Posted by: SteveInCO | 27 Jul 2013

Most and Least Religious Places (With a BIG Surprise)

Well this is interesting:

Basically they studied 189 metropolitan areas trying to figure out which was the most religious.  They asked respondents about their level of religiosity:

Throughout the country in 2012, 40% of Americans were classified as very religious — based on saying religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Thirty-one percent of Americans were nonreligious, saying religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 29% of Americans were moderately religious, saying religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 23 Jul 2013

How uncommonly generous.

Every once in a while you read something that makes you seethe.

In a generous display of clemency a woman from Norway is being pardoned by Dubai for being raped.  How special.  What generosity!  What mercy!

Actually, shitheads, you are doing what you should have done in the first place, what should have been the default which is not to hold someone responsible for an act they did not commit.

This woman was the victim of a thug, and can bear no guilt for something he did.  It’s a basic principle of ethics that you can only be held morally responsible for things you have control over, yet someone else rapes this woman and she is guilty of sex outside of marriage.  Even if I were to concede that this is a crime (and it’s not) she didn’t choose to commit it.

Oh I forgot.  Women are to be held responsible for every out-of-control-with-lust male they encounter; they provoked it.  I am not sure if that attitude is more insulting to the woman or the man.  Though frankly it makes no difference.  You are fucked up beyond belief to think this way.

This sort of thing is why the West thinks Arabia is a primitive shithole; even an affluent country like yours acts like a bunch of tribal barbarians.

Maybe your peninsula will eventually catch up to the nineteenth century some day.  Too much to hope it will ever be worthy of the twenty first.

PS CNN covered this, Fox did not (though one would think Fox would cover bad stuff about the Islamic areas of the world).  It pays to check out both sites (especially when Fox covers stuff CNN won’t touch).

Posted by: SteveInCO | 07 Jul 2013

Fires, Fires, and More Fires!

The normal thing to do, a year after a fire that was probably the worst disaster in Colorado history (it was certainly the worst fire), would be to mark the anniversary.  That ought to have happened on June 26th.

I would love to have marked the anniversary of Colorado’s worst disaster on that Wednesday.  The problem is, the anniversary hasn’t arrived yet, because the Waldo Canyon Fire is no longer the worst disaster in Colorado history.

It’s not even the worst disaster in the history of this part of Colorado.

Tuesday, 11 June, about 2 PM, not even a year after Waldo Canyon, a fire started in the Black Forest.  This is a large wooded area (pine trees) north of Colorado Springs, and east of the Air Force Academy.  It is also an area that a lot of people, seeking a rural lifestyle without being on the high plains as I am, have moved to and built their homes.  I know my family had friends there as far back as 1970.

Although we had a moderately rainy spring (enough to green up the prairie grass nicely) the pine trees of Black Forest have been under-watered for over a decade now.  Between that and a substantial westerly wind, a fire that started in the southwest corner of Black Forest moved several miles and threatened almost the entire Black Forest area.  Almost instantly evacuation orders went out.

This one was a lot closer to home.  A lot closer.  If that fire had moved the second day like it did the first, I would have been in it.  I took the precaution of moving some of my harder-to-pack and harder-to-move valuables to my work office in Colorado Springs on Wednesday morning.  Some of my coworkers’ houses were directly threatened (it later turned out that the fire got onto their land), and of course those people were evacuated. Many others I work with were pre-evacuated.  The evacuation and pre-evacuation zones never quite reached me though.

Fortunately for me, the fire never made the transition to grass fire, and the two-mile-wide thick swath of grassland east of Black Forest (centered along Elbert Road) saved my part of the county.

The fire jumped all over the place the next few days as the winds blew one direction then another, doubling back on itself as if determined to carbonize patches of forest (and houses) it hadn’t got before.

But it finally was put out with the aid of some rain later in the week.

The toll stands at two deaths (a couple that was in the process of trying to pack up to evacuate), and 509 homes destroyed.  That last utterly eclipses the 347 homes destroyed last year.

What is causing this?  It’s a combination of over ten years of drought–that is starting to look like permanent climate change.  (OK, that should read climate change that will endure for over a lifetime.)  And human factors.  Both this fire and Waldo Canyon were caused by humans; Waldo Canyon has been attributed to arson.  [See update below.]  They are still investigating this one to determine if it was in fact deliberately set.

That would be inconceivably sick.  Surely after last year people can understand the horrific risk setting a fire is.  Maybe, just maybe, Waldo was set by some clown who thought it’d be fun to yank the firefighters’ chains and didn’t expect it to turn into a Beast.  There were no less than 20 arson attempts further west than Waldo just before Waldo (though no connection has been established).  But that can’t have happened this year.

Conspiracy theories abound, including terrorism.  I just know that the Waldo Canyon arsonist, if caught, is due for murder charges for the two people who died in that fire.  And the (hypothetical) Black Forest arsonist would be too.  Jail time and/or a lethal injection would be much too good for these people, though.

One theory I will dismiss out of hand is that god somehow had something to do with saving peoples’ homes; for he surely did nothing for the 509 people whose houses did get turned into smoking ruins.  Thank god for saving your house?  How about asking him why he allowed the others to burn?  If you really insist on bringing an imaginary “friend” into it.

The real, non-imaginary heroes here, as last year, are the first responders, who actively did save many houses directly, and who knows how many indirectly by fighting the fire in general and containing it and putting out sooner than it would have done so on its own.  Bravo to you all!

Meanwhile, more fires burn in other parts of the state, with West Fork still on a rampage, and a new fire in Jefferson County… and in a case of deja vu all over again, it’s threatening homes.

UPDATE 8 July 2013:  It is in fact still unknown whether the Waldo Canyon fire last year was deliberately set.

Posted by: SteveInCO | 21 Apr 2013

This could explain Paul

I lean towards being a “historicist,” which is to say that I think it’s more likely than not there was a living, breathing human being… but only a human being, likely named “Yeshua”… that the Jesus legend in the Bible is based on, as opposed to the mythicist who thinks the entire thing was made up out of whole cloth.  I won’t claim certainty or even near certainty on this, because the evidence for historicism is highly inferential; I usually say it’s 60-40 or 75-25 depending on my mood that day.

So I was eager to watch this video when I first heard about it; it could have changed my mind.  Unfortunately, it didn’t even really discuss the matter.  But I found it valuable for other reasons.  Let me explain…

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 13 Mar 2013

Advice for Pope Francis I

In most matters (with one exception I will get to), here’s my advice, one moving picture worth a thousand words:

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Dear Christian,

Well, you’ve heard it said… and I imagine many of you have said it yourself, exasperated with some atheist complaint about prayer in school or a creche scene in front of a courthouse:  “It’s freedom of religion not freedom from religion.”

Well, actually it is both; you cannot have the one without the other.  But take heart, since freedom from religion might not mean what you think it means.

No, I am not saying they are both a part of the first amendment and you have to accept a “packaged deal,”  I am saying it is metaphysically impossible to have freedom of religion without freedom from religion.  With one specific exception (which proves the rule) which I will get to.
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Posted by: SteveInCO | 25 Dec 2012

Nativity Naivete

Well Saturnalia is over–and I didn’t even get to see Saturn.

So I guess I will have to focus on Christmas instead.

The overwhelming majority of well educated Christians realize that there’s no evidence, not even from the bible, that this day is in any way the birthdate of Jesus.  I’ve heard that the context given in the nativity tales (and I said tales in the plural, more on that in a moment) implies it was autumn.  I’ve heard others say it was obviously spring.  Regardless, people want to celebrate the event, and this is as good a day as any (and this particular choice helps bury the competition by hijacking their holiday).  I guess they think that those who think the nativity happened on December 25th are well-intentioned but naive.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 23 Oct 2012

Now you know how it feels!

Here you will see a truly classic case of poetic justice.

Louisiana State Representative Valerie Hodges voted for a bill that would allow government money to be diverted to private, including religious, schools.  But she was in for a nasty surprise when it turned out that Muslim schools would be able to get in on the tax money giveaway.

You see she wanted only the religion of the founding fathers to get tax money.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 22 Oct 2012

You Know It’s The Bible Belt When…

I recently had occasion to be driving on I-40 from Oklahoma City (which, unlike Kansas City, is actually in the state of the same name) west to Amarillo, TX.

I first saw this mondo cross probably about 45 miles east of Amarillo.  I was able to bring my camera to bear and operate it one handed; this is the best picture (once cropped and shrunk) for getting a feel for the size of the thing.

Gigantic cross next to a church in the middle of nowhere.

This cross is next to a large church, out in the middle of nowhere.

There wasn’t much to speak of around this building; it’s a large church in the middle of nowhere.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 01 Jul 2012

Staring Down the Throat of Hell

My Impressions of the Waldo Canyon Fire

I live well northeast of Colorado Springs, so the Waldo Canyon fire did not affect me directly, other than the times the air was full of smoke.  Yet I grew up in Colorado Springs; I know some of the areas that burned; I know many who had to evacuate; and I got a look into Hell albeit from a distance. It has been a sobering and emotional week.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 06 Jun 2012

Venus Transit Pictures

Well, I had decent luck taking pictures of the Venus Transit (I got no usable picture of the annular eclipse–that will teach me to leave the tripod adapter at home).   I tried a movie as well but the movie turned out to just be of a yellow disk, with no visible spot for Venus. Read More…

Posted by: SteveInCO | 13 May 2012

Venus Transit, 5/6 June 2012

UPDATE

Boy do I have egg on my face.  Not just a chicken egg either, it’s an elephant bird egg.  I am drowning in egg.

You see, this Venus transit is happening on the 6th of June all right… the morning of the 6th of June in Europe.  Which means it happens on the evening of the fifth here.

FIFTH OF JUNE.

I sincerely hope no one misses it because of this mistake I have made.

Another update

Pictures here.

A What?

This year the 6th of June is not just the anniversary of D-day–which is noteworthy enough.  It is also the date [edit--if you are in the eastern hemisphere!  Otherwise it's on the 5th of June.] of one of the rarest predictable astronomical events.  And if you miss it the next one is in December of 2117, so you have plenty of time to get ready.  (The last one was in 2004–these events come in pairs about eight years apart–but the pairs themselves have 100+ year gaps between them.)  Many, many people like my grandfather (1899-1986) or other grandfather (1913-1995) live long lives and never get even the opportunity to see this event. Read More…

Posted by: SteveInCO | 30 Apr 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse, 20 May 2012

It’s an annular solar eclipse, and you can see it in large parts of the western US.

I suppose I should clarify:  “annular” is not some weird redneck mangling of the word “annual.”  These things don’t happen every year.  It comes from “annulus” which is Latin for ring.

Here is the Wikipedia page for this particular eclipse.

We here on earth are the beneficiaries of an extremely fortunate coincidence.  The sun is four hundred times (or so) larger than the moon.  And it is four hundred times further away as well.  So the moon and the sun appear to be almost exactly the same size.  They cover about half a degree of sky, each.  On average the moon is just a tiny bit larger.

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You’ve all heard the claim that we aren’t really atheists, we are just mad at god.  (Or you will see such things as “so and so claims to be an atheist.”)

Today I saw an argument in an atheist chat room between a couple of atheists and a theist, and in a forum post on the same site, I saw someone else’s account of an argument they had out in public.  What I saw made me stop and wonder if we aren’t sometimes encouraging this line of bullshit, albeit unwittingly.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 24 Apr 2012

Open Letter To Christians #2

Dear Christian,

Yes there they go again.  Some atheist (well, actually many times it’s not an atheist,but rather a Christian who understands that the separation of church and state protects him too) is complaining about a creche scene in front of a court house, or a prayer at a public high school graduation or football game or even a government meeting.  Or maybe it’s some sort of display or sign that’s pretty explicitly Christian or otherwise religious, on government property.

“Can’t they just get a life,” you might ask yourself.  Or maybe, “what’s wrong with that?”  or some variation thereof.

Well, some other time, maybe, I can try to explain that to you.  (Hint:  it isn’t an attack on your freedom to worship, but it does has to do with the fact that these are happening on government property, with government sponsorship.)

Right now I am more interested in your reaction to these sorts of things.  Or actually, your reaction to some other people’s reactions.  What do I mean by that?

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 23 Apr 2012

Watch Venus As It Flies By!

Shortly after sunset, if you face west there is a very bright “star” in the sky:  Venus.  It’s easy to identify.  Someone once put it this way.  If you put three bags over your head and face the wrong way you might miss it.   It’s still above the horizon at 9-10 PM depending on your time zone, and it’s so bright you think it’s an airplane landing light or something like that.

It’s not going to be there for long.  Venus is about to “lap” us as it passes us up in its orbit, and when it does so it appears to move very fast in the sky; seen from one night to the next at identical times, it will drop like a rock now, after it has been hanging high in the evening sky for so long (about a month ago it was in a beautiful lineup with Jupiter, for instance).

By June 1st it will be low in the sky shortly after sunset, probably not visible in the glare of twilight, but if you can manage to see it, it will be 1/5th of a degree from Mercury (the full moon is half a degree wide).  Perhaps you could see both planets at the same time in a telescope if you knew where to point it, and have a good low-power/wide angle eyepiece.  You’ll have maybe 20 minutes to look for it right after sunset.

On June 6th, though, Venus will cross directly in front of the Sun.  That won’t happen again until late 2117. (That is not a typo!)  I’ll have a lot more to say about that as the date approaches.

Posted by: SteveInCO | 15 Apr 2012

A Different Sort of Easter Egg

Continuing my “celebration” of Orthodox Easter, I got this picture from a friend, and found it hilarious in a sort of sick way.

Posted by: SteveInCO | 15 Apr 2012

Easter Arithmetic

It’s still Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Easter as I write this, so it’s just under the wire.

Last Sunday (Protestant and Catholic Easter) as I was walking out of a Secular brunch that we hold every second and fourth Sunday of the month (no one seems to complain that it conflicts with church services!)  I mentioned to someone that Good Friday and Easter Sunday are only two days apart.  He looked stunned.  I suppose he grew up a Christian, and it had never occurred to him, even though it was staring him in the face all these years, that Friday is two days before Sunday.  The bible of course says it’s three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

So What The Fuck?  Is this the most ridiculously obvious Bible contradiction out there?

Well, I hate to say it.  We have to face facts here.

No, it isn’t.  Well, probably not.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 12 Apr 2012

Miraculous Evidence that Cthulhu Exists

It’s a miracle.  My hotel room at the Reason Rally had this door to the bathroom.

You can clearly see the image of Cthulhu in it.

I hesitated to reveal this information to the world, for fear of causing a major panic.

Posted by: SteveInCO | 07 Apr 2012

How Not To Argue for Abortion Rights

“Women are people. Fetuses aren’t people.”

“Hallelujah!” said I when I saw this in a comment on an atheist forum.

So rarely do I hear someone who is pro abortion rights actually come right out and say this.  It needs to be said, it needs to be said repeatedly, and it needs to be said loudly.

I am going to address this to those who are pro-choice, or pro-abortion rights, but who for whatever reason, don’t say this.

Why should you change your tack?  Why should you start making this point?

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 03 Apr 2012

Troll: Reasons Why I Believe in Evolution

This one is just too good to pass up.  I don’t know if anyone ever actually tried this and got these results or not but still…

Posted by: SteveInCO | 01 Apr 2012

Deuteronomy

Ordinary hydrogen consists of a single proton, which has a positive electrical charge, with a negatively charged electron “orbiting” it.  The proton makes up the nucleus of the hydrogen atom.  The electron weighs almost nothing compared to the much more massive proton, and the mass of this lone proton is generally denoted as approximately 1 Atomic Mass Unit (1 AMU).  Meanwhile the atom has a net electric charge of zero because the proton and electron have opposite charges.

If you add an uncharged neutron to the mix, you just about double the mass of the atom, since neutron and proton masses are almost identical, so you have a 2 AMU nucleus.  Since the neutron is uncharged, you still need just the one electron to keep the atom electrically neutral.  The proton and neutron together make up the nucleus of this configuration.

What you have is still hydrogen, but it’s twice as heavy, so the chemical behavior will end up being noticeably different, unlike most cases where larger atoms might have an extra neutron or two.  (For example there is no significant difference in chemical behavior between a uranium atom with 92 protons and 143 neutrons, and one with 92 protons and 146 neutrons–the weight difference is barely 1 percent rather than 100 percent.)  The just-a-proton hydrogen is called hydrogen-1, 1H, or protium while the heavier proton-and-a-neutron hydrogen is called hydrogen-2, 2H or deuterium.  Physicists even informally give deuterium its own chemical symbol, D.  (Officially, it’s a no-no to do this.)  When talking about just the nucleus of deuterium, it’s called a deuteron, and the study of deuterons is deuteronomy.

What, you thought this was going to be an article on the Bible?  Check the date of this post!

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 30 Mar 2012

The Reason Rally

The Reason Rally was held March 24 on the Washington DC Mall.  There’s little to be said about it that hasn’t been said already (especially here), but I took a number of photographs I thought I’d share.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 29 Mar 2012

Star Stuff

Two of the most prominent popularizers of science to have ever lived, Carl Sagan


..and Neil deGrasse Tyson

…have both made the same point:

Every atom in our bodies–hell every atom on earth (other than the hydrogen) was “cooked” in the center of some very large star (ten or more times the mass of our sun) or another, at least 4.6 billion years ago, then blown out into empty space when those monster stars exploded in a staggeringly violent way.  Later the debris from these supernovas coalesced to form new stars and planets, like our familiar sun and the earth.

As I’ve seen people say it, “Jesus didn’t die for you, stars did.”  And how.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 27 Mar 2012

Open Letter to Christians, #1

Dear Christian,

Many of you believe yourself to be moral, upstanding members of your communities.  Many of you are leaders in your communities, or respected businessmen, or perhaps even clergy.

So I’d like to ask you a “what if” question.

Let’s say when you get to be early middle aged.  You have children aged, oh, about seven to ten years old.

And at that time your mother lets it be known that she is an atheist.  That she does not believe there even is a god, much less a heaven or hell, or a need to be saved, or to be forgiven your sins.  What would your reaction be?

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 19 Mar 2012

Surprise! Muslims Not Rioting

[Note:  This contrasts with the events discussed in this post]

This is the dog that did not bark.

Apparently an American soldier went on a rampage in Afghanistan the night of 11/12 March, killing 16 Afghanis, 11 of whom were from the same family.  Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has been charged with this offense and is currently cooling his heels in a cell in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 13 Mar 2012

Response to MegaSage’s Challenge

Edit, 19 March 2012–added some images.

You can find any level of anti-science idiocy on the internet, especially from some of the really nutty fundamentalists.

The Challenge

Here for example is someone named MegaSage007 and he issues the following challenge to “atheists” (though perhaps he really ought to issue challenges like this to astrophysicists).

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a rather lengthy post on the history of “In God We Trust” on US coins and paper money.  I ended up giving short shrift to the paper money, and as I researched paper money some more I found out the history is a lot more complex than I thought.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 08 Mar 2012

Religious Polarization

I live near Colorado Springs.  Something that just happened here caught my attention.

http://www.gazette.com/articles/springs-134547-church-presbyterian.html

In case this article disappears or goes into a paid archive or something like that, here’s the gist of it.  A Presbyterian church, founded in 1872 (one year after Colorado Springs itself was) has voted to leave the national Presbyterian congregation and join a new startup.

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Posted by: SteveInCO | 02 Mar 2012

My Two Cents’ Worth on “In God We Trust”

The claim is often made that “In God We Trust” did not appear on US Currency until 1957. Well, yes and no.  And why is it important?

Currency Technically Means Coins, Too

The definition of currency is the money that circulates, especially the paper money.  But it does technically include coins even if most people seem to think it’s just a fancy word for “paper money.”  The strictly correct statement is that IGWT was added to US dollar bills (paper money) in 1957, and got added to other denominations in 1964-1966.  But it has appeared on some US coins since 1864.  It became universal on all US coinage in 1938.  So the 1957 date is not by any means the whole story, or the beginning or even the end of it; rather it was a gradual process that took slightly over a century.

But the important point to remember is that it did not always appear on US currency.  I’ll come back to that later.

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