Happy Groundhog Day!

“It's Groundhog Day...again.” – Phil Connors
According to tradition, the groundhog awakes from hibernation and emerges from his hole today, in the exact middle of winter, in order to check on the weather. If it's sunny, he will see his shadow, get scared and return underground, giving us six more weeks of winter. If it's cloudy, he won't see his shadow and will remain aboveground, giving us an early spring.

Groundhog Day is my favorite holiday of the entire year. I love it because it has the perfect balance between popularity and obscurity, it's a uniquely North American observance, it has some history behind it, it requires no shopping or decoration, and it's just silly and fun. The 1993 Bill Murray film that shares the same name as the holiday is my favorite movie of all time. I have watched it more often than any other film and I can recite large portions of the script. I have already watched it twice this year and I might watch it again later today. It's of course rather ironic that I've watched that particular movie so many times!

In case you're wondering, the most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow this morning. Don't put away your jackets just yet.



Obama for President

In my initial entry almost two years ago I stated an intention to discuss a variety of topics in addition to religion and irreligion, but until now I had never done so. Today I would like to talk politics and announce my endorsement of Barack Obama for president of the United States. I already cast my vote for Obama in the Florida primary earlier this week and I would like to publicly discuss my support.

My favorite candidate entering the primaries was in fact Dennis Kucinich because of his thoroughly progressive stances on the issues, but he never had a chance to win the nomination and he had even withdrawn his name before election day in Florida. I liked John Edwards about the same as I like Obama, but the latter's viability made it an easy choice to support him. I don't like Hillary Clinton because she voted to initiate the Iraq war, because she seems to be little more than a political opportunist, and because the Republicans would be able to easily incite their voter base into a frenzy against her. Obama, on the other hand, can excite the Democratic base and bring people to the polls who had never voted previously. I think he has a much better chance of winning a general election, especially by electrifying the black vote in the otherwise deep red south.

Obama is the most progressive of the remaining candidates and in particular I believe that he is the best choice to preserve the separation of church and state in this country. When I read his book The Audacity of Hope, I noted that whenever he discussed the issue of religious freedom, he always explicitly mentioned the rights of nonbelievers along with everyone else. He is a committed Christian and his faith has certainly influenced his life, but he appears to appreciate the importance of secular government and the necessity of justifying government policy without any reference to religion. Perhaps his diverse familial and personal religious background helps him understand the necessity of building coalitions based on principles which appeal to citizens of various beliefs. In the United States, we need someone to bring us together and I think Barack Obama is the best choice for our nation and the world.