November 12

On the Final Word

Cynthia Lee, my first wife and mother of my eldest child, Addison, has slipped into a coma due to her battle with cancer. She may or may not make it through the night.

I have had deaths close to me before, but none this close. I was able to say my final goodbye, and to apologize, and to tell her I love her.

It is one of the many reasons I have not been blogging lately. I’ll be back at some point, but I need to go Internet silent for a while to collect my thoughts.

I tried to find a good picture of her, but when I saw this, I felt it showed her as the wonderful mother she was. This is Addison and Cynthia in 2002.

October 1

The month of Back to the Future

In honor of the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future, Amazon Prime is offering the trilogy for free in HD. To honor one of my favorite movie trilogies of all time,  I will watch one movie a day, cycling, every day this month. I will live tweet it, and then review the movie here at the end. I want to see if, like a song, the movies get old upon repetition, or if they stay fresh. I have seen them a half dozen times or more already, so it won’t be new to me. But, this will be a new experience. I have BTTFI cued up right now. So, if you wish to follow the twitter feed, it is at In addition, starting tomorrow, I will also be posting fun factoids and other content about and relating to the movies.

Turn it up to 11, set your time circuits, and get ready to rock!

Category: Culture | LEAVE A COMMENT
September 20

Why Donald Trump is Not Adolph Hitler

After listening to the Republican debates, watching some of the speeches given by Donald Trump, and reading a bit about his platform and position, I began to worry about the direction his campaign was going. It seemed very familiar. It was a page out of Germany of the 1930s, or so I at first thought. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that the comparison was unfair and inaccurate. Here are some of the things I realized that made things now different from Hitler’s rise to power.

  1. First, Hitler did not come from wealth. His father tried his hand at farming, and, failing that, started a career in the customs bureau. Trump’s father was financial success, a real estate developer. Where Hitler had to deal with the death of his siblings at a young age, Trump’s siblings are also all successful. One is even a federal judge. Although both seemed to clash with their fathers, young Adolph rebelled and when his father died, it steeled his resolve. Trump, on the other hand, bent to the will of his father, who sent him to a military school.
    Adolph grew up on orphan benefits, where Trump was smack in the crotch of luxury. Latching on to German Nationalism to help form his identity and ingratiate him with his peers, Adolph grew to love his adopted country of Germany (He was Austrian, originally), even serving in the German military in World War I. Trump avoided the draft in a variety of ways, and never served.
    In other words, their backgrounds were stunningly different. Adolph, who wanted to be an artist, didn’t have the talent for it and failed. If Trump had any creative desires, they were buried under his desire for money, and he made his first million before he even left college. Of course, the half million dollar investment from his parents helped. Adolph’s parents were dead by the time he was 18.
  2. The environment of post-World War I Germany and the present day United States could not be more different. Germany was in an economic free-fall, brought on by a devastated economy due to war reparations and horribly managed, well, everything by the German government. Hitler joined a small political party, and energized its young members to grow to eventually take over the government, blaming much of the ills of Germany on the Jews.
    Trump, on the other hand, has latched on to the Republican party, literally called the “Grand Old Party”, and allied himself with the racist base of the party, blaming non-whites for the ills facing the country. The problem is that the United States isn’t a country in economic free-fall, not really. We’re solidly on the road to recovery from the mismanagement at the hands of the last GOP president. So, instead of a single propaganda front (It’s the Jews fault our economy is broken!), Trump has to make up his propaganda from whole cloth (Our economy is bad, really it is! And it’s the immigrants fault! And the Muslims!). In addition, in Germany, the real problem was multifaceted, from harsh war reparations to poor economic management by the Weimar Republic. In the US, the problem was lack of regulation of the banking industry which led to risky and ultimately disastrous  investment strategies.
  3. Germany was a country that had lost its core identity. They had lost a war, they had lost their government (It was less than a decade and a half since their government had fallen to revolution), their economy was in the toilet, and they needed direction. Hitler arrived with a fiery energy and revitalized the nation. Of course, he also had a scapegoat to blame, and the country set off on one of the most recognized genocides in world history.
    America, on the other hand, is sharply divided, but the core identity remains intact. Yes, there are issues which polarize our people, from marriage equality to abortion, but we can go out to the market and buy a loaf of bread without needing a wheelbarrow of cash, the rich are still rich, the trains are still running, and we don’t have any black eyes from lost wars any time in the recent past. We are still Americans.

So, even if he thinks he is using Adolph’s playbook, the board is not set for the same type of game, so I do not think Trump will get the same kind of result.

September 8

When Atheists Become Disenchanted with the Atheist Community

I’ve been an atheist for about five or six year now; at least, identifying as an atheist. I could make the argument that it has been nearly thirty years, but let’s go from the point at which I said, “I am an atheist.”

In that time, I spent much of it running a religious debate group on Facebook. It’s gone now, taken down by Muslim activists (A story for another day), but one thing I tried very hard to maintain was fairness for all, regardless of their position. I found this was a very hard thing to do. It was not just from the theists who refused to abide by the rules; there were some atheists that couldn’t play fair, either.

Which brings me to my point. I have found that there is a range of atheists, from the comfortable, “live and let live” non-believer to the rabid, foaming at the mouth anti-theist. To be honest, I was expecting a bit more cohesion in the atheist community than what I found. I suppose it was my own foolish hope, thinking that a group thinly tied together by a single attribute would somehow be more homogeneous than other groups I had been in. What I did find, though, was interesting.

Many atheists who were theists keep the same emotional level that they had as theists. Rabid fundamentalist theists become rabid anti-theists, comfortably introspective theists become comfortably introspective atheists. Some very few go through an evolution, especially if, as theists, they were not a single type of theists. Pagans who become atheists seem to be the most even keeled, perhaps because they have already worked through their anger at major religions when they were pagans.

But, like the theist community, and most communities, it is the loudest, most aggressive atheists who end up being up in front, and being the most noticed. There are a few exceptions, like the ACA which runs The Atheist Experience, but people like Richard Dawkins end up being the face of atheism to people who don’t know much about the community.

And therein lies the rub. I don’t particularly care for Mr. Dawkins. He’s a great scientist, but he tends to shoot his mouth off without much care as to the consequences of what he is saying. Like many atheists, he doesn’t see atheism as anything more than an attribute, even though theists see it as a movement, a menace, a cohesive whole. And that means that what he says tends to reflect onto atheists. When he goes off on a sexist rant, it looks bad when I am trying to have a conversation with a fundamentalist woman. Never mind that her religion is ten times worse towards women; she’s learned to deal with that. I’m the bad guy because Dawkins said something bad. I’m not saying Dawkins and others should not speak out, it is just that moderate atheists need to speak out, too. And we need to bridge gaps, even with theists.

Many atheists see all religion as being bad. However, there are many religions which do not have all of the horrible baggage dragging along behind. Take, for example, earth based religions such as Wicca, Druidism, and the like. For the most part, relatively innocuous, and rarely evangelical, yet some atheists attack them just the same.

I say that it is time for moderate atheists like myself to reach out to moderate religions and form friendships, alliances, and bonds. I think that we will be able to temper each other, and both end up better in the long run. We must do so without derision, and without fear or anger. If we don’t I fear that the atheist community will become merely reactionary and extremist.

Category: Atheism | LEAVE A COMMENT
August 18

A Response to Emilee Danielson

Original Post

I want to say, first, that I am the parent of a transgendered adolescent. I support my child fully in their identity. Now, on to the subject of your rant.

Throughout your entire piece, you have very little positive to say about being a woman. You talk about the pain of being a woman. You talk about the fear of being a woman. You talk about the depression of being a woman who is trapped by their hormones, over and over again, and relate that as your experience.

You talk about the uniquely heteronormative experience of losing one’s husband (because, of course, a woman is nothing without her man). You speak of finding value only in what one’s family thinks of one, and, then, only if one has a husband and children.

You write off Ms. Jenner’s experience because you truly  do not understand it, and, while dismissing her as being not a woman and repeatedly misgendering her, you have nothing good to say about your own experience being a woman.

You may rant and rave about how Ms. Jenner does not fit your definition of what it means to be a woman, but from my perspective, all you seem to be able to hang on to is the worst and most negative aspects of that experience. You do not talk about the connection you feel to nature, as you are endowed with the ability to nurture life within you. You speak nothing of the joy of seeing your newborn child for the first time. You did not touch on culture not shaming you for being in touch with your emotions, or being able to cry without feeling ashamed of yourself. You didn’t mention being able to have close, emotional relationships with other women without being worried that others would label you as being homosexual, or, if you were homosexual, giving yourself away through those close relationships.

You also did not bring up a legal system that has long been on your gender’s side in the great majority of custody disputes. You did not admit that if a woman is raped or is the victim of domestic violence, she can go to the police, and, more often than not, get something in the way of justice, protection, and find many support groups to help.

Seeing as that you are fifty, I can understand that you grew up in a world of clearly defined genders, gender roles, and strict guidelines on behavior, and probably parents who bemoaned the changes that were happening to those definitions. Under the surface, those clear definitions were an illusion. There were people who were not heterosexual, there were people who did not, at their core, feel like the gender they were assigned at birth. When you were growing up, though, those things that had been denied and hidden were coming to light, and people were feeling more and more free to be who they were.

Yes, there are differences between the genders. But, can you imagine waking up every single morning, hating the very body that you are in, feeling betrayed by the flesh you inhabit? That your breasts and vagina were completely wrong and that they should not belong to you?

Can you even begin to imagine what it must be like to be constantly reminded every moment of every day that every aspect of your physical being seems to have betrayed you? Kind of like puberty, but permanent, never ending, and always there?

You talk about how horrible it is to be a woman. Can you imagine being a woman, trapped inside a man’s body, as if you had been dumped without resources on a strange planet and were expected to survive?

You may take offense at Ms. Jenner all you wish. I find your attitude towards those that are transgendered to be much more offensive, and your misogyny to be quite stomach turning.


August 17

10 tips on how to be a Lousy Game Master

  1. Treat your player’s characters like puppets. After all, they are only there to act out your grand vision and story.
  2. Delight in the death of your player’s characters. This leads to a reputation as being the killer GM, and that is a position of awe and respect.
  3. Throw monsters and villains at your players that seriously out power them. Let them know exactly who is in control! There is nothing like the look on a fresh half-elf ranger’s face when encountering Latharious, God-Emperor of the Liches.
  4. Accept real world bribes from players. Food, money, favors, weed… whatever they are willing to give in sacrifice for their character. If they don’t give enough, make their players suffer.
  5. Reward cross-talk with instant death. Preferably to only one of the people talking. Make sure you show favoritism!
  6. If your significant other is playing, make sure that they are given all of the lucky breaks and fortunate turns. If not, hit on all of the players that are attractive to you.
  7. Make sure to take every phone call, turn on the TV, and sneak off with your “special friend” during the game. Always remember the players are there for your pleasure!
  8. Hide your dice rolls. Consider the results to be suggestions. Randomly roll the dice, and pretend like it is something serious.
  9. Don’t bother investing in the game financially. Don’t provide food, figures, maps, a board, or even a table if you can help it.
  10. Be unprepared! Don’t bother anticipating your player’s actions, don’t take notes, heck, don’t even bother knowing the rules of the game! Make it up as you go along! It will add an air of mystery and suspense to your game.
August 7

Fighting Invisible Demons

Those who know me know that I try very hard to be funny, upbeat, and generally in a good mood. Those closest to me know that, behind this, is a complex structure of coping mechanisms. Depression, rage, fear, all are also parts of me.

Those people closest to me struggle with similar demons. Many of them are blessed and cursed with the ability to understand the larger patterns, to see the story. It is a dance along the cliff between sanity and insanity, and it takes phenomenally strong people to dance this line without falling off.

It has been said that ignorance is bliss. On the inverse, knowledge is power. Both have their dangers. Is one a sheep, to be led willingly to slaughter, or is one a wolf, to be hunted by the fearful?

Neither. One is human, and to ignore the responsibility that comes with that is to sacrifice our one and only valuable birthright; sentience.

So, the only way I stay sane is through learning, logic, and force of will. And the occasional joke.

August 6

Romancing Israel

Nearly twenty years ago, I met a man who became my best friend. An apatheist, late atheist, he was bright, talented, although a bit unfocused, he helped me get through a significant and horrible series of events in my life that changed me forever.

After I returned to the Midwest from the west coast, he was able to track me down and we continued our friendship. We did business together, as we were both in software development.

My friend was of Jewish descent. When his son was born, I helped him get together a minion for the son’s bris. He wasn’t religious, but it was important to him culturally.

I frankly thought we would be close friends for the rest of our lives. During the wild days after my divorce, several things happened that began to drive a wedge between us.

I am filling you in with the back story because I need to give you some perspective on what just happened.

After years bemoaning the nuttiness of his father, a far right wing rabbi, my friend suddenly shifted. He started defending Israel to the point of, well, saying some bizarre things. His political bent shifted radically right, and he started blaming liberals for hate crimes against Jews. I have my theories as to why, but this is not really about him. This is about some of the underlying misconceptions he has come under the influence of, and I think it’s time to let the air out of the Conservative love fest that is built on some very dangerous lies. Continue reading

August 6

Aggressive Atheism

Over time, I have been accused of being an aggressive atheist.

Oh, the terminology has changed. I’ve been called an asshole. I’ve been told I am “proselytizing”. I’ve been told that I am too open and vocal about my atheism, even once by another atheist (or so they claimed at the time).

“Oh,” you are thinking, “You must be one of those anti-theists. You hate religion and the religious.”

Nope. I don’t hate anyone, and find religion to be, at best, annoying, and, at worst, an excuse for people to treat each other badly. Why, then, am I labeled like that?

Because I speak truth to believers. I point out the flaws in their belief, in their logic, and I ask questions that challenge their worldview. Let me give you an example.

Recently, a Facebook friend posted a meme of a “white Jesus” with the question, “Is there room for me on your wall?”

If I had been an anti-theist, my response would have been something along the lines of, “Sure, let me go get some nails.” or “Fuck no! He isn’t real!”

Anti-theism is not about speaking truth. It is about reacting negatively to religion. It can be dogmatic (All religion is wrong and evil!). It is usually very aggressive

What I did was ask why I would want a portrait of Cesare Borgia on my wall. For those of you who don’t know, the images of Jesus used in mainstream Christianity are of Cesare Borgia, a disgusting man from the 15th century who was given a PR makeover by his father. He had a variety of images created with Cesare as Jesus Christ. The campaign was super effective, and very, very few people today know that White Jesus is not Jesus at all, but Borgia.

By the end of it, I was threatened with violence, told by one person they had no idea what I believed (and then went on to tell me what I believed. Or, more accurately, what they thought I believed), told my parents had failed somewhere with me, and then blocked by someone who has known me since I was about eight years old.

Did I throw any insults? Not one.

Did I call people stupid? Nope.

I didn’t even really challenge their faith. But, I made them question it themselves, and that horrifies people. So, while it is acceptable for some Christians to say that other people deserve to be tortured for eternity, inciting thought and critical thinking is a crime worthy of banishment.

At least I’m not one of these guys.

Why don’t I insult believers? For the same reason I don’t blame women for being raped, or the elderly for getting ripped off. Religion is a scam, and blaming those that have been scammed does nothing positive. The best thing for me to do is plant the seeds of doubt. In those that have a mind open enough to it, maybe they will realize the scam and get free. Forcing them with insults is not my style.

So, call me an aggressive atheist for challenging worldviews. It could be worse…



Category: Atheism | LEAVE A COMMENT
July 31

Reasons why abortion is not murder, a primer for Christians

There has been a lot of press recently about the attacks made against Planned Parenthood, both by video, by hackers, and by politicians.

I thought I would make an attempt to clear up some confusion some Christians have about the issue, namely, the simple phrase, “Abortion is murder!”

It’s not. Legally, scientifically, and, yes, even from a Biblical standpoint.

I know what you may be thinking, “But, Aaron, you’re an atheist, how can you possibly know what the Bible says about abortion/dare to interpret my holy book/read the Bible without bursting into flames?”

I can read/I have nothing to fear but the opinions of Christians/you’re thinking of a magical realm of sorcery, not reality.

So, let’s start with the legal reason, first.

  1. Legally

    Legal issues come down, in many cases, to the definition of words. Some words have very clear legal definitions. Murder is one of those words. Let’s go to for our definition (emphasis added by me):


    n. the killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent, malice aforethought (prior intention to kill the particular victim or anyone who gets in the way) and with no legal excuse or authority. In those clear circumstances, this is first degree murder. By statute, many states consider a killing in which there is torture, movement of the person before the killing (kidnapping) or the death of a police officer or prison guard, or it was as an incident to another crime (as during a hold-up or rape), to be first degree murder, with or without premeditation and with malice presumed. Second degree murder is such a killing without premeditation, as in the heat of passion or in a sudden quarrel or fight. Malice in second degree murder may be implied from a death due to the reckless lack of concern for the life of others (such as firing a gun into a crowd or bashing someone with any deadly weapon). Depending on the circumstances and state laws, murder in the first or second degree may be chargeable to a person who did not actually kill, but was involved in a crime with a partner who actually did the killing or someone died as the result of the crime. Example: In a liquor store stick-up in which the clerk shoots back at the hold-up man and kills a bystander, the armed robber can be convicted of at least second degree murder. A charge of murder requires that the victim must die within a year of the attack. Death of an unborn child who is “quick” (fetus is moving) can be murder, provided there was premeditation, malice and no legal authority. Thus, abortion is not murder under the law. Example: Jack Violent shoots his pregnant girlfriend, killing the fetus. Manslaughter, both voluntary and involuntary, lacks the element of malice aforethought.

    Read more:

    Note, this definition specifically touches on the point I was going to make. I didn’t actually realize it until I read through it, but I will attempt to explain further, just to clarify.

    Abortion is not murder, legally, because abortion is legal. In order for it to be murder, it would need to be illegal.

  2. Scientifically, let’s discuss the term “human being.”

    Imagine Vitruvius. He is an average human being in every way. For sake of brevity, I’ll refer to him as V.

    So, we cut off V’s arms. Is he still human? Yes.

    Next, his legs. Still human? A bit difficult for him to do traditional gymnastics, but, yes, still human.

    How much of V do we need to remove in order for him to stop being “human”? Is it his heart? Then people who have had artificial hearts are no longer human? Is it some other organ? Lungs, pancreas, liver, stomach, intestines, kidneys? Nope, all of those have been able to be replaced. Is it his face? So, people who have been severely injured facially are no longer human? Eyes?

    Okay, enough gruesome vivisection. *waves magic wand and reassembles V to go on his merry way*

    The brain, which stores the sum of all of the experiences a person has gone through in their life, isn’t even it. There have been cases of severe brain trauma and birth defects that have either badly damaged the brain or, in some very rare cases, ended up with people who have no brain. There was a math student who had an I.Q. of 126 who had no physical brain.

    So, what is it? Many people would say “soul” but no soul has ever been found scientifically, so we can nix that. Well, sort of. Let me ask a different question.

    What is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony? Is it the paper and ink where the notes are printed? Is it the musicians and instruments playing the piece? Of course not. It is the music, the pattern of notes played in a specific order and in a specific way.

    My conjecture is that a “human being” is the pattern of experiences and thoughts, carried out through the physical processes of life. We are, in essence, the sum of our experiences and translated through our brain (or other structure serving that purpose). Some might call that the soul, but, like the music in a symphony, once the instruments and at rest and the performance is over, that symphony does not continue to exist on its own. It requires a medium in which to exist, whether paper and ink, magnetic tape, or in a digital format. It also exists in the memory of the people who heard the performance. The same can be said of humans when they die.

    Back to the topic of abortion. Hypothetically speaking, if my conjecture is true, it is not a human being until birth, possibly not until permanent memories begin to form between two and three years. Oddly enough, that’s the Bible’s standpoint as well. But, I will get into that in the next section.

    When the case was brought before the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, a specific moment a fetus went from human tissue to human being had to be set. So, they did made the most sense: they set it to the average point where the brain is functional and the fetus can be removed from the mother’s body and survive. This is good enough for me and most pro-choice people. It is more conservative than the Biblical view, but it works with today’s understanding of physiology.

  3. The Biblical Perspective

    Let’s start with Exodus 21:22-25.

    22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
    23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

    24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

    25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    So, according to the law, abortion as a side effect of violence was not considered to be murder, or the Bible would demand the offender be killed. Instead, a fine levied by the judges was sufficient.

    Next, Hosea 9:11-14.

    11 As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.

    12 Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them!

    13 Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.

    14 Give them, O Lord: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

    So, it is perfectly okay to ask God to perform abortions.

    And then there is the word Nephesh (נֶפֶש). Nephesh is a interesting word. It is translated as “soul”, but the problem is that it is used several times in the Bible to refer to animal life, not human. And the word itself means “breath of life”. Meanwhile, the word “ruah” (רוח) is used to denote the spirit of mankind. Hence, we come to Ezekiel 37:5.

    Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live

    But, wait, that means the Bible considers life to begin at the point when breath begins. Actually, it goes a bit further than that.

    According to the Bible, God tells Moses that children are not even worth counting until they are a month old.
    Numbers 3:40

    40 And the Lord said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names.

    In fact, they are worthless as far as human sacrifice. Oh, did I mention there were specific rules for human sacrifice in the Bible? Not really my point here, but included for context.
    Leviticus 27:1-7

    27 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

    Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the Lord by thy estimation.

    And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.

    And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.

    And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

    And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.

    And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

    Finally, the Bible even goes so far as to provide instructions on how to perform abortions. Granted, it’s more of a magic spell than an actual medical procedure, but that’s common in the Bible (see the cure for leprosy or how to get stripes or spots on livestock).
    Numbers 5:21-28

    21 Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;

    22 And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.

    23 And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:

    24 And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.

    25 Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the offering before the Lord, and offer it upon the altar:

    26 And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.

    27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

    28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.


To sum up, legally, it does not classify as murder. Scientifically, there is no evidence that a fetus is a “human being” until it is capable of having cognition. From the Bible, fetus are not counted as “life” in terms of crimes, is not a life until it breathes for the first time, and children under a month old are worthless, anyway. Oh, and priests have an incantation that can cause abortion.