Hell Is a School, Apparently

By now, you’ve all seen this T-shirt, which began circulating approximately several years before 17 people were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School, in Florida:

T-shirt: "Dear God, why do you allow violence in schools?" "I'm not allowed in schools. -- God"

As many people have pointed out, the implication is that, against all theology, God—or at least the God of sanctimonious T-shirt wearers—is not omnipresent. That a simple legislative measure is sufficient to banish God from a place.

But if you point this out, or indeed dare to make fun of a religious idea, institution, or person in a public forum, you’ll see veiled threats of hell:

godly comments

I’ve found that Christians far prefer veiled threats over overt ones. I think they’re uncomfortable with their own beliefs, and prefer to skate around them. Or maybe what they believe deep down isn’t what they believe in public. At any rate, the usual response I get is that Hell, in the afterlife, is simply an absence of God.

So, it’s like a school, I guess.

I’ve attended public school, and I still go there, for special events. I’ve never seen a pitchfork or smelled a lake of molten sulfur (and if there were, I’m sure there’d be railings so you didn’t fall in accidentally).

But really, if The Bad Afterlife is like being in an American public school, then sure, I’ll take that. It sounds an awful lot like ordinary life right now.

A Modest Proposal for Anti-Abortion Catholics (and Some Others)

When I recently ran across yet another of BillDo’s rants against abortion, I was struck by an idea: during transubstantiation, a priest turns a piece of bread into living flesh. But surely this is a reversible operation, no? People turn living wheat into nonliving bread all the time.

In addition, if there’s any kind of conservation law, the after centuries of Catholic rites, there’s bound to be mountains of bread accumulating somewhere, that could be put to good use.

So I propose the following: if a woman wants an abortion, a priest can cast a reverse-transubstantiation spell, and turn the fetus into a piece of bread. And then the abortion can proceed normally.

If Catholic priests can’t or won’t do this, then I’ll do it. I’m ordained, and I have as much evidence to back up my supernatural claims as they do.

Wheeze A Coda Dog

The Alexa app on my tablet wanted to share with me the exciting (to it) news that Amazon has released a companion device to its Echo, called an Echo Dot, and invited me to ask “Alexa, what’s Echo Dot?” to learn more.

According to said app’s transcript, here’s the conversation we just had:

– Alexa, what’s echo dog?
– Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.
– Alexa, what’s the Dutch?
– The Netherlands national football team represents the Netherlands in international football.
– Alexa, what’s the code coda?
– Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.
– Alexa, what’s the code doctor?
– Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.
– Alexa, what’s the coda?
– Coda is a term used in music primarily to designate a passage that brings a piece to an end.
– Alexa, what’s Echo Dot?
– [Spiel about Echo Dot]
– Alexa, order some Echo Q-Tips.

The Meaning of Christmas, a Quantitative Analysis

I’ve often heard atheists say that the things people associate with Christmas are mostly secular, and so in a real sense Christmas has stopped being a religious holiday, if it was. But I’ve never seen anyone try to quantify that. Aha! A lacuna that I can fill!

Originally, I was going to google “What Christmas means to me”, see what people come up with, and sort that into “Religious”, “Secular”, and “Mixed” (or “could go either way, depending”). But then What Christmas Means to Me turned out to be a Stevie Wonder song, and I couldn’t be bothered to find the posts that didn’t refer to that song.


But what the hell. In the spirit of Christmas, let’s see what Stevie lists, and whether it’s religious:

  Rel Mix Sec
Candles burnin’ low    
Lots of mistletoe    
Lots of snow and ice    
Choirs singin’ carols    
little cards you give me    
runnin’ wild, as anxious as a little child    
Greet you neath the mistletoe    
Wish you a Merry Christmas baby    
happiness in the comin’ year    
deck the halls with holly    
Sing sweet silent night    
Fill the tree with angel hair[1]    
pretty, pretty lights    
Christmas bells are ringin’    

[1] A note says that “angel hair” means tinsel, so I’m counting it as secular.


After that, I googled “What I like about Christmas”.

Rozario Fernandes, Express Tribune, 8 Things I Love About Christmas:

  Rel Mix Sec
Listening to Christmas carols    
Fairy lights and pretty decorations    
Buying gifts for your loved ones    
Keeping a secret stash of holiday sweets    
Another reason to stay out late    
Family get-togethers    
Vacation time    
Attending the midnight prayer service    


Next on the list was a Yahoo! Answers entry, which I didn’t pick because honestly, it’s a discussion thread, so it’s not clear where it ends, or how the entries were chosen.


What Do You Like About Christmas by Carey Kinsolving is an explicitly-religious piece, a list of children’s answers to the titular question interspersed with Bible verses. The site was down when I tried accessing it, so I had to rely on Google’s cache. But let’s see how it fares:

  Rel Mix Sec
giving people presents    
celebrating Christmas[2]    
donees’ faces lighting up with joy    
celebrating Christ’s birth    
the lights, because of the light in the sky when Jesus was born    
spending time with family    
share Christ’s love    

[2] Could be either secular, religious, or a mixture, depending how the person celebrates.


Aprille Rose at allwomenstalk writes 7 Things I Love About Christmas:

  Rel Mix Sec
The smells of Christmas[3]    
Seasonal flavors    
Christmas movies and cartoons[3]    
Christmas songs on the radio    
Stringing up lights around the house    
Decorating the tree    
Baking cookies    

[3] All the examples listed are secular.


The 25 Greatest Things About Christmas by Belinda Moreira at Arts.Mic:

  Rel Mix Sec
Christmas trees    
Chance of snow    
Vacation time    
Hot chocolate    
Christmas parties    
Ugly Christmas sweaters    
Ice skating    
Carols and music[3]    
Christmas sales    
Gingerbread houses and men    
Time of giving    
Time with friends and family    
Classic Christmas movies    
Holiday cheer    
The chance to feel like a kid again    


I skipped this page at Amazon’s Askville, for the same reasons as the Yahoo! Answers one.


Jesse Carey at Relevant Magazine lists 7 Reasons Why We Still Love Christmas:

  Rel Mix Sec
Spending time with friends and family    
opening gifts    
getting away from work    
Celebrating the birth of our Savior    
Inflatable lawn ornaments[4]    
Christmas sweaters    
Claymation specials    
Family Christmas cards    
Advent calendars    
Christmas carols    
Office gift exchanges    

[4] I’m counting this as secular because I have yet to see an inflatable Jesus.


I count 6 religious, 11 mixed, and 56 secular things to love about Christmas. I think we can confidently say that you can give up religion without giving up the things that make Christmas special. Numbers don’t lie.

A Modest Proposal

Another day, another shooting two shootings. As usual, people will shrug and say that as long as the Second Amendment (peace be upon it) guarantees the right to carry a gun in your pocket (especially if you’re not glad to see me), these sorts of massacre will continue to happen.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from conservative discussions about abortion and voter registration, it’s that just because a right is in the constitution doesn’t mean that it should be easy to exercise. So herewith, I present a few suggestions on how to curb gun violence, without actually repealing the Second A:

  • Gun sales are limited to registered weapons dealers. Close the gun-show loophole.
  • All gun dealers must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Just in case something goes wrong during the sale.
  • To purchase a gun, you must first attend a series of counseling sessions showing the aftermath of all of the mass shootings in the past year.
  • Purchasing a gun also requires a transvaginal (or, for men, anal) ultrasound. Yes, it’s medically unnecessary. So what?
  • No federal money shall go to any organization that advocates for gun ownership, or is involved in weapons sales, or conducts weapons training, or has a gun range.
  • To purchase a gun, you must complete a gun safety course and demonstrate proficiency at an approved gun range. I think there’s one in Billings, Montana. Hurry while they still have some slots open for 2020.

Update, Dec. 4: Alert Reader LP points out that Missouri state legislator Stacey Newman has proposed a bill along the same lines as above. I wish her luck.

Thanksgiving Rules

This year, I’m hosting Thanksgiving. Hooray! I’m a grownup! I’m looking forward to it.
There are, however, some rules:

  1. Smoking: As the saying goes, there is no heaven or hell; just smoking and non-smoking. To that end, there will be two designated smoking areas, one out front and one on the patio out back (but feel free to release your inner buffalo and roam). Thanks for understanding.
  2. Donald Trump is a clown. Also vain, a demagogue, and possibly a fascist. But that’s just me. If you would like to voice a contrary opinion, there will be two designated areas, one out front and one on the patio. Please don’t bother the smokers.
  3. I’m told there will be a game on Thanksgiving. Football, I think. If you’re a football fan, I’m sure all the major news media will report the score tomorrow.
  4. I will not guarantee that any given foodstuff is free from gluten.
  5. The cat comes and goes as he pleases. Don’t try to force or coerce him. If he bites you, I will laugh, take pictures, and call 911, in that order.
  6. There will not be a separate kids’ table this year. Please don’t make me regret it.

Why Can’t I Vote for God?

Le Chat, by Philippe Geluck
In case your French isn’t good enough to read the strip above:

“If God were democratically elected by all the faithful; if his income were taxed, and if he had to retire at age 65, I might become a believer.”

That touches on something I find odd about the Abrahamic religions: their holy texts seem to see monarchy as the highest—indeed, only—form of government. I suppose there’s a dalliance with communism in the book of Acts, but that society isn’t expected to last long. Where does the Bible, to pick the example I’m most familiar with, advocate democracy?

As King Arthur might have told Dennis, the constitutional peasant, “You don’t vote for god!” But why not?

The idea of a human doing God’s job seems ridiculous, not simply because of the limitations of flesh and blood—presumably the duties of the office involve telepathically telling peope where their keys are, or magically removing someone’s tumor, or causing an earthquake to kill a bunch of unbelievers. But presumably the office comes with the wherewithal to do these things—but also because God is usually presented as being so much better than us in every way: wiser, kinder, omniscient-er, and so on, that there can be no comparison.

Okay, so why not have an election? If God’s all he’s cracked up to be, he shouldn’t have any trouble winning an election.

Now, maybe people would vote for someone else, what with the heart of man being corrupt and his every thought being evil, the sorts of things that got caused Noah’s flood, that sort of thing. But what’s the worst that can happen? Assuming there’s an election every ten years or so, how much damage could a human do to the universe in that amount of time? Especially if the Catholics are right and there’s a celestial bureaucracy in charge of making sure things run smoothly.

It’d be the Bush years on a cosmic scale: we’d fuck up, it’d pass, we’d elect someone better (God, presumably), and we’d try our best to forget all about that other guy.

But if he’d rather remain a dictator who never shows himself, I suppose that’s his business. But I can’t help wondering what he’s hiding.

Plus, of course, that whole “supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony mere raw strength” thing.

Someone Would Have a Fit If This Aired Here

This video was posted on the feed of a Belgian comic book artist I follow. I can’t help thinking that if it aired in the US, someone *cough*Bill Donohue*cough* would have an apoplectic fit.

Translation for non-francophones:

Announcer: This is what it was like before.
Priest 2: No, tonight, I’m reading the Bible.
Priest 1: No, you read it yesterday.
Priest 2: I didn’t read it yesterday. I read it for an hour while I couldn’t sleep. That doesn’t count.
Priest 1: Give me that Bible, God damn it!
Priest 2: Good one.
Priest 1: See what you made me say?
Priest 2: But still, you’re the one who said it.
Priest 1: Meanie!
Priest 2: Jerk!
Announcer: Today, the life of these priests has changed: In The Bible According to the Cat, which [artist] Philippe Geluck and God have cleverly divided into two volumes, no more arguments. Harmony has again settled upon the couple.
Priest 2: I’ve finished this one. Do you want it?
Priest 1: With pleasure, my angel.
Priest 2: Here it is, sweetie.
Priest 1: What if… we read it tomorrow?
Priest 2: What a great idea!
Announcer: The Bible According to the Cat. The Bible for everyone.

So, yeah. I’m pretty sure social mores in France and Belgium (the author is Belgian; the publishing company is French) are a bit different than in the US.

Update, Oct. 18, 2013: Changed to the new video with English subtitles.


A selection of headlines in my news aggregator this morning:

One of these things is not like the others.

(Also, what’s with the scare-quotes around “Isaac”?)