AtheistTV gets a thumbs up

I was home for a late lunch, so I flipped on the Roku and installed the AtheistTV channel. It was easy, but then you Roku owners know that part already.

The channel is well organized into various categories, but right now content is a little thin — the comedy category, for instance, contains one video, and the movie category…well, there are a few entries there, but it’s a stretch to call them ‘movies’. I guess atheists are a bit light on providing entertainment.

But I consider the sparse content on the day of the launch to be a good thing. My dread was that they’d take a shortcut to filling up the channel by importing youtube videos wholesale, and then it would be an exercise in wading through garbage to find the gems. That’s not the case at all — they’ve exercised restraint and quality control.

So what you’ll find there is a lot of material relevant to American Atheists: recordings of talks at the last few national conferences and the Reason Rally, and AA’s official talk show, the Atheist Viewpoint. There’s a lot of stuff transferred from the RDF. The Atheist Community of Austin is featured with a collection of videos from the Atheist Experience. When I say it’s thin, I’m talking relatively, compared to a movie channel — you could still veg out for many weeks nonstop trying to watch everything on it. It’s still important that they are being selective about putting up videos with thoughtful commentary about atheism.

It also looks ready for expansion, and I’m sure even more will be added. It’s a good strategy for introducing the content of the conferences to a wider audience, and that’s a natural procedure for generating new material.

Some suggestions I’d make: it really is American Atheist-centered, understandably, but it would be nice to see partnering with CFI or American Humanists or British Humanists, for instance, to fold in some of their content. It would also be cool to adopt more science content — HHMI, for example, has lots of free science videos that aren’t at all explicitly atheistic but would fit in well with a theme of scientific naturalism (whether they’d be willing to have them shown on an atheist channel is an open question). Not just science, but also history and philosophy categories would be a nice addition.

Check it out. I think it’s going to be useful. If you have a Roku, it’s definitely worth getting the channel (it’s free, so I’m not saying much there), but it’s also yet another reason to get a Roku if you don’t have one.

Who else plays Minecraft?

I like to putter around on Minecraft now and then, and I’ve been using a free (well, they do ask for small donations once a year) public server called Sitosis. Did you see me write free right there? That’s what makes it shocking that it is woefully underpopulated right now, so they’re open to new applications. There’s a gigantic world there waiting to be played with, and we’ve only developed a tiny bit. Here’s the island a couple of us have been tinkering with lately.

craggyisland

One other reason that it might be less than packed with people is that it really is a totally vanilla server in survival mode — no hacks or mods. They also expect players to be mature and respectful of one another, so no griefing or screwing around with others’ enjoyment of the game. They also occasionally reboot everything and start fresh, but that’s only done by vote of the users.

There might be a few other Minecraft tinkerers here, so signing up a few more might get the place hopping again.

Jim’s dead

I’m sorry to see that James Garner has died. Just last week, when I was laid up, I watched a few episodes of the Rockford Files on Netflix — sometimes one just has to reminisce about the 70s, whether we liked them or not.

One thing: Garner was a terrible actor. He always played the same character, himself, in every show he did, but that was OK, because he had such an amiable personality. You knew exactly what you were going to get.

Another, completely irrelevant thing: watching 70s TV was really weird. Nowadays, in a drama, if somebody is going somewhere, there might be a brief shot of them going out the door, cut, they are at their destination. Travel is implied. On the Rockford Files, they go out the door, there is a long lingering scene of the car tooling down city streets or out through the California country side, finding a perfectly open parking space, guy gets out, walks up to destination. Watch it now and geez, you feel like they must really have loved their cars 40 years ago. Half the show feels like an advertisement for Pontiac, or a leisurely travelogue.

But Garner at least made it a pleasant hour.

Nothing ever changes

It’s disgraceful how people are getting distracted by games and wasting their time and the time of others. We must end all frivolity. Beginning with crossword puzzles in the 1920s.

Everywhere, at any hour of the day, people can be seen quite shamelessly poring over the checker-board diagrams, cudgelling their brains for a four-letter word meaning "molten rock" or a six-letter word meaning "idler," or what not: in trains and trams, or omnibuses, in subways, in private offices and counting-rooms, in factories and homes, and even – although as yet rarely – with hymnals for camouflage, in church.

Oh, I remember my shiftless grandmother, who’d work the fruit season in Yakima picking apples and then spend the winter working at the cannery in Seattle, and as a widow had to raise 6 kids and later a horde of grandchildren, and who in the evening would spend hours unwinding with stacks and stacks of crossword puzzles. She should have gotten another job, I guess.

I also get a hint of an attitude from the article that they were really concerned that the proles had interests beyond working.

Of course, the newspapers themselves had by now got in on the act, publishing crosswords and by some accounts relying on the puzzles for newsstand sales. Hypocrisy, following scaremongering and berating the British public for not toiling every hour God sends. Who’d have thought it from the press?

Of course, now the concern is that they might be enjoying sex.

Cause to celebrate!

I surprise myself. I actually have two positive things to say about the movie, God’s Not Dead.

First, the projection was excellent. The last time I wrote about the workings of the theater, I described the amazing elaborate old-timey gadgetry to show a movie print. That’s all gone now, replaced by a modern digital movie projector. Crisp, bright, reliable.

Also, the movie itself was an elaborate exercise in projection. The academics were all portrayed as dogmatic and authoritarian and rather stupid — even the debate which was supposedly the core of this movie consisted of the Christian protagonist and atheist professor exchanging rounds of quotes from their respective corners. Dawkins says this, but Lennox says that. Hawking asserts X, but Strobel trumps it with Y. That may be how dopey Christians argue, with dueling authorities, but sorry, that’s not how philosophers discuss much of anything.

It was also implied that all of the students at this university were atheists, or apathetic enough about religion to blithely agree with the statement that God is dead, as part of the filmmakers’ martyr complex: this straw America is populated almost entirely with godless unbelievers. Here I am at a secular state university, and even here, that’s simply not true. Most of my students are religious, although probably not to the degree that the hero of the film is.

The second bit of praise, though, is for the fact that this is the most profoundly anti-Christian movie I’ve ever seen. I left the theater filled with contempt and loathing for Christians.

You know, most of us atheists are able to respect believers as human beings — I can appreciate that they’re just as intelligent, just as capable of living a productive life as I am, but that they’re simply burdened with years of indoctrination. Not this movie. In the hands of whoever wrote this drivel, Christians are dumbasses. It has to set up a whole universe made of straw. All the atheists are callous, cruel, vindictive people, while the Christians are pious and sincere. A first year college student is knowledgeable enough to out-argue a philosophy professor…and every argument he makes is well-worn idiocy dredged from the bowels of people like William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and C.S. Lewis, larded with bad quotes from Hawking or Dawkins, or good science mangled and distorted. It was little more than a Big Daddy style fantasy in which a Christian student can regurgitate tired, facile nonsense and send the godless professor reeling back in confusion and anger.

Really, the arguments for Jesus are: 1) the universe had a beginning, 2) life had a beginning, 3) there had to be a god to start things, and 4) how can you be moral without Jesus telling you what to do? And every time the professor would try to put the kid in his place by telling him that some other Big Name said otherwise, and how dare the credential-less punk disagree with them? It was appalling. I shall look forward to the young students who optimistically believe they will be able to crush the atheists with their brilliant strategies lifted from God’s Not Dead. This movie is setting up a lot of Christians with feeble assertions that will be so trivial to destroy — I fear my opponents have just been made stupider.

I would just like to thank Hunter Dennis, Chuck Konzelman, and Cary Solomon (the writers) for sabotaging the brains of another generation of proselytizers. You make it so easy for us.

But all that vapid noise was just the white bread foundation for the awesome mountain of fecal matter that would top this shit sandwich. I am going to tell you about the ending. You shouldn’t care — you don’t need a spoiler alert for a movie that is rotten from the first few minutes. This was the part that had me gawping in disbelief; it was the fate of the atheist professor that had me convinced that Christianity is actively evil.

He is crossing a street when he’s hit by a car and killed.

Not right away, though. He’s hit right in front of a car containing two missionaries, who get out and run to his ‘assistance’. Somehow, they are sufficiently knowledgeable about medicine to be able to tell that he’s going to die, and only has a few minutes left to live. So, with smiles on their faces, they tell him he’s going to be facing God in heaven in a few minutes, and that he must accept Jesus into his heart. It was my nightmare, that the last, brief, passing moment of life is spent with smug stupid assholes quoting Bible verses and pressuring the dying to affirm their superstitions, which is obviously the most important thing he could do.

See, projection. I just wish whoever made this film could imagine lying on their deathbed, when an atheist barges in and starts yelling that they are about to cease to exist, and there will be nothing forever, and slaps them a few times ordering them to reject God right now. That’s not going to happen, but of course all they can do is project their authoritarian proselytizing impulse on other. And of course, since this is the Christian straw universe, our atheist professor accepts Jesus with his dying breath.

After which, the two smiling missionaries tell each other that they have “cause to celebrate”. A man just died. They want to celebrate. They’re going to Disneyland!

Fuck me. All I felt was hatred. That was despicable.

I’ve got to start carrying a knife now. Just so all you Christians know, if I’m in a fatal accident, and I’m lying in the street dying, and you’re not running over to stop the bleeding or otherwise physically help me, and you try to pull that prayer-and-conversion shit on me, I’m going to stab you. I’ll have nothing to lose, and you sure as hell don’t deserve to continue living. I don’t like violence, but I will make an exception for this one possible circumstance.

Now I know a lot of Christians aren’t like that, and that there are many who are also appalled at this wretched excuse for a movie. You can have another reason for disliking it: it has hardened the heart of an atheist even further against your religion.

Christianity is barbarism, evil, and gibbering insanity. Thanks, God’s Not Dead. When your religion is extinct, then I’ll have cause to celebrate.

My exciting plans for tomorrow evening!

The Morris Theater is showing God’s Not Dead tomorrow at 7, and I have to go for multiple reasons. I want to find out how philosophy teaching works. From the trailer, it sounds like philosophers simply tell all their students what the answer is, and order them to write down the words verbatim in their exams. I’m really curious to see how effective that is, since it would make my teaching so much simpler.

I’m also curious to watch the audience. Maybe we’ll all be looking at each other, thinking “Oh, you’re the kind of idiot who goes to these things. Heh, heh, heh.”

I’ll be killing time, too, until it gets dark enough to drive a few miles out of town and bury the bodies under cloak of darkness I mean, watch the reputed meteor shower that evening.

Anyone else in the Morris area going? We could pick up the latest hot tips in college pedagogy.

Oh, never mind — nobody in Stevens County reads this weird blog.

Harken back to the satanic panics of yesteryear

Ah, the 1980s. When every preschool was a hotbed of satan worshipping child abusers, police departments had ‘experts’ on ritual murder, daytime talk TV would run very special episodes on cultic cannibal orgies, and Jack Chick published Dark Dungeons. You’ve read it, right? The story about Dungeons & Dragons giving you actual magical powers that would damn you to hell? Go ahead, take a minute to read it if you haven’t already.

Or don’t. Just wait until August, fork over $5, and you’ll be able to watch the movie of Dark Dungeons, no reading required. And this version is even more over the top than the Chick tract.

Watch to the end for the surprise guest appearance of an important character beloved by yours truly.

In case you’re wondering if this is a sarcastic send-up of the original tract, read the FAQ.

Is Dark Dungeons the Movie a satire?

NO! Satire is “a humorously exaggerated imitation.” The most classic example is Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”, in which he mocks the English aristocracy’s indifference to the rural Irish poor by suggesting they eat Irish babies. This was an exaggeration as the English did not actually hate the Irish enough to eat their babies. By contrast, Dark Dungeons the comic shows that RPGs can lead to suicide, joining a witches coven, and gaining real life magical powers and Dark Dungeons the movie shows exactly those same things as well. The film adaptation does not exaggerate or alter those claims. It is NOT a satire.

Brilliant. It’s true — you cannot possibly make a satire of “Dark Dungeons”.