Archive for the ‘Quickies’ Category

The Future of Unbelief

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

For a great talk about how the future of unbelief could re-form itself, take a look at this inspiring TED talk by Alain de Botton:

A Special Request from t.n.s.r. bob

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dearest Members and Friends of the church of bob,

The n.s.r. bob ponders his ministerial status...

THE SIMPLE APPEAL:  If you could, please take a moment to DONATE what you can to make sure we can continue meeting here every week for a sermon, cartoon and review.

THE MORE COMPLICATED APPEAL: (Feel free to skip this if the SIMPLE APPEAL did the trick!)  Honestly, this “church” doesn’t cost all that much money to run, expense-wise.  (I do have to pay for the domain and the webhosting, but that’s about 15 bucks a month).  Mostly it’s the time I need for the reading and writing and creating of the cartoons, sermons and reviews.

I like doing it.  A lot.  And that’s one reason that (you might have noticed) I’ve chosen to keep the boblog advertisement-free (I figure we get enough of that everywhere else on the web — not that I think we’re such a huge and going concern that our little “church” would be all that attractive to advertisers!)  So, when I ask you to “donate” to the church, what I’m really asking you to do is to support me as your “fake minister of a pretend church”.  (Or is it “pretend minister of a fake church”?)

Of course, we’re not really “fake” or “pretend” at all, are we?  But we’ll keep that as our own little secret.

So please DONATE by using the links provided.  (CONTACT me for snail-mailing information).

Thank you for being with me for these last two years of the church of bob!

“Bob Bless!”

t.n.s.r. bob



Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Here’s a very interesting 60 Minutes story on just what science is up to regarding bringing back extinct life!


Thursday, May 27th, 2010

t.n.s.r. bob narrates his composition "Dawn of the Dinosaurs" with the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra. (Mike Groves Photo)

It’s ART, it’s SCIENCE, it’s a SYMPHONIC JOURNEY through the history of the Dinosaurs, Planet Earth and, well, US!  VIEW THE ENTIRE PREMIERE PERFORMANCE, or follow the link to watch the short promotional video.  NOTE: This 10-minute piece for Orchestra and Narrator is now available for booking with Orchestras (wind band arrangements coming soon) for family and educational concerts.  Click here for more information.

\”Dawn of the Dinosaurs\” by Bob Diven on YouTube\”

The REV is invited to a TEA Party rally (VIDEO)

Friday, April 16th, 2010

TEA Party Bob

The not-so-reverend bob visits the TEA Party Protest on "Tax Day".

The not-so-reverend bob visits the TEA Party Protest on "Tax Day".


Friday, February 12th, 2010

I want to wish you all a happy International Darwin Day on this, Charles Darwin’s 201st birthday.Darwin1-300x200

To me Darwin stands as an example of the possibility of the triumph of reason over irrationality, and of our ability as humans to learn from observation and evidence.  Though he is held up to ridicule by those who would defend their irrational beliefs by branding him as some sort of competing evangelist, the true testimony of his life remains the astounding fact of just how many things he got right about biology, evolution and natural selection, and the support that 150 years of science has given to his theories.  As I said in my first sermon, “Because of Darwin, life on earth makes sense.  Because of Darwin, my life makes sense”.

Happy to be sharing this remarkable journey with you my fellow hominins, I remain,

the not so reverend bob.


Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010


THE “OUT Campaign” for non-believers.

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010


Richard Dawkins writes: “In the dark days of 1940, the pre-Vichy French government was warned by its generals “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” After the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill growled his response: “Some chicken; some neck!” Today, the bestselling books of ‘The New Atheism’ are disparaged, by those who desperately wish to downplay their impact, as “Only preaching to the choir.””

Read the rest of his letter of introduction of the “OUT Campaign” by clicking the image on the left, or the link on the right.  The campaign may appeal to you.

— the not so reverend bob

TO GOD BE THE GLORY By the not-so-reverend bob.

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Five days after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a baby was pulled alive from the rubble.  According to CBS News: “Her father knew it was a miracle, saying in French, “Grace of God.  Grace of God!”

At the end of the story we get the actual reasons for this baby’s survival:

“CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who helped treat Michelle, told Smith, “In pediatrics, we say children kind of tend to the extremes. They can get sick very quickly and really crash quickly, but they have amazing reserve and resiliency, and they can compensate for a long period of time. So, again, she was caught in an area where she didn’t sustain any crush injury, and she was able to actually survive not only the rubble, but not have severe dehydration, which is amazing.””

Amazing, yes.  Very near the edge, yes, yet still within the realm of the humanly possible.  But miraculous?

All we can say with any honesty based on the evidence is that blind chance and an impressive capacity for survival put this infant among the living as an enormous natural seismic event leveled cities and villages killing what looks to be nearly two hundred thousand people (the island of Haiti is on an active fault line and — as a geophysicist recently said — “That’s how you get islands”).
Our favorite national religious clown Pat Robertson famously blamed the earthquake on a pact the Haitians made with the “Devil” to get out from under the French more than two hundred years ago (blithely ignoring the reality that we live on a cooling, active planet with a molten core.) .  This globe of ours has never required an external cause to rumble, erupt or storm.  And yet believers in the goodness of an all-powerful God are somehow able to assign credit to God for the “miracle” of the handful of survivors that will be rescued from this overwhelming human disaster without ever questioning how this same (supposedly) loving God wiped out the two-hundred-thousand Haitians (and who knows how many equally loved and deserving infants) that didn’t qualify for a miraculous survival!  (I think it was Christopher Hitchens who pointed out the obvious:  it is only the survivors that we hear proclaiming that their faith in God saved them — we hear nothing from the dead whose faith in God was, it would seem, of little help).

When Captain Sullenberger successfully ditched flight 1549 in the Hudson on January 15th of 2009, with no loss of life and only a few injuries among his one-hundred and fifty-five passengers, it was quickly dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson”.  I’m aware of no argument (at the time) with that moniker.  About a month later I got an e-mail from a friend containing a cartoon from Rex Babin of the Sacramento Bee (that was apparently then making the rounds on the web), showing the hands of God gently laying the aircraft on the water, like it were a toy he could so tenderly bring back to earth (suspending, one would assume, the natural laws of gravity, physics and aerodynamics for the “miracle”).


I sent my friend a one-sentence reply: “Where’s the cartoon for the plane that crashed in Buffalo?”  To which he replied: “What???”

For on February 12th (less than a month after the “Miracle on the Hudson”) Continental Flight 3407 fell from the sky (in icing conditions at night) on its approach to Buffalo International Airport.  All forty-nine passengers and crew were killed, along with one person on the ground.  Clearly, if the “Miracle on the Hudson” was proof of the grace of God, the complete loss of Flight 3407 must be taken as a judgement of God.  So who did God kill this time?  An historian and human rights advocate who documented the 1994 genocide in Rwanda;  and the widow of a Buffalo native who was killed in the September 11th attacks (the widow was on her way to both celebrate her dead husband’s 58th birthday and attend the presentation of a High School scholarship established in his honor).  In the latter’s case Pastor Robinson might say it was because she shook hands with President Obama (she’d been at the White House with other relatives of those killed in 9/11 and the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole).

I think in order to believe that God held up Flight 1549 with his saving hands, one has to believe that God used the finger of one of those hands to flick Flight 3407 out of the sky.  Or, at the very least, he stood by silent and still as the deadly ice built up on the wings of the commuter jet.  Take your pick.  (Neither speaks well of God’s character or temperament).

How does God, then, deserve credit for the disproportionate few that survive a disaster, but get a pass on the much greater numbers that do not?  Simply put, He doesn’t.

Here’s what really happened to those two flights:

According to the New York Times (the final NTSB report has not yet been issued):

“The airplane, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 with two turboprop engines and room for 74 passengers, is certified for flight into “known icing conditions.” But when the pilots change the shape of the wings, by moving the flaps or other controls, sometimes buildups of ice that were not a factor in an earlier configuration are suddenly exposed to the passing wind and make the plane uncontrollable.”

And so the crew of this plane with ice already building on the wings and windshield (and no assurance that the de-icing boots were functioning properly even though they were turned “on”) dropped flaps and gear on approach and found themselves losing control of a wildly bucking aircraft that soon fell from the sky on an occupied house near Buffalo.

And (according to Wikipedia,) here’s what really saved Flight 1549 or “The Miracle on the Hudson” (as set forth in the citation from The Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators as they awarded the entire flight crew a Master’s Medal on January 22, 2009):

“The reactions of all members of the crew, the split second decision making and the handling of this emergency and evacuation was ‘text book’ and an example to us all. To have safely executed this emergency ditching and evacuation, with the loss of no lives, is a heroic and unique aviation achievement. It deserves the immediate recognition that has today been given by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.”

Note that the people that actually know flying correctly called the actions of the crew “heroic and unique”.  That is a truthful statement well deserved.  Notice that there is no mention of any miraculous suspension of the laws that govern flight.

I might be less averse to our irrational impulse to give credit to God (who — should he by some miracle actually exist — isn’t really earning it) if in that action we weren’t taking credit away from real humans that really do deserve it.  To add to that injury, we dismiss the suffering of innumerable others by writing off the deaths of their loved ones as an “act of God” (or the Devil — same difference).  How can we sit in front of a television and ignore the giant tomb of Haiti as we get giddy with the goodness of God for one infant that was in just the right place (and personally tough enough) to survive being buried alive?  Why not rather honor that tough and tenacious kid?

I would do nothing to diminish the joy of that infant’s father at her rescue.  But neither would I do anything to increase the suffering of thousands of others who will not see their friends and loved ones again.  Attributing natural disaster to divine causes is a ludicrous insult to real and present human grief.  It is callous and cowardly.  It is also factually false.  We have to stop letting such mindless pronouncements go unchallenged.

Living as we do on the planet earth, it is never a question of “if” but merely “when” the next earthquake, tsunami, tornado or airplane crash will occur.  Stuff happens, and it is our fellow humans that will both suffer the loss and come to the rescue.  Irrational and superstitious belief in spiritual causes of natural events only gets in the way of responding as caring human beings (and worse, doesn’t really do anyone any good).

Give me a warm human hand reaching out to really help me over an entire Church bowed in prayer any day.

We may be convinced that we are the believers in the one, true God, and are not among the credulous that occupy the dark corners of the globe (and who are absolute fools to believe the weird stuff that they do).  But that’s what they think about us as well!  (if you had no previous knowledge of religion and were given the task of deciding which religion was “true”, on what evidence could you make your decision?  Number of adherents?  Who has their prayers answered more often?   Who has the most “miracles”?  Who has the best hymns?)

If tomorrow the magma heaving beneath Yellowstone were to erupt into another “super-volcano” (it’s happened before), there would be cheers from billions of Muslims at God’s just and righteous punishment of America  (attributing another purely natural event to cosmic forces).  Pat Robertson would also find a divine cause, no doubt.  (According to the USGS — by the way — we needn’t worry too much about Yellowstone exploding soon).

Ignorance of history and the sciences leaves us ever susceptible to cosmic bullshit from the pseudo-science of Intelligent Design to the (literal) hands of God taking time out of his busy day (watching over millions dying from starvation, disease and disaster) to gently set a bird-strike crippled jet full of terrified people down upon the Hudson River.

To God be the glory, indeed, for the things he hasn’t done.

In the meantime let’s not waste our breath on prayers and praise that do nothing practical to relieve human suffering.  Here are some practical ways to help:

The World Food Program

The American Red Cross

Non-Believers Giving Aid
bob bless


Tuesday, January 19th, 2010


Below is a link to a fine article by Christopher Hitchens that speaks for both the reason and the humanity that we need to uphold as we respond to natural disasters that are seen as opportunities by the unscrupulous to sway the credulous.

And note the link in the article to a non-religious channel to make donations for (in this instance) Haitian relief.