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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

“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

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.”

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!

Equinox Training Camp – Day 1

Despite my best efforts, due to an illness and some crazy stress, I’ve let about 15 pounds pack on. “15 pounds, that’s not that much?” You might say. Well, yeah, it is…especially when you’re only 15 hands tall! (That’s 5′ for all you non-horsey people)

So recently I joined the Equinox gym right across the street from my office. It is an amazing facility, with towel service and Kiehl’s products in the bathrooms. It has really great spin instructors, which is saying something coming from me because I started spinning with Terry Walker at The Burn Studio in Burbank, California, and he is THE BEST spin instructor that exists. The best. The end.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I got an email about an “Equinox Training Camp” (“ETC”) that Equinox puts on during the first of the year. Six weeks, Monday-Wednesday-Friday, 6am-7am. Well, that’s my normal workout time anyway, so why not?

Today was the first day. We didn’t do a whole lot, other than measurements and a fitness test. I was able to do all of 21 pushups in 1 minute (normal push-ups, because why mess around?), which isn’t all that much. The checked our BMI on this fancy scale / electrical impedance thing, and according to the computer I’ve got a BMI of 28. Better than the BMI of 32 or whatever it was last year at this time, I guess, but it still puts me firmly into the “overweight” category. So the goal is to get that 28 under 25 in the next 6 weeks. Seems doable…maybe…

A few observations from this class. First, I had already noticed that everyone that goes to this gym is already thin and pretty. It is actually a little creepy, in a Stepford sort of way. The same was true with this class. With the exception of 1 or 2 people out of the 40, everyone already looked pretty thin and fit…so I don’t know if this is the fitness version of humblebragging or what! So we’ll see. Everyone seemed really friendly and supportive, so I guess it doesn’t matter what they look like as long as we do our thing together.

I won’t blog every day of this thing, because who wants to read “today we did Burpees! And pushups!” every day…but I will check in from time to time to let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

I Think I’ll Stick to Blogging…for Now…

This year, my husband and I decided to take our first trip to Shot Show to explore the possibility of a business venture in the firearms world. I’ve only really been shooting for the last year, and already I’m approached on almost a daily basis. I’m in California, so shooting can be a bit of a taboo. It goes something like this:

Random non-Shooter: “Oh…you shoot?”

Me: “Yes, range day is usually every Wednesday around 7pm. I’d be happy to give you a quick lesson and let you try out some different gear if you’re interested.”

Random non-Shooter: “I’ve always wanted to do that, will you teach me?”

This then progresses to “can you help me pick out a gun / gear?” and “I can’t find [insert gun model here] can you help me find it?”

I’m very particular with gear. I come from the backpacking world, where your gear better be spot on if you’re going to hump it 15-20 miles in a day, otherwise you’ll be crippled before you get to enjoy the trip. We call that being a “gear whore…” Well, my “gear-whore-edness” has definitely translated over into my shooting sport. I’ll spend hours…hours…agonizing over specs and reviews on a firearm before I’ll recommend it and, because of that particularity, I’m good at choosing the right firearm for many people. As a business model, this would lend itself well to a home business based on teaching basic shooting, and then sourcing gear for the new shooter. It doesn’t seem like this would be difficult to get started as an FFL, certainly not when you’re already a lawyer and have had to deal with things like Attorney Trust Accounts and all the fun accounting that goes with it. Well, it is a bit harder than that.

Here is a little primer on what it takes to become and FFL in California.

Getting the FFL itself is really the least of your worries. Jumping through the California specific hoops is your biggest worry. If you want the end result of being able to ship firearms in/out of this state, your end goal will be a listing on the CFD (centralized firearms dealer) list. The CA DOJ will not issue you a valid CFD number unless you have all of the following items first:

1. Local Business license stating “Valid for the retail sale of firearms”. It must say exactly this, or there is a good chance your application will bounce
2. Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the CA DOJ (that’s the Department of Justice)
3. Retail Sales Permit (Board of Equalization)
4. Federal Firearms License
5. If accepting consignment guns, you need a Secondhand Dealer License, which would come from  your local law enforcement official in charge. B&PC 21641, if you really need the code.
6. Then you need to sign up for the Firearms Dealer Acquisition System (FDAS) here:

Now that doesn’t seem all that complicated, right? I’d specifically be looking at an 07 FFL, and with that, you have to add another item – registration with ITAR. That along can cost $2500! So that’s starting to sound a bit cost prohibitive.

When you add in all of the other fees, plus the business taxes, you’re probably at $3500+ to get rolling in California as an FFL 07. I would want the 07 specifically for the ability to custom assemble and sell firearms at retail. This is really where I think a small / local / cottage home business could shine, but it would be a big step. An FFL 01 would probably be around $1200 to get rolling, so that is something I may look into.

For now, I think I’ll stick to blogging, get the consulting / teaching business running, and leave the rest to my local gun shops!