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Feb 13 2013

A Life Without Odin Barely Defines Robin Ince

I wish that could be true for me. Robin Ince lives in a rather more secular culture. I live a few blocks from a cemetery with an odious electronic chime that plays hymns every goddamned 15 minutes; I live in a town with approximately 15 churches; I’ve been condemned by the county council of churches; I share a state with Michele Bachmann, a state where every couple of years we get to have another battle to keep creationism out of the public school science standards. I’m in a country where a politician denying evolution because the Bible says the earth is less than ten thousand years old, or denying climate change because their god promised to never screw up the weather again, are perfectly practical positions that will endear them to their benighted segment of the electorate. I wish these people would just take their faith into the churches and leave the rest of us be.

But at least Robin is generally correct in this part.

For a while I have worried there is a rise in the superior atheist, though I hope that is not true of most I know. I believe there can be a lack of imagination and experience amongst some atheists. We can gloriously bathe in the reprehensible examples of faith inspired misogynists, homophobes, terrorists and other thugs, and ignore the religious people who amble around us, filled with doubt, questions, compassions and a non-dogmatic view of the world. There are cultures and countries, where the repugnant, muscular hand of organised religion manipulates the populace. There are people who embrace dogmas, religious or political, and will refuse to view them with a critical eye, whatever the evidence might seem to be; old Maoists or Catholic die-hards who, while eagerly criticising other persuasions, will remain energetically blind to “their own sides” shortfalls. I am sure I have and will fail to notice my own shortcomings, while criticising those I see as opponents for exactly the actions I have been guilty of. It seems that is part of the human survival mechanism, though I hope I am becoming more vivacious in my eye for personal hypocrisy.

These are concerns that sometimes leave me in despair. Yeah, I’m surrounded by the absurdly devout, but as we’ve all been discovering in the last few years, my chosen atheist community is pretty well cluttered with arrogant, petty assholes. Some days I feel even more isolated than before.

So, this Odin guy…are his followers enlightened and tolerant?

56 comments

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  1. 1
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    Personally, I’m planning on bringing back the cult of Antinous.

  2. 2
    Ichthyic

    I’ve been condemned by the county council of churches

    I missed that one. Did they send you an official condemnation letter to share with us?

    I so wanna see that!

  3. 3
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    Actually, I’d much rather spend time with some of the god-botherers in my community. At least with them, I know exactly where I stand (which, as an overweight-middle-aged-atheist-humanist-Jewish-bisexual-feminist, is in pretty much “on sufferance” most of the time). With the atheists, I’m never quite sure when my interlocutor will start with the “it’s just a rape joke, you need to grow a sense of humor,” or “I don’t want to come down to your neighborhood because it’s sooooo dangerous – do you carry a gun?” (I live in an African American community) comments. Not to mention the “oh, I don’t want to teach children to read/work with a scout troop/monitor water quality in local streams/go to a hearing on budget cuts to public libraries – I’m busy working on real atheism issues.

  4. 4
    Ichthyic

    I believe there can be a lack of imagination and experience amongst some atheists.

    multiplied times ten when you look at the faith community.

    sorry, this argument is bogus on the face of it.

  5. 5
    Ichthyic

    So, this Odin guy…are his followers enlightened and tolerant?

    dunno, but that Odin guy disowned his son for the sin of “pride”, and generally was a complete failure in stopping the end of the world.

  6. 6
    dianne

    So, this Odin guy…are his followers enlightened and tolerant?

    No, but they do have one saving characteristic: they are rare.

  7. 7
    Nemo

    So, this Odin guy…are his followers enlightened and tolerant?

    I think they’re mostly white supremacists nowadays. Sorry.

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    Did they send you an official condemnation letter to share with us?

    Nope. I got it secondhand from a reporter who was doing some background on me in preparation for a story about Stuart Pivar…of course they didn’t contact me directly. That would involve talking to a spawn of Satan.

  9. 9
    PZ Myers

    I think they’re mostly white supremacists nowadays.

    And macho warrior types, too, who brag about their manliness while asking the wimmen to bring them their mead and a leg of lamb.

    So…a lot like the atheist community.

  10. 10
    Randomfactor

    This is so an Odinistic country. You can tell because they even named a day of the week (today, in fact) after him.

    This proves something.

  11. 11
    Rich Woods

    So, this Odin guy…are his followers enlightened and tolerant?

    I wish only to die with a sword in my hand, so that I can feast, fight and fuck in Valhalla until the day of Ragnarok!

    PS. Please don’t tell Odin that I’m a bit of a pacifist. Or that I’m fussy about the quality of my ale, and whether the meat on my plate is charred or not. Or that those Valkyries look pretty damn scary to me.

  12. 12
    Ichthyic

    Please don’t tell Odin that I’m a bit of a pacifist. Or that I’m fussy about the quality of my ale, and whether the meat on my plate is charred or not. Or that those Valkyries look pretty damn scary to me.

    what makes you think Odin doesn’t read Pharyngula?

    you’re fooked, boyo!

    ;)

  13. 13
    atheist

    I was gonna worship Irony. But ironically, she’s got no use for worship.

  14. 14
    cervantes

    Last I heard, the followers of Odin were raiding, raping and pillaging about the North Sea. But that was 1,200 years ago or so and they seem to have been laying low since. The motivation, as I understand it, was purely pecuniary. I believe the Brits had a guy swim over to slay a dragon for them, which was sporting of him.

  15. 15
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    I’ve been condemned by the county council of churches;

    Damn you, PZ. You set the bar far too high for us mere sycophants and echo-chamber-echoers.

    I swear by my BCD clock talking to me shall be listed as a deadly sin. It won’t mean as much if I have to do it myself, but by all that is binary, I shall do so if I must.

  16. 16
    Genius Loci

    I live a few blocks from a cemetery with an odious electronic chime that plays hymns every goddamned 15 minutes;

    And I’ll bet they’re not Bach chorales, either. My sympathies. Every fifteen minutes? That sounds like grounds for a noise pollution complaint.

    So, this Odin guy…are his followers enlightened and tolerant?

    As for Odin’s worshippers, they regularly came down along the coasts of England, Ireland, and Scotland and burned abbeys and villages and looted and destroyed art and libraries. And they killed a lot of people–monks, women, children, generally unarmed. There’s a big effort afoot to rehabilitate their image now and show them to have been 10th-century naval engineers and enterprising petite bourgeoisie, but what they did was hardly civilized, if the accounts of the destruction of Lindisfarne and Iona abbeys and the massacre of their residents have any real substance to them.

  17. 17
    raven

    I’ve been condemned by the county council of churches.

    Was there an award ceremony for that one?

    I and many others have been sentenced to death by the xian terrorists. I know PZ is among us, much higher on their lists at that. Fortunately, they rarely manage to carry out their sentences.

  18. 18
    raven

    dunno, but that Odin guy disowned his son for the sin of “pride”, and generally was a complete failure in stopping the end of the world.

    Well, we are still here.

    Odin promised to get rid of the ice giants. I haven’t seen any around lately.

  19. 19
    Rey Fox

    Worse than that, they’re all Youtubers.

  20. 20
    Rey Fox

    I mean, it can’t be mere coincidence that the prominent atheist feminists are mostly bloggers, so they have to organize their thoughts in a coherent and readable way, while the dispatches from the misogynists always seem to come from Youtube, where they can just turn on a camera and grunt at it for forty-five minutes.

  21. 21
    rnilsson

    Don’t know about his followers, but Odin is famous for his one-eyed view.
    (He sold one eye for Hugin’n'Moanin’)

  22. 22
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    I live a few blocks from a cemetery with an odious electronic chime that plays hymns every goddamned 15 minutes; I live in a town with approximately 15 churches…

    Pffft, I live within walking distance of at least that many churches. Plus the two churches that are less than a block from my apartment both toll the hour, however neither one of them has the correct time– one is 6 minutes early, the other is 2 minutes late.

    Also, my polling place is a church.

    /annoyance olympics

  23. 23
    dianne

    People at churches near me drive in to come to their rituals and park in the bike lanes, completely blocking them up on Sundays. Also, they never seem to shovel their sidewalks on time. Just my contribution to the “churches can be annoying” fest here.

    While on the subject, I passed a (I presume Catholic) church this morning and the priest was outside handing out ashes. I felt the sort of embarrassment I often do when I pass a homeless person and don’t have any change to give them and sort of averted my eyes. But before I did so, I noticed that the priest had no ashes on his forehead. What’s up with that? Do the priests not get ashes or are they supposed to do themselves last or do they need another person to do it for them or what?

  24. 24
    Rich Woods

    @Ichthyic #12:

    what makes you think Odin doesn’t read Pharyngula?

    you’re fooked, boyo!

    Nooooooooo!!!!!!!

    Shit! I suppose I’d better throw myself upon Odin’s mercy. After all, it works for the Christian god, right?

    *mumbles crap about the white christ taken out of bernard cornwell books which obviously mean to promote odin etc etc*

  25. 25
    PZ Myers

    As for Odin’s worshippers, they regularly came down along the coasts of England, Ireland, and Scotland and burned abbeys…And they killed a lot of people–monks…

    Ah. Good atheists then?

  26. 26
    ChasCPeterson

    in the immortal words of Frank Zappa:

    Centerville.
    A real nice place to raise your kids up.
    Centerville. It’s really neat!
    Churches.
    Churches, and liquor stores.

  27. 27
    PZ Myers

    Ah ha! Not here! We have one liquor store, with a city-mandated monopoly (and prices to match).

  28. 28
    Rich Woods

    @Genius Loci #16:

    As for Odin’s worshippers, they regularly came down along the coasts of England, Ireland, and Scotland and burned abbeys and villages and looted and destroyed art and libraries. And they killed a lot of people–monks, women, children, generally unarmed. There’s a big effort afoot to rehabilitate their image now and show them to have been 10th-century naval engineers and enterprising petite bourgeoisie, but what they did was hardly civilized, if the accounts of the destruction of Lindisfarne and Iona abbeys and the massacre of their residents have any real substance to them.

    To my mind this is a very interesting point. Actually most of its interest lies in the fact that we have far too little documentary and/or archaeological evidence which might give us a good understanding of the time. I’ll limit myself to making a point on the rehabilitation side: analysis of new communities of the era throughout Lincolnshire and Yorkshire suggests that the Danes frequently had to settle on indifferent soils. Obviously circumstance can vary, and time and particular circumstance allows for that, but in general this argues for the predominant model of a raiding/trading people accepting the opportunity of land rather than mostly taking it by conquest.

    I paused there as I went to look up my source for that claim. Unfortunately my spare room is in such a mess that I can’t identify the book. I can only say that the author made a convincing claim when I first heard her speak at the Cheltenham Literary Festival two years ago, and I wish I could give an actual reference.

    But at least I now know what I have to do with my weekend, lacking any rugby: tidy that damn room up!

  29. 29
    Inaji

    Chas:

    Churches.
    Churches, and liquor stores.

    In my tiny town, lots of churches, no liquor store. There is a saloon, though.

  30. 30
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Nemo
    There’s actually two different strains; Odinists are white supremacists, Asatru are garden variety neopagans with a taste for Nordic symbolism and a somewhat larger than usual helping of toxic masculinity than many(or at least a more ‘macho’ one). The two groups absolutely despise each other, and have even had their very own violent religious conflicts, albeit on a small scale.
    Rich Woods

    *mumbles crap about the white christ taken out of bernard cornwell books which obviously mean to promote odin etc etc*

    Hah, you should try Harry Harrison’s The Hammer and the Cross; alkthough that one’s alternate history, while Cornwell does historical fiction. I’ve not read the ones you’re talking about, but I quite liked the Sharpe series.

    PZ
    Around here, the state has the monopoly on liquor stores.

  31. 31
    Rich Woods

    @PZ #27:

    Ah ha! Not here! We have one liquor store, with a city-mandated monopoly (and prices to match).

    Bloody hell! Who said America was the land of the free? Within five minutes’ walk of my house there are seven pubs, off-licences and corner shops with a licence to sell alcohol. Double that distance and it includes much of the town centre, where I would have the opportunity to fight anyone I liked on a Saturday night, free of charge!

  32. 32
    Rich Woods

    @Dalilllama #30:

    Hah, you should try Harry Harrison’s The Hammer and the Cross; alkthough that one’s alternate history, while Cornwell does historical fiction. I’ve not read the ones you’re talking about, but I quite liked the Sharpe series.

    That rings a bell! Thanks, I should take a look.

    A lot of Cornwell’s warrior-hero battle-type stuff can end up a bit samey in tone, but in general I find them worth reading because he’s happy to do his homework (I read ‘The Fort’ just recently and I’ve ordered a history and a biography on the back of it, because I can see they will fill in gaps in my knowledge which I didn’t previously realise I had). Most of the Sharpe books head the same way, though they do sometimes get a bit laboured in places. His one-off’s like ‘Stormchild’ are often better reading.

  33. 33
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    So, this Odin guy…are his followers enlightened and tolerant?

    May not be safe for work depending on how your boss views stupidity and symbols of bigotry.
    Not necessarily.
     
    No.

  34. 34
    Genius Loci

    Ah. Good atheists then?

    Sadly, no. You’ll be sorry to hear that in the end they all settled down and became respectably C of E.

  35. 35
    Rich Woods

    @Genius Loci, #34:

    Remind me, please: just who is the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

    Fuck, I really hate the fact that these unelected/ex-officio non-entities get a say in the lives of the rest of us. I think there’s an eminent suggestion about priest’s entrails and throttled kings which I just can’t quite recall right now…

  36. 36
    Owlglass

    How about joining a cult of Glycon, a deity worshiped by other illustrious writers such like Alan Moore, who himself has a occultist-feminist thing going (isn’t that what Christians see anyway). The cult seems promising:

    “Lucian was ill-disposed toward the cult, calling Alexander a false-prophet and accusing the whole enterprise of being a hoax: Glycon himself was supposedly a hand puppet.”

    .
    Or how about another favorite, Discordianism. It’s proponents claim it is a religion disguised as a joke, but detractors claim it to be a joke disguised as religion. One of central tenets reads: “Discordianists are not allowed to believe what they read”, and they have a Goddess. What’s not to like with an apple throwing deity dispelling subjective illusions. Dispute is arguably at the center of science and democracy and you could officially be elected Pope:

    According to the Principia Discordia, “every single man, woman, and child on this Earth” is a pope. Included in the Principia Discordia is an official Pope card that may be reproduced and distributed freely to anyone and everyone. Papacy is not granted through possession of this card; it merely informs people that they are “a genuine and authorized Pope” of Discordia.

    There are some more, like Church of the SubGenius with a more free-masonry, mormon spoof flavor, and their members secretive. At least they won’t exclaim sexist nonsense in the public, kind of like the Skeptical Community of earlier times. And then there is, of course, that newer college kids spaghetti monster religion. But it’s a rather unimaginative rehash.

    Alan Moore wrote: I tend to think of paganism as a kind of alphabet, as a language, it’s like all of the gods are letters in that language. They express nuances, shades of meaning or certain subtleties of ideas, whereas monotheism tends to just be one vowel and it’s just something like ‘oooooooo’. It’s a monkey sound.”

    Where you could also be a just a kind of real monotheist literalist, who takes monkey sound idea literally, in a Darwinian sense. The advantage of making up a one-man free-form religion is that you don’t have to deal with other people and their corrupt views (even if they were yours the day before and you had a new idea just after breakfast). Oh, and Anti-Theist camp is also still pretty empty. Hitchens and Krauss at one time identified as anti-theists, but since they are privileged white men, I think they are ruled out already.

  37. 37
    John Morales

    [OT]

    Owlglass, Hitchens identifies as an ex-atheist.

    (But yes, he’s a privileged white man)

  38. 38
    Owlglass

    @John
    You are absolutely right John! I think the whole camp just evaporates. I heard Krauss is apparently concentrating on mastering the violin instead of dispelling nonsense.

  39. 39
    Christopher

    Bloody hell! Who said America was the land of the free? Within five minutes’ walk of my house there are seven pubs, off-licences and corner shops with a licence to sell alcohol. Double that distance and it includes much of the town centre, where I would have the opportunity to fight anyone I liked on a Saturday night, free of charge!

    Depends on your location in America.

    Here in sunny California, not only do we have liquor stores galore, but every grocery store, gas station and mini-mart sells booze. We also have a pretty low tax on alcohol which makes moonshining non-profitable. Oh, and we also have the best beer in the world brewed here ;-) We can thank Jimmy Carter and potheads for that last one.

  40. 40
    John Morales

    [OT]

    Owlglass, of course I’m right.

    (Also, when did Alison Krauss become a privileged white man, in your estimation? ;) )

  41. 41
    Genius Loci

    Remind me, please: just who is the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

    Justin Welby, who hasn’t even been a bishop very long. He was some kind of oil executive before he went into the priesthood. (And, oddly enough, he’s is part Jewish on his father’s side.) With his background I’m worried he’s going to attempt to introduce all kinds of tacky American evangelical megachurch-style marketing crap in an attempt to resuscitate your erstwhile state religion.

    Fuck, I really hate the fact that these unelected/ex-officio non-entities get a say in the lives of the rest of us. I think there’s an eminent suggestion about priest’s entrails and throttled kings which I just can’t quite recall right now…

    Ah, yes, one of my favorite 18th-century writers, Denis Diderot: “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

    Or, a bit farther back, Henry II, who was pissed off at Thomas a Becket’s ecclesiastical power grab: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” (And straight away, someone did.)

  42. 42
    Owlglass

    @John Morales claimed: [OT] Owlglass, of course I’m right. (Also, when did Alison Krauss become a privileged white man, in your estimation? ;) )

    We make a good pair, because I’m left (I once claimed to be right, but I was lying. In an unusual position). Krauss didn’t tell, but and perhaps sleeping in a tour bus isn’t that privileged after all. We are all privileged from a Burkina Faso vantage point.

  43. 43
    John Morales

    Genius Loci, your juxtaposition of Henry II and Diderot is silly.

  44. 44
    Genius Loci

    Genius Loci, your juxtaposition of Henry II and Diderot is silly.

    Thomas a Becket was the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

    And, by the way, Allison Krauss doesn’t play the violin. She plays the fiddle.

  45. 45
    Nick Gotts

    “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

    This is the best argument I’ve heard for retaining monarchies: until global clerical numbers falls below 100 or so, conservation of monarchs is clearly in order – at that point, we can start to think about pairing up the kings and priests individually.

  46. 46
    John Morales

    [OT]

    Thomas a Becket was the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Nope. Augustine of Canterbury

    And, by the way, Allison Krauss doesn’t play the violin. She plays the fiddle.

    And, by the way, Christopher Hitchens is dead.

    (He doesn’t oppose anything)

  47. 47
    Genius Loci

    Nope. Augustine of Canterbury

    Wow. I just…wow. I’m losing it.

    And, by the way, Christopher Hitchens is dead.

    So he really is an ex-ex-atheist, then.

  48. 48
    Crissa

    Why the heck is it legal to have automated electronic hymns? Ugh. There is no religion that has a book that says, ‘thou salt pay the electric bill for thine odious alarm clock to wake the entire town.’

  49. 49
    Genius Loci

    While on the subject, I passed a (I presume Catholic) church this morning and the priest was outside handing out ashes. I felt the sort of embarrassment I often do when I pass a homeless person and don’t have any change to give them and sort of averted my eyes.

    As it happens, coming out of church in the afternoon with ashes on my forehead usually makes me very self-conscious and has me wondering if I will be mistaken for a homeless person. But it is actually kind of appropriate, as it is intended as an act of humility and remorse for past wrongs and a reminder that someday we will all die, and it is also supposed to encourage self-examination and self-reflection. Sigh….if all the people receiving ashes today really did look inward and try to make an honest self-reckoning, you might find the world a far more tolerable place, Christians and all.

    But before I did so, I noticed that the priest had no ashes on his forehead. What’s up with that? Do the priests not get ashes or are they supposed to do themselves last or do they need another person to do it for them or what?

    The priest receives ashes on the back of his head, where he would have been tonsured in an earlier time–probably from another, more senior member of the clergy, possibly the bishop.

  50. 50
    John Morales

    Genius Loci:

    But it [ash-dabbing] is actually kind of appropriate, as it is intended as an act of humility and remorse for past wrongs and a reminder that someday we will all die, and it is also supposed to encourage self-examination and self-reflection.

    Bah.

    The ritual might be intended to be something, but it is what it is: a sign of conformance.

  51. 51
    AJ Milne

    Glycon sounds too much to me like it should be a brand of wiper fluid.

    All hail mighty Glycon! Who doth takest away the bug and mud splats of the world, that all may see! Fill your reservoir with Glycon, and be saved. (But whatever you do, don’t drink it.)

  52. 52
    bradleybetts

    @Genius Loci #16

    There’s a big effort afoot to rehabilitate their image now and show them to have been 10th-century naval engineers and enterprising petite bourgeoisie

    I’m not sure the positions of “Raping, murdering, pillaging invaders of the British Isles” and “10th-century naval engineers and enterprising petite bourgeoisie” are mutually exclusive…

  53. 53
    bradleybetts

    @Dallillama #30

    *mumbles crap about the white christ taken out of bernard cornwell books which obviously mean to promote odin etc etc*

    Hah, you should try Harry Harrison’s The Hammer and the Cross; alkthough that one’s alternate history, while Cornwell does historical fiction. I’ve not read the ones you’re talking about, but I quite liked the Sharpe series.

    I believe Rich is referring to the Saxon Chronicles, a series by Bernard Cornwell set during the Danish invasion of the British isles, when Alfred the Great was laying the foundations for a future England and Uhtred of Bebbanberg was wandering around feeling conflicted about slaughtering pagan Danes ,whose religion he shared, on the whims of a Christian King, whose ethnicity he shared. They are fucking fantastic books and definitely worth a read.

    I love historical fiction, particularly Bernard Cornwell. I suspect I would also be partial to alternate history, since I also like fantasy and I’m guessing it’s sort of intermediate between the two? I may give Harry Harrison a go :)

  54. 54
    wcorvi

    Michele Bachmann – the candidate for those who think Sarah Palin is too intellectual.

  55. 55
    Genius Loci

    I’m not sure the positions of “Raping, murdering, pillaging invaders of the British Isles” and “10th-century naval engineers and enterprising petite bourgeoisie” are mutually exclusive…

    Nope, not at all. In fact, reading what I can about them (as Rich says, the archeological record doesn’t really leave much to go on), they sound very much like they could have been the equivalent of small-time real estate developers who come into an area, acquire property by more or less illegal means, pull down historic landmarks, drain marshes and fens, and proceed to put up strip malls with enormous parking lots.

  56. 56
    Genius Loci

    The ritual might be intended to be something, but it is what it is: a sign of conformance.

    That’s one way of looking at it, sure.

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