Tag: Religion

What if most people really believed in Santa?

December 5, 2009 | By | Reply More
What if most people really believed in Santa?

Here’s a post by Brent Rassmussen, who sketches out a hypothetical world where the majority of people claimed that they really believed in Santa Claus and insisted that you (a non-Santa-ist) should believe in Santa too.

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The Charter for Compassion: simple kind-hearted affirmation of others

November 17, 2009 | By | Reply More
The Charter for Compassion: simple kind-hearted affirmation of others

Karen Armstrong’s “Charter for Compassion” is a new and eloquent re-affirmation of the golden rule. Her Charter is not based upon any particular religious tradition. Rather, it is based on the recognition that compassion (the golden rule) is the centerpiece for all worthy moral systems. Armstrong, formerly a nun was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers, and had this to say:

[T]his is the beginning of something. We’re writing a charter which we hope will be sort of like the charter of human rights, two pages only. Saying that compassion is far more important than belief. That it is the essence of religion. All the traditions teach that it is the practice of compassion and honoring the sacred in the other that brings us into the presence of what we call God, Nirvana, Raman, or Tao. And people are remarkably uneducated about compassion these days. So we want to bring it back to the center of attention. But then, it’s got to be incarnated into practical action.

. . . Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for people. It doesn’t mean pity. It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other. Learning what’s motivating the other, learning about their grievances. So the Charter of Compassion was to recall compassion from the sidelines, to which it’s often put in religious discourse and put it back there.

I do believe that this type of approach is sorely needed in the modern world. We need an approach that can be embraced by every good-hearted person, religious or not. This Charter is something simple enough and powerful enough to combat the egoism, arrogant intellectualism, arrogant religions, consumerism and xenophobia that are screwing up so many of us.

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Chris Mooney: New Atheists’ attack on religion is counter-productive

November 16, 2009 | By | 20 Replies More
Chris Mooney:  New Atheists’ attack on religion is counter-productive

Chris Mooney is the author of The Republican War on Science, Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future (co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum). He is also an atheist who, for years, has engaged with believers on the validity of religious claims. He strongly believes that those who respect the scientific method should question religious claims.

In this interview with D.J. Grothe at Point of Inquiry, however, Mooney takes on the New Atheists (starting here at about the 10:30 minute mark). Instead of attacking religions, Mooney advocates that we should promote scientific literacy. Yes, we should refute the baseless claims of fundamentalists, but it is equally critical to “mobilize the religious moderates,” and not alienate them by attacking all religions.

Mooney argues that the New Atheists have painted with much too broad a brush, and that they have used an aggressive tone that achieves “nothing at all.” He points to P.Z. Myers as being one of the most prominent culprits.

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An atheist’s response to a religious greeting

November 14, 2009 | By | 8 Replies More
An atheist’s response to a religious greeting

I have an acquaintance at the gym, let’s call him “Greg”. I like Greg. Whenever I ask him how he’s feeling Greg answers, “I am blessed!”

If I see him when I’m on my way out and I say, “See ya later Greg!’, he always says something like, “God bless!” or “God willing!”

Greg is obviously a devout man. He hurt his wrist in a bad fall recently and told me how God was looking out for him because it could have been much worse. I nodded silently. Greg doesn’t know I am a doubter and I would never bring it up in the gym.

The strange thing is that lately I have found myself returning his greeting in kind. The other day Greg saw me before I saw him and he greeted me first.

“How’s it going today Mike?”

“I am blessed!”, I found myself saying (much to my surprise) and I meant it!

“You know it!”, he said with a knowing smile, and walked on.

It’s true! I do feel “blessed”, whatever that means. I’m very grateful for the things, the people, my health and the opportunities that I have in my life. I think about it every day. I often say that I feel like I live in a constant state of thankfulness. If that isn’t blessed I don’t know what is!

So now whenever I see Greg I greet him in a way that I’m sure leads him to think that I am a believer like him. My beliefs haven’t changed, I’m still an atheist, but it makes me feel good to say it and hear him say it back.

Is that wrong??

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In Which I Render God Speechless

November 13, 2009 | By | Reply More
In Which I Render God Speechless

Robots. Whilst not yet able to disguise themselves as innocent-looking assault vehicles which drive themselves, make ghastly jokes and lay waste to entire cities & provide fodder for truly reprehensible motion pictures, robots will one day be our oppressors. To attempt in some small way to understand our eventual machine overlords (and perhaps locate a weakness that can be exploited) before the inevitable enslavement of humanity, I recently went to this website: http://www.titane.ca/concordia/dfar251/igod/main.html and had a chat with a rudimentary AI which has been named God. I decided to treat it as the all-knowing all-seeing creator of the universe, whom you may have encountered as a central character in a series of very popular books.

[more . . .]

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The three reasons to have slavery, based on the Bible

November 9, 2009 | By | Reply More
The three reasons to have slavery, based on the Bible

If you thought that no one would dare try to defend slavery, as presented by the Bible, think again. I found this video on Slate; it is an animated (and speeded-up) version of a real-life “Biblical slavery” apologist. Listen for a minute or two, if you can stand it.

Note the comment following the video: “Brilliant! So, where can I sign up to be a “biblical” slave…?”

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Success and Sources: the Self-Created Problem of Christianity

November 7, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
Success and Sources: the Self-Created Problem of Christianity

I’m sure this will annoy a lot of people, some more than others.

This is one of those notions I stumble on from time to time while daydreaming or free associating. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about religion of late—as how could many people not be, what with the state of the world (he says with tongue in his other cheek, being both ironic and absurd)?—and trying to come up with some theory of it that might bleed off the poisons that seem to bubble up from it from time to time.

Someone said something to me that triggered this idea and it’s probably not original. But we were discussing Roman Catholicism and the observation was made that in its long history it has absorbed more than it has suppressed.

“Of course it has,” I responded. “That’s how it began, after all, as a congeries of pagan beliefs subsumed beneath an orthodox umbrella. It is the perfect example of an assembled religion.”

Regardless where the initial push came from, whatever its core ideology, the fact is that Roman Catholicism came to fruition as a political entity and it was a model of almost democratic universalism. The holidays (holy days) are mostly borrowings from other disciplines, retrofitted to make people comfortable with the new paradigm. Its rituals and mysteries are all adaptations of older religious ideas and practices, including a marvelous transplantation from Egyptian mythology of the entire Jesus myth (Horus—almost all of it is duplicated, including certain names, such as Lazarus, and the whole virgin birth motif, which itself is nothing particularly new). The architects of Roman Catholicism, let us assume to be more gracious than not, recognized a core set of beliefs that did not of themselves require the trappings of a religion or its concomitant institutions, but also saw that most people would prefer (or require) all that such physical and cultural manifestations afford. Romans above all understood in their bones the function of public architecture and ceremony. They seemed instinctively attuned to the idea that to get people to behave a certain way they should live within the physical representations of the philosophies behind such behavior. Romans were Romans as much because of their cities and roads as because of any political philosophy. The two supported each other. The church borrowed that big time.

But as an assembled religion, it had a problem, which was the necessity to obscure all the past manifestations, cut the ties to all the pagan practices they’d taken over, and embark on a long-term campaign to evoke cultural amnesia in order to represent themselves as The Truth. The problem with this is two-fold: [more . . . ]

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Fans, Freedom, and Frustration

November 3, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Fans, Freedom, and Frustration

Over on her blog, Kelley Eskridge has a video of a “Bono Moment” in which you see two distinct types of fans interacting with U2’s lead singer. Check it out and come back here.

Okay, the guy in the t-shirt obviously is carrying on a conversation. he may be being a fan, but he hasn’t lost his mind. The female is being…a groupie, I guess. Though the groupies I’ve met in my time have been a bit more specific about what they wanted and had a better plan on how to get it. In any event, the questions Kelley raises are interesting and relate on so many levels to so many different things. The fan reaction—mindless adulation bordering on deification—looks to me, has always looked to me, like exactly the same kind of nonsense people put into religion. Mindless, utterly uncritical adoration of an image and the set of emotions with which that image is connected in the mind of the adulant. You can see the same thing in politics. To a lesser degree with less public personalities—writers, painters, photographers (I never knew anyone who elevated a photographer to the level of sex god, but I have known people who got off on sleeping with painters, and of course there’s a kind of Nabokovian/Bellow/DeLillo-esque subculture of writer groupies…) and other creative types—but actors and musicians seem to get all the dedicated obsessives.

I’ve never had this happen to me. I’m not sure if I’m grateful or resentful—having somebody want to associate themselves with you in a mindless swoon because your work has made them, I don’t know, climax maybe is on a certain level appealing. But it’s appealing the same way porn is—something most people, if they’re at all sane and grounded, kind of grow out of and get over. I know I would not find it very attractive now. When I was twenty-five? You betcha. Bring ’em on.

But if I’d had that then I think I’m fairly sure I would have wearied of it very quickly. I long ago realized that sex, to me, involved the other person—emphasis on Person—and the best sex I ever had included the good conversations before and, especially, after. (There is a point, of course, where you realize that sex is a conversation, of a very particular sort, and takes on a whole new dimension, which one-night-stands, no matter how good they might be, just can’t provide.)

But the real problem with all this is that art is more than just any one thing and the artist is not the art. The two are inextricably linked. Here is a video discussing the question of artist-in-relation-to-muse which I find illuminating. The notion that the talent “arrives” and you act as conduit through which creativity happens is not, as the speaker suggests, a new one, and it’s not one I’m particularly in sympathy with—it all happens in my brain, it’s definitely mine—but I certainly find her analysis of the psychology of following through intriguing and true. Once the muse is finished with you on a given project, you do not continue to exist as though in the grip of the work. There is a person there that pre-figures the work and who will be there after it’s done that has all the needs and wants and sensibilities of a normal human being. To be treated as some kind of transcendence generating machine by people is in some ways disenfranchising. For a writer, if the well from which inspiration and material are drawn is the honesty of human interaction, then the gushing idiot fan robs the writer, for a few minutes at least, of exactly that.

But it also sets the artist up to become a prisoner. A prisoner of other people’s expectations. Those expectations always play a part in anyone’s life, but certain aspects—the most artificial ones—get exaggerated in the instance of fan adoration.

Watch Bono shift from one stance to another when he finally acknowledges the female. No, he doesn’t stop being Bono, but it’s almost as if he says “Oh, it’s time to do this sort of thing now” as he first recognizes her presence and then automatically poses for the camera, with this not-quite-disingenuous smirk. Because he also recognizes that, however silly this person is being, what she’s feeling right then is her’s and to claim it is artificial is wrong. Maybe an artificial set of expectations led her to this point, but now that she’s In The Moment, the emotions are real. If he’d ignored her or told her something snarky in an attempt to snap her out of it, all that would have resulted would have been an ugly moment, a bit of cruelty, and a lot of confusion on the fan’s part.

[more . . . ]

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The beliefs of Scientologists

November 3, 2009 | By | 7 Replies More
The beliefs of Scientologists

What do Scientologists believe? What follows is an excerpt from ABC’s documentary on Scientology. You’ll learn about the “purification rundown.” You’ll also learn a bit about Scientology’s confidential scriptures–meant only for those who have reached the highest levels of Scientology–including the teachings about the Intergalactic emperor named Xenu, who allegedly brought the spirits of his people to Earth 75 million years ago and buried them in volcanoes. These people were supposedly alive quadrillions of years ago (this is far older than the big bang). One Scientologist who appears in this video claims that it is against his religious beliefs to discuss his religious beliefs, leading to an entertaining ending, at least for those of us who don’t believe in Xenu.

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