Archive for the ‘atheism’ Category
Posted by honestpoet on January 2, 2010
A lot of my ancestors come from Ireland, so I’m sad to report this tidbit: starting January 1, 2010, blasphemy is now illegal there, punishable by a sizable fine. So Atheist Ireland has published a list of banned quotes in their attempts to draw attention to this travesty of jurisprudence (they rightfully assert that the law should be protecting people, not ideas) and get it reversed.
I’m sure, at some level, the good members of the Oireachtas are hoping to protect people…probably hoping to prevent incidents of retaliation, like when Muslims kill people when they get their panties in a bunch (their religious feelings being, apparently, more important than someone else’s life) like with the Danish cartoons, or that documentary, the maker of which (Theo van Gogh) ended up assassinated in the street in Amsterdam (if you haven’t watched it yet, you really should check out Religulous, which we watched again this Christmas). Who knows, maybe the Catholic extremists have been inspired, or at least someone fears they have. Maybe some folks miss the violence of the Troubles.
Sigh. But we don’t protect people from violent religious nutbars by silencing criticism of religion. We do it by talking about religions in a reasonable manner. ALL religions that have lasted on this planet have learned to tolerate dissent. It’s how they adapt and evolve. Yikes, my Irish brethren! Get your heads out of your arses! If instead the Irish Catholic Church has been inspired by the Taliban, I’d say they’re headed for trouble, for sure.
Posted in atheism, fundamentalism, Islam, Muslims, religion, separation of church and state | Tagged: blasphemy, Danish cartoons, Ireland, Irish Catholics, Islam, religious extremism, The Troubles, Theo van Gogh | 5 Comments »
Posted by honestpoet on January 8, 2009
A writer friend sent this to me while we were discussing my penchant for heresy. I thought it was so perfect, I’m posting it (aside from the introductory paragraph by Jon Carroll) in its entirety. Let the revolution begin!
Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.
Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism — 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression!
People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to … you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion.
We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.
Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.
We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons.
We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: “Sincerity is not enough.” We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn’t mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.
Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he’s pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee.
People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.
Thanks again, David!
Posted in anti-establishment clause, atheism, buddhism, Building a Better World, Christianofascism, Christians Worth Knowing, terrorism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by honestpoet on December 25, 2008
Because I recognize that our consciousness is centered in the brain, I always figured they’d eventually figure out how spirituality and the brain are related. Well, this article reports how they’ve shown that when an area in the right parietal lobe is suppressed (whether through lesion, injury, or meditation), one is more spiritual. It’s the “me-defining” area, so it makes sense, considering that the key to spirituality, as the various scriptures point out, is selflessness.
It’s way cool, imo, that they’re proving this scientifically. I was talking to my daughter yesterday about how important it is to fight our instincts for selfishness. Of course, Ayn Rand would roll over in her grave, and it’s true that martyrdom and survival are opposing goals, but it’s also true that for those for whom greed is a value, happiness is an unattainable goal. When one focuses constantly on the self and acquisition, enough is never enough, and happiness recedes from your approach like a mirage in the desert.
I also like it because it shows how even atheists can practice a beneficent spirituality (good for themselves and for others) without requiring them to subscribe to a belief in the supernatural that they find irrational and therefore unacceptable. The article also points out that this egolessness is sometimes experienced by appreciating — and “losing oneself in” — the beauty of nature or art, something I’ve long found to be personally rewarding.
Posted in atheism, buddhism, consciousness, mysticism, neuroscience, religion, spirituality | Leave a Comment »
Posted by honestpoet on November 18, 2008
Here’s an excellent bit from the question and answer period after a debate with Rabbi Wolpe. I’ve been watching a lot of Mr. Harris on YouTube, and I have to say that I like him even more than Richard Dawkins. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dawkins, but, as an American, Harris is more aware of the need to speak with the religious politely and without snarkiness. Dawkins can come off a bit smug, which is a mistake when dealing with the American religious, who already feel beset and belittled, and whose defense mechanisms thereby fly up as soon as the subject is broached with any sort of superior attitude.
Here’s another bit: Sam Harris at the TruthDig conference, talking about how beliefs have consequences, and why the taboo on not examining religious beliefs needs to be lifted.
Here he is talking about the relative morality of various books of the Bible and what would happen if as a society we actually followed it.
And one more, at the Idea Festival in Aspen, where he disputes a lot of common misconceptions about atheism:
If you’d like to hear more of what he has to say, here’s the link to his website, which includes links to a number of articles and videos (including the full debate with Rabbi Wolpe). His thinking is even more in line with my own than Richard Dawkins’s. Dawkins and the rest of the recent crop of atheistic authors turn their backs on mystical experience, whereas Sam Harris, while approaching it as a skeptic, acknowledges that there’s something there to examine that could prove worthwhile, perhaps yielding up that which religions seek but never truly find, tied up as they are in their supernatural superstitions and dogmatism. He’s experienced contemplative states and acknowledges that they can lead to an increase in the ability to experience empathy and compassion, which are clearly in short supply these days.
A neurobiologist, he was motivated to start writing by the events of 9/11, and his focus is on the affect of beliefs on behaviors. Some people have painted him as some sort of warmonger Islamophobe, but that’s hardly the case when you read the suspect passages in context. Does he say that people holding the beliefs indoctrinated by Islam can be led therewith to bad behavior? Absolutely, but that’s hardly the same thing.
Posted in atheism, Building a Better World, catholicism, Christianity, Christianofascism, climate change, economic crisis, evolution, feminism, freedom, fundamentalism, gay rights, genocide, global warming, hegemony, history, homophobia, Iraq, Islam, Jesus, Jews, Koran, language, literature, marriage, mental illness, misogyny, monoculture, morality, Muslims, peace, psychiatry, religion, religion and science, Richard Dawkins, ridiculous beliefs, science, secular humanism, secularism, skepticism, terrorism, the Bible | Tagged: dogmatism, Islam, mystical experience, Rabbi Wolpe, religion, ridiculous beliefs, Sam Harris, stem cell research, terrorism | 4 Comments »
Posted by honestpoet on October 15, 2008
I’m really starting to love Campbell Brown. When the ignorant lady at a McCain rally recently said she couldn’t trust Obama because he’s an Arab (she didn’t quite manage a sentence as complex as that, but it’s what she tried to say), McCain corrected her by saying that no, Obama is a decent family man (that’s the opposite of Arab?). Ms. Brown decided that the underlying assumption that Arab and Muslim are slurs finally needed to be addressed:
Now, anyone who reads this blog knows I’m not keen on religion, and that one of the things I am keen on is the separation of Church and State. And key to that separation is the idea that it shouldn’t matter what religion someone is (despite the fundies’ paranoia and Turkey’s misunderstanding of what secularism means, it does not mean getting rid of religion entirely) when they run for public office. It also shouldn’t matter what ethnicity someone is, which is more to the point with the word Arab, though I know for the ignorant folk like this McCain supporter Arab and Muslim are synonymous, since they’re clueless of the fact that there are actually secular and Christian Arabs, and, for all I know, Buddhist and Hindu and Wiccan and Zoroastrian Arabs, as well, especially here in America where they are free to choose.
America is not a Christian country. America is a free country where people of all religions or no religion can and must coexist, and I’m glad some people in the media are starting to speak up about it.
Posted in anti-establishment clause, atheism, Barack Obama, buddhism, Christianity, Christianofascism, freedom, fundamentalism, Islam, John McCain, language, monoculture, Muslims, politics, religion, ridiculous beliefs, secularism, separation of church and state, witchcraft | Tagged: 2008 Presidential election, anti-establishment clause, Arabs, Barack Obama, Campbell Brown, Islam, John McCain, Muslims, separation of church and state | 9 Comments »
Posted by honestpoet on September 11, 2008
I liked Matt Damon as Loki in Dogma, which is one of my favorite movies (like that was a tough guess). Now I really love him. Here he is on YouTube, expressing how absurd it is that Sarah Palin is as close to becoming President as she is. He compares it to a bad Disney movie, which I think nails it. (Kudos to Kate for finding this one.)
Posted in atheism, Christianity, Christianofascism, fundamentalism, John McCain, politics, religion, religion and science, ridiculous beliefs, science, separation of church and state, skepticism, the Bible | Tagged: anti-establishment clause, creationism, Dogma, Matt Damon, nuclear war, presidential election, Sarah Palin | 7 Comments »
Posted by honestpoet on December 11, 2007
“Americans want science confined to a money-making box, not wandering in church asking questions.” We had a big discussion about labels today, whether I ought to call myself an atheist or a secular humanist, or one of my own making, which I’ve been using and which my former mentor says he likes: agnostic secularist.
And it’s not that I’m not sure whether or not there’s a personal deity. I know that’s not so. Or at least I’m confident enough to consider people like Richard Dawkins to be perfectly reasonable, if somewhat impatient with people who value their heritage more than the need to feel 100% rational. Personally, for example, I think it’s just fine that some Christians and some Jews and even some Muslims have managed to pare away the extraneous BS of superstition and ignorance and cultural overlay to find the core of their faiths, which have enough truth to them (the smallness and insignificance of the individual as compared to the Whole, the importance of kindness and the other virtues, etc.) to be valuable when taken with a grain of salt (and never, ever insist that anyone agree with your take! enough evangelism, already, which ought to be called dominionism, at this point…let’s call a spade a spade). Heck, we even used the Bible recently to illustrate a point to our kids (the parable of the Good Samaritan, which has political connotations lost on most of us…). But I like using “agnostic” to say that I am not certain. That I’m not saying I know what happens when you die, or how the world came to be (I mean, I know life evolved, but I’m talking about what happened in the millisecond preceding the Big Bang), but that I do not know and further I don’t consider it important. What IS important is secularism. That religion and government remain forever separate. Religion is just too personal a choice to be legislated. Period. And the problems we all face together as one species on this beleaguered planet, problems of our own making that require solutions other than war OR prayer.
But back to Maj’s statement about science, it’s so true. These folk love science so long as it’s making them money. They gladly embrace it while it fills their coffers, but badmouth it if it seems to contradict the religious tenets that give them power. Another six weeks or so, and we escape the Bible Belt. I can’t tell you how eager I am.
Posted in atheism, Building a Better World, Christianofascism, freedom, fundamentalism, monoculture, politics | Tagged: agnosticism, Bible Belt, capitalism, Dominionism, evangelism, religion, science, secularism, separation of church and state | Leave a Comment »
Posted by honestpoet on July 5, 2007
Here’s something I typed up when we drove up to see Maj.’s parents:
So we’re rolling through the mountains of Tennessee. I’m looking out the window as I type this, thinking how lucky we are to be free to move between earth and sky, even pressed as we are by gravity, confined to the ground. Still so many directions we can move in, and so very much to see. The trees are almost all awake, though their leaves are mostly still in miniature and glowing that bright green of spring. The woods here are a tapestry of mounded forms and color: chartreuse, olive, kelly. And the bright white and deep pink of flowering branches, redbud and pear and apple and still some dogwood, though nothing like in Alabama, where they glowed in the darkened under-story that is their natural habitat.
In this setting, with the earth rising up in undulating waves of these diverse greens, everything man-made looks so ugly. It’s our modern building methods, the cheap materials we use, the lack of any aesthetic in utilitarian architecture.
Now we’re moving into Knoxville. The beauty of trees has receded. The highway is four lanes in each direction. Billboards proliferate. The flashing light on a radio tower glares against the grey sky. In the mountains, the drizzle felt nurturing. Here, it’s just messy, and the sky creates a monotone with the concrete, rather than a neutral backdrop against which the colors of life could shine.
After we’ve gotten our heads out of our asses, after we’ve finally rejected religion as anything but a private choice and united in the struggle to fix our forbears’ horrendous mistakes that have led to the immanent ecological crisis, one of the challenges facing the modern human is how to create cities that nurture the individual’s sense of beauty. I may not believe in a soul, but I do believe in a psyche that can be strongly influenced by its surroundings.
One of the things I’ve noticed on this trip is that a lot of trucking agencies have begun putting Biblical passages or religious phrases on the backs of their trucks. We just passed one that quoted a bit from Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Well, someone who thinks God is for THEM. Another said “Jesus is LORD.” Lord of what? That’s a silly word a lot of Christians don’t think much about. It’s left over from the feudal system. Your lord was the nobleman to whom you, as a serf, paid rent (usually a significant part of your crops). So how, exactly, is Jesus my Lord? And why shouldn’t I, instead, be free?
Posted in atheism, beauty, ecology, freedom, religion | 3 Comments »
Posted by honestpoet on April 27, 2007
Here’s one of three excerpts from Christopher Hitchens’s book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I haven’t read the other two yet, but this was so good I had to post it here.
A little bit to whet your appetite:
While some religious apology is magnificent in its limited way—one might cite Pascal—and some of it is dreary and absurd—here one cannot avoid naming C. S. Lewis—both styles have something in common, namely the appalling load of strain that they have to bear. How much effort it takes to affirm the incredible! The Aztecs had to tear open a human chest cavity every day just to make sure that the sun would rise. Monotheists are supposed to pester their deity more times than that, perhaps, lest he be deaf. How much vanity must be concealed—not too effectively at that—in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan? How much self-respect must be sacrificed in order that one may squirm continually in an awareness of one’s own sin? How many needless assumptions must be made, and how much contortion is required, to receive every new insight of science and manipulate it so as to “fit” with the revealed words of ancient man-made deities? How many saints and miracles and councils and conclaves are required in order first to be able to establish a dogma and then—after infinite pain and loss and absurdity and cruelty—to be forced to rescind one of those dogmas? God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.
Posted in anti-establishment clause, atheism, Christianity, Christianofascism, fundamentalism, Islam, Jesus, Jews, misogyny, Muslims, politics, prayer, religion, Richard Dawkins, ridiculous beliefs, secular humanism, separation of church and state, skepticism, terrorism, witchcraft | 18 Comments »