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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I've piddled away much of my day looking for a good book recommending/networking site. I think the best one is LibraryThing.

I also like Shelfari, it's much better designed, but as far as I can tell is doesn't recommend books at all - which is what I primarily want.

They both have nifty widgets for showing your books on your blog. Which I may add at some point but right now my book list is kinda pathetic and I don't really want to show if off.

That said, if you also have an account with LibraryThing I would be happy to have you as a "friend" my member name is Zeolite there too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is it really that surprising I'm an atheist?

One unexpected outcome of attending the American Atheist conference is that it forced me out of my "don't ask, don't tell" closet with my coworkers because what does everyone ask you on Monday morning?

"How was your weekend? What did you do?"

My answer: "It was great, I attended the American Atheists Conference"

The response: crooked smile, unsure laugh, "Really?"


"Uhhh, how was that?"

Now, in my coworkers defense, it would be my style to say something really crazy with a straight face and try and fool them, but is attending an atheists conference so crazy?

I also told my Dad this weekend under the same circumstances, he took it fairly well - he already knew I had "left the fold" but I'd never said the A-word to him before.

This started some interesting conversations and I re-discovered the power of semantics. Friends who balked at my atheism went on to call themselves agnostic, which to me is essentially the same: not believing in a god because there is no evidence for one. The two terms are not really different intellectually but powerfully different in perception.

I think I'm gonna stick with the label atheist. There's a stubborn little beast in me that wants to buck the perceptions and using the label agnostic feels like selling out.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Menards Ad Shuns Atheism in Very Small Type

On the bottom of page 4 of Menards' most recent add is the phrase "It is not important what you believe, only that you believe."

Reading that in the add section of paper was like having a little gremlin leap from the pages and bite me on the thumb. Completely unexpected and packs a powerful sting. I sent Menards an email saying that - except without the whole gremlin analogy.

Update: Menards responded to my email quickly and generically...

"I am very sorry we let you down. We need and appreciate you business. I appreciate the heads up on this and we will get on it at once.
Best Regards,

Dawkins 'n Me

A kind stranger snapped this photo of me with Dawkins in the background at the American Atheists conference this weekend. The stranger had seen me awkwardly attempting to take the photo myself - thank you for your help!

Destroy Religion?

During the American Atheists Conference this past weekend I repeatedly heard speakers and attendees discuss how we can destroy religion. One speaker, Dr. Jack David Eller, said that we need to destroy religion and replace it with atheist holidays, books, and culture lest we leave a vacuum where religion once was- and he got a standing ovation.

This is seriously messed up! Yes, I agree a world without religion would be a wonderful place, however, America's first amendment - that we United States atheists quote so often - allows for the the freedom from jerks who want to annihilate another group. The hypocrisy is nearly unbearable.

And how would replacing religion with atheistic holidays, books, and culture not just be another religion? Sure it may start with good secular intentions but if we simple removed religion and replaced it with "atheist" equivalents it would quickly become dogmatic and essentially a new religion.

The frustrating part is that we don't need to have a "war" with religion. Atheism isn't even on the same wavelength. Religion is an antiquated coping mechanism for people who have a hard lot in life and for those who are incapable or too apathetic to critically think.

So if, as atheists, we focus on reducing suffering and increasing education we will be eliminating the need for religion. Just look at the demographics of atheists; we are wealthier, more educated, and happier than the average human - our demographics have freed us from religion.

This is even more the reason that atheists need to engage in supporting other civil rights movements. The happier, smarter, and more satisfied people are the more they are enabled to leave the crutch of religion behind.

Friday, March 21, 2008

American Atheists Reminder: You are a Civil Rights Organization

My experiences today at the American Atheists Conference confirmed my observation that many atheists are oblivious that they are part of the greater civil rights movements.

This afternoon a panel gathered to discuss wether or not American Atheists should partner with other "liberal" civil rights groups on causes like abortion, gay rights, and other women's rights. There was a strong opposition to associating with "liberals" and a passionate cry that the organization should only focus on "atheist issues" in order to avoid alienating "conservative" atheists.

Poppycock! There is no such thing as an exclusively atheist issue, all issues are atheist issues, all issues are women's issues, all issues are gay rights issues, all issues are race issues; all civil rights movements are connected. The desire to separate them is a symptom of the privileged demographics of American Atheists. The mostly white, wealthy, and male members have the luxury of only experiencing discrimination on one plane - they don't have have to worry about discrimination because they are non-white, female, or gay. Those other planes of discrimination are not immediate and therefore invisible.

That said, a large chunk of today's conference was inspired and presented by leaders in other areas of the civil rights movements. A feminist speaker gave an excellent talk explaining the frightening power religious organizations have over our health care. Also, the last talk was an enlightening and moving look into the African American civil rights movement. There were also many attendees who spoke out to encourage American Atheists to embrace their position as part of the greater civil rights culture. So, I don't mean to imply that the entire organization and everyone involved is being dense - but there was enough ridiculous talk of "atheist issues" to raise a red flag.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

American Atheists Conference

I'll be attending the American Atheists Conference this weekend. Its so conveniently located a hop, skip, and a jump away from my home!

I'm very curious to see the demographic of the peeps attending. I haven't had the best of social experiences at previous atheists events I've attended.

I was surprised to here that only about 500 people are expected to attend the conference. I suspect Minneapolis has one of the highest concentrations of atheists in the US; whenever I say that I'm an atheist I always here "me too" or "so is my [insert close friend/relative here]." Perhaps some insight is offered by my friend who told me she doesn't subscribe to any religion but she won't attend because she isn't into any event regarding religion or the absence there of. Religion seems to be a total non-issue to many Minneapolis folks.

If any other atheist bloggers will be at the conference, and you're not interested in hitting on me or asking me to speak for my demographic, send me an email - I'll let you in on all the underground coolness secrets of Minneapolis.

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Friday, March 14, 2008


I attended a very interesting talk last night at Mill City Museum in Minneapolis which focused on climate change and culture. It discussed the culture of conservation that developed during the depression and WWII and what kind of new culture of conservation we need to develop in the face of climate change.

One of the speakers, Peggy Knapp, based her talk on the idea that waste is an exclusively human thing.

I think she is right - but only because of the speed and the intensity in which we change things and create "waste." All other living things create their own waste, right? The difference is that other creatures have evolved to take advantage of that waste- one creature's trash is another creature's treasure. We just create so much new waste so fast that nothing has been able to evolve to use it up.

Its interesting that capitalism hasn't encouraged our culture to become more cyclic with our waste/resource stream. Perhaps this is because only a certain subset of costs and benefits are looked at; with immediate and local cost/benefits being prioritized and future and "elsewhere" costs/benefits being ignored.

Is there any example of another creature that creates "waste" in the same sense that humans do? Perhaps waste begins to pile up when human-disturbed ecosystems become unbalanced. But are there any other naturally evolved "wasters" like us?

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Mutant Orange Flower Plant

Anyone know what kind of plant this is?

I bought it at the grocery store a couple weeks ago. It only had 4 or 5 flowers then and now it's nothing but flowers - it barely has any green leaves left. Its cool, but its creeping me out a little. It can't continue on like this forever - its going to spontaneously combust soon!

Close-up of flowers:

Just yesterday I notices two of these odd trumpet shaped flowers hiding amongst the normal ones. Bizarre.