Funny What A Change In Diet Can Do

Among the advantages of being married to a registered nurse includes having doctor’s appointments made for you. I was informed in January that I was to go to the doctor. I didn’t know why, but I’ve been married long enough to just do as I was told. Hint – if you don’t understand this last statement, recommend watching the following video:

I dutifully showed up at my doctors appointment at the scheduled time and the lady at the reception desk asked why I was being seen. I looked at her and gave her the best answer I had: “Because my wife told me I have an appointment.” She seemed to understand that, looked at her computer, then informed me: “Mr. Asbury, you’re having a physical today.” I thought, well, I am 47. I’m probably due for a physical and proceeded to the poke and prod room….

My doc ordered up a blood test, and the results were pretty scary. My overall cholesterol was sitting at 300, and my LDL’s, the bad cholesterol, was at 190! I was a stroke waiting to happen!

Coincidentally, at about this same time, Ellen was launching her new business, Living Healthy Md. I volunteered to be one of her initial guinea pigs for her weekly course on how to live a healthier life and make better eating choices – something I, embarrassingly, needed to do.

In January, along with the ridiculously high cholesterol, I tipped the scale at 216 pounds – equaling a weight I had attained some 11 years prior. In 2003, I dropped roughly 50 pounds essentially by not eating, substituting my caloric intake with beer instead of food. It was a man’s diet! I should’ve have written a book, but it would have been a very thin book! Don’t eat, drink beer, lose weight. The End!

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Crossing the finish line at the Army 10 Miler

In the years that followed, I began running – a lot! I ran 5K’s, 10K’s, 10 Milers, working my way up to half marathons, and finally culminating in running the Rock and Roll Marathon in Phoenix in January 2008 (4:17 in case you were wondering…). During those years – life was awesome! I never once thought about what I ate or drank – everything I put in my body was fuel to be burned! Wasn’t always the best fuel, but fuel was fuel!

Following the marathon, I lost some of the passion that had inspired me to travel 26.2 miles. My legs never seemed to come back – my times consistently became slower, my distances shorter – I chalked it up to getting older.   At the same time, I began working a job that had me starting my day at the office at 3am. Strange, out of synch hours, coupled with not “feeling good” about working out led to easy excuses to begin skipping out on the gym. To top it off, we were sending kids off to college – a couple of whom played college sports which required us to attend their college events – which meant many hours in the car on weekends going to and fro – there was no time for working out!

But that didn’t change my eating patterns! If anything, it made it even worse – especially road food!

Slowly, but surely, the weight came back. Just as before, I no longer enjoyed getting on the scale to see just how bad it was becoming (unlike when I was losing weight when I was on it daily – sometimes several times!).

I hadn’t made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, or to get healthier – it just happened to be that it began in January with Ellen’s class. After a self-assessment of food intake – it became very apparent that I was not eating nearly enough fruits or vegetables. Now, I like veggies, and even some fruits – but I needed to “learn” to incorporate them in to my daily diet. On top of that, I needed to cut out certain bad habits that I had picked up along the way. Most especially: grabbing snacks out of vending machines (regardless of my attempts to justify the “healthiness” of the choices I was making) and cubicle grazing (taking advantage of gracious co-workers that love to taunt and tempt with public candy dishes at their desks!).

Ellen’s program also stressed exercise in addition to a healthier diet. This still took me several weeks to incorporate in to my daily routine. By mid-February though, a month after being prescribed a statin to lower my cholesterol, I knew I needed to make a commitment to get back in the gym.

What I’ve found, where I could previously pull any number of excuses out of my hat for not going, is treating the hour spent in the gym is essentially the same as attending a meeting you can’t get out of – only this meeting is for me and me alone. Once incorporated in to the daily routine – it’s calendered!

Between the change in diet and time exercising, I’ve begun running a calorie deficit of roughly 4,000-5,000 calories a week (or in other words, 1 – 1 ½ pounds a week). And I’ve been doing this while eating constantly. The biggest change is what I’m eating. This morning (a typical morning) featured a banana, grapes, tangerines, and an apple.

Ellen’s program stresses the health benefits associated with living a healthy lifestyle. Since starting it, I’ve dropped 19 pounds – which is great! But more importantly (or every bit as importantly!) I’ve decreased my cholesterol from 300 to 190 in the space of two months! The LDL drop from 202 to 106! My doc said he’d never seen anything like it before.

Where I was a stroke waiting to happen, my risk for heart disease and a stroke decreased like a rock!

Of course, this doesn’t get me completely out of the woods. I still have approximately 17 pounds I need to lose to get back to my desired weight and I need to maintain the good habits I’ve lived by over the last three months. And, just as important, I need to keep my appointment with the gym on a regular basis without excuse.

If you are having some weight or health issues of your own and you’re looking to make a change – recommend contacting Ellen. Even if you don’t do her program, she can point you to resources that can help – especially if you’re outside of Maryland.

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The Palatability of Agnosticism

There is a noticeable difference in the reaction of the average religious person to the response to the question of belief between “I’m an agnostic” versus “I’m an atheist.”

The former conveys that the declarant remains on the fence and is “swayable” to a belief system, while the latter conveys I’ve evaluated your belief system and consciously rejected it.

Atheism connotes, for right or wrong, a certain amount of surety that is often perceived as almost arrogant.  That perception — even among some atheists – that they are better educated and if only the religious were better informed, they too would be able to see the truth.

Agnosticism lacks that level of surety, and therefore, the arrogance factor – which may play a large factor in making it more palatable for believers.

When you get down to brass tacks though, the difference between atheists and agnostics is simply a sleight of hand.  Both are essentially cuts from the same clothe – which is why atheists and agnostics are often lumped together when polling and research studies of religious views are conducted.

Both groups have a shared absence of belief in a deity.  After this, it becomes a naval gazing exercise.  Agnostics claim there is no way of knowing whether a god or gods exist while atheists claim with a level of certainty that there is in fact, no god.

But these bumper stickers tend to obfuscate the larger commonality between them.  “There is no way to know” is a sleight of hand – it requires a level of understanding of current religious doctrines and a rejection of these dogmas.

Atheists contend that after evaluating the religious landscape that there is a certainty that none of these gods exist. It’s a subtle, but important, hair to be split and it can be the source of tension that sometimes exists between atheists and agnostics.

In my humble opinion, as mentioned earlier, there is little daylight between an atheist and an agnostic.  Neither believes in god(s), nor does either worship, pray to, or observe theistic customs associated with a required dogma.  However, we’ve created our own artificial labels to further define ourselves.  My thesis is that most agnostics are in fact atheists and that most atheists are actually agnostics — myself included.

So why is thmy new tatat I wear (literally) the atheist label en lieu of the safer, more palatable term, agnostic?

My best response is that I have a certainty that all religions are a man-made construct we’ve created over the millennia to best explain the world around us and our place within it.

That said, I’m the first to admit that I do not know if an actual “god” does or does not exist.  I adhere to the prevailing scientific explanation of our origins – from the Big Bang start to the universe 13.8 billion or so years ago to the shared evolution of life on our planet.  So, did god initiate the Big Bang and put all this in motion?  I don’t know — big maybe!  I’m open to the that idea, but I know that the whatever caused the Big Bang is NOT the god of the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Baghavad Gita – each of which is simply a human attempt to understand the origins and meaning of life and incapable of keeping up with the advancing knowledge we’ve collectively acquired over the last 500 or so years.

dawkins-scale

On the Dawkins’ Scale, I would come out a 6. “I cannot know for certain, but I think God is very improbable.” At least the “God” we’ve come to know and think we understand.

Very few atheists, if pressed, could sit there and say there is no god – period.  What they will say is based on what they’ve seen and experienced, none of the gods of current world religions exist.

For me though, the label “agnostic” is something of a cop out.  While accurate by definition, the label conveys the idea of an active search for spiritual belief that has yet to be found.  Atheist on the other hand, conveys I’ve looked, and I’m not buying.

I think many agnostics have come to that same conclusion, but are uncomfortable with the idea of swapping their label.  Though I think if society afforded atheists with the same treatment when asked, agnostics more might be willing to take that next step.

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Random Musing

I never intended for my blog to be solely devoted to “articles.”  In fact, the main reason I started it was to give a little more space for articulating ideas en lieu of a Facebook status.

So the idea crossed my mind the other day that atheists could actually make good pastors for Christian flocks.  I know, you’re re-reading that sentence over again right now and scratching your head really hard trying to get your mind around that statement.

 

But think about it for just a minute – atheists tend to know the Bible better than most Christians.  In numerous debates between atheists and Christians, atheists constantly quote biblical passages, including the words of Jesus, to counter apologetic argument.  I know a couple former pastors turned apostate – they have the requisite backgrounds and understanding of the Bible to continue teaching Christianity.  In fact, there are a number of closeted atheist pastors right now tending to flocks.  Don’t let faith get in the way of your primary means of livelihood!

 

Gandhi once said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Maybe these Christians Gandhi refers to could stand to learn a little about being “Christian” from a nonbeliever.

 

So, as weird as it sounds, I’m just throwing this out there predominantly to get a conversation going – from all viewpoints.  What do you think?

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An Open Letter to Jan Brewer

Dear Governor Janet Brewer,

I understand that you’ve yet to make your decision as to whether or not you will sign S.B. 1062 in to law by this Friday.

I am neither a resident of Arizona, nor am I gay – so you might question my standing in writing to you on behalf of lobbying for a veto of this legislation.

I love your state and have visited several times over the years; however, if this legislation were to become law, I am bound to boycott the lovely state of Arizona out of principle.

If the bill is passed, Arizona will become synonymous with Russia and Uganda – states that officially discriminate against their citizens based solely on their sexual orientation and sexual preference.  This is not only unacceptable, it is un-American.

I’ve no doubt that, if it were to become law, this legislation could stand up to court scrutiny.  In fact, I’d be shocked if a court injunction was not levied before it could even be challenged. This affords you a unique opportunity.

Your conservative bonafides are well established.  You’ve stood up to the President of the United States and shown you are a strong governor intent on doing what is best for the people of your state in the absence of federal assistance on immigration.  You now have the opportunity to continue to show your strength and resolve in doing what is right for all Arizonans and not just a select few.

That select few is not your homosexual citizens asking for nothing more than to reap the benefits that all citizens in your state – and our country enjoy – it is the minority of Christian lobbyists that do not represent the faith or values of the majority of your Christian constituents.  While the issue of marriage equality may continue to split along the lines of the faithful – the relegation of minority status and the inherent mistreatment that is associated with it is not only un-Christian, it is beyond the scope of American values.

At this point, you alone have the ability to save Arizona from your legislature.  I sincerely hope you make a thoughtful and well articulated position that rebukes this bill sending a clear message to the extreme right fundamentalists that legislation along these lines will not be tolerated in the future.

Most sincerely,

Sean Asbury

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The Big Gay Al Plot to Ruin America

I’m not a conspiracy theory guy.  I’m pretty sure Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy.  I’m pretty sure Barrak Hussein Obama is not a secret Muslim sent to America to win the presidency and destroy the moral fabric of the nation.  I’m pretty sure George Bush didn’t blow up the Pentagon and World Trade Center to justify military incursions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While I realize that millions of people actually believe in these types of conspiracies – especially those involving the government as behind something nefarious, I’m not quick to latch on.

That said, given the recent spate of religious-driven Republican-led activities to limit the rights of homosexuals in America, it wouldn’t take much to convince me that some nameless gay/lesbian mastermind is using witless politicians like mariachi puppets to further their acceptance as full fledged citizens of the country.  The only person that comes to mind is this guy:

big-gay-alNote the Doctor Evil-like thing he’s doing with his finger.  His wearing of the Boy Scout uniform to corrupt America’s youth – only Big Gay Al* has the wherewithal to infiltrate the back rooms of right minded American politics and plant such an insidious seed, inspiring state legislatures in Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee (pick your southern state) to consider passing laws that directly violate the very constitution these hapless politicians swore themselves to preserve.

Again, if I were the type to latch on to a conspiracy theory, the case could be made that by doing so, by using these simple-minded GOPers, manipulating their homophobia (or in many cases their self-loathing of their own latent homosexuality) to pass laws that only the staunchest adherents of Jim Crow would approve of, is to invite a court intervention faster than you can say: “Is that mauve????”

Add Ted Cruz and Mike Lee to the list of the vacuous. Their co-sponsored legislative effort in the senate to show they hate people too will never go anywhere, but they have to prove they are not soft on gays – in fact, they’re very hard on gays.  Just like Larry Craig!

Only Big Gay Al seems to understand how the constitution works — as opposed to half-witted Republicans who do not seem to understand the role and place of the court to ensure legislation adheres to the constitution.  But then again, there is still a small band of Republicans that see Brown v. Board of Education and  Loving v. Virginia as an interventionist judiciary at its worst.

No, it wouldn’t take much for me to see that Big Gay Al is behind every headline I read of another attempt by Republican lawmakers to show how we should all hate the gay away.  If Big Gay Al isn’t behind it, that would mean that these Republican legislators are really that stupid, full of “Christian” hatred for their fellow men and women.  I’m not ready to see them in that light – especially since the only thing that Republicans say that matters is the economy and jobs.  Hating gay people doesn’t seem to either spur the economy or create jobs – at least the kind that pay anything.

*I cannot find a Trademark for Big Gay Al; however, the creators of South Park are probably not involved in his conspiracy to dupe Republicans in to furthering the gay agenda.

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Creationism as Science

Is Creationism a Threat to the Country, Part II

So if we’ve collectively decided to abandon rationality and teach mythology as science in the public school system, why is the default based on the biblical Judeo-Christian origin myth?  After all, there are hundreds of other mythologies to choose from – and several that are just as compelling!

Why is it we wouldn’t even consider teaching the Cherokee origin myth in the science classroom?

What about Pangu? After all, a billion Chinese can’t be wrong?  Surely the Chinese origin story would make for compelling scientific observation!

Pangu gradually weakened after he separated the heaven and the earth. After he died, his body turned into all the things in the universe. His left eye became the sun and his right eye, the moon. The protruded parts in his body turn out to be high mountains and his blood became rivers. His muscle became the soil field, and his hair and beard became the stars on the sky and grasses on the ground. His teeth and bones turned out to be iron and huge stone while the essence in his body became pearls and precious jade. His breath became the wind and cloud, his shout became the thunderbolt, and the sweat turned out to be the rain. A lot of insects on his body were blown by wind into living human beings.

The fact is, there are countless origin myths throughout the world.  And why would we wish to discount earlier mythologies such as the Aztec, Inca, or Mayan myths just because these ancient civilizations no longer exist?

It was out of this concern, when the debate was centered around “intelligent design,” where the master strategy of the proponents of ID was: “To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God,” that a new theory of creation was proffered.

In 2005, in reaction to the Kansas Board of Education’s consideration of teaching ID as science in public schools, an Oregon State University physics graduate – Bobby Henderson – offered an alternative creation theory: The Flying Spaghetti Monster as the creator of heaven and earth.  In his letter to the Kansas BOE, Henderson simply requested “equal time” be spent to explore alternative creation theories:

In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (Pastafarianism), and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.”

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In the end, this entire “debate” is a sham – but an important sham with potentially dire consequences – designed by fundamentalists to ensure their brand of religious views will dominate the public sphere.

This isn’t even an atheist debate.  Millions of Christians in this country believe that our species evolved, that the earth is not 6,000 years old, that the Big Bang theory is a plausible explanation to the origin of the universe — after all, what caused the Big Bang if not God?

This is however, a constitutional issue – this is about the government and public-funded institutions providing preference to a single world-view at the expense of the minority view.  It discounts and disrespects all minority religious beliefs (or non-beliefs).

This is not to imply that people do not have the right to believe in their religious-based creation mythologies. Sunday schools, churches, bible studies abound – these are the appropriate spheres for exploring these theological questions – not in the public school science laboratories — and that includes the study of FSM DNA, blessed be his noodly appendage.  R’amen

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Is Creationism a Threat to the Country?

In case you missed it, the debate on our species origins continues gaining momentum.  On February 4, Bill Bye – yes, Bill Nye the Science Guy – held a debate with Ken Ham.  Ham may not have the same popular cachet as Dr. Nye, but Ham is a leader in the young earth creation movement and the founder of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. 

Dr. Nye, prior to the debate with Mr. Ham, had been outspoken with his criticisms that creation theory should not be taught en lieu of, or alongside, evolution theory in public school science classrooms.  Central to his criticism is the notion that by doing is dumbing down the next generation of scholars needed to move this country forward in science, discovery, and engineering.

Mr. Ham, a self-described Biblical Literalist, holds that the earth was created 6,000 years ago.  That dinosaurs and humans coexisted peacefully with one another until Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden putting in to motion the rest of biblical history.

The push to include creationist theory in public school curricula has been evolving for decades.  The new wrinkle is this near abandonment of the idea of “intelligent design” and to “teach the controversy,” in favor of the original goal:  Biblical creationism.

“Contrary to popular opinion and to media coverage that incorrectly asserts that ID is not based on the Bible, ID is every bit as biblically based as the creationism that preceded it. The movement’s leaders have defined ID in overtly religious terms, identifying the intelligent designer as the God of the Bible and referring to themselves as creationists. However, in order to avoid divisive arguments with YECs (for example, concerning the age of the earth), whom they need as political allies, ID proponents do not use Genesis as the basis for ID. They appeal instead to the New Testament Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. / The same was in the beginning with God. / All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”

UNDERSTANDING THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN CREATIONIST MOVEMENT: ITS TRUE NATURE AND GOALS, BARBARA FORREST, Ph.D.

This movement to  insert creationist theory in to science classrooms across America continues to gain traction. A recent study by Slate.com examines where public funding is being used to teach creationism across America; though Louisiana and Tennessee certainly stand out on the map.

slate - religion in schoolsIn a recent interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Moyers posed the following:

BILL MOYERS: All right. According to the Pew Research Center, back in 2009, a comfortable majority of Republicans accepted human evolution as a fact. But now, a plurality rejects it. So I ask you, politics can trump science, can’t it?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, in a free, elected democracy, of course. You vote who you want on your school board. There is no provision in the constitution for the government to establish what’s taught in schools. That’s all relegated to the states. Hence, we speak state to state about what’s in their science textbook versus another.

And so that’s the country we’ve all sort of bought into, if you will, or born into. I think it’s a self-correcting phenomenon. Nobody wants to die, okay? So we all care about health. But above all else, among the Republicans I know, especially Republicans, nobody wants to die poor, okay?

So educated Republicans know the value of innovations in science and technology for the thriving of an economy and business and industry. They know this. If you put something that is not science in a science classroom, pass it off as science, then you are undermining an entire enterprise that was responsible for creating the wealth that we have come to take for granted in this country. So we’re already fading economically. If this, if that trend continues, some Republican is going to wake up and say, “Look guys, we got to split these two. We have to. Otherwise, we will doom ourselves to poverty.” And so I see it as a self-correcting, I don’t know when it’ll happen, but they know.

This entire push to abandon science for biblical teaching resides largely within the fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party.

Take for example the words of Mary Helen Sears, a Michigan Republican and candidate for the National Republican Committee:

“How then can we as Christians stay in a party that adopts Homosexuality into the fabric of the tent. I say we cannot. Homosexuals make up less than one percent of the total population. They must prey on our children to increase their numbers. Why then, would we, as a party, entertain this perversion? We as a party should be purging this perversion and send them to a party with a much bigger tent.”

While NDT has faith that reason will prevail within the Republican Party and rationalism with weed out fundamentalism, I don’t share his optimism.  When a ranking Republican member of the House Science Committee addressing Liberty University students states:

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

I’m reminded, as a student of history, that once upon a time – roughly 1,000 years ago – the Middle East led the world in science, mathematics, literature, and philosophy.  What happened?  Fundamentalist Islam purged the land of thought that diverged from the Qur’an.

America has already slipped, dramatically in many cases, from the rest of the world in science and math.  With a political party that holds science in such disregard as an enemy of its faith, it won’t require much to doom America to the same fate as has befallen Middle Eastern states.

To Be Continued:  If we’re going to teach creationism, should all creationist theory be equal?  Next up, let’s explore other creationist theories and see if they too can be taught in the science classroom…

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Never Trifle With The Football Gods

Yesterday was euphoric.

For the first time in 15 years the Denver Broncos are returning to the Super Bowl after defeating an undermanned, but over achieving, New England Patriots team.

Growing up in Colorado from 1978 to 1987, I think Bronco fans of my generation became a bit spoiled by seeing our team in the big game.  I moved to Denver the year after Craig Morton, ol’ Leadfoot, led the Orange Crush to Super Bowl VII only to fall to the hated Dallas Cowboys.

Then came the Elway years.  Three appearances in four seasons between 1987 and 1990 all culminating in worse defeats than the previous year.  Following the Super Bowl XXIV loss to the 49ers – which remains the largest point spread in an NFL title game – I swore I would never watch another Super Bowl with Denver in it until we won.  Little did I know at the time that it would be eight years before Denver would make it back to the biggest game. With that many years in between – whatever oath I made was negated.

Of course, when we did make it back, we were going against the defending champions and heavily favored Green Bay Packers.  We were double digit underdogs!  This game stood to make SB XXIV look like a tight game.  Yet somehow, someway, the Orange and Blue managed to win what to me remains the greatest football game ever played :)

The following year we were able to accomplish what the Favre-led Packers could not – going back-to-back by knocking off the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Then Elway retired.

Quick trivia question for my Bronco friends – how many quarterbacks can you name off the top of your head in the years between Elway and Manning?  I got seven, but we’ve actually had 10 quarterbacks start games for Denver in the 13 seasons between Elway and Manning.

In those 13 seasons we had 5 teams make playoff runs without much success – we were a combined 2-5 in the playoffs during that time including back to back first round losses to Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in 2003 and 2004.

From a team that went to the Super Bowl six times between 1978 and 1999, 15 years is a bit of a drought.

What is a fan to do? We do whatever we can! As Budweiser Light commercials have brilliantly captured, fan behavior is only weird if it doesn’t work.


It doesn’t hurt that the video above just happens to feature a Bronco fan!  :)

We all have our little quirks and rituals.  I was decked out in Bronco regalia for the game.

Sean BroncoManning jersey, Bronco tee shirt underneath, Bronco hat, and yes, Bronco tattoo.  The tattoo was added after we lost in the playoffs last year to the Baltimore Ravens.  Did this help us get to the Super Bowl again?  I’ll go out on a limb and say it had nothing to do with it – but any sports fan will tell you that there are football gods and only a fool trifles with them.  Why run the risk? The stakes are just too high!

My daughter used the Scotsman fallacy on me last night – “No true atheist would believe in football gods.”  Maybe they don’t exist, but I’m a fan – what can I say?  A fan does what a fan can to support their team.  Through the good years when Super Bowl runs are common place, or through the long dry spells when a championship run isn’t a consideration.

Go Broncos! :)

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A Year Without God

I’m probably late to the party in weighing in on Ryan Bell’s Year Without God project.  Mr. Bell, a former pastor and Seventh-Day Adventist, has decided to live the life of an atheist for a year, cognitively separating himself from god, while blogging about his discoveries.

In his post of 4 January, The Cost of Atheism, he writes:

“It began on the evening of January 1—the very first day of my year without god. First text messages, then email saying, “We need to talk.” By noon on Friday I had been let go from all the jobs that I had. Since leaving my position with the Seventh-day Adventist Church—and even before—I was an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University (APU) teaching Intercultural Communication to undergrads, and Fuller Theological Seminary, coaching doctoral candidates in the writing of their dissertation proposals. Both are Christian institutions of higher learning that have a requirement that their instructors and staff be committed followers of Jesus and, obviously, believers in God. They simply feel they cannot have me as a part of the faculty while I’m am in this year long process. Both APU and Fuller welcomed a conversation with me at the end of the year to see about my future work with their institutions. The Deans of both schools encouraged me and said they felt my project was bold and even important and necessary.”

Reading Mr. Bell’s blog, it appears that he began having his “crisis of faith” before striking out on this endeavor.  As an apostate, I can attest that letting go of a belief system is not an overnight decision.  It’s one that I struggled with for several years before that moment when I could say out loud – “I don’t believe in god.”  The next hard step is deciding how to deal with this new found realization.

Sharing the fact that you no longer believe can be a painful experience.  Will your spouse still love you?  Will your family disown you?  Will your friends reject you or will they pray for you?  I’ve atheist friends that remain in the closet out of fear of emotional reprisal from their family and loved ones.

Yet Mr. Bell is laying it out there, but in many respects this “experiment” rings a little hollow to me.  With no disrespect intended — I find it encouraging that he would take the time to walk in another’s uncomfortable-at-times shoes — however, it feels like it is just a bit contrived.

Mr. Bell has stated his intent to write a book following his year long vacation away from god.  I just get the sense that this could just as easily be a “My Year As a Woman” — the story of a man who dressed up as Tootsie for a year then went on to write about his findings. At the end of the year, he was still a man.  My hope is that, regardless of his intentions or whatever his “findings” may be at the end of the year, at the very least he will have a little more empathy for what atheists go through in living a life out of the closet.

He is currently getting a little taste of that right now, but reading the commentaries to his blog posts, I see his Christian fiends as, while supportive, encouraged that he will return to the flock when the year is up.  Atheists on the other hand, appreciate his effort and have established a fundraiser to ensure he will be able to survive the year in the event he is unable to find employment outside the ministry. For the most part, atheists responding to his articles, don’t seem to care much one way or the other if Mr. Bell comes over to the dark side or returns to Christianity – they simply see it as a positive thing that a Christian would make the effort.  Although most hope he is honest in his approach for seeking the truth wherever it ends up leading him.

I can’t help but feel that Mr. Bell might be sneaking a prayer or two on the side – you know, like someone on a strict diet might sneak a cookie when no one’s looking :).  That said, I look forward to following his experience and will enjoy reading his insights as his days without god progress.  My year without god is now over a decade – maybe I should write a book?

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Happy New Year

One of my several New Year’s resolutions is to blog a little more often. In fairness, this is one of the easier resolutions I have to make good on, especially since “more often,” after my near lack of activity last year, is a very low bar.

The Dalai Lama suggested the following:

“Today, as we wish each other a Happy New Year, let us determine to be more sincere, compassionate, warm-hearted human beings, trying to make our world a more equal place. That way we’ll actually make it a happy year.”

I think this is as good a place as any to start. I’m going to try to approach 2014 with this in mind.

Yesterday, I can across a Facebook post from a local politician in our county.  It read:

bonginoWithout a doubt, the person that tweeted this message is out there.  Insensitive.  Mr. Bongino, our local politician, is a Republican – so we can assume that “JackMack” is a liberal and that their policy debate on health or auto insurance has devolved quickly.

I was similarly struck by the comments people wrote to Mr. Bongino’s post. 

- “As the saying goes, “Never argue with an idiot, they only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience”, Since most on the left are idiots this fits perfectly.”

- “The hatred from the liberal left is beyond the pale. We stand with you because you are a man of integrity as opposed to the tweeter.”

- “Dan this is Typical Liberal and remember they are full of Hate and Anger. This is how they were raised.”

- “Coming from a guy who wants everything for free. I hate scumbag liberals”

- “What an” Oxygen Theif” , these folks aren’t even human.”

It was this last sentence that struck me.  Dehumanization of your opposition is a necessary step as we line people up for killing.  Murder is defined as taking the life of another human being – but when that other being is not human, is it still murder? 

I’ve noticed our political discourse in general, liberal v. conservative, is generally toxic.  Tune in to MSNBC or Fox for any period of time and you’ll see the built in biases and ad hominem attacks from both sides.  I’m sure that I too cannot escape the fact that I’ve dabbled in or contributed in no small way to the toxicity.

So, in keeping with Dalai Lama’s advice, an additional resolution I’m taking is to not say things that contribute to toxic discourse or in anyway question the humanity of someone I happen to disagree with.  We don’t have to agree with divergent policy views, nor should “winning” an ideological debate require crushing the opposing sides argument in addition to their humanity. 

If you’re still in the market for a New Year’s resolution, maybe you’ll join me on this and we can try to restore a little civility in our approach to people that see things different than we do.

Here’s to 2014!  Let’s make it better than the last several years.

 

 

 

 

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