Monday, December 31, 2007

stealing music

a poll

How about this, to get you to vote! This poll has 5 questions:

1. Do you think downloading music from the internet without paying for it is stealing?
2. Have you ever done so?
3. Do you do so now?
4. Do you think that making copies of CD's or MP3's that you legitimately own, for your own or your immediate family's personal use, is stealing?
5. Your further comments?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tigers and The Shining Four

On LOGOS II, when I was there, there was this super amazing group of four people who I referred to as The Shining Four. They were two guys, and two girls, and the four of them were very close, and were working through some really intense shit in a way that made them seem, to me, to shine. I got to marry one of them, and two of them married each other. The fourth also married a fellow LOGoid.

Anyway, one of the things that I associate with The Shining Four is an image of them all lying in the main meeting room--just the four of them--listening to this. At rather high volume levels. And singing along. (and they could all sing). I'm not totally sure that this memory is perfect in detail--but it captures them. They were a group of Christians who were willing to face the darkness--a rarity, in my experience. Tigers were a metaphor for them--for that darkness. Been reminded of all this by the recent tiger horror at the San Francisco Zoo. (this 10th anniversary iteration of the musical at royal albert hall will always be my favorite)

The tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart, as they turn your dream to shame.


I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I'm living.
So different now from what it seemed. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

If that lives you feeling a bit down, you might try this as a chaser.


Can I just say I think it is incredibly kewl that Barack Obama and co. have decided not to take *any* money from lobbyists or PAC's? They're working toward a half million donors and 800,000 donations before the iowa caucuses. If you study this a bit, you can see that obama is raising more money from small donors, and thus from more people, than clinton. That is kewl. None of his opponents have taken the same nearly crazy stand refusing all "soft" money. At least as far as I can tell.

I'm telling you, this is the guy.

I'm always telling Megan "There are no good leaders." So I say all this with a grain of salt. Probably he'll win, and then the power will altogether corrupt him, and he'll turn into an evil monster like the current guy, and america will go down in flames. Alas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Joe's Things I relearned this advent.

Wanted to direct your attention to Joe's "Things I relearned this Advent". If found it very readable and provocative. Thank you Joe.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

Monday, December 24, 2007

Offputting Christmas

I went to a Christmas eve service tonight at an evangelical protestant church which shall remain unnamed (because I *really* like lots of people in this church, and I don't want them to feel bad, and my comments are more about christianity in general).

They sang lots of traditional christmas songs, had a traditional christmas play in which they read from the accounts in luke and matthew, and there were a couple playing mary and joseph, and a little baby playing jesus, and children playing sheep and shepherds and angels and wizards from the east and ... well, you know. If you live in America, you've no doubt seen this whole thing at least a couple times in your life.

It was astoundingly upbeat. God loves us. God gave us the most beautiful gift ever in Jesus, the precious little baby who would grow to become the god man and who can help us get our lives straitened out, and help us overcome our sins, and ... someday he's gonna fix all the problems and injustice and take the people who believe in him to heaven to be perfectly happy for all eternity. Ok see that? all that wasn't in there tonite. somewhere between the beginning of this paragraph and the end, I stopped objectively describing the Christmas eve service, and started talking about what I see as the underlying implications. But where that happened is something I can't quite nail down.

Some lyrics "He rules the world, with truth and grace" and "In his name all oppression shall cease."

I was mostly asking myself, "Self, are things *in general* worse or better than they were in ... say ... 1 C.E. (or A.D., as you wish)"

Now there is a question that is worthy of a doctoral dissertation. It's pretty hard to get at. It's just way too general and not defined nor operationalized.

Having said that, while the answer may not definitely be "worse", neither is it by any stretch of the imagination definitely "better"

Let us consider...

Upper estimates of world population in 1 C.E. are about 300 million. Yep. 300 million people alive worldwide. Or about 1 for every 22 people alive today. Another way to look at that is it's approximately the current population of the United States of America.

Alas--see that? I'm about to segue into an intellectual discussion of poverty, war, and human suffering. Stop that.

How about a quote from Brian McClaren's Everything Must Change

Why hasn't the Christian religion made a difference commensurate with its message, size, and resources?
Brian McClaren

When I got older, I realized that my entire life had been lived against the backdrop of genocide and violence, poverty and corruption. Over a million people died in my country (Burundi) in a series of genocides starting in 1959, and nearly a million in Rwanda, an din spite of huge amounts of foreign aid, our people remain poor, and many of them, hungry. So much death, so much hatred and distrust between tribes, so much poverty, suffering, corruption, and injustice, and nothing ever really changed. Eventually I realized something. I had never heard a sermon that addressed these realities. Did God only care about our souls going to heaven after we died? Were our hungry bellies unimportant to God? Was God unconcerned about our crying sons and frightened daughters, our mothers hiding under beds, our fathers croucing by windows, unalbe to sleep because of gunfire? Or did God send Jesus to teach us how to avoid genocide by learning to love each other, how to overcome tribalism and poverty by following his path, how to deal with injustice and curruption, how to make a better life here on earth--here in East Africa? ... Over the years, I have come to understand that something is wrong with they way we understand Jesus and the good news. Something is missing in the version of the Christian religion we received from the missionaries, which is the message we now preach ourselves. They told us how to go to heaven. But they left out one important detail. They didn't tell us how the will of God could be done on earth.
Claude, from Burundi

I guess what I'm saying is that the Christmas story is making some pretty freaking enormous claims, and it seems reasonable to me to say "Well, it's been 2000 years. What's the evidence for and against the claims?" Maybe Christians need to reconsider the way they interact with the Christmas story in light of the implicit demands that it makes on them.

I mean what if the Christmas story implies a demand from God that you act like Jesus, and wratchet your pleasure and your consumption down to third world levels, kinda like Jesus wratcheted his pleasure and consumption down to 3rd world levels. According to the story, the distance he had to move to make that shift was a lot further than any of us would have to travel. Just a thought.

Or maybe I'm just way off base, and instead that it's totally kewl with Jesus that we 20% of the world richest continue to consume 80% of the worlds resources while 30,000 children starve to death on Christmas day? But I just don't see that in the story. Maybe I'm just missing it.

Here's a 2005 photo of the little town of bethlehem (population: ~29,000)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

You simply gotta

read Jim Wallis' prayer for 2008. It's astoundingly hopeful--and it's a thinking hopeful, not a norman vincent peale/joel osteen hopeful. Here's the first coupla paragraphs

The year of 1968 was very significant in my life, and a decisive one for the nation. It was the year when the hopes borne by the social movements of the 1950's and 60's were dashed by the assassinations of, first, Martin Luther King Jr., and then Robert F. Kennedy.

If Robert Kennedy had lived to become president on the inside (as he surely would have) and Martin Luther King Jr. had lived to lead a movement from the outside, the U.S. and the world might be very different today. But the most hopeful political leader of his time and the most important movement leader of the century were both struck down, and 1968 was the turning point when everything began to go wrong in America. I remember my feelings at the time vividly. King had been the leader of the movements that had captured my imagination and commitment as a young activist; and Kennedy was the only politician who won my political trust. I was getting ready to take a break from college to work on his presidential campaign when he was killed.

Ever since 1968, the door has been closed to real social change in the U.S. Since 1968, we have been wandering in the wilderness. The coming New Year - 2008 - marks 40 years of that wandering, a passage of time I have been pondering as we enter into it.

Read the rest

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quote of the week--from A Canticle for Leibowitz

I'm reading A Canticle for Leibowitz, which is very readable, and won the Hugo back in 1961. It was written by Walter Miller, who had the same name as one of my current closest friends. I thought this quote was fun:

The book was a satirical dialogue in verse between two agnostics who were attempting to establish by natural reason alone that the existence of God could not be established by natural reason alone. They managed only to demonstrate that the mathematical limit of an infinite “doubting the certainty with which something doubted is known to be unknowable when the ‘something doubted’ is still a preceding statement of ‘unknowability’ of something doubted,” that the limit of this process at infinity can only be equivalent to a statement of absolute certainty, even though phrased as an infinite series of negations of certainty. The text bore traces of St. Leslie’s theological calculus, and even as a poetic dialogue between an agnostic identified only as “Poet” and another only as “Thon,” it seemed to suggest a proof of the existence of God by an epistemological method, but the versifier had been a satirist; neither poet nor don relinquished his agnostic premises after the conclusion of absolute certainty had been reached, but concluded instead that: Non cogitamus, ergo nihil sumus.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Democrats chicken out again

and spend another $70 billion to continue the debacle in Iraq. Fuckin' A.


The Golden Compass is, IMNSHO, a brilliant movie, if for nothing more than the beautiful imagery of Lyra riding on Iorek's gigantic polar bear back across snow filled arctic landscapes.

The rest of the world is proving, once again, that they have better sense than Americans about these things. Of course the strange wierd authoritarian anti-anti-authoritarian church doesn't have the same inroads in the rest of the west that it has here. Not by a mile.

Free thinkers should unite and go see the movie. Twice. A sort of anti boycott.

Monday, December 17, 2007

orange juice and APOD

but not necessarily in that order.

So for those of you who don't know about it, there's a really gnarley little piece of software called APOD 1.0 (there's a similar piece of software which isn't quite as kewl for macs here) which once installed will grab the astronomy photo of the day and set it as your windows desktop background everday. It's a real treat, cause the photos are are very nearly always beautiful and amazing.

Astronony photo of the day has chosen their favorite 12 images of 2007. Very nice.

Today I dumpstered 6 450ml bottles of orange juice (It says on the lid "use by 12/17/07 (that's 17/12/07 for you aussies)). I have decided that the people who write the advertising for this orange juice have assumed that the buyer is beyond stupid, and that therefore I will never buy it. Of course at one level the advertising worked, 'cause I'm blogging about it, albeit negatively. The juice is called "Bolthouse Farms 100% valencia orange juice." On the side of the bottle it says, among other things, "Why you should feel good about what's in this bottle (I already feel good about it, 'cause I got it for free =). Our 100% Orange Juice is made from fresh Valencia oranges that are pressed, delicately pasteurized, and bottled on in the same day for a mouth-watering taste unlike any other"

Can someone help me out here? How the hell do you "gently" pasteurize something? Is that kind of like ... gently removing a tooth?

notes from the news

Can someone explain to me *why* the white house apparently doesn't want us to know how often convervative Christian leaders have visited? I mean we already know that Jim Dobson, Jerry Falwell (RIP), Gary Bauer, and so forth have a lot of power with this administration, and that their anti Christian policies have been being implemented by this white house for 7 years. It's not like it's a big secret, is it? I don't get it.

Can someone please explain why perhaps the most creative, brilliant tech corportation in the known universe, Google, is trotting out a wikipedia rival? I mean wikipedia is way beyond kewl already. there's really no way to do this any better. I don't get it.

It has struck me for a short while now that New Jersey has its head screwed on way straighter than most states in the Union. And today they confirmed it, abolishing the death penalty. We haven't even managed that over here in super liberal washington. Maybe I should move.

On Saturday, two children in Iraq were murdered by George W. Bush and the citizens of the United States when they got blown up by a cluster bomb left over from the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. The U.S. continues to make and deploy cluster weapons, and since we're a democracy (well, actually mostly we've fallen off the edge toward oligarchy), it's means we're allowing it. So we get to continue to be responsible for the murder of children by these weapons which are guaranteed to continue to kill children for the next couple decades. Isn't that wonderful? Happy Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ban American movies!

Why can't Bush and co. use their extraordinary new super executive powers to do something really useful like this here in america?

I finally got a wristband

Wristbands have been all the craze in the U.S. over the last coupla years. First there were the WWJD ones, followed by the Live Strong ones and the ONE ones. So I finally got one.

You can't really see it very well in this photo. It says "IDKWJWDSWTFAIGTDN"

It's for "I don't know what Jesus would do, so what the fuck am I going to do now?"

Thanks to Joe for the suggestion.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two Friday videos

Dancing Girlikins


Thursday, December 13, 2007

What's a billion?

Does anyone else find this fascinating?

R.I.P. Monkfish

Today is the day of the farewell party for Monkfish Abbey. This is really sad. I've only hung out over there 3 or 4 times over the last year or two, but it was really kewl just knowing there was a group of such like minded people right here in Seattle--a group of honest, pomo, smart, MTWABP, open, loving people. Seattle is losing one of its more brilliant eclectic communities. I feel zetta-bummed.

At least we can hope Rachelle keeps blogging You rock Rachelle. Thank you for being yourself. Your presence in the city shall be zetta-missed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You should sign this

While the rest of the world is attempting to address the problem of climate change in Bali this week, U.S. representatives under the government of GWBush are over there both making Americans look like complete idiots (as if they need more evidence) and making it very difficult to actually get anywhere in addressing this problem.


You should sign this petition

(there, I attempted to should on you. twice in one post, if you count the title. Consider yourself warned.)


Obama takes lead in New Hampshire polls as well!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


This was on blogger play today


U.S. Panel Cuts Jail Time for Crimes Tied to Crack Cocaine

The United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously today to lighten punishments retroactively for crimes related to crack cocaine, a decision that could affect some 19,500 federal inmates. The decision, which was made over the objections of the Bush administration (whose leader really should be facing charges in the Hague as I write), takes effect on March 3, 2008, and it will not mean automatic release for those serving time. But it does open the door for them to apply for sentence adjustments and possible earlier release.


Here's my campaign speech for the day. "When I'm sworn in as president of the United States, my first act will be to enact sweeping pardons for the unbearably large prison population in this country. I intend to pardon fully half of all prisoners in this country. People are not meant to live in cages. Period."

a bit outrageous

Okay, I have the sense that what I'm about to say is probably a bit far out on the outrageous end, even for me. So consider yourself warned. If you don't want to be freaked out, you may want to stop reading now.

still here? Okay then

I'm confused about something. I've been confused about this for some time now, but a recent case provides a focal point for my confusion.

On Sunday, a heavily armed man named Matthew Murray entered a "Christian" church in Colorado and started shooting people. A church security officer named Jeanne Assam stopped him from probably killing many more people by shooting him several times and killing him.

Now I think that what Ms. Assam did was rather sensible. It makes sense to me for somoene to use deadly force to stop someone from killing lots of ... relatively innocent people.

But what really confuses me is how Ms. Assam, and the church, and the wider culture of people who call themselves Christians, can hold both of these things true at the same time:

1. "I am a Christian"
2. "Using deadly violence against my enemy is necessary, and even laudable"

I mean for me, this reflects on part of the reason I can't be a Christian. I mean on the one hand, I find the idea of non-violence very very appealing. On the other hand, I can't even manage to be consistently kind to those I love the most, much less to my enemies.

But apparently all these people mean something altogether different by "Christian" than "follower of Jesus".

It strikes me as absolutely ludicrous to attempt to extrapolate from the words and actions of Jesus that it's a good idea to shoot and kill someone who is attempting to kill you.

I mean by his actions--every time Jesus was *ever* physically attacked, he ... ran away. Well, except the last time. That time he simply accepted the violence, loving the perps.

And by his words--it seems to me he's astoundingly explicit on this point.

Matthew 5: Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.

You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies.

Luke 6: To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Am I missing something? What do all these folks *mean* when they call themselves "Christians"?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seattle and Obama

It's not fair. People in Iowa get to see Obama speak for free. In Seattle, you have to pay. Not fair Not fair Not fair.

Hey--if any of you non-students in seattle have $70, and wanna go with me to see obama tomorrow, I'll provide the student ID, and you provide the cash. You still get in cheaper than you would have, since tickets are $100 for the general public =) (I mean I'm assuming here that we can get away with that =)(Hell, why not? People generally aren't paying attention, and you can get away with the most unbelievable stuff. I know. I've done it.)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Explicit and Implicit Bias against atheists in America.

(So this is a empirical research paper I did in school this past quarter, minus a couple little things that are too much of a pain to include here. If you want to see the full, actual paper, you can download it here.) (Look, I realize that this is inordinately lazy of me, and I should do a little work to transfer it from APA style to ... blog style. But I did write this paper, and it was a lot of work getting it just so, and I'm a damn good writer, and it shows, so this relative breeze compared to most of the stuff you have to slog through in peer reviewed journals. So deal with it. Or just ignore. But it's actually pretty damn fascinating stuff.)


Previous studies show that Americans have an explicit bias against atheists. This study measured explicit and implicit attitudes toward atheists among 36 undergraduate students at the relatively secular University of Washington. We measured implicit attitudes using the Implicit Association Test pairing the concepts “atheism” and “spiritual” with the concepts “good” and “bad”. We measured explicit attitudes with a self-report questionnaire using Likert scales. As predicted, participants’ explicit and implicit attitudes diverged. Students expressed explicit neutrality toward atheists, but they took significantly longer to associate the concept pairs “atheism/good” than “atheism/bad”, indicating an implicit bias against atheists. The results reflected the difference between attitudes in a secular University setting and culture-wide attitudes, as well as a time of cultural transition. (Read More ...)

Students have an Implicit Bias against Atheism and Preference for Spirituality, in Contrast to their Explicit Attitudes.

Atheists are the most distrusted minority in American culture. Seven U.S. states have language in their constitutions or bills of rights which prohibits atheists from holding public office (Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 2007). In an extensive descriptive study published in 2006, Edgell, Gerteis, and Hartmann found that “atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups,” and that atheists have not benefited from growth in acceptance of religious diversity. This study used data from a nationally representative random digit dial survey in 2003 as well as in-depth interviews conducted in four U.S. cities in 2004 to demonstrate that explicit bias against atheists is pervasive, long-standing, and deep-seated in the United States. In a Gallup poll in 1999, Newport found that Americans were more willing to vote for a homosexual, a black person, a woman, or a Mormon than to vote for an atheist, with only 49 percent saying they would be willing to vote for an atheist for president (Newport, 2007).

In the present study, we used the well-validated Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure implicit bias against and preference for atheism or spirituality, and we compared implicit and explicit attitudes toward atheism. The IAT is a method for measuring the strength of automatic or unconscious (implicit) associations between ideas or concepts in memory. It specifically measures “the relative strengths of four associations involving 2 pairs of contrasted concepts” (e.g. spirituality/atheism and good/bad) (Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2005). The results of the IAT are based on the assumption that a stronger association between 2 concepts allows a participant to more quickly make the same behavioral response for items belonging to these two categories than for items belonging to two more weakly associated categories. The IAT asks participants to sort lists of items clearly belonging to one of four categories into two pairs of categories using one response key for each pair of categories. In this case, subjects were asked to press “I” for items belonging to the categories “atheism” or “bad” and to press “E” for items belonging to the categories “spirituality” or “good”. Then the pairings of the categories were reversed (e.g. “atheism or good” and “spirituality or bad”). Longer or shorter response times for a category pair are understood to indicate comparatively weaker or stronger cognitive association.

Knowing about such implicit mental associations is an important tool for understanding and addressing attitudes and stereotypes (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). For instance, Dovidio, Kawakami, and Gaertner (2002) found that a white person’s explicit attitudes significantly predicted verbal bias and self-perceived friendliness in interaction with a black person. Implicit attitudes, on the other hand, as measured by a test similar to the IAT, significantly predicted non-verbal friendliness and confederate-perceived bias in these interactions. While many people explicitly support egalitarianism across races, because this is a relatively recent societal/cultural change they often continue to have implicit bias against black people (Dovidio, Kawakami, & Beach, 2001). We wanted to explore the analogous relationship of explicit and implicit attitudes and stereotypes toward atheists in American culture.

In this study, we compared implicit and explicit attitudes toward atheism and spirituality among a sample of third and fourth year undergraduate psychology students at the University of Washington in Seattle. Based on prior research, we hypothesized that participants would have an implicit bias against atheists. We also hypothesized that because the culture of the University of Washington, where we drew our sample, is so focused on egalitarianism (two of the UW’s six explicit values are respect and diversity), and because the University is located in Washington, the second most secular state in the nation (Kosmin, Mayer, & Keysar, 2001; Some thing, 2007; Figure 1), such a bias would be small or absent in the participants’ explicit attitudes toward atheists. We used the IAT to measure implicit attitudes, and hypothesized a longer reaction time in categorizing word to the pair of categories “atheism or good” than to the pair of categories “atheism or bad”, in accordance with culture-wide attitudes in the U.S. (Edgell et al., 2006; Newport, 2007). We used a self-report questionnaire to measure explicit attitudes, and hypothesized that, on average, participants would report little or no explicit bias against atheists because of the secular and egalitarian demographics of our subject pool. We therefore predicted low correlation of explicit and implicit biases.


Participants were 36 third and fourth year undergraduate psychology students at the University of Washington, Seattle. They ranged in age from 20 to 27 with a mean of 21.8. 71 percent were females. They were drawn from Psychology 331, a psychology lab class on human performance, and participated in exchange for reciprocal participation in their own experiments for this class.

Participants sat in front of computer terminals and were asked to first fill out a self report questionnaire which collected demographic data and contained 10 questions with Likert scales used to assess participants’ explicit attitudes toward atheists (Appendix A). Then participants were asked to complete an IAT test on the computer by following the instructions presented on the screen.

The experiment was a within subjects design with one independent variable (construct pairings) having two levels (spiritual/good; atheism/bad and spiritual/bad; atheism/good). The dependent variable was reaction time to categorize words to these two pairs of constructs

The IAT test was designed using Inquisit software and scripts from Tony Greenwald’s home page (Greenwald, 2007) in accordance with a 2007 empirical review of the test (Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2007). Participants were instructed that they would be asked to categorize items to categories displayed at the upper right and left of their screen by pressing “I” for the right category or “E” for the left category. The instructions at the beginning explicitly displayed a list of the four categories with the items belonging to each (Appendix B).


All data was imported into Microsoft Excel for analysis. Reaction times were compared using a within subjects t-test. Correlation of reaction times with explicit attitudes was calculated using linear regression.

As predicted, subjects took significantly longer to categorize items to the incompatible construct pairs “spiritual/bad, atheism/good” (M = 1103.41, SD = 260.95) than to the compatible construct pairs “spiritual/good, atheism/bad” (M = 859.84, SD = 235.040), t(35) = 5.77, p < .001 (Figure 2).

On a seven point Likert scale where seven meant “strongly agree”, one meant “strongly disagree”, and four meant “neutral”, participants explicitly expressed neutrality in response the statement “I prefer individuals who are spiritual to individuals who are atheists” (M = 4.43, SD = 1.36). Participants agreed with the explicit statements “I am personally motivated by my beliefs to be non-prejudiced towards atheism” (M = 2.97, SD = 1.70) and “Because of my personal values, I believe that using stereotypes about atheists is wrong” (M = 2.40, SD = 1.48).

There was no correlation between the reaction time difference and the answers to any of the ten Likert scale questions on the self-report questionnaire (r (30) < .15, p > .50).


This study investigated implicit and explicit attitudes towards atheists among students in a secular university setting, using the IAT to measure implicit attitudes and a self-report questionnaire to measure explicit attitudes. Our results supported our three hypotheses of little or no explicit bias against atheists, significant implicit bias against atheists, and no correlation between these implicit and explicit attitudes. As predicted, participants took significantly longer to associate the pair of constructs “atheism or good” than the pair of constructs “atheism or bad”. This indicated an implicit bias against atheism, as demonstrated with the strongly validated IAT. Furthermore, overall our participants expressed no explicit bias against atheists, as indicated by their average Likert scale scores on the self-report questionnaire we used. Finally, there was very little correlation between participants’ implicit and explicit attitudes.

The implicit bias against atheists which we found reflects the American cultural bias against atheists found in the extensive study by Edgell et al. (2006). The lack of explicit bias against atheists among our subjects is indicative of both the religious makeup up of Washington, which has the second highest percentage of non religious people of any state in the nation (Kosmin, Mayer, & Keysar, 2001; Some thing, 2007; Figure 1), as well as the religious makeup of our subjects themselves—38 percent, or 14 out of 37, either disagreed (six out of seven on a Likert scale) or strongly disagreed (seven out of seven on a Likert scale) with the statement “I associate myself with an organized religion.” The divergence between implicit and explicit biases against atheists is similar to the same such divergence of biases against black people found by Dovidio et al. (2002). This divergence reflects the transition between culture-wide, long standing biases and a time of cultural shift in which religious tolerance is considered desirable and is growing (Edgell et al., 2006; Dovidio et al., 2001). The strong divergence between our participants’ clear explicit neutrality toward and highly significant implicit bias against atheists demonstrates the way in which our best intentions, as reflected in our explicit attitudes, can, as in the friendliness study by Dovidio et al. (2001), be operating against the underlying biases which we have imbibed from our culture as a function of growing up here.

Our results are somewhat restricted by geographical location and by the demographic of our participants, which did not reflect national averages in terms of religious versus non-religious affiliation. In the U.S. nationally only 14 percent don’t identify with a religion (Kosmin et al., 2001), whereas 38 percent of our subjects did not identify with a religion. Our participants, however, may more accurately reflect the future U.S. national demographic, as Kosmin et al. (2001) also found that the non-religious were the fastest growing “religious” group in the nation between 1991 and 2001, moving from 8 percent to 14 percent. This possibility in some ways makes our results even more salient for pointing to promising future research. One interesting further line of research would be to replicate the study by Dovidio et al. (2002) comparing how implicit and explicit biases predict verbal and non verbal friendliness as well as self-perceived and others-perceived bias in interactions with people who are known to be atheists or non-religious. Another interesting future study would replicate our study in a geographic location or with a group of participants with a much higher percentage of religious affiliation.


Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., & Beach, K. R. (2001). Implicit and explicit attitudes: Examination of the relationship between measures of intergroup bias. In R. Brown & S. Gaertner (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Intergroup processes (pp. 175-197). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publications Ltd.

Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Implicit and explicit prejudice and interracial interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 62-68.

Edgell, P., Gerteis, J., & Hartmann, D. (2006). Atheists as "other": Moral boundaries and cultural membership in american society. American Sociological Review, 71, 211-234.

Greenwald, A. G. (2007). Generic iat zipfile download. Retrieved November 15, 2007 from

Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102, 4-27.

Kosmin, B. A., Mayer, E., & Keysar, A. (2001). American Religious Identification Survey. Retrieved November 21, 2007, from The Graduate Center, The City University of New York Web site:

Newport, F. (1999). Americans today much more accepting of a woman, black, catholic, or jew as president: Still reluctant to vote for atheists or homosexuals. Retrieved October 30, 2007 from

Nosek, B. A., Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (2005). Understanding and using the implicit association test: II. methodological issues. method variables and construct validity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 166-180.

Nosek, B. A., Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (2007). The implicit association test at age 7: A methodological and conceptual review. In J. A. Bargh (Ed.), Automatic processes in social thinking and behavior (pp. 265-292). Psychology Press.

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (2007). Religious discrimination in u.s. state constitutions. B. A. Robinson (Ed.). Retrieved November 14, 2004, from

Some thing, (2007). Image:Religious Belief in North America.png. Retrieved November 21, 2007, from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia Web site:

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"red-meat declarations" and "Misteaks happen"

Reporter Michael Luo of the New York Times seems to have coined the phrase "red-meat declaration" in an article about the Religious Right on October 21. He used it again today in his article about Mitt Romney, whose recent speech about his Mormon faith and the interplay of faith and politics was, Luo claims, "peppered with red-meat declarations"

A google search for "red-meat declarations" returns seven hits, all from these two articles by Luo. A search for the singular "red-meat declaration" returns zilch.

It will be interesting to see if the phrase catches on. I suppose a google search tomorrow, for instance, will return this post. I like the phrase. It works for me. I intuitively know exactly what kind of declaration he's talking about.

In an associated note, a recent billboard from a major auto insurance company (clearly the advertising didn't work, since I can't remember which one) near my house had a photo of busy interstate traffic and across the photo was the slogan, in really big letters, "Misteaks happen". They meant to refer, I think, to some program they have where you can get "forgiven" for one accident, and not have your rates go up, and to do so in a funny way by misspelling "mistakes". But it took me a little while to figure that out, because the combination of the image of traffic, the idea of mistakes/accidents, and the embedded word "steaks" left me instantly with the mental picture of a big accident and lots of dead human meat strewn over the interstate--human steaks, as it were. Quite offputting, but I'm guessing this wasn't their intention, so also a little humorous. Maybe I'm just wierd, and other people didn't get that impression. But the billboard *did* come down quite quickly--it's not there anymore.

okay, wait, I think I'm giving people too much credit. A quick google blog search returns results in which some people *still* haven't even figured out that it's mispelled on purpose. Alas.

The Golden Compass

So in anticipation of the upcoming movie, last week I went and spent my 3rd Place Books gift card (thank you, David and Gretta!) on Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (renamed by annoying American publishers from the British version Northern Lights). And I must confess Pullman is a great storyteller, and I got sucked in and read until five in the morning, a dangerous thing for me in this crazy end of quarter time when I should mostly be working on schoolwork.

I really enjoyed it. There are certain conservative Christian leaders and groups who are *very* concerned about the book, the trilogy, and the movie, claiming that Pullman is dangerously using his superb storytelling skills to draw children toward atheism. I find this reaction kind of sad. It seems to be propogating the controlling, fear based worldview for which Pullman is criticizing religion in general.

So I just disagree with those who disparage the books. First of all I think good story is story that gets at truth, and I think this is gaugeable by a story's popularity. When 21 million people want to take the time to read something, it's because that something is getting some ... rather broad truth in such a way that so many people read it and have that "aha" connective feeling--this touches on the truth of their experience, their story.

Plus, here's a couple quotes from Pullman

"But I'm not in the business of offending people," he says. "I find the books upholding certain values that I think are important. Such as that this life is immensely valuable. And that this world is an extraordinarily beautiful place, and we should do what we can to increase the amount of wisdom in the world." (from here)
I don't know whether there's a God or not. Nobody does, no matter what they say. I think it's perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don't know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away.

Actually, if he is keeping out of sight, it's because he's ashamed of his followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they're responsible for promoting in his name. If I were him, I'd want nothing to do with them. (from here)

So I'm thinking that if conservative Christian leaders would be more willing to step up and admit the darker half of the truth, then they wouldn't have to come out so vehemently against someone who is so truthishly enstorying that for them. And the truth to which I refer is this: Yes, it's true that Christians are part of a tradition of thought and belief that on the one hand has done astounding amounts of good in the world. And it's *also* true that this same tradition of thought and belief has been responsible for astounding evil in the world. I think the church should hear Pullman's stories as a call to the church to name and disavow the same religious evil that Pullman is enstorying, and to affirm the same good that Pullman is affirming. Instead, sadly, it seems to me that many conservative Christians, in response to this movie, are diving further into an "us versus them", defensive, anti-dialog, mentality. This is the kind of mentality out of which wars arise. It's very much too bad to see it. I.M.O. followers of Jesus *ought* to be the most free, the least fearful, the most willing to engage in dialog and to listen, and the most willing to recognize and join Pullman's legitimate critique of organized religion's promotion of evil and of a god who is evil or weak or both. I mean to me Pullman's critique of religion and old rules and and a too-limited god sounds *really* similar to Jesus' own such critiques.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

morals, compromise, absoluteness, and power.

David asks some provocative questions in the following excerpt from his comment in this thread

What struck me most forcefully about this is that politics — unlike morals — is all about compromise. I was never clear on how people who wed their faith to moral absolutes could ever come to terms with a system that essentially forces people to trade what they “believe” for what they can get. But it was doubly ironic to hear the church pastor advocating for such compromise so that Christians could maintain their role in deciding the secular power structure.

But it also made me wonder anew: What place should morals and a moral agenda have in the selection of the President of the United States? What role should followers of Christ take in defining that moral position — based on the teachings of Jesus? Should believers in the absoluteness of some truths ever compromise them in order to maintain their place in a power structure?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Saturday, December 01, 2007

America's heart?

Jesus: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"

Priorities: $30 Billion versus $1000 Billion. So where is America's heart?

1100 civilians violently killed in Iraq in November.

The *most* telling thing here, apart from the amounts, is the difference in level of detail about how many deaths are happening. He very happily announces 5700 deaths per day worldwide from HIV/AIDS> Does he say anything about deaths per day in Iraq under American occupation?

From the presidents comments on World AIDS day According to the most recent estimates by the United Nations, more than 33 million people around the world live with HIV. They are mothers, they are fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and teachers. And each day, some 5,700 lose their lives.

When Americans witness this suffering, they feel a duty to respond. Some are motivated by conscience and a conviction that America should use its great influence to be a force for good. Many others are driven by faith -- by the call to love your neighbor as yourself, even when that neighbor may live on the other side of the world. This spirit of brotherhood and generosity has long defined our country. And over the past six years, we have rallied that spirit in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Here at home, we've taken new measures to increase HIV/AIDS testing, expand treatment, and improve care. We've worked with healthcare providers to make voluntary HIV screening a routine part of medical care, so all Americans can know their status. And we've worked with Congress to renew the Ryan White Care Act, which helps HIV/AIDS patients receive lifesaving drugs.

Overseas, the scope of the challenge is much longer -- much larger, and this nation is responding. In 2003, I proposed the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- a five-year, $15 billion initiative to expand prevention, treatment, and care in the most heavily-affected countries. Congress approved the plan with bipartisan support. I want our fellow citizens to think about what this means: Every year, American taxpayers send billions of their hard-earned dollars overseas to save the lives of people they have never met.

In return for this extraordinary generosity, Americans expect results. So the Emergency Plan includes specific, measurable targets for progress. It demands honesty and accountability for all those involved. It puts local partners in the lead, because they know the needs of their people best. With this strategy, we have pioneered a new model for public health. And so far, the results have been striking:

Five years ago, only 50,000 people with AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa were receiving antiretroviral drugs. Today, thanks to the emergency plan and to the generosity of the American taxpayer, that number is nearly 1.4 million. Think about that, over a five-year period of time the number of people in sub-Sahara Africa has increased from 50,000 to 1.4 million thanks to the American taxpayer. Around the world, another 6.7 million people with HIV/AIDS have received compassionate care, including 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. Tens of millions have received prevention -- prevention messages based on the proven principles of ABC, which is Abstinence, Be faithful, and use Condoms.

The money that you have spent [sic] is being spent wisely and saving lives. Some call this a remarkable success. I call it a good start. So we have worked with the private sector and G8 nations to increase their commitments. This May, I proposed to double our nation's initial pledge to $30 billion over the next five years. These American funds will help us support treatment for nearly 2.5 million people, prevent more than 12 million new infections, and support care for 12 million people, including more than 5 million orphans and vulnerable children. Now the time has come for United States Congress to act again. I'm confident they will, and I call on Congress to show America's leadership and compassion by reauthorizing the emergency plan and doubling our commitment to this urgent cause.

And from the president's radio address this week
Next week, Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess. Members are coming back to a lot of unfinished business. And the clock will be ticking, because they have only a few weeks to get their work done before leaving again for Christmas.

Congress must address four critical priorities. First, Congress needs to pass a bill to fund our troops in combat. Second, Congress needs to make sure our intelligence professionals can continue to monitor terrorist communications so we can prevent attacks against our people. Third, Congress needs to pass a bill to protect middle-class families from higher taxes. And fourth, Congress needs to pass all the remaining appropriations bills to keep the Federal Government running.

Congress's first priority should be to provide the funds and flexibility to keep our troops safe and help them protect our Nation. Beginning in February, I submitted detailed funding requests to Congress to fund operations in the war on terror. Our military has waited on these funds for months. The funds include money to carry out combat operations against the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq. They include money to train the Afghan and Iraqi security forces to take on more responsibility for the defense of their countries. And they include money for intelligence operations to protect our troops on the battlefield.

Pentagon officials recently warned Congress that continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of our military. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already notified Congress that he will transfer money from accounts used to fund other activities of the military services to pay for current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and no more money can be moved. So he has directed the Army and Marine Corps to develop a plan to lay-off civilian employees, terminate contracts, and prepare our military bases across the country for reduced operations. Military leaders have told us what they need to do their job. It is time for the Congress to do its job and give our troops what they need to protect America. ...

And from the Washington Post in October
President Bush challenged Congress to another clash over the direction of the Iraq war yesterday as he asked lawmakers for $46 billion more to pay for overseas military operations and insisted that they approve it by the end of the year.

The president's war funding plan revived the political struggle over Iraq that has grown somewhat dormant in Washington over the past month. Democrats vowed not to rubber-stamp the request and indicated that they will disregard Bush's holiday deadline, holding off any action until next year as they debate a new strategy to counter his leadership on the war.

The latest spending proposal brings the total current fiscal year request for Iraq, Afghanistan and counterterrorism operations to $196.4 billion, by far the largest annual tally since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. If approved by Congress in its entirety, it would bring the total appropriated since then to more than $800 billion. At their current rate, war appropriations could reach $1 trillion by the time Bush leaves office, a total that by some measures would exceed the cost of the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

And from Iraq Body count: 1100 civilians killed in Iraq in November, including 75 killed directly by U.S. soldiers, 2 of whom were children.

meta and it's antonym

So today I was writing and suddenly came to a dead stop looking for a word that means the opposite of "meta"

I found some interesting tidbits. The first was that I couldn't find any decent opposite anywhere. at all. and I have some sources that work for most everything.

Secondly is that ... the literature (and I'm using that term in the most absurdly loose sense) doesn't seem to mean, by "meta", what *I* mean by "meta". Only one entry in the long list generated when you tell Google (you know what's *yotta* funny? Blogger says "google" is mispelled if it's not capitalized) "Define: meta" even touches on what I mean--and even that one doesn't quite capture it.

So here's a question. What do you mean by the prefix "meta"?

And what's it's opposite?

Aha--wikipedia gets it. It's actually fairly unusual to see wikipedia and google going down such different tracks.

When I think of "meta", I think of arabian nights. and of hofstadter, who actually just came out with a new one this year which is more autobiographical, and apparently has quite a tragic and deeply moving story within, called I am a Strange Loop .


Enormous white flakes are furiously falling! Yippee.

Two Saturday videos

A little Christmas season reality

H/T Siamang

United States of Jesus

H/T Kristie