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

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Florida Lawmakers Make Feeding Homeless Illegal- 90 Year Old Man Arrested

Ricky Bobby's response to  Fort Lauderdale, Florida lawmakers.

Ricky Bobby’s response to Fort Lauderdale, Florida lawmakers.

Due to new laws against “food sharing” in  Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a 90 year old man has been arrested for serving food to the homeless in a public park. Please read the following link for more information:

Local Florida News Article on Arrest of 90 Year Old Man for Feeding Homeless

I have read lots of recent posts on social media decrying this law and the actions of police in arresting Arnold Abbott merely for serving food to hungry people. It is good that people are outraged. This is an issue that ANYONE should be passionate about.

When I was a Christian believer for many years, I thought it was important to help the less fortunate and I did what I could. I’m an atheist now and I believe in helping the homeless just as much as ever and do it when I can. Just two weeks ago, I invited a homeless man to have lunch with me in Indianapolis. We both had a good time and ended up with full stomachs. I suppose if I did the same thing in a public park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I may have ended up in jail.

Helping other people is a human value, regardless of the accompanying ideology. Because of that truth, I assert that any lawmakers who, by force of law, would stand in the way of humans helping less fortunate humans are behaving in an inhumane fashion. If they happen to be Christians, they are an offense to the teachings of Jesus. If they are secular, then they are an offense to the values and practices that have allowed our species to move forward across the many centuries due to mutual help and working together for the benefit of the group. If they find themselves in another dogmatic camp, they are likely in error of those teachings as well. I have done a fair amount of study on various religions, and I have yet to find a verse in any sacred text that says, “When ye find people homeless and hungry, do your best to screw them over.”

Regardless of our own personal dogma, we should stand in unity against such lawmakers as these, ridicule them publicly, and ignore their foolish laws. They are against humanity. They are against mercy. They are against love. Enough said. No further argument required. And to relevant law officers involved, you have no obligation to enforce these wretched laws. Your duty is to protect the people in your jurisdiction, homed or homeless, and not to oppress them.

Please visit my site below for some related tips on encouraging others on a daily basis:

The Butterfly Flutter Project

And this link for a story about a homeless man who shared his beautiful song on a public piano:

Homeless Man Shares His Beautiful Melody on Piano- A Lesson on Humility and Compassion (Video)

The Butterfly Flutter Project

smile lydia drawing

Happy Face drawing my daughter, Lydia, did for me

Please check out my new blog page, “The Butterfly Flutter Project.” It is singular of purpose and intended to inspire people to encourage others in their day to day life. I appreciate you checking it out and sharing! Just click the link below. My main blog here will remain my primary blog and will be updated regularly with new posts, poetry, and articles as always.

http://butterflyflutter.com/

NYPD Transit Authority Cops Assault/Arrest Legal Guitar Player (Video)

Given the current state of authoritarian Cop Culture in the USA, would you expect anything less than this? That being, the wasted use of police resources at the expense of an unjustified arrest to appease the self-important, egotistical whims of an NYPD Transit cop. At the end of the day though, if you escape a run-in with the law in America and don’t end up shot or beaten, you can count yourself lucky. Merely being unlawfully arrested or given an unjustified ticket or fine is nigh to desirable given the experiences that many US citizens have with law enforcement officers (corporate code enforcement servants) in American weekly. There are plenty of dangerous criminals out there, of course. Yet, regular citizens going about their business are often treated as dangerous criminals.

I have personally been illegally searched before under my protest by aggressive law enforcement officers. I give kudos to singer/musician, Andrew Kalleen, for knowing the law, asserting the law, and standing his ground. Though, after he had proven his case, he was still forcefully cuffed and arrested by a chagrined gaggle of cops…

For more information, please refer to the article below:

http://thefreethoughtproject.com/nypd-assault-arrest-subway-musician-reading-broke-law/#hxR2bMGTmIdHbT7u.99

Please Vet Your Social Media Shares- Here is an Example of Fear Porn Bullshit

texas militia

Screen shot of the video link below

We all have them… Facebook friends who just lust after “Fear Porn.” You know, spooky stories with only a meme or link to a sketchy website for “evidence” of some new terrorist threat, food that will kill you, something that will cure cancer, or some other ridiculous news story.

Generally, when you examine the social media pages of these types of folks, you find a regularly watered tree of social media bullshit. They see no reason to vet anything. As long as it supports their particular ideology, faith, or political leanings, they post that new link for all to see. There can be a particular relish for Fear Porn with these types. They love to be seen as “in the know” among their social media peers and enjoy getting other people’s blood pressure elevated with their posts.

“What is ‘Fear Porn?” you may ask… My definition would be, “Bullshit stories on the Internet which are originally constructed by intentional liars and then shared like a virus by credulous people with a desire to make life seem more exciting artificially.”

Though, I do enjoy the definition on the Urban Dictionary website for comedic reasons:

“Fear Porn- Conspiracy theorist information used to generate sexual excitement in Red necks, religious extremists and dudes that live in their mom’s basement.”

I found myself considering the issue of Fear Porn sharing when I first logged on to Facebook this morning. A Facebook friend had shared a new “story” from another person’s page. It was a video with the caption, “Yesterday mexican police tipped off the texas melita that iSIS WAS GOING TO CROSS OVER IN TO TEXAS AFTER SUNSET. TEXANS SETUP A WELCOMING PARTY. 25,000 ARMED TEXANS MET THEM last night as they tried to cross. The ones not shot quickly retreated.”

The moment I saw the post, my skeptical antenna picked up the story’s BS qualities: no actual source cited, poorly constructed caption, original poster is some ‘Murican type dude trying to gain a following on social media the easy way. Believe me, he’ll pick the low hanging fruit with no trouble at all.

Here is a link to the original post. Be warned, it may not be up for long if the original poster catches too much flack over it.

Then, I clicked the video. Seconds into it, I thought, “Hey… this is just a video of the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in Kentucky!” I have never been there, but have known some people who have years ago. The event includes a night shoot where a bunch of people blast their machine guns into the hillside using tracer rounds.

For contrast, here is another video of the same night shoot from another person in 2006:

Here is the thing my friends; we live in an age where ANYONE and I mean AAANNNNYYYYYOOOONNNNEEEEE can use a re-edited video, a picture from some war or old news story, a photoshopped image, or create a quote meme to propagate total bullshit on the Interwebs. As a human, alive in the modern age, and on social media, you MUST become good researcher. You MUST employ an appropriate level of skeptical analysis. You MUST do your due diligence before sharing wild news stories and such. When bullshit stories and memes are shared, they contribute to the sum total of wasted time for and the dumbing down of your fellow humans on social media. Are there ever amazing stories, new discoveries, and/or staggering events that happen? Sure. But, thanks to irresponsible sharing on social media, the fewer true stories are made harder to find by the many fake ones.

It helps to have an epistemological foundation based on demonstrable evidence and reasoned logic rather than emotional whim, faith, and confirmation bias. In the digital media age, skepticism is the appropriate mode.

There are some great online tools which make sussing out Fear Porn bullshit easy: Google, Snopes, Google Image Search, and many more. They are free… please use them 🙂

Here are some memes that I created which relate to this issue. Please feel free to use them when confronting Fear Porn and other Interweb bullshit.

For credulous posters of BS who actually believe it…

Gandhi meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

Gandhi meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

For those who quote mine, but particularly quote mine using fake quotes…

Abraham Lincoln meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

Abraham Lincoln meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

For those who do not even bother to Google search before posting…

"Do you even Google" meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

“Do you even Google” meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

and my favorite for general purposes 🙂

Smokey the Bear Bullshit meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

Smokey the Bear Bullshit meme by Luke Austin Daugherty

One Click on “Translate” and My Blog Becomes the Tower of Babel

Blogger-Logo

I have been in the blogging game for about nine months now. I absolutely love the ability to turn an idea, poem, essay, or news article into a web posting quickly for anyone to access. When I think back just ten years to what it was like when I was publishing my poetry only in chapbooks, the ability to publish instantly worldwide now is amazing to me. 

Since I started publishing my blogs on WordPress, I have had readers in over seventy countries all around the world. That is extremely satisfying and encouraging to me. As a writer, the ability to share my thoughts around the world is a precious thing. Hell, I’m still impressed by the telephone, so the internet is a damn wonder to me even in 2014. When I consider the capabilities that creative types have to share their work today vs. one short generation ago, it is staggering. Sharing our ideas with others around the world and visa versa is allowing us all to grow, be challenged, and experience new things. 

There is a story in the Bible about the “Tower of Babel.” As different tribes came together to build a tall building for unification, as the story goes, God was a bit worried about the capabilities that people would have if they worked together and had one language. So, He decided to go down and confuse their speech into different languages to hinder their progress and scatter them. See this link for a bit of history on that fable in the book of Genesis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel

babel

Artist’s rendering of the mythical Tower of Babel

I would say based on the engineering ability of people back then, if the height of the Tower of Babel gave God pause, He is probably calling an emergency meeting in Heaven over the Burj Khalifa. Not only that, but the power of Goggle Translate is undoing the confusion brought on at the Tower of Babel. I speak figuratively of course, as I do not regard that Bible story as a historical event. But, it is worth mentioning for contrast and as a demarcation on the path of human progress. Thanks to Translate and other similar programs, the barriers of human communication are being broken down with a fury. I know the translations can be a bit quirky, but it’s a hell of a lot better than trying to read something in an language you don’t understand. 

burj

Burj Khalifa, the tallest man made structure in the world at 829.8 m (2,722 ft).

All that said, I will be taking advantage of the translate option on Blogger, Google’s blogging platform. Every new blog that I post on my WordPress site and a selection of some already published will also be on my new Blogger site. There is a Translate gadget right on the front page which will allow people all over the world not only to read my blogs, but have the option to read the blogs in their own language with ease. 

Please check out my new Blogger site at the link. Feel free to follow me there or on Google + and check out the Translate feature. 

http://lukeaustindaugherty.blogspot.com/

Regarding My 37th Birthday and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Luke Austin Daugherty on his 37th birthday.

Luke Austin Daugherty on his 37th birthday. -Photo credit: Nathanael Daugherty

I am a fresh 37 years old today. It is not a very impressive year in any obvious way. Not 30 or 40. Not even 35, splitting the difference between the two. Yet, I am now as happy and content as I recollect ever being on a birthday morning from a data set of thirty-seven. 

It has been an interesting experiment for me on several occasions to contrast myself at a particular age to a well-known person or a person I admire in some way. Due to the flapping of the butterfly’s wings and the serendipity of chance, I have occasion to do that today. Several weeks ago, Robin Williams took his own life, which caused me to reflect on how the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” had such an impact on me as a teenager. Reflecting on that movie brought Walt Whitman to mind, a favorite poet of mine. Yesterday, unrelated to the previous scenario, a friend on Facebook shared a list of questions given to Karl Marx by his daughters in 1865. I decided to write my own set of answers. In doing so, I needed to refer to, “Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman, which had been brought to mind earlier this month by Robin Williams’s death. 

As I read the beginning of, “Song of Myself,” I realized that Whitman was writing the poem at the age of 37. Toward the beginning of the poem, Whitman mentioned his age specifically and that he was in good health. I wondered if he actually wrote it on his own birthday or at least started the poem then, since it is fairly long. Being one day shy of 37 when I noticed that yesterday, I committed to myself to revisit Whitman and his poem today, on my 37th birthday. That may seem the long way around to arrive at this point in my birthday blog, but it has always interested me how the laws of cause and effect operate in one’s life. 

Walt Whitman at approximately my own present age

Walt Whitman at approximately my own present age

I suppose the greatest commonality I share with Whitman is that we’re both (or rather, he was and I am) a scripturient. Aside from that, we share indie/self-published author status. I have always admired the fact that he published, “Leaves of Grass,” on his own dime. Thus far, every album and book I have published has been done the same way. I don’t even know if I would want to change that. I am feverishly territorial and independent about my writing and process. Both Whitman and I are beardy men. (I reckon I’ll just speak of him as though he was in the present tense for sake of ease and simplicity) I have had a much more epic beard previously than I do now. I am currently trimming it at a #4 length and it used to be several inches long. It seems, by the available pictures, that Whitman’s beard grew in length as he grew more long in the tooth. 

“Song of Myself,” has been oft criticized for more than a century as the most egotistical poem ever written. Even if that were true, I do not see it as a negative. It isn’t a bad thing to love one’s own self, so long as it doesn’t lead to narcissism, spite for others, or destructive selfishness. I think it takes several decades of life to learn to really love yourself well and independent of the critique of others. I believe that it is very difficult to love others properly without loving one’s self first. A self-hater rarely finds anything untainted to offer a fellow human, even when he or she would like to. So, I hold no penalty toward Whitman for esteeming himself well. Loving yourself also does not have a direct correlation to degrading others or celebrating them less in proportion. Perhaps the opposite tends to be the rule. 

Below are just a few selected lines from, “Song of Myself,” which I most relate to or find inspirational now in my own 37th year as Whitman was when he wrote them.

“I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, Hoping to cease not till death.”

“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
     origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
     millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
     look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
     spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
     from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

“These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands,
     they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or
     next to nothing,”

“Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in
  ”   which they are won.”

“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is
     myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or
     ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can
     wait.” 

“I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight
     upon me.”

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)” 

For the complete text, please visit this link:

“Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman

I Turn Karl Marx’s Daughters’ Questions For Him in 1865 into a Modern Internet 20 Questions Quiz

karl marx meme

This morning, I saw that a friend of mine had shared some interesting information on his Facebook wall. The post was about a list of questions that Karl Marx’s daughters, Jenny and Laura,  gave him in 1865 and his answers to them. He would have been 47 at the time he took the quiz, so he would have had enough experience in life to produce sincere and well thought out responses. It is an interesting idea that if Marx were alive today, he may enjoy a Buzzfeed quiz as much as the rest of us. For the original source, please see this link: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/04/01.htm

This is the original list of questions and Marx’s answers:

Your favourite virtue … Simplicity
Your favourite virtue in man … Strength
Your favourite virtue in woman … Weakness
Your chief characteristic … Singleness of purpose
Your idea of happiness … To fight
Your idea of misery … Submission
The vice you excuse most … Gullibility
The vice you detest most … Servility
Your aversion … Martin Tupper
Favourite occupation … Book-worming
Favourite poet … Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Goethe
Favourite prose-writer … Diderot
Favourite hero … Spartacus, Kepler
Favourite heroine … Gretchen [Heroine of Goethe’s Faust]
Favourite flower … Daphne
Favourite colour … Red
Favourite name … Laura, Jenny
Favourite dish … Fish
Favourite maxim … Nihil humani a me alienum puto [Nothing human is alien to me]
Favourite motto … De omnibus dubitandum [Everything must be doubted].

Though I am presently ten years Marx’s junior at the time he took his daughters’ personal quiz, I decided to take it myself. I spent about an hour this morning contemplating and then answering the 20 questions. I did take the liberty of updating some of the older, less ‘Murican spelling of two words in my version. 

My own 2014 version:

Your favorite virtue … a habit of enjoying present company and the present moment
Your favorite virtue in man … the ability to revise one’s position if needed
Your favorite virtue in woman … not regarding one’s self as less than a man
Your chief characteristic … Autodidactic
Your idea of happiness … Laughing with family and/or good friends
Your idea of misery … When those who love wielding authority actually have it
The vice you excuse most … non-willful ignorance
The vice you detest most … willful ignorance
Your aversion … religious tyrants
Favorite occupation … Writing
Favorite poet … Since “Bluebird” is my favorite poem, I suppose that makes Bukowski my favorite poet. Because of that poem, I live to let the bluebird out.
Favorite prose-writer … Me (Whitman taught me to sing of myself)
Favorite hero … toss up between Frederick Douglass & Robert G. Ingersoll
Favorite heroine … Harriet Tubman
Favorite flower … Red rose
Favorite color … Don’t have one
Favorite name … Angela, the name of my true love and companion in life
Favorite dish … A really good spaghetti and salad with a nicely paired wine or brandy
Favorite maxim … “Love is wise. Hatred is foolish.” -Bertrand Russell
Favorite motto … “In this short and singular life, love with all you have, learn all you can, savor the present moment, and leave it all on the table.” -Me (why live by another man’s motto?)

For those who would like to take the quiz or share it, questions only, here is that version for you to copy and paste at your leisure. Enjoy!

The Laura and Jenny Marx 20 Questions Quiz:

Your favorite virtue … 
Your favorite virtue in man …
Your favorite virtue in woman … 
Your chief characteristic …  
Your idea of happiness … 
Your idea of misery … 
The vice you excuse most … 
The vice you detest most … 
Your aversion … 
Favorite occupation … 
Favorite poet … 
Favorite prose-writer …  
Favorite hero … 
Favorite heroine … 
Favorite flower … 
Favorite color … 
Favorite name … 
Favorite dish … 
Favorite maxim … 
Favorite motto …