The simple answer to, "why bother?"

LECRAELecrae Moore is a "popular Christian rapper". Okay, whatever. I'm not a fan of rap.  But apparently this edgy, urban, unsmiling gentleman has offered a "simple question to atheists."

“If there’s no purpose, if there’s no creator and … no rhyme or reason to the life that (atheists) are living, then why are (they) not acting consistent with that thought?"

In this interview on "TheBlaze", (Glenn Beck's online conservative magazine) Mr. Moore is asking why atheists and other non-believers act as if they have purpose in their lives, since, according to Moore, purpose comes from God.

This is the "simple question"?  This is the "Great Question" that he's created?  It's not very original.  Other religious people have asked similar things.

So what does it mean to have "purpose" in life?

Before we answer this, we should ask why this question is important.  Because something else is actually going on here.

"What is my purpose in life?  Why am I here?  Does my life have meaning or purpose or value to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Restaurant at the End of the Universe

These are the questions asked by a person in the midst of an existential crisis.  This happens when we realize that not only are we going to die, but so is everything else we know.  The Earth itself will be boiled away as the Sun expands, and the Sun in turn will eventually fade into a cold, black lump.

Existential despair is very real, and it can happen for many reasons.  Depression, a dramatic change in world view, or a new sense of mortality are some of the things that trigger this.

A person in the grips of such despair might ask themselves, "What use is art, culture, love, or anything else if everything is eventually going to go away?"

There are two possible ways to get through an existential crisis.  One way is to recognize that this is something real, and to use several techniques to process these feelings and come to grips with them.  This can be somewhat difficult to do, and people who do this will probably have to continue doing it as these feelings re-arise.

The other way to overcome an existential crisis is to pretend that you will have eternal life in an infinite, and meaningful, universe.  Frankly, this is a simple and easy method to overcome this angst, and you can easily reapply it every time you have doubts.  Of course, it does require some faith that a meaningful eternity actually exists, which is unfortunate for those of us for which "faith" is insufficient for belief.

According to this article, when Moore was young he, "realized he was essentially an atheist".  He didn't think about Christianity, and he idolized the "gangster" on the corner.  In saying this he is identified as an implicit atheist, which puts his atheism in the same boat with Kirk Cameron's atheism.  

I'll make a prediction here about Moore, as he speaks more about his Christianity his stories about his previous life will grow in the retelling.  I predict that his previous atheism will become more pronounced, more "devout".

So what's the answer?  Why do atheists continue to find meaning in their lives.  Why do we act like something, anything, matters?

I'll tell you why.

Because what we do matters - right now.

If we love, if we are kind, or generous, or if we are merely jerks to our fellow humans, it matters because it affects our quality of life - from both the giver and the receiver - right now.

If I kiss my wife, if I eat a cookie, if I give to charity, if I receive help - these things all affect me right now.  And on the day that I die, none of these things will be undone.

When the universe grinds to a halt, that kiss, that kindness will have still happened, at the time and place where it happened.  It cannot be taken away.

Historians may remember it poorly and write it down wrong, history books may forget, but the event itself still happened, and it mattered when it happened.  It will always have mattered when it happened.  No philosophy or theology can take that away.

And if it always matters when it happens, then it is up to you and I to make each "now", matter.

This is why we live as if we have a purpose.  Because we do.  Because we all matter to each other, right now - and not in some merely hypothetical future.

Do you have a book that will make me religious? Let me know! Or better yet, send it to me!

Carl (a former atheist) wrote in one of my posts about Ray Comfort, that he, "wonder(s) if atheists have ever truly looked at Christian Apologetics objectively."

I found this comment interesting because I do have several bookshelf feet of Christian apologetics.

Carl did mention a couple of apologists that I didn't know about. And because of that, I've just ordered a copy of "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions" by Discovery Institute Senior Fellow David Berlinski. I chose this book due to the review by Rebecca Hamilton on the blog "Public Catholic".

I've also added Ravi Zacharias, and St. Ignatius of Antioch to my apologetics wishlist on Amazon.  William Lane Craig is already in my list, and I own copies of "Hard Questions, Real Answers" and "Reasonable Faith" by Craig.

I purchase anywhere from 10-20 physical books a month, and more digitally.  I prefer purchasing physical copies of apologetics because I like to write my thoughts in the margins.  (You should see my copy of "Mere Christianity"!)

But if it comes down to it, if I have the choice between purchasing a book for work, or for personal growth, or for entertainment, or for religion - religion takes a back seat to the rest.  My primary wish list has over 900 books on it!

So here is where you might be willing to help me out.  First, suggest a book that will make me abandon atheism for your religion.  I don't care if you are Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, or a Bön shamanist from Tibet.  If you know a great apologetics book for your relgion, suggest it to me and I'll add it to my apologetics wishlist on Amazon.

Next, if you wish (no pressure here!) you might see it clear to actually browse my apologetics wishlist and actually PURCHASE one of these books for me as a gift.  You could purchase it for me used if it is available.  I don't mind.

In fact, many of my books are used, either from Amazon, or from me combing through the local used bookstores, Goodwill, AmVets, or Salvation Army.  The demographics of this area include lots of older religious conservatives, and when they die their books are frequently donated.  (I find lots and LOTS of books from Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, James Dobson, and Tom Clancy.  That gives you a broad idea of what the local conservative mindset is like.)

So, let me know what book you want to see on my Amazon wishlist.  Or take a look at it yourself, and send me a copy.  But only if you really feel like it.

Ronnie is finally out of prison.

Ronnie, Then and Now
Here are before and after photos, from 2003 and when he got out this month in 2013.

The decade has not been good to him.

According to his records, he's lost weight too - down to 140 pounds at 5' 11".

His expression is much different.  I don't know if I should read much into it.

You can find him on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.  Of course, you can also find this website by merely Googling his name.

Will he reoffend?  I don't know for sure, but he has spent his entire adult life being a pedophile, and every psychologist and psychiatrist I've spoken with said that this type of pedophile will almost always offend again.

Seriously, I hope not. I hope Ronnie is able to do whatever it takes to become a better person.
Honestly, I have a hard time believing that he is capable of improvement. I think he is borderline, if not outright, a sociopath. I do not believe he can truly feel empathy - and I'm pretty certain he is incapable of any remorse other than that of being caught.

"Hi! I'm from PG&E!" - aggressive selling tactics from members of the Core Gas Aggregation program

I was sitting on the porch one nice evening this summer, enjoying the cool breeze after a hot day, and reading a trade journal as the sun was setting.

A car I've never seen before pulled up across the street, and 2 people got out, carrying clipboards.  One was a a stocky gentleman in a dark shirt and blue jeans, and the other was a blond woman in a purple shirt and blue shorts. The driver of the car drove off, and the people went different directions and started knocking on doors.

Eventually one arrived at my porch. He was carrying a clipboard that clearly had "PG&E" written on it. (Pacific Gas and Electric is my energy supplier) He also had a very official laminated badge clipped to his shirt, with a name and something that might have been an official PG&E logo on it. It definitely had the PG&E blue and white colors.

He told me his name was "Brad" and that he was from PG&E.  Actually, as part of his opening spiel, he said very clearly, "I'm with PG&E, and I'd like to examine your PG&E bill in order to get the savings that are due to you."

Every single scam "spidey sense" I have went crazy.

I very carefully explained to Brad that I didn't know him, and why would I possibly be interested in helping him with potential identity theft? I'm afraid I may have been both more than a little incredulous and vehement.

"Brad" said again that PG&E knew about this, and had approved him coming to me to talk to me about my bill. This didn't quite connect with what he had said earlier. I decided to test him.

"Great!" I replied. "PG&E knows my name and account number. You just tell me what they are so that I can know that you work for PG&E!"

Brad didn't know my account number or my name. He told me that he was "approved by PG&E".  He still wanted to help me save money on my PG&E bill, and he showed me his metal clipboard, with the header cut off of an official PG&E bill, pasted to the clipboard, and something that looked like a bill under it.

Here's something a few people know about me. Briefly, I sold Kirby vacuum cleaners. Don't get me wrong - this is the overpriced Cadillac of vacuums, but the sales tactics that are taught to the commission-only sales force are strictly "Hard Sell", and more than a little brutal. After a couple of months of that I quit, and found that I'd become immunized to hard sells.

And Brad was not just hard selling, he was being dishonest about it. If you're not totally straight with me then I won't buy your product. I sent Brad on his way.  He told me to "have a nice day", and I said "Bye now."


Tonight it happened again, my wife brought this young guy into my back yard, around 8 pm and very much after dark. He'd knocked on the front door, told my wife that he was, "from PG&E" and that it was very important that he talk to us about our bill. He made it sound terrible - some unfortunate billing error that he needed to clear up.

He had a metal clipboard with "PG&E" on it, and a very official badge clipped to his shirt. Otherwise he was dressed casually. Unlike Brad, this gentleman wasn't so easy to give up on a sale.

After verifying (again) that he was NOT with PG&E, but was a different gas supplier, this young man started trying to show me that PG&E was buying gas for "x dollars" and selling it to me for "4 times x dollars". His company, "Blue Spruce" would save me 20% off the PG&E price.

I told the young man that lying was not a good way to get a sale, and shooed him out of my backyard. I probably wasn't very pleasant about it.


Core Gas Aggregation Programs

So here's what I learned.

There is something called a Core Gas Aggregation program.  This program allows an approved list of gas sellers, called Core Transport Agents (CTA), to sell gas to the customer through PG&E's pipelines.  I gather this was done through legislation to prevent PG&E from becoming a monopoly.

I later found out that Brad was selling from a CTA called Commerce Energy Inc.  But the tactics used by Brad were so much like tonight's that it wouldn't surprise me if both salesmen were working for another company that represented Blue Spruce and Commerce Energy.

There are some benefits from buying gas through a CTA.  You can get a lower bill.  Depending on how much gas you use, and the amount the CTA charges, this could be substantial.

But there are some things you should be aware of.

Core Transport Agents are not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).  This means that if you have a billing error, a dispute, or any other sort of problem with the CTA, the CPUC will not come to your assistance.  You could be stuck fighting about it in court.

CTAs may not be very robust.  It is possible for a CTA to go out of business.  If you sign up with one, you should know who you're dealing with.  For example, I would NOT recommend Blue Spruce - it gets a "B" rating from the BBB because it was just put together recently (2012).  Besides their deceptive sales practices, they don't have a track record.  I would suggest that you investigate any possible CTA on the stock exchange, in the BBB, and by talking to others who have used them.

I would also suggest that it is probably a bad idea to make your decision with a guy you just met on your front porch.

CTAs also require you to sign a contract.  This could include a check on your credit, and a contract that binds you into something that you may feel differently about later.  I know how much I hate 2 year cell phone contracts.  I would really want to know all the details of a CTA contract.  I'm definitely allergic to fine print.

As I linked to above, there are a LOT of different CTAs.  When "Brad" knocks at your front door, he won't tell you this.  Wal-mart never advertises Target - why would they?  If it were up to Blue Spruce, they would be just fine if you never knew that other CTAs existed.  Neither salesman that knocked at my door bothered to explain the Core Gas Aggregation Program to me.

And last, being part of a government regulated provider gives you some benefits that CTAs might not be able to give you.  For example, PG&E offers a "Balanced Payment Plan", where your monthly bill is actually an average of the last 12 months, so it doesn't fluctuate very much.  This allows you to better estimate your bills, and avoids those bills that shock you during a Fresno heat wave.  CTAs don't offer this.


Why I won't buy from Blue Spruce or Commerce Energy Inc

They both lied.

And I'm not the only one that CTAs are lying to.  If you step on my front porch and tell me that you're "from PG&E" you had better back that up by showing that you already know my name and account number.  If you can't, you get the boot, and you lose ANY chance to sell to me.

It is as simple as this.  If you have to use deceptive, high pressure sales tactics in order to sell your product, then I don't want it.  If you think so little of me as a customer to treat me this way to sign me up, then how can I expect to be treated when I'm under your contract, when you don't have to follow any sort of State mediation?

No thanks.  Now, GET OFF MY LAWN!

Dennis Markuze is at it again...

Dennis MarkuzeWell I guess Mr. Markuze is unafraid of the Montreal Police Service.  He's been be-bopping around the 'Net again, dropping his particular form of word-salad here and there.

I noticed because he did that on the 18th, on my post about my late wife.  Because, you know, THAT is how a kind and caring person wants to notify someone else about the bankrupcy of skepticism - by telling you that you're an idiot while you talk about someone you loved.

I do feel for Mr. Markuze.  He's apparently gone off of his meds, and now he is blatently violating his probabiton.  

He's not well.

I feel for him, but I will not allow him to post here.  Unmedicated, he is unable to come to grips with reality, he is unable to communicate effectively.  By communicating his old Nostradamus BS and James Randi accusations, he is breaking his probation. More importantly, he is breaking one or more rules of my comment moderation policy.

If, by chance, he manages to post here, don't bother replying to him.  His post will disappear as soon as I notice it.

If you are interested in the saga of Dennis Markuz aka David Mabus, you can read here.  Read the comments for his latest exploits.

As per an unkind suggestion from Mr. Markuze, I've enable comment moderation for a while.  

And that's all I have to say about that.