Wednesday, September 30, 2009

R2-D2 in Star Trek

The contest is long over, but people still ask and argue about it, so here's the last word, and the picture to prove it. Our beloved little astro-droid makes his appearance at the 47 minute, 40 second mark, just after the Enterprise comes out of warp over Vulcan and takes evasive action to avoid debris:

Yep, there he is, plain as day, helpfully highlighted by Jester. Debate over? I think so!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Hey, kids. Guess what? I have the cure for all our economic woes. You might not like it, but you have to admit it in the end: This would absolutely cure America's financial woes and bring everything back to the level.

The problem is, nobody wants to hear it. Nobody wants to even think it. It's almost unheard of throughout human history. And by simply saying it, I could be setting off quite a bit of an angry mob. But still, it needs saying.

To fix the financial problems this nation has, we should tax the Church. Which one? All of them, and tax them retroactive to their founding in this nation, or existence at the time the modern tax code was established.

Say it with me now: Tax. The. Church.

For far too long, the Church (as a generic, organized concept as opposed to specific religion) has enjoyed a Cinderella deal: They have never, ever paid their share of property, inheritance, or income tax. Ever. In the history of this once-great nation, no mainstream Church has ever paid a single red cent to the United States Internal Revenue Service.

They get tax breaks for everything: They get tax breaks for Clown Ministries designed to fool children into indoctrination by way of using clowns and humor. Tax breaks for running faith-based activities that, in the end, simply serve as a platform for more indoctrination of people of all ages. They don't pay a dime on the donated income that people cough up every service, either. From hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars per Church every go-around, and the Church keeps it all.

Granted, they do get tax breaks for their credible charity work, and they rightly should as all charities do. But enough is enough.

I bet dimes to dollars that, if you taxed each and every single Church in the United States retroactive to either its founding or the founding of the modern tax codes (whichever came first), you'd have your budget woes sewed up in a heartbeat, be able to provide the public option for heath care to all Americans, AND have enough room left to actually lower taxes for lower and middle class Americans.

There are a number of tax codes that would easily apply to each Church, too. Property taxes for one would be a BIG one. How much land to Churches have? Quite a bit, from just my experience here in the Northeast. Suddenly having that land back on the tax rolls would most certainly jumpstart local education budgets, municipal authorities' ability to deal with crime and emergencies would increase (local police departments would make a comeback - I'm looking at you Philipsburg and Houtzdale)... You could almost stop right there and fix most of the financial problems we're in on local and state levels - The federal problems would mellow out without the added pressures of state and local fallout.

Ahhh, Income Tax. The bane of each and every lower- and middle-class American. The money from this portion of the tax code, when retroactively calculated and paid by the Churches, would be the final nail in the financial woes coffin. Can you just imagine what would get paid off? The National Debt? Gone, I bet. And with plenty left over to finance quite a few federal programs that matter, like research in both medicine and space exploration would be nice.

Ahh, the joys of the so-called "Death Tax," which Bush II tried to eliminate in order to protect himself and his fellow trust-fund brats from losing money once mommy and daddy died. Idiot. If you applied that to every last bit of money willed to Churches, you'd begin to create a budget surplus like no other in history.

Do I really need to go on? Seriously: Tax the Church, and tax it hardcore back to the beginning of whatever. Watch our financial problems become silly memories from a time when we had our heads up our asses.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Christopher Problem

Hindsight is always 20-20, or so they say. Of course, "they" also say quite a few far-fetched things, don't "they." But in this case, they're right, because looking back on my conversation with my new Mormon friend Christopher (cross-posted here), I've noticed a few new things. Christopher said:

Well, the Church started from the ground up and didn't have a lot of resources and if they did, they wouldn't have photographed the plates anyway.
His assertion that Smith and his followers started with nothing is kind of silly in its own right: Having moved out west towards Utah, they would have had to have the money for such a journey to begin with. The Oregon Trail and inflation can teach us that. What gets me here is his clam that Smith and his followers wouldn't have photographed the plates.

Wait, what? You have a chance at actual, physical proof of the existence of such a find, and you think they wouldn't have photographed it, given the technology available at the time? Golden Tablets inscribed with the words of a man who was never known to have otherwise even known of the EXISTANCE of North America, let alone visited it - forget the spiritual importance of something like that for a moment, and ponder alone the archaeological value of something like this! Why WOULDN'T you want proof of its existance?

Probably because it was all bullshit. But I missed my chance to open that line of questioning with poor Christopher, and may never know how he intended to reason declining to photograph something obviously central to their whole core belief system.

And I wouldn't honestly be able to go back and criticize if I weren't able to do so of myself, so here's a bit of history behind this mean-spirited zinger that I hit him with:
So, when I sign up for the LDS church, do I get three wives straight off? Or do I have to work at that...
Truth be told, this is my proven, 100% effective method for getting Mormon Missionaries off of my front porch and ensuring that they never return. You see, whether they like it or not, The Fundamentalist LDS Church - which does indeed practice polygamy, those true pimps and playas, holla! - is forever linked with them. And in the court of public opinion, that link won't ever, ever go away. Mentioning it instantly makes the conversation both uncomfortable and undesirable for them, so they make the most graceful exit they can, get on their bikes, and go bother someone else.

If you think that's mean, you should see my method for the door-to-door Baptists. It involves nudity and a very, very, VERY upbeat and chipper me...

But the real do-over I'd like to touch on is the contradiction that is him being a Black man in what is quite clearly a majority-white religion. Without coming out and saying he was Black, he made it very easy for him to identify himself as such:
It's kind of hard to be a biggot when you're a minority race and everyone jokes about lynching you. :)
Not hard to tell what he's talking about, is it. But the problem here is obvious: Everyone jokes about lynching you?!? And you put a smiley emote next to that statement?!?

On what planet is this not only OK, but not worthy of complaint or action?

Either Christopher is retarded, or he has overridden his tolerance of blatant racial bigotry with the insane notion that, somehow, because the people mocking him are of the same faith as he is, that this is perfectly fine and not worth any further attention.

What. The. Fuck?!?

As an American of purely Irish descent, I really don't know what it's like to be Black in this country. But given the stories I've heard, it's not a very easy thing to do, especially when you have people being complete assholes to you just because your skin color is different. In my world, that's just fucked up.

And yet, because this man is obviously fooled into thinking that these people actually consider him an equal on a faith-based level, he ignores the obvious wrong being done to him.

In a business environment, there'd be lawsuits flying by now. Why not within the Mormon church?

Well, because Bigotry is their forte, really. It was the LDS church that was behind the abhorrent piece of ballot legislation that was Proposition 8 in California, taking away the rights that the LGBT community had fought long and hard to win for themselves.

Why would a person from a minority that has experienced so much hatred and bigotry themselves willfully join an organization so dedicated to similar hatred and bigotry?

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless thousands of Black Americans didn't stand up against bigotry because they wanted their shot at being bigots themselves. They stood up because they saw something wrong and fought to correct it, so that no future generations would have to suffer under it.

That wrong? Racial Hatred and Bigotry.

Christopher's attitude towards and involvement in the LDS church stands out, at least to me, as a direct contradiction of what Dr. King, Ms. Parks stood for. Just because it's Sexual Orientation-based Hatred and Bigotry doesn't make it any less wrong. And nobody's God can justify it, either.

And of course, at the end of this conversation, the seed of doubt was clearly planted in his mind. His infallible faith in God quickly degraded to uncertainty. Now, he was seeing things from a human perspective, instead of an immortal soul perspective. And while I can't claim any sort of victory for "our side," I'm fairly certain he's going to be thinking long and hard about his situation.

This has probably created a problem for him. Oops.

Well, what's one life inconvenienced temporarily compared to the millions of lives that Prop. 8 inconvenienced on a greater scale?

It's not about revenge for me, even though that last sentence may indeed sound like I'm gloating. It's about the same basic idea that Rosa Parks and MLK stood for: righting a wrong. What was done in California to the LGBT community was wrong, and if winning back a soul from the Mormon ranks does anything, it'll guarantee one less voice in favor of hatred and bigotry like that. And the fewer voices there are for wrong, the closer we get to right.

Of Golden Plates and Lynchings

UPDATE 4:50PM: Because I've somehow developed the ability to see into the future (cue mystic shaman music), I can tell you that this entry will be cross-posted on Godless Fellowship soon! Oooo, cryptic and heretical! Welcome to readers who may yet visit from there! Also, there's more commentary on the whole thing in this New Post...

So today, while cruising Fark looking for goofy news (what else do you find on Fark?), I saw that Drew had sold ad space to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, AKA the Mormons. The link in question was to a chat where you could talk to a real live Mormon missionary. Of course, the Godless heathen in me (wait, the godless heathen IS me, not just IN me...) couldn't resist an oppertunity like this!

And so, knowing that clicking the link would bring revenue to my favorite news site, I proceeded without too much guilt (or disdain) and awaited the arrival of my own personal Mormon Missionary - An apparently Black gentleman named Christopher. What follows is the full transcript of the chat, edited only to make dialogue line up properly, and a few italics where I've inserted commentary after the fact. Otherwise, each and every word is the same:

Christopher: Hi! This is Chris from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How can I help you today?

Lost Boy: Explain to me the logic behind the Golden Tablets, please.

(Apparently, the Golden Tablets were given to Native Americans by Jesus not long after his ascension. Then these native Americans kept them around just long enough for Joseph Smith (an exciting name to be sure) to find and translate them (somehow), after which they disappeared forever. Convenient...)

Christopher: Well, what do you want to know about the Gold Plates?

Lost Boy: For starters, how you could possibly believe a fantastic fable like that. Usually, when someone says something to the effect of "I found this, but only I can see it," that person would be locked away.

Lost Boy: The way I see it, without the "God" excuse, it's all just mental illness...

(I welcome any chance to paraphrase Russel Brand...)

Christopher: Well, Joseph Smith was not the only one who saw them; there were at least 11 witnesses of the Plates.

Lost Boy: Ahhh, at least. So you're not sure of the number.

Lost Boy: So, when I sign up for the LDS church, do I get three wives straight off? Or do I have to work at that...

(Admittedly, this is harsh and uncool on my part. But hot damn, is it funny...)

Christopher: Well, there's a testimony of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses.

Lost Boy: But no pictures, right?

(As we say on Fark: PICS! Or it didn't happen!)

Christopher: And then there were a select few who also were allowed to see the plates.

Christopher: The Church does not practice polygamy.

(Yes, it does, but only the nutter fringe sects. Otherwise, you're just denying your church's history, much as you deny the history of the planet Earth...)

Lost Boy: Photography did exist in a rudementary form back then. You'd think that something that important would be photographed...

Christopher: There's not even photos of Joseph Smith...

Lost Boy: But you'd think things and people of such importance would be photographed and preserved for History...

Lost Boy: It's not like a church doesn't have the money to afford such high technology back then...

(Joseph Smith, Jr. - December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844. (on Wikipedia) -- Photography - Described as early as the 5th Century BCE, developed as usable in the 1820s, (on Wikipedia) extant to Smith's time and supposed discovery of the plates, so photographs were possible.)

Lost Boy: I mean, you do get donations week in and week out, and have never paid a dime in taxes, even though you should.

Lost Boy: You'd think you can afford to back up your nonsense with evidence...

Christopher: Well, the Church started from the ground up and didn't have a lot of resources and if they did, they wouldn't have photographed the plates anyway.

Lost Boy: OK, how about this.

Lost Boy: Is God above his own laws? Because he violated several, blatantly.

Christopher: The Book of Mormon is evidence enough of the Plates. If we had the plates in front of us you wouldn't know it's any more true than the Book of Mormon is.

(A typical response from any religion, that their holy book is evidence enough. Nothing new here, and I call him on it straight off.)

Lost Boy: The Book of Mormon is one book. Where are your other sources of Evidence?

Lost Boy: And in case you haven't noticed, even the Bible isn't keen on having the book of Mormon as part of it...

(I have yet to see a version of the mainstream Bible that includes the Book of Mormon, and although I'm sure copies exist as such, they're rare compared to, say, the KJV...)

Lost Boy: Do ya think that maybe, just maybe, it's all nuttery and lunacy?

Christopher: How has God violated His own laws?

Lost Boy: The supposed creation of Jesus violated two commandments.

Lost Boy: Thal shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, and thou shalt not commit adultry: Both violated.

(Mary was Joseph's "companion." In those times, the word "companion" was taken to mean, literally, spouse or betrothed. So yes, God coveted Joseph's wife, and got her preggers, which means some form of fucking was going on, AKA Adultry. And he's lucky I didn't get started on "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and the results of the supposed worldwide flood...)

Christopher: Well. There's one way you can find out for yourself, and that is to read the Book of Mormon.

(Actually, by this reasoning, I'm being told that there's only one factual source. Narrow-sighted much?)

Lost Boy: I've read the Book of Mormon, Christopher.

Lost Boy: As I've read the rest of the Bible.

(Both true claims: One of the first rules of any war is to Know Thy Enemy.)

Lost Boy: And you know what?

Lost Boy: I find it no different than a Mother Goose or Brothers Grimm tome.

Christopher: Alright. Did you pray about it with faith and with real intent?

Lost Boy: I've read your so-called "evidence," and find it to be absolute rubbish.

Lost Boy: You haven't figured it out yet?

(Time to drop the A-Bomb!)

Lost Boy: I'm an Atheist, Christopher. A godless heathen, as you like to put it.

Christopher: Or did you simply read it to contradict it as best you can?

Lost Boy: No, I read it simply to read it.

Lost Boy: The bible itself showed me that it's nothing but garbage.

Christopher: Because you can't receive your witness if you read it without the intent of finding Truth.

(If there were more than just vague moral truths in the Bible, maybe. But sadly for you...)

Lost Boy: It contradicts itself.

Lost Boy: And your precious book of Mormon just adds to the lunacy.

Lost Boy: Try this, Christopher: Ask your Vicar or Priest or Reverend or whatever you call him one question, and see if he can come up with a good answer.

Christopher: Alright then. So... why are you bothering to get on this chat?

Lost Boy: Ask him "WHY?"

Lost Boy: And do not accept "God's word" as an infallible answer.

(Well, he wanted to know why I was bothering, he just had to wait for me to make my "Ask Why" point first.)

Lost Boy: Because I'm doing the same thing you're trying to do: Evangelize. Only the thing I'm preaching is Logic and Reason, not fallacy and fairy tales.

Lost Boy: Free country, we can both do this, right?

Christopher: Eh, I'm not too keen on calling people heathen.

(Wow, that took a while to answer. I'm amazed he even remembered that I said it.)

Lost Boy: Well then, you're falling away from your faith. Because those of your faith LOVE to call us heathens, even though we're just as human as you are.\

(Oh yes, we're called heathens everyday. Just turn on the 700 Club.)

Christopher: Mhm. Again, you can't find the truthfulness in it unless you have faith that God will show it to you.

Christopher: Where?

Lost Boy: Oh yes, but you can find Truth without God. I have.

(What I can't seem to find is this "God" entity. Everyone says they know him personally, yet I have yet to see, meet, or talk to this entity.)

Lost Boy: Turn on the 700 club if you want to see people of your faith being idiots and calling us heathens.

Lost Boy: It's right there on your TV. You don't even have to read!

Lost Boy: Imagine that!

Lost Boy: Remember this truth, Christopher: "Where there is doubt, there is freedom."

(Truer words...)

Christopher: Well, the purpose of the chat here is for people to find out about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I invite you to learn about it.

Lost Boy: You're not the first to invite me to that, and you won't be the last. But the answer is always the same: Sorry, but I'll pass.

Christopher: Why? Why what? Why we have the Book of Mormon? Why we proclaim to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth in its entirety as revealed to Joseph Smith?

Lost Boy: Why would I want to become a hateful biggot?

(Joining a Christian faith would probably mean having to denounce homosexuality, and thus become a bigot. I'll pass, since I have plenty of LGBT friends, and you know what? They're pretty fucking cool people! I couldn't hate them!)

Lost Boy: Just "Why," Christopher. And don't stop asking it, even after they've exhausted of telling you "God, that's why."

Lost Boy: You might find more enlightenment than your silly Magic Sky Pixie could ever grant you.

(Christian arrogance in 3... 2... 1...)

Christopher: Pretty much. We claim the privilege of worshipping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all others to worship how, where, or what they may.

(Atheist Shinanigans Calling in 3... 2... 1...)

Lost Boy: Ahhh, the arrogance of religion. What if you're wrong, Christopher?

(Bill Maher FTW!)

Christopher: Perhaps for some things in this life but only through the Gospel can we find the fulness of the truth as to where we came from, why we are here, and where we're going.

Lost Boy: What if you're wrong, Christopher?

Lost Boy: Have you ever considered that?

Lost Boy: What if everything you've been taught as fact is just plain wrong?

Christopher: Well. I'd love to share the Gospel with you. If you're willing to listen.

Christopher: Are you?

(The problem here is, I HAVE listened. I was forced to listen from Birth to age 13, and you know what I heard? Just like any grown-up in a Charlie Brown Cartoon: WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAAAAAAAAH.)

Lost Boy: You see, that which I have been taught as fact has evidence and proof. All you have are a couple of story books.

Lost Boy: So, what if you're wrong?

Christopher: Haha, alright. well. I hope you have a nice day.

Lost Boy: Question, and they run.

Lost Boy: Way to keep that stereotype going, Christopher.

Lost Boy: Remember: WHY?

Christopher: I'm not sure. I'm fairly certain I'm not.

Lost Boy: See? God doesn't give you the 100% assurance!

Lost Boy: Where there is doubt, my boy, there is freedom.

Christopher: It's kind of hard to be a biggot when you're a minority race and everyone jokes about lynching you. :)

(Here's where I figured out he is Black. People make jokes about lynching this poor guy? Bad form! A God of love wouldn't allow that, would it? Christopher has problems: the first of which is being a Black man in what is arguably the Whitest state in the Union. He needs to get out and go where people accept him for who he is and can refrain from making stupid, racist jokes at his expense. Which pretty much rules out the Southern US...)

Lost Boy: Freedom of mind, of body, and yes, of spirit.

Lost Boy:That's just wrong, Christopher.

Lost Boy: Noone should make jokes about who or what you are.

Christopher: Good day.

Christopher: Good day.
Wow. The minute I got him to express doubt, and by extension his own admission of how they treat him as a minority, he cut the chat off.

Maybe I struck a nerve...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spelled G Double-E K

My car stereo display, the other night:

All kinds of WIN. Click here for musical inspiration.