Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – a primer on what you might not want to say in an online discussion, Baker’s Dozen edition

Definitely bad advice, no matter from a god or human

Definitely bad advice, no matter from a god or human

Recently, I’ve been in a very long discussion with an individual in the comments of one of my blog posts.  This started with a TrueChristian using a tedious old gambit of insisting that atheism is a religion.  Indeed, I was getting very close to a full card Bingo on the image that accompanies this post from all of the classic TrueChristian nonsense that my opponent, KD, used.

If you wish, you are more than welcome to read all of his posts and my replies.  Then you can be sure to get exposed to every bad argument a theist can give an atheist and see the entire context in its glory. To find the excerpt on the original page, use Control +F to open the Find tool on your web browser and cut and paste a sample of the excerpt in to find it.  I have no idea what a Mac user would do to replicate this.  Last time I touched an Apple product was in 1983 in high school and it was an Apple IIe.  🙂

What I am going to do is use these comments to demonstrate some classically bad tactics to use in an internet discussion.  It may serve as an example for atheists on what to expect from theists.  It should also serve as an example to theists on how not to conduct themselves with atheists if they want to earn any respect at all.   In any type of debate on any subject, using these are going to get bemused looks at the screen and maybe a chorus of laughter if you insist on repeating them.

1. Redefining words, ignoring context to choose a definition that was not intended by the author and redefining words so your pet idea is not defined in a way you don’t like.

Dictionaries are pesky things.  They chronicle the definitions of words in a culture.  They can cite several definitions if the definition has expanded from an original.  To attempt to claim that atheism is a religion and claim that Christianity is not, ignores those definitions and their context.  Unilaterally deciding that an author “really” meant something that they did not doesn’t work if they are right there to tell you that you are wrong.

For example, many theists do not like the term “religion”. They will insist that they do not have a religion e.g. a system of attitudes, beliefs and practices dependent on the belief in a supernatural force.  They have found that the term religion has gained a negative connotation, thanks to the actions of the religious, and they want nothing to do with that legacy. They claim that they have “relationships” with their gods, ignoring that they do indeed have the attitudes, beliefs and practices based on their gods.   Since they do not like the term religion, claiming that atheists are religious is an unsurprising tactic.  It appears to be is no more than saying “you are no better than we are, so we can ignore your points”. (Incidentally, this Christian decided I must have been a Roman Catholic when I was a Christian.  An unsurprising assumption, similar to the above, from a evangelical protestant type Christian).

“Do atheists have a personal set or institutionalized system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices?”

“I do not believe the Bible to teach religion but a way of life with a creator God who loves and desires humanity to choose him as opposed to doing it their own way.”

“Religion in the dictionary is not synonymous with god/s or the belief in god/s.”

My opponent also tried to redefine unconditional.

“I will teach them not to condemn anyone, not to judge, not to ardently believe they are always right and someone else is wrong.”

“God accepts everyone but not everyone accepts Him.”

“““If I spread a message of unconditional love and acceptance, how is this wrong or bad?””

““If I did not unconditionally accept or love you, my words would be negative towards your beliefs, practices, and attitudes.””

Like taking part of a quote: “God loves and accepts everyone…” and neglecting “…but not everyone accepts God.” Which is not unconditional love or acceptance.”

2. Claiming that you have no time to support your claims by a simple cut and paste, but then continue to write massive posts of thousands of words. Continue reading

From the Kitchen – Cookies!

From top clockwise: Mamouls, Gobs, Rogella, Nutless Wonders

From top clockwise: Mamouls, Gobs, Rogella, Nutless Wonders

I find baking very therapeutic when I need to take a break and calm myself again.  Since one of our cats died this week, and work has been nuts, I needed a couple of days of just puttering around the kitchen.

As an aside, Thanksgiving (the US holiday) is a nice idea in theory.  In practice, it feels like everyone is desperate for a Norman Rockwell ideal, they think that turkeys come in perfect sizes and who think that their poor planning is someone else’s emergency.  Of course, the reality is that most people are decent, and I only remember the twits.

This weekend I made the following cookies:

Gobs

Mamouls

Rogella

Nutless Wonders

I’ve posted about gobs before here. They look a lot like a “whoopee pie” but are so much better.

Mamouls (or ma’amouls)  are a filled cookie from the east end of the Mediterranean.  The cookie is made with coarsely ground semolina, the same wheat that most pasta is made from. Recipe I used is here (I didn’t have orange flower water so I didn’t use it).  Often these are made in special press molds, but I just made them as a disk of dough held in my hand and closed over the filling. The filling was a mix of dates, sugar and rose water blitzed in a food processor until mostly smooth (take the seeds out of the dates).  In the US, Cream of Wheat cereal (a to-be cooked cereal like oatmeal) is the best source for semolina/farina.  I love these with tea.

Rogella are a recipe I found in a Jewish cookbook lent to me by a former boss of mine. It was one of those “by the congregation of” cheap plastic comb bound books but I didn’t copy the cover of it and have no more info about it, although it may have come from somewhere in Berks County, PA.  Now, Google thinks I mean “rugelach” when I do a search on “rogella” and I think it’s right.  The recipe gives you a rolled up cookie just like a rugelach.  I’ve been trying to make ones like Green’s from Baltimore but had no luck. What I made had the consistency of PopTart crust (I do love PopTarts).  These are much closer to the texture of those from Green’s, and are like little bites of cinnamon roll.

The recipe for these:

Rogella

3 cups all purpose flour

½ pound cold butter

3 egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream (35% butterfat)

¼ cup whole milk

1 teaspoon yeast

1 cup finely chopped nuts

1 cup brown sugar

3 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In food processor, cut butter into flour until it looks like coarse meal.  You can do this with a pastry blender but it’s much much quicker in the processor.  Add yeast, yolks, cream and milk and pulse until it becomes a ball of dough.  Divide dough into six portions, wrap in waxed paper or saran wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or more.

Combine nuts (I used almonds but you can use whatever you’d like), cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle a sixth on a sheet of waxed paper and place a portion of dough on top of the mix. Roll this into a circle, approximately 1/8 inch thick. Flip dough over and coat other side. Cut circle into twelve slices and roll each slice from wide end to narrow end.  This will look much like a tiny croissant.

Freeze these on a cookie sheet for at least an hour.  When frozen, either bake or store in plastic freezer bags. When needed, place on greased cookie sheet (or a sheet of parchment paper on the pan).  Bake, frozen, at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.  They form a small pool of caramel around each cookie so space them at least two inches apart.  You can break this off or let it stay.

Nutless wonders are pecan tassies, pecan pie tartlets, without the pecans.  The silliness of the name might not quite translate if you aren’t familiar with colloquial American as a language. Nutless wonder is usually a derogatory term for someone who is a coward (having no testicles/cojones/nuts) and a twit. My husband doesn’t like nuts, but finds the goo in the tassies wonderful, so that’s where the name came from and we of course snicker every time we say it.  I use my favorite pie crust recipe (here) and make the filling.  It is not the same as pecan pie filling in that it does not have corn syrup, e.g. Karo Syrup, in it.

1½ cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a mini-muffin tin with dough in each cup (allow some dough to stand above each cup) and then fill about half with filling.  Bake for 30-35 minutes at 325 degrees.  You want the dough to be light brown.

I’ll likely be making more cookies as the season progresses.  Other cookie recipes on this blog:

Coconut Orange Cinnamon cookies

Chocolate Chip Toffee cookies

Eat well!

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – the passing of another pet

???????????????????????????????Again, I ask you to bear with me as I express my grief and memories of a dearly departed pet.  This, and working at a grocery store near the US Thanksgiving holiday, explain why I haven’t been around  much.  Twice this year we have had to say good-bye to one of our cats. This time, it is our dear cat Grendel that has passed into death by our decision for euthanasia.  As I stated back in the post about the passing of our cat Mordred, this atheist is still an atheist, no matter how tempting it would be to pray to some imaginary friend for help to save her pet’s life.   There is still an atheist in this foxhole.

Grendel was one of three kittens we adopted from my parents’ farm. A momma cat was killed and of course one can’t just adopt one. Grendel introduced himself by climbing up my husband’s pant leg.  And during the evening of that day, the discussion wasn’t “should we take them?” but “okay, what are their names?”   So we had Grendel and his sisters, Luna and Mystra since 1998.  Grendel was a long tall brown tabby with an unusual chevron on his shoulders. We called him Private First Class Grendel.

He was a fantastic jumper, able to jump more than 6 feet (around 2 meters) straight up at a standing start.  He had a habit of sitting on the top of doors, and I still have no idea on how he didn’t make the door swing.  He also loved to jump to the top of a wood and class curio cabinet and sit up there for hours.  My husband would lift him there in these last few months of his life.  He also dearly loved catnip.  When we left him outside for supervised visits, he would make a beeline to the catnip plants and then for the gate to the alley out back.

???????????????????????????????About 7 years back, he had terrible trouble with his bladder being blocked with stones.  We chose to have a perineal urethrostomy. This means that the penis is removed and the cat is essentially “replumbed”.  We were warned that he might have problems of leaking but he did perfectly after it.  It was during his first day back from surgery that we found a small kitten in the backyard, who became Muffin, the black and white hellion that we have.

He died of complications from feline diabetes.  We could have given him insulin, but the process of getting the right dose is very hard, if it works at all, and I didn’t want him to dread my approach if I had to cause him pain from injections. So we managed it as well as we could by diet.  The worst was the neuropathy and he eventually was unable to walk and sit up while he used the litter box.  So we made the horrible but humane and necessary decision to have him euthanized.  We were lucky those 7 years ago to be able to afford to help him then.  So many people can’t and I wish I could change that.  But there was no help to be had now.  As I said back when our cat Mordred passed away, I have read that one makes an agreement with sorrow as soon as one adopts a pet that will live a shorter life span than you will.   You get many years of comfort and companionship from your loving pets but you pay for it later.

Grendel being scrutable :)

Grendel being scrutable 🙂

We will miss him intensely as we miss all of the cats and ferrets that have gone before.

From the Kitchen and From the Bar – chicken paprikash, a French wine and a holiday beer

Before it's stirred

Before it’s stirred

Chicken paprikash is a meal I grew up with.  Half my ancestry is Hungarian, with those relatives having settled in New Jersey right off the boat.  We would have a big bowl of this dish with a pile of poppy seeded Kaiser rolls from the City Bakery in New Brunswick.  That bakery is long gone but we would bring large garbage bags of those rolls back with us to be frozen and enjoyed until the next time we would make the six hour trek out to visit.

My family’s version of chicken paprikash seems to be a little different than some I’ve seen. We seem to use quite a bit more sour cream than a lot of them, which only seem to use sour cream as a garnish.  But the basic elements are there.

Chicken Paprikash a la my relatives

2 tbsp butter

1 chicken, cut into wings, legs, thighs, back, breasts (a fryer is fine for this and I think a roaster would be too fatty)

3 pounds chopped onions

Water to cover onions and partially cover chicken

¼ cup ground sweet paprika (I use Pride of Szeged)

3 tsp of salt (it will need more but allow everyone to add their desired amount at the table)

24 ounces of sour cream

One pot that will hold 5 quarts or so

Take butter and melt in pot.  Add onions and salt, cook until translucent.  Add chicken pieces and water.  Braise 20 minutes.  Add paprika and then braise until chicken breasts can be pulled apart with a fork.  This means the other parts will also be falling apart.  My family would leave the chicken parts in the liquid, but you can pull out the parts, remove the meat and add it back in, throwing away the skin and bones.  For me, it isn’t real paprikash if it doesn’t have the soft skin in amongst the bits of meat.  You could also let the liquid reduce if you want a thicker sauce. I like it more toward soup in thickness rather than stew.

a bowl of tasty, if not pretty, goodness

a bowl of tasty, if not pretty, goodness

Add all of the sour cream, stir in and heat through.  Serve with crusty rolls and rice.  The rolls in the photo are heat and serve from the frozen foods department.

Now from the bar.  I had wanted to try another French wine just to be sure that I really didn’t like them.  The ones I had so far were thin, acidic and just nothing I wanted to drink.   Upon a visit to the state store (Pennsylvania has a state liquor store system), I found Arrogant Frog Pinot Noir on sale. For 8 bucks a bottle on sale, it was a great value. Beware, once off the front page of the website, there is autoplay music (a great annoyance to me).  It is definitely a more new world style of wine, a lot of fruit, though it is quite dry.

The new beer for this week is Sam Adam’s Merry Maker, one of their limited edition offerings.  It’s a gingerbread stout and I very much like it. The appearance is a dark stout with a crema of dark foam that lingers on the glass.  Surprisingly, this isn’t sweet, at least not when I hold my nose and just allow the taste buds their say.  The aroma is very sweet seeming, much molasses and ginger.  It comes in a 22 oz bottle and has a relatively high alcohol content at 9%.  I would indeed get this again.  I think it would be great after a day of cold-weather activities.

That’s it for now. Eat, and drink, well!

Five challenges for the atheist

A good review of what a TrueChristian thinks of “hard questions” for atheists. The Christian assures everyone that his god can use these questions to leave us ol’ atheists to his god. I wonder, since these questions have failed consistently, I do wonder what his excuse is for their failure. What was done “wrong”?

Random thoughts

In the conversation between the atheist and theist, there seem to be a communication breakdown of some sort. I would’t want to be in the christian’s shoes, who feels she must be on the defensive, to defend a belief fostered by several years of indoctrination with little or no thought. It is at such times am glad that I became free. Why am I boring you with such verbiage? Some theist blogger feels the time has come to put the atheist on the defensive and has a list of questions/ challenges meant to do just that. When I stated, in the beginning, about one side not doing it’s work, I meant the theist. From where I sit, it appears to me, they do very little, if any, reading and whatever they read must be what bolsters faith but not what challenges it and this will be evident in the post…

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Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – A potpourri of recently noted reasons on why religion is silly

all images thanks to atheistmemebase.com

all images thanks to atheistmemebase.com

There’s been a handful of things that have caught my eye that demonstrate why religion is silly.  And lest, anyone be confused, religion is defined for *this* post as the beliefs, actions and practices that are based in belief in the supernatural.  So, if you think that there is a soul, that there is a god/s, that there are spirits, that there is some magical place you go after death, that’s the supernatural that I’m talking about.  The other definitions of religion, the obsessive fascination with sports, tooth brushing, My Little Pony, etc – all built from the original definition – do not apply here. Shame I have to explain this to some of my theist readers.

Okay, that out of the way, here are the bits of silliness thanks to religion:

When you didn’t think “reality” television couldn’t get any more ridiculous with the advent of “Preachers of LA”, (thou shalt be a greedy twit) and the National Geographic channel any more pathetic (show after show of how to be a greedy twit), we now have the show “Church Rescue” where failing churches get some very human help.  Again, effectiveness of prayer no where to be found, no miracles to be had, and new carpeting the ticket to get more people in the pews and more collections in the plate.  After poking around on the ‘net for info and opinions about this show, I did find one thing to be amused by. A Christian is surprised that a synagogue is on the docket for this show “Yet the fact that a synagogue is in line for a “church rescue” tells you all you need to know about the show’s theological acuity.”, and that Christians (the consultants are supposedly Southern Baptist Convention, a group that really doesn’t like other religions, including other versions of Christianity) would help such a place.

God-needs-a-visual-reminderIn a segue from Christians and Jews to more Christians and Jews, we have former President George W. Bush will be speaking at the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute tonight (unless he actually gets a clue). The lovely MJBI is a conservative Christian organization that “loves” Jews, as long as they get with the converting to Christianity and guaranteeing that the end times come right when these Christians want it (last year’s speaker was noted “get your gold for the end times” shill Glenn Beck).  You see, these Christians aren’t content to wait for “God’s Will”.  No, they want their magical reward of “heaven on earth” and they want it now.  How dare this god make yet another generation up and die waiting.  Doesn’t it know how special they are?

Now it seems that everyone is “shocked! shocked!” that Bush would do this. I’m not surprised in the least.  There is this myth that conservative Christians love Jews and love Israel.  Some likely do, as individuals.  However, the fact is that they see both as needed ingredients for their end times fantasies, aka Revelation.  No Israel and no converted Jews? then no cities of gold and gems where all TrueChristians will live happily ever after, and everyone who is not a TrueChristian is dead and damned.  Now, one can see just how the MJBI reacted when the news of Bush’s appearance broke.  We can see that the claims of religious acceptance and tolerance only work if the other side agrees that one side is right.   And this again shows that religion has no business being involved in government and that religion is built on creating an “us” and a “them” based on believing in the “correct” set of stories.

Genocide-stories-for-kidsAnd finally, more about those pesky holidays again.  My brother’s family is afraid of Halloween (they would also prefer their kids read about kids killing each other in the Hunger Games than fighting against evil in Harry Potter).  Their kids are in public school, but they simply must take them out on that day in case they get exposed to something different than what their parents want them to know.  Now, this is amusing since evidently every other day is just fine, and gosh they can’t learn anything different those days, right?   🙂   This year they took the kids to see a theatrical show about Noah and the ark.  Because teaching kids that your god drowned everything except one family (complete with drunkard father and possibly cuckholding son) in a fit of pique is ever so much better than wearing costumes and having a party or learning that Halloween was based on a pagan holiday that celebrated harvest, the dead, etc.  Not the debbil or anything nonsensical like that.

halloweenThere was a recent column by the rabbi who is now “The God Squad” on holidays.  Per the rabbi, there are three types of holidays, secular, religious and mixed.  Secular are fine for everyone to celebrate. Of course, the rabbi forgets that some of the religious have trouble with those too, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Religions holidays should *only* be celebrated by the believers of said holidays, so put away those chicks and bunnies oh non-believers!  We’ll just ignore that Easter comes from a good ol’ pagan word and has nothing to do with capital punishment and a supposed resurrection that Christians can’t remember when it happened.

The rabbi also thinks that Christmas is only for Christians.  Which would be fine if there was anything actually attaching December 25 to anything Christian other than myth.   All we have is a co-opted date of a pagan holiday, and a mash of stories claiming that a birth happened at a time of year where the details don’t match reality.   He claims that Christmas has “obvious Christian roots” and a “constant meaning as the birthday of the messiah”, which if one actually looks at the history of this, isn’t exactly true.  The b-day of JC is pretty much up for grabs of when, and even if, it happened.  The “real meaning of Christmas”?  Well, that depends on the person you ask.  At its base, the Christian meaning condenses down to “here’s the guy you need to accept as savior or else”.  I much prefer the santa Christmas which is “give and receive”.

The rabbi also says “It may seem like a close call to some, but I think twinkly trees should be reserved for those who know what the light really represents to believing Christians.”  Really? what does that light “really” mean to Christians?  The “nativity star”?  Not even the purported gospels all noticed it.  And the wise men in that lovely nativity scene that sat on my parents tv set?  Not even around for the birth.  Seems like putting lights on trees is not Christian at all, but quite pagan, with lights, fires, logs, fresh greenery inside, etc.

To his credit, the rabbi loves Halloween.  It’s a “old pagan holiday” so anyone can celebrate its new version. It seems he doesn’t realize that Christmas is quite the same.  It is a time for all people to hopefully find their better natures and celebrate the return of light (aka the sun like those old pagans) and each other.  I rather find that even a better idea than becoming “bands of underage candy bandits”.

snow_leopard_growl_by_kathleenstenhouse-d46ve3e

Religious exemptions from children’s healthcare. Part 1: preventive and diagnostic procedures

From Dr. Coyne’s blog. As if you needed any more evidence that some theists are utterly ridiculous. God doesn’t want my children to have bicycle helmets! (then why does he require helmets for his soldiers in armor?) God won’t let anyone get tuberculosis from me! (as false as could be)

sigh….

Why Evolution Is True

CHILD, which stands for Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, is a great organization founded by Rita Swan, a Christian Scientist whose son, denied medical treatment, died a terrible death from bacterial meningitis—a curable ailment. Horrified at what she and her husband had done, Swan devoted her life to making sure other children don’t go through what her son did. (Needless to say, she left the Church—and also wrote a book about their experience, The Last Strawberry.) CHILD is devoted to overturning laws that exculpate parents from harming their children if they have religious reasons.  You could do worse than give that organization a few dollars!

CHILD also presents an informative page on U.S. states’ religious exemptions for preventive health care and medical treatment for children, which includes a list of injuries and deaths occurring to children subject to those exemptions (it’ll break your heart), as well as…

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