Is that banjo music I hear?

Joking is one thing but apparently to many people They seriously believe if you play the banjo, you’re some backwoods racist ultra conservative idiot. For the second time just this week some idiot has placed in the comments section of Huffington post this exact question “is that banjo music i hear?” in response to a story about some ultra teabagger bullshit. one a racist rag in west virginia and another to North Dakota’s new draconian abortion laws.

I frankly resent it. I’m an educated, liberal, atheist. And I play banjo. not very well but still.

Is that banjo music you hear? no it isn’t.

Hell even Earl Scruggs, himself, the guy who is like the Segovia of the banjo world was a progressive.

Ralph Stanley made an ad for Obama. Pete Wernick is a Humanist, Pete Seeger, is a progressive, and there’s plenty more, including us at the bottom who aren’t the best, but still play and we vote progressive.

There’s lots of us out there.

Posted in me and my life, music, politics, rednecks | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

country and opera

I can’t count the number of times I hear people saying they hate country music. or opera. When pressed for reasons they’ll basically give stereotypes. I hate country because it’s all “my dog got divorced from my cousin who’s also my second wife.” or I hate opera because “its all fat chicks warbling in italian wearing pink tutus.” you can get the same stuff with rock. its all screaming love for satan and over driven guitars.

When you ask these people how much of that particular music (be it rock, jazz, country opera, etc) they have actually listen too, they’ll proudly say, NONE! I don’t listen to that crap! well then how do you know you don’t like it? the truth is all genre’s of music are quite varied.

Take country. maybe you’ll hate the honky tonk stylings but love western swing with its jazz influences or bluegrass, or southern rock. not to mention if you listen to the lyrics you’ll find they cover everything, not just your ex dog-wife who is also your sister.

don’t listen to the radio. it seems today most music in any genre on the radio sucks. they see something sell and want to cash in on it so they make copy cats. so it all winds up sounding the same.

Go find a friend who likes said genre and ask him to introduce you. you never know what you’re missing!

Posted in music | 1 Comment

A Round To It.

When I was a kid I had a leather “round to-it.” Basically it was a circle of leather that had the words “to it,” thus making it a “round to it.” It was a nice gag to show to people when you asked them when they were going to do something, and they said ” I will do it when I get around to it” “A “round to it”, you say, well, it just so happens that I have one, right here!Anyway one day it got wet and I tried to dry it in the microwave. my “round to it” caught on fire!

moral of the story: I would not advise using the microwave to dry stuff off.

Posted in me and my life | 1 Comment

Health care Policy

I had a death in the family this past friday morning. needless to say that distracted from writing a blog this week. so, here’s an essay on health care that I wrote in college. here’s hoping the wordpress blog doesn’t screw up the formating to much.

I. Problem Situation

Health care in America is becoming a crisis. The main problem stems from costs spiraling out of control. Our actual knowledge about biology and our technology has never been better. It’s just that only the rich can afford it. The rest of us are stuck with insurance companies, all to happy to take our premiums and then when we get a major illness, they find any loophole they can to drop us. Since doctors are out to please third parties and not the actual consumer, the doctor’s loyalty is to saving the insurance company money, not saving your life. An email sent to Michael Moore and read in his documentary Sicko, says it quite clearly: “health insurance companies suck, flat suck” (Moore 2007).

His first half of his movie details various people that had insurance and thought they were covered; only to get screwed by some loophole. For instance a woman who had gotten approved for a surgery but then was denied because a long time ago she had a yeast infection. Another guy dies of cancer because they refuse to pay for his care. And that’s just two stories of many told in Sicko. (Moore 2007) Insurance companies have turned health care into a bureaucratic nightmare with costs nobody can afford. We essentially have the worst elements of socialism with the worst elements of capitalism. Combine this with greedy lawyers suing over every little thing, and costs are driven even higher and innovation weakened even further. Add to this government enforced monopolies on certain drugs and costs become outrageous. Why is aspirin a couple dollars for a bottle but prescription drugs cost so much more?

David Gratzer in his book The Cure, talks about how before 1941 and the discovery of penicillin, most health care was comfort rather than curing, as there wasn’t much that could be done other than controlling fevers, pain and maybe sawing your leg off. (Gratzer 2007. pg 12-15). Then in the last half a century technology has exploded along with costs.

This has lead many to conclude that it is the increase in technology that has caused the out of control costs. In Gratzers book, the question is asked, “why is it that in every other field where enormous technological strides have been made total costs have fallen over time but in health care they have increased?” (Gratzer 2007 pg 34)

The problem is that when wages were controlled during WWII, companies trying to woo workers offered health plans, and the IRS legitimized this by making it tax free, and this has resulted in health care now being mostly covered by employers and this third party system has caused all these problems. If it’s free you have no incentive to save money by choosing a cheaper alternative, and the doctor is under no pressure to find more cost efficient ways to satisfy customers. Thus attempts are made by the third party to cut costs even at the expense of the client’s life. The best person to choose whether a cost is worth it should be the client but he won’t feel obligated to do this if he is spending someone else’s money. (Gratzer 2007 pg 25-38)

Now I agree with Gratzer that we need to fix the problem of being over insured and get it back to patient and doctor and this will cause prices to come down dramatically, but the poor will still need help. Even if prices are reasonable, the poor won’t be able to afford it and I think it is immoral to let anyone die just because they couldn’t afford care. The poor need financial assistance to pay for care. So will middle class people who get catastrophic health problems like, cancer only to be dumped by greedy insurance companies not willing to meet their end of the bargain. We must find a way to harness the competition and innovation and cost savings of free market capitalism that make cell phones cheaper, better and more widespread, with the goals of socialism that makes sure everyone gets help that they need. That is the problem we face.

II. Criteria

We need to create a health care system that finds the quickest most efficient way to bring health care to as many as possible and to spawn innovation and get new technologies to people quickly. Clearly, if we can get a cure to cancer to people sooner than later that’s a good thing. So is making sure there aren’t waiting lists that make treatment useless by the time they get to your number. However we must make sure that everyone gets covered. Shortening waiting lists by having poor people not be able to afford care, or by socialist rationing that says fat people and smokers don’t get a turn, are immoral. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t encourage good health, as we should. Prevention must be a very important focus. But at the end of the day we should not abandon citizens because of mistakes they have made.

We need a health care system that puts the choice directly into the people’s hands, instead of some bureaucrat, or greedy insurance company. We need to make sure folks are informed about health care choices so they can make good choices. Things like doctor ratings, treatment success ratios, prices, etc. we need to keep prices down and find cheaper, better, and more efficient ways of treating people, preventing illness, and check ups.  Knowing that some will need assistance paying for and getting health care, we must make sure to reduce the stigma attached to such assistance.  We need to go after fraud and put those folks in jail. We need to stop greedy lawyers suing over every little thing that raised cost on us all, but make sure real victims can get compensation. We also need to fund research. In short we need a health care system where doctors, drug companies, and makers of medical technology have incentive to find better ways to help us, please us, and find cheaper more efficient ways to do so, and make sure everyone is taken care of.

III. Alternative Policies

One alternative proposed is House Resolution 676. It’s almost what I support but leaves out a key detail. It proposes a fully free market health care system but the government pays for it (but sadly no incentive for you to shop for a good deal, which is key to cost savings). You can go to any doctor you want, get any service you want, and then let the government foot the bill. http://www.hr676.org says

“Basically, House Resolution (H.R.) 676, the “New Expanded Medicare” bill now in sub-committee in the House of Representatives simply creates a new and far more functional “single payer” method of paying for medical services while leaving the medical system itself completely alone and intact.  This will eliminate the hundreds of complicated and redundant payment plans currently imposed on the system by private “for profit” health insurance companies and save literally BILLIONS of dollars every year by eliminating such wasteful duplication.” (Citizens Alliance for National Health Insurance)

This sounds nice but only on paper. The whole reason government bureaucrats wind up having to take over socialist government programs is to reduce costs. If people are just given a card and can just go and get care wherever without thought for costs, then there is no incentive for them or their doctor to find cheaper yet equally effective treatments. Thus to keep costs down, rationing is the result, which leads to long wait lists. New treatments have to be approved by the bureaucrats because of how much they might cost. Otherwise if you just leave it to the folks as is, costs would skyrocket to the point of being unmanageable and the whole system would collapse.

Canada has this system. Gratzer is from Canada. Here’s how he describes a Canadian emergency room in his book The Cure.

“On a Cold Canadian morning about a decade ago, late for class, I cut through a hospital emergency room and came upon dozens of people on stretchers waiting, begging, moaning for treatment. Some elderly patients had waited for up to five days in corridors before being admitted to beds. They smelled of urine and sweat.” (Gratzer 2007 pg 2)

Good intentions don’t automatically mean your policies will work and in this case I think HR.676 would be a disaster although still better than our system since five days is better than NEVER. But I think we can do better than this, and I’ll explain how in Part IV of this essay.

Another alternative policy is the creation of what’s known as Medical Savings Accounts. (MSA’s). Joseph Kellard says,

“The only rational, efficient solution to these corrupt reforms are Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). The amount of money your employer pays in health insurance is invested in a tax- free savings account, which you would use to purchase any health insurance or medical care policy, be it, for example, catastrophic insurance, a $250 deductible, or an HMO. MSAs transfer your money from your employer back to you-to be used for anything you want to spend it on. By instituting a freer market and consumerism, MSAs will put an enormous downward pressure on prices and thus greatly reduce the cost of health care. They will allow individuals to deduct 100 percent of their medical expenses, including their health insurance premiums, from their taxes. Since surplus money from healthier individuals could no longer be used to cover those who need extended care, the healthier would be able to leave pre-paid programs. Therefore, MSAs engender what individuals must possess in a free nation: the personal responsibility to provide for their own medical expenses. They would thereby be required to exercise choice and economy in regard to a medical plan and doctor. (Kellard, 1998)”

The Problem with MSA’s is that the poor and those who do need costly lengthy treatments may be screwed unless they happen to have a savings account. How do you save money if you can barely pay bills as it is? The capitalism driving innovation and cost reduction is great, but if it still costs too much what are you to do? And why would many bother with preventative medicine when that 50-dollar prostate exam could buy their kid a Christmas gift, they otherwise couldn’t afford, or even their electric bill?

Another Alternative is Obama’s health care plan. Of his plan Obama said:

“My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.” (Obama, 2007)

Now looking over his webpage his plan seems quite convoluted and is basically regulating the heck out of third party insurance companies, giving them subsidies, and such. This is our system we have now but even worse. What incentive does the insurance companies have to lower their costs? Price controls? This will cause rationing and cost cuts that are not at the benefit of the consumer. What will he do? Regulate this? Force them to cut costs and then tell them what they must support?  This will quickly turn into one big bureaucratic mess. The key is consumer choice, and consumers looking for the best deals and this plan will not succeed at this and keep costs down.

IV. Best Alternative

First we have to abolish insurance companies. They are basically legal gambling establishments and like any gambling establishment, the odds are rigged in favor of the house. What happens to the extra money? It goes into the hands of CEOs and other types. Also for things like checkups, which everyone gets. It makes no sense for an insurance company to pay things like that. They get that money from somewhere and want to make a profit at the same time, so this makes it cost more than it should. I say we cut out the middleman. Why pay a doctor AND an insurance company for checkups?

I am actually for a not-for-profit, single payer national health insurance program similar to the one proposed by HR.676. That way every penny that goes into the system is used to help people and everyone is covered and nobody will be dropped or denied for pre-existing conditions and the like. The poor and middle class would pay nothing into the system. The rich have plenty of money for harvesting. Since it is not for profit and only one single payer, there is a lot less forms, muti-bureaucracies and such and would save money and time.

The difference is that in my system folks would not use a card, but would receive cash for what they need. The incentive would be for them to shop around for the best deal, and thus get to keep a little of the money for themselves. If doctors and hospitals and such are forced to have prices that people can compare, and reviews for people to research to see who offers the best care, there would be incentives to offer better care at a lower price than your competitors. Thus over time prices would fall, and amounts given to people by the national system would be adjusted accordingly, and people would keep seeking better deals to get to keep some of the money to spend on themselves.

Now prevention is cheaper than cures so we need to have a good prevention plan. Aside from paying for check ups and such, is doing things like offering good health education in schools and colleges, and on TV, radio, magazines, etc. there needs to be education campaigns.  We could also offer tax incentives to food companies to make food healthier. For instance, why can’t they use the artificial sweetener Splenda instead of sugar to make a snickers bar? People addicted to snickers bars would be that much less likely to get diabetes. We could also make sin taxes for food that is bad for you, and subsidize healthy foods, thus making it more likely folks would choose healthy foods more often. How about tax incentives to employers who have exercise breaks for their employees. We need to make sure schools have good P.E. programs. Encourage towns to make more sidewalks and biking tracks.

Lastly there is the research aspect; Coming up with new ways to prevent and cure health problems. Private companies, looking for better alternatives than their competitors, would do a good amount of their own research. However sometimes it’s not profitable such as the case of rare diseases. An example of this is mentioned in a CNN documentary hosted by Dr. Gupta. He shares a story about a kid with a rare form of cancer and an experimental drug called Immtherä that seems to be working, but to which will never make production because and I quote “our marketing people had done research and were never going to be able to recoup our research and development costs” (Gupta, 2005). Okay clearly this is unacceptable and we will need to publicly fund research, especially research for things that would not bring a profit to companies such as rare diseases. We could offer incentives like cash bonuses to have research facilities competing with each other to come up with good ideas and discoveries.

We should give full choice to the consumer not the FDA and we should not allow companies to have monopolies that allow them to sell needed medicine at outrageous prices. There is no reason aspirin should cost a couple bucks for a big bottle and another drug cost several hundred per pill. Now taking away power from the FDA does not say they could not issue recommendations. They and competing groups, doctors and pharmacies could earn consumer trust and give information about various drugs prices and their effectiveness. Now there is an acceptation to this rule. Antibiotics. Abusing antibiotics is a national security risk as that bad choice not only affects that person but all of us by creating super-germs that are incurable. Whatever problems arise from having these drugs monopolized and controlled by the government is far better than creating super-germs because of people misusing them and abusing them.

We need to give consumers full choice. If they want to go to a nurse for their stitches because that’s cheaper, they should be allowed too. This would free up doctors for more important things. If you break a leg you probably don’t even need to see a doctor. A trained nurse could set your leg bone and put a cast on and give you pain pills. (as well as know if you need to see the doctor, just as a doctor knows when to send you to a specialist) all these needless regulations we have now takes the choices way from the consumer and often makes things more costly and complicated than it needs to be.

Lastly we need to put an end to all the frivolous lawsuits that drives up the cost of health care. People who commit fraud should be jailed. People who make mistakes should have this publicly revealed. Drug side effects and the probability of suffering them should be publicly available information. That would be plenty of incentives not to make mistakes. There is no need to make lawyers rich from frivolous suites that hurts us all.

V. Assessing the Feasibility

1. Is the policy under consideration compatible with contemporary “style”?

I would say yes it is. It had the capitalism and consumer choice that has worked so well with the rest of our economy, and the cash given by it is little difference from other cash the government hands out such as welfare checks. Nothing about my plan seems futuristic or behind the times to me.

2. Does the policy contribute to equity and justice?

Yes. My plan makes sure that every single person has the money they need to get the care they need. Nobody is left out, and what’s more everyone has a choice on where to get his or her care. People have incentive to cut costs on their own without sacrificing quality of care, or rationing. After all since doctors can still freely make profits, they would want to expand their practices, not limit them to meet demands issued by bureaucrats.

3. Is the policy compatible with social work values?

Yes. Lets look at a couple of principals form the Social Workers Code of Ethic and see how my plan fits.

“1.01 Commitment to Clients

Social workers’ primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In general, clients’ interests are primary. However, social workers’ responsibility to the larger society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed clients, and clients should be so advised. (Examples include when a social worker is required by law to report that a client has abused a child or has threatened to harm self or others.)”(NASW, 1999)

My plan is exactly that. I want to make sure everyone is healthy. My plan looks out for the wellbeing of my clients, in this case I am an advocate for my client by supporting a health care plan to help them. Right now many people don’t have health care because they can’t afford it. People don’t get preventive care, and many are suffering. I want to end this and thus help their well-being.

“1.02 Self-Determination

Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. Social workers may limit clients’ right to self-determination when, in the social workers’ professional judgment, clients’ actions or potential actions pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to themselves or others.” (NASW, 1999)

This is precisely why I am for consumer choice. Letting clients choose their own doctors and do their own shopping around to get the best deal they can instead of having bureaucrats decide for them. I am all for educating the client and giving him guidance but I want them to ultimately have the choice in their own hands. I trust my clients to both cut costs and get the best care and thus want them in control, not some third party bureaucrat. This fits right in with the above ethical principal.

4. Is the policy compatible with other important values in society?

Yes. I as an atheist and secular humanist and those like me want the best for humanity. Christians also believe in caring for the sick, the lame and the blind, so do Muslims and, Jews, Buddhists and people of other faiths. My plan also embraces the American entrepreneurial spirit by keeping with the capitalist model and bringing it full fledged into the health care sector, only giving cash aid to those who need it which goes with the belief in helping the less fortunate.

5. Is the policy politically acceptable?

I think it is. I think most people would love my idea with the exception of insurance companies, drug companies, and the like. Most people’s objections to socialized medicine are because of fears of being controlled by government planners and worries of being taxed too much. Show them that most would actually save money on my plan and that it takes advantage of capitalism and I think most would go for it. It would be an entitlement program like social security. That would prevent stigma. The only people I think would take issue are the rich and folks who run insurance companies and prescription drugs, but there’s a lot more of us common folks than these types, so if we get organized we will win the day.

6. Is the policy legal?

Why wouldn’t it be? We already have government-funded health care for some, we already give welfare checks to some, and such. My plan does nothing we don’t already do to some extent. How would it not be legal? besides the lawmakers would be passing the law and making it legal.

7. Does the policy satisfy relevant interest groups?

It sure won’t satisfy the insurance and drug lobbyists. This will take a grassroots effort and the common man making our own interest groups to force the politicians to look out for us, and not the greedy insurance and drug lobbyists that bribe them. This will satisfy the common man, the unions, and probably most businesses that would be paying less than the outrageous costs they are forced to pay now for insurance companies.

8. Is the policy scientifically sound?

My plan supports funding scientific research to improve prevention and curing of health issues. My plan would not support pseudo-scientific crap like new age psychic surgery and such.

9. Is the policy rational?

Yes. I let capitalism do its magic but make sure folks have money to buy what they need. My plan makes perfect rational sense to me. It’s clearly and concise and not garbled up like Obama’s. I had trouble even making heads or tails on his plan and exactly what he wanted to do. It looked to me like he was trying to please everyone, a semi-socialist system that supports the profit making insurance companies. My plan is meant to solve the problems and not trying to please everyone. The insurance companies won’t be pleased and I think that’s good.

10. Is the policy economically feasible and economically superior to other alternatives?

Absolutely. We see that national health care plans are feasible in other countries. If our government didn’t waste money on needless wars, we could easily afford this.

The US Department of Defense, regarding our military budget for 2009 says:

President George W. Bush today sent to Congress his Defense budget for Fiscal Year 2009. The budget provides $515.4 billion in discretionary authority for the Department of Defense (DoD), a $35.9 billion or 7.5 percent increase over the enacted level for Fiscal Year 2008.” (US  Department of Defense, 2008)

Wow! A lot of that is because we act like the worlds police. If we stopped all that nonsense we would be loaded with cash. Lets say we shaved just 1 billion off that budget. That’s about 0.002 percent of the military budget. Now according to the US Census Bureau we have approximately 300 million people in the US. (US Census Bureau, 2008) If my calculations are right, just shaving 0.002 percent of the military budget, we could spend 3 million per person in 2009! And frankly I think we could afford a lot more than that. Can we afford to give everyone health care? Yes we can. We just need to stop wasting so much money on other things.

11. Is the policy workable?

Yes it is. It works very similar to the single payer systems of other countries, which seem to be doing okay, but mine has the added bonus of bringing the benefits of capitalism into the mix. It’s absolutely workable.

12. Is the policy efficient?

Yes. By keeping the capitalist model in health care it will keep costs down. My plan would be to adjust the amounts given as costs dropped to save even more money. Also with less bureaucracies, people will get help much faster. I would have quick approvals and if later, one turns out to be a mistake we could make them pay it back like it was a loan. We could give loans (similar to student loans) for experimental treatments we haven’t approved yet, that folks want to try. Our system is the most costly in the world, and I think combining what the rest of the world is doing with our capitalism would make our system much more efficient

13. Will the policy be likely to generate other social problems?

We could have folks trying to take advantage of the system, but to me that’s a small price to pay. I’d rather a few rip it off, than people die of treatable diseases because they couldn’t afford care. And we already have mechanisms to try and stop fraud. We do it all the time already so I think we could deal with such problems should they arise.

References

Citizens Alliance for National Health Insurance. What Is National Health Insurance (NHI)? Retrieved on April 23, 2008. http://www.hr676.org/

Gratzer, David (2006). The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Healthcare. New York, New York: Encounter Books

Dr. Gupta, Sanjay (reporter) (2005). Taming The Beast: Inside the War on Cancer. [Television News Documentary Episode] CNN Presents. CNN

Kellard, Joseph (1998, April 30) A Health Care Solution: Medical Savings Accounts. Capitalism Magazine. Retrieved April 23, 2008 from http://capmag.com/article.asp?id=46/

Moore, Michael (producer). (2007) Sicko [DVD], Studio: Weinstein Company

NASW. (Approved 1996, revised 1999) Code of Ethics for Social Workers, Washington DC, NASW

Obama, Barack. Speech in Iowa City, IA, May 29, 2007; quote obtained from http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare/ on April 23, 2008

US Census Bureau. US Population Clock Retrieved on April 23, 2008 at http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en

US Department of Defense (2008, February 4). FY 2009 Budget Request.

Retrieved April 23, 2008 from

http://www.defenselink.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2009/2009_Budget_Rollout_Release.pdf

Posted in politics | 1 Comment

What are the reasons I am an Atheist?

As I stated in my first article, this blog is not meant to be centered around atheism, though articles on the subject will arise. I say this not to say I am ashamed of being an atheist. I’m not. but I don’t want folks to see the title and think this blog has a solitary focus. That said however I know for a fact that theists will be asking me, for justifications for my atheism. and to that end I will now post an essay I have already written on the subject.

Atheism

Atheism is the lack of belief in deities. Theism is the belief in deities. Agnosticism is a claim of lack of knowledge of deities. You can actually be both theistic and agnostic, as well as atheistic and agnostic. The terms are not exclusive. If you believe in a god, but also accept that you cannot know that there is a god, then you are an agnostic theist. (as opposed to being a gnostic theist, one that claims to know god exists). Similarly you can be an agnostic atheist, in that you do not know if a god exists or not, but do not believe he does. Few atheists would claim to know for 100% that god doesn’t exist. They simply find it highly unlikely and thus do not believe he does. (Smith, 3-28)

Atheism is the default position. Things are not true merely because you claim that they are. If mere claims made things true until proven otherwise, then I could assert that I can jump over the moon, and it would be your job to prove me wrong. Obviously this is silly. If I claim I can jump over the moon, you are not obliged to believe me, unless I can give you a demonstration. When a believer tells me there is an invisible man who lives in the sky, and that I better obey a certain holy book, or else, I find this absurd. If this invisible, all-powerful man exists, then prove it. Otherwise I am not obliged to believe you. Faith does not cut it. Things don’t become true just because you believe it to be true. People have faith in all kinds of things that are not true. Faith is an invalid epistemology; that is unless you are prepared to claim that all religions no matter how much they oppose each other, are all true merely because of faith. (Johnson, 11-25)

Theists upon realizing that we atheists will not accept faith as a valid proof for their god, will try to offer “proof” that god exists, all of which are nonsense. I shall now explain a few theist “proofs” and why I think they are mistaken and misguided.

Theists claim that something cannot come from nothing and that thus obviously since this universe is here, something must have put it here and that something is god. First of all they are assuming that the universe hasn’t always existed. Nobody knows this. Of course some might try to bring up the big bang, but then nobody knows what was before the big bang. Maybe the universe came from another universe, or maybe it existed already and the big bang as just a transformation from an earlier form. Who knows how the universe got here? Next we atheists want to know, who or what created your god, and if he needs no explanation, or has already existed for all eternity, then why can’t this be true for the universe itself? Lastly just because you don’t have an explanation for something does not default to god. Before we knew what lightning was, was the “Zeus hypothesis” a valid one? Sometimes the best answer is “I don’t know.” How did we get here? The truth is I have no idea, and neither do you. You can say your god did it, and I can just as easily say a fairy did it, or we can just admit we have no idea and move on. Placing god in the gaps of our knowledge (god of the gaps) won’t work. (Dawkins 111-159)

Theists like to point out that life is complex and thus like a finely tuned watch, must have had a designer, to say otherwise, they claim is equivalent to saying a tornado could accidentally assemble a jet by running through a junk yard. First of all this is a gross misunderstanding of the theory of evolution. You may as well say that snowflakes forming and fetuses forming are as unlikely as the tornado built jet. Evolution does not say that things just pop into existence as they are today, or that monkeys had human babies. Evolution says that things change very gradually and over time and with the guide of natural selection, things evolve with better reproducing and survival abilities. A rabbit with bigger ears is more likely to hear danger and thus have more babies, as she will be alive to do so as opposed to being eaten. This is how evolution works. Now that said, this ID argument does not hold water for other reasons as well. First of all who or what designed god? He must surly be more complex than his creation. If we are a watch, then god must be a time machine. Did he just pop into existence? Also back to the “god of the gaps” you can’t just assert, “god did it” to explain things we don’t know. Lastly why did god give human males, nipples, if we are intelligently designed? (Dawkins 111-159)

Look at all the beauty in the world, and look at all the miracles that happen everyday! This is yet another misguided and mistaken claim given by theists to prove their god. First of all they are only looking at half the picture when it comes to beauty. What about ugliness? Sure sunsets are pretty, but gangrene is not. Babies and puppies are cute, but stillborns are very depressing. They are counting the hits while ignoring the misses. Pretty things prove god, and we will ignore the ugly things. Well I won’t. (Dawkins 86)

Moving on to miracles, it’s the same thing. They count the hits and ignore the misses. They are glad to have been lucky enough to survive a wreck, and thank their god, while forgetting that dozens of other people die in wrecks. Secondly many so-called miracles are not miracles at all, but are things like getting over a headache. Lets see somebody instantly sprout a missing arm. That would be a miracle. Maybe. Or perhaps it could be aliens with fancy technology. Miracles are another example of the “God of the gaps” in that when you can’t explain something you default to “god did it.” As I showed earlier this does not hold water. Lastly some so-called miracles conflicts with other beliefs theists have. They try to explain bad things like rape by saying god cannot interfere with peoples freewill. Then they will say god protected them from a burglar. Wait a minute! Sorry Charlie, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. (Johnson 77-84)

How can we have morality without a gods command? Surely we must have a holy book to guide us, right? Wrong. We are social animals. If he hadn’t evolved a sense of empathy and cooperation, we would have killed ourselves off by now. Being moral is evolutionary beneficial. Secondly I must ask of folks are only good to others because they are scared of god, than is that truly moral. Do you only help others to keep out of hell, and not because you care? Is the only reason you don’t murder people, because you don’t want to burn in hell? Surely you help others and do no harm, simply because it is not in your nature to do so, and thankfully this holds true for most people. Lastly all one has to do is read the various holy books to see that civilized people most certainly do not get their morals from those books. (Dawkins 209-278)

I would like to end this essay with a quote from one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson.

“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” (Jefferson)

———————————————————————————————————-

Work Cited

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006

Jefferson, Thomas “Thomas Jefferson Quotes.” Brainy Quote. 05 March, 2007

<http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thomas_jefferson.html >

Johnson, B.C. The Atheist Debaters Handbook. New York: Prometheus Books, 1981

Smith, George H. Atheism the Case Against God. New York: Prometheus Books, 1989

Posted in atheism and religion | 6 Comments

my inaugural post

My name is John. this blog will NOT be just about atheism, or being a hillbilly, though there will be articles on these subjects. This blog will do everything from sharing funny stories in my life, talking about political issues, reviewing movies and songs I like, share things I’ve learned (like tips on playing banjo), and just about every other topic under the sun. I figure for my first post, being that it should be an introduction, shall be an essay about my life and how I came to be an atheist. This is after all the name of my blog. the musings of the Hillbilly Atheist.

I am a poor rural white guy raised in Oklahoma. I was raised dirt poor in a leaky trailer..  Well actually it was two trailers that we put together with an old farm tractor and made into a doublewide. (No I am not making this up.) We ate beans and taters because on many occasions, that was all we could afford. There was even a Christmas when we got our presents from the charity donations of our church, because we didn’t have any money. Dad got ran over by a farm tractor that year and was out of work. (No I ain’t making this up) a couple times the church even had to buy me clothes.

I am pretty much a good ol’ country boy. I suppose for you city people you are already conjuring your stereotypes. No we don’t screw our relatives, and pick banjos all day drinking moonshine. (Though I must confess that I do pick banjo and drink the occasional jack daniels LOL)  Country people aren’t anything like the weird people you saw on deliverance. That show was way off. Sure there are weirdos in the country, but there are weirdos everywhere. You might find few snake handlers out here, but in California folks formed a cult called Heavens Gates and they castrated themselves over a damned comet. Yes we have a lot of creationists out here, but you guys have folks into that new age garbage. So my point is don’t judge country people. We aren’t any different than you. Anyway back to what I was saying., I am just a good ol’ country boy.  I am not a scientist or philosopher or some “intellectual pinhead” I am just a regular guy like most of you reading this. However I am also an atheist. (That is to say I don’t believe in any deities or accept any religious dogma.) But I don’t bite. I don’t howl at the moon, and sacrifice cats or any other weird stereotype you have about atheists. If you didn’t know any better you couldn’t tell me apart from anybody else. The only difference is that I don’t believe in gods. This is true for most atheists. We aren’t the bad guys folks make us out to be.  How did my atheism come about? Here is my story.

I was raised in the Christian faith. As a young lad from about 0 to six, I was not raised in church, but my mother prayed with me at night before I went to bed. Somewhere between five and six my dad and mom got divorced, and dad married my stepmother about six months after that. My ex-step grandmother “nan” was a Baptist who took us to a small church down the road. Well around that time I guess dad was feeling guilty so he decided to take us to church, and so we started going to the Pentecostal church of god in town, and “nan” joined us. She to this day refers to herself as a “bapti-costal!” well I really liked the children’s church. We got to watch movies about bible stories and what not. Around the time I was eight years old, a member from that church felt the “calling” and started his own church. The church started out with 10 people, a few others and us. That church has grown to about 80 people since then. This church was almost cultish. It was insane. They had literal exorcisms, faith healing, also people that ran around the church screaming, and talking in “Tongues” and all kinds of crazy shit. They had strict rules, even dancing and listening to secular music would send you to hell. They taught blind obedience as a virtue, and well this church was just plain crazy. It is here that I became very religious. By the time I was 11 I could quote the bible left and right, carried it around at school and preached to people. Even here in the Bible belt I annoyed folks.

In my teens I think around 13-15, well in the 8th grade, I was sent to the school for the blind. (back then I was very near sighted, and I still am though not nearly as bad) Here I continued my preaching, but was met by people that had arguments that made sense to me. Most of it was seeds of doubt that didn’t spring forth right away. I had a couple teachers that would argue with me about religion. I would preach to them, and they would argue with me, and often win, though at the time I just dismissed them as tools of Satan. Folks countered my stories of miracles and other attempts to justify my beliefs. I dismissed them at the time. Other incidents include the times I argued with a psychologist that visits with us, and a big hullabaloo, in a support group I was placed in, I argued with them, told them all they were going to hell unless they repented. One guy was talking about his uncle and I told him his uncle was in hell for drinking. I am serious I was a wack-job. I refused to dance, I didn’t go on dates, I didn’t listen to country music (I only listened to gospel), I read my bible every day, I was very afraid. That is why I despise religious zealotry even to this today. It almost ruined my life; it pretty much did ruin my childhood. It made me into a delusional, judgmental jerk, with no friends.

Of course at the time I thought that was a good thing, after all the bible says you will be hated and persecuted for Jesus names sake, and it has stories of the saints being hated of men, so I thought their hatred of me, was proof I was pleasing Jesus. While attending the blind school I went home, on the weekend, and would attend our church. No matter how fanatical I was I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt like I was a terrible sinner that god would smite at any time. My stepmother was abusive and I could never please her no matter how hard I tried, She beat me and taught me to fear her and that blind obedience was good. Dad was good to me, but he didn’t do much to stop the abuse because he didn’t want to take sides and end up with one of us mad at him. (Plus my step mom did most of the stuff while he was at work) dad does regret that to this very day.

Anyway my ex-step mom often would tell me I was a rotten kid, and I believed her. That is why I kept feeling like I needed to repent over and over. one Sunday when the pastor took me aside and asked me if I was “saved” I said no, and repented yet again, seemed I did that a lot. I would pray the guilt away, and it never would go away. Christianity teaches us that we are all worthless sinners that deserve to die, but because Jesus died for you, (another gilt trip) you can go to heaven even though you don’t deserve to. Anyway that Sunday he asked me and I said no, we prayed together, and I felt great! That night I was as sure as god’s existence as I ever was in my life. I remember that Sunday night when I got back to the school, I was cleaning the recreational center as a part of my work-study, and was relieved I wasn’t going to burn in hell. This time I prayed with my pastor, and he said I was born again, so I knew I was saved!

Well the next day was the most harrowing day of my life. That Monday afternoon, my wrestling coach mentioned the bible having contradictions in it and that the bible was put together by a vote, and other such things I never knew. I demanded he show me “just one, just one little contradiction” he didn’t either because he couldn’t think of any or felt he had gone to far. Of course I dismissed him, but felt worried. Later that afternoon, I was out in the lobby by my dorm, listening to my radio, when the librarian walked by me. I don’t remember how it came up, but she also told me the same thing. I asked her why so many people believed the bible then, and she said because you are ignorant. She left and I got to thinking. If she was right then maybe my beliefs were wrong.

I believed in god because of the bible, which now was in question. I thought right then that if the bible was false, then there was no god, since I already didn’t believe in other gods like Thor and Allah (At that time I never really heard of liberal Christianity, but still to this day, I think either the bible is a holy book, or just a book written by men, it can’t be both, so liberal Christians are being intellectually dishonest) anyway I got up and went to my room and got my Bible. I was going to read the passages in Luke and Mathew where they talk about Jesus’ genealogy, and see if they matched. Well they didn’t. According to Mathew josephs dad was Jacob, and according to Luke it was Heli. I was floored. I almost fainted. Obviously the bible wasn’t inerrant after all. I got up and rushed to the phone and called my parents, who were also stunned. They promised to get with the pastor and find out an answer for me, and would tell me that Sunday, and they asked me to be strong and don’t lose my faith.

That Sunday the pastor told me that Luke really meant Mary when it said Joseph. Yes you heard me. Even though it says, Joseph son of Heli, it really meant to say, Mary daughter of Heli! Of course I didn’t believe this whopper, and I pretty much became an agnostic. I was already an atheist to all the other gods and mine hinged on the “infallible bible”, which now was obviously fallible. That was about the 10th grade and they pulled me from the blind school and back too the public schools to try and stop my impending rejection of Christianity. It was too late as, I began to question everything, and those seeds of doubt went into full bloom. I noticed other problems as well with religion. I had lots of questions that didn’t have any good answers. It caused lots of strife both between me and the church, and my parents, not only that but I had started standing up to my stepmother and her abuse. It all came to a head one day when the church forced me to endure a public exorcism where the preacher attempted to “cast demons out of me” that pretty much was the last straw. I was an agnostic who now hated Christianity and Christians.

When I told my mother about this (she lives in Tulsa) she took me to live with her. She tried to expose me to her more moderate Christianity but I didn’t want anything to do with it. I did go to church with her grudgingly and actually made friends. One thing I learned here was not all Christians are judgmental jerks. It is here that I learned to stop hating Christians even as I grew closer to atheism. So now I was a tolerant agnostic, not longer hating anybody. Of course mom also tried to force me to diet, and I hated that so much that I went back to dads and finished my senior year. By then the pastor had sent me a letter apologizing for the exorcism and admitting that he was wrong and he even took my side on the abuse and such. I have forgiven him but still didn’t buy his mythology. After my senior year, I moved out and spent about three years working blue-collar jobs, still an agnostic, and pretty much in limbo. I didn’t really think much one way or the other about religion.

During my first year at college, I got to thinking about religion, I went out and bought some books to read on the matter. People like Carl Sagan, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, George H. Smith, Dan Barker, and Thomas Paine, My First two books were Dan Barker’s book called, Loosing Faith in Faith, and George H. Smith’s book called Atheism the Case Against God, and they had some of the very problems with theism I had been asking all along! I realized my doubts and suspicions were valid, and I wasn’t a bad person. Where as I was once ashamed, now I am proud of who I am. I have realized much of the problem was not me but my stepmother (or should I say ex-step mom since she and dad are no longer married) and my fundamentalist Christian upbringing. I also now realize I am not a worthless sinner; I am valid human being. I was not bad to question what I was taught; asking questions and thinking are good things, not things to be ashamed of! After the books, and thinking things over, I finally admitted to myself that I was an atheist. I felt free.  I felt free from fear and religious chains. Free from guilt and shame. I no longer felt like something was wrong with me for not buying all the crap I was force fed as a youngster.

I am the Hillbilly Atheist.

Posted in atheism and religion, me and my life | 6 Comments