Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Pennsylvania politicians desperate to force Christianity on everyone now hiding behind claims of “history”

The version that was around for quite awhile before it was changed, including during WWII.

The version that was around for quite awhile before it was changed, including during WWII.

Unsurprisingly, we have more theocratic hijinks from some of our Pennsylvania legislators.  Interested only in forcing one religion on everyone in the state, these wannabe theocrats are claiming that it’s just “history” that they want to educate people on.   We did have one Democrat go with the theocrats and one Republican that did not when this nonsense was voted on in the House Education Committee.

Representative Rick Saccone (R – Allegheny County) has sponsored a bill (HB 1728) that would require the words “In God We Trust” to be posted in every school building.  It would require this to be posted as a plaque, “student artwork” or in some other form.

Now, the skirt they are hiding behind is that James Pollock, a 19th century former PA governor put this phrase on coins back during the US Civil War and it’s been 150 years since this happened.  We’ve had several instances of gestures to get the goodwill of this imaginary being, just as adding “under God” to the US Pledge of Allegiance was another gesture to get this deity’s attention and flush those “godless Commmies” out of American because golly, no one could say “God” and survive if they didn’t really mean it, right?  Of course, Rep. Saccone doesn’t mention such inconvenient facts when trying to hide his intentions.  We have Treasury Secretary Chase writing the following to the mint Director James Pollock: “Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

This nonsense is very similar to the adoption of “In God We Trust” as a national motto during the same time period, all a rather transparent attempt to pander.    We even have this nonsense on public buildings since our legislators saw fit to pander even more in 2000.

Indeed, “In God We Trust” was supposedly used as a battlecry during the US Civil War.  Funny how both sides were sure that this god was on their side.  And it seems that some law professors are a bit confused on why the “Ten” commandments are not allowed in schools.  A Duquesne U professor, Bruce Ledewitz stated ““There was a surprising precedent that held that the Ten Commandments can be posted in certain contexts but cannot be posted in schools,” Ledewitz said. “It’s possible something like the national motto could conceivably be unconstitutional in schools.”   Hmm, might it be because not everyone worships the same god, in that the commandments say “Thou shalt have no other god before me.”?  Yhe motto says that we, the entire population of the US, trust in the Christian god, and that is not true at all.

Muslim cemetery.  Nope no crosses here.

Muslim cemetery. Nope, no crosses here.

One argument used by Christians is that this isn’t “just” their god.  That is always a hilarious one since it shows that these people have no problem in lying when convenient.  Now, if this isn’t only the Christian God, then  what need for there is this phrase?  What god is capitalized if not the Christian god in the US?  It’s about as ridiculous as Christians who try to claim that the Latin cross isn’t a symbol of their religion when they want to force it on others in public spaces.  Witness Justice Anthony Scalia’s ridiculous lies “It’s the — the cross is the — is the most common symbol of — of — of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn’t seem to me — what would you have them erect? A cross — some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?”   All of the pitiful willful ignorance and arrogance of someone who hasn’t a clue what other cemeteries look like.

I see in HB 1728, Rep. Saccone says “To increase student understanding of and familiarity with American historical documents, historically important excerpts from or copies of the documents should be prominently displayed in public school buildings.”  Of course, when an excerpt would show Christians to be wrong when they repeatedly claim that the US is a “Christian Nation”, we don’t hear any support for *those* excerpts.  As always, these theocrats intentionally want to present only their warped version of history.

The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is one of those very important documents that should indeed be shown to students.  But I’m sure that Rep. Saccone and  his compatriots would find it against their theocratic ways. Thomas Jefferson wrote this and was more proud of it than serving as president.   This shows that those would try to keep the US for themselves and their particular religion are simply liars who only want to force themselves on everyone else.  Feast your eyes on some quotes from it:

“That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,” 

“Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.” 

Not the words of someone who thought that the US was some kind of “Christian Nation”.

Of course, we could go back to the motto of the US that is on our official seal.  E pluribus Unum:  from many, one. But I can see why theocrats are certain they don’t want that one back.  Then were would their tactics of “us and them” be?

“We” do not all trust in the Christian god, never have done so, and to claim so is pathetic arrogance based on a lie that is very easy to discover if one cares about the actual facts.  We are all Americans no matter what we worship or not worship.

Addendum 10/28/13 noon EDT

A way to determine if Saccone et al are lying or not about how interesting they are in educating PA students on history.

First, per the bill, a student produced piece of art would suffice as posting the motton in a school.  So, there should be no restrictions on this art in how it portrays the phrase to protect the American value of free speech.  I very much doubt that Saccone would agree to this.

Second, make sure that other historical documents are also taught and also have excerpts from them posted in the schools.  We can start with the parts from the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom.

If these would be agreed to by Saccone et al, then I think we can be relatively sure that they aren’t lying about their historical concerns.  If they would be refused, then we know that they are liars and wannabee theocrats.

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From the Bar – six new beers and a review of the new Dracula series premier

beerHere’s another six beers that we’ve tried last night.  It’s rather dangerous working for a place that sells beer and allows you to pick six different beers to fill a six-pack.   

While we drank these, we caught the new Dracula series premier.  It’s the bizarre Tony Stark-ization of Vlad Dracul, with the titular character now masquerading as an American master of technology a la Tesla.  As if Dracula doesn’t already have three superpowers and a pony, they had to give him steampunk tech.  The actor may be a decent one but he looks about 18 years old (mmm, am I showing my age here?), with a vague attempt at a mustache and goatee,  and for me, he’s simply not physically powerful looking.  Dracula is essentially the ultimate alpha male and this version just doesn’t bring that off .   I don’t mind riffs on classic stories, but if you mangle them so badly that they are unrecognizable, don’t try to trade on a famous title just to get attention.   And yes, I am a fan of Christopher Lee as Drac and find that there was definitely a reason that the Winona Ryder/Gary Oldman version had to remind you that it was supposedly Bram Stoker’s story by declaring it in the title.  

New Planet Belgian Ale – this is a gluten free ale, with sorghum and brown rice as the grains.  We found that it tasted very much like a dry mead, with more than “subtle” honey notes.   Excellent stuff but definitely not a classic tasting ale, Belgian or not.   

Erie Brewing’s Heritage Alt Beer – This is a dark German style ale.  It has a slight smokiness due to the roasting of the grains.  Very dark head and a slight malty sweetness.   

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron – Dogfish Head can always be trusted to have some very unusual products. This is described by them as a brown ale, but it’s much more like a barleywine to me. The ABV is high, 12%, and it’s *dark*.  It’s aged in casks of the palo santo wood and that does give it the vanilla/oak notes  that one expects.   We found it not as sweet as many barleywines and it would be a good way to get into that style.   

Victory Brewing Company Winter Cheers – This is a wheat beer from Victory and it’s a bit sweet like I find most Victory brews.  This one strikes us as a very fruity Hefeweizen, with a scent of peaches and green apples.  It’s a bit unusual to have such a light looking beer as a holiday offering but it’s rich enough to stand up the variety of foods one gets when celebrating. 

Fort Collins Brewing’s Red Banshee –  This is a red ale, and we found that we though it reminded us of cherries, not in sweetness but in the slight tart darkness of the brew.   

Founders Brewing’s Dirty Bastard – This is a strong scots style ale, with the expected cararmel maltiness.   Sometimes it gets wearying to have extra hops added to everything, but it works well enough with this to make the sweet ale not too cloying.  

That’s it.  Eat, and drink, well!    

From the Kitchen – Quiche, cookies and apple dumplings

quicheWith work, I don’t have as much time to cook as I’d like.   So, when I have a couple days in row off, I cook a lot.  This time, it was quiche, apple dumplings and two types of cookies. The chocolate chip/toffee cookies have been blogged about earlier here.    The other cookies are a result of me having the ideal of making platefuls of cookies for the holidays, though I’ve yet done so.

These are a slightly modified version of the Cinnamon Orange Coconut Cookies from “The Christmas Cookie Book” by Knipe and Marks.  These stay pleasantly soft even after a few days.  I think it’s because of the coconut. The odd amounts are from me halving the recipe.

1.25 cups AP flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 cup butter softened

1/8 cup vegetable shortening

½ c sugar

1 large egg

½ tsp orange extract

¾ cup flaked coconut( I use flaked sweetened since I use it in other things)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees celcius).  Line cookie sheets with parchment or grease.

Cream shortening, butter, sugar together.  Add egg and orange extract and beat until mixed.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, mix and then add to creamed mixture.  Beat until smooth.  Mix in coconut.

Scoop into 1 inch balls.  Roll in cinnamon sugar.  Place on cookie sheets and flatten slightly.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies will puff slightly and will be pale and soft when you remove them from oven.  They will firm as they cool.  They can be dipped in chocolate but I find that is just gilding the lily.

Apple Dumplings a la Betty

Apple dumplings are essentially apple galettes or crostadas, where pie dough is rolled out, filled with apples and then the sides of the pie dough are just brought up and over, not using a pie pan.   These ones are different in that the dumplings are placed in a 9” x 13” baking dish and hot sugar syrup is poured around them *before* baking.  This is my mother-in-law’s recipe and I was sure that it could not possibly work and that the dough would simply disintegrate.   But it doesn’t.

This is a bit more of a procedure than a recipe.  Preheat oven to 425 degree Fahrenheit (218 degrees celcius).  Take your favorite pie dough (my favorite here.  I haven’t tried it with refrigerated pie dough, but it should work).  Make rough circles of dough about 1/8” thick and around 10 inches in diameter.  Take sliced raw apples coated in a mix of sugar, cinnamon and a little flour and place them in the center of each circle, enough to be a small pile but that will allow a couple of inches of dough to wrap up and around them (I usually use about 6-8 baking apples.  I prefer Winesap apples but they are nearly impossible to get).  About six will fit in a 9” x 13” pan.  Then make a syrup of 1 cup sugar, one cup water and three tablespoons of butter, boiling for 3 minutes until slightly thickened.  Pour *hot* syrup around dumplings and place in oven for approximately 45 minutes.  Test doneness by poking apples with a knife to see if they are soft.

Quiche a la Velkyn

Finally, I made a quiche, aka a savory custard pie.  This is my take on the Quiche Lorraine from the “Joy of Cooking”.  It came out wonderfully, as light and silky as could be.  I used the above pie crust as the shell.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees celcius).

Prepare a 9 inch pie shell of your favorite pie crust. Prick it well and brush it with egg white which will seal it and keep the crust crisp.

Scald 2 cups of whole milk or cream (I use whole milk, since cream is way too rich in this for me).  Scald means bring just up to boiling and then removing from the heat. Let cool to just warm to the touch.

Fry ¼ pound of bacon until crisp and crumble.  Fry ½ cup of finely chopped onions in vegetable oil or butter until translucent and tender but not browned.  Grate ½ cup of swiss cheese.

Beat together cooled milk, 3 eggs plus the yolk left over from the egg white used to brush the crust, ¼ tsp of salt, 1/8 tsp of black pepper, a pinch of nutmeg (it really does make a difference).  Make sure this is very well mixed.

Sprinkle grated cheese, bacon crumbles and onions on bottom of pie crust and pour custard mixture over it gently.  Bake 35-40 minutes until top is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  You just want this to be barely set in the center.  Overcook it and you will get a watery custard because the proteins in the eggs and milk constrict and force the water out.

The quiche was quite good with the JR Dill Jabber Waulkie semi-sweet Riesling from our peregrinations round the Finger Lakes.  Sorry no photos this time.  Maybe I’ll get a new camera for a present….

Eat well!

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – again, why speak out?

in case anyone might think that any of these haven't already been addressed...

in case anyone might think that any of these haven’t already been addressed…

First, I’d like to welcome my new blog followers. We have some new Christians of some type or other (some quite sure that they are the only TrueChristians), so I invite you to ask questions of me, a real live atheist.  🙂   I’ve addressed a lot of common theist claims on this forum so you can use the search function if you’d like to see if I’ve commented on something you find important.   I have no problem with you using my blog for fodder, but if you do think you can rebut my points, please do have the courage to let me know.

The following is a bit of a rewrite of a couple comments I posted on another person’s blog. (a similar post to this is here (back in March 2013), some points the same, some different, some expanded on, some not).

A question I’ve seen many theists and agnostics ask atheists is: don’t you think that religion has at least some merits?  Even if no religion is true, that they present only human stories and myths, don’t you think that they can serve any positive purpose?  Now, most theists will try to broadly frame this question, so their particular religion’s failures can’t be mentioned.  So, I’ll try to answer the question considering all religions that I know about, and even the ever-so vague versions of god and religion that modern theists have invented to avoid the problems of their religions, rather like how Oprah Winfrey has just recently declared that all religions are wrong, and how atheists simply can’t be atheists (a couple of good posts on that particular bit of silliness here and here.)

I think there is some truth that humans are inclined to believe in nonsense.  Our brains love to see agency behind action e.g. for something to happen, something else must make it happen, and to take it one step further, must *intend* on making it happen.  That likely helped us to know to watch out for shaking bushes that had tigers in them. So, we have the ideas of gods, demons, genius loci, angels, devas, efreet, etc, invented.  These beings are powerful, powerful enough to cause and control things like hurricanes, but very identifiable as humans writ large.  They are just as proud, petty and stupid as humans can be, often even more so.

However, this tendency to see agency is just that, a tendency, and one easily ignored when facts are involved (willful ignorance, as always, will counteract this).  Yes, millions of people believe in supernatural beings, but they believe in millions of different ones that have millions of varied and contradictory attributes (and they disbelieve in millions too).  There is nothing that shows that any of them are even remotely correct in their baseless assumptions. And, of course, there is the simple existence of atheists and there are plenty of  happy decent people who were raised without believing in anything fanciful and who never came up with their own gods.  It seems that, rather than humans being all inclined to believe in the supernatural, humans are inclined to believe in what they are told by those who they trust.  Then it comes down to what evidence can support either concept.  There are a lot of theists, but that does not mean that anything that they believe is true.  It just shows that they learn what they are taught and have reasons to keep believing in such things. Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – finger lakes vacation, part 3 – distillers, wines and tasty tasty food

???????????????????????????????This is the final entry on our Finger Lakes vacation.   After touring the east shore of Keuka Lake and part of the west shore of Seneca Lake, we decided to go out of the immediate area on Sunday and visit the “holy of holies”, Genesee Brewing, in Rochester, NY.    We’ve been drinking Genesee beers for decades, mostly the Cream Ale, and decided to see where all of our hard-earned money has gone.

We made it to Rochester with no problem.  Had a bit of confusion when it came to finding Cataract Street.  The street sign is small and it looks as if you are going to be turning into the brewery itself.  The name of the street is appropriate considering it leads you to a lovely overlook of the falls in the Genesee River.???????????????????????????????

The pub has only been around for about a year now.  It consists of a museum, gift shop and small brewery on the first floor and a restaurant on the second.  The small brewery, the “pilot brewery”, makes a few special beers for consumption only on site (or for take away in a growler).  We tried a flight of these beers, including a fresh Cream Ale, and then headed upstairs for lunch.

???????????????????????????????The place was very busy, and rather loud thanks to various sports games being on.  We got a perfect table against a wall at a window.  Ordering two more cream ales (no, we’ve not got tired of them yet), we perused the menu.  A special was buffalo chicken egg rolls – chicken, hot sauce wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and deep fried.  These were very tasty and a good amount as an appetizer for two.  I then got a most excellent hot dog, the type that still has the casing, covered with well-drained sauerkraut and a pile of tasty potato chips.  My husband got a beef on weck, a famous sandwich from the western NY area that consists of thin sliced roast beef on a roll that is covered with caraway seeds and large grain salt.  (the pub’s website doesn’t have the entire menu up on it.)  I wanted a sign with Miss Jenny on it but I really had no place for it.  So we settled for getting a pint glass that had the logo of our beloved cream ale on it.

We got back to Hammondsport in the later afternoon. We made reservations at a local restaurant, the Snug Harbor for later in the evening, so we spent some time wandering around the town and relaxing in our room.

The Snug Harbor appears to be a large lakeside house that was converted into a restaurant.  There is parking across the road from it, against a rock wall and some down a very steep lane near the building.  It even has docks for lake traffic.  We were seated near a real fireplace with a fire in it, very nice on a cool evening.    A local jazz station played softly in the background, and once the arguing couple next to us left, it was a very pleasant evening.  My husband had the Bayou trio cakes which were mixed seafood cakes breaded and deep fried.  I had a evening special, a cracked peppercorn sirloin; both quite tasty.

After a breakfast of eggs benedict, we headed to the east shore of Seneca Lake.   There are some very nice falls along the road there but they have little parking to enjoy them.

???????????????????????????????Our first stop was Finger Lakes Distilling.  We got there a little before they opened so we looked over the lake as we waited.  You can see the tall copper still through the windows on the side.  Once they opened, we went into to be greeted by a sweet border collie.  He very much wanted to play but a room full of glass bottled isn’t the place to play fetch.  So he contented himself with having his ears rubbed by me.

Three dollars got a sampling of three of their products.  I tried the rye, the gewurtztraminer grappa and maplejack liqueur.  The grappa was 90 proof and left a nice warm line down my throat.   The maplejack was not terribly sweet and excellent for sipping, a apple brandy sweetened lightly with maple syrup.   I have a taste for rye, and this one was a very good version, spicy with the nutty notes from the sherry barrels coming through nicely.  The most notable thing my husband tried was the Glen Thunder, a classic American corn whiskey, aka moonshine.  We’ve had moonshines, but this one was probably the best we had.  It didn’t have the funky corn cob taste, and tasted more like caramel corn.  We came away with a bottle of rye, though I’d love to get more from here.  They also have a very nice selection of bitters from various sources. Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – Colonial Williamsburg electronic field trips

A quick note about a series that I think everyone should watch. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has started a new series about American history and law for middle school and high school students.  These are being broadcast on local PBS stations and you can see the list here.   You can see a short commercial for it here.

The first show, on the Bill of Rights, does a great job at showing how important those are to American citizens.  They dramatize this by having a young woman be transferred to an alternate universe where the Bill of Rights does not exist, where you can’t speak freely, where the government says what library books you can look at, what religion you can, or don’t have to follow, etc.  It’s well done and I found it pleasantly reminiscent of the old “afterschool specials” that I watched when I was young back in the 70s.   This one, of course, has the advantage of having questions asked by students.

 

I’ll finish my series on the Finger Lakes tomorrow.  Thanks for your attention!

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Giving credit where credit is due?

amputeesAllow me to indulge in a bit of dead-horse beating…

The most recent nonsense from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Ministries is about how God simply must be given the credit when anything succeeds.  Now, it’s not said quite so broad as that, being presented as how anyone getting better after a successful surgery better thank this god of the Christians for it.  Of course it simply couldn’t be any other god or no god at all, simply human intelligence and hard work.

In the initial question, Mrs. T.L. says that her cousin has dared not to give all the credit to Mrs. T.L.’s god when she has enjoyed a successful surgery.  Horrors, she gave all of the credit to the doctors who did the surgery!  Mrs. T.L. is aghast that her god’s “help and the prayers of others” were not even mentioned by her cousin.

It’s great to see Mrs. T.L. desperate for congratulations on how important and powerful her prayers were and how wonderful she is for worshipping the “right” god.   Billy’s mouthpiece says that it is only with his god’s help that this cousin had a good outcome.  Indeed, without this god, this cousin had no hope.

just so no one feels left out

just so no one feels left out

He goes on to say that his god was the only one who gave the surgeons their ability and their wisdom.  This indicates that this god has then intentionally withheld any help to humanity that dared to be born before he deigned to give out the information on surgery, anesthesia, antibiotics, and simple handwashing.  It’s also too bad if you were born to cultures that didn’t get modern medicine until recently.

He claims that his god “worked in response to the prayers of others” so that this cousin had a good result.  Evidently, this god needs to be prodded into doing something.   But this idea that god must be told what to do when certainly goes against the usual claim of Christians (and Jews and Muslims) that their god knows everything already and controls everything, the usual prating being “It must be God’s plan.”  when something awful happens.  I wonder, if it’s this god’s plan, do Mrs. T.L. and “Billy” believe that this will should go unopposed?  Then why does Billy go to the hospital again and again?  Ah yes, it’s because this god gave the knowledge and the wisdom, that knowledge and wisdom again that is conveniently available to Billy and Mrs. T.L. now but to few in the centuries before their ever-so “blessed” existence.   There is no accepting of this god’s will, only excuses on why it can be ignored as long as the TrueChristian finds it beneficial.

God-wants-to-flood-us“Billy” claims that this god made our bodies and “designed them so they could heal in response to the right medicines.”   That’s quite a lie right there.  We have people who simply can’t heal in response to the “right medicines” and in fact the “right medicines” can severely harm them in the instance of penicillin and in the case of my best friend from high school’s sister who died from a bad reaction to anesthesia, among many others.  We had no speeches from on high saying “stop” when someone was about to die because their bodies were not built to handle something by this god.  They hurt and died until humans figured things out.   It seems that this claim that this god created modern medicine is again an excuse, since one does wonder, if this god can do this, why not make humans not need to “heal” at all?  It would certainly eliminate one rather pointless, and painful, step.

Poor “Billy”, he insists that we must be grateful for to his god and his god alone.  “Billy” must repeat lies and offer excuses to counter his fellow TrueChristians to create this need for gratitude to a god that has evidently refused to aid people, has to be harangued and has not created such a perfect body (again going against his fellow TrueChristians who insist that everything was corrupted in the “fall”).  We see that again the magic decoder ring comes out again and again, showing the usual ignorance and hypocrisy of so many theists, who can’t even agree within one religion.

“Billy” ends with a command that Mrs. T.L. prays for this wayward cousin so she can see how “good” this god has been and that this cousin becomes the “right” kind of Christian.   We also get the usual threat, that everyone dies and will be judged by “Billy’s” bogeyman.  If this god is indeed as described by “Billy”, judgment by such a being is only scary since it would be judgment by something less humane than most people are.