Virtue, up to a point

Americans love to think of themselves, nationally, as a people who saved the world in 1945 and who continue to possess the capability to repeat this action as needed.  We don’t stop to think how willing we’d be if it came to saving Brazil from the Zika virus.

Just imagine Zika produces a catastrophic epidemic that affects 80 million residents of that largely impoverished country.  How willing do you think America — or any country, for that matter — would be to allow uninfected Brazilians to enter the country as refugees?  It’s hard enough when people are fleeing political repression or economic deprivation; how much harder would it be if it seemed to be something that had the potential for ruining the health of tens of millions of us?

How would we respond to any country that had a health catastrophe?  Like Christians?


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Such nonsense is all religious belief

plague2What a bunch of bullshit, eh?  Yeah, I know.  you’re pained by all this religiosity in the world, and you turned to this page by accident and found a kindred spirit.

Uh oh.  Does that mean you’re “spiritual”?

Fear not; I won’t tell anybody.  Spiritual is a perfectly legit word, as long as it’s not polluted with any religious flavoring.  It can be seen as referring to a person’s mind, a person’s being.

So what do you think about the utter collapse of the religious right in the Presidential election so far this year?  And before you go hollering about bathroom politics, just stop to ponder this: Trump is as religious as Hitler.  He will allow people to think he’s religious, but those who support him don’t really give a shit; it makes them feel a little comfortable, though, to hear him mouth the old platitudes.

Sanders is probably an atheist, and it doesn’t matter.  His supporters don’t give a shit if he’s Jewish or not; an atheist, an agnostic, or a Buddhist.  It’s just not part of his persona.

Hillary Clinton is probably an atheist, but seems to be closest to the old “God Bless the United States of America” bunch than the previous two.  But so far, religion has not been important in her campaign.  Think back to Jimmy Carter, or even to Bill Clinton, who peppered his speeches with brief references to the Bible.

Cruz tried to inject religion into the election cycle, and got his ass kicked.  His followers are left to guard the public pissoirs of America, ensuring that transgender people are not permitted to do — something.  Who knows.  Most people can’t even define what transgender people are.  If they’re transgender and have had an operation and hormone therapy, then they look like the sex they want to look like, which will make them impossible to spot in a rest room.  Transvestites are not, in my experience, so widespread as to make them a threat to the Texan way of life, but that’s not how you’ll hear it in Texas.  Or Oklahoma, or Wisconsin, Tennessee, and about ten other states that are suing the feds over this issue.

So: religion seems to be in retreat in one respect, but advancing on the lavatories of the nation with all speed and vigor.  Surely this means something, hm?

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Persecuted Christians

Who’s more persecuted, Christians or atheists?

Imagine a kindergarten teacher in a public school who pointedly refuses to say “under God” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

Imagine an American President who doesn’t say, “And God bless the United States of America!” at the end of the State of the Union Address.

Imagine being the representative who wrote the bill to deny religious groups tax-exempt status.

Imagine handing out Freedom From Religion flyers on the streets of Topeka, Kansas.

Imagine the looks you’d get being the only one at the Thanksgiving table who refuses to say Grace.

Imagine the friends you lose just because they feel threatened by your apostasy. Or by your attitude, which cannot help but be a little askew, given that your friends believe in something they have not seen and would not believe in were they born into a different culture.

Truly, atheism is for the brave. Religion is for the weak of mind.

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David Brooks pre-defends Christian young angry men

Brooks claims Christians are feeling like mainstream culture is against them.  That mainstream culture is against Scripture and that they will be persecuted for adhering to said Scripture.

In the first place, it’s against Old Testament bullshit, not New — which is what should be the concern of Christians.  Leave the Old Testament to the Jews, who don’t seem so upset about having mainstream culture running against them…maybe because when Christianity defined mainstream culture in America, Jews weren’t invited to be a part of it.

How’s it feel, Christians?

Here’s a link to Brooks’ column:  The Next Culture War

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How is Jesus supposed to be a model for living if he croaked at the dawn of his middle age?  Get real.  It was fine for him to throw shit away, tell people to give to the poor (though what you’re supposed to give to the poor when you’re poor yourself remains a mystery.)

What would Jesus have done with his Social Security payments?

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The Caliphate Concept

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way. It is located about 25 000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), close to the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It is, like its neighbour the Quintuplet Cluster, a fairly young astronomical object at between two and four million years old. The Arches cluster is so dense that in a region with a radius equal to the distance between the Sun and its nearest star there would be over 100 000 stars! At least 150 stars within the cluster are among the brightest ever discovered in the the Milky Way. These stars are so bright and massive, that they will burn their fuel within a short time, on a cosmological scale, just a few million years, and die in spectacular supernova explosions. Due to the short lifetime of the stars in the cluster, the gas between the stars contains an unusually high amount of heavier elements, which were produced by earlier generations of stars. Despite its brightness the Arches Cluster cannot be seen with the naked eye. The visible light from the cluster is completely obscured by gigantic clouds of dust in this region. To make the cluster visible astronomers have to use detectors which can collect light from the X-ray, infrared, and radio bands, as these wavelengths can pass through the dust clouds. This observation shows the Arches Cluster in the infrared and demonstrates the leap in Hubble’s performance since its 1999 image of same object.

What a load of bullshit, huh? Caliphates in the 21st Century. Well, they are a negation of nationalism; a denial of the direction of world politics for the last 1,000 years or so. What blows me away is the idea that those people in ISIS really believe that some Deity they have never seen nor heard — but which happens to be the RIGHT Deity, oh lucky they, born in just the right time and place to have access to the truth! — is behind their new/old way of governing themselves.

Although religion is not responsible for the tragedies of human nature, it sure doesn’t make things better.

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Freud, underappreciated

Sigmund Freud is, of course, a familiar name in North American households.  Usually his name is adjectified in accusatory phrases, such as, “That was a Freudian slip!”  But he is less well known as a philosopher, which he very clearly was.  bgtitle

Perhaps those who are impressed by his work in psychology are afraid of his equally impressive work in comparative religion.  Which wouldn’t surprise me.

Freud’s historical explanation of religion is set out in his Totem and Taboo. There he imagines a father of a primal horde, whose sons envy his access to the tribe’s women, and so overwhelm and kill him. Even after their rebellion, the sons cannot fulfil their desire to emulate their father, due to competition between them. Religion arose out of the frustration and guilt that they felt.

Freud’s psychological explanation of religion builds on the ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach developed the idea that God is projection of the unconscious mind; Freud added to this a psychological foundation. For Freud, as for Feuerbach, religion is wish-fulfilment. Freud adds the explanation that the adoption of religion is a reversion to childish patterns of thought in response to feelings of helplessness and guilt. We feel a need for security and forgiveness, and so invent a source of security and forgiveness: God. Religion is thus seen as a childish delusion, and atheism as a grown-up realism.

Why is this so hard to take for so many people?  There is no god, there is no afterlife.  My beloved brother is gone; I will never see him again.  Yet he is still so alive with me every day.  I say something and hear his phrase; I hear a song we used to whistle together; I look at the car my wife and I bought on his recommendation.  I don’t have to wait until heaven to see him.  He will only be gone when people stop remembering him.  And so it is with us all.


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Imagine you’re some unfortunate chap scraping out a living as a shoemaker in some remote Sorbian village in the center of Europe. You’ve been hearing about mass deaths in far-off Vienna, and your priest has been darkly hinting of a coming End of Days. Doctors have their leeches ready, ever prepared to use the latest alchemy to treat illness. Someone says it’s the Jews poisoning wells; others say it’s the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; you say your prayers and hope for God’s protection.

plague2As it happens, the plague comes to your house and kills your entire family: six children and your wife. You alone are left alive, to grieve and mourn and ask of God, Why me? No answer comes back from the sky. No answer comes from within you; there are hundreds of voices in your head and you can’t dipshitsdecipher any of them. Slowly, one thought rises above the others and sticks in your throat like a rose-twig: God did this to you and others like you because you are a sinner. You might not know what sins condemned you in God’s eyes, but that’s not for you to know. Meanwhile, your neighbor, also a sole survivor of his family, has come to a different conclusion: he believes that he was specially chosen by God to re-establish a lawful, God-fearing community.

You both go to the same church, where, a year later, a new priest is invested. He warns of a new scheme by the Jews to steal the first-born child of every Christian household so they can perform their obscene blood-thirsty rituals on babies. Everyone in your Sorbian valley believes that Jews are responsible for the plague, for didn’t the plague pass over the Jewish quarter? Surely! No Jews died, is what you hear from every tongue. How can you let them live in your midst, these killers of Christ? So you and others go out one fine April day, determined to exterminate the Jews who, so you’ve been told, are all set to poison your crops. After setting fire to a Jewish settlement (which curiously is rather empty of people, fancy that!) and crucifying resisters, you settle down again in your Sorbian village, content that you’re doing the will of God at last. You’re so hoping not to sin again, because the consequences last time were so devastating.

Nearly 700 years later, imagine your brother has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. A man who is larger than life, who loves his family with an all-encompassing dedication, is struck down within months to life in a wheelchair. There is no etiology, there is no cure. There is no God to ease the pain, no God to answer questions, no God to blame nor reward you. Someone tells you how God works in ways we can’t understand his wonders to perform, and you hit this someone in the face with a frying pan.

No, I do not want eternal life with a God that would kill my family by plague; I do not want eternal life with a God that would visit such a horrific illness on the best of men; I cannot tolerate anyone speaking of this God as if it actually existed. To do so is to belittle our suffering here on Earth, and I want everyone to know it is real, it is painful, and it is indelible.

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God loves Ebola.

God loves Ebola.  God loves all viruses.  He made them.  Given that there are billions upon billions more viruses than humans, is it not conceivable that your god — yes, your god — created viruses in his own image?  In which case, Leo Tolstoy was indeed right: the kingdom of god is within you!

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Nyah, nyah.

God is on our side. No, God loves the other guys. No, us. No, them. No, us. No, them. Okay, pal, prove it. No, you.

Now we know whose side he’s on.


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