Of All the Problems in the World, you’re worried about Atheists?!

The Burbank Leader recently ran an opinion piece entitled In Theory: Shunning the idea of an atheist-in-law. I knew before I even clicked the link that the piece was likely a waste of ink. It was, but let me give you a little taste. The “expert” opinions below are in response to the question of “how would [you] react if a member of [your] immediate family told [you] they were going to marry one of the following: an atheist, a gun owner, someone who had not attended college, someone of a different race, a born-again Christian, a Republican, a Democrat or someone born and raised outside the U.S.?”

First, I’ll just give you the real answer up-front. If someone in my immediate family did any of these, the only reaction I’m entitled to have is to be happy that my immediate family member has found their match, and to be happy for them. THAT’S IT. I don’t care who or what they are (ok, serial killer may be an issue. I’m not partial to succubi, either). But you know what the overwhelming response was? Essentially, it was “all that stuff may raise an eyebrow, but I can’t nevah allow no atheist into mah family!”

Let’s just start you off with an “educated” opinion:

“I would agree with those families who oppose bringing an atheist into the tribe. Atheists do not hold our values, and since they dismiss the progenitor of all pertinent values, I can only imagine an ongoing massive headache and heartache.”

Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
Montrose

“Our” values are the “progenitor of all pertinent values”?! Are you kidding me. Rev. Griem? Are you saying that, prior to the inception of the Christian religion, the world was populated with pillaging marauders with no “pertinent” values? (Ok, there were some pillaging marauders, but there are today, too – and some of them are even of the Judeo-Christian persuasion.) You are well aware, sir, that the civilizations of Greece, ancient Egypt, and Mesopotamia, where around 1772 BCE Hammurabi set forth his legal code, had very advanced ethics that very closely mirror those found in the Christian Bible. Hammurabi’s Code was the first written legal code we now know of, and you’re telling me there were no “pertinent” values before the Christian Bible was written?

How about Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics? What was that? Aristotle spends an entire volume fleshing out Plato’s original question of how men should best live. In his discussion of practical ethics, Aristotle contemplates good living AND how to create good living. All of this goes on approximately 350 years before Christ was even born! Aristotle does an excellent job of exploring how one should live in a virtuous and good manner.

And what about the Pre-Socratic Philosophers? Heraclitus, the Milesians, Hesiod, Democritus – the list goes on, and each and every one of them explored the idea of goodness, and living a better life among his fellow humans.

Sorry Rev. Griem, as far as “pertinent values” go, your Christian Bible doesn’t quite get us there. After all, no other ancient text of values or ethical exploration encourages us to beat our children, keep slaves, and take our brother’s wife as our own if something happens to him! We also don’t follow the Bible’s edicts regarding slavery (Lev. 25:44-46), intolerance of religious pluralism (Deut. 5:7, Deut. 7:2-5, 2 Corinthians 6:14) or of freedom of religion (Deut. 13:6-12), discrimination and racism (Lev. 21:17-23, Deut. 23:1-3), treatment of women, honor killing (Ex. 21:17, Leviticus 20:9, Ex. 32:27-29), genocide (Num. 31:15-18, 1 Sam. 15:3), religious wars, and capital punishment for sexual behavior like adultery and sodomy and for Sabbath breaking (Num. 15:32-36).

Even worse than this was the Rabbi’s quote:

“… a person, who publicly avows to not believe in God, has no belief in the order and logic of the world and has no hope for its positive future.”

“Now do you want your nearest and dearest relative to marry someone who publicly exclaims he or she has no hope for himself or herself or the world, or would you prefer someone who merely uses a different hope and belief path to climb the same mountain?”

Rabbi Mark H. Sobel
Temple Beth Emet
Burbank

Maybe the good Rabbi reacts so strongly because Judaism, unique among the “Judaic” religions, has a growing population of Jewish atheists. (See this Jewish Journal article – and this, from USA Today.) The USA Today article puts it most eloquently when it says “An individual who attends synagogue, participates in Jewish communal affairs, and contributes heavily to Jewish charities would undoubtedly be considered a very fine Jew, without asking questions about whether or not that person believed in God.”

In fact, it was the tenants of Judaism itself that led me, a Jew, down the road to Atheism. I have heard Rabbis say, “God doesn’t care whether you believe in him or not. All that he cares is that you do the right thing.’ Our action in the world is much more important.” Similarly, after adding Jewish Studies as my minor at UC Davis, and studying Hebrew and even part of the Hebrew Bible in its original language, the message rang loud and clear – Judaism isn’t about what you believe, it is about what you do! And what a fantastic philosophy.

As far as not having hope – or believing in the “order and logic of the world…” well, I sincerely hope the Rabbi isn’t insinuating a belief in God gives one hope. What, exactly, does God do in the Bible? He quite literally tortures his followers, first by commanding Abraham to give up his only son (only to say, “just kidding!” when it looked like Abraham was actually going to do it, flooding out whole civilizations, burning cities, and then advocating for prejudice, cruelty, superstition, murder…the list goes on.

So what gives an atheist hope? The same things that give everyone else hope – life! Existence! Isn’t that enough? Isn’t the natural wonder of the world enough to hope for? I think Penn Jillette says it best: “Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.” Creating a better society – enjoying the beauty of nature – having fun – spending time with loved ones – isn’t that enough?! It’s enough for me.

So I’ll leave you with this:

“The word “holiday” comes from “holy day” and holy means “exalted and worthy of complete devotion.” By that definition, all days are holy. Life is holy. Atheists have joy every day of the year, every holy day. We have the wonder and glory of life. We have joy in the world before the lord is come. We’re not going for the promise of life after death; we’re celebrating life before death. The smiles of children. The screaming, the bitching, the horrific whining of one’s own children. The glory of giving or receiving a blow job. Sunsets, rock and roll, bebop, Jell-O, stinky cheese, and offensive jokes.

For atheists, everything in the world is enough and every day is holy. Every day is an atheist holiday. It’s a day that we’re alive.”

― Penn Jillette, Every Day is an Atheist Holiday

The Death of Reasonable Discourse

Here is a typical exchange on Twitter:

(Setting: started discussing open carry, and Disneyland’s policy on firearms – not sure how this showed up on my feed, someone re-tweeted, probably)

Me: Disney’s policy is no carry in the park, and they provide storage if you are worried about leaving it in the car.

@neur0atypical: Isn’t the best policy to leave ‘em in the gun-safe locked up at home in the first place?”

@neur0atypical: Not if you are road tripping and carrying for personal safety on the road.

@neur0atypical: Unless I’m going to a shooting range or out in the hills where nobody is around, I don’t need ‘em

Me: That’s great! When I’m driving across NV by myself, I need them.

@ursalette: I have lots of friends that drive around NV just fine.

@ursalette: Wow, you can tell you’re a lawyer.

Me: What does that mean? That I’m a model gun owner, I assume.

@ursalette “That you’re antagonistic and combative.”

 ….then the discussion evolves into them saying guns aren’t toys, to which I reply that that is an obvious statement, and not “anyone” can buy a gun, they have to take a written test and demonstrate knowledge of safety, and for CCW (open carry is illegal in CA) you are required to sit through many hours of class.

 @ursalette “I believe you’re referring to concealed carry permit, but I’m not in the mood for an argument.”

Me: Explains licensing requirements, says that requiring additional training may be a good idea, but I’m unsure as to how far we can go without violating the Second Amendment.

@ursalette: I agree w/caveats, but I don’t think you should try to make everyone agree w/you so aggressively.

Me: I don’t think you need to agree with me, all I’ve done is point out facts. I believe in clarity over agreement.

@ursalette “CA has some of the toughest gun laws in US. Take your case & plaint to Georgia. They need you!”

(I, having NO idea what that means, then make a comment about how reasonably people can’t get into politics without big money and connections.)

@ursalette: “Probably your personality”

Every single comment I made was related to existing laws, and how they function. Want to know what happened next? I get attacked:

@ursalette “I’m out, I have neither the time nor desire for someone who has yet to learn politesse of debate.”

Me: Something about not being able to handle disagreement.

@ursalette “Not disagreement. I was head of the debate team!” (Wow, really…)

They devolved into a snark-fest between the other two friends, forgetting that Twitter is a public forum:

@neur0atypical: “that lady just kind of went typical rabid gun crazy….”

@neur0atypical: “ya, I mean, who wants 2 deal w/the equivalent of a rabid dog…”

@neur0atypical: “Gawd, think about that, y’ve blown my mind. She’s over there earlier telling me she had 2 have 2 to drive through NV?”

@neur0atypical: “ppl drive thru NV all the time unarmed, I have friends who live there & have never felt the need 2 buy gun there. Crazy.”

@neur0atypical: “I guess u better get a gun then, b/c that crazy lady is armed & on the roads somewhere near u lol”

@neur0atypical: “Shit, she’s on the roads in our state, Run! Lol”

 ——————————————————————-

Terrifying, isn’t it? Half of the time, I have no idea what this woman is talking about. It is this kind of intellectual dishonest that is ruining our society. v o as me pointing out Disney’s very reasonable policies on carrying, where they know that people are going to be travelling, and they will have off-duty LEO visiting, so they’ve made arrangements for that. It ended with me telling them that I’m not trying to change their minds, just trying to point out their incorrect facts…and with them having an absolute melt-down and calling names.

Do I care? Not really. Not in a personal sense, anyway. What worries me is that this is characteristic of most social media discourse. Anyone with a reasonable, sane voice is shouted down, called crazy, and then blocked.

I’m not the only one noticing the phenomenon. Just a few days ago the Washington Post ran a piece entitled “Welcome to the death of civilized political discourse.”

The heart of the matter? Washington Post puts it perfectly:

“What’s bad — and getting worse — is the idea that people who disagree with you are idiots solely because they disagree with you.  Remember the phrase “Reasonable people can disagree”? Dead.  How about “disagree without being disagreeable”? Also, dead.”

The other scary phenomenon is what the WP article calls “Self sorting and redistricting.” Basically, people only want to associate with those who agree with them ALL THE TIME. We’re surrounding ourselves with “yes” men, and it is terrifying – and, I think, it is making us stupid.

So what’s the solution? You can’t hide in your ideological silo, and you can’t be offended when someone disagrees with you. No matter how intelligent you are, name calling and dehumanizing the other side tarnishes your own viewpoint, and, to be quite honest, makes you sound stupid. And I believe this is true for BOTH sides. I call people out on Facebook all the time for it, and I usually get un-friended or blocked. If that’s the case, they probably aren’t the kind of person I want to call “friend” anyway. Sorry, I won’t put up with that kind of discourse from either side. It isn’t helpful, it doesn’t move us forward on the issues, and it doesn’t promote any kind of progress.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy political satire – I do! But there is a difference between calling someone dumb or dehumanizing them and poking fun of current political events. So I’ll just leave you with the WP’s conclusion:

“Disagreement is good for politics. Demonization is awful.”

What is an “Assault Weapon?”

So what is an “assault weapon.”

California says that it is this:

“12276.1 (a) Notwithstanding Section 12276, “assault weapon” shall also mean any of the following:

A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:

A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.

A thumbhole stock.

A folding or telescoping stock.

A grenade launcher or flare launcher.

A flash suppressor.

A forward pistol grip.

A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.

A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:

A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.

(B) A second handgrip.

A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.

The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.

A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:

A folding or telescoping stock.

A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.

A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine.

Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

“Assault weapon” does not include any antique firearm.

The following definitions shall apply under this section:

“Magazine” shall mean any ammunition feeding device.

“Capacity to accept more than 10 rounds” shall mean capable of accommodating more than 10 rounds, but shall not be construed to include a feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot accommodate more than 10 rounds.

“Antique firearm” means any firearm manufactured prior to January 1, 1899.

This section shall become operative January 1, 2000.”

Ok, so if I take my rifle, and because I’m short with short arms, I add a telescoping stock so I can reach the trigger…now it’s an “assault rifle?” Really?! What, are you afraid of an attack by short people?

Of course, I’m not going to argue that we probably shouldn’t get to have grenade launchers…but civilians aren’t allowed to have grenades anyway – so who cares? All you would get to do is launch tennis balls or something with it.

…and the list goes one…and 90% of the things on the list are cosmetic.

So why is everyone SO concerned about assault weapons, but not about anything else? I have no idea. My guess is that the media has hyped up the term so much that the uneducated are just latching on to the term.

A lot of people thing “AR” stands for “assault rifle.” It doesn’t. It stands for ArmaLite rifle, which is the company that first developed it in the 1950s. AR is a BRAND NAME – like Kleenex.

I think what the media is trying to do is talk about military weapons versus civilian weapons. I hate to break it to you, but the public isn’t permitted to own military weapons – because many of them have the capability to be fully automatic. Civilian rifles can only go 1 bullet to 1 trigger press and THAT’S IT. Which brings us to more confusion.

People get all up in arms about the idea we can have “semi-automatic” weapons. What they don’t realize is that “semi-auto” just means that the gun has the ability to fire a round, and eject the brass and load another round without having to open up the gun. It is still just 1 bullet to 1 trigger press. This is in contrast to a revolver, when after you shoot all of your rounds, you have to open up the gun and dump the brass out. THAT IS THE ONLY DIFFERENCE. So what? Non-semi-auto guns still shoot the same amount of bullets in the same caliber!

Basically the media has picked up on the term “assault rifle” because it gets people’s attention. I hate to break it to you, but ASSAULT RIFLES ARE ALREADY ILLEGAL!

We really can’t limit the public’s access to rifles any more than we already have without seriously violating the Second Amendment by eliminating entire classes of firearms that are no more dangerous than your made-from-wood hunting rifle. It is the PEOPLE that get their hands on ANY gun when they shouldn’t that do the damage.

Wake up, people. You’re being fed language superficially to draw your attention away from ineffective bureaucracies that have taken hold in our schools and governments. Our country has always been armed – and we have never had this number of school shootings before. In the past, school shootings were adults going after kids. Now it is kids going after kids…but why? Our kids are more drugged and controlled today than they ever have been…I don’t know what the problem is, but it is a big one!

Instead of screaming about “OMG ASSAULT WEAPONS” when “assault weapons” are already illegal and only in the hands of the military, why don’t we spend all this time and money to find out why kids are going after other kids? Hm?

The Help for Students that Never Was

I almost got excited this week, readers. I saw that Elizabeth Warren had introduced the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” and thought that finally I would be able to refinance my 8% private student loans into something close to the 4.5% my government student loans are locked in at. Listen, I don’t have a problem paying back my student loans – but why are lenders making this much money off of students? I’m not asking for 0%, but I’m asking for something like what I can get on a 15 year mortgage – something around 3%. They’d still make money! But I digress.

Warren’s bill looks great, until you get to the end.

When you get to Section 3, the section is entitled “Fair share tax on high-income taxpayers.” Wait, what? What is that doing in a bill that is supposed to help students? Is this woman actually alleging that allowing graduates to refi into a lower interest rate under a government program is going to cost the government money? By moving those loans from private to public, the government is going to make money off of the interest no matter what the rate is – and that is money they never would have received before! So they want to make money on top of their money? REALLY?!

I’m not a CPA and I hate working with numbers. But I see this bill throwing 30% around, and that’s not even funny when you consider what we already pay in taxes. Sure, only households that gross $1 million or more would be impacted, but why the hell are we raising their taxes to begin with?

Sure, our tax code needs some work. But if we want to work on it, sneaking tax hikes onto the back of a student loan relief bill isn’t the way to do it. We should sit down and discuss the tax code and figure out what we want to accomplish, and then figure out how to get there. But this? This seems like a trick that would ensure the bill would not pass, and then would give Warren a nice soapbox to stand on and scream that “Republicans don’t want to help students ahhhhhhh!!

Stop it, politicians. Just stop. This country is in trouble. We need to put our ideologies aside and have a real discussion about how to dig ourselves out of this nice hole that ALL politicians have helped to dig. Get it together.

You can check out the full text of the bill here.  Be warned, you’ll probably start yelling at the computer.

iOWest Level 1 – Paul Vaillancourt

After years of serving on the board of ImprovUtopia, I decided it was finally time to actually take an improv class for myself. So, I signed up for Paul’s level 1…

Thursday, June 12 was our first class. Within about 10 minutes Paul had us up and doing “stuff.” By the end of the night? He had us doing 2-person games and working on some basic improv principals. I’m not going to give them all away here, so you’ll just have to take the class!! And you should. I was super tired by 10:30, because I’m usually in bed by 9:30, but that’s ok – it’s only 7 weeks!

I really, really had a good time. I get to rub elbows with so many great improvisers at ImprovUtopia, and I’d really like to be able to actually play with these guys if the opportunity presents itself. I can’t wait!

Pin-Up Parade in the Park – Disneyland – June 1, 2014

One of my best friends, Missy Firestone (you may know her as Technicolor Cutie) is an amazing hair stylist and Queen of All Things Vintage. As you all have probably figured out, I’m more of a 5.11 cargo pants and tank top kind of girl…but Missy helps me look good!

I have also always loved going vintage shopping with her – whether I find anything for me or not, I love going through our vintage / vintage reproduction shops down Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank to see what we can find. Such a blast!

So on June 1st, our very own Pin Up Girl Clothing orchestrated a “Pin-Up Parade” in Disneyland, and Missy invited me. Not wanting to be left out of the dress-up fun, and since it was PUG’s event, I decided to head on down to PUG and find myself something to wear. Doris and Tiffany were SO, SO helpful in helping me find something to wear to the event, and Missy assisted via text message fashion show.

In the end, we ended up with the Harley dress in yellow. Missy helped me out with accessories, and we prepared to meet up at Disneyland! Luckily I had some ballet flats (Patagonia – had to sneak some hiker trash in there somewhere!) that worked perfectly with the dress.

This was also going to be Missy’s daughter Scarlett’s first time at Disneyland – and she’s 2, so we were prepared to hang out and people watch, which can be a fun change from running around like crazy all day.

We met up right outside the gates, so that Missy could help me out with hair. She put my little white scarf in, somehow created a curl in my hair (I told you, I’m pretty sure, despite her insistence to the contrary, that Missy is a magician!), and we were off! Too fun.

DSC00845

We proceeded to walk around the park and hit a few of the meet-ups with the PUGs. Twice some random park-goers asked Missy to pose with them in a picture – AND ME TOO! It was so weird, because in my head I was sure I was in a t-shirt and jeans and couldn’t figure it out. Then I remembered I wasn’t! It was really fun and kind of awesome to have people actually see me, not just pass their eyes over me in an attempt not to take me out with their stroller.

All in all, it was a great day! Scarlett survived her first incredibly stimulating day at Disneyland…

DSC00849DSC00858

…and I got to meet some very creative, fashionable ladies. If the event happens again, I’m sure I’ll return…with a circle skirt made by me, perhaps?

Here is the group:

DSC00864

DSC00867

I can’t dress that way every day, because I’m a corporate attorney for a large architecture/design firm, and that wouldn’t go over too well. But now I know I CAN do this on the weekends / for events and somewhat pull it off (with help, LOTS of help). I need to accumulate some accessories and figure out the hair/make-up part, but I think I can do it!

DSC00856

DSC00851

(I’ve seen some snarkiness about “weekenders” around the web – I have to say these ladies showed NONE of that attitude. Hey, if you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you can dress however you want at work, that is amazing and I applaud you for it! For those of us stuck in corporate-land…well, let us have our fun when we can!)

Guncraft Training Academy 2-Day Basic Handgun Course

This May I attended Guncraft’s 2-Day Handgun Course. The course met up at the Burro Canyon Shooting Range, and it was my first time up in that area. To get there, you take the 210 East and exit Azusa Avenue, and drive about 20 minutes up into the canyon. It is green up there! You pass a few dams, and it is part of the Angeles National Forest. It looks like there would be some great camping up there.

Here is me on the way up:

DSC00732

…and a few landscape pictures:

DSC00730DSC00728

I arrived at Burro Canyon at about 9:10am, a little early for our 9:30am start time. I found the office and checked in, and made my way over to the shooting bay we had reserved for the two day class. Burro Canyon’s facilities are pretty primitive – just portable toilets and a trailer for the office. I later learned that they did have a flush toilet for women and handicapped, but it wasn’t hot and the brown rooms weren’t that bad. Do bring hand sanitizer, because they didn’t provide any. The shooting bays are maybe 100 yards, backing up to a hillside with gravel berms on either side.

DSC00734

Guncraft’s training was great! They took us through everything you need to know to be a competent shooter. All training was from the holster, and Guncraft made sure everyone was safe as they learned how to manage coming in and out of the holster. We practiced balancing speed with accuracy, and talked about the consequences of actually defending yourself.DSC00742

This is what happens when I refuse to speed up. I am a member of “trigger slappers anonymous” – I want the gun to go bang when *I* want it to go bang. If I go slow, I don’t miss. Fast is another issue.

The second day brought more practice, and a crack at their simulated shooting “house,” which was actually pretty clever. That’s all I will say, because you have to go experience it yourself!!

In 2 days, the guys at Guncraft can teach you everything you could possibly need to know to own and operate a handgun. Although this isn’t “required” for you to own a handgun, I think that every gun owner owes it to themselves and those around them to take at least the two day class, if not the four day. I highly recommend Guncraft!

You can check them out at Guncrafttraining.com.