What’s going on with Winston

A quick note to the fans

Production of the comic has been slow lately, and as I recently mentioned on Twitter, things are not good at work.

I work in print media, which as you all know, is a dying industry.
My boss recently told me that cuts are coming, and while my job isn’t yet in danger, the writing is on the wall and I’m not sure how much time I have left.

Because of this, I’ve taken on freelance work to pay off some bills as quickly as possible so in the event that I find myself jobless, I’ll hopefully have enough cash to survive for awhile.
I do have material written, and new material will be coming, but I wanted to give everyone a heads up to know that I’m not disinterested or tired of the work. It’s mainly that much of my free time is spoken for right now.

Fear not. The haram ham isn’t going away just yet.

As always, I do appreciate everyone who supports this endeavor.

Oink!

The Enemy of Your Enemy Isn’t Your Friend

I’ve noticed a trend among some atheists on social media in which they’re aligning themselves with far right (mostly christian) conservatives because they happen to overlap politically. I noticed this during the U.S. presidential campaign and see that it hasn’t abated much since.

I understand this.

Atheism, while mostly associated with liberals, is nothing more than the lack of belief in a god, and everything else is up for grabs. That’s why people say getting atheists together on anything other than that lack of belief in a god is like herding cats.

However, as much as I understand it, I’m also baffled by it because while I understand that the conservative atheist and the conservative christian can come together in their hatred of the left or Social Justice Warriors or what have you, I doubt they’re going to agree when it comes to teaching creationism in science class or teacher-led prayer — prayer to Jesus, of course, — in public school. And if you look at how the far right christians are positioned in our government — federal, state and local — we’re probably going to be facing these issues sooner rather than later.

So while you’re all free to retweet and ‘like’ those deplorable Pepe-faced, god, country, patriot, MAGA assholes, I don’t want to hear you crying when your kid comes home from school telling you how the animals on Noah’s ark repopulated the world after the great flood or about the cool guy with the long, blond hair with holes in his hands who does magic tricks that the teacher told them they have to pray to every day before class.

I don’t want to hear it.

Because these enemies of your enemies who are your friends now won’t be when you tell them “No, I’m sorry, you can’t bring religion into our secular government,” and “No, I’m sorry, you can’t institute prayer in public schools,” and “No, I’m sorry, you don’t get a religious exemption for your kid dying because you decided to pray instead of taking them to the doctor,” and “No, I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to keep your unprovable fairytale bullshit to yourself, thank you very much.”

And trust me, if these people every truly gain control, you’re going to find out pretty quickly who their enemy is, and your mutual hatred of whatever the fuck it was isn’t going to save your ass.

 

Normal everyday racism

I’m late to the party, but by now everyone is familiar with Bill Maher’s incident on his show recently. The casualness with which he used a racial slur made me think of an incident that happened a few weeks ago, and one that I’ve been meaning to write about, but hesitated because it brings to the surface the kind of person I was, and the kind of person that I am, and I’m not happy with either one.

I attended a lunch meeting a few weeks back with a group of people I had to meet with because of my job. During the course of the meeting one of the guys made a joke using the N word.

Most everyone laughed.

I remember shaking my head and thinking, “Jeeze, glad I wasn’t raised to be like that.”
But I was. I was raised to be like that.

My father had a problem with black people — specifically black men who dated white women. He also had some very strange beliefs, such as the reason black athletes are superior to white athletes is because their bodies have extra muscles and ligaments, which give them abilities white athletes don’t have.

True story.

Neither my mom nor I know where dad came up with this stuff. But I imagine it came from his childhood and his friends with whom he grew up.

The same way I heard it.

I grew up in an all white, middle class neighborhood. I went to Catholic school for 12 years, which was probably 99% white. And everyone I knew — all my friends, and my parents’ friends — said racist things.

It was normal.

It was normal to make racist jokes and it was normal to refer to blacks as, well whatever you can imagine. And I’d like to say that I didn’t participate, but I’d be lying.
So, yeah, I was a shit. Some would say I’m still a shit, but I’m trying.
Trying to not be a shit, that is.

The point is, having lunch with this group — many of the guys much younger than I — further demonstrates that we’re not making much progress when it comes to the issues of racism; it’s like a diseased gene that keeps getting passed on from generation to generation. I think we like to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re getting somewhere, and maybe we’ve moved the needle forward a pinch, but I don’t think our attitudes are much better than they were 50 years ago. We bury them, hide them, but they’re still there. And when we’re with a group of seemingly “agreeable” people, that’s when we let it out.

While the lunch meeting bothered me because of the language that was used, I was bothered much more by the fact that I was too much of a coward to say something. I was afraid I’d be the one to look like a dick. That somehow I’d be the asshole. And I would have too. In that group, I would have. But it would’ve been the right thing to do, and my failure only helps to perpetuate the problem.

So I guess in many ways, I’m still a bit of a shit, and like a lot of us, I still have a lot of work to do.

Misunderstanding Atheism . . . Again

Many Christians and religious believers have a hard time understanding what is atheism. The most common misconceptions are that it’s a belief system in and of itself, or that it is the assertion that there are no gods.
 
Despite repeated attempts of atheists to rebut these misconceptions, they still remain.
 
Case in point: Rev. Dr. Chris Surber’s opinion piece in the Suffolk News-Herald, “Modern Atheism is Not a Thing,” makes several mistakes in regard to what is atheism.
 
Surber begins by referencing the 18th-centrury philosopher David Hume and claims Hume’s lack of belief in miracles as a root cause of his atheism. Surber paints Hume’s atheism as logic-based and rooted in skepticism. I’m not too familiar with Hume’s work, but I mention this because Surber uses Hume to make a distinction between historical atheism and modern atheism, which is his first mistake.
 
Surber goes on to say, “Hume’s atheism was skepticism rooted in logic . . .but today’s atheism is something else altogether. It is above all else an active belief in the non-existence of God. It has passed from passive skepticism to active non-belief. It has become a belief itself. It is the belief that there is no God.”
 
Well, that couldn’t be more wrong. And while I’m sure there are some atheists who make the claim that no gods exist, the overwhelming majority of the atheists I read and follow make no such claim.
 
One can be reasonably certain the character Yahweh as described in the Bible doesn’t exist, but I’d be skeptical of someone who asserts with certainty that no gods exist anywhere now or ever.
 
The error — I think — Surber is making is equating outspokenness of many atheists with “active non-belief.”
 
He goes on to add — somewhat correctly — that “ . . . today’s atheism is really just a dislike, disapproval and denunciation of religious belief. It’s not atheism. It’s anti-theism, and that is a whole other thing.”
 
Well, yes and no. Many outspoken atheists like myself are indeed anti-theists. We see the harm religious belief causes and we refuse to remain silent. We stand up for separation of church and state and aggressively promote a worldview based in science, logic, reason and secularism.
 
But this isn’t a “new atheism.” It’s the same atheism, but one that’s more vocal — and possibly more aggressive — and that is what I think rubs people like Surber the wrong way.
 
Atheism in the past and in the present has always been the lack of belief in gods based on evidence provided. Full stop, end of story.

Why I admire the religious right

The religious right in America is something awesome to behold. No, really it is.

Here’s a group of people, with varying belief systems, who come together politically to get done what they want done.

They’re to be admired because, not only are they prepared for the battles taking place today, they’re prepared for the battles that are going to take place ten years from now. They remind me of the ever patient Darth Sidious who planned, manipulated and moved pieces into place for years until he achieved his goals. He planned for the long haul.

Take the matter of abortion. It’s safe to say the overwhelming number of Christians are opposed to it, and they grew more vocal and active since Roe v. Wade. They’ve never come around, and never wavered in their opposition. For decades they persisted, voted, stayed the course, and now they might just get the right people on the Supreme Court to reverse it.

That’s admirable.

When I became an atheist, the New Atheists Movement was in full swing. It was a great time. We had charismatic characters like Christopher Hitchens to rally around, and from my perspective, I thought atheists/secularists would congeal into a political force that could go toe-to-toe with the dominionists/religious right.

I was wrong.

Some argue feminists and social justice warriors co-opted and poisoned the atheist movement while others say the movement drifted into the domain of the alt-right. Others, still, argue there never was an atheist movement.

Whatever the case, we just can’t get along and band together, and it was probably Pollyanna to think that we could.

And while so many of us are fighting amongst ourselves, the religious right is poised to get the keys to the whole thing.

This, of course, is all opinion and speculation mixed in with perhaps too much drink, which leads to too much melancholy. However, my fear is we who identify as secularists are going to wake up one day in an America where prayer is mandatory in public schools; where Christianity is the state religion; where we’re still burning fossil fuels as the planet grows ever warmer and where the all the social safety nets to help the disadvantaged have been shredded.

Then again, it’s entirely likely we’re going to wake up and see mushroom clouds blooming on the horizon.

Oink

If We Evolved From Monkeys

Nearly every day on Twitter, I watch arguments between theists and atheists unfold regarding evolution.
 
Evolution is a huge stumbling block for many theists because — for them at least — admitting that our species arrived on the scene via an evolutionary process and not by magic is an admission that the creation story in the Bible is wrong, and that god may not exist.
 
Knowing this, it’s not surprising that so many theists defend their position to the point that they not only refuse to look at the evidence presented to them, but they go out of the way to mock that evidence. Their hubris is such that they think the question, “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” is not only valid, but that a person holding a Ph.D in evolutionary biology would suddenly be rendered speechless at it being asked.
 
Although in these people’s minds accepting evolution would kill off the notion of god — it doesn’t have to — I think there’s another reason for this behavior and it is this: People who aren’t smart don’t like to be not smart.
 
By clinging to the creation story, and the notion that God did it, the theist can claim to have knowledge that even the egghead scientists don’t have. It places someone who lacks the education on the same plane or above those who have the education.
 
I’m not saying everyone who believes in God is dumb, but saying “God did it” is much easier than reading a textbook or scientific paper about concepts that can be hard to understand.
 
There’s a small part of me that feels sorry for people who intentionally stunt their intellectual growth like this because they’re afraid of what getting educated might mean for their belief system. However, I think it’s worth engaging these people when you get an opportunity because every now and then you manage to break one out of the Matrix. And even if you don’t, some of their arguments can be quite humorous.

Atheist Prayer and Government Meetings

It’s not uncommon for legislative bodies – federal, state or local – to open their sessions with an invocation or prayer. And while many of these bodies do make an effort to allow people of faiths other than Christian to give the opening prayer, groups often left out are the atheists, secularists and other non believers.
 
The Supreme Court ruled in May of 2014 that prayers – even prayers that favor a specific religion – given before opening of a legislative session do not violate the constitution.
 
Justice Kennedy wrote:

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation
was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,
which to me is a pleasant way of saying, “there’s more Christians than you atheists, so nyah.”
 
Even with the Court’s decision, however, the matter isn’t going away.
 
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a legal challenge to the Pensylvania House of Representatives’ use of prayer to open a session is being heard in court.
 
The issue has been brought up by a group of atheists who say they’ve petitioned for, and been denied, the right to give an invocation to open the governing body’s sessions.
 
Some members of the House say their exclusion of nonbelievers is covered under the state’s constitution, which says that those giving the invocation would be members of a “regularly established church or religious institution.”
 
While the argument that atheists by and large aren’t members of a “regularly established church or religious institution” there are plenty of recognized churches that are atheistic, such as the Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple. It would seem the House would be on shaky legal ground if they denied a member of these churches the right to give the opening prayer.
 
And really, what’s the harm in letting someone of a different faith or someone of no faith say a few words before your meeting. If your faith is strong enough, then it shouldn’t bother you. This seems more about discriminating against a certain group than it does about upholding the law or the constitution. I don’t know if these people are afraid we atheists are going to get up and sacrifice a chicken to Beelzebub or what.
 
But it shouldn’t matter, anyway. There’s no good reason today to open a government meeting with an appeal to some invisible “higher authority” when there’s no solid evidence such an authority exists. The fact that government is so often screwed up and ineffective is proof enough that appealing to a god isn’t doing any good.
 
I serve on a small board here in town, and thankfully we don’t open our sessions with prayer. The only religious aspect comes when swearing someone in and they’re asked to tell the truth “so help me god,” which still makes me cringe.
 
I think the only appropriate invocation one should utter before any board or committee meeting is, “Let’s get this shit over with.”

The End Of The World As We Know It or Please Tell Me I’m Wrong

I’m just going to come out and say it; Trump is going to fuck this world and there ain’t nothing we can do about it.

That sounds like I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m not. I believe with every ounce of belief I can muster that this could be the end of everything.

I could be wrong; I probably am. As stated in a previous post, I’m not that bright. Still, I have a notion of where I think this administration is going to take us and it’s not going to be pleasant.

Here’s what I think, and please feel free to save this post so you can throw it back at me someday to show me how wrong I was, which I hope is the case.

I believe Steve Bannon when he said that he wants to tear down the system. If you look at what this administration is doing now, and how quickly they’re doing it, it appears that destabilizing the United States and the rest of the planet is the main agenda.

I argued with people during the election who advocated for a disruption of the system, whether that came from Bernie Sanders or from Trump, and my argument is, if the system comes crashing down, there’s no telling what’s going to take its place. I think some people believe that we could replace the current system with one that’s fair and more geared toward the people rather than the corporations. That could happen, but I think it’s a long shot if the U.S. is in shambles.

What is more likely to happen is that if America collapses, and the world collapses, people will be so desperate for a savior, that it’s almost a given that a far right, Christian dictator would rise up with promises of salvation. The people would embrace this savior with open arms, constitution be damned.

I only know of Bannon what I’ve read, but seeing how much this administration is pandering to the religious, this could be the end game. Get us to a point of utter desparation and deliver unto us a savior wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible.

Hell, there are plenty of people who want that right now.

To be fair, Trump is a monster, but he seems only concerned about his ego – his brand – and not much else. He can’t give a speech that doesn’t wind up being about him. No, Trump is a tool, and Bannon is the carpenter.

So how could we get there?

From the looks of things as they stand now, we could either get into a war with China, Iran or Mexico or all three. Could be trade wars or wars with bombs. I’m curious if our economy could sustain, say a trade war with China and a physical war with Iran at the same time. And you can bet if things get that dicey for us, they’re likely to get dicey for the rest of the planet as well because if America is to busy dealing with our problems, who’s keeping watch on everything else going on? Who’s going to intervene if Russia decides to make a massive land grab? Who’s going police tensions between a nuclear India and a nuclear Pakistan? Who’s going to stop North Korea from taking South Korea?

I saw an interview on Bill Maher’s show with Richard Haass who is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He said something to the effect that the systems that are in place have been working more or less to keep things sane (relatively) for decades, and to undo those systems would be catastrophic.

It looks like this administration is trying to undo those systems.

As I said, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about, and everything’s probably going to be fine.

Still, it might be a good time to stock up on canned goods, water and survival gear just to be safe.

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.