Health Care: The Problem

Much of the discussion our nation is having about health care is centered around the advantages and disadvantages of various proposed reforms. Maybe we need to give a little more attention to the problems themselves. I understand that conservatives have many legitimate concerns about a greater role for government in our health care system. Those concerns should play an important part in the national dialogue. But what I'm not seeing from conservatives is an acknowledgment of the problems with our current system.

A Harvard study (PDF) concluded that 44,000 Americans die each year because they lack health care coverage. That's 14 times the number of deaths from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Many Americans enthusiastically supported two costly wars because they felt this would prevent future attacks like 9/11. As tragic as those attacks were, their cost in human lives and in dollars pales in comparison to our health care crisis.

As I've pointed out before, in the United States we spend a greater share of our money on healthcare than any other nation in the world. Yet by many metrics, we are less healthy than the other developed nations (all of whom have some sort of universal coverage).

So before I advocate any specific reform, I would like to hear some reactions to the problems of American healthcare, especially from conservatives. What do you have to say to those who cannot get coverage because of pre-existing conditions? Setting aside specifics for a moment, can we all agree that it would be a good thing to have everyone covered? Or would you prefer that things go on basically as they are now?

Infinite punishment

A group was handing out these fake money tracts at the parade on Saturday in Billings, MO:

God's perfect justice demands an infinite punishment in hell for breaking just one commandment. WTF?

The highlighted line reads:

God's perfect justice demands an infinite punishment in hell for breaking just one commandment.

What an impossibly unfair system! This bit of bad news is crucial groundwork for any evangelist trying to win a soul, but why should the target accept such an idea? I now see this as the church inventing a disease so they can sell you the cure.

You do not deserve to be tortured.

You do not need to be saved.

Health Care Fact Check

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healthcarefactcheck.com

Dad's New Toy

We went to visit my parents this afternoon and my dad pulled out his newest toy, a remote control boat:

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That thing is fast. I told him he should rig a line and lure on the back and and use it for fishing.

7 Advantages of Nonbelief

I didn't give up belief in God because I thought it would make me happy. In fact, I began my examination of the claims made by Christianity with some fear that life without faith would be bleak and rudderless. After two years of nonbelief, I've discovered that not only do I not miss my faith, I am happier and better able to enjoy life than in my Christian years. Here are a few specific examples.

#1 Stuff happens

Belief in an all-powerful and loving God is difficult to reconcile with the tragedies and suffering in the world. I used to struggle with the question of why. Why would God allow these things to happen? How could he stand idly by while a child is tortured, while cancer destroys a body, while an old woman drowns in the floodwaters that inundate her house? With prayers on their lips, people die waiting for help that never comes, waiting for some response from a God who is silent. I don't doubt that some Christians are able to come to terms with this difficulty, but I have taken comfort in the knowledge that there is no all-powerful being refusing to help in these situations. Things happen. There's no one in the driver's seat directing everything and looking out for us. We have to look out for each other.

#2 No hell below us

I no longer live in fear of being tortured forever. I don't have to convince myself that a loving God is justified in condemning people to hell. Hell doesn't exist. Now it seems obvious to me that it was only an idea dreamt up to keep people in line and to silence criticism. I used to buy into the idea of hell and the justifications for it, but I am happier and healthier now that I know it's not real.

#3 This world is my home

As a Christian, I viewed my life on Earth as the prologue to eternity. The afterlife was the main event. Now I see this life as my one chance and I place more value on the time I have left. The scarcity of a commodity increases its value. I realize that belief in heaven can help people to cope with situations that they cannot change. But there is a danger to this. Slave owners used to encourage religion among their slaves because it shifted their hope from this life to the next. This life is all I have and I'm going to do my best to live well every day.

#4 The Bible

I now see the Bible for what it is: a human book. This shift in perspective has helped me to make sense of the book. I no longer feel the need to shoehorn facts into a framework that describes the Bible as communication from a perfect God. Most of the time this translates to ignoring the Bible. It has little to no bearing on my daily life. I'm also able to see the cruel and absurd passages of the Bible as the products of cruel and absurd humans. It's a great relief to be free from the responsibility of defending this book. The Bible does contain some wisdom and now I feel able to separate the wheat from the chaff and to recognize that the source of wisdom in the Bible is a human one. The same goes for other religious texts. They may have some wisdom, but they were created by humans.

#5 Privacy in my thoughts

I used to believe that God was listening to my thoughts at all times. That can be a comforting idea, but it can also be a little disturbing. I'm happy to know that no one is spying on my mind. I'm not a god's property. I no longer call myself a sheep or a servant. That type of language encourages submission to masters (God and religious leaders).

#6 Free time on Sundays

While I miss playing in the band and seeing my friends on Sunday mornings, I have enjoyed the free time. I can now sleep in on Sundays. I was often bored at church, hearing the same basic ideas repeated over and over: Don't sin. Read the Bible. Pray. Believe. God is great. It's not hard to find a more interesting and useful way to spend my Sundays.

#7 Not tithing

As a Christian I faithfully gave a percentage of my income to my local church. That money was used for a variety of things including maintaining a building, paying church staff, helping the less fortunate and sending missionaries abroad for the purposes of aid and proselytizing. It's been nice to be free of that obligation and to know that I'm not supporting a church that practices discrimination. I'm finding other avenues for helping people (like Kiva).

My fellow nonbelievers, what other advantages are there to living without faith?

A Bible verse that's not true

This is not true:

Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

--Mark 11:24

Military equality

TMBG @ JJ 2009

Left to right: John Flansburgh and John Linnell

We took Emma and a friend to the 2nd annual Jiggle Jam, a children's music festival headlined by They Might Be Giants. TMBG has been one of my favorite bands for over a decade and it's been great to see them expand into children's music. They've released three records for kids and the music is very good. Our whole family enjoys it. This was my 4th time seeing the band live, Sara's 3rd and Emma's 2nd. They were excellent as always. They even played a song from their next children's album, Here Comes Science, due out in September.

We had a great day. You can see some more pictures here. (I finally got around to updating the theme of my photo gallery to match the rest of my site.)

Emma's Latest Movie

I showed Emma how to use iStopMotion. She animated a short film and then we recorded some piano music for the soundtrack. Here's the finished product:

LPS Dance Chase

Emma's Piano Recital

Emma started piano lessons back in September. She has learned a lot in 8 months. This video is from her recital today:

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