Gustav Moving Westward

From what I can tell, the predicted path of Hurricane Gustav has shifted somewhat to the West. This means that Mississippi may be spared a direct hit. Of course, the size of Gustav suggests that we will still be affected even if the current path continues. The hurricane is now expected to make landfall tomorrow (Monday) morning. Of course, anything can change, so we will want to continue monitoring this one closely.

After a brief trip to the grocery store this morning, I think I'm as stocked up on supplies as necessary. All that remains for me to do today is fill every container I own with water and remove anything from my yard that could be damaged or turned into projectiles.

Gustav Becomes Category 4

According to the latest NOAA advisory, Gustav is now a Category 4 hurricane. Additional strengthening is expected as it crosses Cuba and enters the Gulf. If you are in the Southern part of our state, make sure you have stocked up on food and water. I thought I was all set, but now it appears I may have to brave the grocery store tomorrow for dog food.

Bracing for Gustav

All eyes are on now Tropical Storm Gustav, widely expected to gain hurricane strength as it enters the Gulf Coast. Some models have Gustav coming ashore at almost the same location as Hurricane Katrina and at the same strength. Stores are crowded, with everybody buying up all the hurricane supplies. I would describe the mood during the week as one of serious concern. Yes, there have been tinges of panic here and there, but most people seem to be holding it together fairly well. We'll have to see where things are by Sunday.

I sincerely hope that Gustav either misses us or is weaker than projections if it has to hit us. Mostly, I'm puzzled over why the Christian god seems so determined to punish a region as full of fundamentalist Christianity as we are. I suppose it is merely some sort of test of their faith. After all, many insisted that Hurricane Katrina strengthened their faith.

Hurricane Katrina Blogathon

As we prepare for Tropical Storm Fay, it seems fitting that Daily Kos is seeking recruits for the Hurricane Katrina Blogathon planned for next week. If you are in the area affected by the storm and would like to blog on the subject, consider yourself invited to do so. I have written about Katrina quite a bit on Atheist Revolution, but it has been quite awhile since I've done so.

Trying IntenseDebate Commenting System

Starting with this post, I've implemented the IntenseDebate commenting system on this blog. If it works correctly, IntenseDebate comments should be enabled on this and all future posts while the Blogger commenting system remains in tact on older posts. I know we do not get tons of comments here, but I really like the idea of threaded comments and thought it would be interesting to see how it works here.

Man "Whoops" Preacher With An Air Hose

Not necessarily atheist related, but it's Mississippi and involves Fundie church hilarity.

I was watching the news (WDAM, Hattiesburg) last night while surfing the web when I caught someone saying "I started whooping him with that air hose. And that wasn't Christ-like." Needless to say I almost choked. They have the video up on their website today. Inside the little video player to the right it's the story "Man accused of beating pastor talks - 2.08"

That guy is my new hero. Not because he beats on someone, but because of his nonchalant attitude. When asked what the preacher said he responds, "He didn't have the chance to say much. I was working on him with that air hose."


A Non-Believer in Church: Unitarian Universalist in Oxford

I am branching out by visiting the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, which is the first non-Christian church that I have visited. Their creed is that they have no creed. For this reason alone I would like to return. In May, vjack floated the idea of atheist churches. If you read through the comments (all 79 of them), the response was mixed: some liked the idea, some didn't, some said that science class was good enough, and a few suggested UU churches. UU is a church for atheists, but it is also a church for people of all other faiths. At this church, God is good and God is optional.

The service began at 11 AM. There were 34 people in attendance. I introduced myself to the door greeter, who then gave me a name tag. For the most part, the service was in the style of a typical Christian worship service. A collection plate was passed around. We sang from hymn books. A man lead a few songs with a guitar accompaniment. The door greeter stood in front of everyone to announce all of the visitors, including me.

The man leading the service asked if there were any "joys" to be announced. This is where members could speak freely to the group. One person thanked "modern medicine" (and not God) for helping her relative survive cancer. Already, I realized that I was among a different kind of people. Following the "joys", the minister called for "concerns". There was no prayer over these concerns. The minister struck a chime bar and told us to think on these things.

The sermon was titled "Why I am a Universalist". It was about the life of John Murray who started the first Universalist Church. Universalism is a form of Christian-based theology that centers around the idea that God loves everyone regardless of who you are or what you do. To support this view, the minister said that he agreed with the biblical writer Paul in the passage of Romans 8. (It would be difficult to convince me that Paul was a Universalist.) At one point the minister mentioned that he was asked to leave his former church when he revealed that he was a homosexual. He used the story to contrast mainstream Christianity, which will reject or reform homosexuals, with that of Universalism, which accepts homosexuals. Given that I don't believe in God, I don't have much use for this idea of Universalism, but it is certainly better than the viewpoint of many followers of mainstream Christianity.

There was a song following the lesson. It's probably best just to copy one verse of the song for you to read.
Some say once you're gone you're gone forever, and some say you're gonna come back. Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour if in sinful ways you lack. Some say that they're comin' back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas. I think I'll just let the mystery be.
The lyrics in some of the songs were a little silly. The Unitarian Universalist call their theology a "laid-back theology". They are taking a passive stance on the big questions on our existance: Why are we here? Their answer: it is a mystery; let the mystery be. I'm sure this position is taken to maintain harmony among a diverse group. I would still like to know if anyone within this church attempts to answer this question. Perhaps I'm operating under the warped viewpoint that religions should attempt to explain the unknown.

The service concluded with everyone getting in a circle and saying the words "Go in peace, believe in peace, create peace." I stuck around for several minutes to see if anyone would greet me. I think I shook hands with half of the people at the service. One lady went out of her way to make sure that I had a caffeinated coffee with cream. I noticed that many of the members shared a similar story. "I was from X religion, but then I realized that I couldn't be a member of X because of Y, so I left. Then I found Unitarian Univeralism." The former religions that I heard mentioned were Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic. They wanted the ability to question their original faith without feeling ostracized for thinking, so they came to this church.

I talked with the minister some about how his faith has changed since leaving his former church. He mentioned that it's changed dramatically and it's always changing. I mentioned that my own views on faith have changed over the past year and will probably change more over the next year. Without knowing anything about my views on faith, he said, "And I hope they do."

One last thing: Oliver now has a twitter page. Follow me! (But not in any sort of divine sense of the word.)

Alabama Judge Pushes Christianity

I assume our friends in Alabama are mobilizing over this one. Covington County Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan stands accused of violating judicial ethics for ordering a group in his court to pray together. This is the same judge who once wore a robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on it. Understandably, the ACLU has filed a complaint.

The Associated Press reported the following:
The ACLU complaint said McKathan dropped to his knees and prayed aloud during a court hearing in February. He told the 100 people in the courtroom that he was not afraid to call on the name of Jesus Christ, witnesses said, and ordered all to join hands and pray, according to the complaint filed soon after the hearing.
I just have to shake my head in disgust and mutter something about how this sort of thing makes the South look even more backwards to the rest of the U.S., not to mention the rest of the world.

For more, see this post at The Perplexed Observer.

Obama is the Anti-Christ?

I'm listening to a fellow co-worker share her political and religious views on what's to come. I've no idea who she's talking to but I'm doing my best not to either laugh or cry.

You see, this co-worker seriously believes that Obama is likely the anti-Christ and that he will rise to power and bring about the End Times as described in the Book of Revelations. She's talking about how China and Russia are lining up to do something terrible and Obama will bring them all under his control (think "One World Order") but she never gives any evidence or mentions anything specific other than bits and pieces of Bible prophecy.

This is not a stupid person doing the talking. It's one of my neighbors and friends. But I've got to tell you that she sounds completely insane sitting here in the middle of the office talking about this as loudly as she can. She's speculating now that Obama will bring about the "false peace" that precedes the end of the world. Christians will be raptured before the worst of it - blah, blah. I know she's gotten these ideas from spam emails, Faux News and her pastor. I feel sorry for her but I've got to laugh too. This stuff is just too crazy to make up.

It's one thing to get stupid emails about Obama being the anti-Christ. It's quite another to hear a friend tell it as if it were gospel truth. What does it say about Mississippi that a person can quote this stuff in an office and people all around don't just fall out of their chairs laughing? I don't think it makes us look very good.

Obama Campaign in Hattiesburg Tomorrow

Cotton Mouth is reporting that representative of the Obama Campaign and the Young Democrats of Mississippi will be holding a voter registration drive in Hattiesburg tomorrow.
When: Saturday, August 9th at 1:00pm
Where: Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center, 220 W Front Street, Downtown Hattiesburg
It is good to see some Democratic activity in our state for a change.

More God in Mississippi

Oliver snapped this picture along Highway 6 in Oxford. It seems that a resident of one of the most Christian towns in Mississippi (and that is saying something) is worried that they aren't Christian enough.