I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Reason versus Reality: Further Atheist Criticism

I've been an atheist for all my adult life, and believe strongly that my view of the world is correct and that the understanding of the world of Christians, Hindus, and Wiccan's are fundamentally flawed. But, sometimes when I read the writing and listen to the opinions of my fellow atheists, there seems to be a desire to see religion just go away. It argued by some that tolerance of religion is dangerous; if you allow Baptists to hold onto their crazy ideas, the next thing you know they'll be voting creationists onto schoolboards and clapping as fundamentalists crash airplanes into buildings. Tolerating a little irrationality opens the door to big craziness.

Personally, I'm not interested in driving religion from the face of the earth. I don't agree with the premise that religion has done more harm than good. It is merely a human tool, like fire or a hammer. It can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes. I'm perfectly living next to and working with Methodists, Mormons, Muslums, and Menninites as long as they show the same tolerance toward me.

Of ocurse, some would argue, atheists aren't shown the same tolerance. We regularly poll at the bottom of who American's would vote for for president. But, there's a difference between tolerance and popularity. Just because you tolerate an idea or group doesn't mean you have to like them. Atheists seem to want a world where their opinions and beliefs are respected by all. This has never happened for anyone, ever. Do you think buddhists get this? Pentecostalists? Scientologists? If you want to believe something, believe it, and have the courage and back bone to stand up to a few frowns. It's not that tough.

I want a world where atheists can live openly, free of fear of violence and governmental backed discrimination; and, fortunately, I find that I already live in a country that provides this. I've been out for all my adult life. It's never cost me a job. I've never had to pay a different tax rate. I'm allowed on public transportation. I've had access to the same bland mush of public education as everyone else. What right don't I have as an atheist that I would have as a Christian?

Most atheists value reason and rationality and, more than anything else, want to live in a world where others also hold reason and rationality as high virtues. I think that's a swell aspiration. But, I also don't think it's built into human DNA to be reasonable and rational. We are animals at our core, and will always be driven more by our underbrains and guts than by our higher cognitive powers. We aren't vulcans. 99% of the world's decisions are made based on emotions, hunches, guesses, and made up numbers like 99%. The world produced by such irrational thinking isn't a horrible one.

Rationally, there's no reason I should go out and get in my car today to drive to the mountains to look at snow. It won't benefit me economically. It will actually cost me money for gas, meals, and hotel rooms. I could be using this time to write fiction, which produces some economic gain, in theory.

All I'll get in return for my troubles are a few memories of pretty landscapes, spent in the company of a woman I love.

Utterly irrational.

Doesn't suck at all.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thoughts? Comments?

So, I used to have a "Darwin fish" logo on my car (s). I finally stopped because they kept getting stolen. I suspect it wasn't fellow atheists snatching the symbols, but Christians who were offended by the insult to their faith.

And, in fairness, the Darwin Fish has some drawbacks as an atheist symbol. First and foremost, it is a direct parody of a Christian symbol, and I'm not an atheist only of Christianity. I don't believe in Islam, Buddhism, Scientology, or Ch'thuluism, either. Second, it equates Darwinism with atheism, which is unfair to both. Darwin's theory of natural selection is a tightly targeted scientific theory that helps us understand the order of the biological world. By itself, it makes no commentary at all on any religious belief. It is difficult to reconcile it with a literal interpretation of the bible, but, on the other hand, so does all geology and astronomy. The Bible as scientific truth fell apart long before Darwin. And, as far as atheism goes, there is nothing about atheism that requires an understanding or agreement with Darwin. Atheists predate Darwin by thousands of years. The Soviets were officially atheists, but they were also Lamarkians, rejecting Darwin. While I am an atheist who believes in natural selection, the two are still distinct and separate ideas.

Searching for atheist tee shirts online, I found a lot of "in your face, Jesus!" type shirts. But, I wasn't happy. I wanted something that said, positively, "I am an atheist, and I'm happy about it," without it being an attack or an insult on anyone else. The logo above is what I've come up with.

Anyone have any thoughts or comments? Do you like it? Does it seem positive? If you were a christian, would it enrage you to the point that you'd vandalize my car?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Technology day dreams

I played around with an iPod touch a few weeks ago. It was an unsatisfying experience. I navigated to a few of my favorite webpages, or tried to, and was constantly thwarted by my inability to hit the letters I wanted on the tiny onscreen keyboard, even in landscape mode.

I feel as if most of the fanciest, flashiest technology these days is being targeted toward 10 year old girls, based on the size of keyboards. I'm a fairly large individual. Even my pinky overlapped more than one key at a time on the iPod. And, I'm an aging individual. I wear bifocals, and even with them, it's a strain to work on the tiny screens of cellphones.

On the other hand, cellphones today have all the power they need to be a perfect computer for me. My desktop computer is 9 years old, with 128megs of ram and a 40 gig hard drive. Today's cellphones are pretty similar in power. In theory, they should be able to run a word processor the equivalent of Word 97 just fine. Yet, all my tiny device searches have, to date, left me yearning.

What I really want is a cellphone laptop I can carry around in my pocket. Something a bit larger than the current average cellphone, so it could have a bigger screen and a bigger keyboard. But, when I get home, I could set the cellphone onto a charger on my desk and have it wirelessly link to a full size keyboard and a full size computer monitor, plus my laser printer. It would hook to my wireless network for internet. But, when it was time to leave the house, it would still fit neatly into a pocket.

I've never lost a cell phone, but I have managed to leave my house without it by mistake once or twice. So, how's this for an invention? A little vibrator in my watch that would trigger for about five seconds anytime I walked more than 100 feet away from my cell phone. So, if I was in a hurry to leave the house in the morning, and forgot my phone, I'd get a little buzz reminder as I reached my car. Or, where I work, there are a couple of cell phones left behind by customers each week. A little watch buzzer, or maybe something on a key chain, could prevent these leave-behinds.

Just a few random tech dreams on a lazy Sunday morning....

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Corporate Political Speech

Recently, the Supreme Court threw out about a hundred years worth of restrictions on political speach by corporations and opened the door to unlimited spending on ads by corporations and unions. Obama went out of his way to condemn the ruling during his state of the union, and pundits have generally panned the decision.

I, on the other hand, think it's a perfectly good ruling, and should be applauded. Opposition to the idea is based on the concept that corporate money will corrupt our politicians. Well, duh! It's happening right now, untelevised. Rather than purchasing ads, corporations purchase lobbyists who make sure that the friends and relatives of politicians live very comfortably. Compared to the present practice, an actual ad broadcast on TV for all the world to see would be a ray of sunshine. If Too Big to Fail Bank wants to spend a few hundred million to support a candidate, I think that's great. Once it's out in the open who the bank wants in their pocket, I'll know who to vote against!

My strong suspicion is that you'll see unions taking advantage of this more than corporations. Unions have pretty much gone all in on Democrats. When Republican's are in power, they don't have much voice. Corporations, however, tend to be a little more flexible. The money flows to whoever has the power. I don't think you'll see, for instance, Big Oil throwing all their advertising to Republican candidates because they know that political power ebbs and flows. They are going to want to make sure both sides like them.

Of course, corporations may not advertise for or against candidates, but might instead throw all their money into ads for or against specific laws. But, why shouldn't this be allowed? As long as the actual corporate sources are always identified (which the court ruling specifically allowed), I think that the public is going to be able to judge themselves if the needs of the corporation match their own needs.

It's true, that with more money, corporations can outspend private citizens. But, I've seen plenty of elections in my time where money didn't matter. When I lived in Greensboro, a collection of large corporate interests in the area decided they wanted to bring a major league team to Greensboro. They were going to use public money to build a ball park, and thought it was going to be an easy sell. They blanketed the airwaves with ads in favor of the ball park, they had ads on busses and in newspapers, they had PR firms in full gear selling the Big League Dream.

In opposition, there were just a few citizens groups with very little funding. They were outspent at least 20 to 1 on advertising. And when the vote came... it wasn't even close. The corporate giants lost and the little guys won.

So, don't panic. Corporate political advertising isn't going to bring about the death of America. It's the stuff going on off the airwaves that will kill us.