Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Open Letter to P.B.S.

February 2011

Dear Parker,Brayden,and Savannah,

My name is Michael Glendon Weaver but you know me much better as Uncle Mike. I am the middle son of your grandparents Alvin R. Weaver and Brenda C. Weaver-McConnell. Your dad is my brothers. I am thirty-five years old and I have been an uncle for almost six years now. Within this six year time frame I have noticed that I do not really go out of my way to visit you guys. I never pick up the phone and call your parents to announce I'm coming to visit the P. B. or S. I have to admit that in my older age my patience is lacking when it comes to being around small children such as yourself. I definitely favor dogs over children so hang in there....I will be the better uncle eventually. By default, I am a typical Weaver uncle. Your dad and I has never felt a closeness to any of our uncles on either side of our family. This is not a complaint. This seems to be just how the Weaver family rolls. I'm willing to bet your grandfather's uncles were not as hands on as well. So in case this trend continues for the rest of our lives, I thought I'd write you kids a letter and offer some advice,insights,rants,or musings pertaining to the events that surround your immediate and/or long term future.

 It occurred to me the other day that if you kids can manage to live another eighty years, you will be knocking on the door of the 22nd  century. Wow! May I just say....I'm jealous! I can not begin to imagine what life will be like in 2050 (my 75th birthday) much less what your lives will be like in retirement age. Hopefully by then the stem cell research that is occurring in 2011 will actually allow everyone to live comfortably past 100 years of age.Maybe you will see the year 2100! Hopefully by the time you retire you will not have to worry about developing cancer or Alzheimer's. The sciences that are being studied this year could very well save your lives or even prolong your lives for many years to come. Do not fall in these traps that religious neo-cons have set for you by attempting to cause you to distrust science. I promise you the science that the neo-con is falsely mistrusting is the same science he enjoys when its time for his vaccine or flu shot every year. Yes! Its hard to believe but even in the year 2011 we still have people living their lives as if its the bronze age! Its as if we just graduated the idea of stomach flu is caused by a small toad or dwarf living in our bodies :D
Embrace will embrace you back :)

 Another thought:  I'm not sure how old you will be when your parents decide to discuss or answer any questions you have concerning why your uncle Mike is not married or even has children of his on. I'm pretty sure I will let them handle telling you that you have a gay uncle.Comparatively speaking, I know your parents are far more conservative than I am (even though I suspect they are closet liberals). But at least two of you kids are attending Baptist churches and I know what the church's official stance on homosexuality and marriage equality is. Your dad (my brothers) has shown nothing but love and support since finding out I was gay back at the turn of the century, and I'm pretty sure that love and support will be transferred into your mind and hearts as well. It really is a non-issue in the Weaver family. I got lucky!
 I am not married or have children because the state in which you currently live (Virginia) does NOT allow its gay or lesbian citizens the right to get married or adopt children. I have no idea what year you will be reading this so try not to  laugh when I tell you that Virginia has actually allowed its electorate to go inside its voting booths and cast votes on whether or not some of their neighbors would be allowed to get married. Strange but true. It happened. Ask your nearest neo-con for details. Assuming they still exist.
 Your generation,Parker,Brayden,and Savannah, will look back one day with so much shame in your eyes over the fight for equality. You will look back at the early part of the 21st century and wonder with shame why the neo-cons of the previous generation were so resistant to human rights. I'm wondering it myself and its a very young 2011 I live in. Just imagine the attitude society will have towards the early 21st century neo-con once you kids hit your early to mid 30's in age. You are not alone in your generation's shame. The same type of shame is being carried around by your dad and I as well. We are part of a generation that carries the shame of our previous generations (including our very blood relatives) reluctance to accept change and grant rights to a certain group of people. Your grandparents and especially your great-grandparents were part of a generation that resisted civil rights to the African-American community. So you and I have a lot in common when it comes to bearing shame. I hope in the future mankind will continue the fight and struggle and see to it that ALL men are created equal.

Lastly: Lets play a trivia game. I'm willing to bet you kids 200.00 a piece that you will not be able to answer the following question:

 List the first names of your 4 great-grandparents on your father's side.

OK! I'm assuming between the three of you; You owe me 600.00!!
You kids are by no means in trouble by not knowing this. In fact, If you asked me the same question I would fail miserably. I'm betting most people would. And that's my final point.
  You three could very possibly be my closest relatives on the day that I die. Its very possible that you could be in charge of my funeral and ash scattering ceremonies once the time comes. Your dad and I are so close in age that its a complete toss up in the order in which we die. The memories you will have of your Uncle Mike will only last until the day that you die(perhaps sooner). Once your life and memories fade, "my spirit" completely vanishes and  will cease to exist on this planet. No one in the latter 21st or even 22nd century would have even heard of a Michael G Weaver of Roanoke,VA. How do I know this? Simple. You failed to answer the above question. Its evidence that people only remember their loved ones for just a generation or two while living on Earth. I have every intention of making sure that the lasting memories you share of us are good ones. I want you to think of us in the year 2065 and smile over a great time we had together.
 I just wanted to let you guys know that I love you and think of you often. Even when I do not seem to be any where around. I hope and dream that you will have continued good health and much success throughout your entire life. If you ever need anything (other than a new car) please do not hesitate to ask.

Love always,
Uncle Mike 

PS, The answer to above trivia question:
1. Homer (Weaver) d. 1975
2. Lera (Weaver) d.1997
3.Noel (Cockram) d.1994
4. Ruby (Cockram) d. 2010

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Baptists,Republicans,and Vegetarians

  From the day I was born until twenty-one years old I was attending independent Baptist churches three times a week. Sunday School at 10:00am,regular worship service at 11:00am and again at 6:00pm Sunday evening. Wednesday services were mandatory as well. If in the event I had a sporting event scheduled on Wednesday nights,It took a back seat to church services. From 1975-1990 I attended a church that was pretty strict in abiding by a literal interpretation of the King James Version of the Bible. As a result the churches congregation was expected to not drink alcohol,never go to the movies,could not wear shorts or go shirtless,mow the yard on Sunday,have dinner at an establishment  that served beer or wine, not listen to rock music(country was OK),or even, as the old slogan goes " I don't smoke,cuss or chew nor mess with the folk that do"
  My parents really did meet their obligation to Proverbs 22:6

  "Train up a child in the way he should go;and when he is old,
    he will not depart from it"

According to the Liberty University study Bible, The biblical pattern of effective parental training emphasizes a balance of instruction and discipline. The ideal parent is to be neither overly authoritarian nor overly permissive. Rather,he must balance love and discipline so as to not "provoke" his child to rebellion.
If this were a homework assignment for my parents...Give them an A+
Their balance of love and discipline cross checked with strictness and freedoms really did allow me to fulfil my obligations in my Christian family as commanded in Ephesians 6:1 and 2

  "Children,obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2.Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise"

Last year I got into a political debate with a friend of mine on her facebook profile that quickly turned into a religious debate. Her sister,whom I've never met, joined in the fun.  The sister,after doing a little investigating into my facebook profile, announces to me "After viewing the books you read [atheistic themes] and reading what you've said, I know your parents didn't raise you that way,and I hope you will not tell them how you feel"

I wonder if this  lady still considered me a Baptist.  Perhaps a baptist living in sin? Perhaps a non-practicing Baptist Christian? All too many times people submit thoughts like: "Well, he was born a baptist,he'll always be a baptist...I'll keep him in my prayers"

The problem is, I was not born a Baptist. I am simply the son of two Baptist parents. The same way I was not born a Republican. I was not born a vegetarian. I was not born a farmer. I was simply born with parents that were. (Assuming my parents were  republican,vegetarian,or farmers)(They were not by the way)
 I was born into a family of believers. However,I am under no obligation to become a believer. My parents presented to me their religious beliefs and ideas in which I accepted as a child,teenager,and even young adult. As I have gotten older I have come to realize that I just do not believe in their religion anymore. As a non-believer with Christian parents I am simply just handing back to them the beliefs they presented to me in my youth. Are they....should they be disappointed? Certainly. I'm sure it can hurt. I'm sure my mom felt pained when I announced I was voting for Gore instead of Bush in 2000. It could have easily stung a little for my dad when I declared my dislike for baseball when I was in Dixie youth leagues. Had my parents been vegetarians I'm sure they would have squirmed in anguish the first time they saw me bite into a piece of bacon.
But my parents,along with millions of other parents in the world know that children grow up and become nothing like them. Its only human nature. We grow,we think,we do things differently. Its a fact of life. For someone to suggest to me that rejecting my parents religious beliefs brings shame and dishonor to them,then I would suggest this person still lives in a bronze age way of thinking. You might as well side with extremist Muslims who think the penalty of leaving the faith is death. Sign up for an honor killing. Grab a pitch fork...a torch...Lets go torture and kill a non-believer with Christian parents.

Prof. Richard Dawkins,author of "The God Delusion", politely explains:
  "I think we should all wince when we hear a small child being labelled as belonging to some particular religion or another.Small children are too young to decide their views on the origins of the cosmos,of life and of morals.The very sound of the phrase 'Christian child' or 'Muslim child' should grate like fingernails on a blackboard"

He adds:

  "Our society,including the non-religious sector,has accepted the preposterous idea that it is normal and right to indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents,and to slap religious labels on them- 'Catholic child','Protestant child','Jewish child','Muslim child',etc.-although no other comparable labels: no conservative children,no liberal children,no Republican children, no Democrat children."

Overall my youthful experiences in an independent Baptist family was very enjoyable. I would not go back and change it in any way. My parents supplied my needs and gave me the best possible upbringing in order to succeed in life. This happens in every loving family,whether its in a Baptist,Catholic,Jewish,or even an atheistic or secular family. I think the biggest difference in a religious family compared to the secular family is that  the religious family teach children what to think and the secular family teach their children how to think. I have observed all loving families training their children in the way they should go. Training in love,respect,honor and dignity is something any civilized family can do regardless the "labels" we apply to these families. Even if Proverbs 22:6 never existed the results in our civilized,functioning society would still be the same. Why? Well, because Proverbs 22:6 is common sense.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to take my godless,liberal,tennis loving Italian greyhound out for his morning walk.


1.Liberty University Study Bible (King James Version)
2. "The God Delusion",Richard Dawkins


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When Does the Simple Become So Complicated?

 About three years ago I started to develop a curiosity for the subject of evolution and I started a self educating crash course by reading and listening to any and all things relating on the subject. Completely ignorant on the subject, I had no clue what the topic was about nor was I even remotely aware of the controversy that evolutionary theory was known for.
I had never heard of evolution in high school,of course I was a complete sciencephobe. I had no interest in knowing what the inside of an earthworm looked like.Why would anyone who doesn't plan on majoring in biology even need to know such things? This was a typical attitude I had towards the sciences (and math).
Several months ago I decided to investigate a little further into why evolution was never mentioned in my biology class. My theory was that the subject was treated the same as sex education back in those days. In the early to mid 1990's if you wanted your child to sit through a week of a sex education course it required a signed permission slip from the parents. Knowing now what I did not know then I just figured the subject of evolution was just too controversial to even warrant an hour of lecture in class. So thinking this I contacted my old biology teacher via facebook and presented him with the following question:
(NOTE:: I wrote his wife whom, was also a math teacher in my old high school,and she answered on his behalf)
"What was Henry County's official position on teaching evolutionary theory in the early to mid 1990's?"
She replies. "His answer is that officially evolution was taught,but since he did not believe in it,he did not teach it"

To help you understand what a tragedy this statement is; Consider this:
A biology teacher/professor that does not teach evolution is the equivalent of a physicist that does teach about gravity or a Christian pastor not teaching about Jesus 

Evolution,unlike your religious beliefs, is not a belief system. Let's repeat:
Evolution is not a belief system. You can no more say that you do not believe in it any more than I can claim I do believe. Its simply not a matter of personal beliefs. Evolution does not require a thumbs up,an official endorsement,a seal of approval,nor a papal approved blessing for it to be reality. It happens whether you approve of it or not.
Evolution happens...whether you like it or not (my bumper sticker) You either accept it or deny it.

Would you question your doctor's diagnosis as a "theory" after he presented to you all the evidence that supports your condition? Of course not. Even so....Go seek a second, independent opinion on your diagnosis from another doctor across the other side of the world. Would, after hearing the same diagnosis from doctor #2 also cause you to deny the facts? Of course not. But this is exactly what the Ray Comfort's and Kirk Cameron's of the world do when it comes to evolution. They reject facts and evidence of a subject that they know very little to nothing about. That's what it means to be ignorant and they play the roles well.

 Professor Richard Dawkins,author of "The Greatest Show on Earth;The Evidence for Evolution" refers to creationists as "history-deniers"  Over 40% of the American population think that humans and all other forms of life were created by God within the last 10,000 years. Its a literal interpretation of Genesis' account of the story of creation. As Prof. Dawkins so eloquently puts it.

   "If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology,those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are deluded to the point of perversity. They are denying not only the facts of biology but those of physics,geology,cosmology,archaeology,history,and chemistry as well."

If some 44% of our neighbors deny this much science and history, then is it any wonder why American school children are falling too far behind their global counter parts in math and science? By denying and simply mistrusting science in our country,we are completely eroding our society as a whole. 

Darwin help us.

**Special thanks to Christopher Lassiter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology, at Roanoke College for taking the time out of his busy schedule to edit and offer corrections/ideas for my blog. Next round is on me ;)
Reference: "The Greatest Show on Earth;The Evidence for Evolution" by Prof. Richard Dawkins

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coming Out of the Closet....Again!

Quickly! What is the difference between a deist,theist, and atheist? Do you know what an agnostic believes? Whats the difference in a monotheist and a polytheist? You are not alone if you can not answer these questions. I assume you can figure out these terms are dealing with the belief in a god,but to what extent? Lets define:

-Theists believe there is a God who made and governs all creation. He is a personal God that cares about you,blesses you,will on occasion,but not always, answer your prayers and even dictates weather patterns around the world.

-Deists believe there is a God that created all things,but does not believe He is superintendent and governor of the affairs and events of the world. Deists believe that God set forth "Laws of Nature" that act per se as a clock acts without the supervision of its maker

-Atheists disbelieve even the existence of a God. He thinks matter is eternal and what theists and deists call "creation" is simply a result of natural laws.

-Agnostic believes only what is knowable. He defines all things God as being "past human understanding" He is neither theist,deist, nor atheist as all these are past understanding.

-Monotheists believe in one God (Jews,Christians,and Muslims)

-Polytheists believe in multiple gods in which each deity is distinguished by special functions. (Hindus, Ancient Greek,Roman,and Egyptian gods)

By now you should have defined yourself and the official "label" on your Godly beliefs. These are very personal to an overwhelming majority of people to the extent of never talking about them or even wanting to. Let us avoid the topic of belief in God and our religions in society.  Two taboos I have heard over the years has really stuck in me concerning our belief in God.

1) People avoid and ignore talking about their religious beliefs because they can be embarrassed to admit some of the things they actually believe in.

2) Religion is such a slippery slope,that even family members will not discuss it.

can I get an Amen!
Today I'm opening the door and stepping out of the closet for the second time in my life.  I will disclose my belief in God, and announce my views concerning why i believe or don't believe in any and all things God. This blog will be my tool to disclose them in many future entries. I'm breaking the taboos!

First, I am  not a theist. You can forget that. This in my opinion is the silliest of them all. To think that there is this great surveillance camera in the sky that cares about Michael Weaver of Roanoke,VA is just silly. I do not believe in the power of prayer(future blog), therefore its impossible for me to think there is a God somewhere looking down on me...over to me...up at me...whatever direction he is in and making sure all my needs are met if I just ask. He's not healing my common cold. He's not turning a red light green when I'm in a hurry.He's not making sure I get a good offer on my house when its on the real estate market. He's not sending the rain clouds my way when my plants need watering.
And yet i have many many theist friends that actually play by these beliefs. Look no further than my news feed on facebbok on any given Sunday as evidence that theism rules the roost. I cant accept it kids. A personal God?! Who cares about his creation?! ummm No.  I'm out!

Second, If I proclaimed a belief in a God I would go the deist route. He created the natural laws that govern our world and galaxies but doesn't care to interfere with the contents created by those laws (which of course as you may or may not know includes humans) Now if this is the case, How would we know? How would we even suspect that there is a God? We wouldn't know. Plain and simple. Which I guess makes me an agnostic. Defined earlier as believing in only what is knowable. That seems pretty accurate.

Lastly, and personally, I would even go so far as declaring myself as an atheist.
A non-believer. I'm just not compelled into believing in a god. The only problem with atheism, (other than being treated as an ill to society by the theists around the world) its best described by one of the most prominent atheist minds I listen to on youtube and of course when reading his books. Get used to the name Sam Harris. I will be referencing him alot.

"Atheism has no content.Being an atheist is like being a non-astrologer. No one gets taught to be a non-astrologer. You just don't get convinced by astrology."

Sam puts it another way by suggesting that society does not have a term we use for being a non-racist as well.
 No one should have to proclaim their non-believer beliefs. Everyone that has ever been born was born a non-believer (atheist). We lose sight of that.  You are taught to be a believer as you grow. Some people were never taught to believe at all, (Not the case for me) if they were raised in a secular environment.

In closing, by declaring my non-belief or half hearted belief, that doesn't make me a lesser person. Maybe a braver person. Put me down for 10% deist,40%agnostic,and 50% atheist. These numbers are subject to change in the years to come.
I live in a natural world, not a supernatural one.
...and so do you. This world acts in such a way...that you would expect it to act... as if it was run by ALL natural forces. and until you can convince me of a personal God is out there dictating this all natural world, I shall remain where we all started at a non-believer.

Sources: 1) used to define isms
2) Sam Harris quote from "Real Time" with Bill Maher