Torchwood Norway: Vi Forsvarer Jorda!


Apparently Torchwood’s Norwegian branch has been busy in the last couple days, defending us from the latest Slitheen incursion (damn you, Raxicoricofalipatorius!), as can be seen in this video:

Ok, so what is it really? It’s actually a failed Russian missile test.

There were some really ignorant people out there going on about this being something called Project Blue Beam or some alien invasion or what have you, but I’m pleased to see that the MSM actually stepped up and slapped this one down. Good job, guys!

(for a more detailed takedown, check out Badastronomy.com’s explanation)

A Blessing on Your Head


Slate.com has a little section, “Dear Prudence”, where they talk about things like etiquette and the like. Most of the advice in this area is of the “Dear Abby” variety.

I was reading over it earlier today and came across an interesting question.

Atlanta: It is cold and flu season, and the sniffling and sneezing is rampant in our small office. Being in the Bible Belt, each time I sneeze, my co-workers will say, “Bless you.” I know that this is somewhat customary, and a polite thing to say, but I am not comfortable saying it myself. I am not Christian, nor am I a regular church attendee, and using the word bless just doesn’t feel right.

I know that religious speech makes some uncomfortable, and I also have genuine ethical and moral objections about using religious expressions so superficially, but I feel like it is expected from my boss, who after not hearing a “bless you” after her sneezes will respond with an exaggerated, “BLESS ME!” I don’t want to be rude by forgoing the blessings, but I also hate going against my principles just to make others happy.

I feel like it would be a terrible professional move to make my religious beliefs known, and I’ve tried saying “Gesundheit,” but it feels just as phony as “bless you” because I’m not German. What should I do when others achoo?

Believe it or not, this is something I’ve often dealt with. I’m an atheist, and I’m prone to massive sneezing attacks (like four or five sneezes in a row, several times a day. I understand there’s sneeze-fetish people out there. I’m sure they’d love me. I can even self-induce!). Sometimes I sneeze so hard and so often that my arms and lower back begin to feel pain, due to the intense, rapid constriction of the muscles.

In the beginning when I started working at my current job, people would often say “Bless you!” when I sneezed. I eventually began pulling them aside and politely explaining that I’d prefer they just ignore it, since it’s something I don’t like doing and can’t control. I’d rather the attention not be drawn to it. I also politely hinted, at least to those co-workers that I got along well with, that I was an atheist, and the “Bless” part of it wasn’t entirely welcome.

I also never understood why we say “Bless you!” to begin with. It’s always struck me as slightly stupid. The Straight Dope explained it, but I still don’t really get why we keep doing it, other than Tradition! Tradition! (arguably that’s the second Fiddler on the Roof reference I’ve made here, which is impressive, since I didn’t care for it, though I do always remember lyrics that went, “If I were a Flintstone, yabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-dabba-doo!”)

Here’s what Emily Yoffe had to say on the issue.

Emily Yoffe: This is not about religion; it’s about etiquette. Saying “Bless you” is simply a customary remark after a sneeze; it is not the equivalent of taking a communion wafer. Forget thinking you are being forced into religious speech or violating your ethical code by the silly, but expected, act of acknowledging someone else’s sneeze.

Ok, but there’s a few problems here. First, the word “bless” is inescapably religious in nature. There’s no way around it. That’s as silly as saying that having “In God we trust” on our currency is acceptable because it’s not about religion (yes, this is the argument used).

Second, she’s right: it’s customary. But it’s a stupid custom. She even admits that it’s “silly” to acknowledge someone’s sneeze. I entirely agree. It’s silly, it’s stupid, it’s pointless and in the case of “bless you!” has religious overtones.

So let’s just all stop doing it. It serves no purpose and in the case of people like me, who have chronic sneezing issues, it’s really annoying. So let’s just knock it off.

Speaking Out Against Ugandan Evil


So props to Rick Warren, who is speaking out against the incredibly evil anti-gay legislation being proposed in that flower of African civilization, Uganda.

Warren, writer of such tripe as The Purpose Driven Life, a made-of-glurge, pro-God, self-help book that from all accounts gives the advice of “accept that you are God’s slave and all will be well”, had apparently inspired the legislation in Uganda. To his credit, he seemed somewhat aghast and moved quickly away from it, calling it, among other things, “un-Christian”.

Andrew Sullivan agrees with this and says:

It is absolutely and unequivocally unchristian to demonize a whole group of people and to threaten them with execution simply because of their sexual orientation and their need for love and sex and intimacy and companionship like every other human being. And for Warren to deploy Christian arguments in defense of the dignity of homosexual persons is a big step forward in this debate. I am grateful to him for staying true to the Gospels.

While I appreciate the sentiment and the constant efforts at being an apologist, Sullivan is completely off the mark here. Yes, under most mainstream modern Christian philosophy, homosexuality is not an evil that must be destroyed. But most modern Christian sects, including all the ones I can think of, continue to include Paul’s various works in their cannon.Paul had some very unkind things to say about homosexuals, and of course we can’t forget the loving joy that the Bible gives to the gays in Leviticus.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. – Leviticus 18:22

I already had my say on that stupid little quote.

So Sullivan is correct: modern Christians don’t usually have any problems with homosexuality and those that do don’t usually want the gays murdered by the state (there are exceptions). But Christianity is quite anti-gay in its origins and certainly up until, oh, about 200 years ago, most mainstream Christians would have agreed with the idea of rounding up and imprisoning gays, if not just going ahead and killing them.

The Constitution? What’s That?


Oh, those wacky conservatives! You know what they’re up to now? Oh, you’ll love this one.

A man named Cecil Bothwell was elected to a city council seat in Asheville, North Carolina. He’s an open atheist, and good on the people of his city for electing him! However it turns out, and you’ll love this, that atheists aren’t allowed to serve in public office in North Carolina! It’s true!

Now many states have these stupid, clearly un-Constitutional laws on their books. Frankly I’m astonished the Supreme Court hasn’t struck them down yet, since they’re a clear violation of the First Amendment. Most states aren’t insane enough to enforce these laws, but one conservative ass-wipe in NC is trying to get them to enforce it in this case.

*sigh* You know what’s going to happen now, right? A couple million dollars will be spent by the local government trying to enforce this law and fighting it all the way through the court system until the Supremes strike it down. Is there no better way Asheville’s government could spend their money than this?

Oh, well. At the end of the day, there’s no doubt that Cecil Bothwell will be able to take his seat and serve his term. The only question is how long the idiots will work to stop him.

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