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Loan-A-Thon Dates:
January 1+2 (New Years)
April 1+2 (April Fools)
July 1+2 (near Muhammad Yunus' birthday and many national sovereignty celebrations)
October 31+November 1 (Halloween)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Congratulations we broke our year-end goal... again!!

Back in September I set a goal of $50,000 in loans by the end of the year. We broke that goal by October 8th. So we adjusted the goal to $150,000. We have now broke that goal!!

Way to go everyone. We are the number 1 team on Kiva in terms of amount loaned. I never doubted for a minute that we could reach our goal and also be the number 1 team in terms of loans (and coolness). It's difficult to describe how much fun and fulfillment I get from being a team member with all of you. I read all the board messages that flood my inbox ;)

Take a minute, on Festivus :), and reflect on the positive impact our team has had on the world in the last 4 months. I've personally witnessed the fact that lending as a team encourages many of us to lend more. Based on the pledges of others I've been encouraged to take a little more from the beer money (or entertainment) pile and put it towards the Kiva loans pile, which is superb!

What's next? The Kiva Obama Team has bought into our idea of Loan-A-Thons and challenged us to a "Loan-Off". Our Loan-A-Thon will be Dec 31 (New Year's Eve) and Jan 1 (New Year's Day)the 48 hour period from noon on Dec 31st until noon on Jan 02, Pacific time (Kiva time :) which would be 3:00 PM Dec 31th until 3:00 pm on Jan 02 EST). I vote for tracking based on Eastern Time Zone (I guess I'm biased) but using that timezone will probably accommodate the Obama team since Washington DC is in that time zone (I'm pretty sure) I agree with Jennifer from our team, let's to Pacific Time since that is the timezone Kiva uses. The Obama Loan-A-Thon is on January 20, inauguration day. And probably the day before or after (maybe someone from team Obama could put a comment on this blog to let us know).

What's after New Years? We set a really large goal for 2009 and try and collectively tap into the other atheist communities and get them to join our cause. I'm still trying to get PZ Myers from the Pharyngula blog to accept my gift certificate. Any help in bringing it to his attention would be greatly appreciate ;)

Team Captain

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tell Children The Truth About Santa

I do not have any children, yet, but I pledge to tell them the truth about Santa Claus from the beginning. I will not pretend/lie that Santa Claus is a real person who delivers gifts all over the world to children on "Jesus' birth day". In what type of world is that possible? A magical, miracle filled world. But that's not the world we live in and I don't want children to get the wrong idea. I will let them know that Santa Claus is "make-believe" just like Superman and Star Wars.

If we are truly free to believe what we want and pass that onto our children then my children will be in kindergarten debunking Santa Claus. :)

It is a little known fact that the North American aboriginals were raising their children to be well balanced members of their community without spanking or hitting their children before Europeans came to the Americas. Considering that and the reality that we know a whole lot more about the world, history, the nature of life then did our grandparents we should be open to new ideas when it comes to the education and relationships parents have with their children.

I believe that telling children Santa Claus is real when they are young is the first remember-able lie that parents tell their children. When a person is young they are still learning how to remember. This accounts for why we don't remember the earliest years of our childhood.

I still remember the pain of finding out Santa Claus was not real. On reflection I experienced a major episode of cognitive-dissonance. I remember being in complete disbelief of this new fact. If Santa were not real then my parents lied to me? If Santa were not real who gave me those gifts from Santa? Why would they lie to me? Where was the reasoning?

There is no reasoning! All that remains is an ironic similarity between a child's head over heels faith in Santa and an adults head over heels faith in Jesus. The study of Santa and the building of his folklore can be of great interest when contrasted with how other mythical characters such as Jesus developed. There was a Saint Nicholas who was known for his gift giving and after his death was consider a saint for children (as well as sailors and other things) even though he was never formally made a saint. These tidbits of historicity can be pillars of foundation for folklore.

If you are giving gifts to your children and spending quality time with them over the holidays, where is the need to tell them the gifts are from Santa. Tell them it's you! They will love you instead of Santa. Get them to respect you. Let them know other children are not as fortunate and their parents lie to them about Santa. No child will respect you for crafting an elaborate time extensive lie. It's as simple as equating Santa Claus and Mother Goose. Children understand nursery rhymes are not real.

Christians started the tradition of tagging a new ideologically based holiday/festival on top of a pre-existing one. Remember Saturnalia? It was the religious (often referred to as pagan) festival of ancient Rome near the end of December. Christian developers placed Jesus' birth day as December 25th so that one holiday could be placed over/next to the already existing holiday. No Christian then or now could determine Jesus' actual "birth day" and this is because Jesus is mythical and was therefore never born in reality. If you would like a reference to a modern religious institution attempting to do the same thing the 4th century Christians successfully accomplished then see Iran. The Iranian New Year (Norooz) which is part of the pre-Islamic culture in Iran and dates back 2500 years (almost a millenium before Islam) is being swarmed by new Islamic public holidays around Norooz to drown out the non-Islamic celebrations.

Perhaps, although I'm speculating, the cultural crafters of Santa Claus (who were Enlightened) had the intention to drown out Baby Jesus with Father Christmas and send the future children (all of us) a hidden message!

My proposal is that we should worship the cell and more specifically the human and plant cells (Eukaryote) during the December holiday season. Tag a new ideologically based celebration to an old one. We should launch an army of atheist/biologist artists to craft the stories, the new traditions, the poems and songs of our new holiday. In the spirit in which the Mitochondria gives energy to the cell we should give gifts symbolic of the energy and love we have for friends and family.

Happy Cell-ebration!!

By Peter

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ravens are smart

The April 2007 edition of Scientific American has a very enlightening article on the intelligence of Ravens. This image is just a small sample. The article explains how Ravens can memorize 1000 places to hide their food they can identify individual Ravens and Humans. They can perform logic and appear to be very intelligent.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Love: A Complex Emotion

What is love? Love is a wonderful and complicated emotion. It doesn't simply come from the ghost in the machine or the soul in our bodies. Nor does it come from a spiritual power or energy. It comes from within humans and higher order organisms from our brains.

You might wonder how it is possible to develop such a strong sense such as love from merely a network of cells. But our cellular network is vast and interconnected and the interaction of this internal network with our external environment makes it possible to experience the emotion of love. It is our five senses that stimulate this beautiful emotion. It is also our innate desire to feel love. Emotions of empathy and sympathy help to facilitate this emotion of love as well as our innate sexual desires. These emotions were all necessary for the development of pair bonds, the parent-child bond, and alliances outside of the family not only in the human species but also in other mammalian species like whales and chimpanzees.

Every human experiences this emotion. It is very real. But in our culture today love is difficult to understand. For thousands of years love has been bound to different belief systems that set rules and ideals for how love came about and how it should be utilized. For so long our ancestors have believed that love is everything but an emotion. That it comes about through practice of certain rituals and traditions. That it is not something that naturally happens but that one must behave in a certain way, such as praying to a sacred higher power, in order to be blessed by such a feeling. What this has done throughout human culture around the world is misinterpreted the true nature of love.

Love does not have to be a difficult emotion. A person can feel love for many things but there are different types of love. Our innate desires facilitate our love for our family members because we are related to them by blood and they care for us and interact with us while we grow. We also feel love for our friends who are not related to us because we build trust and loyalty with them. We can feel love for things we are good at doing such as sports, writing, traveling, and designing. But the most difficult love of all is the pair bond because there is much at stake for each person in the bond. Although there are benefits, the costs are heavy when a pair bond breaks because the bond cannot be repaired the same way a friendship or family relation can.

The exclusive pair bond is complex because it is a fairly new development in human history-- it is only 10,000 years old. Forged in the time when people developed permanent settlements. It formed so couples could improve care for their offspring and to ensure that the offspring were genetically theirs. It was a way to protect a family unit in a human tribe or society and to maintain unity. But today humans are protected by their governments and family units have less responsibility to care for their whole family. It is no longer necessary for parents to wholly focus on the unity of their family because they are aware that a system exists to care for them through taxes and social programs.

The pair bond has lost its significance in this civilized society. Although pairs still desire to have children their focus is not on the unity of their family but on the pair relationship. In a time when careers are important to both men and women because of their education and desire to do what they are good at it seems that the end goal has become skewed. The pair bond has been changed to simply two people coming together for sexual desires and companionship. The meaning of the pair bond has changed but the type of love has not.

If this new pair bond relationship is to work, love needs to be rediscovered as an emotion that can protect this bond. The primitive and ancient meaning of love as a blessing through prayer has disappeared and the desire to form a pair bond simply to build a family unit has faded. People who care less about family unity and more about satisfying their desires need to understand love in a new light and both partners need to understand their love for one another. The way to do this is to express through communication what love means to each other continuously. In this new pair bond love is satisfaction of the desires of sexual pleasure, beauty, friendship (trust and loyalty), work and play.

Family unity is no more. Satisfaction is everything and two people must learn to satisfy each other in order for this type of love to last. Love may be a complex emotion but we must learn to understand and convey what it means to each of us without boundaries and limits.

By Rajvee