My 2014 Blog in Review- Thanks to My Readers for a Great 1st Year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

After deciding to start my blog at the beginning of 2014, I have been diligent to post regularly on a variety of topics. I am very excited to have had readers in 94 countries! Thank you for reading, enjoying, and sharing my posts. Please continue to in 2015! I also mirror some articles on my blogspot site, http://lukeaustindaugherty.blogspot.com/ and Google+.

For all of my articles, poetry, essays, and updates, follow this blog on WordPress AND follow me on all the primary social media sites!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lukeaustindaugherty

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2015 will be a big year for me and my readers! I will be publishing my new book, “Love is the Middle,” in the spring. So, be looking for updates.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I Poll Atheists- 97.6% Don’t Care if You Wish Them “Merry Christmas”

During the last few weeks I have had and also overheard multiple conversations about the supposed, “War on Christmas,” and how atheists supposedly hate people telling them, “Merry Christmas.” As an atheist myself who enjoys the Christmas season, I was curious what other atheists think about the situation. Personally, I have no problem with a person wishing me, “Merry Christmas, “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Merry Kwanzaa,” or, “Happy New Year.” So long as you are sincerely wishing me well in your own way, I am cool with that.

When I was enjoying a cup of coffee and reading some Carl Sandburg at Waffle House several days ago, I got to be a fly on the wall when a few employees had their own ideological battle over what phrase is appropriate this time of year. As a customer was leaving, their server said loudly, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” The customer answered in kind. A few moments later, another employee mocked the first server, “Christmas isn’t for four days! You don’t need to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ You can just say, “Happy Holidays.’ It covers everything.” The first server then replied, “I can say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ if I want! It is my Constitutional right!” As the two went back and forth, another server joined in on the side of the non-“Merry Christmas” side and the first server got even more agitated. It ended with some dishware being tossed angrily into the sink bin and the second server announcing, “You say what you want! It’s your job!” with the implicit warning that saying, “Merry Christmas,” could get you fired.

After the conversation cooled down, I asked all three, “Does your company have a specified policy on what to say during the holidays?” All shook their heads in the negative and one replied, “No, I don’t think so.” I said, “Just for the record, I am an atheist, but, I have no problem with a person saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays,’ or whatever to me during the season.” Oddly enough, the second and third servers from the previous conversation did not seem happy to hear my interjection. Yet, not upset enough to argue with me. I also asked the three of them if they had experienced any negativity from any customers to being told a particular holiday phrase. They all said, “No.” It was strange to see people getting so riled up about what seemed to be a non-issue. I felt like the ironic atheist, publicly defending, “Merry Christmas.”

With my interest peaked even more about the issue, I decided to poll some of my fellow atheists to see what they thought about it. I did an informal poll on two different secret atheist groups on Facebook that I participate in.

My poll was simple. I posted,

“I’d appreciate the Club’s help with an informal poll for a Christmas article I’m working on. Here is the question…

As an atheist, does it offend you when a stranger says, “Merry Christmas,” to you, rather than, “Happy Holidays” or something more generic for the season? Please start your response with, “Yes,” (that it does offend you) or, “No,” (that it doesn’t)”

I got responses from atheists from all over the United States and in multiple other countries. The responses totaled 84 votes between the two Facebook groups.

The results were:

– 82 atheists had no problem being wished a, “Merry Christmas.”

-2 said that the phrase did SOMETIMES bother them.

The two voting that the phrase was at times offensive to them added,

“Yes, sometimes, I do get offended, but only because I live in the south where everyone just always assumes everyone is Christian. I’m tired of always having to live by their rules. I also am aware that it’s a small thing that I don’t need to sweat, so don’t anyone go off on me.”

and, “Yes, depending on the person saying it. If they know me personally, then they know I’m an atheist and I would expect them to respect me enough to say happy holidays as I would do the same in return as my wish for them would reflect whatever religion they observe. From a stranger, no, doesn’t bother me at all.”

All said and done, over 97% of the atheists polled did not mind people telling them, “Merry Christmas,” at all. The two people who did find it offensive, only did under certain circumstances. Though my sample group was not very large, it did offer great variation in culture and geography. That said, I don’t think that the whole, “War on Christmas,” by atheists is everything the media cracks it up to be. Heck, the vast majority of the atheists polled even celebrate Christmas to some degree.

I have rarely every found an atheist that had any problem with another person’s personal expression of their own religious beliefs. But, we do tend to get upset when religious dogma is imposed via federal, state, or local government. As much as we value the rights of individuals, we also value the Constitutional restrictions regarding government pushing or showing preference to any religion. Again, I speak generally and not for every atheist in the world. We don’t all live on an island, have an atheist Pope, or think the same thing… and, we’re more like a herd of cats than a herd of sheep.

You have the right to say whatever holiday season well-wishing you want to people. They may like it or may not. Likely, they won’t even care.For me, I generally respond to a person with what they offered me. If, “Merry Christmas,” I respond with, “Merry Christmas.” If, “Happy Holidays,” I answer the same back. Still, I do think that, “Happy Holidays,” is the most comprehensive and inclusive benison. It includes all holidays and and excludes none. Yet, I know that some Christians feel excluded when not specifically blessed per their specifications. They don’t give much credence to the holidays of other faiths during this season and have tunnel vision for Christmas. Only wear that shoe if it fits. I am not trying to ruffle your feathers. Let each search their own conscience regarding this issue.

There is enough drama in life. There is no need to spend December pissing on one another’s holiday campfire and fighting battles that don’t exist. So cheer up! The, “War on Christmas,” is just a sham. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And, have a great New Year!    -Luke

Sony Could Learn an Important Lesson From Salman Rushdie.

It is a sad day…

Apparently, North Korean cyber-hacker terrorists have inspired Sony Pictures to self-censor the release of the upcoming movie, “The Interview,” due to threats of violence and the leaks of proprietary Sony emails and movies.  At the risk of oversimplification, Sony Pictures caved in to the threats and demands of cyber-terrorists. As there are few issues that I am more passionate about than freedom of speech and artistic expression, this situation troubles me.

We are living in a day and age when a person or group being “offended” about something said or written by another person creates an implicit social necessity for the offender to cease and desist their expression.  Such a social ethic will ultimately work against the society which embraces it. When a person’s words or art can be stuffed and silenced by the offended, there is no longer a reason to think about, debate over, and educate one’s self regarding the issue at hand. A lack of such intellectual, ethical, and/or dogmatic tension in a society causes its culture to atrophy like an unused muscle.

Over recent decades, there have been several fails and wins as it pertains to the censorship of a work of literature, art, or the creator himself (or herself.) One of the best examples of a fail of many in media and governments to support free expression and publishing was the scandal over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper, “Jyllands-Posten,” in 2005. For more information on that situation, see the video (including worthy polemics by Christopher Hitchens) directly below:

One of the greatest wins that has occurred in modern history regarding the refusal to self-censor was in the case of Salman Rushdie and his book, “The Satanic Verses.” The book not only drew fire from a portion of the Islamic community worldwide, but a real and direct Fatwa death sentence for Rushdie via the former leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Yet, the book continued to be published and Salman Rushdie, under threat of assassination, lived nine years under police protection. Through much struggle, the would-be censors did not win and free expression ruled the day. See the news clip below from 1990 regarding the Fatwa:

As Sony has acquiesced to the cyber-terrorists’ demands not to release, “The Interview,” a dangerous precedent has been set that takes the practical reality of free expression back decades. As long as some nation or group is willing to make threats, a major film company can be brought to its knees. Some have said that this really isn’t a big deal and at the end of the day, it’s just a movie. I beg to disagree. If we are willing to give up our voice, our freedom of expression, our art, or our literature due to the whims of tyrants, seen or unseen, what WOULD be worth fighting for? If we, in this country, would not tolerate censorship of our free expression from within, then damn censorship from without.

I can understand the apprehension that Sony executives are feeling. I am sure they are fearful to buck this North Korean tiger. But, we are behind you Sony, as well as the writers, directors, producers, and actors in the movie. Don’t let these cyber-terrorists pull your card. Release the film. We will come see it, threats or no threats. We are Americans and free expression is our business. This is not just about the film any more. It is about something much bigger…

“So in a democracy no one, however powerful or impotent, can have a right not to be insulted or offended. That principle is of particular importance in a nation that strives for racial and ethnic fairness.” – Ronald Dworkin

The US Embargo Against Cuba is Ending- Better Late Than Never

I am looking forward to smoking my first Cuban cigar! Today, President Obama spoke about the changing of the United States’ official approach and policy toward Cuba. For the full speech, see the video above. The U.S. will end the decades-long embargo and be immediately working to re-establish diplomatic relations which have been severed for over fifty years.

For some more relevant information and a good laugh, check out this recent segment about the Cuban Embargo from, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

I Was Going to Write A Blog on the Garner Case, But Jon Stewart Already Said What I Was Going To

Jon Stewart covered basically everything I was going to say about the Garner killing, so I’ll just watch his dissertation and shake my head. It is hard to write when I’m frustrated…

All I will add in general is that, if this type of thing cannot be dealt with by the respective local, county, or state governments, the federal government is going to have to step in. I call this killing an unjustifiable homicide and the officers involved MUST be brought to trial, as in the plethora of similar cases currently in the news (and not in the news). The American people have lost faith in their own law enforcement. We do not trust cops. We fear that in any run-in with police we may be hurt, have our rights violated, or be killed. This situation cannot go on as it is. It is reaching a dangerous boiling point and it makes us look to the rest of the world like a nation policed by barbaric, treacherous oppressors.

For more information on the case, check out this video by The Young Turks (includes original video of killing):

And another on the frequency of citizens being killed by cops in the USA vs other nations:

How to Make Easy and Tasty Red Potatoes with Chili

Red Potatoes with Turkey Chili Recipe by Luke Austin Daugherty

Red Potatoes with Turkey Chili Recipe by Luke Austin Daugherty

This dish is a family favorite around our house! Our “Red Potatoes with Turkey Chili” is a complete meal when served in a larger portion and easy to make. The total time required from prep to service is less than an hour. This meal is a nice twist on regular chili cheese fries!

Homemade chili can be used in this recipe, but I’m giving you the “easy” way in this case via canned chili. You can also not use some of the ingredients I have listed and add some others of your own to suit your tastes or based on what you have available.

Ingredients:

-Large Red Potatoes: about 1 1/2-2 potatoes per person eating for a decent size “meal” serving.

– Canned chili- I like using Meijer brand turkey Chili: use about 1/2 a can per person

– One small onion- quartered and then thinly sliced

– 1/2 a bell pepper- chopped (color of your choice)

-2 cloves garlic- minced

-2 tbsp butter

-Shredded cheese

-Sour cream

-Cilantro

-Siracha

-Chili powder

Instructions:

-wash and thinly slice red potatoes leaving the skin on

-Using a large frying pan, add the potatoes to an already simmering mixture of the butter and 1 1/2 cups of water on slightly over medium heat. Cook covered for approximately 30 minutes or until potatoes are done (but not mushy or breaking). Stir occasionally for even cooking.

-As potatoes are starting to cook, chop bell pepper, onions, and garlic and add quickly to cooking potatoes . Add a couple shakes of salt and pepper.

-Heat chili in another pan on medium/low (you want it at a sufficient temperature to melt the shredded cheese when plated)

-Prepare toppings as potatoes finish cooking

-When potatoes are finished, plate the meal with chili on top, adding some shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, a few leaves of cilantro, thin bell pepper slices, chopped onion, a shake or two of chili powder, and some drizzled Siracha hot sauce (all toppings optional)

Enjoy!