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Serious comedy and the Maine vote to repeal marriage equality

November 6, 2009 Comments off

To the religious, the fearful, the self-righteous who voted to deny civil rights to a minority in Maine, and especially those who donated the millions of dollars necessary to advertise that vote into existence, here’s a message for you.  It may sound frivolous and the movie from which I transcribed it certainly is.  But read anyway, because quoting outre’ comedy is the only way I can even respond without just sputtering in anger:

No, I won’t jump.
Look around you. This is your work.  Do you really think that God will forgive you?
You’ve created a hell full of creatures that could never be the work of God.
You talk about sin and depravity, and you may be right.
But look at the boy you’re pointing a gun at. He’s young and he deserves the right to live.
There aren’t any condoms in heaven, Dr. Riffleson, nor any that bite.
You speak of a god who will judge all of mankind. I say God will protect all lovers. He doesn’t care if it’s two men or a man and a woman. He doesn’t care if a man dresses like a woman and sings in a bar.
It’s possible that these people haven’t always done the right thing. But we’re all human beings. We’re all responsible for the way we live our lives.
If God ever does pass judgment over us, He won’t need anyone to do it for him.
Each and every one of us here, whether homosexual or heterosexual, whether transvestite or atheist professor, brothel owner or policeman, Serb, Croat or Chinese…
(Narration: I don’t know where the words came from. I was giving a sermon and realizing my words were having an effect… )
May he who is free of sin cast the first stone!
(Narration: Only the strange light bothered me, that and the angels singing around me)
It’s all over doctor, you’re all alone.
- Lt. Luigi Macaroni’s “Sermon On The Mount” at the end of the 1996 German horror-comedy movie, Killer Condom

Unfortunately, it’s not over.  Those celebrating their “victory” in Maine, just think; are you so sure of God’s will that you will discriminate against “the least of these”?  By your own lights, you better be damned sure.  Me, I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I know the world we do live in won’t be improved by prejudice or discrimination. 

Categories: Religion

A Christian asks; “I’m the bad guy?  How did that happen?”

April 11, 2009 Comments off

I’ve posted excerpts of some correspondance with a Christian Minister at Stupid Evil Bastard.  He’s genuinely puzzled how Christianity ever got a reputation for fostering bigotry and ignorance.  Go help him out!

Categories: Religion

A dose of evil atheism for the day

March 26, 2009 4 comments

…or more correctly, just a few news items about religion.

Two Percent Company compellingly asks; “Really, Catholics?” upon hearing news of the nine-year-old Brazilian girl pregnant with twins, who received a life-saving abortion.  Upon which everyone connected with the event except her and the rapist (her stepfather) was excommunicated.  Keep that little girl in mind, since the Vatican backed the Archbishop from Brazil on those excommunications.

Then there’s The Critical Thinker’s Speakeasy, whose author had a bit of a run-in with a falling tree-branch, and then with a pair of Mormon missionaries.  The connection between the two was hilarious – unless you’re a Mormon missionary, I suppose… (H/T John Wilkins)

On the lighter side, Ted Haggard wanted a divorce because he’s not gay anymore.  Yeah… that makes sense.  As one commenter noted, maybe he wants his own apartment where he can work on resisting temptation.

This just in: it may come as a shock that Christianity doesn’t always look like compassion to everyone.  Which reinforces my conviction that when bad people become Christians, they become bad Christians.  When good people become Christians, they’re still good people.  The resulting organizations then differentially attract bad and good people.

Categories: Religion

Mixed feelings about the crazy preacher guy

August 18, 2008 8 comments

Out on the Quad today my friend Pete and I saw a tumult of students and walked over for a closer look.  There on a high perch was The Crazy Preacher Guy, in his bright blue shirt and red suspenders and bow tie, handsome gray hair and rugged features, waving a bible and preaching against sin, I guess.  He reminded me of Robert Duvall in The Apostle.

From what I could make out he was energetically preaching the usual guff about The Second Coming and about how God would send sinners to hell – homosexuals, fornicators, abortioners, drunkards and whatnot.  Pretty much nonsense and certainly worthy of the mockery he was receiving from the crowd. And yet…
 
And yet I felt bad for him.  Somebody sprayed water on him and he paused for a moment, and kept going.  Even the crazy have a right to be secure from assault.  He was delivering a message of crucial importance, by his lights, but in a totally ineffective way. 

The whole unseemly spectacle just seemed kind of… sad.  From the time I lived in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, I knew quite a few guys like him.  And they lay awake nights worrying about lost souls.  Disagree with them, think they’re nuts, but they really did care. 

Categories: Religion

Stone soup and gas prices

August 18, 2008 4 comments

Saving money on gas is a combination of faith and works:

BBC News: Rocky Twyman, 59, a veteran community campaigner, started Pray At The Pump meetings at petrol stations in April. Since then, the average price of what the US calls gasoline has fallen from more than $4 a gallon to $3.80.

“We don’t have anybody else to turn to but God,” Mr Twyman told the BBC. “We have to turn these problems over to God and not to man.”

A few percent savings seems like a weak effect from the God who parted the Red Sea.  But the Twyman and friends aren’t just relying on God either:

“We believe not just in prayer – because we believe that faith without works is dead. So we’ve encouraged people to car-pool more and organise their days more, because it’s a combination of faith with these other factors.”

Excellent stone soup!  It would be even better with some carrots.  Maybe a little potato.  Beef broth, onions…

Categories: Religion

Suicide and religion

June 21, 2008 6 comments

Early this week I went to a university-sponsored suicide-prevention seminar.  The idea is that students, faculty, and staff can learn how to recognize the signs of potentially fatal depression, persuade sufferers to get the help that is available, and make the right referral.  It’s called QPR, or Question, Persuade, Refer.  It was OK, certainly no worse than most institutional attempts to help with serious problems and better than many.  At the end there was a question-and-answer period.

One of the attendees stood up in back, and said something like;

“This approach is fine, it’s OK, but as a Christian I just want to say that you shouldn’t forget the power of God to help them, the power of belief.  When someone’s hurting, let them know God loves them and Jesus cares,  I just have to say that, as a Christian.  That God is important.  I’m a Christian so this is what I believe.”

The group was breaking up and, and the presenter mumbled something like “yes, when it’s appropriate” but none of the other attendees responded. I’m sure the religion-touter had good intentions but you know the old saying.  And (being slow-witted and averse to confrontation) I didn’t think of a response until much later:

Christianity starts with the premise that we’re all unworthy sinners, who deserve to burn in hell unless we’re redeemed by the sacrificial blood of Jesus.  That’s a recipe for depression, not a cure.  You can’t tout salvation from guilt manufactured by your religion itself and then try to claim the high road.

When there are a lot of different approaches to a problem, it’s a sign that none of them works very well. Most people who are depressed eventually get better on their own, and if it happens to coincide with a religious conversion, religion gets the credit. But, never the blame when it makes things worse later. The basic Christian meme is self-justifying, creating the need for itself in mythic guilt. 

I don’t propose a simple solution to depression because it isn’t a simple problem.  It might help for the depressed person to know that changing moods are part of the human condition.  It might help to have the society of friends and loved ones who have been through it and verify that the Earth is still turning even when it seems like morning will never come.  The best we can do is be there for one another, try to prevent tragedy, and try not make things worse. 

“Lisa, I apologize to you, I was wrong, I take it all back.  Always be yourself.  If you want to be sad, honey, be sad. We’ll ride it out with you.  And when you get finished feeling sad, we’ll still be there.  From now on, let me do the smiling for both of us.’‘
- Marge Simpson to Lisa in episode #6, Moaning Lisa

  • I found a number of studies which claim to demonstrate a lower suicide rate for people who regularly attend religious services.  Unanswered by these studies are the role of the community effect (you see other people in a common activity at church) or if religious prohibitions against suicide prevent the act without addressing the condition.

  • I also found studies that showed a higher suicide rate in some secular societies, where there are no laws against assisting the act.  The studies did not seem to distinguish between depression or terminal illness as a trigger, or if the lack of prohibition meant that more deaths were likely to be counted as suicides than in countries where legal and financial consequences follow.
  • I found no studies that suggested depression itself is less common or less severe among religious people.  Indeed the bible itself contains considerable evidence to the contrary, as do the writings of nearly every prominent religious leader who has ever lived.  Depression does seem to correlate with creativity; neither religious or secular history books are populated with upbeat, sunny personalities.
Categories: Religion

Being True Christian

June 5, 2008 6 comments

Despite participation in his local faith community and devoting a rather large amount of his limited time on Earth to following that Carpenter, and generally being a worthwhile human being, ***Dave is concerned it might all be for nought: Guess I’m not a True Christian”.  He poses some insightful questions I’d like to hear the TV Christians True Christians™ answer, perhaps under bright lights on a Reality TV show.

I share his dismay, if not his faith, and have a few questions of my own.  How did abortion and homosexuality get to be the two main issues of Christianity, given that Jesus never mentioned either one of them?  How did the Christian position on poverty get to be “Get a job, ya bum!” given that Jesus did frequently speak about mercy to the poor?  How are megachurches and congressional prayer breakfasts with James Dobson compatible with “But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door…”  How did profligate wastefulness and fighting environmentalism get to be Christian virtues?  And why do the TV Christians need an atheist to explain this stuff to them?

Oh, that’s right, I forgot.  There’s people busy actually being Christians and then there’s people making a lot of noise on TV about it, saying “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…”

***Dave, if it turns out that I’m wrong and Christianity really is true, I have a hunch the TV Christians will have other problems later…

Categories: Religion

Hey, I almost forgot

May 2, 2008 2 comments

Hey, I almost forgot… isn’t this National “Mission Accomplished” day?  Yeah!  No wait, that was yesterday, which was also National Prayer Day.  I missed them both, but somehow don’t they kind of belong together?  National exercises of ineffectual self-congratulation?  Jesus said pray in private in the closet and we made a national day out of it.  And still call ourselves a Christian nation.  Well at least we still hate gays, whom Jesus never mentioned in any way. 

No, really folks, I kid, I kid because I love.  But if we didn’t think there was some big guy in the sky who will bail us out of our mistakes, mightn’t we pay more attention to the possibility of screwing things up in the first place?

Categories: Religion

Expelled, spewing into a theater near you

April 16, 2008 13 comments

Ben Stein’s docuflunkary Expelled starts Saturday. Reviews I’ve seen so far focus on its clumsy scripting and propagandistic imagery, its intellectual dishonesty, and its outright total misunderstanding of what evolutionary theory is or is not.  The implication is that it will be naturally de-selected by the marketplace.

It would be nice if the movie fell to quick oblivion, but that isn’t going to happen. It really doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good. There’s serious money behind it, and a very popular religious meme.  Millions of people have a religious/political reason to see the movie, whatever its merits.  And it will live on in DVD performances in church basements everywhere.

The movie pits bad-boy rebel Ben Stein against “Big Science” to ask the question “But how did life begin in the first place?”  But Stein never catches on that abiogenesis is a separate question from evolutionary theory.  Instead the movie keeps trying to clumsily pack “Darwinism” and Nazis into the same box.

At least the TV ad shows Richard Dawkins saying; “God is about as unlikely as faries, angels, hobgoblins etcetera.” 

UPDATE: Jason Rosenhouse at EvolutionBlog reviews Expelled, The Movie.  And Ken Hanke at Mountain Express says; Junk science meets even junkier filmmaking.  Still slavering for more?  Scientific American‘s John Rennie says; “Expelled; No Integrity Displayed”.

Categories: Religion

“Who’s crazier now, Washington Times?”

March 25, 2008 6 comments

Allright, enough about Obama’s crazy ex-pastor.  You want crazy?  In The Revealer, “a daily review of religion & the press”, Read about a preacher with big-money connections to the Bush administration (and several other Washington pols) who makes Obama’s preacher look like the oracle of reason…

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Categories: Religion