Gun Nuts Wielding Guns Kill People!

Video Courtesy of KSL.com



Gun owners in Utah have noticed a recent shortage for certain types of ammunition, specifically for handguns and semiautomatic weapons. However, it isn't clear why gun owners feel such an urgency to stock up.

I was in a gun shop recently in Taylorsville, Utah. There was a poster prominently displayed encouraging every gun advocate to register to vote because Obama would take away our rights to own guns. This poster was still lingering with it's message of fear five months after the election.

Where was the same right wing constitutional rhetoric when the previous president took away so many of our constitutional rights such as the right to be free of unwarranted search and seizure?

This issue came home when my 67 year old father came to my house looking to take possession of the Colt .45 I had sold him six years earlier. With some urgency he asked me to find the gun, the magazines, and any ammunition I had for the weapon. I exercised my 24 hour waiting period obligation (I lost the key to the lock on the gun and wasn't sure where I put it). My dad started going on and on about how he needed self protection and how he intended to get a concealed carry permit.

In a latter phone conversation he told me the Pentagon had decided to insist that all the .223 ammunition be recycled and not reloaded. My dad was convinced this was a government conspiracy to reduce the supply of ammunition to the masses. I pointed out three points:

  1. The Pentagon was run by a Republican.
  2. The order to recycle the brass rather than reload could be a measure meant to protect the military from lawsuits over defective brass. If the brass is recycled it would like be made into additional rounds and there was no indication that the .223 round was in danger of being restricted by the government.
  3. If the free market was still alive and well the ammunition manufactures would ramp up production to meet demand.

The next conversation we had regarding guns was the proper storage of a firearm in the car. I am a police officer and so I was a natural resource for this conversation. I also support the second amendment in that I believe that if we surrender any of our rights voluntarily we will likely never get them back. That being said, I also believe that a gun is not a panacea for all of our problems and many times it complicates the situation. I suggested he leave the gun at home unless he is going to the range or hunting or camping.

If the Zeppelin were made of lead it would have had more buoyancy than that statement in my father's eyes. He told me that he was going to get a concealed carry permit and he "needed" a gun for his protection. I told him this was not the wild west. He retorted that it was more like the wild west than it was in the 1950's. If I were to watch TV I would see many reports of people being car jacked or robbed and that possession of gun would thwart that.

AH HA! I know see where the paranoia comes from. There has not been a significant policy change in the Obama administration nor has any legislation been introduced. The likelihood there would be a change pushed through congress is minimal. The make up of the congress is still too balanced and the Blue Dog Democrats would likely vote against a ban. However, talk radio has drummed up the specter of a socialist regime and the limitation of gun rights. My dad spends hours listening to Rush, Sean Hannity, and Glen Beck. He believes every word they say. He spends his days and evenings watching the Fox News channel on his TV.


Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy


The above story is interesting and tragic. We lost three police officers, all family men, and all here to serve the public. The suspect in this story was distraught, paranoid, and righteous in his belief that the government was going to take his guns. He used weapons designed to kill people, not animals, on the responding officers.

I am concerned that two storms are converging on the America we love. The belief that the government is going to take our guns and the belief that it is patriotic to take up arms to protect those rights. Pepper this with a healthy dose of racism and we could see a local insurgency that pales to the ones we have seen in the middle east. I believe in the spreading of hate, and paranoia the conservative news and talk radio outlets will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, gun violence will increase and so will the government's call the stop the blood shed. I am for lobbying to protect our rights, however, we are seeing unwarranted paranoia over legislation that has not been drafted, not been introduced, and not passed. If we spent more time studying the way our government functioned and less time assuming that a president can dictate law we might all sleep better.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Doubt


Much has been said lately about Chris Buttars comments about homosexuals recently in the media. It is slightly scary at what level of conviction he made those statements and at what level of conviction that those who think the same way agree. There is a certainty that their belief system is fact, supported by a sacred text that was inspired by god and that it is the absolute truth.




However this certainty is not reserved for homosexuals. We see it as the pious justify all of their policies and beliefs. Abortion is murder, god said...contraception is a sin, god said....the United States is a Christian Nation...god said. You get the picture. With this certainty comes a calling to wield a sword and to strike down all evil in the world. This power, given by god, results in oppression of minorities, women, homosexuals, non-believers, and those who are not of their faith.




When I was five there was certainty there was a Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, and an Easter Bunny. When I was 11, I wanted so bad for those to be real but I started to ask questions and soon abandoned them as icons. When I was 12, a devout LDS boy living in a home with parents who were not active in the church, I started to see how poorly my family was treated and I started to ask questions. By the time, I was 14 I was having a "Crisis of Faith" and my attendance became sporadic. When I was 16, I was ordained a priest and within the year I was a self proclaimed atheist.




I didn't really know at 16 if I was an atheist or a Mormon. What I knew was I had doubt. That doubt led me on a journey. I questioned, read, asked questions and demanded answers....all led me to more doubt, more questions and a deeper search. Not one text but many. My journey was first a search for affirmation that the god I loved for the last 16 years was. It, over time, morphed into a journey to prove he was not. As I have aged and seasoned the message has tempered. I no longer quest to prove god does not exist but to ask hard questions. I do not find the old stand by "you have to have faith" to be good enough.


I recently watched the film "Religulous" by Bill Maher. Bill Maher is, by all accounts, an atheist. The film and the sarcasm contained within is my type of humor and I honestly enjoyed it from an entertainment standpoint. However, the message at the end of the film made me stop and really think. Maher discusses DOUBT! He discusses, as I did at the beginning of this post, that it is in certainty that we are called to action to forward our cause. However with a little doubt, a little humility, we pause. I am sure enough of the path I have chosen to continue my journey, I however have enough doubt that I am not going try to convince you that you should join me. I will however question your assertions not as a means to sway you from your belief but in an attempt to lessen my doubt!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gay Rights

The righteouslature is in session right now and I keep hearing how allowing Gay couples the same rights as heterosexual married folks is a "slippery slope" to destroying the traditional family and traditional family values. Every time I hear that statement the flashing word "bigot" comes to mind.



As it says in my profile, I am married, I have five children and with the risk of sounding like Larry Craig, R, Idaho...I am not gay, I have never been gay. I have however, at one point in my life, been a bigot.



I moved away from home when I was 18. I lived in an apartment with my best friend Austin and my not so best friends Clint and Phillip. We had a typical bachelor pad. Clint found himself in love and need to quickly get married in the Temple before his unprincipled male urges made him temporarily ineligible to marry in that building.



At 18, I looked 16. I was working on the show "Barnum" at Pioneer Theatre Company" at the University of Utah. The lead male, Jess Richards, was 42 years old. He started to pay some attention to me and eventually made a physical pass at me in his dressing room. As an 18 year old boy who grew up in a very sheltered small town, this was a shock. I had always been obsessed with girls. However, I thought that I was oozing a gayness from my pores and that there must be something wrong with me. Why else would this guy have got the impression that I was gay.


I spent the next week fairly withdrawn trying to figure out if there was something wrong with me. I didn't discuss the incident with anyone and Jess figured out that he had crossed the line and apologized to me. My "manhood" was reaffirmed when I saw an attractive woman at the swimming pool in a bikini and I knew that was what I liked.


We needed a roommate to cover Clint's portion of the rent. I had met this kid Joey at the theatre. He was from Price (if I remember correctly). A town smaller than the one I grew up in. He was looking for a place to live. I asked him point blank if he was gay. He claimed he was not. He lied. He had all of the stereotypical attributes that pop culture would assign a gay male but I initially took him at his word. He changed major from theatre to nursing and then told me he wanted to work with AIDS patients. He eventually started hanging out with a kid from the U who turned out to be the president of the Gay Lesbian bisexual Transgender Student Union. Joey and his friend were by all accounts nice guys. They were much nicer than Phillip. Now Just in case you think this is going to be one of those "It's a Wonderful Life" endings you are sadly, as am I, mistaken. I invited Joey to move out. I was much more comfortable with a womanizer alcoholic (Phillip) than I was living with a gay male.


I grew up in a small town were being gay meant you could at minimum ostracised and could very likely get your ass kicked. My dad was former Military and grew up in a smaller town than he was raising us in. He had no tolerance for homosexuals and would not be opposed to using derogatory language to describe them. One of the worst insults and one the meanest things ever said to me by my mother was insinuating that because I was into theatre that I was a "queer".

During the school year I had more opportunities to date men than I did women. I was asked out several times by dancer's, actors, crew members. I went out once with the president of the local chamber of commerce's....daughter. My prejudices against homosexuality had started to harden and become part of who I am.

The summer of '84 I went to Park City, UT to work as the Production Stage Manager of the Park City Shakespeare Festival. While there I met Anne. Anne was a good listener with an incredibly engaging smile and a devilish twinkle in her eyes. Anne and I became friends. Although she was never a romantic interest we would be seen holding hands, walking arm in arm, and in other situations that led others to believe we were "together". I started to share with Anne a level of honesty I had yet to share with anyone (except my former girlfriend and current wife.). One evening Anne and I were in the hallway of the condo complex I was staying in. If I remember correctly my head was in her lap and we were having a quiet conversation about life. During the course of discussion I blurted an insensitive and homophobic remark out. At that moment I felt Anne tense up, she stared into my eyes and said matter-of-fact-ly, "Kevin, I am gay".

It was at this moment that my views changed dramatically, I pulled my foot out of my mouth and with tears in my eyes apologized. I love Anne, as a friend, a confidant, as a fellow human being and wanted to do nothing to hurt her. For me, Anne took the us and them factor out of homosexuality. She was what we should all know about all people we encounter, a person with feelings, passions, desires and with a huge capacity to love.

With the exception of my love Lisa, no one else has had a bigger impact I the way I view the world than Anne. I returned to the U with new acceptance for the people I worked with. I no longer found it threatening to be in the company of gay actors who openly would tell me they thought I was cute. I have never met a gay person who knowing that I was straight tried to recruit me. I knew what my gender preferences were because they had been assigned to me at conception as I believe theirs were.

Now we have seen 3 "Common Ground" bills defeated by the legislature because they extend some protections to homosexuals including the right to visit their loved on in the hospital, the right to inherit property, and the right to be free from discrimination in the work place. These are some things that were promised when we had amendment three rammed down our throats by a pious legislature and a bigoted electorate. The buzz word is "slippery slope." If we allow them protection from discrimination we may have to allow them to marry and god forbid have the same opportunity for happiness the rest of us get. We may have to acknowledge they are "fellow passengers to the grave".

I think the most reprehensible things said have been said by State Senator Chris Butters. Unfortunately this bigot represents my district. In a recent Salt Lake Tribune Article he said the gay-rights movement "probably the greatest threat to America," likened gay activists to Muslim radicals and called same-sex relationships "abominations." Unfortunately he is the only politician who says what he believes. Many of our elected officials believe the same thing privately and vote publicly with those prejudices.

In my home it is not that way, we accept everyone. I don't have gay friends and straight friends...I have friends. My children are the next generation and my adult children support rights for all. My younger children are being raised to support the rights for all as well. I hope they follow the lead of their siblings. Maybe between now and the next generation we can turn the tide and vote the way of equality for everyone.


Thank you Anne...I think that everyone should have an Anne in their lives....and Joey...I am sorry.

Friday, January 23, 2009

LDS Church Strangle Hold on Legislature


I have believed for years that Utah is as close as you can come to a religious state, like the ones in the Middle East, in the free world. No social legislation gets passed unless the LDS Church gives its nod. Again....if you are tempted to say well you should try living in the bible belt...spare me. Just because someone is as goofy as we are does not justify our goofiness.
I was listening to Doug Wright on this subject the other day. He went on in his diatribe defending the LDS Church as a constituent of the State of Utah who was merely exercising its voice as a part of that constituency. This is a complete manipulation of the churches relationship with government. There is supposed to be a healthy separation. By definition a constituency is : a body of citizens entitled to elect a representative (as to a legislative or executive position). The LDS Church does not have a vote as a church or as a corporation and therefore it is not a constituent of the local government. In Utah, this groups approval of controversial or morals base legislation in sought. They do not have to lobby like a regular corporation does but they get a greater proportionate share of attention than the voter or any other corporation and church.
As a lobbyist, you will not find a more influential group in the State of Utah and we found recently that the power can reach across our borders like they did in the Prop 8 controversy in California. A mere memo read from the pulpits of the local ward houses can create a wave of activism and a financial out reach that is very powerful and has undue influence on out elected officials. I personally cannot wait for the day that they are equal with the Catholics and other minority groups. Maybe not in my lifetime but my kids may see it.

In Obama-History!

I watched the Obama inauguration from start to finish in my cubicle at my day job. I watched it with a couple of my peers who were completely captivated by the historical moment. However I was taken back by the fact the majority of my co-workers were on the surface disinterested and when probed looked at the event with contempt. I heard comments like "what has he done."... " He's a socialist"..."you think he is our savior".

Regardless of politics we have to acknowledge this is a landmark event for our country. Barack Obama is indeed the first African-American president and not only did he win a general election he won by a substantial margin. This one event legitimizes the civil rights movement and represents a culmination of a 150 year struggle to achieve equality for many African-American citizens. The history is not just in his inauguration as the first president of color but in the fact that the American Public elected him for the hope he represented.

I have to admit that I am an avid Obama supporter. I did not vote for him in the Utah primary election ( I voted for Hilary) but I was converted in part by my children who are of voting age and by his reasoned message that was always thoughtfully and eloquently delivered. I wanted a clear break from the Bush policies that not only discredited our great nation but threatened the integrity of our constitution. I have been impressed by the folks who have crossed party lines to support this man as well. Men and women who have unquestionable integrity like Colin Powell.

I have a dear friend who is upset that Obama in his first three days in office has issued 5 executive orders and one of them ordering the close of GITMO. She said she believed these were the actions of a king and not a president. I believe we are seeing a man who knows the weight and the importance of his office and the constitution acting to reverse perverse wrongs that we allowed the last president impose on not only the world but his own people.

I am concerned that many Americans, pushed by their own political prejudice are rooting for Obama to fail. Rush Limbaugh recently said on his radio show that he wanted Obama to fail. He went on to say that he didn't want the liberal policies to be successful. My questions is if it works why do we not want it to be successful. I don't see how we can defend the last 8 years or at the end of the day say this country is better off.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hold on to your rights...the Legislature is in session!

For the last decade or so I have followed the Utah State Legislature while it is in session. Every year we get a new 340 or so laws and resolutions. However we rarely see any removed from the books. For example, in Utah Fornication is a Class B Misdemeanor. What does that mean? Technically pre-marital sex is a crime. Now they have acknowledged they have not enforced this law for years but they have a moral imperative to keep it on the books because pre-marital sex is immoral.

Private Clubs and the Zion Curtain

This year the hot button issue is our ridiculous liquor laws. Let me stop you before you are inclined to point out to me that we are not the only state with silly liquor laws....Just because someone else is doing it does not mean that we should. Here in Utah the control of liquor is more than a public health issue it is a moral issue. The state legislature is controlled by an overwhelming group of Teetotalers. Folks who have not consumed alcohol in their lives and their knowledge of alcohol consumption is based upon their religious and moral objections to it. The LDS church has a strong moral objection to any consumption of alcohol. Most of our legislators are LDS. It is not the public health portion of the argument that causes folks to want to deny your free choice to consume, in a bar, an alcoholic beverage. It is the religious moral objection. There is a moral imperative and that translates into a crusade and if you don't get on the wagon you will be ran over by it.

We have a private club system here in Utah and I believe we are the only state that does. We relegate alcohol sales to liquor stores that are closed on Sunday and Election Day (as well as all other state and federal holidays). What we know is the Private Club system is no more successful at stopping underage drinking than our Liquor stores. The liquor stores are about revenue. In a state where we try to privatize everything including some emergency services and prisons, we have state run liquor stores(socialism?). Why? They really do not stop or slow the flow of alcohol but they do produce revenue because all alcohol is taxed and marked up at a ridiculous rate. That money goes to pay for the expensive retail buildings and state employees (most of whom get health benefits and retirements that all retail sales folks would love to have).

Now the President of the Senate, Michael Waddoups, wants to have all drinks mixed in a back room or behind a barrier and out of the view of children because it will tempt the little lads and lasses into drinking, under age. There has been much said about this in the local Salt Lake Tribune Public Forum. My favorite points have been:
  1. Over Eating is as dangerous as drinking and can have the same deadly effect. We should make sure our children do not witness obese people eating and enjoying their food as the may become obese.
  2. Tavern owners should have armed guards protecting the alcohol and making sure no one is seen enjoying themselves (this is sarcasm of course)
  3. Our liquor laws are driving away jobs. Companies decline to locate here because there is a perception you cannot get a drink. Tourism suffers because folks choose Colorado instead of the greatest snow on earth.

There has been no documentation that any of our current controls curb alcohol abuse. In some cases our laws have been determined unconstitutional. However, tavern owners and retailers are hesitant to aggressively challenge liquor laws because the Alcohol Control Commission has a history of being heavy handed and vindictive.

I am of the opinion that liquor laws should have controls that reduce opportunity of under age drinking. Good ID laws are effective. I also believe we have a public health concern regarding over consumption and drunk driving. However I do not think any of our current archaic controls resolve any of the above problems. Liquor stores, as I said before, are about revenue. Private clubs are about making it difficult for all who want to drink. The Zion Curtain is about shielding the faithful and those who might be lured away from the temptation and offensiveness of drink.

Abortion and Sex Education!

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this hot button issue. It is noteworthy that in this country there has not been a significant change to the issue since Roe V. Wade. I am a liberal and a firm believer that a woman should have the right to choose and that this country's male dominated political system has no business determining what her reproductive rights should be. I am not pro abortion. I don't think anybody is.

Our legislature has announced it will not seek further bans on abortion, this year, because it knows the expensive legal fight in poor economic conditions will be unpopular. It has proposed that a legal defense fund be set up to pay for a future legal fight, maybe next year.

Most adults reading this post know how human life originates. However, in this state, we reject any comprehensive sex education that teaches our youth about the use of birth control or barriers to disease contraction. We prefer the abstinence only approach believing that the parents of the children should be the ones to determine their level of education. Unfortunately this method is flawed on several accounts:

  1. Studies have show that abstinence only education is no more effective at preventing unplanned pregnancy than comprehensive sex ed.
  2. Teens who engage in abstinence pledges have premarital sex at the same rate as Teens who have had comprehensive sex ed but fail to use any type of disease barrier at a higher rate than their educated contemporaries.
  3. We know from the 80's that "just say no" is a great slogan but a poor public policy.
  4. Parents are not doctors or nurses or otherwise educated on public health issues and pass on urban legends to their children.
  5. Education is important because my Daughter may date your son. I don't know what you have told him and you don't know what I have told my daughter. Conversely you don't know what they have learned from their friends.

I believe the Salt Lake Tribune's opinion on this matter is correct. Educate teens and parents and we will dramatically reduce the instance of abortion.

http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_11474583

I think we are on the precipices of a new era in politics; one were science and fact not religious piety and superstition will set public policy. I am also a firm believer that is how we stay free. I am hoping more folks "just say no" to laws that are written to limit rights in the name of morality but have no real effect on the problem or make the problem worse by putting it behind a Zion Curtain.