Sunday, May 29, 2011

People: our best hope

Let me share this comment in case it gets deleted:

Joplin is full of relgious groups, you know, all those people with false hope whom you say aren't looking, do everything they can to help.

I have seen no atheist organizations making a concerted effort to help.

Where are those atheist activists like who went down to Joplin last year organizing meetups?

Where are the American Atheists and FFRF?

On their blogs.

Taking swipes as Christians.

Atheist spells Eatshit as far as I am concerned anymore.

Where is Doctors Without Borders? Where is the American Civil Liberties Union? Where is the Heritage Foundation? Where is the United Nations? Midwest relief from natural disasters does not fall within the purview of any of these organizations. Likewise, American Atheists nor Freedom From Religion Foundation., in partnership with many non-belief organizations, has set up a donation link for Joplin relief, just as they did for Haiti relief:

And of course Westboro Baptist Church is also doing their part.

There are a lot of good people doing good work in Joplin. Some of them might even tell you they are doing so because Jesus wants them to. But even if you could convince these people there is no divinity, they would not abandon their efforts. So too there are many non-religious christians and non-christians that are helping their neighbors. Tightly knit pre-organized church communities are going to make the most of their bonds. The rest of us sift into where we are needed. If anyone bothers to claim they are helping in order to glorify atheism, hopefully those tempted to claim they are glorifying their religious icons will recognize how silly that is.

"...all those people with false hope whom you say aren't looking, do everything they can to help."

While I was speaking more generally, this complaint exemplifies my point. They are doing. There will be those who do nothing more than pray. That's a great way to feel like you're doing something without really doing anything at all. And their prayers will be answered not by angels but by humans. For in other humans, there is real hope. The potential for help, progress and salvation are tangible in social groups, civilization or more specifically: people.

When the buildings once again stand, the foliage fills and the biggest concern is who will make the playoffs too many people will give a perceived deity all of the credit and none of the blame. Maybe we could run an experiment and see how much gets done without any human intervention. Is there any real hope that a supernatural being will replace or repair all those buildings and all that infrastructure? Or maybe we could bet on a sure thing: people. Real hope.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

False Hope

I would say that false hope is better than no hope except people who find false hope tend to stop looking for real hope.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Great Joplin tornado of 2011

(It's somewhat ironic that my last Note was "This Day.")

I haven't seen any of the damage first hand. But from what I'm piecing together... imagine (for my Santa Clarita friends) a force of nature starting at Newhall Ave on Lyons and and demolishing everything from there to I-5. I'm told this may have been a mile wide. From pictures, it leveled everything, cutting a path at least six blocks wide. Does "everything" include sturdy brick buildings? Yes it does. The path the tornado took in Joplin was about 70-80% residential.

I always thought it was a supremely bad idea that both hospitals were tucked in the same corner of town, about half a mile apart. One of those hospitals, St. John's, was hit. I'm told it was "destroyed." From pictures it *looks* like the structure is intact but everything else will need extensive repairs or replacement. A casino/hotel about 5-7 miles away is being used as a hospital.

caption: Water gushes from a broken pipe in a building along Rangeline Road.
credit: Globe/Roger Nomer|mostpopphotos

I took a circuitous route home, around the north side of town, to avoid the problem areas. My folks were without power the last time I had spoken to them. They report they lost some siding off the house. Mom described the storm to me as being on the other side of the railroad tracks. The tracks are about 100-150 yards from their house. There's a ridge about 300 yards beyond the tracks so "the other side of the tracks" is less than 400 yards away. Mara, Rose and Wolfgang were with them when all this happened, hunkered down in the laundry room. That is some scary shit. I had just dropped them off not an hour earlier. I had remarked to the kids during the drive that the clouds looked angry. I had no idea.

At work I was so busy with IT outages that I was mostly shielded from the news, certainly from details. Phone and cell service was spotty over the area. And everybody that had a phone was trying to use it. Luckily I was able to verify and occasionally re-verify that everyone was OK. But it was fairly frantic trying to juggle responsibilities and confirm that my nearest and dearest were out of danger and not taken from me.

As I neared home the clouds to the south were ablaze with lightning. There was barely time for them to grow dark between arcs. Power was out in patches. The light pollution from the city was noticeably dimmer. Traffic lights were out. The path of destruction ended a between one and three miles from our house. The direct suffering this tornado has brought me amounts to inconvenience. We're almost out of laundry detergent. I would go to the nearest Wal-mart super center but there is probably still debris in the road and, oh yeah... that Wal-mart won't be open for a long time. We suffered some anxiety and fear. Sharin had to navigate an obstacle course to pick the kids up and get them home, suffering a flat along the way. Road debris? Can we count that as tornado related property damage? By the time this is over the death toll will probably be in the hundreds. 1000 plus would not surprise me. But me and mine have escaped unscathed.

I am thankful. I got lucky. We (my family) got lucky. But if anyone wants to give the credit for that luck to anything or anyone STOP. Tell it to the people who lost their place of employment. Tell it to the hundreds of people who lost their homes. Tell it to the people who were injured. Tell it to the people who did lose loved ones. Tell it to the dead. Tell them why my family was lucky but they were not. Only tell me if you want me to jump down your throat. I know my family was lucky. I actually wish I had someone or something to thank. I'm not ungrateful. But if there were a something or a someone to thank then I would surely also have to damn them/it for the horrifying devastation visited upon the people of my city.

Which reminds me: Mara won't be going to pre-school in the morning because the church facility where she attends was at least partially damaged. A lot of nice people with good hearts work and attend there. I kind of like the place except for all the displays of archaic torture/murder devices. I don't know how bad the damage was to the buildings. Hopefully not too bad. But it's only about half a mile from St. John's hospital and directly between my folks house and St. John's. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Human interest story: At a fast food restaurant, Wendy's I think, people took cover in a bathroom as the tornado hit. The building was leveled. The survivors had dig themselves out of the ruble. The good new: they all survived. I'm hoping that story is true and stays true. Damn, now I'm hungry.

So far this whole thing hasn't really sunk in emotionally for me. I keep catching myself on the verge of make glib comments, gallows humor. If this had happened the first year I moved out here I'd be on the road back to earthquake/brush-fire/mudslide country. But I've been here so long, it feels like tornadoes aren't real or they only happen to other people. I am completely serious (and completely selfish) when I say I hope it stays that way.

This Day

Every day is special. It is easy to forget as we busy ourselves with the seemingly meaningless day-to-day details. We think of birthdays as special. And anniversaries. We perceive a day as special only if has some historical significance. We are told to remember the sabbath and keep it holy. The other six days it would seem may be forgotten and desecrated. We celebrate secular and religious holidays and bemoan the days between. It is what is expected of us. But every day is a treasure. Every day is fraught with challenges and opportunities. Every day is a gift from god or good fortune. Through suffering and joy we have ourselves, each other and we have this day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

God's Parasites

Assuming for a moment that evolution, or macro-evolution, is not responsible for the diversity of life then explain where these little devils came from.

You probably recognize the tick, flea and mosquito. The parasitic wasp of the Ichneumonidae family may be less familiar. Malaria might be hard to recognize. As for the cymothoa exigua, do not research this creature on a full stomach.

I could have added snakes and spiders with necrotic venom, lampreys, anthrax, chiggers (OMG the chiggers!), tapeworms... the list goes on. For that matter, why would a god make a world for humans and include ANY plants that are toxic or even irritating to humans? "Mysterious ways" or fallacious mythology? Would you call this "un-intelligent design" or "malicious design?" Does anyone want to blame this on scrumping? If we owe this world to a creator, it was either cruel, indifferent or incompetent.