Tuesday, December 23, 2008

5 Questions that I will waste my time answering.

Here is a youtube video I found somehow titled "5 Questions every intelligent atheist must answer". He's lucky I am in an obedient mood right now.

Question the First: "Aren't you using 'chance' in the exact same way in which you accuse Christians of using 'God of the gaps'?"
Yes (for all I know). There's just one key difference: "chance" can be observed and is consistent with extrapolation based on what we know of the underlying chemical and biological processes of life, whereas "God of the gaps" is using a unknown, unknowable entity as an explanation for the same thing based upon the fact that we don't know how else it could have happened. Saying that something was arrived at by "chance" isn't just a last refuge and stock conclusion that has no rational basis and that is jumped to whenever people run into a dead end. It is, in some cases, the only rational conclusion, since pretty much every process we can currently observe is directed by probabilistic factors and confined "chance".

Question Deux: "Why should there be something instead of nothing?"
Shoot me now.
There is something instead of nothing because we are something, and if there was nothing, there would not be something, and we would not be there to contemplate the nothingness. Basically, a non-existent person tells no tales, and a non-existent universe has no tales told about it. If you want me to go into the "how" of this, beyond the scope of the Big Bang Theory, then I can offer nothing but speculation. And just because your speculation comes pre-packaged with a church's stamp of approval doesn't make it hold more water.
Also: WTF is "moral order"?

Question Tres: "Where do you get your morals from?"
Same place as everyone else: conscience, upbringing, culture, and a dash of rational assessment of consequences for certain behavior. The morality definition offered up at the beginning of that section from an evolutionary perspective is actually quite good. Unfortunately, it seems that he is looking for that nice old "objective morality". He can keep on looking, because changing moral zeitgeists in countries that remained predominantly Christian for centuries gives us a good indication of just how immutable their objective moral codes are.

Question Quadrilateral [I believe that that is "four" in Portuguese]: "How did morals evolve?"
When humans started interacting with one another in order to survive, and personality traits and behavioral patterns that helped facilitate and stabilize group function became increasingly favored over "immoral" behavior that does neither, or the opposite.
No, no self-consciousness or awareness of the evolutionary processes behind it is necessary. Natural psychopaths will lose out to a naturally helpful, kind, and industrious individual in ideal social settings every time (with the possible exceptions of warrior cultures).
He mentions that a caveman would not feel guilty for killing a human in a neighboring group. This much is true. That's what happens when you get into groups that are competing against each other for survival. And it has been something that has been true even under religious codes against it (or that cleverly support such things as war and killing in self defense, while simultaneously condemning killing of any other kind). It hasn't been until relatively recently, in increasingly stable and open societies, that we have started moving away from those sentiments, and seeing all of our species as a unified group. But, we still have our hatreds and divisions nonetheless.

Question Five: "Can nature generate complex organisms, in the sense of originating, when previously there was none?"
Wow. You sure have a hard-on for abiogenesis. Okay, first off, we don't know. Second off, the fact that life hasn't come about on the select few planets we can observe isn't really a point against abiogenesis, so much as consistent with the fact that life came about in a chance process, and Earth just happened to be the rock in the right position to let life come about. And then he starts to babble on about "design", comparing a woodcut to nature. Why do those evil atheists stubbornly refuse to merge the concepts of natural and artificial together in order to haphazardly argue for the existence of a celestial blacksmith? WHY!?

The thing that was most remarkable about these questions is that they had little, if anything, to do with atheism. No questions about gods (or lack thereof) at all. It was all about clumsy attempts to find holes in non-creationist science, and trying to wrap his head around secular morality. It's a real shame. But, I guess they feel better about ranting about how the world had to have been "designed" because it looks "designy" rather than talking about whether there is any intellectual integrity in positing a "designer" due to that, or at all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

America: We just don't let things slide.

Some people wanted to claim that throwing a shoe at the President was violent. Well, I guess that evil Iraqi journalist Zaidi got his just desserts then.

Edit:  Link fixed.  Forgot the "h" in "http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/16/bush-shoe-zaidi".  Oh well...it was all part of the mystery!

It's alive!! Again.

Dinesh D'Souza. That's all the introduction I need.
Still, I was very surprised to see a man who has devoted decades to formulating some very controversial views run so desperately away from them. This was precisely what Singer did when I debated him on December 3
That couldn't possibly be because you don't understand the nuances of his regard for those views, could it? You know, like presenting ideas as philosophical and logical imperatives in one respect while also acknowledging the problems that would exist in fully applying those ideas. Same reason why Descartes didn't go around acting as if he were nothing more than a disembodied consciousness in a hallucinatory world. You can present an idea, support it, show why it is good in some respects, and still not fully support its actual application in current social contexts.
Singer’s atheism, I suggested, is the primary foundation of his advocacy of infanticide, euthanasia, and animal rights.
Animal rights? What the hell does that have to do with the other two? And: infanticide is an iffy subject, for reasons that Singer delves into, and euthanasia is not a bad thing. When it is actually a bad thing, it is called murder (or it involves some complex manipulation of the euthanised). Alright?
Somewhat to my surprise, Singer announced to the largely Christian audience that he was not there to debate his views on infanticide and euthanasia. Rather, he said, he had come to debate whether God existed or not.
Heaven forbid that someone address the actual debate topic.
I countered that the existence of pain and suffering raised no questions about the existence of God, only about the nature of God.
That's true. And if that nature is too different from the Christian conception of God, which is the image that 1/3 of the world have of one, than you're left dealing with deistic wisps of a phantom of a god that is usually only supported who want to feign a legitimate position in debate, but don't actually care about in real life, because the existence of such an entity is essentially irrelevant to us.
Imagine if I had a father whom I always considered to be kind, generous, and loving. Then I encounter a tragedy and my father does not help. It would make no sense for me to say, “Since you have acted contrary to my previous assessment of your character, therefore I conclude that you do not exist.”
I swear that you are retarded on purpose. Of course you would not conclude that because:
1. You have given those qualities to your father yourself due to your observation of his behavior as an existent thing. It is a trait that he has. The example you give would put those observed traits into question. Whereas for God, it is not so much a simple observed trait as a hypothetical defining aspect.
2. You actually know that your father exists and can observe him and his behavior. You cannot do the same thing for God, even though his work should be seen anywhere and everywhere. He can only be trivially thought to exist if reality as we know conforms to the traits that we attribute with him, and, since it does not, that is one defining characteristic that needs to be discarded.
Basically, a have a bauble that is green. It turns blue. But the bauble still exists, even if my color assessment is wrong. This same thing could be true for God, but we do not know, because we cannot observe him. So, instead we say that an analog to God, call it a zephyr, exists with the observable trait that there is a cold breeze. Since we cannot check it any other way, and there its ability to be known by us is entirely contingent upon the presence of its defining traits, when there is no cold breeze, a zephyr cannot be said to exist. See?
Here, after all, is a man who has publicly said that even infants have no rights for some 27 days after they are born. According to Singer, these infants can be killed during that time if they are felt to be an inconvenience or burden to their parents or society.
If only your mother had agreed with him. Wikipedia will help Singer defend himself here: "Singer argues that infants similarly lack essential characteristics of personhood - "rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness" [23]- and therefore "[s]imply killing an infant is never equivalent to killing a person."" Considering that he is a philosopher, that kind of thinking isn't really uncommon. That said, I sort of agree, but I think that infants are enough of a person (in that they are least minorly functional cognitively) to warrant basic rights, including protections against killing (save euthanasia if prognosis demands it, and the parents consent to it).
I proposed the topic, “Can We Have Morality Without God?” Here, I thought, was a direct opportunity to link God with morality and to show what happens when a thinker like Singer seeks to formulate an entirely secular morality
Sounds familiar...
Yet once again Singer began his speech by announcing that he had no intention of defending his positions on the taking of human life. In fact, he said that people who had come to hear him defend such positions could leave and go home. Singer argued that even if his views were terrible, it would not follow that atheism was terrible.
Wow. You are a dumbass, Dinesh. Ever occur to you that debating your own personal philosophies have nothing to do with the debate topic? Or that it would take for bloody ever for him to defend his positions to a greater degree than he has already done when he first presented them? A debate is by no means about trying to go through one another's autobiography and bringing up stuff you think you can score points with. It is about discussing the topic at hand.
Osama Bin Laden is a Muslim, and his views can be considered dangerous, but it doesn’t follow that Islam itself is dangerous. Having compared himself to Bin Laden, Singer did not seem to be off to a very good start.
Eeek. Faux pas. He shouldn't have tried to argued that not all Muslims are dangerous either, because that might lose him points with people who are going dogmatically agree with Dinesh anyway (oh, nevermind).
This time I refused to play Singer’s game and permit him to duck his outrageous views. “Peter Singer is reluctant, perhaps understandably, to discuss his positions,” I began. “Therefore it will be my task to discuss them.”
I anoint "The Biggest Douche in the Universe". Enjoy the prestige.
But the values of America and Europe—even secular values—are decisively shaped by Christianity.
Sure they are. Shaped by the parts of Christianity that happened to coincide with common sense and human empathetic reasoning. Everything else kind of got pushed into the corner though...
Many of the new atheists, I suggested, want to get rid of Christianity but keep core Christian values
You gonna take credit for "thou shalt not kill" now, or do you not want to make the true levels of your idiocy that explicit?
He is an honest atheist in that he recognizes that you can’t have Christian morality without its transcendent foundation. I identified Singer with the philosopher Nietzsche’s project to go beyond the “death of God” and eradicate all Christian values—including equal dignity and the preciousness of human life—from the West.
Oh. "Preciousness of human life" is what you are calling it? How about "the necessity of other human life to exist in order for individual human lives to continue"? Because that's where your idea of "preciousness" comes from, and why you feel free to do whatever the hell you like to anything that isn't human (or to other humans, but that's aside the issue of principles and into hypocrisy). Oh, and if by "equal dignity" you mean "equal rights", the Greeks beat you to the punch, and you Christians lost your way incredibly from the monasteries in which this practiced (and almost the only place it was practiced until the Enlightenment).
Specifically, the Communist regimes of Stalin, Mao, and the Nazi regime provide the clearest indication of what truly God-free societies look like.
Shut the hell up already.
Singer has vociferously protested the equation of his views with those of the Nazis, and I said he was right to make this distinction. After all, I pointed out, the Nazis favored state-sponsored genocide while Singer advocated free market homicide.
Ooooooo. Burn. Funny, that Dinesh supports both forms: in the form wars, death penalties, and murder in self-defense (which, albeit, very few would argue against).
Instead, Singer went right back to the problem of pain and suffering. A just and compassionate God, he said, would never permit such disasters as earthquakes, hurricanes and cancer. Consequently there is no good God presiding over human affairs. Therefore if we are going to have morality we will have to develop morality without God.
Not much to disagree with there.
I regard Singer and Christopher Hitchens as two of the most effective advocates of atheism in the United States, and perhaps anywhere
Only because they are the only ones willing to debate you...
I like to debate these men in order to show that theism in general, and Christianity in particular, can withstand the best that the opposition has to offer.
Ahahahahahaha. You can withstand us, but we sure can't stand you!
Dawkins, however, has shown himself to be a coward by refusing to defend his aggressively-articulated views in open debate. And now Singer has twice shown up at debates with his running shoes on. So with Dawkins hiding under his desk and Singer sprinting for cover, is modern atheism losing its nerve?
Dinesh retains the title I just recently gave to him, and is now striving to become Heavy Weight Wrestling Champion of the World. Seriously, you are not worth anyone's time Dinesh, and 60-something Dawkins can't go around debating chickenhawks like yourself every time you want to go up on stage and try to spout random garbage to please your masters. Grow up or shut up, please.

Assassination without bullets (or weapons).

One of these things makes the other sound ridiculous. Pick out which one is the exaggeration!
While Bush wasn't harmed, the incident was reminiscent of John W. Hinckley's failed attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981 . Hinckley slipped into a crowd of reporters outside the Washington Hilton , and when Reagan emerged from a speaking appearance, the 25-year-old drifter fired six shots with a .22-caliber handgun, hitting Reagan in the chest, permanently disabling presidential press secretary Jim Brady with a bullet to the head and wounding a Secret Service agent and a police officer.
Contrast with this statement from the Secret Service:
"It's obvious that (Bush) could have been hit in the head with a shoe,'' he said. "Anytime there's an incident like this, we're going to review it. We're always trying to improve ourselves.''
Give up? I know. It sounds too improbable that someone used the phrase "always trying to improve ourselves" right after a sentence including the word "Bush" , but it happened. Clearly, they are bald-faced liars.

Okay, serious time: there is not even a remote similarity between the scenario of the shoe thrower and John Hinckley. Here's a non-exhaustive list of reasons why:
  • Hinckley was a U.S. citizen. Zaidi is an Iraqi citizen. And the conference took place in Iraq, which just happened to be a country that Bush invaded. Slightly different climate than good ol' U.S. soil.
  • Hinckley was not a journalist, and had to sneak around. Zaidi was a journalist, and was actually supposed to be in the press conference.
  • Hinckley intended to hurt people, and did. Zaidi did not (most likely) and did not.
  • Hinckley used an actual weapon (related to above). Zaidi threw a f#@$ing shoe. He should have thrown some form of food product to make the responses against this move look as ridiculous as they truly are.
  • Hinckley was insane. Zaidi was outraged.
  • Hinckley's attack, by your own description, didn't even occur inside a press conference, but only when Reagan was leaving one.
The only similarity is that 1. a President was targeted with something that moved a distance greater than 5 feet, and 2. it happened in or around a speaking engagement of that President. That is the only comparison I can see, and trying to draw any further ones is just a tad beyond disingenuous, and only providing fodder for those who are going to claim that this was a vicious attack anyway. I would almost call the comparison fearmongering if it weren't for the fact that I think that it was far too inane to even intentionally have been that. Just plain sloppiness, I assume.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Canada. Mexico. Turkey. Saudi Arabia. Anywhere but here!

Fucking fuck fuck fuck.
H. Res. 847
In the House of Representatives, U. S.,
December 11, 2007.
Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;
Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;
Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;
Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;
Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its Judeo-Christian roots;
Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;
Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and
Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;
(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;
(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;
(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;
(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and
(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world
Striving for theocracy AND playing the victim at the same time, as per usual. And, of course, supported predominantly by Republicans. This ridiculous measure is only being put forward in bald-faced attempt to try to get their ridiculous feelings of entitlement for complete and utter control of this country justified by a seemingly innocuous ruling by an unsuspecting and sympathetic Congress. I hate these people so much...

Edit: My hatred remains, but I may not need to expatriate myself yet. Apparently, this was put before the House last year. Part of my rage was from remembering them trying to pull off a similar bill around Spring of this year. As such, I am slightly placated by knowing that this was probably the same one, and thus they aren't trying to make this annual tradition, like the frickin' flag burning amendment. Oh, but I guess my anger may be important anyway, because it has already passed in the House of Representatives. I would continue to rant, but I am too busy laughing at similar legislation.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Ghost of the War on Christmas Future

2009: Bill O'Reilly starts crying due to the continued insistence of using the term "Happy Holidays" (even on his own website). People continue to laugh at him. Bill Donohue gets his own show on Fox News and does the same. He promptly dies of a heart attack three weeks later. Christians launch a full scale assault on city halls across the country with ornaments, Christmas trees, and plastic baby Jesii. 12 were killed.
2010: Bill O'Reilly throws a temper tantrum when cities refuse to put up Christmas displays this year.
Jesus returns. He is promptly killed by Christians who think that he is a radical liberal terrorist from Mexico.
The Christmas tree in Times Square is blown up by secular jihadists, who are subsequently thrown into Guantanamo and forced to listen to Christmas carols.
2011: Bill O' Reilly enters the fetal position around mid-September because there aren't enough Christmas lights. Santa gets a bionic arm with which to strangle anyone who catches him stealing cookies from unsuspecting chimneyed households. Christians start trying to hide menorahs in order to keep Christmas from "losing the War on Christmas". Secularists feel confident in their inevitable victory, and build barricades around state Capitol buildings. A few abortion clinic bombers were redirected to try to break through the barricades, but just wound up in prison on charges of being "drunk in public".
2012: Obama is re-elected and Bill O'Reilly is now in a mental ward after being diagnosed with an acute case of wingnuttery, coupled with delusions of moderation. Fox News subsequently becomes obscure and unnoteworthy. Santa continues world-wide burglaries and murders. Jesus is once again killed by a shotgun wielding Christian. And most state buildings remain devoid of any holiday displays for the next decade or so (save for the few cluttered ones where they provide an accidental open forum for everyone by letting a porcelain baby Jesus slip through).
2023: Bill O'Reilly strangles Jesus to death in the asylum. Jesus had been put into the mental facility for coming back after being killed 12 times in a row, and proceeding to kill off random fundamentalists. His lawyer forced Jesus to plead insanity after recording all the conversations they had in which he claimed to be the son of God.
Santa Claus's killing spree is finally put to an end when the U.S. military guns down his sleigh. They proceed to confiscate his bags,containing hundreds of thousands of weapons that he was smuggling to children across the globe. They would also confiscate the sleigh in order to reverse engineer it and determine how it is able to travel at light speed. Rudolph is still on the loose.
2024: President Cthulhu is elected for a second term.

The Ghost of the War on Christmas Present

It may seem grim, but it looks like there is hope in sight!

One of the the most depressing aspects of the Advent season is the perennial reappearance of the "War Against Christmas" argument in some conservative political and religious circles. This story-line, most visibly associated with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, is based on the idea that Christians are being mortally offended, and perhaps even threatened in their religious liberties, by department-store decisions to peddle their wares under the slogan of "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." The "War Against Christmas" theory also feeds on the usual tedious and marginal fights over publicly-authorized Nativity scenes and equal access to other seasonal religious or even anti-religious messages.

I think it's time for Christians to reclaim Christmas by declaring war on the whole "War on Christmas" whine, and on the planted axiom that Jesus Christ needs to be proclaimed on department store facades and municipal squares.

Then again, the religious right could really give a damn about Jesus, so I am not sure how much weight this will have.

Are contemporary American Christians really so weak and defensive that they identify the terrible outrage of being exposed to pan-religious or secular expressions of the holiday season with the experience of the many millions of Christians who have suffered active discrimination, state-sanctioned repression of their private religious practices, and injury, torture and death, for confessing Christ?

Presently...yes. Not just yes: Hell yes. But, change may just be possible...

And as an American Protestant, I have to ask: have we forgotten that our own heritage used to acknowledge a sharp separation between church and state, and between secular and religious worlds, as essential to our own liberty and growth?

Ironically enough, on the particular issue of Christmas, the Scots-Irish and Calvinist forebears of many U.S. evangelical Protestants waged the most systematic "War on Christmas" on record, as nicely summarized recently by Bruce Wilson.

Don't lie to them. Admitting non-favorable parts of your religion's history makes you an atheist!

The best way to remind people of the "reason for the season" is to disassociate the Feast of the Incarnation from Santa Claus, the Yule Log, and other pre- and post-Christian observances that have been merged with it over the centuries. And the place for that is in homes, churches, individual souls, public and private acts of Christian charity, and observances of the real sacrifices of real Christian martrys. Demanding this association in the commercial and political realms devalues the Christian content of "Christmas" decisively.

That's why I think Christians, regardless of our various views on other issues, should unite to denounce and fight the "War on Christmas" campaign.

And that would make a recipe for a very merry Christmas indeed.

The Ghost of the War on Christmas Past.

Who started the War on Christmas? Immigrants, non-whites, and the Jews.

Back during the culture wars of the 1990s, Peter Brimelow, then a Fortune magazine editor, grew incensed with the increasing use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” by retailers like Amazon.com. “I just got real interested in the issue,” Brimelow told The Daily Beast, “because I noticed over the years there was this social shift taking place where people no longer said ‘Merry Christmas.’”

In his 1995 book, Alien Nation, Brimelow argued that the influx of “weird aliens with dubious habits” from developing nations was eroding America’s white Christian “ethnic core,” and in turn, sullying its cultural underpinnings. The War on Christmas was, in his view, a particularly pernicious iteration of the multicultural “struggle to abolish America.”

Multiculturalism!? NOOOOOOOO!
Shunned by conservatives there rankled by his unabashed racial resentment—Goldberg belittled him in a 2002 column as a “once respected conservative voice”—Brimelow founded what would become the internet’s leading anti-immigration web journal, VDare.com, named for the first British child born in the Americas. Brimelow’s new venture provided a forum to allies like Jared Taylor, a white supremacist publisher, and Kevin MacDonald, an evolutionary psychology professor who has argued that Jews are genetically equipped to out-compete Gentiles for resources and power. In 2003, four years after VDare’s founding, the Southern Poverty Law Center classified the journal as a “hate group.”
Classifying them as a "hate group"? Stupid liberals trying to censor good Christians by calling their religious values "hate".
Unlike their more respectable counterparts, Brimelow’s writers dared to name the true anti-Christian Grinch: Jews. The winner of Brimelow’s 2001 War on Christmas competition, a “paleoconservative” writer named Tom Piatak, insisted that those behind the assault on Christmas “evidently prefer” Hanukkah, which he called the “Jewish Kwanzaa,” a “faux-Christmas.” “Teaching children about Hanukkah, rather than the beliefs that actually sustained Jews on their sometimes tragic and tumultuous historical journey,” Piatak fumed, “inculcates negative lessons about Christianity, not positive ones about Judaism.”
"Jewish Kwanzaa"=Hilarious. As for "negative lessons about Christianity"....WTF?
By 2005, Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson were dedicating entire shows to the War on Christmas. While their rants were directed at “secular progressives,” they echoed the arguments of Brimelow’s allies. “It’s all part of the secular progressive agenda,” O’Reilly grumbled. “If you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs, like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage.”
Oh, Bill O....why exactly are any of those "progressive programs" even worthy of opposition in the first place?
Of the conservatives who once dismissed his Christmas crusade, Brimelow remarked with a self-satisfied chuckle, “They went over to the dark side.”
The lilly-white dark side.

The War on Christmas: Schizophrenic Time Travelling Edition.

Well, I was just strollin' around the internet, when all of sudden a link came up in a Pharyngula comment thread to an article in the Canada Free Press website. You may have heard of one of its writers. So, I step through the link and "OH MY GOD IT'S IN ENGLISH BUT IT DOESN'T MAKE FUCKING SENSE!!!".

For example, one wonders if it is worth it upon hearing that another whacked-out liberal judge has determined that the nativity scene is unconstitutional.

Not just insensitive to non-Christians, mind you, but unconstitutional for heaven’s sake!

Establishment. Clause. Bitch.
Not so many years ago, the word unconstitutional was reserved for major injustices that really harmed people. Heinous acts like slavery or racial discrimination for example.
Pop quiz: what does "constitutional" mean, what does the prefix "un-" commonly denote, and how in the name of holy hell can you interpret the term "unconstitutional" as anything but "not constitutional", as in "not in, not supported by, or actively prevented by provisions in the constitution"? There is nothing about "really harming people", because fairness isn't always as black and white as opposing slavery and ghettoes.

Last year, we heard of a rabbi in Washington state who threatened to sue because of fifteen Christmas trees enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of the public at the Seattle airport. “Treeless in Seattle,” was apparently this rabbi’s passion.

But why would an alleged “man of faith” act to deny so many people the pleasure of seeing a simple, unobtrusive symbol just because the symbol did not immediately conjure up images of his particular faith?

As secular as Christmas trees are, I think that if there are displays for a religious holiday put up in a state owned facility, that he has a right to petition for in the inclusion of displays for his own holiday, or protest the exclusion of himself and others. Whether or not a lot of people enjoyed does not make it less exclusionary. That being said, they were only Christmas trees, which means that, since Christmas is also a state holiday, it isn't really endorsing a religion (...technically...it would be a hell of a lot easier if they didn't make the thing a federal holiday to begin with. But I guess they need to, in order to deal with the fact that 80% of the population is going to celebrate it anyway).

How does one confront such narrow-minded, selfish, mean spirited thinking without going barking mad?

Says the member of the group that sets up a display for their own holiday of choice, and says that they are beyond reproach because more than 50% of people like it up, without considering (or even concerning yourself with) the fact that you might be marginalizing people who do not. That's far more mean spirited to me, because the absence of any display is in no ways a tacit sign of disparagement. Note: This is where the "satire" is supposed to begin.
One way is to fantasize what the first Christmas might have been like if liberals and the ACLU had been in charge the night Jesus was born....

Upon entering Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph would have been stopped by activists from Planned Parenthood. The unmarried couple would have been reminded of the growing problem with overpopulation, including demands on finite resources and added pollution.

Mary would have been encouraged to abort the unborn fetus, and Planned Parenthood would have offered to pay for the procedure with tax money stolen from the Romans.

[The "First Christmas" wouldn't have been on Christmas day, just in case that needed to be mentioned]. Planned Parenthood people do not solicit people into aborting. And what does Planned Parenthood have to do with the ACLU? Oh my...I think you all can see what kind of piece this is already.
Meanwhile, a corrupt liberal judge (aren’t they all?)
Only if you consider "corrupt" to mean "makes rulings that are in conflict with religious and/or political ideology", then yes. Every single one of them. Because the ones who aren't will be deemed "conservative enough".
in Nazareth would have issued a restraining order to prevent the three wise men from entering the city where the Savior was born.
Probably a good idea. Three rich guys who have no relation to the baby nor the parents, coming with gifts to see a newborn? It just screams "sex slavery".
Citing the lack of any women, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, gays, transsexuals, Jihadists, or blind and handicapped Buddhists among the three wise acres, the judge would have given the trio twelve hours to submit an acceptable affirmative action plan, or be forced to leave the Holy land.
Why do I get the feeling that he has a severe disdain, not just for the perceived inanity of affirmative action (which, in this case, is a strawman for comedic effect, based on a strawman that they actually hold as fact) but for the minorities involved as well? Once you get to about "Hispanics" and ignore the last one on the last (Buddhists), you've enterred the "social conservative's hitlist" (so to speak). With, of course, women and blacks having just recently been taken off (most) of those lists, and Asians having a few surprises ahead undoubtedly.
All mirth, gold and other gifts brought by the trio would have been impounded and stored in a local “Babies R Us” retail outlet, pending final disposition by the court
.I'm surprised you didn't throw in a joke griping about inspection and regulation of goods.
That same judge would have also ordered Mary to submit to a full gynecological examination by a licensed physician to determine the veracity of her claim to be a virgin.
I'm sure you would've just taken her word for it. Especially if you were Joseph...
Hell, you would probably just claim that after the claim was denied by a physician, or by the guy who impregnated her even, that they were biased and in a conspiracy to hide the TRUTH that is your wife's virginity (you, know despite the fact that the Bible didn't actually ever make that claim, and it was a mistranslation....*cough*).
The judge would have ruled that this was essential to maintain the probative integrity of Nazareth’s birth and death records, and to establish a basis for royalty payments owed Nazareth when the Jesus story was added to the Holy Bible
Hilarious! Except...that the Romans did have birth and death records...[well, Jesus didn't, but he should have]. The royalty payments though....that's funny! They knew they were going to write the Bible from the time of his birth. Heh...the implications....
ACLU Lawyers in Bethlehem would have sued the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away. The suit would allege that there was, in fact, plenty of room at the inn, but that Mary was discriminated against solely because she was an unmarried, pregnant, middle-eastern woman of color who spoke perfect Yiddish, but not a word of Italian or French.
So? Good on the ACLU! You should show them more appreciation, having fought on behalf of the mother of god and all that.
Even back then, being bilingual was seen as a mark of sophistication and economic stability by liberal nut cases.
And being incapable of communicating with anyone outside of your own country, while still insisting on the necessity of travelling abroad to places that you never even bothered to locate on a map? I mean, seriously, you are attacking people who appreciate bilingualism in the country that probably is the most monolingual in the world. You couldn't have pointed yourself out as a contributing factor to a major educational problem more clearly if you tried!
Joseph would have been required to pay a special “Ass Transit Fee”—not a tax, mind you—owing to the fact that the donkey carrying the blessed Mary was not properly licensed in Bethlehem. The local tax collector was known in the underground as the “Ass Taxer,” a term that still applies to most American Democrats.
Tax jokes. Wow. Tell the joke about W4 forms next! [BTW: "Ass Taxer" sounds like either an As Seen On TV product that makes filing taxes easy by letting you get through them just by sitting down on it (how? I don't know.). Or, a name for a gay accountant porn].

Joseph and Mary would have been forced to leave Bethlehem earlier than originally planned, because a local bureaucrat named Goreish had determined that their donkey was releasing unhealthy levels of toxic gases, indelicately called “farts” in our enlightened times.

Man. You really want to live in the Bronze Age, don't you? Anyway, those stupid liberals and there controlling the levels of air pollution! I hatez them! HATEZ DEM!!!
Such emissions were thought to be a major factor in clinical depressions, and were also implicated in a phenomenon called “Global Cooling,” which Goreish insisted would destroy the planet by the year 0010 unless immediate action were taken.
Foolish Gore-sounding name. He should have known that the world wasn't going to end until the year 0040, when Jesus came back on a fiery chariot to bring all of his faithful disciples up to heaven, and let the wretched unbelievers fend for themselves against the demonic hordes. Foolish, foolish fool.
Goreish was so convinced of his science that he mass produced a scroll manuscript modestly titled, “Ten Inconvenient Truths about Global Cooling,” which were sold on street corners for thirty pieces of silver, with tips gladly accepted.
OMG! 30 pieces of silver! Gore-guy is Judas!
Sadly, Goreish died penniless and humiliated in 0100 while trying to promote yet another doomsday rip off called “Global Warming.” The animal rights activist presiding over the funeral for Goreish called him a huge and noble force for peace
He lived a damn full life though. Lived to be over a 100 unless he was in charge of controlling levels of toxic emissions when he was younger than the baby Jesus. And the irony of mentioning a "doomsday rip off" around 100 C.E. (ya know, when the heavily "apocalypse soon" influenced Christian cults started to gain momentum), as always, is lost.
Because of scribing and typographical errors repeated over the course of 2,000 years, “noble force for peace” has become “Nobel Peace,” an award recently accepted by the latest rip-off artist in the Goreish family tree.
So, denouncing the Nobel Peace Prize and Global Warming at the same time? What objections do you have exactly to these things, that makes them warrant mockery and dismissal without so much as a wink and a nudge to give a signal as to why? And what does this have to do with the ACLU?
Finally, a band of homeless Islamofascist gypsies would have been arrested for conspiring to destroy the Baby Jesus by placing a Muslim baby with a treatable, but contagious, disease into the manger immediately next to that of Jesus.
[Of course, Islam didn't exist then, but it would be odd to bring that up now after so many deliberately anachronistic claims have been made]. Wouldn't that be a good thing? I thought that super magic non-zombie form white Jesus was supposed to die in order to release the gamma radiation inside of his blood in order to remove the evil body Thetans from all of us and free us from the tyranny of being judged by himself? Awww, screw it. Why would I expect your religion to make more sense than your politics?
This was the first recorded instance of Muslims using children on suicide missions to kill innocent Jews.
And yet the Christians still beat them to the punch at a successful attempt to kill innocent Jews. And they held a good lead for probably a millenium or so. Oh, but you had less suicide missions, and don't use children in warfare (anymore). There there.
Of course, the arrested Islamofascists eventually sued for discrimination based on religious intolerance. And won!
Ha. Nice one. I am sure that there has never been a legitimate case of religious tolerance, nor has anyone ever unfairly discriminated against Muslims that were mistakenly deemed to be Islamofascists by you and those with mindsets similar to your own. They're all malicious terrorists who are treated fairly by everyone.
Praise be to God that liberalism and the ACLU did not exist in their present form on Christmas Eve, 0000!
Why? Aside from there being a lot of bureaucracy (a bipartisan problem, by the way), nothing bad actually happened due to the "ACLU" existing in your bizarre hypothetical world. Odd. You can't even distort a fictional reality enough to make a convincing case. I guess I shouldn't be surprised though; your religion's the same way. ;)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stephen Colbert on the War on Christmas, Atheism, and Religion in general

I seriously have a hard time believing that this guy is actually religious...(especially since his biggest segment when he was a Daily Show correspondent was the hilariously irreverent "This Week in God").

On a related note, this ordeal in Washington is becoming a textbook case of WHY we have a separation of church and state. If you favor one group, you piss off everyone else. And, if you try to appease every group that asks for endorsement...you're going to have to put up with a whole lot of crazy crap.
Oh, and Fred Phelps. And Bill Donahue (who blames it all on the governor letting atheist sign in, rather than, you know, the nativity scene and menorrah that originally obliged them to also put up that sign...you can also go here to see him whine about the fact that other holidays are celebrated in December and people are more tolerant of religious displays from religious minorities). They opened the door, and now they are slamming it shut so that they can figure out what to do now that too many people are seeking to put up their own display (allegedly, to "compete" with the atheist sign. Heh, whatever). Yet I am sure that no one will learn anything from this except that "those durn atheists ruined everything"!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Death is Racist

The premise itself is just genius. This show is finally getting some momentum!

Maybe we can sacrifice Dane Cook to the Elder gods in order to get Richard Pryor back. I just fear that Richard might immediately die again once he learns that a black man has actually become President. And, if we can't get Pryor back, we could still make sure to sacrifice Dane Cook. And then we could wait a few centuries, wait for his body to decompose and for the molecules that composed him to enter into the composition of a nearby and tree. And then cut it down and print a bunch of children's knock-knock jokes on him so that he might finally show us some good material. Take that, incredibly small amount of random molecules that were once part of Dane Cook's body!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Three rants in a row? He couldn't possibly..."

Oh, but I can. 'Tis the season, to be filled with indiscriminate rage. And my favorite little high profile punching bag just got himself mentioned on the internet again. We get Maggie Segelstein, interviewing Dinesh D'Souza the Magnificent, and introducing him as follows.
The first thing you notice about Dinesh D'Souza is an intellectual swagger that borders on cockiness without crossing over.
More like "a cockiness that borders on intellectual swagger without crossing over". Amirite?
But you get the feeling that it actually stems from the knowledge that, at any given moment, he is probably the smartest person in the room.
What...does he like, work at a daycare center or something?
Don't get me wrong; he's not arrogant in the least. It's just that he knows, deep down, that he's smarter than you; he's smarter than me; and perhaps most importantly, he's smarter than the New Atheists whom he routinely debates at universities across the nation.
Funniest thing I've read all year. And that includes Dinesh's columns.
So masterful is its defense of religion, and of Christianity in particular, that D'Souza has quickly become the world's foremost religious apologist— a C. S. Lewis for the postmodern set.
At first I was going to scoff, but comparing him to C.S. Lewis in regards to apologetics is a mighty low bar to set. That being said, D'Souza falls dreadfully short of it still. But it is less outrageous than I originally thought once I saw the word "masterful" in description of anything but D'Souza's ability to simultaneously pull the wool over his own eyes while Gish Galloping himself into position to do the same for everyone else in the room. Maggie then proceeds to ask:
What do you think has caused atheists to move from a desire to be tolerated to a desire to make religion—especially Christianity—disappear?
You can almost hear the whining. We don't want you to disappear; we want you to put away the KKK hoods and the Ten Commandments, and call it a day on the theocracy front.
For a number of decades, the atheists had embraced what might be called "the secularization thesis," which maintains that the world is automatically becoming more secular. In other words, they believed that as society becomes more modern, educated, technological, and scientific, it will naturally become less religious
What? I am unfamiliar with anyone who holds this thesis. The idea that secularization is increasing, and that we should be secular, that is something I hold. That this is supposedly an inevitability...I am far from optimistic enough to make that assertion.
Interestingly, the world has not met this expectation. As the last century ended, the atheists looked around the world and said, "Wait a minute. The world isn't becoming more secular; it's becoming even more religious."
Sigh. What the hell are you talking about? Governments, in general, are becoming more secular, even if more people are becoming religious. So, are you referring to populations or governments? Because it's only the latter that is actually relevant to what you are claiming.
And many people don't realize this, but Christianity is actually the fastest growing religion in the world.
Bull. Christianity has only the fifth largest rate of increase over the last 5 years, behind Islam, Baha'i, Sikhism, and Hinduism in order. And it has been behind those religions in percentage rate of increase, along with other religions, for the past 35 years. That being said, it is the largest religion, so its percentage rate of increase has a greater number of net converts. But, that isn't the same thing as "growing the fastest" though, considering that proportionality has a very intriguing effect on the rate that I am sure you would rather not acknowledge without time to rationalize it beforehand.

I thought Islam was the fastest growing.

That's actually not true. Islam is indeed growing, but primarily through reproduction. Muslims have big families, which translates into an increase in their numbers. But Christianity is growing both by reproduction and by conversions.
Oh...so you aren't even smart enough to try to manipulate the statistics. You just want to say that their growth doesn't count because they aren't converting people. Niiiiice.
Even the U.S., which is in some respects more modern, affluent, and technological than any other nation in the world, has also remained perhaps the most religious country in the West.
And we are the shame of Western society due that fact. Nowhere else is science so scorned, gay marriage such a big f%$&ing deal, and everything from the death penalty, to murder rates, to torture, to warmongering, to....dammit! Those religious leanings are fucking us up hard, is what I am saying.
Now if there's one continent that would seem to confirm the secularization thesis, it is Europe. As Europe advanced, it did become more secular, and atheists have always assumed that the U.S. would go the same way, but it just hasn't happened. Consequently, atheists have realized that they must become more aggressive in promoting their agenda.
I am sure that you have much scorn for Europe due to that fact. But, really, you think that we are trying to more or less stamp out religion from the country? We just don't want religion in our government. They are two bad tastes as it is...they go even worse when they are together.
For a long time now, atheists have been accusing religion of being ignorant—of being unscientific and preferring blind faith over critical reason—but that could have been attributed to just harmless error.
So, are you insinuating that religion is not unscientific and based in blind faith? Because I would love to hear why your particular flavor of Christianity makes sense, and more so than any other conceivable religion. I am all ears (literally...I've been genetically bitch-slapped).
Religion is not merely irrational; it's also toxic. It sets man against man. It produces carnage. It causes people to fly planes into buildings after reading holy books. Atheists have been able to surf on the wave of 9/11 by generalizing the crimes committed in the name of Islam to crimes committed in the name of God.
Please. Even without such attacks it is clear from a psychological, sociological, and historical point of view that this kind of crap happens a lot. Not always on a large scale, mind you, but it does happen, as a natural product of what religion is: a glorified method of group formation that imposes codes for behavior and common identity through shared ideas. Same function for political ideologies, except we are actually fortunate that it is more binary in nature and actually consists of some claims and ideas that can usually be confirmed or denied empirically, which religions may not, and thus are untroubled by things like reality and common sense.
The more sophisticated explanation, which has been advanced not by Dawkins but by others, is that while the claims of religion are false—or, from a scientific point of view, unverifiable—religion itself does perform social functions. For example, it brings people together; it inspires people to do noble projects and to undertake grand ventures, whether it's building pyramids or cathedrals or going off on crusades; it solidifies the community; and it's a mechanism for the transmission of education and ethics to younger people. In this sense, religion survives because it is a social adaptation that confers benefits on the groups that embrace it.
Way to make my previous points for me (though only tacitly). "Brings people together"? Ever wonder what happens when you have several different things that "brings people together"? You get clumps of people who are together, but separated from the other clumps! You get groups. Groups of people who disagree with one another adamantly. And "going off on crusades" is just admission that the violence derived from religion during 9/11 is not new, and you even go as far as to call such a thing "noble", further proving my point! And do you seriously think that we wouldn't have architecture without religious beliefs? As for "the transmission of education and ethics to younger people"; that's all well and good, that certainly is beneficial. Of course, when this education is not only on things that are patently ridiculous, or outright wrong, but also involves reasons for being hateful of other groups...it is the wrong kind of beneficial.
Years ago, the suspicion began to arise that Satan was actually Milton's hero. As one critic put it, "Milton is of the devil's party without even knowing it." Look at Satan's reason for rebelling against God. It's not that he doesn't recognize that God is greater than he is. He does. It's just that he doesn't want to play by anybody else's rules. This idea that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven is Satan's motto, and it turns out that this is also the motto of contemporary atheists such as Christopher Hitchens.
Well, honestly, Satan is a pretty sympathetic character when it comes down to it, once you see what kind of creature God is. He is the lesser of two evils, and willing to take a stand against the greater evil. But...we will be "reigning in hell"? This is news to me. Do I get a pitchfork?
Hitchens has argued in his debates with me that he is not an atheist at all, but rather an anti-theist. It's not that he doesn't believe in God; it's that he rejects this kind of God who acts in this kind of way and demands this or that of us. This is not scientific atheism; it's more like the atheism of Nietzsche.
I can't help but think that this is a distortion on the part of Dinesh (I know...unheard of). "Anti-theist" isn't the proper label for someone who merely thinks that the description of a god offered by Abrahamic faiths is either logically inconsistent, inconsistent with reality, a portrait of a deity that is not worthy of worship due to incompetence/cruelty, or any combination of the three. And one can hold that position on the Christian God and his ilk and still have other reasons for being an atheist in general.
He simply doesn't like this Christian God with all of his commandments, the demand for complete allegiance, and his divine observance and scrutiny.
Only when the commandments are arbitrary, and the allegiance is won through intimidation, and divine scrutiny is based on criteria that makes it so that any of us fail without using the arbitrary and inane cheat code he installed.
So Satan's doctrine—I will not serve—is the poetic root of the New Atheists, many of whom claim that they would rather go to hell than heaven.
We mostly say that in the context of portraying how ridiculous your conception of those places really is. I mean, seriously, you don't see anything wrong with being able to experience eternal bliss while almost everyone you knew in life is tormented and burned for the rest of existence just because they followed the wrong set of ridiculous religious principles? This isn't just about refusing to serve a tyrannical god, of course. But if you want to pretend that this is an argument instead of a musing, go right on ahead and do that Dineshikins.
Just as parents are not permitted to beat their children, they should not be allowed to brainwash their children into their religious faith. In a sense, argues Dawkins, you are retarding your children's future development by implanting myths into their young heads that they will have a very difficult time getting rid of later.
I have two thoughts about this. First, I think it represents a little bit of desperation on the part of modern atheism, by which I mean that this apparent willingness to tell parents what they can and cannot do borders on the totalitarian.
Well this just might warrant a fact check, don't ya think? And, whoa, look at that! Clarification.
Key point: the argument is an effort in consciousness raising, and not actual legislation. What does that mean? Simply this: he doesn't actually want the state to dictate what parents can teach their children, but he wants the people who have heard his musings to think a little bit about the tripe they are shoving down their children's throats.
We often forget that the guy is a biologist, however, who actually doesn't know a whole lot about anything else. His knowledge of history is poor; his knowledge of philosophy is abysmal; and his knowledge of theology is non-existent.
Are you paid just to be make ironic statements that completely lack self-awareness like that? Or do you just make those complimentary?
So while in some ways I feel indignant about what he says, I also feel almost a sense of pity for him. The poor fellow is wandering around in intellectual fields where he is such an innocent
I think I just peed a little.
Atheists spend a lot of time thinking about the motives for belief. Why do religious people believe these ridiculous things? When you turn the tables on atheists and ask them why they don't believe, they will answer, "Because we don't have enough evidence. We don't believe because there's no proof." But if you think about it, this is an inadequate explanation, because if you truly believe that there is no proof for God, then you're not going to bother with the matter....I don't believe in unicorns, so I just go about my life as if there are no unicorns. You'll notice that I haven't written any books called The End of the Unicorn, Unicorns Are Not Great, or The Unicorn Delusion, and I don't spend my time obsessing about unicorns.
This x-treme failure has already been adequately covered elsewhere.
It's not as if the atheist objects to the resurrection or the parting of the sea; rather, it is Christian morality to which atheists object, particularly Christian moral prohibitions in the area of sex. The atheist looks at all of Christianity's "thou shalt nots"—homosexuality is bad; divorce is bad; adultery is bad; premarital sex is bad—and then looks at his own life and says, "If these things are really bad, then I'm a bad guy. But I'm not a bad guy; I'm a great guy. I must thus reinterpret or (preferably) abolish all of these accusatory teachings that are putting me in a bad light."
Ahahahahahaha. Nice. As arbitrary as those "moral" prohibitions are, I certainly do not benefit from objecting to them personally, so I am a living testament to how much you talk out your own ass, Dinesh. And, seriously, we may not "object" to the resurrection and parting of the Red Sea, we sure as hell don't believe in them, and they sure are symptomatic of the overall crazy that is your beliefs. You're lucky that that isn't a surefire recipe for making an atheist, because you would only be left with the goddamn Phelps family if everyone who ever divorced, had sex outside of marriage (or in the butt), or thought that the resurrection might just be figurative became atheists.
"How does one do that? One way is liberal Christianity—you simply reinterpret Christian teachings as if they don't really mean what they say."
I thought you were the guy who bashed people for not being sophisticated enough if they took the Bible literally. Has your fundification really come that far, D'Souza? Or is every comment you make just a cynical ploy in order to score credibility points from the credulous?
ask where morality comes from. Well, it comes from one of two places. It either comes from ourselves—these are the rules that we make up as we go along—or it comes from some transcendent source. To get rid of God, then, is to remove the shadow of moral judgment. This doesn't mean that you completely eliminate morality, but it does mean that you reduce morality to a tool that human societies construct for their own advantages. It means that morality can change, and that old rules can be set aside.
You mean, without using God as an explanatory device, we would have an accurate description of what morality actually is and has been? Heaven forbid!
An atheist could say to a student, "Hey, I can help you become more rational. Don't believe in religion or any of that other stuff that your parents taught you." Well, that might work to some degree, but it would be far more effective to say, "Did you know that the moral rules that your parents taught you are just in your head? I've got a way for you to get rid of those rules."
Wow. Just wow. Are we molesting college kids now? Or is Dinesh just trying to expose us to some of his twisted fantasies? On a serious note: if those "moral rules" are just "in your head", why would you need to "get rid" of them? You can change them at whim. Isn't that what gets your panties in a twist, afterall?
Atheism can be a sort of manifesto of moral liberation from rules. And the rules that are most objectionable in our day and age are those that basically say, "Thou shalt conduct thyself with responsibility, chastity, mutual fidelity, and so on."
Are you trying to argue half of all Christendom out of existence, or is that just accidental?
The reason some people don't is because many of us live in secular neighborhoods, so we don't see Christianity around us. The truth is, however, that if you go to South America, you will find a huge number of conversions to Protestant Christianity. If you go to Korea, you will find Christian churches with 100,000 members. If you go to China, you will find 100 million Christians. And if you go to Africa, you'll find that countries whose populations were only five percent Christian 100 years ago are now 50 percent Christian.
I...I just became very sad...
These trends have not gone unnoticed by historians, who are startled by them and have attempted to explain them away, and they are the empirical basis for my claim that God is doing very well in this world.
Argumentum ad populum for the lose. Oh, but wait...Dinesh can't resist getting in some more fail at the last minute.
What's important to understand is that the New Atheism is not a triumphant cry of success, but rather a bitter reaction to the success of religion.
Oh, religion may be successful and New Atheism may be a bitter reaction, but don't try to rob those facts of their context. Religion's success in the areas where New Atheism is popular is predominantly to the detriment of society in general. Points which I believe you addressed originally, but dismissed out of hand because it helps us out with group identity and building crap, and because al-Qaeda wasn't Christian. A very clever attempt to try to ignore this, when, as you typically tend to do, you actually brought it to our attention not more than a handful of paragraphs previous.

I cannot believe that people can take this clown seriously.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How dare they question our heavily rationalized bigotry?

Newsweek published this neat little article recently: Our Mutual Joy. The basic premise is that, as much as conservative Christians use Biblical text to support their opposition to gay marriage, they do it through selective interpretation and ignoring other relevant issues. I know...I was shocked too.

Some choice quotes, chock full of TRUTH:
"Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so."

In response to standard tripe about the Bible dictating what marriage is and is not:
"First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance."

On Biblical condemnation of homosexuality and doublethink:
"The Bible does condemn gay male sex in a handful of passages. Twice Leviticus refers to sex between men as "an abomination" (King James version), but these are throwaway lines in a peculiar text given over to codes for living in the ancient Jewish world, a text that devotes verse after verse to treatments for leprosy, cleanliness rituals for menstruating women and the correct way to sacrifice a goat—or a lamb or a turtle dove. Most of us no longer heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions. Why would we regard its condemnation of homosexuality with more seriousness than we regard its advice, which is far lengthier, on the best price to pay for a slave?

Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who "were inflamed with lust for one another" (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book "The Arrogance of Nations," the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. "Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all," Elliott says. "He's talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We're not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We're talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God." In any case, one might add, Paul argued more strenuously against divorce—and at least half of the Christians in America disregard that teaching."

On inclusiveness (within the confines of those who accept Christian doctrine, of course):
"In the Christian story, the message of acceptance for all is codified. Jesus reaches out to everyone, especially those on the margins, and brings the whole Christian community into his embrace. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, cites the story of Jesus revealing himself to the woman at the well— no matter that she had five former husbands and a current boyfriend—as evidence of Christ's all-encompassing love. The great Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, emeritus professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, quotes the apostle Paul when he looks for biblical support of gay marriage: "There is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." The religious argument for gay marriage, he adds, "is not generally made with reference to particular texts, but with the general conviction that the Bible is bent toward inclusiveness."
The practice of inclusion, even in defiance of social convention, the reaching out to outcasts, the emphasis on togetherness and community over and against chaos, depravity, indifference—all these biblical values argue for gay marriage. If one is for racial equality and the common nature of humanity, then the values of stability, monogamy and family necessarily follow."

The reactions, predictably, run the gamut from "OMG persecution" to blathering on about how homosexuality is still, most definitely, evil. It is the reaction that you can almost expect from them about anything remotely pertinent to anything religious in nature.

And, apparently, the reactions were loud enough to warrant their own news story.

“It doesn’t surprise me. Newsweek has been so far in the tank on the homosexual issue, for so long, they need scuba gear and breathing apparatus,”

Why is the phrase "in the tank" becoming so popular all of sudden?

“I don’t think it’s going to change the minds of anyone who takes biblical teachings seriously.”

Leviticus is serious business.

“yet another attack on orthodox Christianity.”

We would stop "attacking" you if 1. you stopped using your orthodoxy as an excuse to oppress others and 2. if you stopped sucking at life.

“I hardly think that Newsweek is a credible venue for theological discussion,”

Theological discussion, of course, being much better suited for something like, a laundromat, or a Chuck-E-Cheese. Anything else makes theological discussion seem too credible.

"If they think they’re going to cause Evangelical Christians or Bible-believing Christians of different stripes to somehow say, oh, the Bible doesn’t matter on marriage, I think they’re mistaken,” Perkins said. “I don’t think too many in the Evangelical world are too concerned about what Newsweek has to say"

So true. They don't care about anything dissenters say, and their arguments reflect that fact.

"How can you address the subject of marriage from a religious perspective and utterly ignore the two foundational texts that deal with marriage: Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5?” Land asked. “If a student turned a paper in to me on a religious argument for or against gay marriage and neglected to reference the two foundational texts, I would give them a pretty poor grade based on that alone.”

See? There's that sucking at life thing again.
They did mention the Adam/Eve thing in the article, first off, and mentioned that saying that this was a proscription for what marriage should be is bullshit with all the polygamy shown prominently, even among the positively portrayed individuals in the Bible.

Anyway, here are those passages (only the portions actually relevant to men and women rel

Genesis 2: 20The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man,
5 the man said: "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken."
6 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body

Ephesians 5: 22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word,
and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Oh, look at that. Both are descriptive, not prescriptive. The first one is explaining why we leave our parents to go off and procreate, and the second is telling how you should behave, true, but within an institution of marriage that is presumed to already exist and is not set forward in the text itself. In addition, Ephesians is describing a male-dominant paradigm for marriage that we actually moving away from. Teehee.

“I see it as an attempt to caricature and reduce to a cartoon the social conservative belief in the efficacy of traditional marriage, and try to reduce it to some formulaic, scriptural literalism,” said Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition. “There’s more of a practical, sociological foundation for why we seek to affirm marriage as an institution than I think is generally understood by those who want to legalize same-sex marriage.”

It must have hurt to say that without giggling uncontrollably. "There's more of a practical sociological foundation for why we seek to affirm marriage as an institution"? Please, don't spare us ign'ant libruls the fascinating details behind that bold assertion. From here, it sounds like the same vapid bullshit you guys spout about marriage falling into ruinsif we allow two informed, consenting adults who love each other to get married if they happen to both penises. And I suspect that I am not far off in my guess, am I?

“We’re not trying to take the Bible and put a bill number on it and legislate it.”

Your fellows in homophobia lead us to believe otherwise. Sorry for the confusion.

“The arguments that are used are often not biblical arguments. They are secular arguments, arguing about marriage as being a civic and a social institution, and that societies have a right to define marriage,” Land said. Broadening the definition of marriage could “shatter” the social role married couples have traditionally played, he said.

So...the Bible has nothing to do with it, we just have a country full of people who feel that homosexuality is icky and think that slippery slope arguments are an excellent reason to define marriage to the exclusion of others? Wonderful. Just because you have secular arguments does not mean that you have good arguments. It's a good first step, but not far enough.

The social role isn't going to be shattered, because marriage's social role has only recently gotten to the point where it makes sense to allow for the inclusion of homosexuals. It is currently a partnership with legal benefits and the only requirements being that both can legally agree to enter into it, and are given the ability break it at any time. It's not a way to get two people locked into the same hovel together for eternity in order to churn out a dozen or so kids to work in the acid mines. At least not anymore. Gay marriage fits within the new iteration of marriage quite nicely, as can be seen in the other countries that have accepted it and have yet to destroy the institution. If you are going to go by the old role it has taken, than I suggest you immediately take up residence in any time period before the Industrial Revolution, because only then is your opinion on the matter valid.
Yes, we have a right to define marriage. And people are arbitrarily deciding to define marriage according to how their superstition of choice supposedly tells them to. And are using it to exclude people that their superstition of choice tells them to despise And are using their special magic book of superstitions to support all of this, and that is what the bloody article is responding to. Your claims that that is not happening are an utter crock.

"In an e-mail to Politico, Maggie Gallagher, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, took a similar line, calling marriage “the one necessary adult relation in society – the way we bring together male and female to bring the next generation to life in a way that connects those children in love to their own mother and father.”"

Yet we don't need to be married to bring about children, don't need to be married to have a loving, committed relationship, and don't need to bring about children to be married. And, as divorce lets us know all to often, you don't need to be in a loving, committed relationship to be married. It's a nice little rule of thumb you have there, but it isn't a hardset definition of what marriage HAS to be, and is no ways needed to reach the stated goals.
They're so cute when they try to hide that they are really from the 19th century.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stop filming those unhappy things, right now!

Apparently, some people are really adamant about getting their happy ending fix.
The message from Hollywood increasingly seems to be -- to glibify it to a tag line -- bleak is chic. Hopeless is hot.
Sorry, but when you have a type of media that is entirely focused on keeping your attention and getting a message across to people who, for the most part, want to be entertained rather than trying to analyze the intricate complexities of things that were flashed on a screen for a grand total of 7 seconds, you are going to have to go with strong, memorable events, instead of nuance. This makes it so that the entertainment industry is, and has been for some time, an exercise in churning out things that:
1. provoke strong emotion (thus making them more memorable) and
2. are simple enough so that it can be remembered easily, while still being complex enough to successfully fulfill number one.
Turns out that people are sick of having their happiness, their taste for sappy romance and their love for the adorable, sweet, and corny exploited, and are actually seeking out something different that is an emotion distinct from the sickeningly optimistic portrayals of reality offered by certain television programs and movies. They want to see sickeningly pessimistic potrayals of reality to act as a counterbalance. Not exactly a new development, but, if it is gaining more momentum than it has had previously (doubtful), I am very much pleased at the thought.
The penultimate shot in "Cloverfield" is of the remaining characters getting crushed under a bridge in Central Park. No reason is given for the monster's massacre. Death, randomness, mercilessness. These things just happen. Here today, gone tomorrow.
Pffft. How unrealistic. We all know that bad things never happen. Especially not in New York City...

Cloverfield was Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla. Obviously, this is an entirely new paradigm.
Big movies have tent-poled 2008 with a tarp of cruelty. No resolution, no absolution. Just the raw misery of the human condition. Buh-leak. We expect this of fringe foreign films, the confounding subgenre of torture porn, and most documentaries, but not the biggest hits and highest-praised movies of the year.
Can't all be happy endings, can't always get resolution. Some people do not want to be absolved (normally because they don't think they've done anything wrong...the worst kinds of tragedies befall due to that mindset). And, yes, part of the human condition is misery. As much as everything else. It does not hurt to play around with the more sadder side of life, because doing so is the basis of the genre of "tragedy", which has been around for more than the past round of Oscar picks.
The Batman franchise, which started as a kitschy carnival, morphed this summer into a dystopian nightmare in "The Dark Knight." The Joker's metier is large-scale terror and chaos. The movie is a series of agonizing moral dilemmas, capped by the conclusion that, for order to be maintained, people must view the hero as a villain. "The Dark Knight" is the highest-grossing movie of the year, and one of the best-reviewed.
WTF? The Batman franchise, whether you are talking about the television franchise, the movie franchise, or the comic franchise, have been dabbling in the kind of dark themes you are bitching about (and worse) for a long time before now. The most successful Batman movies were dark (just look at the other one where the Joker was the villain), the comic books that this new movie was inspired by were the most successful and some of the most bleak and morbid stand alone series in the franchise, and you cannot base your opinion on whether Batman is "a kitschy carnival" based entirely on its Adam West era television iterations.
Even James Bond has a case of the bleaks. In "Quantum of Solace," he has hardened into a morose assassin "blinded by inconsolable rage."
In fairness, shouldn't it be worse if he was cheerful assassin? That said: this trend in the Bond series is also not new. In fact, it has kind of fluctuated back and forth over the years when it comes to his grittiness and willingness to kill. They've occasionally had a hard time deciding whether to emphasize the "gadget toting, charismatic, diplomatic playboy spy" aspect or the "super-skilled spy with a license to kill" aspect.
What's causing this spike in bleakness, and why are we eating it up? Is it just a reflection of the real world and its Big Problems (global warming, war, an economy gone mad, blah blah)? Or is it that Hollywood sees bleak and apocalyptic movies as easy to market
It's not a spike, but we eat it up because it is part of an essential diet of perspective. The bleak worlds they present in these movies aren't necessarily reflective of the real world anymore than any other emotion-centric perspective is, but it does tend to deal with issues that other perspectives tend to color differently or ignore. And that is their source of appeal: they are worst case scenarios for issues that are pussyfooted around, in the form of a 2 hour long visual short story with characters with flaws that make the viewers feel comparatively better about themselves, and special effects.
Allow us to be presumptuous: The book is repetitively bleak. Ash, cold, starvation, repeat. The story "is bleak, but it's actually about what makes us human in the most bleak situation," says Hillcoat. "So it actually amplifies humanity because it's a love story between a father and son. . . . It's set in this extreme world, but all that does is amplify that basic human drama."

Stop saying "bleak"! Anyway, this quote is talking about the book that served as the source material for a movie, that is about a father and son wading through an apocalyptic wasteland. I'm not quite sure whether the "love story" part rings true, but I think the "basic human drama" part is actually true for post-apocalypse type stories. Even completely alone, and subjected to unfathomable horrors, it is an exploration of the human mind in the face of such an overwhelming source for potential pain, loneliness, agony, and woe, with a slight detour in gawking at how awesome the fiery hellscape is. It is an inversion of typical, gentler stories of self-discovery through exploration in a world that was seemingly styled by a Romantic painter.
Maybe that's why we're weirdly attracted to bleakness. It gives us a strong hit of humanity. It strips away the banal. It raises our pedestrian struggles to grandiose heights. At least that's what directors might have us believe.
I agree that it strips away the banal, but I do not agree with the last part. It does not "raise our pedestrian struggles to grandiose heights"; it replaces those pedestrian struggles with titanic ones that we cannot possibly prevail against, and which real people in less privileged positions than our own do not get the privilege to witness within the sole confines of a movie theater. It is, again, a portrait of worst case scenarios, whether or not they are realistic ones, or based in reality.
Do we want a fictional taste of our world, in which faceless, random terrorism has jumbled the narrative rule book, in which we can't tell our friends from our enemies, to paraphrase Judi Dench in "Quantum of Solace"?
Issue the first: YES! When it comes down to it, a story needs to have some basis on the world as we know it. Without such a connection, the story has no relevance to us, and we either won't care to pay attention, or won't relate enough to it to remember. And, sometimes, we want to see a little bit of the worse parts of our world, put to work on different stage for our amusement and reflection.
Issue the second: The idea that "we can't tell our friends from our enemies" is hardly new. It disgusts me when people try to pretend that such common themes owe their exclusive existence to a recent event. Why terrorism? This same thing could have been said about Vietnam. It could have been said despondently as WWII ally Russia became our Cold War enemy. It could have been said in the same manner about Italy's turn from an ally in WWI, to an Axis power in WWII. It could have been said in the wake of the Civil War, as brother turned against brother in allegiance to their country-fragment. It could have been said in the Revolutionary War, with possible Loyalist neighbors flying under the radar. Or, it could be said in any dramatic play where there is a three conspiracy minimum. Treachery, and ambiguity are not new to the post-9/11 world. It might be inspiring new people to delve into the tradition, but it is not new in of itself.
After this season, we may see bleakness retreat back to smaller films, says movie industry columnist David Poland. His rationale: During a recession, major studios will bankroll only surefire hits. In the end, Poland says, people want inoffensive commercial films -- like this summer's "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and "Mamma Mia!" -- not somber movies in which directors and actors push themselves and their audiences toward despair.
Fluff. That's all it is. And during troubled times, who wants to actually face reality and deal with things that are troubling, right? Just cuddle up with those fluff pieces, and pretend that it will all go away soon. Why does it seem like that is more or less the plan for coping in regard to every imaginable issue in this country?
These movies will not be billed as "The Most Depressing Movie You Will Ever See." We don't go to the movies to be depressed. We do go to movies that have A-list casts, are an "official selection of the Cannes Film Festival," or ask us, cutely and ironically, "Why So Seriousss?" ("The Dark Knight" teaser poster). There's a bit of mutual deception going on among us, the filmmakers and their publicity machines.
I'm beginning to think that this guy is fucking out of it. Look...Dan...some people to do go to sad movies to be sad. It's cathartic (well, as cathartic as anything else is...). And you really thought that the "Why so serious?" statement could be taken as "cute and ironic"? You should have watched the actual trailer instead of just reading posters, because that line was delivered in a relatively deranged and sinister manner.

The mainstreaming of bleakness has caused a bit of retaliation from Mike Leigh, the rogue British director whose first film, in 1971, was titled "Bleak Moments," and whose movies since have been stark set pieces of life's little brutalities. He has just released a relentlessly upbeat film. "Happy-Go-Lucky" is about a woman who skips like a cheery pebble over the murk of the world.

"I wanted to make what I've come to call an 'anti-miserablist movie,' " Leigh told an audience at the Telluride Film Festival in September. "We're in tough times. We're destroying the planet and each other, and there's a great deal to lament. But there are people out there who are getting on with it and being positive."

Mike Leigh is ever the contrarian, isn't he? I really don't see why there would be any particular reason for one to be irrevocably miserable, but I also don't think, in light of the very things you mention, that there is really anything to make one's disposition "positive" overall either. It's neutral country for me, baby.
Miserablism. That's the word. It's artful. It's attractive. And perhaps that's the key to the chic of bleak. Why else do we click through photo galleries of shell-shocked stock traders, and California wildfires, and the latest unrests from abroad? Why else do studios cheerlead Oscar campaigns for titles as darkly blunt as "Doubt"? There's something majestic about watching the suffering of people (especially when portrayed by great actors). And there's something self-satisfying about sitting through a movie, however bleak, and enduring it, and declaring it beautiful and important.
How can you consider "Doubt" to be a "darkly blunt" title? If there was ever a reason for me to guess your religious leanings, it would be that little jab. But, anyway, we "click through photo galleries" of people being affected by tragedy, because it helps to 1. be informed of those tragedies and 2. put a human face on it so that we might actually give a damn. There is nothing majestic about watching other people's suffering, but it is something that we just might to submit ourselves to in order to see whether we can feel basic human empathy and sorrow when such abysmal conditions are presented before us, plain as day. Bleak movies are beautiful, and they are important, because they are a necessary exaggeration and, to an extent, "bleak is chic" has been a prominent sentiment in the world of art and literature for some time now. This is part of a larger, longer trend that has been going on for over a century now, which itself owes its existence to earlier influences (as most things do).

I can't even imagine what your favorite kinds of films are. My feeble attempts thus far have almost resulted in putting myself into a diabetic coma. Fluff, in the form of cotton candy, churned out for mass consumption. If ever there was a hell for me, it would be you bright-eyed optimists' heaven, Dan.