There will be blood on this day

Two salient facts:

  • We no longer have any cats. The kids all moved out, and to our shock and surprise, they took their pets with them. I guess we raised them responsibly after all.

  • Temperatures here in the soon-to-be great white north have dropped into the freezing range lately, and are likely to stay there. And lower.

Any of you who have lived in this part of the country knows what happens next: the wildlife all tries to move indoors, and without large roving carnivores about, the rodents have been having a carnival. They’ve been banging the pots all night and frolicking on the countertops, and that means I have to act.

It is Halloween, and there shall be a reaping. I’ve got a pile of traps to set up, the swift savage ones that smash skulls and necks (most emphatically not the cruel slow glue traps), and I’m anticipating a ghoulish evening of hearing snap-snap-snap all night long, and cleaning up bodies in between handing out candy at the door. Let’s all hope I don’t get my jobs of dispensing things into buckets mixed up.

NO RELATION!

Kevin Myers is some wackalooney Irish commentator who, as far as I know and as fervently as I hope, is no recent relation to this Myers — the only thing I can commend him on is that he manages to spell his last name correctly. Oh, we do have one other thing in common: we’re both atheists. He’s an idiot atheist, though, so I wash my hands of him. He recently made this admission while also acknowledging his flaming hypocrisy.

Now what follows is quite hypocritical. For, on the one hand, I simply don’t believe in God, because I am intellectually unable to; but on the other, I prefer a society which generally respects and reveres a god, and the organised system of pieties and rules that a god-based religion generates. The alternative seems to be a secular-dementia that makes godlike figures of such as Rooney [some football star I know nothing about –pzm]. I would have once said that there was little worse than the vulgar basilica at Knock, and the debased and semi-hysterical cult surrounding it — but surely, it doesn’t compare in sheer bloody awfulness with the frenzied adoration generated by soccer or television celebrity-worship.

How condescending. He’s too smart to be anything but an atheist; but all the little people out there, the dull dumb mob, why…they need religion so that they’ll obediently maintain his life in the style to which he is accustomed. There are plenty of idiot atheists like that, and they’re usually conservative/libertarian assholes. Personally, I would rather not live in a society of pious rules-followers; I want everyone’s intelligence respected and nurtured and encouraged to flower. My ideal society is one that is getting better and discovering new ideas and bringing everyone along, not just some smug elite that thinks they’re better than everyone else.

The credulousness that has caused people to turn to a god is so universal that it must be in our DNA. In other words, it is an evolved characteristic, which has proved beneficial to those who have possessed it. Groups of primitive man who didn’t believe in a god simply perished. Clearly, possessing this belief — presumably because it helped to create a moral order — conferred a decisive survival-advantage which non-believing groups fatally lacked.

So, mankind will always need its gods: that’s in our genes.

But wait, Kevin…are you not human? Did you fail to inherit this precious strand of DNA? Do you consider yourself unfit, doomed to die as a detriment to society?

There is no evidence that humans without god-belief died because of it. There is no evidence that atheism is genetically determined. There is no reason to believe that those of us who do not hold in faith are somehow biologically special — I certainly don’t regard myself as unusual, and consider my youthful departure from religion to be a consequence of early experience and education in science. I also don’t look at believers and figure they’re all crippled from birth.

It’s simply idiotic to declare that humanity will always believe in gods because of a genetic predisposition while noting that some of us don’t believe and also feel no stress or loss because of our disbelief — apparently it’s not in our genes.

Mr Myers (oh, how it pains me to use that name in this context!) has another peculiarity: he’s a self-loathing atheist who also thinks, along with the Pope and a host of other deluded souls, that secularism has been the great evil of the 20th century.

And no one ever suggested that gods were always good: look at the Aztecs, feeding their children to their ferocious deity: the Ashanti much the same. And in our post-religious culture, we have seen, in all their splendour, the celebrities whom people worship in the absence of a creator-god in their firmament: Madonna, or Lindsay Lohan, or Piers Morgan, or Simon Cowell — or even Wayne Rooney.

And they’re the good ones, before we come to the great secular gods of the 20th century: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Pol Pot. They all triumphed in political cultures of obligatory godlessness. Remember — there have, in fact, been few societies which made godlessness mandatory: and without exception, they soon degenerated into orgies of murder. And maybe that’s what happened to the early hominids: those who didn’t have a god, in other words, those who didn’t fear consequence, rapidly disappeared in a welter of homicidal bloodshed.

Repeat after me: Hitler was not an atheist. He was a crazy Catholic. None of these people, horrible as they were, killed in the name of secularism or atheism, but in the name of specific ideologies…and they also tended to set up cults of personality. I know nothing about this Wayne Rooney with whom Mr Myers is obsessed, but I don’t think he’s a major figure in 21st century atheism, and for all I know he’s a devout Presbyterian; it doesn’t seem to matter to Kevin Myers. Madonna is a weird New Agey kabbalist and former Catholic…again, not an atheist. I don’t know what Lindsay Lohan’s religious beliefs are, but I doubt that all of her fans (does she have any any more?), or even a majority of her fans, are unchurched.

Maybe he should look a little deeper into his own assertions. He claims that societies that have made “godlessness mandatory” have collapsed. It could be that it isn’t the “godlessness” part that has been destructive, but the “mandatory” part, and that tyrannies that try to dictate the beliefs of citizens, no matter what those beliefs are, are going to fall apart in internal strife.

Not that I expect Kevin Myers to ever think that deeply about his own ideas. He seems to be content with his hypocrisy and self-contradiction.

Hey, if atheist views are so likely to disintegrate healthy social values, shouldn’t he be quarantining himself, and voluntarily hiding his unfit self so that he can continue to reap the benefits of a godly society?

Why do you think I call it a death cult?

Ray Comfort is great at demeaning the whole of Christianity by doing all the stuff you imagine that not even a Christian would stoop to doing. His latest: targeting the elderly with cards to remind them of their mortality and imminent need of salvation.

The card, published by livingwatersnewzealand.com, was addressed to her by name and asked her to fill in the date and time of her death.

“Please don’t forget to call me on the date you’re going to die, then we can discuss your eternity,” it says. However, the cards do not have a contact name or phone number printed on them.

“Hey, lady, you’re old and are going to die soon. Come to church now! Put us in your will!”

Living Waters is also the organization that sponsors these morbid booths at our county fair where kids are asked to take a test to determine whether they’re going to heaven or hell. The answer is always hell…so they’d better follow Living Waters orders!

Whenever I hear apologists tell me that religion brings solace to the sick and old and despairing, I always think of Living Waters and their mission of making sure everyone is dreading their demise.

The Rally for Tone

I had the Stewart/Colbert rally on in the background most of today. There were funny bits, there were entertaining bits, I’m sure everyone there had a good time. It was a pleasant afternoon of entertainment on the mall.

But in the end, I was disappointed. It was also an afternoon of false equivalence, of civility fetishism, of nothing but a cry about the national tone, of a plea for moderation. And you can guess what I think of moderation.

A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.

Tom Paine

I don’t want moderation, especially when the only people who will listen to Stewart and Colbert are the people on our shared side of the political aisle. I can understand where they’re coming from; people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Andrew Breitbart are poison, Fox News is a propaganda organ without bounds working for the far right-wing, we’ve got evangelical Christians demanding the installation of a theocracy, and on and on and on. But who, exactly, do Stewart and Colbert regard as the equivalent of Beck and Limbaugh on the left? Is it Rachel Maddow? Amy Goodman? Keith Olbermann?

Once again, we have someone bravely standing up and telling the people on their own side to stop being dicks, while being vague on the names and specifics.

So I’m at a loss about what we’re supposed to do in the world according to Jon Stewart. Hey, all you people working for gay and lesbian equality, all you women asking for equal pay, all you workers trying to unionize, all you peaceniks trying to end the war in Afghanistan, all you nurses and doctors and clinic workers trying to maintain reproductive freedom and keep women alive, all you teachers trying to teach science and history without censorship, all you citizens trying to build a rational health care policy, all you scientists and doctors who want our country to progress in medical research, all you damned secularists who want to keep religion out of our schools and government, hey, hey, HEY, you! Tone it down. Quit making such a fuss. You’re too loud. Shush. You’re as crazy as the teabaggers if you think your principles are worth fighting for.

I was left cold by the fuzziness of the event. It could have been great; instead of embracing an apolitical perspective and saying nothing at all about values, it could have been a rally for moderation that emphasized the actual values that moderates hold: we believe in tolerance for people of different ethnicities and religious views and sexual preferences, we believe in building an egalitarian social and economic infrastructure, we believe in privacy and personal freedoms, etc., etc., etc., and they could have held to the theme of the rally by advocating rational argument and unified, organized activism within the system to advance those goals…but they didn’t. There was no purpose given other than a generic insistence that we all get along nicely. And to what end, I ask?

The question wasn’t answered. All we need is the right tone, apparently.

America has no atheists

How sad. There are atheists everywhere else, but here in the United States, Robert Putnam says there are almost no atheists.

It used to be, in the 1950s, that most Americans were kind of in a moderate, not very intense religious middle. And we have moved toward the extremes of being either very religious — this is the sort of evangelical Protestant part of the religious spectrum — or very non-religious. This is the more secular, not really atheist. Almost no Americans say that they’re atheist, but they’re certainly not churched. That’s especially true for younger people.

Oh, dear.

There is this myth of the 1950s that infests America: it was the golden time, when we were prosperous and strong and the teenagers never masturbated, and we weren’t racist at all and everyone just went to church and never squabbled over religion. Somehow we forget the Cold War and air raid drills in the schools, we forget that women were all housewives and being a single woman was a mark of failure, we forget the lynchings and axe-handles in a barrel by the restaurant door, and we forget Father Coughlin ranting against the Jews and the Communists while the John Birch Society raged against the Catholics and the negroes and the Communists.

Americans were not moderate in their religiosity in the 1950s. The difference was that there was a dearth of alternatives in the 1950s — there was the same social pressure to go to church, and it was so powerful that everyone did, and took it for granted. It was also a time when “godless” and “Commie” were all one word, and “atheist” was inseparable in the public mind from anti-American, unpatriotic enemy of the state.

Those were not Happy Days unless you were a white middle-class church-going heterosexual male with aspirations to some day join the Rotarians.

So yes, it’s true that it’s hard to find people who are able to admit to being an atheist today without their voices dropping into a whisper and their eyes scanning right and left for eavesdroppers. There are many people who know that if they go public with the startling confession that they think the god-business is a scam, they will face ostracism and worse — there are many communities in this country where small business owners and teachers must be churched or they will find themselves poor and unemployed. The stigma is real and still strong.

So Putnam is completely wrong. Atheists are definitely a minority, no denying that, but it’s not the case that there are fewer than you think — there are more than you think, sitting quietly, afraid (with good reason) to speak out, and also often silencing themselves because they share that shame with being ungodly.

It’s changing, though. Atheists are growing in number faster than the religious, and while part of it is that people are literally deconverting, a good part of the rapid growth is also due to the fact that the stigma is weakening, people are taking pride in coming out as an atheist, and the closet atheists are simply beginning to come out.


Some people were baffled by the ax handle reference. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and we knew exactly what it meant: it’s a symbol of segregationalist brutality popularized by Lester Maddox, an Atlanta restaurateur who kept barrels of them handy for customers in case someone black walked into the restaurant. He also waved them around in his campaign for Georgia governor.

In case you think this endemic racism owed nothing to religion, read this ad for the Pickrick Restaurant, which gets in a few licks at the “unGodly and unAmerican Civil Rights Act”. Look at this picture of Maddox and his political principles, too — he’s indistinguishable from contemporary teabaggers, except for the fact that he had his sign professionally done and all the words are spelled correctly.