Last night at the Chicago Hilton four folks whom you’ve probably never heard of had a Presidential debate. It could have been six but of course Mitt Romney and Barack Obama declined to participate. This left us with Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and the better known Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. The affair was moderated by the greatly respected/greatly mocked Larry King formerly of CNN. When Larry kicked off the proceedings with the first question, forgetting to let the candidates make their two-minute opening statements, you had to wonder if you were watching a Saturday Night Live sketch. If you put aside the poor production quality and the helter skelter debate rules enforcement, you were left with an empty feeling in your gut. Isn’t this exactly what our founders would have wanted? Wouldn’t they have wanted diversity of opinion and voters having a real choice? Would they have signed up for a duopoly in which each side is beholden to big money and neither side offers solutions more weighty than a feather?
The three “official” presidential debates never touched the war on drugs. They never said a peep about getting out of Afghanistan NOW. There were no radical proposals like free higher education, eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, or balancing the budget in 2013, not five or ten years from now. All these topics were discussed last night in Chicago. These candidates talked about change in terms far more specific than anything offered by Barack Obama in 2008, or certainly in 2012.
In the end I was filled with sadness as “The Impossible Dream” played in my head and I watched these four Don Quixote’s dare to believe they could be President.
Christians have their Easter and Christmas. Jews have their Passover and Hanukkah. So I wondered yesterday what holiday does an atheist celebrate? What would qualify as a good atheist holiday? It should be a day in which myths were exploded and science reaffirmed, don’t you think? Such was the case on October 22, 1844 a day to be known as The Great Disappointment. In 1844, Samuel Snow, a follower of William Miller in a sect called Millerism, predicted the second coming of Christ on October 22. When the day began and ended like any other day with not a trace of Christ to be found, many Millerites were disillusioned. I believe Atheists on the other hand should celebrate this day as the day when maybe a handful of people saw organized religion for the bunk that it is. Of course, many Millerites came up with excuses for why Christ did not reappear. Some simply constructed some new fantasy.
The survival of organized religion depends entirely on the non-specificity of its prophecy. Once prophecy becomes specific, the supernatural (to be charitable) beliefs are held to a factual standard and they invariably fail. Such was the case last year when radio minister Harold Camping predicted the end of the world to occur on May 21 (at 6pm no less). Even the most religious among us hedged their bets and scoffed at the man. Why, I don’t know. If you are open enough to believe that Christ rose from the dead and will one day return, then why doubt Mr. Camping? To the atheist it is all entirely preposterous. To the religious, it only becomes preposterous when it gets too specific — when it enters the realm of scientific test where it can be debunked. As long as it’s vague, it can’t be held to scientific scrutiny. The opiate of the masses only works so long as its ingredients aren’t subjected to real analysis.
So, I say atheists should claim The Great Disappointment as their annual holiday when reality triumphed over mythology.
God’s Will and the GOP
Indiana US Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has himself in hot water over the following quote:
I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.
Only God knows if Richard felt He intended the birth to happen or the rape to happen but honestly I don’t know why people have their undies in a knot over this. The standard religious retort to any tragedy is “it’s God’s will”. If you ask your pastor why your daughter or wife got raped, he’s likely to say something along the lines of “we cannot always understand the mind of God” or “God works in mysterious ways”. Now, Mourdock expresses a pretty commonly held belief by Christians and everybody is in an uproar. I think folks ought to get off Mourdock’s back and check themselves. Either you believe that all life is precious and that God’s benevolent hand is in all things or you don’t. Mourdock may be a fool but at least he is no hypocrite.
The Tragedy of Newsweek
Last week, Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek, Tina Brown announced that no more printed copies of Newsweek would go out after December 31 of this year. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” she put on a disgusting display of Mitt Romney style bottom-line thinking as she confessed that folks would lose their jobs but that printing the magazine was no longer cost-effective. Of course she neglected to say that Time magazine (their chief rival) will still be publishing good old-fashioned print versions. So basically the truth is that Time has finally kicked Newsweek’s ass and Tina didn’t have the honesty to admit it.
But Tina’s money-is-all-that-matters approach was not the real tragedy of the announcement. The real tragedy is the number of disenfranchised people who will never have access to the digital Newsweek. We are truly approaching an age where information is being rationed out to the better-to-do. The poor can go pound salt. The panel on “Morning Joe” thought themselves profound as they observed everyone at the airports they frequent using i-Pads or other tablets. Hey, you arrogant out of touch butt holes, the poor don’t go to airports. The poor go to the corner store and buy a friggin’ magazine or newspaper. These same folks, mostly liberal, who belly ache about wealth being concentrated at the top 1% don’t give a second’s thought to information access being concentrated at the top also.
In short, the end of the print magazine Newsweek, is just one more step in keeping the poor down-trodden and ignorant. Tina Brown should be ashamed of herself.