Monday, December 20, 2010

Facebook Follies: Christmas edition

Today's Facebook Folly, just in time for Christmas:
Keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS...Who's with me?
No one is stopping you from keeping Christ in your Christmas. Go right ahead, and do just that. Christ your Christmas all you want.

The problem is, you want people who don't believe in, or care about, the mythical son of your invisible, magical sky guy (who is also his own mythical son), to be required to keep Christ in their Christmas. 

And to that, I give this sassy, but elegant, reply: Pffffttttt!

Celebrate the real reason for the season: axial tilt. A joyous solstice to you!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Facebook Follies: Save Christmas, Kick Out Immigrants

Today's Facebook Folly is this inane rant:
We Can't say 'MERRY CHRISTMAS' anymore, We Now Say 'HAPPY HOLIDAYS ! We Can't call it a 'CHRISTMAS TREE', We Now Call It a 'HOLIDAY TREE,Because it might offend someone! They call it 'CUSTOMS', We Call it 'TRADITIONS'.This is 'OUR COUNTRY!' If U Wanna Live & Work here have Some RESPECT! If U Dont like it, GO HOME! If u agree with this, PLEASE post as ur status. OH, By the way.♥☆MERRY CHRISTMAS!♥♥☆ ♥
This rant is even less rational (if that's possible) than the usual "war on Christmas" and immigrant bashing that I too often see in my Facebook newsfeed. I couldn't make any sense out of the connection between the "I'm not allowed to say the word 'Christmas' anymore!" part of the rant, and the "GO HOME!" part. I'm thinking that's because there isn't any connection--other than the same people who whine about the "war on Christmas" are frequently also immigrant-fearers. Like my friend who posted the rant apparently is. 

Paranoia strikes deep.

I don't usually say anything to my friends about their regular Jesus-praising, praying, and Bible quoting on Facebook. But I will confront bigotry whenever I see it, and if the bigot wants to defriend me, on Facebook or in real life, *shrug*.

So I asked the friend who posted that rant some questions that I thought might help me her "get" what I she didn't "get":

1. Who is stopping you from saying "Merry Christmas"? And when, where, and how have you been stopped from saying "Merry Christmas"?

2. If you said "Merry Christmas" to someone, what would happen?

3. Who is stopping you from calling the decorated tree in your house a "Christmas tree?" If you referred to it as a "Christmas tree," what would happen to you?

4. What's the difference between a "custom" and a "tradition"?

5. Do you realize that many native-born Americans do not celebrate Christmas? They are already in their country, they are already at "home," and they have every right to continue to live and work here.

6. Do you realize that many of the recent immigrants are Christians who celebrate Christmas, and so are not the least "offended" if you wish them a "Merry Christmas?

[Blogger's note: by the time I got to this part of composing my questions to my friend, I was feeling increasingly irritated, and, therefore, more sassy, as is reflected by what followed...]

7. When did the law change so that immigrants are not allowed into the U.S. if they don't agree to always say "Merry Christmas," and never say "Happy Holidays"? Or are you now in charge of U.S. immigration law and policy?

8. It appears that you are offended when someone wishes you a "Happy Holiday," rather than "Merry Christmas." Why do you have the right to be offended by "Happy Holidays," but some other American doesn't have the similar right to be offended by "Merry Christmas"?

9. Since you're demanding respect, do you respect the rights of other Americans, including those who choose to say "Happy Holidays"? Or do you believe that everyone should be required to say "Merry Christmas" and to refer to their decorated tree as a "Christmas tree"? I mean, it's not like the U.S. was founded on the principles of freedom of religion and freedom of speech...oh, wait!

10. How is anyone's saying "Happy Holidays" harming you?

Oh, by the way, I thought the lovely ♥♥♥'s in your post reflected the love expressed in it. Truly in keeping with the spirit of good will towards all during this holiday *gasp!*--yes, I indeed said HOLIDAY--season.

[What I didn't say to my friend, but really wanted to is this: "And as for me posting that rant as my status: pfffftttt!"]

The friend who posted the rant replied with this cogent answer to all my questions: "I have rights too!!!! And I shouldn't have to 'press 1 for English' either!!!"

Uh. Huh. Well, that settles it. I now understand, clearly, exactly how some or all English-as-second-language immigrants are preventing you from saying "Merry Christmas" and putting up a "Christmas tree." And why they need to leave the U.S. immediately as a threat to your traditions (of Christian privilege and anti-immigrant intolerance).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

At the pharmacy: Scripture candy

Seen today while shopping at Rite Aid Pharmacy:

The Jesus Tin, embossed with "Jesus, Sweetest Name I Know" containing soft peppermints with wrappers printed with Bible verses, $3.95.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Facebook Follies: US would be better if...

Today's Facebook Folly:
If you think the country would be in better shape if we all started asking for God's help, press like on ♥.
But what do I press if I think the country would be in better shape if we all learned critical thinking skills and became better educated in the sciences?

Monday, December 13, 2010

At lunch: praise of woo for colds

I was at lunch with some friends, one of whom had a cold and complained she had trouble sleeping because she coughed so much at night.

Friend 1: Use castor oil. That'll knock it right out!

Friend 2: Before you needed a prescription to buy quinine, I used it to treat myself when a cold first started. Gone, overnight.

Friend 3: The best thing for a cold is to put Vicks VapoRub on the bottom of your feet before you go to sleep. Wear socks so you don't smear VapoRub over your sheets.

Friend 4: (skeptically--yay!) The feet? Why? How would that work?

Friend 3: No one knows how it works, but it really does! I used it on my son when he couldn't sleep because he was so congested and coughing, and within minutes, he was able to go to sleep. It's been scientifically proven that your body can absorb stuff through the soles of your feet really well. In a study they rubbed garlic on the bottoms of people's feet, and within minutes, they could taste garlic in their mouths.

Friend 1: So it's sort of like acupuncture? No one knows why it works, but it does?

Friend 3: Exactly!

I was about to say something about the efficacy--or actually the lack of efficacy--of acupuncture (which probably would make acupuncture exactly like the use of VapoRub* on one's feet to ease a cough or improve a cold), but I limited myself to rolling my eyes. No sense ruining a nice lunch with friends to lecture them on woo, the placebo effect, and confirmation bias. 

But the friend with the cold, who knows of my general skepticism, gave me this look--not quite a glare, but an "I know what you're thinking" look, and said to me, "I believe in 'woo'." 

I obviously need more skeptical, or at least more-skeptical, friends.

*My skeptic sensor was vibrating like crazy about the notion of using VapoRub on feet bottoms to treat a cold, but I couldn't find any studies on the use of VapoRub used this way. (And if Vicks thought it would work, don't you think they'd do the studies? Wow! What a claim that could be for Vicks if it did.)

I did find this information:
The Skeptic Detective 
Urban Legends

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Facebook Follies: Christian Christmas Message

The Facebook Folly of the day is this kind, warm, thoughtful Christmas message, full of the spirit of tolerance, understanding, brotherhood and sisterhood, and the true holiday spirit:
You will never convince me that one ounce of harm is caused to anyone reading or hearing the very word: 'Christmas'.
Unlike, of course, all the horrible pain and suffering inflicted on Christians by those wishing them a "Happy Holiday" rather than "Merry Christmas." Because if you're not "with them," you're obviously against them.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Facebook Follies: I live for Christ

Today's Facebook Folly, posted by several friends:
I live for Christ. He is my way, my light, my strength, and my savior.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Facebook Follies: With God all things are possible

Today's Facebook Folly (weird formatting and punctuation--or lack thereof--in original, I assure you):
Keep this going!!!Heavenly Father, walk through my home and take away all my worries andany illnesses, and please watch over and heal my family, in Jesus name,Amen. This prayer is so powerful. Stop what you're doing & set thisto your status. Watch what He'll do...With God all things are possible
I did not keep this ^^^ going. The irrationality stops with me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chain emails: In God We Trust (Not Really)

Let's start with the premise that, with extremely rare exceptions, anyone who sends out chain emails is clueless (and those rare exceptions are usually folks who are just plain evil). I mean, who really "thinks" and comes to the conclusion that "everyone in my email address book would love to get this!"?

Now, sometimes, I admit, the people who send out chain emails are only following instructions. You know, the instructions that say: "Send this to everyone you know!!!!" 

So they do. Without ever checking first to see if what they're being asked to forward to everyone is true, accurate, or up-to-date. (I know googling must be hard for these people, since they never hesitate hitting the "Forward" button in the name of caution.) Or without considering whether the content of the email might be offensive to any of the recipients (it goes without saying that the email will be annoying to most (all?) of the recipients.)

I don't remember the last time I received a chain email that wasn't a hoax, a lie, a prayer or other religious message, medical woo--or most terrible of all--filled with a disturbingly large number of photos of incredibly cute kittens and puppies and ducklings and hamsters wearing tiny clothes, and unicorns, and pretty glittery flowers, or gifs featuring kittens and puppies and hamsters wearing tiny clothes and unicorns and pretty glittery flowers. With music. *shudder*

Among my recent examples, this rant:
----Forwarded Message----
From: Clueless Friend
Sent: Recently
Subject: Fw: It has begun...Refuse new coins!

It has begun...Refuse new coins!

True Americans will refuse these!

This simple action will make a strong statement.  

Please help do this.. Refuse to accept these when they are handed to you.  

I received one from the Post Office as change and I asked for a dollar bill instead.  
The lady just smiled and said 'way to go' , so she had read this e -mail.  

Please help out..our world is in enough trouble without this too!!!!!

U.S. Government to Release New Dollar Coins

You guessed it

                      IS GONE!!!
                    If ever there was a reason to boycott something,
                    THIS IS IT!!!!


                    Together we can force them out of circulation..

to all

(Typically kooky formatting from the original, just wish I could put the "Please send to all on your mailing list!!!" in the size 72-gazillion font from the email. It was very impressive. No wonder Abbie did just that without research--or apparently thinking.)

So, anyway, my friend Abbie, a habitual chain email forwarder, after receiving the email (from someone who had received it from someone, who had received it from someone...well, the email had clearly been forwarded many times, because none of the forwarders--clueless all--know how to send out blind emails or edit them, as evidenced by the fact that the email Abbie forwarded to me contained several repeats of the message (and really, once was bad enough), once for each mailing list to whom this vital, urgent message had been forwarded, along with the email addresses of umpteen dozens of people I don't know), did exactly as instructed, and sent that email to everyone on her email list, me included, without checking to find out that--wait for it--the email is a lie mistake. 

A Google check, which took a prodigious amount of time--something like 10 seconds--would have brought up, in the #3 spot, a link to Clicking on that link--perhaps as long as another second--takes you to a page that says 

Claim: New dollar coins were designed with the motto "In God We Trust" omitted.

And then, on the same page, there's sample email with the false claim which says in part:
Who originally put 'In God We Trust" onto our currency?

My bet is it was one of the Presidents on these coins.
Get that? The writer can't be bothered to do research, but instead, "guesses" and guesses wrong. (Surprised? Me neither, either that the writer just "guessed" rather than doing actual research 'cause that's really hard, or that the guess was wrong.)

Here are the facts, not my guess:

The American Numismatic Association says:
The motto “In God We Trust“ was first placed on U.S. coinage in 1864. An era of high religious sentiment surfaced during the Civil War. Many citizens desired that their religious beliefs be reflected on the nation’s currency. The two-cent piece was the first coin to bear the motto.
So the motto "In God We Trust" began with the religious pushing their own agenda. I am shocked! Staggeringly, stupefyingly shocked!

And the U.S. Mint (on its kids pages, so it's not real challenging to comprehend) lists this "Fun Fact" #22:
"In God We Trust" was first used on coins during the Civil War. This inscription was added to the two-cent piece of 1864. But it didn't become necessary to add it to all coins until 1955. The inscription "E Pluribus Unum," which means "One from Many" (as in one country made from many states) was first used on the gold $5 piece of 1795. 
And helpfully, for those whose reading abilities are shaky, Snopes provides a photo of the edge of the coin, clearly (and unfortunately) showing the words "In God We Trust":

And there's this information on the Mint's "Presidential $1 Coins" page:
In 2009 "In God We Trust" was moved from the edge to the face of the coin.
So, Abbie forward this email that contained false information, and the asinine assertion that "True Americans will refuse these" to me. 

Even though I've repeatedly asked her not to send me chain emails.

Even though I've repeatedly strongly suggested to her that she check out the facts contained in the chain emails that she sends to everyone on her mailing list.

Even though she knows that I'm an atheist.

Even though she knows that I'm politically liberal.

Do I think Abbie sent this to try to change my political and (non)religious views? Do I think Abbie sent this because she's trying to bait me, annoy me, or hurt me? Do I think that Abbie really thinks that I'm not a "true American" since she must know that I not only would accept the coin (despite the fact that I'd rather carry paper money, cashiers glare at me when I hand them one, and their only utility seems to be for use in the parking machines in downtown Baltimore), but also don't think the words "In God We Trust" belong on the coins in the first place?

No, I don't. Abbie is one of the nicest women I've ever known, and would never try to provoke or hurt anyone. Deliberately. But she does that so often when she sends out chain emails because...she's clueless.