There is no War on Christians in America

Look religious persecution is a real thing, and it is horrible when it happens.  However, there is no war on Christians in America.  How do I know.  Because I’m an atheist.  The problem is when you are religious you don’t notice all the little religious symbols, phrases, and themes around you.  You can’t see how pervasive things are.  America may not be a “Christian” nation officially, but it pretty much is, just ask a Jew or Muslim when the last time everyone took the day off work for a holiday that represented their faith.  At the University of Texas at Austin Good Friday generally meant a half day of classes.  Don’t see that for other religions.  Sure you can take a religious holiday off of work, but only Christmas is a federal holiday.  Also, try being atheist on Easter.  Seriously, I have to overpay for toilet paper and can’t shop at Best Buy (wait, I don’t shop at Best Buy regularly).

Also, do you realize how many places of worship there are?  I live across the street from a church, and I pass by multiple churches on my way to work.  I have a 15 minute drive and pass at least 4 christian churches.

North Austin Church Map

These are just churches in north Austin.  Every red dot is a church!

My sister once dated a guy who honestly believed that Christians in America were being persecuted.  We began to discuss it briefly in my childhood home, which is LITERALLY a stone’s throw from two churches.  I don’t mean figuratively, I mean I can literally throw a stone and hit two churches.  There is one on my block two houses down from where I lived, and if you go through my back yard and cross the neighboring property, there’s another church.  There are 11K people in my hometown and I know of at least 5 churches I’ve visited and according to there at 18 Christian Churches (it probably doesn’t list the little revival churches of which there are plenty).  Even without the revival churches that’s still one church for every 600 people.  That map above shows churches in Just North Austin.  Liberal bastion of Texas, Austin! No matter which route I take home, I pass a church.  Even if you ignore the church across the street from me, I couldn’t pick a route home that kept me from passing a church.  If this is Christianity on the run I assume unchecked there would be a church in my home.

Forget Churches, how are people suppressing their religion?  The place where I buy breakfast Kolaches from plays the Christian Music Station.  For a while at the place where I would buy breakfast tacos, the woman would say, “Have a blessed day!”  I doubt she meant Mohammad should bless me.  You can’t run for political office unless you’re Christian.  Some Christians say that these politicians aren’t real Christians, but that doesn’t matter, they still have to lie and say they are to have any chance of winning office.  No President has ever been (openly) atheist.  The recent Republican debate had question that asked what God thinks of tax plans.

Bill O’Reilly and others on FOX claim there is a war on Christmas, but every year people still celebrate Christmas!  And if it is persecution to not acknowledge someone’s religious holiday…then I guess America persecutes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoist, etc.  If saying Happy Holidays is a war on Christians, then not saying Happy Hanukkah is a war on Jews.  It only follows.  Seriously, the only reason stores are decorated for the holidays is because the “holiday” is Christmas!  Also, if Christians were being persecuted, would they be allowed on television on the highest rated cable news network!

Try being an atheist for a day and see if you can avoid religious symbols.  You can’t.  I have a billboard for a theology degree that I pass every day on my way to work.  That’s some persecution if you can openly advertise for people to become experts in your religion.  I’ve been meaning to start an art project where I photograph all the religious billboards I see in Texas.

Atheist Community Center

Just one atheist center. One.

Frankly, if you think you’re being persecuted and you attend a church every Sunday with hundreds of others, you should really look up the word persecution.  When I drive around on Sunday mornings and pass these churches, they have cops directing traffic to help them exit the church.  They’re not there to protect people but to help ease the traffic caused by churchgoers leaving because there are that many of you!

So, let’s stop with this ridiculous rhetoric and save it for people who are actually persecuted.  There are people in other countries actually dying because of their faith.  There are people in this country who have their property vandalized because of their faith.  Just because someone doesn’t say Merry Christmas to you doesn’t mean you are in the same boat.


Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Politics, Religion


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What will it take?

I haven’t written in a while, but I haven’t stopped writing in my head.  I guess I just had to get angry enough to feel the need to write and publish.  I like many people watched the video of the cop from McKinney, TX , my home state (Buzzfeed, who broke the story, has great coverage), wrestle a young girl to the ground and then sit on her.  It disgusted me.  As I watched it I knew that those on the right were going to find some way to say this was deserved.  I just hoped I wouldn’t see it since I don’t watch FOX.  I hoped if I had to see it, I would see it being made fun of on the Daily Show, so my anger would be mitigated.  Nope, saw it on my Facebook feed, then saw people who I assumed were intelligent agree with something Breitbart posted.  Seriously,  If you follow politics, you know Breitbart is not legitimate journalism.  It’s a right-wing website.  Unashamedly.  It’s anti-choice, anti-climate change, anti-Obama, anti-democrat.  Remember the ACORN “scandal”, with the ridiculously dressed “pimp”, that was Breitbart.  So, of course, they would claim this was justified, and the fault of the black teens. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Politics


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What our democracy needs is voters

The mid-term elections are over and per tradition the party not in charge of the White House picked up seats.  There will be, I’m certain, lots written about what this means.  What it means to me is, not enough people vote.

I’m from Texas.  A very RED STATE.  Here’s what bothers me, not that Greg Abbott won (though that annoys me to no end), but how few people actually voted for ANYONE!

By the numbers:

  • Population of Texas: 27 million (source)
  • Registered voters:  about 14 million (source)
  • Population who voted for Texas Governor: 4.7 million (source)
  • Number who voted for Greg Abbott: 2.8 million (source)

So what you have is:

  • percentage of Texans who voted for Governor: 17%
  • Percentage of registered voters who voted for Governor: 34%
  • Percentage of registered voters who voted for Greg Abbott: 20%

This is why the vocal minority wins.  Most people favor liberal policies but most people don’t vote.

By the numbers:

  • Percentage of people who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances: 21% (source)
  • Percentage of Americans who believe gun laws should be made LESS strict: 14% (source)
  • Percentage of Americans who take the Bible literally: 30% (source)
  • Percentage who think government favors the less well off: 26%
  • Percentage who oppose raising the minimum wage: 31%
  • Percentage who think minimum wage should be lower: 13% (source for last 3)

These people are highly motivated to go to the polls, middle of the roaders…not so much.  While there may have been a better than average amount of voter suppression in Texas, it didn’t keep 9 million people from voting.  Apathy did that just fine.


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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Politics


I, too, am a feminist

Hopefully you’ve already seen this.  A couple days ago Emma Watson addressed the United Nations on the issue of gender inequality.  Well worth the watch, so I’ll wait.


I readily describe myself as a feminist, in much the same way I’ll not back down from describing myself as a liberal.  For me feminism is quite simple, to quote Joss Whedon, “You either believe that women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.”

If you think there are not people who consider women as less, or second hand citizens, look no further than Ray Rice and his appeal to his indefinite suspension.  He can’t argue that he hit his wife, so he’s going to argue: I have no idea.  It’s his legal right to get representation and be defended.  It’s our moral right to ask that he never play football again.  Michael Vick was hated for dog fighting, but he at least served time in jail for what he did.  Rice doesn’t even want to serve a suspension.  I didn’t even mention Greg Hardy.

From CNN on Greg Hardy,

In May, authorities say, Hardy choked his then-girlfriend, dragged her by her hair and threatened to kill her. He was sentenced in July to 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence for the misdemeanors he was charged with.

Hardy said he is innocent and has appealed a guilty verdict.

He’s on the exempt list so he’ll still be earning his money.  He was CONVICTED of his crime. No dogs were harmed…so…probation seems cool.

But how did we get here?

I posted on Facebook a while back about a teenage girl who was, there’s no other word for it, sexually assaulted.  A student, after harassing her with a laser pointer aimed at her breasts, fakes apologizing, then grabs her ass going into her dress.  The school officials play it off as no big deal (seriously) “You should have ignored them.”  What do you think that leads to?  These boys felt no fear at what they were doing, and rightly so.  They were going to suffer no repercussions for their actions, until a different teacher went to bat for her.  This story I have not verified as real, but I’ve heard this story first hand from many other women.  I don’t know of a single woman who hasn’t been groped at one point in her life.

Not a single one.

I almost exclusively hang out with women, and to not have met one woman who hasn’t been groped is ridiculous.  That’s not even mentioning those that have suffered much worse.  There’s a reason we call it ‘rape culture‘.

Don’t think that behavior means anything?

After reading that post from Women’s Rights News, I read about a bartender who had her ass grabbed.  Huh, wonder where he learned that was okay?  Cool thing about this one is that we get the follow-up from the ass-grabber (it is the NY Post, but still):

“I’ve grabbed plenty of girls’ asses in my life,” Brian H. Lederman boasted to The Post. “But I’ve never grabbed hers.”


“I clearly remember making a joke when the girl said, ‘What would you like,’ ” he said. “I kiddingly said, ‘I would like you to go with nothing on it.’ ”

He said he was furious that she claimed he did more than spew sleaze.

“That f–king c–t, for her to do something like that is pretty ridiculous,” he told The Post.

Stay Classy!

Earlier this year I figured out that part of the problem is we tell kids to obey the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  The problem with this is that men and women are different.  A majority of men would love to be groped while out by women, ogled, sexualized.  They’re treating women how they’d like to be treated.  To these men it’s a compliment.  Most men, statistically speaking, would like to have sex at almost any moment.  So yeah, they don’t get it.

However, if instead we changed the Golden Rule to: Do unto others, as they ask to have done unto themselves (not sure about biblical grammar), then you’d have a better conversation.  You shouldn’t treat people how you’d like to be treated, but treat people how THEY want to be treated.  This will require finding out how that person wants to be treated, but guess what?  You’ll not be accused of rape or harassment if you find out that this person doesn’t like blond jokes, and though she may be friendly after a few drinks, that’s not an invitation to actually have sex, it’s just that she’s drunk. Likewise, you can let people know that at times you make inappropriate jokes and to let you know if you go too far or found something offensive.  Again, treating people as they want, not by your ego-centric standards.

I’m not saying that would solve everything, but it’s a start.  And we really have to do something.  I don’t want to have a daughter someday tell her friend about going to a club and having her butt grabbed by some stranger, or worse.  My daughter should be able to go out, get tipsy, and worry that the worst that will happen is she loses her phone or keys.

I’m going to do my small part to make that happen, hopefully others will too.

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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Politics


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Office Kitty

Our office cat is really smart.  He has trained me to open the door for him.  Here’s how it usually goes (and just did a few minutes ago).

I call him Pumpernickel Jazzpaws.

I call him Pumpernickel Jazzpaws.

He will walk outside my office and begin to meow.  I walk into the hallway and he makes me open the door to our storage room.  I believe this is his way of making sure I know he wants a door open.  Once I’ve opened that door he will meow at me and begin walking towards the back door.  Our office is located in a house that is zoned for office work.  So we actually have a backyard.  The garage has been converted into a mini warehouse and we have a warehouse manager working in that office; this is where the backdoor is located.  He walks me all the way across the house, meowing and looking over his shoulder to make sure I’m following.  Then he walks to the door, sits down in front of it, and waits for me to open the door.

He does this almost every day.  Since it’s hot in Texas we can’t open it all the time, because we have to leave it open, so there are times when I have to tell him no.  I assume during these times he feels that I’ve forgotten all the training we’ve gone through and that he’s disappointed in me.

It’s funny because he doesn’t ask our warehouse manager to open the door.  Though she’s sitting right there, he walks across the house and finds me.

He will also occasionally walk across the office to get me and make me follow him to the “living room” so that I may pet him there. Seriously.  He will walk into my office, meow his “follow me” meow and plop down in the middle of the floor so that I may pet him.  He is very spoiled.  I also think he believes he is my boss.

Has anyone else been trained by their cats?  Do you have an office pet, and does he run things?

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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Random


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JBT – Paradise Lost

Joe’s Book Tour – John Milton’s Paradise Lost

These next couple books I can’t remember in what order I read them, but I know they were all in High School around the same year.  The first on this list is Paradise Lost.

I was raised Catholic, as I’ve mentioned before, and I read my bible and went to Sunday school and catechism on Wednesday’s in preparation for my Confirmation. Yet, I still base most of my ideas of The Fall, God, Satan, and even Jesus, on what I read in this book.

The impact it had on me came from the moment when Satan decides that he’d “rather rule in hell, than serve in heaven”.  You see there’s a moment when Satan realizes that he could ask God for forgiveness.  Even after all he’s done: waging outright war against God.  God would still forgive him.  That’s how god is (at least in the new testament).  God is all about love and forgiveness.

Yet, Satan knows that even if he were taken back, even if allowed to be at the left-hand of God again, he would just get jealous again.  Satan would want more.  So he decides, because he, like everyone else, has free will, to rule in Hell and see if he can stick it to God by corrupting he’s favorite creation, Humans.

What struck me most is I’d never considered that Satan might just have been an overly-ambitious angel, who just couldn’t admit when he’s wrong.  I’d never considered the idea that he might have regrets.

It’s also funny to think that in 1600 Milton must have known people who make mistakes and, instead of admitting they’re wrong, double down.

This influenced my thinking by not allowing me to simply say, “that person is evil and that’s why he does what he does.”  That line of thinking could no longer hold water.  If Milton in the 1600s could conceive that the master of evil himself could have explainable motivations, everyone could.  People have bad brain chemistry, bad genes, bad environments, or some combination of all of those and other things.  Evil actions exist, but EVIL doesn’t.  And, understanding why people do things doesn’t condone those actions but it can help us to actually solve problems.  You see, if you simply believe there is evil and some people are evil, there really isn’t anything you can do about it.  But if you understand that certain genes can increase the likelihood of someone being violent, especially when paired with certain environments, then you can actually reduce violence.  Understanding that a certain brain chemistry needs to be regulated by medicine to prevent either murder or suicide is much more helpful than simply saying “The devil made them do it.”

We all have free will, and some people do honestly choose to do bad things, but what this book taught me was that I can’t simply rush to judgement on anything without at least trying to see the other side.

That’s the great thing about good literature, you can find yourself exploring ideas that have very little to do with the original text.

Anyway, I’ve cut this short because this book actually brings up a ton of thoughts that go off in even more random directions. Also, as I mentioned in my post about blogger’s block I’ve been letting this keep me from moving forward.  So I needed to just get this out there and move on.

Hopefully, the next post comes out a bit quicker.


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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Books


Bloggers Block

I get bloggers block, what I’m calling writer’s block for people who try to blog, quite often.  Usually it is a paralysis that comes from too many topics to tackle and not enough hours to write about them.  This time, however, I gave myself a series of blogs that would be about a subject that I have thought about for quite some time: The Books That Influenced Me Most.  Thought that would help keep me on track: I was wrong.

I’ve become stumped on one title.  I’ve written most of the blog, but feel I’m missing the point of its lasting influence.  The title is Paradise Lost by John Milton, and it is one of my all-time favorite books.  I’ll probably post it this weekend, but as I was writing I kept switching ideas and themes.  Which is good if I were writing a book on Paradise Lost, but not a blog post.

I know what other books are supposed to be a part of this series, so I figure I’ll write a few of them down here and maybe that will help get me going.  I’ve often heard when you have a mental block you should just push forward.  If you are blocked writing: just write.  Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not, just do it.

So that’s what this is.  Me just writing so I get something out there.

Here are some of the books I’ll feature in Joe’s Book Tour.

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
  • That’s Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The Evolution of Desire by David Buss
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
  • From Good to Great by Jim Collins

Hopefully the blog posts to go along with those titles will be coming soon.  Also, I may remember a few titles as I’m writing others so the list might expand.

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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Books


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