Whenever you hear anybody say “It was an Act of God,” you should immediately ask, which God and why.
September 12, 2010
September 4, 2010
In a recent post at Daylight Atheism entitled Why Atheists Should Be Feminists the writer argued that, true to the title of the article, atheists should be feminists. To this I objected on the grounds that “Atheism” has a very pure definition, one devoid of randomness and unintelligible terms. There is no reason to link atheism and feminism, much like there is no reason to link atheism and GLBT rights movements and gay marriage(the Friendly Atheist posts a lot about that,) or atheism and global warming(though we aren’t really supposed to call it global warming anymore; these days it’s “climate change”). I didn’t say that atheists shouldn’t—or couldn’t—take up those causes if they wished, but only that those causes shouldn’t be a prerequisite to calling oneself an “atheist.” In other words, I objected to the idea of atheism being turned into groupthink.
The definition of atheism is very simple. When boiled down, it is simply a lack of belief in deities, for whatever reason. Many people go further, of course; for instance, they make claims about the afterlife, but that’s not really an intrinsic part of atheism.
August 28, 2010
What happens when you die?
That’s the beginning, the middle and the end—the Alpha and the Mu and the Omega—of all three Abrahamic religions—Judaism(perhaps less so than the other two,) Christianity and Islam. The central question. The source of all theology. It isn’t God, or Sin, or Satan. It isn’t the Pope or the Imam or the Rabbi. It is, just that, a seemingly simple question: “What happens when I die?”
August 21, 2010
Hello, dearest readers, you may have noticed that there’ve been no posts on this blog since mid-July. I am truly sorry about that, but meat life got in the way. I know what you’re thinking: how dare the real world interfere with the make-believe of cyberspace. If this were a Doctor Who universe, I’d probably be the first to get deleted by the Cybermen. But fear not, my friends, for more posts are on their way. In the meantime, however, I temporarily leave you with the following thoughts.
When we blog on whatever topic—religion, atheism, sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, gay teletubbies, God’s wrath at Haitian slaves so rude and crude as to demand freedom and equal treatment as human beings(I know, the nerve!), conspiracy theories or what have you—we really inhabit two different worlds simultaneously: the meat world and the virtual world.
The meat world is where our real lives take place, where we are no known by real names, have jobs, pay bills, get into traffic accidents and argue with girlfriends over our wedding plans with other women. This is also the world inhabited by all the other lifeforms currently occupying this planet apart from ourselves.
July 19, 2010
I’ve been watching Doctor Who, starting with the 2005 series. Of course, I’ve looked up the summaries of the previous twenty-odd series, though to get the full benefit of the 2005 series, it’s actually unnecessary to know very much about those early years. Enough is explained to get you by. Good thing, too, because there is no way anybody just coming into the 2005 series fresh is going to then slog through all those other episodes.
An interesting idea started forming in my mind as I had my first real exposure to the Daleks and the Cybermen, a pair of Doctor Who baddies who are really fun to watch on screen. It occured to me that the Daleks and the Cybermen, as seen on the screen, are nearly perfect metaphors for religion.
What are Daleks
Within the Doctor Who universe, the Daleks are a race of genetically engineered creatures encased within an armoured, tank-like device, bent on the complete destruction of all other lifeforms because… well, because, as the Doctor put it in the Season 1 episode “Dalek”, they honestly believe that they should die.
As such, they represent the virulently aggressive strains of religion, religions that will kill you out of hand for being different and for simply existing.
What are some of the features of the Daleks
- Rage at everything different
- Absolute belief in the Dalek way and command structure
- Inability to question authority
- Inability to accept change
- They love to make a speech
Favourite catchphrases of the Daleks
- Any sort of command, repeated three times with increasing tone, pitch and intensity
Behaviour of the Daleks
The Daleks appear to be in a constant stage of rage. Whenever they get excited—which is almost all the time—they routinely shout a phrase three times with increasing intensity. While trying to make Rose Tyler predict the Doctor’s course of action, a Dalek shouted at her, “Predict! PREDICT! Predict!” This is accompanied by the visible shaking of their armoured base, as if they were a child in the midst of a temper tantrum, complete with stamping of the feet.
As a group, they are incapable of change and will destroy any one of them that dares to challenge the status quo. Even the virtually complete destruction of their entire race during the Time War proved unable to alter that. When one of the four surviving Daleks was able to perceive a truth beyond his own existence, the other three banded together and destroyed him.
They’re difficult to fight since they have forcefields that shrug off fire from human weapons, and they’re routinely surprised when people continue to resist anyway.
They’re fun to watch on-screen, like the train wreck in Wanted: you know people are going to die, but you just can’t look away.
What are the Cybermen
Cybermen are basically people who’ve had their brains ripped out and welded unto a metal frame and had all emotions suppressed. No doubt there are other things done to these people because as soon as a Cyberman is created, it immediately becomes militaristic and willing to kill for its people. What the Cybermen want collectively is to convert others to be like them, or failing that, to kill those that resist or, as they put it, suffer maximum deletion.
As such, they represent the more benign strains of religion, a religion that tries its damndest to convert you first and only if that doesn’t work will it kill you.
What are some of the features of the Cybermen
- Lack of emotions because the pain of what they are hurts too much
- Overriding belief that all humans(and I suppose humanoids) are desperate to be saved from their own humanity(humanoidity? )
- Conditioning is not perfect—strong enough human minds can survive the conversion and become anti-cybermen
- Suffer under delusions of adequacy—they are really good at screwing up the lives of regular people, but no good whatsoever against the true fanatics, the Daleks
Favourite catchphrases of the Cybermen
- Maximum deletion
Behaviour of the Cybermen
The Cybermen are more reserved than the Daleks, more dignified somehow. They walk proudly, with balled fists, as if they spurn the earth on which they stand. They use force and intimidation to keep the populace cowed until they can be converted to Cybermen and are not averse to mind control devices. They’re driven by the need to convert all others to be like them, perhaps in the desire to share their own pain. They know nothing of love or mercy or even peace; they’re nothing but killing machines. Occasionally, a converted human is able to override the Cybermen programming from within his—or her—own metal chassis and usurp the armoured suit for his—or her—own purposes. Such a Cyberman must, of course, be destroyed by the others.
As a group, the Cybermen are cursed with delusions of adequacy. They’re really good at ruining normal people’s lives, and are therefore deluded into thinking they’re capable of facing the Daleks without overwhelming force. This leads a Dalek to quip that there is only one thing the Cybermen are better at than the Daleks, which is dying.
Behaviour of Religion
The Daleks, Cybermen and religions all behave the same way. They expect instant submission to their most outrageous demands, backed up by threats of dire retribution. They demand and expect unquestioning loyalty from its followers, with the apostates being cast out and destroyed. They are sublimely convinced of their superiority and inferiority of everyone else. They throw hissy fits whenever thwarted in some small way. Individual adherents of this or that religion will yell at the top of their voices that they can’t understand how others, especially unbelievers, can even talk of morality and why they aren’t out there doing what’s best of them without regard for anyone else, which for some strange reason always equates to raping and murdering and stealing. Then these adherents will stamp their feet in frustrations when unbelievers aren’t actually doing this. Even religions that won’t kill you outright for the smallest transgression still condemn you to the everlasting flames.
Religions believe they’re the sole way to the infinite; their arrogance leads to place limits on the infinite to make it fit with that religion’s ideas. They believe they can save you, and if that means your life, or your livelihood, then so be it. Religions try to deny the non-believers the right to do things their own way and assume that their way is the only true way, all others are false.
The Daleks and the Cybermen are therefore metaphors for religions, behaving in ways that are, though exxagerated, often bear striking similarity to religions. And like the Daleks and the Cybermen, religions also have favourite catchphrases, often spoken—shouted?—when doing something other people would disapprove of.
As a whole, religions scream at the top of their lungs, BELIEVE! BELIEVE! They get very angry when people show any signs of resistance or believing differently—especially when those people dare speak up about their own beliefs, or unbeliefs, as the case may be—, as if it reflects poorly on them. Religions are difficult to fight because, as a rule, they’re immune to logic and new ideas, and all religious thought revolves around thousands of years-old books and is judged on how well it fits in with existing writings.
July 13, 2010
So that’s the question in mind. What is religion? What does it do?
Is religion a belief in God?
The quick and simple answer is “no”. A belief in God is theism or deism, not religion.
The long and complicated answer is that religion is a combination of dogma, beliefs, ideas, misconceptions, prejudices, heresies, love, hate, rage, intolerance, darkness, light, personal inadequacies. It is a human creation, from start to finish, and its purpose is nothing less than the mental control of human beings. Literally.
What does religion do?
Religion attaches, parasite-like, to the theism and deism.
It tells not only adherents how to believe and behave, but also those who don’t ascribe to its dogma.
It trivalizes life on the basis of a magical fantasy land no one knows anything about.
It locks down modes of thought and substitutes fantasy for reality.
It claims special access to the Almighty and then sets man-made limits on the universal infinite.
It claims to know the mind of God and then declares said mind off-limits to all others.
It creates guilt and fear and claims that only it knows the one and only way in an infinite universe to alleviate that guilt and fear.
It infantalizes adults by keeping them in a child-like state, unable to form their own morality.
It claims progress in learning more about the mind of God, but everything remains mired in two thousand year-old(and older) theology.
It makes adherents susceptible to absurdity by showing them it’s easy to believe in other absurdities.
It substitutes cartoonish fantasy evil for true evil.
It makes an a priori assumption about heaven and hell and then makes wild, unsubstantiated claims about them.
It says that it’s bad to kill, and then proceed to inform the adherent exactly who and under what circumstances can be killed, and how.
It makes perfectly testable claims that the end of the world of nigh and when the world keeps going without anything happening, it convinces its adherents that the calculation was off and the end of world is really just about nigh.
It convinces adherents that God owes them a direct intervention in their disease to be followed by an immediate cure. This despite the fact that God had, in their worldview, already endowed humans with the ability to effect said cure.
It convinces people that whatever they feel in their hearts must be so because the Universe is attuned specially to them.
I’m sure there are other aspects of religion.
July 2, 2010
I want to thank you for an interesting discussion over the last few weeks. I learnt much about your beliefs, and my own. Having said that, I wish to inform you that I will no longer respond to your posts, on this blog or your own. Your assertion that an atheist may not use logic, of all things, in a discussion about religion, that by using logic the atheist must believe in God and your appropriation of same to yourself only makes my further participation unprofitable.
With that in mind, I once again want to thank you and to wish you well in all in your future endeavours.Sincerely,
The Other Weirdo
July 1, 2010
This is slightly off-topic, but as I was watching Dr. Who last night while simultaneously scarfing down plums, I discovered that it is a bad idea to scarf before looking. Some plums, having been left out for a few days, had already begun for ferment. While I’m not morally opposed to alcohol—all things in moderation, moderation included—it comes as a bit of a surprise when you eat what think is a piece of fruit full of sugary watery goodness and it fills your mouth with booze. The episode “Rise of the Cybermen” takes on a whole new meaning when that happens.
This public service announcement has been brought to your by SAAAC, the Society Against Accidental Alcohol Consumption.
June 30, 2010
Even if I were to grant that God exists, in some way, shape or form, I would not try to put limits on God by claiming that I can possibly know and understand the supposedly-infinite, or know God’s mind. I would most definitely not say that my God inexplicably likes the same things I do and wants me to do exactly the same things that I want to do and wants me to kill the same people I want to see dead and would punish the same people I want to see punished.
In other words, I would not try to limit the infinite by claiming that it is merely human.