The atheist candidate

I guess I won't be running for the Missouri House of Representatives.

I went to a meeting of the Bates County Democratic Party for the first time last Thursday. They were having their caucus for selecting delegates to the regional convention. Bates county has 4 delegates, and although Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama 1427-676, the delegates were split 2-2. At the caucus, we split up into Obama and Clinton groups. The Clinton side of the room had about 12 people, and the Obama side had five. We needed to choose two delegates and two alternates. Two people in our group immediately said they didn't want to or couldn't make it to the convention. I said I was willing to go and so I'm headed to Warsaw, MO later this month to help select delegates to the state convention (where they will select delegates to the national convention.)

At the meeting I met the chairman of the county party and we discussed their website and the possibility of me helping them with it. I came home feeling good about being involved.

Today (four days after the caucus) I got a call from the spouse of a party official. She asked me if I would be interested in running for the State House of Representatives. She said that I would be getting calls from some people in the party, including the campaign of Jay Nixon, who is running for governor, and the representative from a neighboring district.

The fighting 125thI live in the 125th district and our Rep in Jefferson City is Republican Barney Fisher. He's a former Marine fighter pilot who rose to Lieutenant Colonel before he retired and he's running for his third term in the Missouri House. Fisher won in 2006 by a count of 3,146 to 2,550 (55%-45%) and he'll probably have no problem winning in 2008.

The fact that the Democrats don't have a candidate yet is a bad sign. The fact that they tried to draft a 27-year-old computer programmer who had come to only one party meeting may be an even worse sign. That's not to say that I wasn't flattered. I like to think that I'm well-informed and well-liked. I like to think that my occasionally political blog is worth something. But surely someone in the 125th has a better shot at this than me. It was all about to be a moot point, anyway.

I said, "Now you should probably know that I'm an atheist."

She said, "Oh, is that widely known?"

"I'm very open about it."

"Why are you an atheist?"

"Because I don't believe in god."

Then I mentioned the poll that Gallup released last year, which says that 53% of Americans would not vote for an atheist. It was the only item in the poll with higher than 50% negative. Mormons, homosexuals, blacks, women and 72-year-olds all did better. The person on the phone agreed that it would be hard to run against a conservative Christian incumbent in a conservative Christian district when you go around saying that god doesn't exist.

She said, "That, as they say, puts a turd in the punch bowl. I'll stop the calls, then." Thus ended my very short political career.

That was probably one of the strangest things I've ever experienced. I was, in rapid succession, confused, flattered, disappointed and relieved. I wish my local party was organized better and had already chosen a good candidate. I think it's very nice that they thought of me. I wish that people who didn't believe in invisible beings were not de facto disqualified from public office. Yet I'm relieved that I won't be sinking time and money into a campaign that would very likely fail. And though it would probably be quite an adventure, I wouldn't have been thrilled about having a job that's three hours away from my home.

I don't blame the party for not wanting to run me, but I do wish that the people of this district (and the whole country) could understand that non-believers can be morally upstanding, sensible and compassionate public servants.

Euthyphro dilemma

One common argument for the existence of God is the moral argument, which says that the best explanation for humanity's shared sense of right and wrong is a god who sets an objective standard. I've discussed with the Morality Argument before, but I'd like to bring up one particular question that comes up for people who subscribe to this argument: The Euthyphro dilemma:

ἆρα τὸ ὅσιον ὅτι ὅσιόν ἐστιν φιλεῖται ὑπὸ τῶν θεῶν, ἢ ὅτι φιλεῖται ὅσιόν ἐστιν

Plato first posed the dilemma in the dialogue called EuthyphroWhich translates to "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" When dealing with Christianity, the dilemma can be phrased like this: "Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?"

If God commands things because they're moral, then that means there is some standard of morality above and outside of God and he's only passing it on to us.

If something is moral only because he commands it, then morality is arbitrary. If God wanted to declare that genocide is allowed, then it would no longer be evil. If God is the very definition of good, then saying "God is good" is meaningless. You might as well say that that the book 1984 is Orwellian.

The standard Christian response to the dilemma is to say that goodness flows from God and is one with his very nature. I don't think that really avoids the problems of the dilemma, but I'm not bringing this up in order to settle the issue. I only want to point out that there is a dilemma. It doesn't disprove the existence of God, but it does show that the Moral Argument is not without its problems. I think that there are better explanations for our shared morality than god that are simpler, fit better with the facts and raise fewer questions.

Note: I encountered the Euthyphro Dilemma while reading a review of Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. The review was written by Chris Hallquist and I recommend it. And yes, this is all a thinly veiled excuse to add Greek to a post.

AMC Best Picture Showcase

Sara and I went to the AMC Best Picture Showcase on Saturday. It ran from 11 am to 11 pm, with about a 20 minute break between each film. The $30 ticket included all 5 movies and unlimited popcorn.

12 hours is a long time to be in a theater, but it's still nothing compared to the 24-hour Butt-Numb-a-Thon that Brendan went to in 2003. There were over 400 of us in the theater and it did start to smell by the end of the day.

Sara watched Juno with some friends in December, but other than that, we had not seen any of the movies. I thought they were all good films.

Juno was my favorite, though I wasn't surprised that it didn't win. Daniel Day-Lewis deserved the Best Actor Oscar and Diablo Coty did write the best original script.

How to Talk Good

HowToTalkGood.com is a site dedicated to exposing and improving business communication. It's produced by my brother, Mike. Mike is a professional writer and he uses knowledge, sarcasm and pitiless scorn to point out the stupid ways that some business people are using the English language.

Street view in KC

Street View in Google Maps now includes Kansas City.

Fish Friends

Emma and I made this video today:

[youtube]ZQvOuCfaDH8[/youtube]

She made all of the models except for the white fish. iStopMotion is a really nice app for doing this. You can even use your Apple Remote to trigger frame captures.

Screencast: Install weather plugin for b2evolution

Here's a video showing how to install and use my Weather plugin for b2evolution.

[vimeo]621773[/vimeo]

Screencast: Install b2evolution

I made the video below to show how to install b2evolution in under 5 minutes.

[vimeo]616987[/vimeo]

If you have ideas for other video tutorials, please leave a comment.

Brian in Iraq

My brother-in-law, Lucas, did two tours in Iraq and now one of my very good friends is in the process of being deployed. He's keeping friends and family up to date at http://brian-in-iraq.blogspot.com/. (As I'm writing this, I typed in http://brianiniraq.blogspot.com/ to see if I remembered his url correctly. I was wrong, but it's a real site, too. That's kind of depressing.) Brian is an awesome guy. Regardless of how he feels about politics and the war, he's honoring his commitment and serving bravely. We're going to miss him while he's over there. Following the election this year won't be the same if I can't trade links with him and chat about strategies, issues and life in general.

I think the world of Brian, Lucas and all the others like them who serve our country. But I wish they didn't have to go. I wish the war was over and our troops could come home and stay home.

Be safe, Brian.

MacHeist II

The Apple community/fanboys are abuzz about tomorrow's Steve Jobs keynote address. It's always fun to see what they come up with, but I'm not in the market for a sub-notebook or renting movies through iTunes, so it won't mean too much to me. If they announce a new iPhone with 3G, GPS and a huge price cut, then I might get seriously excited.

MacHeist is selling software bundles in conjunction with MacWorld Expo and giving 25% of the proceeds to charity. It's fun to watch because as the sales go up, they add more apps to the bundle. The price is $49 and the current list of apps retails for $368. I'm looking forward to making some stop motion animation, balancing my checkbook and maybe making some screencasts with the bundled apps. Pixelmator is the latest to be unlocked. It's a PhotoShop-type app with stunning Mac style. Check the list of apps and the causes that they're supporting. If you decide to buy, please use my referral link below:

MacHeist II

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