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The Pope did not state that all religions are true

I saw this going around yesterday, which was claimed to have been said by the current Pope:
“All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them.”

A search on Google yesterday showed no valid source for this quote and it has been posted as false on Snopes.com today. It wasn’t a statement worth applauding anyway. This reminds me of junk like “The Secret”. That is not how truth works. Something is not true just because you believe super squeezy hard for it to be reality. I can deeply believe that the white rabbit/imp-like creature Kuromi is a real-life being I can hang out with, but she is not. And what if the same amount of people wish equally for it to be true and not true? Kuromi can’t both exist and not exist at the same time.

Furthermore, religions contradict each other and some explicitly state that if you don’t believe this exact branch, you are wrong and will be punished eternally for it. Only 0 or 1 religions can be true. They cannot all be true.



L.A. Street Artist Tribute to Nelson Mandela

image

Street artists in Los Angeles have already put up tributes to Nelson Mandela following his death yesterday. This was taken near KTLA, on the corner of Sunset Blvd and Van Ness Ave in Hollywood. I pass this intersection frequently and can confirm it was not up there yesterday morning.

He touched many lives and was inspirational to me as a child dealing with racism and hate crimes. Though my experiences were far milder than Mandela’s, I felt empowered and optimistic because of him. His actions and words will continue to help humanity long after even our own deaths.



Teen atheist asks Dawkins advice on how to come out

Friday night, at the talk given by Richard Dawkins and D.J. Grothe at University of Southern California, there was a portion for audience member questions. One person, whom I believe said he was 14 years old and from the SoCal area, asked how he could come out as an atheist. Dr. Dawkins paused and appeared to be in thought on how to respond to this in the short time and limited information he knew about him. He asked the young man if his parents knew about his atheism and were okay with it, to which he said yes. Dawkins said that it was a good start for him and that he was in a much better position to live life out as a nonbeliever compared to many others.

I agree with Dawkins’ assessment, as the advice for one person would be much different from someone in a different situation, whether it be living in a religious part of the country or being part of a family where this sort of thing could result in a nonbeliever being shunned.

I have some additional thoughts on this as well. You can make a big announcement if you want, but since not everyone feels comfortable doing this, here are some things that worked for me, which I would mention to a young person in a similar situation to his.

Mention it in the classroom. You are at a time when discussions are likely a regular part of certain classes. If a teacher mentions something about how we are a nation of many religions, you might raise your hand and add that we’re also a nation of the nonreligious, including yourself. In Philosophy class, if you are learning about many of the great thinkers but the syllabus doesn’t include any free thinkers, you might find a way to mention those like Bertrand Russell or Daniel Dennett. These are just examples. Feel free to do it in a way that best suits you.

Disclose it to your peers. This doesn’t have to be a special phone call or announcement, it can just be mentioned when it comes up naturally in conversation. When a classmate asks in December which holiday you celebrate, you could reply with something like, “I celebrate Christmas, but it’s for cultural reasons, as I don’t believe in a god,” “My family celebrates Hanukah, but I am a secular Jew,” “I celebrate the Winter Solstice, since that’s the reason for the season,” “I don’t celebrate any religious holidays since I do not believe in any of them,” or whatever answer fits your customs and beliefs. Your answer may end up leading to a bigger conversation and get more in-depth. If they’re curious about what you do or don’t celebrate and brought it up to you in the first place, they may be interested to learn more about you.

Share your atheism on social networking sites. If you are allowed to be online and have profiles, you can mention your views on your bios. On facebook, you can choose atheism, secular humanism, and the like as your religious view.

Display symbols related to atheism. There’s the option of incorporating atheist symbols or the logos of organizations related to that. Not everyone wants to do this, but if you find it appealing, you could wear a necklace, put badges on your backpack, wear a shirt related to free thought, put stickers on your binders, or display magnets on your locker. Something as simple as wearing the Scarlet A symbol on a shirt or necklace can start a discussion. Those who know what it means will know you’re an atheist. Those who don’t may end up asking what the A stands for. There’s also the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the atomic whirl, Invisible Pink Unicorn, and other symbols, as well as shirts that have messages and images. Wearing any of these can not only help you express yourself, but can also encourage others to come out as well.

You don’t have to do all of these or any of these. There’s no order of which to do first, it’s what you are comfortable with. The important thing to mention is that we all are in different situations, so only do what you feel is right. Do these when and if you feel ready. Don’t feel forced to come out and don’t force anyone else out. But know that when you do come out there is a community who will be there for you. There are organizations in SoCal like Center for Inquiry and Atheists United and there is an even greater online community of atheists around the world. The young man on Friday night took a big step by mentioning his atheism and I hope that the positive response he got from Dawkins and fellow audience members can be the beginning of him being able to live openly.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has the Out Campaign website, which is a good resource for additional information.

This piece was reposted on the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.



“How I Was Scammed By Kevin Trudeau” on JREF Swift blog!

I’m excited to say that I have a piece on the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) Swift Blog. It’s my story about how I was scammed by Kevin Trudeau.

Kevin Trudeau spent a night in jail last month and then his living expenses were cut off by a judge the following week, so I’ve decided to share my story. This is how I fell for Kevin Trudeau’s lies, how I realized I was being deceived, what I learned from it, and how I use my experience to try to help others. It’s not fun admitting you’ve been had, but not exposing this fraudster wouldn’t be great, either.

In 2005, I started experiencing severe pain that persisted even with strong painkillers. It became so bad that I had to quit my job and band, deplete my savings, ruin my credit, and put my life on hold to figure out what was wrong and to get treatment. I had to have several surgeries over the years and I continue to take medication for it to this day.

While I was going through the worst of this ordeal, I became very frustrated with the U.S. healthcare system. It took a long time to even find out what was wrong due to referrals and approvals, among many other issues, and I had some bad doctors, improper medication, and a failed surgery that made my affliction worse. Since my condition made me unable to work, I had to go a year with no income and without a life while I waited in pain. I nearly got evicted, all while creditors were hounding me for bills I could not pay.

Read the rest at randi.org



Recorded episode of Virtual Skeptics #58

If you missed the live broadcast of Virtual Skeptics episode #58 which I guested on, you can check out their blog post with the video embedded in it. If you’re on a device where that doesn’t work, you can go to the direct YouTube link.

Here’s their pages, so you can stay updated on future episodes and join in on the conversation:

Host:

Brian Gregory is also the host and creator of Virtual Drinking Skeptically, so if you want to meet and chat with other skeptics, you can do so monthly on Google Hangouts.

Panelists:

Thanks so much to the Virtual Skeptics for having me on and being so cool. It was great chatting with people who do great work and have a wealth of knowledge in various areas of science and critical thinking. I had a blast and learned a few things.



I’m on Virtual Skeptics tonight

I’m a guest on Virtual Skeptics tonight! It’s a weekly web series that airs live on Google On Air. Watch tonight at 8pm Eastern/5 Pacific here.

Check out past episodes at the Virtual Skeptics website.



Strange letter I received from Kevin Trudeau

I am currently working on a post about how I was scammed by Kevin Trudeau. He is in the news again since he spent a night in jail last week. One of the things I wanted to point out is that he is involved in fakery far beyond what you may have seen on his infomercials. Some believe that Kevin’s victims are people who are “dumb enough” to fall for his lies and are just getting what they deserve. But you could simply buy just one of his books, realize it was filled with false information and throw it away, and you’d still be dealing with him years later due to that one purchase.

I was once a believer in him from reading Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and More Natural “Cures” Revealed but I eventually realized both were filled with quackery. I then began getting credit card charges for items I never bought. It was a losing battle trying to fight those charges, so I ended up having to get a new card to stop more charges from coming.

I put it all behind me, but then a couple years later I received this strange letter in the mail. The only things I have edited in this are my legal name, address, and account number. Other than that, this is verbatim: CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…read more



Sundown Lounge podzine and other stuff

Sundown Lounge – a podzine by San Franciscan Larry Winfield featuring news, music, spoken word, and more – included my song “Unborn Ghosts” in episode 337 – “Another West Coast Showcase” last week.

Some small roles I played this year:

I’m briefly in Episode 32 of Skeptically Yours in a commercial about recycling. 😉

You can also see me for a quick moment in the SkepticallyPwnd video reviewing Phil Plait’s “Bad Universe”.

That’s it for the blips and bloops of me for now. Thanks to everyone for including me in their awesomeness.



How Old Exercise Feels with a New Body

Several years ago I joined a gym as part of an overall goal of improving my health. For me, one of the most effective parts of my exercise routine was participating in group fitness classes.

I was hitting the gym regularly and was noticing a big improvement in my strength and endurance. At that time, I had learned and implemented certain lifestyle changes to improve my health, including exercise, but I hadn’t yet figured out the diet part. So, while my health and strength were improving, I was being held back. And I actually looked like I was getting fatter because I was building muscle under fat. My appearance wasn’t solely indicative of my health and progress, but this was part of what hit me to really begin a diet change because I thought to myself, “If I had less fat, you could actually see the muscle and the hard work!”

I made some long-term diet changes and, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I lost over 50 pounds.

However, I did go without a gym membership for about 2 years, due to issues mostly related to finances and relocating to the other side of the country. In that time, I was able to lose weight because of diet and exercise, such as walking, hiking, biking, lifting weights, going to gyms at friends’ apartment buildings, and using machines available at public parks.

As I plateaued, I realized I really needed to go back to the routine and structure that a gym and group classes offered to bring my health and fitness goals to the next level. I particularly missed the BodyPump sessions I took at my old gym, which is a resistance workout training class focusing on low weight loads and high repetition movements. Because it’s a Les Mills class, and those are offered at numerous fitness centers throughout the world, I was able to find some places in my area that offered these sessions.

I signed up for a gym membership in my area and I began taking BodyPump the next day. I wondered what it would feel like to take this class, which I had done regularly, after a 2-year hiatus. There were times when I had to skip 2 weeks and even coming back from that was hard. What would 2 years be like?

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…read more



Toronto family receives incredibly hateful letter about autistic son

From CityNews Toronto:

August 18, 2013
A family is in shock and a community has united after an anonymous hate letter was written about a young boy living with severe autism.

Karla Begley told CityNews her son Max, 13, stays with his grandmother in the morning during the summer time. It was at that home in Newcastle where letter was delivered on Friday.

“I was shaking when I was reading it,” Brenda Millson, Max’s grandmother, told CityNews. “It’s awful words. You don’t know why somebody would ever do such a thing.”

The typed, one-page letter refers to the young boy as a “nuisance” and a “wild animal” before suggesting the family move or “euthanize” the child.

Begley says the police have been contacted and should they have grounds, charges will be filed against the letter’s author.

According to @lennonandmaisy, this is the letter in the newstory:

I cannot accurately imagine the amount of intense stress and fear this letter has likely caused the family. They do not know who sent it to them, so there might be a constant fear of someone coming to their home at any moment to do something terrible, or that any public place they go, they could be standing next to the person who did this.

As a kid growing up in a non-diverse suburb of the MidWest, I constantly received many hateful threats for being Asian-American and it took a huge emotional toll on me. But, at least in my case, people wished I would “go back to China”*, but didn’t wish I would be euthanized. If what I went through was painful, I would think this would be even more intense. When you’re a target like this, it’s not just about the words themselves. You know that you are almost constantly being watched and scrutinized for doing even the most normal, everyday things because you are different. You can’t even escape the injustices of the world in your own home.

This is absolutely dreadful. My heart goes out to the family and I have a lot of respect for the mother for speaking out against this deep and unjustified hate. There is video of her speaking in the CityNews post.

I am very happy to see that it seems that the majority of the neighborhood has come together to support them, which is very important.

I hope they can find and bring to justice the person who did this. It may bring some sense of relief to the family to not be constantly worried. I hope the person responsible for this gets mental treatment and/or punishment and that they don’t do this again.

*I’m not Chinese or Chinese-American.