Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Raving Atheists Forum

Seeing as the Raving Atheists Forum recently made the list of atheist sites on the Troll Hit List (a place where trolls or anyone can vote to troll or not troll suggested sites, I thought to myself "It is time to give the Raving Atheists Forum a review."  

http://ravingatheists.com/forum/index.php  is the addy.  The site itself is done in shades of blue and off-white which is easier on my brain-damaged eyes than many other colors.  Like many of the atheists on the site itself, Raving Atheists Forum is organized in a way that is logical and makes sense.  It is also easily navigable.

The forum has three major headers: TRA Announcements, Atheism, and General/Other.  A new member is encouraged to introduce him or herself in "Introduce Yourself" under the latter header.  One thing that is immediately clear is that folks who respond to the newbies indeed have a sense of humor along with a sense of how to construct a sound logical argument.

There is a steady flow to the conversations under all three headers. A Christian does show up from time to time and a few are regulars. Not all Christians are trolls of course.  The trolls will start a topic by asking a question which is designed to be provocative but quickly becomes rhetorical.  Thus, one troll may generate an inquiry about all of the natural disasters going on around us and tie that into uneasy feelings and the end times.  Another may state at the onset that they wish to convert the atheists on the forum to Christianity-- usually a form of Christianity that takes the Bible literally-- and thus win souls for Christ.

The Christians who aren't trolls are up front about their religious viewpoints and will not ask questions in order to prove a point.  Those Christians and atheists seem to get on alright in the forum in spite of the bold views being expressed rather loudly by the atheists.  

Many atheists are conscious of logical fallacies and endeavor to avoid them when having a heated discussion about anything with others.  [A lengthy list can be found at http://skepdic.com/ticriticalthinking.html ].  In my experience, many fundamentalist Christians aren't. And to me, that is rather unfortunate and the cause of much of the difficulties when two or more people attempt to have a conversation.  When the fundamentalist Christian begins to insist that "God said it in the Bible" [or alternately quotes an added paragraph in Josephus to prove that Jesus existed], the atheist will start using words like "circular reasoning" or "appeal to authority."  The insistence on historical or scientifically peer-reviewed citations and critical thinking skills by the atheist causes the fundamentalist Christian to default vigorously to "God said it..." and possibly to engage in some name-calling.  The atheist may also engage in some name-calling.

The Christians do not usually visit every thread.  In the threads predominated by the atheists on the site, there is certainly a bit of anger expressed.  That anger is understandable in a society which is slow to recognize that atheists are suitable to run for office and can indeed serve as military chaplains.  There is crude language, some crude joking, and crude pictures posted which are offensive to the sensibilities of the more sensitive personalities.  The Raving Atheists Forum has two words in its' name that indicate that the site is not for folks who cry easily or are fragile.  Raving is exactly what gets done.  Raving is enjoyable and a necessary release.  And atheists in general are known for being intellectual and dogmatic about logic.  There are other forums and places on the web for different kinds of atheists of course-- there are places for happy atheists, thinking atheists, positive atheists and so forth.  The Raving Atheists Forum is accurate and self-descriptive by name.  When you go there, you can expect to find a). a forum of b). atheists who are indeed c). raving.  The experience can be enjoyable or unnerving or frightening or boring.  It just depends upon where your head is at.

sapphoq reviews says:  I like the Raving Atheists Forum.  Fundamentalist Christians who venture there should be prepared for atheists who rave, atheists who insist upon the well-crafted argument, atheists who are fully aware that you are the visitor.  For those with the temperament to withstand biting humor and even to engage in it, for those who can craft and respect a logical argument, for those who relish atheists who are comfortable enough within not to sugarcoat their experiences, the Raving Atheists Forum just might be the place for you.  Thumbs up along with all of the other fingers.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Book of Burger, Rachael Ray

The Book of Burger, Rachael Ray.  New York: Atria (Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2011.  lg. paperback.  321 pps. incl. index.

I don't remember either parent making hamburgers when I was a kid.  I did inherit my dad's love of a good steak sauce and my mother's love of fried onions.  I do remember discovering  (TM)White Castle, (TM) McDonald's, (TM) Burger King, and (TM) The Ground Round as a teen.  And hanging out at (TM) The Stuffed Shirt (yummy blue cheese burgers b.t.w.) as I got older.  I didn't know that there was a need for a cookbook dedicated to burgers and related items until my most recent sojourn to the bookstore.

I found, shelved with the other recent arrivals, The Book of Burger.  I've been familiar with Rachael Ray's (TM) Thirty Minute Meals on television courtesy of a loved one who teasingly and routinely refers to her as "the perky-breasts woman."  It was only natural that I snatch up her latest cookbook for a review.

The Book of Burger does not disappoint.  The photography by Romulo Yares and his team made my stomach rumble.  The picts are glossy and delicious.  The recipes are easy to follow.  I am planning on Hot Sausage Burgers with Broccoli Rabe (p. 73), Jerk Burgers (p. 99), and Tango Joes (p. 222) for starters.

sapphoq reviews says:  Here's the beef, and the pork, and the chicken...along with fish and meatless dishes.  I award this book five skillets.

To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, M.D.

To Heaven and Back, Mary C. Neal, M.D.  Colorado Springs: Water Book Press (Random House), 2012.  paperback, 222 pps., inc. bio.

Mary C. Neal, M.D. grew up as a nominal Christian.  She found her way to Jesus and received water baptism by immersion at a friend's church.  She went to a university (and appears to blame lack of encouragement toward spiritual things by universities in general for the falling away from Christ that she says is characteristic of university students everywhere).  Mary C. Neal met and married her husband, moved around a bit; and then they had four children.  She drowned during a kayaking accident in rural Chile but lived.

Dr. Neal survived the accident and with some difficulty was transported back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming (where she still lives and practices as an orthopedic surgeon today).  She felt that God did not want her to ask for a medi-vac to get back to the States.  She recovered from her accident.  She denies a brain injury.  [She was fortunate there.  Brain damage is not an easy thing to live with].

As her friends were administering C.P.R. after pulling her out of the kayak, Dr. Neal claimed to have had a near death experience (NDE) complete with Jesus and the angels [or "spirit beings" as she alternately referred to them] in attendance.  Her youngest son died.  His death catapulted her into a delayed writing of To Heaven and Back about her NDE.

Dr. Neal's book stood out because she admitted to believing that "...very young children clearly remember where they came from and are still quite connected to God's world...they easily recall the images, knowledge and the love of the world they inhabited before their birth...children may still be able to see angels..." (pp. 147-148).  She also believes that a friend of her youngest son Willie died instead of Willie just before his eighteenth birthday.  [Then Willie did die a year or so later].  I have not found these particular beliefs to exist in the devout born-again Christians that I have known.  These beliefs are to me reminiscent of some of the stuff that I've heard New Agers espouse: that kids remember a time before they are born when they are "chosen" by their earthly parents.  The assertion that young Willie's friend came to her in a dream and claimed to have "traded places with Willie" before Dr. Neal knew of said friend's death remind me of folks who claim that during an accident, instead of dieing and alien "walked in" and it is now that alien who is inhabiting the body of the accident victim.  So although the accident victim died, the body is still operational due to this walk-in phenomena.  This sort of thing makes my head spin.

Dr. Neal also holds the common belief that "everything happens for a reason" and it is all part of her God's plan, that there are no "true" coincidences.  Romans 8:28 is often quoted to justify this sort of thinking.  Actually, the English translations that I remember read "all things work together for the good."  [Not having any knowledge of the original manuscripts, I cannot vouchsafe for the accuracy of the translations].  In other words, this verse is not a dictum that everything done in this world by the Pauline God or by the Pauline God's permission is automatically "good."  Even The Preacher admits to coincidences in Ecclesiastes 9:11.  For what is "time and chance" but the definition of coincidence?  Again, this sort of thinking about there not being any "true" coincidences hearkens back to conversations with some White Lighters I have known.  I do admit that although I see this "everything happens for a reason...no coincidences" thing as being diametrically opposed to biblical teaching, there are slews of people and churches everywhere who disagree with me.  Most peeps used to think that the sun revolved around the earth too.  But I digress.

What was most troublesome to me as an aware non-theist was Dr. Mary Neal's claim that a certain Father Ubald, a Tutsi priest whose family was killed in his church in 1994 when the Hutu parish members hacked up a whole bunch of Tutsis (pp. 193-194) had visited her when she was back in Jackson Hole recuperating from her kayak accident.  I was immediately suspicious because I had read Richard Grant's excellent travelogue about the same area of Rwanda.  A small amount of internet-only research yielded up a Father Hubert "Ubald" Rugirangoga of Rwanda who is responsible at least in part for a "Hutus and Tutsis must forgive each other" movement that has sprung up there (and that Richard Grant had also noted).

There are now claims of documented healings from physical conditions and diseases on Father Ubald's website -- http://frubald.com/  -- but I could not locate any of the documentation itself.  I remember  the downfall of Bob Harrington-- New Orleans "chaplain of Bourbon Street" who fled his second floor apartment in January 1978 [I was physically there in New Orleans shortly after he fled...tax evasion or something I was told] and the documented fakery of Benny Hinn.  Also, I had an aunt who was expecting a miracle today courtesy of mansion- dwelling Morris Cerullo.  She did all the correct stuff medically speaking.  But the M.S. killed her, as expected.  http://www.cephas-library.com/evangelists/evangelist_morris_cerullo_fraud.html for those who wish to learn more about the man and his money a.k.a. money that his television audience donated to his ministry.  Considering the critical thinking sites that I hang out at like http://churchofcriticalthinking.org/christian_catholic.html even the practicing Christian can understand my hesitancy to ascribe supernatural etiology to both natural and non-existent events.

sapphoq reviews says: To Heaven and Back is a book of questionable merit which leaves out any possibility of non-Christians having an NDE--  [N.B.  I am a non-Christian who has had an NDE]-- and rational explanations of NDEs such as neurons firing.  Not recommended, not even to Christians.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Too Young to Kill by M. William Phelps

Too Young to Kill, M. William Phelps.  New York: Pinnacle Books (Kensington Publishing Corp.), 2011.  448 pps. excluding another book preview, paperback.

Adrianne Reynolds, 16 year old teen enrolled in an alternative high school in Illinois, was murdered by two classmates in January 2005.  Adrianne was bisexual and one of her love interests, Sarah Kolb, was also bisexual.  Sarah Kolb had a decided mean streak.  After inviting Adrianne to have sex with any of the male teenagers hanging at the local party house, Sarah Kolb proceeded to badmouth Adrianne for doing what she had been encouraged to do.

One Friday, Sarah and follower Cory Gregory offered Adrianne a ride home.  On the way home, they murdered her in a fast food restaurant parking lot.  Later on, Sarah Kolb and Cory Gregory had a third buddy Nathan Gaudet hack up Adrianne's dead burned body and assist in burying her remains in several sites.

sapphoq reviews says: The three suspects listened to Insane Clown Possee (a band that I also happen to like) and were part of the Juggalo sub-culture.  If there is one fault of Too Young to Kill, it is M. William Phelp's inability to separate his dislike of the music and lyrics having to do with senseless violence from the decisions and actions of three teenagers.  Having said that, I recommend this book to those who like accurate reporting on a horrific crime.

101 Weird Ways to Make Money by Steve Gillman

101 Weird Ways to Make Money by Steve Gillman.  Hoboken NJ: Wiley, 2011.  261 pps. inc. index.  paperback.

101 Weird Ways to Make Money was fun and entertaining and thought-provoking all in one breath.  Lately, I have been questioning the validity of some of my beliefs.  In the statements "I cannot/don't want to do the work involved in keeping my car clean" and "My brain injury has increased my disorganization and distractibility to the point of not being able to keep an orderly house" and "I've 'never' been able to parlay my talents and experience into a highly paying career and so forget about it now"-- I am now striving to replace the "I can't" and "I've never" with the words "Why not?"  At the core of my non-achievements is a central laziness.  At the center of my laziness is the erroneous belief that I've missed my chances in life.  Taking the thought that I've missed so many opportunities to its' nauseating end I find a lack of confidence and self-worth.

The fun and entertaining part of the equation lay in how the chapters of 101 Weird Ways to Make Money were named.  Chapter 73 is titled, "I See Dead People Profits: Estate Goods."  Chapter 92 yields "Playing with Plastic People: Mannequin Business."  Every chapter title is followed by a humorous subtitle which explains the information to be found in that chapter.  Each chapter is divided into four easy-to-read sections.  The first section gives a brief overview of the job itself.  The second section talks about salary.  The third sections gives hints on how one can get into the job.  The final section lists several resources available should the reader opt to do more research.

The chapters are groups into twelve parts.  Thus, if a reader is a seller, she may head directly to Part Ten, "Buying and Selling Things."  If he as the attention to detail necessary to cleaning up, he may opt for a look through Part Eleven, "Cleaning Jobs and Businesses."

Steve Gillman recounts in his intro his qualifications for writing this book.  He shares a long list of unusual jobs he himself has held, along with the success of his many websites which he uses to generate streams of income from a variety of audiences and sources.

sapphoq reviews says: I liked this book.  It was written in an appealing style.  By the end of the book, I had picked out several unusual job possibilities.  And I also started the arduous process of cleaning out my car. Two months later, my car is still clean!