Dec 5 2015

Intelligent Design group proves that ‘God probably created HIV’

In a stunning press release, Intelligent Design group The Group for Order and Design In Science (GODIS) has proposed that the structure of the HIV virus could not have arisen by natural processes, and was therefore engineered.

“Our calculations are quite revealing,” stated Rex Numero, chief statistician at GODIS.  “We were inspired by Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s accusation that perhaps HIV was created by the US Government, and we immediately set about calculating the likelihood that HIV could have arisen from natural causes.  As it turns out, the HIV virus is irreducibly complex in many areas.  Therefore, it MUST have been engineered.”

When Numero was challenged about whether or not the proposed engineer of HIV was the biblical God, Numero immediately denied such conclusions, saying

“We neither confirm nor deny the existence of a supreme being, but we do admit that such engineering is way ahead of our current scientific abilities.  WAY ahead.”

Picking up on the GODIS press release, an organization supporting the beleaguered Rev. Wright, Wright’s Holy Infantry Threatening Euro Supremacy (WHITES) immediately countered that such genetic engineering most certainly IS within the realm of our current capabilities.  Chief spokesperson for WHITES Ray Spater enjoined forcefully:

If we can genetically engineer glowing fish, how hard is it to engineer a little virus that kills people?  This news proves that it is possible, even probable that the rich white people running our government created and distributed HIV into the drug and sex businesses in order to kill blacks AND gays, our brothers in this fight for equal rights.

Spater has had to answer, however, the challenge that the spread of HIV in the black and gay communities was due to their own promiscuity and drug use, which is not the government’s fault.

“Are you kidding me?” spat Spater.  “Look, as brother Farrakan has said, the rich white Jews in Hollywood, many of which support our causes, are still to blame for filling our airwaves with sex in movies and on TV.  They are the ones influencing our youth.  Blaming the rappers and the HIV victims themselves is really low – I mean, what makes you say that they bear ANY responsibility for sleeping around or using drugs, when TV makes it so attractive?  No, no, no, we can not blame the victims here in any way.”

Not to be left out of the fray, Atheists Reviling God in History and Science (ARGHS) ridiculed the findings of GODIS.  Chief spokesman for ARGHS, Darkes Light, who spoke to the press this morning at ARGHS headquarters in Corpus Christi, TX, reviled:

The conclusions of GODIS are total bunk – I mean, you can prove anything you want with statistics, it all depends on your assumptions.  For example, if you stumbled upon a watch in the sand at the beach, you might be tempted to think that such an unusually complex object required an intelligent maker.  But of course, such a conclusion would be, statistically speaking, not your best choice.  Seeing design everywhere by setting the bar for ‘irreducibility’ so low can lead you to such obviously illogical conclusions as thinking that a watch was most likely created by an intelligence.”

Responding to these allegations, GODIS’ Numero answered:

“So let me get this straight. These guys believe in alien life because it is statistically possible, and even after pouring millions of dollars into SETI, have absolutely NO evidence of such, yet they WON’T believe that an intelligence is out there that could do genetic engineering? Is that because such an engineer is too close to being godlike, or because it would provide an alternative theory of origins to evolution?”

In a counter-statement, Light beamed:

“Look, basically, there is NO way to determine if life, or any virus, has been engineered, because quite honestly, we can come up with a theory of how it evolved using natural processes, even if such processes might take longer than the age of the known universe.  The bottom line?  You can’t really tell if anything is designed, and therefore, no form of life is engineered, nor could it be determined to BE engineered.

And since we have proven evolution beyond a doubt, in doing so, we have pretty much deemed the idea of an intelligent creator, god or not, as irrelevant.  And anyone worth their intellectual salt should agree – at least, anyone wanting to publish in a peer-reviewed primary journal or gain their University tenure.”

Dec 3 2015

Coming out to your parents as polygamous

It is very exciting to live in a day when previously ridiculed and marginalized people groups are receiving legal and social recognition and rights. Blacks, women, and now homosexuals are finally finding their place in the sun as decades, even centuries of discrimination are being dispatched to the dust bin of history.

But the fight is not over. There are still plenty of persecuted minorities being discriminated against in our culture including immigrants, the unborn, and those who feel called to have multiple marriage partners at the same time.

I remember the first time I saw the Olsen twins on TV. As a newly pubescent boy, I was smitten. How could a man choose between two such beauties? And then I asked myself, “who is demanding that you can only have one, and on what authority?”

olsensThat thought quickly passed, but the theme kept popping up into my mind at every turn. First, it was the wedding of my best friend’s brother, who married his gay partner. Then I was asked to the prom by two different, but both beautiful girls. Why did I have to choose only one?

Under pressure, I tried going to the prom with only the first girl who asked, but the whole time, I was thinking about the other one. Having one girl just seemed so… unnatural to me, so boring, so unappealing.

For reasons I could not explain, I was always thinking about a threesome, a foursome, or even more. What was wrong with me?!?

When I went to college, all bets were off. The narrow, legalistic and religious views of my parents, who expected me to find one girl and marry her for a lifetime, were far away. I accepted that I could not be with one girl, and began dating many. At once. Literally, like more than one girl on one date.

Sometimes in bars, I would see the awkward glances of others when I kissed one girl on the cheek, then the other. Sometimes macho guys would try to bully me, calling me a ‘polly’ or ‘mormo,’ or asking me how large my penis must be.

Well meaning friends would suggest that maybe my stern religious upbringing was to blame, or the fact that I was molested by a group of female camp counselors when I was younger. My religious family and friends would question my moral character, slinging Biblical epithets like ‘promiscuous’ and ‘whoremonger.’

So for a while, I hid my sexuality. But as I saw the incresed boldness of the gay marriage movement, and realized that their arguments supported a much broader set of romantic configurations than just theirs, and I decided to come out of the closet.

As long as I can remember, I have not been attracted to just one girl – I was BORN this way. I can not change. It is unnatural, even cruel, to expect me to live within the narrow bounds of monogamy. Your antiquated notions of sexuality and reproduction, of the family unit, of what is best for children, are all meaningless to me. I must live with integrity and honesty with who I am – who I was MADE to be. I tried changing myself, including ex-poly therapy, and it did not work. All it did was make me feel bad, suppressed, and irreversibly broken.

What to say to your parents

My parents were not that understanding, and your may not be either. You can only pray for parents who love and understand you enough to confirm your own mature choices. I have the following recommendations for you:

a. Delay telling them for as long as possible, esp. if they are religious. When you are older, you will have the emotional resources and friends to help you through what could be a difficult time.

b. Find friends who agree with you. If you’re a poly like me, you’ve probably got that extra sense for who is a poly (some call it ‘polydar.’). Be strong, and realize that you are not alone.

c. Don’t be belligerent. Just accept that many people won’t understand your choice to be polygamous.

d. Love yourself. And let yourself love others – preferably in groups :D.

I hope your coming out is as painless as it can be. One day, everyone will accept that enjoying multiple partners is normal, biological, and morally upright. There are no victims here, only people loving one another.

Dec 1 2015

The Drama of Bad Church Testimonies

Few things are as influential as positive testimonies, be they for products, or for faith. The practice of telling the story of how you came to faith, a.k.a. the personal testimony, has waned of late in many churches, in no small part because either people are not getting born again, or those who are are not being challenged to step out and live for God in daring ways.

But even when we do have times of personal testimony in front of the church, things can go awry if we don’t first (a) ask the speaker to submit what they are going to say in writing beforehand, and (b) make sure they are coached and trained on how to do a good job, and (c) make sure the pastor is ready to gently guide people towards concise and helpful testimony.

Here are some types of testimony that you can get if you just open up the pulpit to anyone:

1. The Superstitionist

This person sees a sign from God in every circumstance, every coincidence, and expects us to buy in to their incredulity with “Isn’t God amazing?!?” I’m thinking it’s amazing the Pastor hasn’t stepped in and stopped you! Continue reading

Nov 23 2015

A Day of Planned Reading

It is another cool, rainy morning. I don’t have to open my eyes to know it. The cool air presses in around me like a vacuum as I shift my weight under the bed’s comforter. I don’t want to get up. And it’s Saturday. I don’t have to get up.

I open my eyes to the gray light filtering in around the edges of the blinds. “Seven A.M.,” I remark to myself. “I always wake up at seven A.M.” Rolling away from the window, I pull the blankets up to my ears, hugging my arms to my chest. “Mmm, I don’t HAVE to get up.”

Two hours later, I open my eyes again and the light coming in around the blinds hasn’t changed – the clouds have masked the sun’s movements, erasing shadows and spraying pallid, anemic light everywhere. But somehow, it does not depress me as it has for the past weeks of rain – incessant, passionless drizzle that always accompanies California winters. Today, my time is my own. Today, I have a plan – a plan to read.

Shuffling through the cool air in boxer shorts to the hall bathroom, I glance at the short tower of books neatly stacked on the desk the evening before. “Hello my friends,” I say out loud as I pass them. “I’ll be right with you.” It is a little too cool, and I hug my arms to my chest, turn the thermostat up just past the click. I step in to the bathroom and close the door quickly so that I can get the warm water running before the bed’s warmth totally dissipates from my being.

I take the extra time to run the bar of soap slowly over every part of my body, stretching my arms and legs out under the hot beads of water in exaggerated motions, like a cat moving sleepily in the sun. I breathe in the sweet floral scent of the shampoo, and massage it into my hair longer than I really need to. Rinsing it out leaves my hair extra squeaky. The room has totally filled with warm steam, and any trace of chill is outside the bathroom, somewhere.

Stepping out of the steamed chamber and back into the hallway, the electric heat has chased away the chill, and a refreshing, slight coolness greets me. Pulling out the fourth dresser drawer, I find my favorite set of sweats – the gray, all cotton ones that fit just loosely enough. I slip into them and they are fresh and crisp – the fruits of laundry done Thursday evening.

Walking out into the kitchen, I start the kettle. I am never hungry in the morning – seems like my stomach is the last part of me to wake up, so there is no preparation here. I pull a cup down from the cupboard while the blue glow of the gas flame warms the kettle’s bottom. Sugar in the cup. Cream in the cup. I know I shouldn’t use either one, especially cream, but it’s SATURDAY. It is a day of planned reading. I crunch the spoon into the instant coffee and dump it into the cup. All ready. I glance at the books on the desk. I smile. They smile back.

Steaming mug in hand, I take a deep sniff, just like I did with the shampoo, and think about the aroma. Wow. Coffee sure smells good, even when it’s instant. I take the obligatory sip, more to check sugar levels than to taste – it’s just too damn hot.

Mug in hand, I shuffle to the desk. I pick up the stack with my free hand, balancing the pen on top that I have placed there for underlining. We head towards the couch, where I place all my burdens down on the coffee table. Walking to the patio door, I pull the cord that moves the blinds totally out of the way so that I can get as much natural light as possible – not too easy considering the weather. Standing in front of the glass patio doors, I can see the wetness of the wood, the grayness of the skies, and the fine mist coming down. I shudder, saying lowly, “glad I don’t have to be out there today.”

I glance at the fireplace. It is too early for a fire – I’ll save that for later. Sitting cross-legged on one end of the soft, velvet-like cloth of the couch, I pick up the top book. It is a shiny and smooth paperback, brand new. I turn it over in my hands, examining the design. I read it’s title – Living With the End in Mind: A Practical Checklist for Living Life to the Fullest by Embracing Your Mortality. “Ahh, this one.” I remember picking this book up at the store, how its author drew me in with her bio, setting new priorities in light of her cancer. A thin 200 pages, it’s appeal is undeniable – simple, devoid of the laborious testimonials so many of today’s self help books use to appeal to a more example-oriented reader. The seriousness of this book calls deeply to my need to plan well, to live well.

I wonder at the masses who bury their days reading fiction – I am sure they would find my day one of dread, of tedious consideration of serious matters. But for me, facing my life, my death, brings me more peace than a whole weekend lost to fiction, no matter how inspiring or relatable its characters. I close my eyes for a minute and enjoy the anticipation of deeply considering my life, my future, my plans.

I put the book down. An hour has passed in my day of planned reading, but I have yet to read a paragraph. This is the foreplay of reading. These books are not casually chosen tomes from the overflowing bin of periodicals at the library.

I have courted these books for months in numerous visits to the bookstore. First a glance, then a brief encounter. A title draws me in – “Being and Loving.” I turn the book over, as if to examine it for blemishes – but I am reading the endorsements. Do I know any of these people? Do I respect them? What do their official positions say about this book?

I turn the book back over and admire the cover as I run my palm down the front, as if carefully wiping away dust. I read the table of contents, and find an interesting entry. Scanning, I suddenly find a passage that calls to me. “Yes, that is true,” I say to myself. Isn’t that what I’m doing here? I am searching for truth. Yes. The book seems valuable. I put it back on the bookstore shelf. “I do not need to buy this book yet,” I say within myself. But during the week, I think again and again about what I read. I remember seeing other pertinent passages. I consider my budget. “Do I need it? Must I own it?” After a few more visits, we are already very familiar. I commit. I take the book home.

And now, the courtship complete, we are engaged in reading foreplay. The books have won my heart, and I have won them. They are on my table, and we are about to enjoy one another in a day of planned reading.

I sip the sweet coffee nectar gently, and roll the taste of it around in my mouth before swallowing, my eyes closed as I smack my tongue, enjoying the coffee’s fading residue. The gray sunlight fills the room like a gentle haze. With care not to write on anything, I place the pen cap securely on top of the pen, bend the first book’s cover back slightly, and begin at the Preface.

Nov 21 2015

Walking the Labyrinth

What Is A Labyrinth?

Simply put, it is a path that winds around within a circle. The path begins at the outside of the circle, and ends at the center. It is often confused with a maze. However, a maze has many possible paths, many of which terminate in dead ends. A labyrinth has only one path, and the only choices you can make are to continue walking, to cheat by jumping across, or to quit.

It is a metaphor for the spiritual journey, or the inward journey, and when you walk it mindfully, you can experience many spiritual revelations about yourself, and your journey. There is much more to know about labyrinths, and you can read about it further here if you like.

One more interesting thing – the labyrinth can not be shrunken without losing it’s effect – it becomes too small to walk if it is made smaller. This makes it too large to have in your home, unless you have a room that has open space of about 45×45 feet!

Walking the Labyrinth

I began by taking my shoes off (required). The mental affect of taking my shoes off was calming, adding to the calm I already felt from the quietness and subdued lighting of the cathedral. Taking my shoes off made me feel at home, as if I could relax and be myself. As I walked, I began to experience my walk as a metaphor of my own journey, from my present, to my future destination.

What destination was I considering? Death? Surely, that was my final destination. But also, I remembered the legacy statements I had written about in my mission statement, and the legacy exercise I performed for writing my mission statement. Was I aiming to arrive at the ends that I had once planned to aim for? I felt that at my age (now 36), I had less time to waste, and was not pursuing my goals diligently enough (can you say “sharpen the saw”?)

I took my steps slowly. In the very beginning of the path, I actually passed quite close to the center, but then the path weaved away from it. I thought, how much like my experiences – I often feel like I can be so close to becoming the person I want to be, only to realize that early growth on the spiritual path is just a taste of what is to come. I thought about the typical arrogance of those just starting out on the spiritual path – we have one really deep experience, and we think we have arrived, and are so much better than our compatriots.

In the quiet, meditative atmosphere of the cathedral, it was easy to continue deeper into metaphorical thought about my journey.

I found the corners to be difficult because of my knees. Every change of direction in my spiritual life takes effort – even when I know a change is coming, I often have difficulty – how much easier to go in a straight line! How much more concentration I needed to stay on the path!

My friend Jason began walking the path behind me, and we passed one another, often quite closely, as we wound our way around the labyrinth. I thought to myself “I am ahead of him – I hope that he doesn’t overtake me.” I reflected on how I often think of spiritual growth as a contest against others – a competition. I thought about how foolish that was – especially since he would arrive at the end, just as I would – it was not a race at all. My job was to stay on the path and make sure I reached the end! I remembered how foolish it is to compare one’s self to others. I remembered that one of the most important measures of spiritual growth and maturity is love – quite the opposite of competition and one-upmanship.

At certain points along the labyrinth, I realized that I could jump across paths to skip some of the path and “cheat”, getting closer to the end. One of the dangers of cheating by skipping across paths is that you often can’t tell which way is forward and which is backwards, and you may find yourself going the wrong way after cheating!

I thought about how many times I had wished for a shortcut to spiritual maturity – and how only regular disciplines really make for real progress in spirituality. I thought about “cheating” spiritually, like trying to appear more knowledgeable in spiritual matters than we really are, or mistaking spiritual knowledge for spiritual depth, experience, and growth in perspective and kindness. I wondered at what I might miss if I skipped portions of the path, or about how my satisfaction in finishing might be robbed by my guilt and knowledge that I had cheated. I thought about the times in the past when I had cheated myself spiritually by not sticking to moral principle, rather than waiting to earn my way honestly.

At times, I thought of rushing through, but I thought, here I am on vacation, having this incredible experience, why would I want to rush it? I realized that being on the path, and enjoying it, is as important as finishing. Why rush to the end when you can enjoy every part of it? It made me want to enjoy each of my days as much as possible, rather than rushing through them.

At a couple points, especially near the end, I found myself at the very outer edge of the circle – at the point farthest from my goal. Even though I had walked for ten minutes already, it appeared that I was no closer to the endpoint. I realized that this is often the case in spiritual growth – when the toughest breakthrough is about to happen, I often feel the darkest and farthest away. I want to give up because it looks like I’ve made no progress, or as if I’m worse off than when I started! The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I MUST be closer because I had not cheated, and had traveled along the prescribed route.

Finally, arriving at the center, I continued to listen to what the labyrinth had to teach me. I stood off to the side in one of the petals of the flower, and wondered if there was an order to them – would I stand in the “first place” petal? I thought back to my realizations about competition, and realized that in a flower, the petals go all around, so every petal is equal.

I looked up and saw the light far up in the ceiling. I thought to myself, “this is the real goal of the spiritual journey – the journey towards God.” I stood there for five minutes basking in the fact that I had finished.

Afterwards, I sat down while Jason finished, and let the whole experience wash over me in the quiet echoes of the cathedral. I noticed that he was at the labyrinth’s center, and was looking at the altar at the front of the church – I hadn’t even thought to look up there – and I realized that I have a remaining disdain for formalized religion, and don’t even think of God as being up at the altar, but rather, straight up into the sky. So be it.

Nov 13 2015

American Light Bulb Jokes

So I was thinking how much I love stereotypes and ethnic jokes, & I realized that there aren’t enough good anti American jokes. Hopefully I won’t be attacked for being a racist if I make jokes about my own country. So I thought about the qualities of Americans that are annoying. I had to think often in terms of conservative or liberal and I made up this spate of lightbulb jokes.

Q: How many Americans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: One because he can’t get a coalition together to help him. Continue reading

Nov 11 2015

What is good satire?

I want to write a short series of satirical stories, but in doing so, I want to make clear what my purpose is, and so I first want to paint my view of the content and purposes of satire.  Enjoy.

1. The goals of satire v. sarcasm

Many people confuse these two types of communication, and for sure, they may overlap, but in a pure sense, they have different ends.   Sarcasm is really meant to ridicule and harm one’s opponents, while satire has much more noble goals.   Satire is a lampooning of your opponents in order to show the ridiculousness of their position, especially the moral ridiculousness of it.  Its aim is awareness and awakening, not ridicule and harm. Continue reading