Monday, October 20, 2008

Working at the Morgue Seems Pretty Good

I think it’s a job that offers some unique perks

I think that complaining a little bit can be a positive thing. I don’t think it’s good or healthy to be a whiny ass, but a little bit of complaining can help you vent your frustrations, put things into perspective and so on. And I also think that enjoying a little down-time in your life, just relaxing once in a while, can be good too.

But if you’re talking about your job, you can often catch some crap by complaining or gloating about such things.

For instance, if you complain about how you have too much work to do, people tend to tell you that you shouldn’t complain about that; it just means that business is good. You should be happy about that! It’s good for job security, likelihood of pay raises and so on, so don’t complain! Such responses really take the fun and pleasure out of complaining.

Likewise if you gloat a tiny bit and tell someone that you’ve had a really relaxing time at the office, with very little work to do. Then they tend to say that you shouldn’t be happy about that, telling you that you’re just being lazy and that you should look for some career advancement if your current job is too easy. Again very irritating responses, taking all the fun out of being lazy.

But imagine if you work at a morgue. If you complain to your friends about how busy you’ve been, they can’t turn it around on you and say it’s good to be busy. Because if you are busy it means that there were a lot of bodies coming in, and that’s a tragedy. Very hard to put a positive spin on it.

And if you seem very happy about having nothing to do, people can’t say that you shouldn’t be happy about that. It doesn’t mean that you are lazy or un-ambitious, just that you’re glad that there aren’t a lot of people dying.

Of course, these perks apply to work in hospitals and clinics too, especially emergency rooms. It’s always good when there’s less to do there. But the morgue does offer an additional thing beyond that:

Regardless if things have been slow or not, when you end your shift and your friends ask how your day was, you can always make them really uncomfortable by replying with the joke “It was really dead.”

Of course you also have to get used to the fact that you have to deal with death every day, but every sweet deal has its downsides.

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Regarding the Ten Commandments, American Laws and Evil Atheists

Since I’m a bit of a science nerd I frequent a lot of science websites, discussion forums and blogs. In the comment sections of such websites there is often a bit of antagonism from a certain type of religious people.

I have no problem with religious people in general, but there is a group of religious people that seems to think that science is an enemy of religion and that all scientists are atheists (which is very far from the truth) that I do have a problem with. They come to those scientific sites for nothing but to spew hate. They usually just tell us that atheists are all evil.

When they occasionally opt to explain why they think atheists are evil, they often claim that atheists persecute Christians, especially in the United States. As an example of this supposed persecution they often mention the matter of the Ten Commandments in court houses.

They say that Christians are being persecuted in this matter. Because, according to them, US laws in general, and the Constitution in particular, are all based on the Ten Commandments and this should be reflected by placing them there. Apparently those stupid atheists don’t agree.

I honestly don’t know all that much about the reality about the controversy regarding the placing of the Ten Commandments in court houses. I strongly suspect that most of the people involved, on both sides, were being nothing but silly. But whatever the real issue was isn’t the point. The point is their argument that they are being persecuted.

You can probably guess what my standing on that issue is, since I am an evil, godless atheist. I am also a fan of the US Constitution, since I think that it is a beautiful, great document (even though I do not exactly agree with everything in it) and I think that it is being attacked and belittled by these people.

Let’s look at a common list of Commandments that people want in court houses because “US laws are based on them.”

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Not only is this one not in any way a basis for any US law that I know of, such a law would in fact be in direct conflict with the first amendment of the constitution.

The first amendment says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Saying that people are only allowed to have one particular God really seems to limit the free exercise of religion. At least to me, but perhaps I’m being picky there…

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

No matter how you interpret this commandment it is in conflict with US laws. It is not illegal to make “likenesses” such as paintings or sculptures, even if they depict supernatural entities. This is generally considered a part of freedom of expression, which is a right in the United States. A law based on the second commandment would be in conflict with that.

Some people have told me that the second commandment is really about forbidding the worship of those graven images, more than the making of them. But we’ve been over that point already. Saying that you’re not allowed to worship whatever you want would interfere with the free exercise of religion.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain

Strike three. Again in direct conflict with the first amendment. American censorship laws might regulate what you can say on broadcast TV, but in general freedom of speech is liberally protected in the United States. And I don’t think that blasphemy is banned even on TV.

And no, as far as I know, this commandment hasn’t inspired a nationwide crackdown on people who shout “Oh God” in the heat of sex.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

What, can’t we get past the first amendment? Still not one commandment that isn’t in violation with it.

There is to be no laws respecting an establishment of religion, so there should never be any law that requires people to keep a sacred day of some particular religion holy.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother

Finally. This one isn’t in direct violation with the constitution, as far as I know. It’s however not in there either. As far as I know this isn’t really in any American law, and I think that’s good. A law that orders people to honor their father and mother would be a rather stupid law.

I for one honor my father and mother. I honor the hell out of them, because they deserve it. They are great parents and great people.

But we all know that not all parents are great. Many hurt their children, physically and mentally. I think that a law requiring all children to honor their parents, regardless of what their parents do to them, would be rather barbaric.

6. Thou shalt not kill

Getting better! This one is actually sensible and more or less in accordance with US laws.

Of course that is a matter of interpretation of the word “kill” though, since US laws aren’t as simplistic as the Ten Commandments. In the United States killing people is sometimes legal; in justified self defense and executions for instance.

And even if we do interpret “kill” in a way that makes the commandment in accordance with US laws, then so what? If there are laws against killing people, and there is a commandment about killing people, should we then assume that the laws are built upon that commandment? I don’t think so.

Seriously, do these people believe that before the business at Mount Sinai, people didn’t understand that it is a bad idea to kill each other? Do they think that before the age of those fragile stone tablets, people were total morons?

Of course it’s stupid to go around haphazardly killing each other. You can’t build a stable society without realizing that. All through the ages, societies of every religion have understood that. Laws against murder do not need divine inspiration; it’s pretty obvious that murder is a bad idea.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery

This is a pretty good commandment too. Adultery isn’t good.

And there actually are some US laws prohibiting adultery, at least in some states. And I can see those laws having a religious background. So I’ll actually give you this one, this commandment might actually be the basis of some US laws.

Not that any remaining adultery laws are actually seen as important today, but it’s still at least a partial win for the proponents. Six commandments too late, but still.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

Again, this is a rather good idea, but that’s not proof that the Constitution or any other document was inspired by it. If you try to build a society it is easy to understand that stealing isn’t something that contributes to peace and stability, no matter what holy book you believe or don’t believe in.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Like most of the bible, this one is very open to interpretation. Some say that it about lying while testifying and some say that it is just about lying in court.

Of course, perjury is a crime, so if you interpret the commandment that way it is in accordance with the law. And, again, this isn’t something you can figure out on your own… Of course people who have never heard of the Ten Commandment think that courts work well if people lie while testifying…

No, wait, maybe not.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Now, there is an obvious joke about sodomy laws here, but we all know that “ass” here refers to donkeys and nothing else. And I really don’t think that there are any laws against coveting at all, no matter if it is donkeys or asses.

In fact, I would like to say that the entire concept of a capitalist society is built on the concept of coveting. If you want a donkey (or a car, as a modern equivalent) that is as good as your neighbor’s, then you go out and work to get it.

And more importantly, trying to restrict what people covet is a serious breach of human rights. No government should tell you what to think and feel.


So, out of ten commandments, at least five are in violation with the American constitution and/or basic human rights. Only a few have any clear equivalent in US laws, and only one of those feels like it would need religious inspiration to make it into a law.

Some commandments are border-cases, but all in all it looks pretty clear that in general the laws of the United States are not based on the Ten Commandments.

Not that saying this keeps that particular group of people from crying “Persecution!” at the drop of a hat though. But I still feel the urge to write stuff like this every once in a while, when I have heard some particular untruth once too many. At least it helps me vent.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gay Sex is Just Like Christmas

When I was in Junior High, I had a fairly religious teacher. That’s not very common around here, so he kind of stood out, but none of us minded. At least not until he started talking about Christmas…

I can’t remember how the discussion got started, but for some reason the class got to talking about Christmas and he expressed his very strong opinion that people who aren’t religious shouldn’t celebrate it. He was very adamant on this point, giving his view that it is rather vile of us atheists to enjoy a Christian holiday.

Well, I’ve always been open to a debate, and I couldn’t let it slide that a teacher would have the audacity to tell his students what and how to celebrate. So I, and a girl from my class, challenged his opinion and started discussing the matter with him.

First I told him that I do celebrate a holiday at the time of Christmas, but I don’t do it in a religious way. I don’t have any stars, angels or baby Jesuses among my decorations. I just see it as a nice holiday to spend some quality time with the family (and a holiday to get some quality time with some good food).

Then we reminded him that a winter solstice festival has been celebrated here around the time of Christmas since long before our country became Christian. Just like in the rest of the world; winter festivals are very common, Christmas has just become the most popular of them.

We tried our best to convince him that we had every right to celebrate as we do. But he still clung to his opinion that we somehow hurt Christmas by celebrating at the same as his favorite holiday. Despite the fact that we told him that we celebrate an entirely secular holiday that has nothing to do with him, he thought that he had the right to tell us how and when to do that.

That is so infuriatingly typical of a certain kind of Christian (I am very well aware that it is not how all Christians act though). They think that just because their religion has come in and replaced our old winter festival with theirs, they have the right to control how everyone celebrates at that time of year. Apparently we are “cheapening their holiday” if we don’t conform to their wishes.

Note that we didn’t say a word on how we thought he should celebrate his holiday. We didn’t invite him into our homes to see our pagan disrespect of his sacred beliefs. We didn’t disrupt his class with a “traditional winter solstice celebration only” campaign. Yet he felt that he had the right and, apparently, the need to tell us how we are ruining Christmas by having a good time with our families in our own homes.

But Christmas isn’t an important issue to me whatsoever, so I let it drop. But it does serve as an illustrative example of a kind of thinking that I see in many other discussions, especially in discussions about homosexual rights.

As many of you know, I’ve written a fair bit about gay marriage. I cross-posted some of the posts on other writing sites, and I got some interesting comments. Here is a part of one of those comments: “The gay community and their supporters present the greatest example of hypocrisy imaginable. By making a choice to adopt said lifestyle they effectively deny God and the truth of His word. Then they have the gall to demand the right to ‘marry’, and do it in Gods' house! Marriage is Gods' sacred institution, not mans.

Well, first of all, I’ve never met anyone of the opinion that we should force churches to marry gay couples. Almost everyone who promotes gay marriage just says that the government shouldn’t forbid two consenting adults from marrying; they don’t say that churches that are against it must marry them. I know that if I ever marry I wouldn’t want to be wed by someone who hates me.

And just like winter celebrations, marriage isn’t a uniquely Christian thing. People of most religions and cultures have had celebrations where they join people together like that. But still, he thinks that gay couples who want to marry are out of line. Because it’s not in line with “God’s word”.

It doesn’t matter to him that they might not even be Christian or that if they are, they will in all probability don’t want to marry in the kind of church he prefers.

It doesn’t matter to him that marriage exists outside of Christianity or that the gay couple’s celebration of love is entirely private to them and doesn’t affect him in any way whatsoever.

It doesn’t even matter to him that many Christians, and Christian priests to boot, defend gay marriage and wants gay to have the right to marry in their church.

He still thinks that he has the right to decide how they should act. Not because it affects him in any way, not because it’s bad for society or anything, but simply because it doesn’t agree with his interpretation of his religion. Because he thinks his religion says that homosexuals can’t marry, he thinks that homosexuals shouldn’t be able to marry anywhere.

And he has the gall to be offended by people being homosexual, because it’s not in line with his beliefs.

But he doesn’t hate them. Oh no, of course not. Later on in the comment he also uses the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” which is a very popular thing to say when you defend your own bigotry. Things don’t really work like that though, which brings me to the point about gay sex that I so shamelessly advertised in the post title.

Where gay marriage and celebrations of Christmas can be at least somewhat in the public eyes, even though they are private affairs, sex isn’t. I could never understand how anyone can care what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom, but the kind of people I talk about in this post obviously do care. They often want anti-sodomy laws because they “hate the sin”.

But really, how can you, when it comes to sexuality, hate the “sin” but love the sinner? How does that work?

If you tell people that their inner feelings are a sin and that you hate what they feel and think, people are going to feel hated, even if you add afterwards “Oh, but I love you. It’s just your sins I hate.” That’s just a useless bit of rhetoric, just saying that isn’t going to make people feel loved. It isn’t rocket surgery people; it’s not that hard to understand.

Your sexuality isn’t a choice, and many of those people understand that. That’s why they are things like Truth Ministry, which promises to teach you how to “leave the homosexual lifestyle.” They know that they can’t make a gay person straight, but they want them not to act on their sexuality. They teach people to suppress and hate their natural urges, teaching them that what they feel is a sin and that they need to resist it.

Basically they teach people to spend every day hating a big part of themselves and suppressing all their sexuality. A real act of love, that one. But at least that only works on people who are already deeply religious; usually people are at least a bit harder to convince to hate themselves.

But back to my main point about how these things are similar: Winter celebrations, marriages and sex are not invented by the Christian church. They are all private things that don’t affect other people, they all existed before Christians came around, and they still exist outside of the bounds of fundamental Christianity. But somehow some Christians still really feel that they have the right to control how other people do these things, for some reason. And I really wish that would stop.

I have no problem with people believing whatever they want, just as long as they don’t see the need to control other people because of it. And again; I do know that most religious people aren’t like that, most are content with keeping their beliefs to themselves and letting other people act in accordance to their own beliefs. I am only complaining about the ones who aren’t that tolerant.

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