Modern digital technology allows us to see the unimaginable. George Bush sings Imagine.
It’s Pride Week at UMM, so it’s timely to mention the dissection of Paul Cameron’s latest mangling of science and statistics. Cameron, if you’ve never heard of him, is an anti-gay bigot who publishes sloppy analyses to ‘prove’ that homosexuals are bad people, and has recently published yet another of his screeds in the Journal of Biosocial Science.
Apparently, homosexuality is contagious. Am I at risk if I attend any of the gay pride events this week? Will Hedwig and the Angry Inch turn me into a transsexual? Knowing that the author is Paul Cameron reassures me that my wife and I have nothing to worry about.
You may have heard the disturbing news story about the Oklahoma murderer/pedophile/cannibal—just to make it a little creepier, he had a blog. (I don’t expect it will stay up for too long, so read The Insomnia Report for excerpts.)
He says things like this:
I mean it, I really need a girlfriend. It’s not just depressing anymore, it’s actually starting to have a negative effect on my mental state I think. For example, my fantasies are just getting weirder and weirder. Dangerously weird. If people knew the kinds of things I think about anymore, I’d probably be locked away. No probably about it, I know I would be.
Mostly, though, he comes off as pathetic and banal.
Here’s an interactive timeline that has it all: animated critters go strolling across the screen, there is a graph of oxygen concentration, and you can watch the continents slip and slide around the globe as you drag an arrow around the timeline. You’ll want a big monitor to display this on—it gets cluttered at times.
Take, for instance, Richard Harries:
This Easter, as usual, the Christian church will proclaim its central theme that, in Jesus, God shares our human anguish to the full and, through the resurrection, gives us hope that in the end all evil, including death, will be left behind. This God calls us to let the divine purpose of compassion work in and through us, to do what Jewish tradition calls repairing the world. It is the most sublime story of God ever told, the most deeply moving account of what it is for God to be God. No one doubts that there are real difficulties in believing it, but for atheism to ring true, it must at least betray the occasional sigh of pity that it’s not true.
Why, no, no sighs of pity here. The resurrection is a made-up story; it gives me no hope at all. It does give hope to con-artists everywhere, though, I’m sure.
I don’t find the story particularly sublime, either. “Absurd” is a better word for it, and for that reason I don’t find it moving at all. How does it tell us anything about the nature of this god? He’s simultaneously omnipotent and human, killable and not killable, capable of creating whole universes yet unable to pull out a few nails. If Christians weren’t so thoroughly indoctrinated into the whole mess from an early age, instead of being moved they’d be baffled.
Everyone is writing about this WaPo story about angry liberal bloggers that focused on a site I rather like, My Left Wing. Hilzoy writes about the media laziness behind the story, and Norwegianity punctures the myth that anger is a property of the Left
I’m baffled by it all. Shouldn’t we be angry about war and torture and tax breaks for the rich and incompetence and corruption? Isn’t anger and opposition the appropriate response?
It seems to me that the real news story is all of those angry right wing blogs that are screeching in support of war and torture and tax breaks for the rich and incompetence and corruption. I sure wish a journalist would sit down and make sense of that for me.
People all around the world are celebrating Easter today. I am not. Easter is a vile little holiday wrapped up in a façade of pretty dresses and chocolate eggs and happy children playing games on the lawn, but at its putrescent core lies 20 centuries of exploitation and dishonesty. Here is a hard-core atheist’s perspective on this awful holy day.
This is the season when our culture commemorates torture. A particularly callous sort of torture, too: a lazy and evil form of punishment that could be carried out en masse. Nail people up in intolerable postures and they inevitably and slowly die, no active, trained labor required—nail ’em and leave ’em, confident that they’ll suffer horribly and eventually expire.
We focus all our attention on one man who suffered this torment, and regard him as somehow special. The Roman Empire did this to tens of thousands at once, in mass spectacles of hideous punishment. Throughout human history, people have died ghastly, lingering deaths, often at the hands of other people, and it was not ennobling, and it is usually forgotten.
Look at that bloody figure wracked up on a cross, and we should all be reminded not of one man long ago who suffered, but that our nation tortures to the death other brown-skinned Middle Eastern people right now. How can we look at the Passion spectacles now and not feel a deep shame?
At the heart of Christian belief is a lie: that this man was tortured to death long ago, and that afterwards he came back to life. Oh, and also that he wasn’t a man at all, but a god. There is no evidence for these claims that defy all reason and experience, but we’re asked merely to believe. To have faith. To trust the words of priests.
If a sacrifice is the centerpiece of our salvation, it makes no sense to call the brief troubling of an omnipotent being with a few nails a “sacrifice.” It was a man who died horribly, like many others. He didn’t come back.
Grieve. For he is not risen.
Christianity has taken the lie and amplified it millions-fold. If one man came back from the dead, why not everyone? It’s the wet dream of every snake-oil salesman, the ultimate con: an irresistible promise, made with no evidence whatsoever, with a payoff deferred to another world, another time…and the suckers line up in droves to pay up.
“You don’t have to die,” the priests wheedle, “you can live forever.”
How many millions have fallen for that tempting lie? How many have died? All of them. How many have seen the promise fulfilled? None of them.
The death cult flourishes in its denial of reality. The fleecing continues.
The promise of eternal life is not enough. We must also be browbeaten with threats of unearthly, unending torment if we don’t believe the lie.
It’s a culture that rewards the most extravagant of extortionists.
Millions of good, decent people will accept the promise and fear the threat; wishful thinking is no crime. They will make weekly, sometimes daily visits to their local cult office, they will freely donate money in trust to their local priest. Those who can’t visit, will write checks, even if their income is limited, and will send them off to the smiling pompadours on their television sets.
It’s a perfect system in which nice people make themselves exploitable, and those who are most deluded, most venal, most vehement in their pronunciation of the Big Lie are rewarded the most. The rot rises rapidly to the top.
Dobson, Falwell, Robertson, Haggard, Bakker, Roberts…how many can you name? This is a system where the worst represent all, the takers and liars and vermin reap the rewards, and the best labor and give, give, give, give.
I know how the believers will reply. They will say “Bach!” They will point to the Sistine Chapel. They will talk about human hope and beauty and art, and the patronage of the church.
And I will say that no gods had a hand in any of that. Those are human accomplishments, the work of the skilled and clever and good, with no divinity necessary. On top of the false promise and the threat, the religious add the crime of theft: they falsely appropriate our best works and shackle them in service to the lie.
And so it goes.
Abandon the church. Take the money you were going to throw in the collection plate and donate it to a secular charity. Tell your priest to take a hike. Stay home; have a quiet day with your family. Think. Enjoy this world while you live in it.
This holiday has a longer tradition than the Christian church, and is associated with the return of Spring. So celebrate life. Go for a walk. Plant a tree. Read a good book. Have a conversation with someone. Write a poem, paint a picture.
The lesson you should learn is that torture doesn’t dissipate with a deity’s whim. Write your representative. March for peace. Write an angry blog entry. Yell at a Republican.
Whatever you do, wake up. Deny the lie.
Forgive me, for I am guilty of the sin of false pride. I’m wont to judge Christians by the worst of them, and in contrast, to regard atheism as the refuge of the more worthy. I am chastised by the existence of The Raving Atheist, however, who shows me that godlessness is not necessarily correlated with rationality. He’s a useful reminder that a reasonable philosophy is not a guarantor that one is on the path to a truth.
If you haven’t been following along, The Raving Atheist is definitely an atheist, but he’s also an odd duck who has gone a bit unhinged on a few subjects. He’s strongly anti-choice, believing that the individual is specified at the instant of conception, in an argument that parallels the idea of ensoulment…but isn’t. He’s an atheist, after all. He’s chummy with a very bizarre character, Dawn Eden, who thinks sex is icky and is even more loony about abortion. Lately, his arguments have taken an anti-feminist twist, and the quote of the day he’s got up right now from Jill of Feministe is deplorable in its use of the dishonest ellipsis.