Medium Rare

Right now I’m engaged in a back-and-forth with someone via Facebook regarding my lack of belief in a god. During the conversation, the person asked if I believed in an afterlife, to which I replied, no. Their follow up was: “What do you have to say about mediums and their ability to communicate with both the living and the dead?”
Disregarding the fact that this is a mild form of begging the question, I wanted to write about this because I do have experience with mediums.
Every year – twice a year – a nice lady who I’ve known for a long time puts on a “psychic fair.” Trying to keep an open mind, I decided to go and see if there was anything to it.
I ponied up the $25 bucks and sat down with a medium who performed a Tarot card reading and conferred with the angels. I could’ve gotten a cassette recording of the reading for an extra $10 bucks, which leads me to think I’ve chosen the wrong career path. $35 bucks for a 15-minute session? Not bad.
Needless to say, I came away from that experience convinced that the medium I went to, at least, was either inept, or possibly a fraud.
Here’s a few tidbits from the session that have stuck with me:
While “speaking” to my dead father, she said “Your father wants you to know that he’s grateful that you were at his side when he passed.”
Nope, I wasn’t there.
“Well, he meant in spirit.”
Nope. I wasn’t expecting him to go when he did. I was shocked.
“I’m seeing a black dog in your life, possibly a pet.”
Nope. My mom hates dogs, however, I’m pretty sure in my life someone I knew had a black dog. This is no revelation and it’s something so vague it could be accurate when applied to virtually anybody.
“Are you looking for a new job right now?”
Nope.
“Good, because now’s not a good time for you to be job hunting.”
Oh good. I wonder what would have been the response had my answer been yes.
And lastly, “I see you changing jobs in the future. I see you working with computers.”
Wow. Computers, eh? Like, every fucking job these days involves computers, so bravo on that call.
Now, as I said, this doesn’t mean that all mediums, psychics or soothsayers are frauds, and it doesn’t mean that the one I went to was a fraud either. She could’ve been having an off day. Maybe the spirits were silent that particular day and she needed the money; could be many reasons why she failed to nail down anything specific.
I stayed around for a few hours and watched several other mediums give readings, and I found them to be asking the same leading questions and offering the same vague insights and prophecies.
Again, this doesn’t prove much. I’ve had people tell me the psychics they went to told them very specific and personal things no one could’ve known. If this happens to me, I may amend my thoughts on the topic.
I know it appears I enjoy shitting on these beliefs, and to a degree I do. While it’s easy to view this as harmless entertainment, the fact is real people get scammed out of lots of money. When people are hurting or are desperate, they reach for anything to give them comfort.
It’s also sad to see how many people willingly turn to – and give money to – people who will tell them what they want to hear.
As advanced as a people as we are, I’m amazed at how gullible we are and choose to be.
It would thrill me if science proved that life goes on after death. But for me, I have to remain skeptical for now.
I plan on going back to the fair again this year and I’m going to get another reading, but this time, I’m going to challenge the medium more when they get things wrong. And I think I’m going to pony up the extra $10 bucks for the cassette.
Then again, I don’t have anything on which to play it.

Supreme Court to hear case on state funds going to religious institutions

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Missouri case in which state funds can be used for religious institutions. The case stems from a program in which recycled rubber from tires is used to create a safer surface for children’s playgrounds.

A church in Missouri wanted funds from this grant program to improve their playground, but were denied because of a constitutional amendment restricting public funds to be used for churches.

According to the story, the church initially sued and lost on appeal, but now the Supreme Court is taking up the case.

The attorneys for the church make the argument that the use of the funds don’t promote any religion and therefore the church should be able to participate in these grant programs, however, people like Richard Katskee, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State disagree. He says:

“It’s a competitive grant program, with winners and losers. … There’s a government official who decides who gets the money. That can be done because that’s the favorite faith of that government official. Even if it’s done on neutral criteria, those whose houses of worship don’t get the money are going to feel rightly it’s favoring other faiths.

According to the report, this is going to be a case to watch because it will challenge Blaine Amendments that exist in 38 states. About Blaine Amendments, the report says:

In 1875, Maine Sen. James G. Blaine proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit public money from going to “sectarian” schools.

At the time, “sectarian” was code for “Catholic.” Public schools required students to read from Protestant texts, sing Christian hymns and say Protestant prayers.

Religious scholars attribute the widespread adoption of Blaine Amendments to increased Catholic immigration — and the opening of more Catholic schools — in the 1800s, which led to a fear that the government would begin to fund Catholic education.

What’s interesting is this all started because you had one sect of Christianity trying to discriminate against the other.

Obama administration responsible for creating more atheists

As I listen to President Obama give interviews during this last week of his presidency, he’s taking credit for a lot of things: improving the economy, creating jobs, and giving healthcare to millions of Americans are among his accomplishments.

But according to at least one person, Obama is responsible for creating more atheists, which if true, is another reason to like the guy.

An article from a Russian website, Pravda Report, claims that Christianity is under attack and that Obama is responsible for people abandoning the faith. Professor of the Department of Missiology at Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox University, Alexander Dvorkin, seems to be the only person quoted in the article, and he delivers one easily debunked argument for Christian persecution after another.

Here, I’ll show you.

He states,

“One of the reasons for the growing amount of atheists in the United States is said to be Obama’s policy to transform schools and universities from secular into openly anti-Christian institutions. In many US schools, reading the Bible or the public wearing of crosses may entail penalties . . .”

Nope.

. . . “In any case, it is already impossible to openly criticize homosexuality.”

Nope.

. . . “Christian holidays are being erased, and it is considered politically incorrect to congratulate one another on Christmas – one should congratulate each other on the so-called “holiday season.”

Nope, again. See how easy that was?

If you’re an atheist, you’ve no doubt been hearing the same fallacious arguments coming from the religious for awhile. It’s almost like they want to be persecuted.

Oh, that’s right, they do. Because if they’re being persecuted, then the Bible is right because it said they’d be persecuted.

Lastly, Dvorkin takes the predictable shot at Hollywood because of the “Occult vision” in Hollywood films that portray Christians as “narrow-minded cranks at best, or malevolent villains at worst.”

I’ve watched a lot of movies and I can’t think of one off the top of my head in which an identifiable Christian character is portrayed as a crank or malevolent villain. In fact, the religious affiliation of most characters in films is unknown or not revealed. Maybe I’m just watching the wrong films, or maybe this guy is making shit up.

And I’ll tell you something else – There’s an awful lot of people going to see these movies with the “occult vision” and they ain’t all atheists. Plenty of Christians go to the movies too.

The only place where Dvorkin gets it somewhat right is when he claims that Christianity is oppressed in the Middle East. About that he says, “. . .they simply kill Christians.” I’m not up to speed on everything that goes on in the Middle East, but I don’t think it’s open season on Christians everywhere there. I could be wrong, or this guy could be making shit up.

Despite the whining, Christians have it pretty good here in America, and throughout much of the world. Believe me, no one – not even us Atheist Pigs – are out to get them. And I can’t help it that people in large numbers are becoming wise to the charade of religion because that’s what’s happening.

Society isn’t conspiring against Christians or any other religion, but rather, people are asking questions, debating and waking up to the fact that religion isn’t the path to enlightenment or knowledge it purports to be. And they’re waking up to the fact that at the end of the day, all religion has to offer is unsubstantiated claims and untestable evidence.

And that’s just not good enough anymore.

Do atheists need churches?

I admit that I find the idea of an atheist church to be funny. When I was a kid, I hated my parents dragging me to church every Sunday. And when I was a Christian adult, I went because that’s what Christians did.

However, the idea of going to church now – even an atheist one – seems odd and out of place, but then these churches aren’t for me because I’m blessed to be anti-social. And much in the way I dreaded going to church every Sunday when I was a kid, I now dread interacting with other members of the human species.

I’ve come to find out this is one of the many things that makes me abnormal.

For the rest of humanity, though, being social with other members of the species is integral to mental wellbeing and social standing. Back in the day, towns were often built around the church. The church was the focal point of social life. If you weren’t working on the farm, you were participating in some church activity. Church life is integral to many communities that I suspect that a lot of people attend services and events more for the social aspect than for the act of “worship.”

Losing your faith can have a severe impact on your social life, especially if you before relied on church for social interactions. You might find that your church friends no longer want anything to do with you, and you might find yourself isolated. And believe it or not, some who lose faith miss the rituals associated with church services.

An article coming out of Salt Lake City talks about a church for non-believers dubbed the Sunday Assembly, which offers nonbelievers a “churchlike service that offers music, readings and community for those who don’t belong to the state’s dominant religion, Mormonism or other faith groups.” The church’s motto is: Live better, help often, wonder more.

I’m pretty cynical and dislike most things, which I’ve come to learn is another one of the many things that makes me abnormal. But I think it’s important for atheists, secularists and “nones” to get together and socialize. If you’re in an area with few unbelievers, it’s easy to get lonely and isolated. There are online communities, but those are increasingly becoming more toxic and fractured. I suspect that much of that has to do with people not interacting face-to-face.

While I have no plans to attend any service with events like “[a] band playing the 1980s hit song “Walking on Sunshine” while attendees sang along and batted beach balls around the room,” because that sounds dreadful.

However, I believe It’s important that non-believers who want that church experience have a place where they can go to socialize, share baby recipes, and figure out how best to destroy Christmas once and for all.

On second thought, if plotting to get rid of Christmas is involved, I might be on board.

Happy New Year, or whatever

Just a quick note to say Happy New Year to all my little piglets (if you celebrate that kind of thing). It’s not easy being an atheist pig, but your love of unholy ham makes it all worthwhile.

Thank you for a wonderful year, all your support, and here’s to more profane pork being served up in 2017.

Oink!