Thursday, January 13, 2011

What casual remarks reveal about theism's view of the world

I'm writing this on Monday, but have delayed the scheduled posting of it for a few days, in that I do think there's such a thing as inappropriate timing. Some folks may still think I'm off base with this one, and that's fine.

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Tucson the other day, there has of course been a lot of argument as to possible causes, motivations, the role America's current volatile political climate may or may not have played in the event, and so on. I've been involved in a few arguments on Facebook myself.

What will go unnoticed — indeed what is almost certain to be praised — is the way theists will spout sanctimonious, pious bullshit so staggeringly stupid and offensive that it can only be by a willful disconnection of one's higher cognitive functions that the stupidity of such pronouncements do not meet with immediate ridicule and condemnation. Here's one such inane homily, plucked at random from CNN.

"The doctors are pretty clear that we just have to wait and see," Mike McNulty said. But he added, "I can only think that God has more important things planned for her in the future."

Now, sure, I'm willing to accept that Mike McNulty is a respectable Democratic congressman, a dear friend and colleague of Gabrielle Giffords', a good man dedicated to serving his state and his country, and an all around decent and intelligent fellow. He is in a deeply fraught emotional state, as anyone would be, and of course I'm not unsympathetic to that. I'm not attacking him here, so much as I am the inanity he has uttered, and what it says about how religion asks us to view the world.

Let's consider what kind of God this remark is proposing here.

As he sits upon his heavenly throne of purest gold and alabaster, he thinks to himself, "Hmm, I have important things planned for this Democratic congresswoman. Being omnipotent, there are any number of ways I can achieve this. But I think the best is this: I will arrange for a delusional psychopath to purchase a gun under his state's extremely lax gun laws, fit it with an extended clip, and shoot her in the head at point blank range in broad daylight in public. In the process he will shoot a number of other people, killing some, including a small child. But these will just have to be acceptable collateral damage, even though in my omnipotence it would be easy for me to prevent all of it. I'll just make sure the girl gets an extra-awesome Barbie collectors set when she gets up here, along with pie. Now, the congresswoman herself will not die, as I will arrange for the bullet to perforate only one of her brain hemispheres. She will be in a coma following this, and will be several years recovering. But the end result of it all will be that it will allow me to implement my important plans for her once she recovers. If she does. Even though I could do it any other way."

Does that about sum it up?

Seriously, the only way a person could believe in a God like this is if they just don't think about the implications of what they believe. Religion trains you not to think of such things. And this is why I think religion, far from being something to offer true comfort in a time of crisis, simply offers a way to delude yourself that every tragedy has a silver lining, and that a benign space daddy still has my back, even if making life better for me required a little girl to die.

If you think I'm being offensive offering a snarky critique of a statement made by a theist in the wake of a tragedy that happens to reflect his beliefs in the midst of emotional upset, well, that's your prerogative. For my part, I am offended by the way religion so easily makes light of human pain and suffering to find some way, no matter what, to glorify its God. It's not Mike McNulty I'm criticizing, it's the indoctrination that's influenced his thinking, and the way it values its God's glory over innocent lives.


  1. I was tearing my hair out because some of my relatives on facebook were talking about the "voice guy", praising god for giving this guy a second chance, or whatnot.

    "Oh my! I just watched it - now I have goosebumps. I love God!"

    I guess God got distracted helping a guy who does voices. I don't hear any of these same relatives saying anything to the effect of, "God, you dropped the ball!" on this topic.

    *chirp* *chirp*

  2. Martin, I think you hit the nail on the head. I have been having this same argument with my wife, who is still a staunch believer. What my wife fails to realize is that this kind of thinking is immoral and small. People like this honestly don't see the bigger picture, and I think actions like this cause more pain and sorrow than actual good. It's all the little, seemingly inconsequential things that don't add up, but when you add them all together, they paint a completely different picture of the events; like the Barbie doll set and the pie.

    Unfortunately, this seems the only way they can cope with tragedy.

    Sad. Very sad.

  3. I generally strongly agree with the post, but I would just raise an objection to one point:

    "Seriously, the only way a person could believe in a God like this is if they just don't think about the implications of what they believe."

    I think there are a lot of religious people that do think through their implications. And they come to a conclusion that do not require us to assume they are just being closed minded or willfully ignorant, as I think your post seems to imply. (and I can not believe I am going to try and channel one of my Christian apologist friends here, because I actually agree with you in terms of what they say about god and things like this, but I do not think it is as simple as saying that the theists have not "thought through" the issue):

    They will say gods nature is fundamentally good. And because gods nature is fundamentally good, and god cannot violate his own nature, by definition this is the best way that god could have done what he did. God is all powerful, but there is a limit to his power...he cannot be logically contradictory. Therefore he cannot contradict himself or his nature. And because his nature is presupposed to be good, all actions that come from him must therefore be good.

    So, there is my attempt to play Christian apologist. I think maybe my main criticism is that we do a disservice to ourselves sometimes by saying that Christians are not rationally thinking about or working through the problems. The logic is valid, it is rational. but the problem is that it suffers from several unproven premises and presuppositions that should not be presuppositions.

    I mean, we basically all have to start with some sort of foundational principle that is essentially circular. We tend to start with things like "I think therefore I am" and I basically trust my senses because, even though I cannot get verification that they are accurate, I do not really have any other way to interact with the world. The Christian in this mindset will start with one more foundational principle, god is real and good. In reality this should be something that we should discover through our senses, and not foundational. But to them it is. And because it is foundational to them I think we misunderstand the thinking errors they commit.

    Not sure, but that is my two cent attempt though to have a little fun and play theist advocate. Have fun ripping it apart! :)

  4. Completely agree, Martin. This stuff irritates me all the time, too. On the one hand, these kinds of comments seem to try to offer comfort in the wake of a tragedy. On the other, there's this nagging sense that the greater objective is to tow the line and make sure everyone remembers that God's still all cool and stuff. And you're right...if you really thought it out, the bold paragraph is about what you'd come up with. But theists generally don't, because every word and thought about God must be positive.

    Completely different situation, but it reminds me of that football player who blamed God after dropping what would've been a winning touchdown pass several weeks ago. Everyone said how much of an idiot he was for saying that. But nobody ever says anything when players thank God after scoring a touchdown (or winning an award, etc.).

    As you said on the show a while back, to these people, God always has to win.

  5. This kind of statement has caused me some eye-rolling as well. What gets me is the stealing of credit - it's a "miracle" that the congresswoman survived; when truthfully it has much more to do with medical science than divine intervention.

    I'm reminded of the Chilean miners: scientists and engineers devise a cunning but ultimately non-magical rescue and journalists around the world proclaim it a miracle.

  6. I don't begrudge anyone trying to find comfort while their friend is lying in a hospital, but I agree with you that it shows a lack of awareness of, or I'd add a willingness to accept, the implications of their beliefs.

    The other thing that bothers me about some religious reactions to all of this concerns what you mentioned about finding a silver lining in these situations. It's an easy out, to look at something like this happening and then to say that there must be something good that's meant to come out of it. Presenting a silver lining like, say, the idea that someone is playing in puddles in heaven, allows people to have their drug like, feel good, cathartic moment - and then move on like nothing happened. The families of those who were killed will have to deal with their loss for the rest of their lives. There are still serious conversations to be had about gun control, political rhetoric, treatment of the mentally ill, etc.

    If something good comes out of this, it will be because people chose to take real action to address related issues, not because a good result is preordained.

  7. One thing that made me shake my head in the wake of this tragedy is Sarah Palin's response to all the criticism she's getting about that stupid "Don't retreat, RELOAD" campaign: "On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice."

    Wait a second, Palin, you're going to *pray* for peace and justice? Aren't you a politician? Isn't striving to CREATE peace and justice your JOB? It's like hearing your surgeon say, "We all pray your tumor goes away." When you have the power to try to try to fix what's broken, you don't pray for it to be fixed, you try to damn well fix it. Praying is what you do when nothing can be or will be done because, conveniently, prayer does nothing. Palin is essentially saying she's not going to do what she can to set things right, even if it's just promoting more sensitivity between all sides as all the political hot heads get riled up about this issue, she's just going to *pray* someone else does the right thing.

    That and McNulty's attempts to glorify death and suffering for the sake of rationalizing a just god just adds to my increasing disrespect for religion. People will try to defend him by saying that turning to god is a way to cope to tragedy, but coping with pain and loss by saying pain and loss might be a good thing IS NOT A GOOD THING. Nothing good will come out of that kind of thinking. If justice in pain and passivity to wrongdoing is what this religion promotes, then no wonder our country's ideas about violence, torture, and human decency is so messed up.

  8. he cannot be logically contradictory. Therefore he cannot contradict himself or his nature. And because his nature is presupposed to be good, all actions that come from him must therefore be good.

    And making the gun jam at the critical moment would have been an action of such heinous evil that God simply couldn't have done it.

    I'm sorry, no way! Anyone who believes in a god like that either didn't think things through properly or the god they believe in is incredibly petty, pathetic and unworthy of worship.

  9. I just wanted to say that I agree with you Martin and I respect the fact that you waited a couple days before posting this. It's a shame that the politicians didn't show that kind of respect before they started playing the blame game.

    Keep up the good work. You guys on the Atheist Experience and the Non-Prophets are a huge inspiration.

  10. The worldview inside the delusion requires that everything that happens is part of god's greater plan and that there will be justice and fairness in the end. No matter how horrible an event, believers can always use the excuse that one can never know god's mind.

    Reason is not much of a weapon against irrational belief. All we can hope for is that by continuing to be vocal about our worldview, the little cracks, where doubt has begun, will widen a little more.

  11. Very well put, Martin. I wholeheartedly agree.

    I always say: when a Christian has to choose between their neighbor and their God, they'll always choose their God over their neighbor.

    Somehow it's all about God's glory. What a narcissistic prick.

    In the end the theists will probably spin this and blame sin or mankind for violence like this and absolve God of all guilt (suddenly he's no longer omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent and everything stops being part of his almighty plan!) which makes God good just by being uninvolved in this horror.

    I'm suddenly reminded of secret agents in fiction (and in real life?) who are told that when they're caught the agency will deny any involvement whatsoever but if the job succeeds they'll take all the credit.


  12. I always thought bad stuff was to be blamed upon satan as being the 'evil' in the world. When something good seems to come out of tragedy it can be an act of god or because god was 'looking out' or favoring that person. People probably believe Rep Gabrille Giffords was 'saved' because god must have a devine plan for her life to spread the good word or her faith.

    I read somewhere that relying on faith is like an infantile response to something they don't understand.

  13. Something terrible and scary just happened! I hate it. I don't want it.

    Oh - God did it. It's okay now, I can crawl back in my hidey-hole.

  14. One of the purposes of faith is to try and spread courage, hope and strength in times of despair so it might make more sense looking at it from that perspective than a literal sense?

  15. This stuff always annoys me.

    I just saw an example on 700 Club this morning- a preacher has an aneurysm, they say he will likely die the next day, they pray, he survives and fully recovers (after a long rehab) and it was a miracle and God had more plans for him.

    Well, most theists I know just have the attitude "shit happens" because of either original sin or Satan, without considering all the things that implies, and they are just thankful God the Handyman was around to help someone who would have been more severely hurt or killed otherwise.

    It doesn't make sense, but it's good enough for them.

  16. Very good post/analysis Martin. What really irritates me are the theists that thank their god for the survivors of a specific tragedy yet conveniently forget to blame the same omniscient god for allow the tragedy to happen in the first place. That's usually followed with a "praise god, or glory to god". What part

  17. Totally agree, Martin. Regarding the 'cannot be logically contradictory', well, my response would be that an ALL POWERFUL god could not, by DEFINITION have limits on his power. THAT is the logical contradiction.

    Presupposing, just for sh*ts and grins, that there is a God and he is all powerful, he HAS NO limits. He can't! All power and limited power is a logical contradiction. Of COURSE he can act against his nature. He's GOD. That is the DEFINITION of God.

    Jesus, again for sh*ts and grins, turned water, one thing, into a different thing, wine. He took something that had no life, and made it live again. God is supernatural and yet he turned himself into a living being, once again, acting against his true nature. Fundamentally good, God cannot be born, OR born with original sin. Yet he was when he came down as his own son. Jesus had to be baptized and cleansed of that sin!

    So yes, IF there was this ALL POWERFUL being, it would, by the very definition of ALL POWERFUL, NOT have any limits whatsoever on its power! Something that has limits on its power cannot be all powerful.

  18. The problem of evil, so very simple.

    1) If god is benevolent and omnipotent, bad things would never happen.

    2) Bad things do happen.

    3) God is not benevolent and omnipotent.

    I know the lame arguments against this, free will, god could but does not want to, blah blah blah. I have never seen anyone able to refute it properly though, and I think the ancient Greeks came up with it.

    It is sad that indoctrination and fear can overcome even the most basic logic in so many people.

  19. @Sue. What if god became bored with being god and just for the heck of it decided to create human beings. He purposely made himself to be not all powerful when it came to human matters. The purpose of humans would be a grand experiment where god decided not to interfere. He effectively and purposely locked himself out of human activity just to see what we would do for his own entertainment or boredom. Self imposed limitations on a matter.

  20. You left out something in God's soliloquy; Giffords is Jewish--one of God's Special People, even though he's screwed them over even more than the rest of us.

    If this is how God treats his friends...

  21. This "personal relationship with God" is very odd, imho. To think "God has a special plan for me" is just over the top - and extremely self-centered. I believe it falls under the deadly sin of "pride" in Christian terms, to think that some omnipotent being pays attention to me -- good or bad. Such hubris.

  22. Martin -- Why do you condsider Arizona's laws to purchase a gun extremely lax ("I will arrange for a delusional psychopath to purchase a gun under his state's extremely lax gun laws")?

    To purchase a gun, you can't have a felony conviction, can't have documented mental illness, have to go through a waiting period, have a background check, etc. The shooter could have purchased his handgun in any state that allows handgun sales. So are you saying all these states' laws are lax?

    Last year, we did enact a very lax law about "carrying" handguns. A legal possesser of guns no longer needs a permit/training to carry a concealed weapon. However, it would be a stretch to argue the passage of that law led the shooter to decide the time was right to carry out his rampage.

    Can you clarify? And, yes, I'm picking a nit, but I'm sure you'd like to be accurate. Thanks, Cheryl

    P.S. Gabby, herself, owns a Glock, the same type of gun used against her. Weird, but definitely not a sign from god. :-)

  23. @Honest_guy: Well, assuming we're still going on the "all powerful" thing, then I would agree that yes, an all powerful God could certainly deliberately place limits on his own power in certain situations.

    But then, the definition of "all good" must undergo fundamental changes. A God which created Humans and an eternal torture for the ones who did not follow him or his ways, while he also, for the sake of boredom, forbade himself from helping them in the least evade that eternal torture cannot, by good's very definition, be 'all good'.

    Another case of the 'God exemption'. God is all good, except when he isn't. God is all powerful, except when he isn't. God is all knowing, except when he isn't.

  24. @Honest_guy87110

    One of the purposes of faith is to try and spread courage, hope and strength in times of despair

    I would contend that there are ways to spread those things without resorting to comforting myths. It is kind of like lying to a dying person telling them everything will be just fine in order to make them feel better rather than telling them the truth. The truth of the situation is some lunatic wanted to kill a bunch of people and innocent people suffered and died as a result. It is tragic, but it is the truth.

    Maybe it is just me but saying things like "she will survive because god has plans for her" (for anyone other than hardcore believers) is an avoidance of dealing with reality or trite BS at best. It is almost like taking a very real painful experience for people and treating it rather absentmindedly. Rather than expend the energy to think of how the people might be feeling or what could comfort them or express sympathy at their situation it simply excuses the tragedy away with some blithe non-statements. To me, statements like that are more of crutch for those offering the condolences rather than those receiving them. Just like telling a dying person that they will be okay is probably more of a relief to the person not having to deliver the bad news rather than for the victim.

    (hope that made sense, I am dead tired and not thinking the best)

  25. Imagine you're the mom of the dead nine year-old. And you hear that doofus make that remark. What the hell? So what plans does God have for the little girl who died, huh? What, she wasn't good enough for Him to have plans for? SHE couldn't be spared because she wasn't special enough? WTF?

    It just sucks, any way you look at it.

  26. "I can only think that God has more important things planned for her in the future."

    The message: God had no plans at all for the people who died.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. I've said many times in various places that if god exists, and he is the abrahamic god, then he is the very definition of evil. I specify the abrahamic deity because I am unfamiliar with the multitude of other incarnations.

    Religion is to good as cancer is to life.
    At it's best it doesn't do anything.

  29. I don't even know where to begin my rant on this one!!!

    I can only think that God has more important things planned for her in the future.

    Really?!?!? Just her?!? So the 9 year old Christina-Taylor Green had no future, I guess you had to be in politics already, not just interested in politics for god to have plans for you, so god lets her die. How about Dorothy Morris? I guess god was done with her, but her husband George, who shielded Dorothy with his own body, may have something planned for his future, as well as the other dozen or so that were just injured. But the six that were killed, I guess god had no plans for them.

    Does this really make sense to people? God works in mysterious ways, you can not know his plans but it is for the better good, he has a purpose, a design, and on and on with a hundred different explanation and excuses, grasping, reaching, hoping, praying, fearing... enough already.

    How about this, there is no god, sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. This is one of the bad things, there is no purpose behind it, no cosmological plan.

    Enough rant for now, I'm sure there will be more after I hear additional comments from people attempting to justify this tragedy.

  30. Che: It's possible I mistakenly conflated Arizona's gun-buying laws with its carrying laws, so my bad. Though I still think it's alarming that a perfect loon can walk into any sporting goods store he wishes and buy a gun as long as his mental illness has yet to be diagnosed. And there's the whole "gun show loophole" thing that's a problem.

    I'm not against gun ownership, but the way American culture fetishizes guns has gone beyond creepy into this realm I can barely think of a word to define.

    When I was in the comics business, I knew some artist guys from Arizona who were full-on, right-wing walking gun nut stereotypes. I liked 'em okay, though naturally we split on politics, and they were wholly sold on this fantasy that "an armed society is a polite society." I recall one of them telling me in all confidence that the kinds of random public mass shootings you read about happening in schools and food courts elsewhere in the country would never happen in Arizona, as no sooner would the crazyman perp get off his first round than half a dozen brave law-abiding patriots would whip out their legally-owned pieces and deal swift citizen justice to the situation. I guess we see how well that worked out...

    (And as I understand it, AZ has a open-carry law, which makes me wonder why they also have such a lazy concealed-carry law. I'd be far less likely to fuck with somebody if I saw the Glock on his belt.)

    MAtheist: I'm not sure if they're attempting to justify the tragedy so much as give themselves a way to feel less bad about it. Which is just as reprehensible, IMHO.

  31. I'm with you, Martin. I just heard a news report about Gifford's progress in her recovery. Of course someone had to say that it was miraculous or a medical miracle or something of the kind. The girl (and the other people who died) obviously didn't deserve a miracle (how comforting for her parents!). Not to mention everyone else in the world who died in horrible circumstances on the same day: floods in Australia? who gives a fuck; cholera in Haiti? too bad so sad; rape and murder in the Congo? you were asking for it, honey.

    Instead of writing it off as a "miracle" how about the credit that is due to the doctors and medical science for helping to keep her alive?

    And the kicker? Right after the miracle statement they asked a doctor, "isn't this a medical miracle?" His answer, "Well, I suppose you could look at it that way [to his credit, he seemed a little hesitant about the label]. About ninety per cent of gunshots to the head are fatal." So this miracle? Happens about once in every ten to twenty times a person gets a gunshot wound to the head, give or take. I'm happy for her, but that doesn't seem like the "impossible odds" that would constitute a miracle even in a conventional, non-religious sense.

  32. @Martin - yes, I can buy that they are trying to feel better about it., but if I hear someone saying that it is gods will for this to happen, then I'll be all over their ass.

    Meanwhile, everyone walking around armed reminds me of The Far Side comic with the caption "The tragic proliferation of nose guns," the panel shows everyone in town with a small gun strapped to their nose.

    Hats off to the genius that is Gary Larson.

  33. Another interpretation of McNulty's comment would be that God was caught by surprise by the shooting. Someone has thrown a monkey wrench into God's long-term plan for Giffords, so he now has to scramble and employ some supernatural power for what by all rights should have been a quick death.

    Whatever the interpretation, it doesn't say much for the power of the Almighty.

  34. Martin -- being very much the social liberal, Arizona needs to mandate mandatory gun/2nd amendment education in the public schools. It's not enought that we ask those who wish to purchase a gun to undergo training. We need everyone to understand how to safely handle a gun -- so they know when someone isn't; the possible legal consequences to brandishing a gun at someone (aggravated assault - whether it's loaded or not, whether it's a joke or not), etc.

    I stopped a friendship with someone who jokingly pointed an unloaded pistol at me even after I asked her not to. I think we should teach all our children what this thing called the 2nd amendment really means, and what it really means to own or use a gun.

  35. And doctors are talking about her "miraculous" recovery -- no it was their years of training and experience. The only "miracle", imho, is that we actually get to witness what science can do.

  36. As a member of the medical profession, miracles are things that by their very definition are impossible.

    If something happens, it is not impossible, since it happened. That means it's not a miracle.

    I've managed to keep 650 gram micro premies with gelatonous skin and fused eyelids alive. Improbable? Yes. IMPOSSIBLE? It happened. Ergo, it is possible.

  37. One doesn't need to be a social liberal to be aghast at gun fetishism, btw. I'm a Conservative, 20+ years NRA member and gun owner who wishes a great number of people on "my" side were better acquainted with the reality of violence and its consequences.

    It does not seem that Arizona dropped the ball, gun-wise. If a guy is a legal citizen, had no felony record, no paperwork of involuntary psych committal... what's an honest gun store to do?

    My local gun dealer is a cautious and ethical man who has refused several sales to people who didn't strike him as having all their marbles. (One actually DID strike him following the refusal, a resoundingly bad idea considering the dealer is a retired police detective and amateur boxer. Mr Hothead found himself flat on his back trying to remember what day it was while the police were summoned.)

    But what if Loughner was the very picture of sanity on the day he purchased that pistol? No bad paperwork on him. No warning signs during his interaction with the merchant. What then?

    There are issues here going well beyond guns & such. It might be time to take another look at the laws regarding involuntary confinement and treatment for people who show signs of being dangerously mentally ill but haven't had their rampage... YET.

    And before anyone starts in about Nurse Ratched, electroshock and whatnot... I am well aware of the hornet's nest of issues this raises. I'm just throwing it out for discussion, if anyone cares to.

  38. What is is, really, about guns with you guys down there? Why the obsession?

    The idea of not only liking guns enough to have one, but to carry it around everywhere I go is well, incredibly foreign to me.

  39. On topic:

    I regard the God-talk as more like an unconscious linguistic convention, like a verbal tic, than anything else.

    A fuel truck crashes into a preschool and blows the whole place and everyone in it to smithereens - except for one lucky kid who was on the toilet and survives with only minor scratches from porcelain chips? IT'S A MIRACLE!
    Clearly God has special plans for this tot.

  40. BTW, I am posting with the worst migraine I've had in weeks.

    TAEblog is very interesting with tunnel-vision.

  41. magx01 -- Guns exist in more than 40 percent of households in the United States (some stats say as high as 50 percent). So "you guys down there" is fallacious thinking. Perhaps you can just look a little closer to home to find your answers. :-)

  42. mag01 -- oops, didn't see that you're from "up there" My boo boo. Our Founding Fathers stated early on that we have a right to bear arms. And Arizona's constitution makes it more clear:

    The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired.

    So it's a right we've enshrined in our founding documents. Similar to our right to speak without governemnt intrusion.

    Some of us might find it unsettling that your government has the power to regulate speech. Canada has quite a collection of anti-pornography and anti-hate-speech laws on the books.

    One custom office's pornography is another person's lesbian erotica, if you know what I mean.

    Just as one person's way of life is another's obsession.

    Have a good day.

  43. This is what a theist recently told me concerning this stuff. I can't believe WE have so many people thinking this way.

    "Gods love is everywhere, however we do not choose as to when we will die. Its gods plan. We have free will but ultimitly, god prevails. I dont claim to be a bible thumper but if you do read the bible, its in there. Peace..."

  44. So we have "free will," but ultimately God prevails. Which prompts the question of why God bothered with the whole free will thing anyway, if he's just always going to prevail whenever he feels like it.

    See, they don't think, they just believe.

  45. Che. Your founding documents were written by men who endorsed slavery and the subjugation of women. It's okay not to agree with them on every issue. Sounds like you've just substituted one document written by a bunch of middle eastern men by one written by a bunch of men of British ancestry. What might have seemed all right to them in the eighteenth century might just in fact be crazy stupid in the twenty-first.

  46. If everyone and their brother is carrying firearms, why didn't someone pull out there own gun and shoot this idiot? Where were all the guns? Where were the fetishists? Of course there are anecdotal stories I could point out. It wasn't a gun fetishist that was the problem last week.

    Unfortunately the problem as I see it is deeper than just "guns are bad". My family has always owned guns. I was in the army and know my way around everything from a 9mm to a 120mm tank. I respect weapons. Do I own one? No. I simply have no need for one in my daily life at all. Would I carry an axe around in case it's ever useful? Shooting can be fun, in the same way blowing things up with fireworks can be fun. I don't need them at my beckoned call at all times. Plus hunting is the opposite of fun for me, although I like the spending time with family walking through the woods part.

    There aren't many crazy or angry or stupid people in my family. As long as we allow crazy angry stupid people to walk amongst us, I suppose we need to curtail certain things. I admit there may be no other way around it. But I don't see the problem as a "crazed gun culture".

  47. *their* (I really wish we could edit so my brilliant rant wouldn't look stupid right off the bat)

  48. I'm not sure believers really believe. This conversation actually happened:

    Atheist (to Catholic): "What about those Young Earth Creationists, eh?"

    Catholic: "What's a Young Earth Creationist?"

    Atheist explains, surprised that this was necessary.

    Catholic: "Then that makes me a Young Earth Creationist"

    Atheist (surprised, since the Vatican grudgingly accepts evolution and doesn't take Genesis literally): "Oh. Then what's your view on ?"

    C: "I believe whatever the church says is right"

    A: "Which is...?"

    C: "I don't know, but whatever it is, that's what I believe"

    You see, I would quibble with that last use of the word "believe" - surely you cannot believe an assertion if you don't know what is is?

    It is not belief; if is allegiance.

  49. Oops - halfway down my comment I included some text in chevrons. I guess this blog treats that as html or something. My bad. AEblog newbie in da house.

  50. As regards guns: Giffords' Glock would have saved her life, if only Loughner had politely indicated his intentions and allowed her to locate, load, point and fire it before he shot her.

    I dunno - maybe if she had MORE guns she would have been safer.

  51. I guess I'll need to devil's advocate this even though I freely admit unfettered access to weapons is not tenable.

    Gifford's weapon obviously would not save her from a suprise attack with a gun (or a knife or a club). But it's more feasible the second victim or the third or the fourth or the fifth may have been able to do something. But the point that was gleaned over was that in this "gun crazed" society, nobody else drew their own. Even in the shooting at the military base, it took forever to get someone there who was armed. Don't construe that as meaning someone "should have" done so.

  52. Judge Roll got shot A FEW MINUTES AFTER GOING TO MASS!!! What does that say about the power of prayer? Why didn't God tell the priest to make the guy wait for his cracker and juice?

    Oh wait... maybe Judge Roll got holiness conferred upon him, then he touched Gabby and it rubbed off of him and onto her. Sadly, Godjuice doesn't last very long so she only got enough to survive a head wound, not to escape one.

    If that's what happened, then God should have hurried the priest, or maybe had the organist choose a faster hymn.

  53. I'm glad I'm not the only Canadian who doesn't understand the whole gun thing.

    I had heard that the right to bear arms wasn't so much to protect against other gun toting Americans, but more like, if a bear wandered onto your proptery. Of course the wording wouldn't really specify what you were protecting youself against, but its more the context and culture of the time.

    Seth Meyers had a funny part on Saturday Night Live's weekend update a week or two ago about what the founding fathers would really say about guns if they were here today

  54. Try not to apologize for and preface your opinions as much please. I only have so many minutes left in my life, just cut to the chase.

  55. "Yo doc, I'm happy for you and I'm let you finish, but GOD just performed one of the best surgeries of all time!!!"


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