Why doesn’t my washing machine have a spam cycle?
My email’s spam cycle – if there be one, arrrrrrr  – is difficult for me to discern. Not so long ago, days and even weeks would go by with but one to four messages in my spam file. The last three weeks I’ve been greeted with sixteen or more when I log on. And the content has changed. I never thought I’d be nostalgic for requests from fraudulent Nigerian bankers and Enlarge Your Manhood peddlers, ah, but now I yearn for those simpler times.
It seems the Tea Party’s mental health committee and/or conspiracy theorists have taken over the e-waves. I don’t know what else would explain the fact that so many of my e-spams have a common theme of social media paranoia. Someone has been talking about YOU, the messages proclaim.
“The public knows the truth about you. Bad Things From Your Past Have Been Posted Online. Is what they say you did really true? Swift action is necessary if you don’t want EVERYONE you know seeing this awful information, r(___@______) ! “ 
Yesterday evening, a new favorite spam enticement caught my eye: Why are all these celebrities eating this fruit?
It did pique my curiosity, but not in the way the sender likely intended. Instead of following the link to the miracle fruit product (I assume) they were hawking I did a search for “celebrities eating fruit.” Of all the images the search produced, this was my favorite.
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Shameless self promotion, the continuing series
“Porches have a way of evoking early memory — connections that linger, sounds and images of the moon, dream-lit faces, lightning bugs, voices, and song. Porches, a place where people gather with relatives, friends, and lovers to party, protest, shell peas, knit, play cards, talk and disclose secrets…where stories collect and unfold.”
(Maureen A. Sherbondy, Editor, Voices from the Porch).
My short story “Requiem” is being included in the anthology, Voices from the Porch, to be published by Main Street Rag. The anthology is available for advance ordering .
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MH, Belle and I will be attending the upcoming FFRF Convention in the organization’s hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. As always, those wacky Freethinkers have scheduled a variety of thought-provoking, riveting and crazy-ass hilarious speakers, including Savage Love advice columnist, author, and It Gets Better Project founder Dan Savage, and SNL veteran comedian/actor/author/playwright Julia Sweeney .
Last year the convention was held in Portland, which was great fun and oh-so-convenient for us. One of the 2012 convention highlights was keynote speaker Richard Dawkins. The distinguished professor, author, evolutionary biologist and freethought champion appeared to accept the FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes award. 
In his acceptance speech (titled, “On Mormons & Metaphors“), Dawkins had a jolly good time informing an American audience, prior to our 2012 presidential election, about the misuse of metaphors in religious and political language, and why politicians’ religious beliefs should be up for discussion, just as are their views on economic theory and foreign policy.
The US Constitution states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That’s very different, Dawkins noted, from saying voters should ignore candidates’ beliefs when deciding who to vote for:
“I wish that presidential debates were more gloves off when it comes to the religious beliefs of candidates. Why does Mr. Obama limit himself to criticizing Mr. Romney’s taxation policy, medical policy, foreign policy and so on? Why does he ignore the elephant in the room, which is that his opponent is capable of holding beliefs which, in England, we call barking mad, and here, you might call batshit crazy.”
Dawkins then listed an amazingly brief summary (considering the subject) of some of the absurdities of Mormon “revelation:”
* – Joseph Smith, whom Mormons revere as the prophet/founder of their faith, said he was guided by an angel to dig up some golden plates upon which were written characters of an ancient language which Smith called “reformed Egyptian” (a language unknown to any linguists or archaeologists, by the way)
* – Smith placed a “seer stone” in a hat, buried his face in the hat, looked at the stone and translated the Egyptian scripture that he said appeared in the stone; 
* – Smith’s oral translations were written down by a scribe, who was seated behind a curtain so he couldn’t see what Smith was doing….
“Everything about the Book of Mormon reeks of fake. Joseph Smith was an obvious charlatan.  That’s not an interesting fact in itself. There have been numerous charlatans down the ages. The point is that Mitt Romney, candidate for the job of most powerful man in the world, with his finger on the nuclear button, is a gullible fool who believes Joseph Smith.”
I’m not an American voter, but if I were, I would want to know that my president has the critical intelligence needed to be a president. Anybody who can’t see that Joseph Smith was a charlatan and a liar doesn’t have critical intelligence.”
Of course, others have pointed out that almost all political candidates profess religions which have more ancient origins than Mormonism – religions that also make absurd claims that do not stand up to the scrutiny of logic, reason, or science. Due to the numbing effects of familiarity, these religions don’t always come under the same scrutiny. Isn’t, for example, Obama’s Christianity just as ridiculous?
You can argue that the Hebrew and Christian bibles, the Quran, the Buddhist and Hindu scriptures, can get something of a pass in that they are Iron Age writings and teaching that have been passed on for historical and cultural as well as religious reasons. There was no discipline of science to investigate the claims nor investigative journalism to report the goings-on when those ancient tales were collected. And then, there is the matter of Dawkins doubting the authenticity of Obama’s public religion:
“I think there’s an excellent chance that Mr. Obama is not a Christian….. But in any case, the fact that he professes Christianity means absolutely nothing. He’s an elected American politician. And if you are an elected American politician, that has to mean that you pretend to be religious. There’s no other way about it.  So that doesn’t really mean anything.
“But I think the evidence shows actually Romney does believe it. He was a Mormon bishop. There are records of his excommunicating people. He excommunicated a woman because she left the Mormon Church…. And it’s really much more recently that he, I think really rather obnoxiously, posthumously baptized his atheist father-in-law. If he were professing religion for reasons purely of political expediency, instead of saying he’s a Mormon, couldn’t he say he sort of believes in spirituality or something vague like that? I think it’s pretty clear Romney is a definitely strong-believing Mormon…”
“Christian scriptures are genuinely ancient. The translations from Hebrew and Greek that Christians use are in a language contemporary with the translators. The Book of Mormon is not ancient. The language of its alleged translation is ludicrously anachronistic  . It contains absurdities, scientifically demonstrable absurdities, about the origin of Native Americans,  about people of African descent.  “
“It’s an absurd piece of work. A man who seriously believes it, it seems to me, cannot be trusted to have the sort of acumen, the sort of critical mind that you need in a leader of a great country….”
“For many Americans, the sticking point is whether the candidate keeps his religion separate from his politics. This was the Kennedy defense,  and it has a lot going for it. But I actually want to go further. I’m not an American voter, but if I were, I would want to know that my president has the critical intelligence needed to be a president. Anybody who can’t see that Joseph Smith was a charlatan and a liar doesn’t have critical intelligence….
“Maybe people here wish to argue the case that if religious beliefs or disbeliefs, about the stork theory or whatever, are private, we have no business intruding upon them. I’m offering my alternative view, which is that we don’t only want to know what the candidate’s policies are, we want to know whether he has the kind of mind that you can trust to take reliable decisions under difficult circumstances.”
It was a thought- and discussion-provoking speech; you can read the transcript on the FFRF site. I’m afraid you’ll have to use your own hat for translations.
Until next week, let us all meditate upon the progression of humankind….
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 Talk Like a Pirate Day flashback. Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry.
 (my name and email, usually misspelled)
 The award is reserved for public figures who take on the fabled role of the child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and “tell it like it is”—about religion.
 The idiomatic “talking through your hat” (which linguist say arose ca. 1880) means to speak utter nonsense.
 Before any of this happened, Smith had built up a track record as a psychic diviner of buried treasure. He claimed to be able to see underground, to see treasure by talking through his ass looking through – you guessed it – that amazing hat of his.
 And was convicted of fraud in 1826 in a suit brought by a treasure-seeker he’d swindled.
 When Rep. Pete Stark “came out” as atheist, Woody Kaplan (Secular Coalition of America) interviewed 60 “likely suspects” in Congress and got 20 to admit – only if Kaplan promised total anonymity – that they were also atheists or non-religious. US politicians feel they cannot be truthful about their beliefs because, unlike the rest of the developed world, the non-religious are viewed as unelectable.
 Mark Twain’s many unflattering opinions on Mormonism (“Evidently one of the least difficult things in the world, to-day, is to humbug the human race.”) and the BOM include: “All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the ‘elect’ have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so ‘slow,’ so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print.”
 Mitochondrial DNA lines show that Native Americans are of Asian extraction. The BOM teaches that American “Indians” are descendants of Jews who migrated to America from Israel before the birth of Christ, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a large, ark-like ship. No shit.
 Blacks were the cursed descendants of and bore the “mark of Cain” as a punishment for their failures in the pre-existence. Dark skin was a sign of the curse, lighter skin a sign of god’s favor.
 While running for President JFK assured the Catholic-phobia American public that he would not be taking orders from the Pope: “I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute….”