Friday, December 21, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Upon hearing the news that Muhammad Parvez had killed his daughter, I, along with the rest of the nation, it seems, and probably the rest of the world, assumed that he had done it for cultural, if not religious reasons.
That's not fair. All we know is that he killed his daughter (and we're not even 100% certain of that). Really, all we know is that he's been charged with second degree murder in the death of his daughter. Based on some comments by her friends, we all assumed the worst.
As did I. I should have known better.
It seems likely that Muhammad Parvez killed his daughter because she was disobedient. The most visible argument seems to have been about the hijab.
However, I'm sure that many men have been so furious with their daughters that they've beaten them or strangled them to death. That doesn't make it right (of course), but it does make it culturally unspecific. White trash men, black Christian men, Muslim men, Hindu men, and Native American men have all killed their daughters.
This story is about more than a dead girl and her Muslim father charged with her murder. It should be, anyway. It's now about how we all assumed that it was the man's religion, and by extension, culture that were responsible.
It should now be about how we're all bigots.
So I'm sorry. I regret my flippant comments. I will not delete them, instead, I will leave them as a testament to my ignorance. To remind me, and any readers I actually have, that we all make mistakes, and that we can learn from them.
I hope the Parvez family will find peace. I hope that Muhammad Parvez is punished severely if he's guilty. I hope we all grow a little because of this.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Instead, I want to talk about anger. Righteous anger. The answer to the question, "Why are atheists so angry all the time?"
I understand your confusion. Seriously. There's no god, end of story. Let's get on with solving the climate crisis. I'd prefer nothing more. We need to seriously look at peak oil, too, but that's just too radical for most people. And we can't even get our shit together on GHGs, so peak oil is just going to blow everybody's mind. And with any luck, peak oil will solve the climate crisis for us.
But I digress. God's not real. Fine. Let's get on with other issues. I'd love to let it go. All this atheist wants is to be left alone. No more god talk. No more miracle bullshit. No more praying for stuff. I'll keep the blaspheming expletives, if it's all the same to you, simply out of habit. Besides, as much as I like the idea of shouting "Thor!" when I stub my toe, "Jesus H. Christ!" elicits a better reaction. It's culturally specific, like the French shouting "Tabarnac!" Screaming, "Church!" just doesn't do it for Anglos. I am, as Dawkins points out, a cultural Christian, meaning I'm surrounded by Christians in my culture, and blaspheming against their god is much better than blaspheming against a god nobody cares about.
But alas, it is not to be so (to return to my point). Atheists are not being left alone. JWs came to my house yesterday. Fortunately, they bugged my wife, because she's far more inclined to be polite than I these days. I might have started pointing out the logical fallacy of their faith in particular, on the way to pointing out the fallacy of god. She took their magazines and smiled. On the plus side, I now have their magazines. I can read them for a chuckle.
So here's the thing. My atheism is not respected. At all. God's in my Charter. He's in our publicly funded schools. He's in my house (but to be fair, I knew that, and I have to live with it). He's on TV, he's in magazines, and he's in the newspaper. If religious folk left us atheists alone, we'd be cool. We can seek god on our own, if we want. In fact, I like to watch Jack Van Impe. His hair alone is worth the time it takes. And then his wife's name: Rexella. I didn't think ANYBODY EVER named their kid Rexella. If I named my daughter Rexella, I'd expect her to be an atheist, because how could god let anybody do that to their kids? But there she is, hawking the books and DVDs and cheering breathlessly as her husband spouts apocalyptic nonsense about the newspapers (as he has for as long as I can remember, which admittedly is not very long, but long enough for people with any sense to begin to doubt the imminent return of our lord and saviour).
I also like the idea that an election in Germany can signal armageddon. It's quaint.
So some atheists are angry. And they have every right to be. If a bunch of muslim assholes can be furious about a drawing of Mohammad, or naming a bear after him, then atheists get to be pissed off. It's not like we're going to kill anyone or anything. We just want our rights respected. In Canada, more than other places (*cough*US*cough*), we are tolerated. Not enough, mind you, but we are at least considered citizens.
But elswhere, we won't be equal until we're mad enough to demand it.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
In honour of this occasion, in no particular order, are this atheist's favourite Christmas movies.
- A Christmas Story: (1983) "You'll shoot your eye out!" A sleep hit that everyone has seen by now.
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: (1989) "Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where's the Tylenol?" Likely the funniest holiday movie EVER.
- Black Christmas: (1974) "Filthy Billy, I know what you did nasty Billy!" Apparently, my mom was pregnant with me when she went to see this movie. She says that's what's wrong with me.
- Die Hard: (1988) "We're gonna need some more FBI guys I guess." Not your usual Christmas fare, but it does take place on Christmas eve. So it counts.
- Die Hard 2: Die Harder: (1990) "Oh man, I can't fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?" Not as good as the first (Has the sequel ever been as good as the first?), but still fun, and Bill Sadler is in it.
- Ghostbusters II: (1989) "You know, I'm a voter. Aren't you supposed to lie to me and kiss my butt?" Again, not as good as the first, but still a lot of fun. And, the villain (Vigo the Carpathian) was in Die Hard. I only noticed as the he blew up.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: (1966) "It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!" The original, narrated by Boris Karloff. Not that two-hour crime against humanity starring Carrey.
- Life of Brian: (1979) "He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!" It starts on Christmas. Incidentally, it ends at Easter (and Passover, coincidentally), so it's an all-round holiday movie. Plus, it really pissed off religious people when it was released.
- Scrooged: (1988) "The bitch hit me with a toaster." Bill Murray in his heyday. Plus, Mary Lou Retton, and some very funny homeless people.
- Four Rooms: (1995) "Well, most recently, there's room 309, there's this scary Mexican gangster dude poking his finger in my chest. There's his hooligan kids snapping their fingers at me. There's a putrid, rotting corpse of a dead whore stuck in the springs of the bed. There's rooms blazing afire. There's a big fat needle from God knows where, stuck in my leg, infecting me with God knows what. And finally there's me, walking out the door, right fucking now. Buenas noches." Not a Christmas movie. New Years. But it's funny as all hell, and I needed to make this an even ten.
Stay tuned for this atheist's favourite Christmas music.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
So, based on that analogy, I'm going to ask the audience (I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing) for their help with my job interview today.
Wish me luck! I'm off to the big smoke for a job interview today! Government post! Sweet!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
As far as I can tell, no one's reading this. Fine. Then apparently my question will go unanswered.
I need someone, preferably a priest, to explain catholic birth control to me. What makes it acceptable by church standards?
While going through marriage training, we discussed many things: kids, money, church, work and sex. We also discussed kids and sex together. Fortunately, these discussions were led by married couples, because I wouldn't be able to take a priest seriously on the subject of sex. In theory, he knows nothing about it. If he does, he's a liar at best. So we discussed what is commonly known as the "rhythm method", though I've been assured it's far more sophisticated than that.
The theory goes this way:
- Women are not fertile at all stages of their menstrual cycle.
- Sperm live only for a few days.
- It's safe to have sex with a woman (preferably your wife, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the horrifyingly poor success rate of this method of contraception) during these days of infertility (some of which, according to the OT, she is unclean) if you are trying to avoid contraception.
- The sperm will die before the egg is released.
- The methods to determine the safe days for sex include counting days, measurements of things like temperature, the dilation of the cervix, and the consistency of the mucous within (presumably not the taste, because that's a sin, I've been told).
- This is approved by a bunch of men who aren't supposed to be having sex with anyone.
- It's also supposed to be good for trying to have a baby, because then you can figure out the most fertile days and shoot for them (pardon the pun). This must be because just having a lot of sex all the time seems too much like fun for the church.
What makes this Pope-approved?
Assuming that I, using the rhythm method, ejaculate inside my wife, knowing that there's no chance of her getting knocked up, how is this different from a number of other ways to ejaculate knowing there's no chance of conception? If my wife gives me head, and I come in her mouth, isn't that a sin because she can't get pregnant? During anal sex? Using a condom? When she's on the pill? Just jerking off, even if my wife is there or if I think about my wife? Aren't all these things sins because I'm experiencing orgasm and my seed is spilled, to speak biblically?
Wasting semen, I'm told, is bad. It's baby-making batter, and a gift from god. So, ejaculating in the vagina is the way to go. But if we don't want kids, we have to time it so she can't get pregnant. I'm belabouring a point here, but I want to be perfectly clear.
I'm guessing that the chief selling feature of the rhythm method for the RCC is its unreliability. Married couples are supposed to have kids. Preferably catholic ones. But any other kind is good too (except atheist ones, according to the pope). That's why gay couples can't get married (sorry, guys). We won't talk about barren folks or senior citizens because we're not allowed to discriminate against them (although, barrenness could be considered an imperfection, especially to a god so hell bent on knocking women up, and then you can't go to church anyway; it's somewhere in Leviticus, I think). Contraception is not cool. Not condoms, not the pill, and jerking off is a sin, too.
Maybe if priests could have sex, they wouldn't be so fixated on it. Or on kids.
One of the most tiresome things about being an atheist is the coming out process. At least some homosexuals are obviously gay. They are out as soon as they open their mouths. Atheists, unless we're wearing that hip new "A" have to tell everyone. Sometimes more than once.
For instance, Monday night I apparently came out to my wife. Again. The fourth or fifth time. When we were dating, and I said I didn't think I believed in god, she was upset. She got over it. Apparently, by forgetting it. When we were going through the marriage training, and I said I didn't believe in god, she was upset, but she got over it. Apparently by forgetting. Then about a year ago, when our daughter was born, I actually said the word "atheist". Again, she got over it, and you can guess how. During the provincial election, again, I said I was an atheist. That was about six or seven weeks ago. I publicly said on more than one occasion that I was an atheist. It was relevant because of the catholic schools thing. I said it to her, explaining the word, and what I believed. Apparently she got over it again. Here it is, a month and a half later, and I'm bitching about the Golden Compass things (again, a catholic schools issue), and I let it slip that I'm an atheist.
Not only is she upset, she's offended. She's upset that I don't believe in god, like it's an insult to her. And she half accuses me of keeping this a secret: "That's not what you said to the priest when we got married."
I had to declare my faith in a questionnaire during marriage prep. I think I said I was a Taoist. It made sense at the time. Later, Buddhism seemed more appealing, but I never got beyond reading about it. Agnosticism seemed to me to be a bit of a copout. I've opted for a weak atheist position: in the absence of evidence, there's no god.
Magilla Gorilla or something.
So how do I deal with this? In theory, if this is really a big issue for her (and I can see it being one), she can request an annulment. Before she does, however, I have some questions about the rhythm method I'd like to ask a priest. I'd better get on that.
However, she seems fairly happy today. Has she forgotten again? Having these kinds of discussions are tiring. They're difficult. I have to try to be as gentle as possible when I explain my own lack of faith, and not attack hers. Especially when I believe that religious faith is useless, at best, and harmful, more often.
And worse, I've promised her that my daughter will be raised catholic. It's going to be very tough on Mickie and Tasha when Mickie gets to be five or six.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
As I said before, I don't believe in god. But now that he's gone, sometimes I miss him.
Yeah. I meant that. Sometimes I wish I believed in god. There are times when I could really use a hand, the kind of support you can only get with a living, personal and intimate relationship with an omnipotent being.
There are times, and they are more frequent than I'd care to admit, that I am stressed, and worried, and tired, and frustrated, and depressed, and scared, and all I want more than anything is to turn to someone for help. And there are times when a real person, someone I know, won't cut it. I'm an introvert, and generally keep to myself, so I have few friends. Having god on my side would be nice. The worst parts of me can't come out. I'm ashamed of them, and I don't want them out in the light. First of all, it might kill them, and I'm kind of fond of them, too. Secondly, I don't have a lot of close relationships, and I don't want to queer them. Some of my thoughts, fears, secret desires and actions are shameful, destructive, antisocial, self-destructive and self-indulgent, and dangerous. It's my id at work, and he's a nasty little fucker. Not much worse than anyone else's I imagine, but I find mine pretty damn seductive sometimes.
When it's darkest in my soul (A problematic word, but poetic, so it stays. We can't let religion ruin everything.), I'd like nothing better to turn to an invisible Ward Cleaver in the sky for help. He could scold me gently, because I'm misbehaving (drinking too much, contemplating infidelity, getting angry at my six-month-old daughter because she won't stop crying and go to sleep, smacking my dog on the ass because she was being a dog and therefore, this time, a pain in the ass, reading blogs and newspapers at work... The list goes on.), then smile indulgently, because I am, in fact, only human, and we all make mistakes. He could put down his pipe, and say, "Well, you should really try a little harder, but I know you will next time." Then he could take me out into the backyard and teach me how to throw a curveball.
I understand the appeal. I know why people cling to it so desperately. I wrote a few days ago about my personal experience with prayer. Remember? "No prayer goes unanswered."
One of the reasons I stopped believing was because the answer so often seemed to be, "Fuck you, buddy."
Ward Cleaver never would have said fuck you. Eddie Haskell would have.
Reaching out through the ether is about the only thing I miss. And I know that prayer is more for the prayer than the prayee: there's a soothing, rewarding feeling you get when you feel like you don't have to be in charge anymore. It's intoxicating, I'll bet. And I'm trying to train myself out of that. Every time I find myself about to pray in the dark, I remind myself what the answer was the last time I did it.
That answer came more recently than I'd care to admit to, as well.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This is my Prime Minister:
"I believe we have much to be pleased of from the work that we have done here," Harper said. "We have delivered a substantive statement on climate change, consistent with those of a number of other international organizations and one which builds momentum towards next month's important United Nations conference" in Bali.I'm so proud of him!
That's the sound of sarcasm. Or it would be, if you could hear it. I dunno. Maybe you hear all of this in your head, and it sounds like Stuart McLean or something. I hope so. I mean, if you hear it in your head that I have timing like Stuart McLean. I do in my own head.
I also like the illiteration in the first sentence (Am I the first person to use that "word" and mean it? I might be.). I've never been "pleased of" anything. I can't imagine being pleased of anything. What would that entail, exactly? Is it much like being pleased from something? Steve, prepositions aren't that tricky. Learn to speak at least one official language like a university graduate.
Okay, now that I've belittled his grammar, let's get to the meat of it. He's proud of eighty-sixing any action on climate change. And he said it out loud. That shit might fly in Alberta, Steve, but Alberta has less than 10% of the representation in Parliament. The rest of us are fond of things like rainfall and fresh water.
Granted, the Libs signed Kyoto and then did shit. They don't get to rag on you too much for inaction. You, however, haven't been a fan of Kyoto, ever. No secret. You think it's a big conspiracy to hurt those poor, suffering oil companies, the ones who have to keep coming to the government for wage subsidies and tax rebates because they're not making enough money. The same ones who needed government funding to figure out how to make the tar sands an economically viable source of petroleum, when the answer was simply to wait until the price of oil got high enough to make it worthwhile.
Sometimes I feel so bad for those guys. They could be trillionaires! But they'll have to settle for being billionaires. The death of a dream, folks. That's what Kyoto is. The death of a dream.
You don't believe that climate change is happening. Fine, I guess. You're entitled to that. You don't believe that human activity has anything to do with it, even if it is happening. Fine, I guess. And you don't believe that we can do anything about it even if it is happening, and it's our fault. You have the right to believe that.
However, you do not have the right to bet my daughter's (and my neices' and your kids', and all the other children's) future(s) against your faith.
I'm also worried that you're an evangelical Xtian, so you actually want the end of the world to come about. Some day, I'm going to have words with John the Divine about the shit that's supposed to happen when Jesus comes back. Asshole managed to predict climate change (but the laundry list of bad shit that comes with climate change reads like the Old Testament).
So, climate change is not happening, if it is, it's not our fault, and if it's our fault we can't fix it without destroying the economy, and if we could, we shouldn't anyway, because we want Jesus.
Somebody kill this motherfucker.
So you've managed to single-handedly strip any initiative from an agreement that the Commonwealth nations were going to put together, requiring real action with real targets on climate change. I'm not particularly surprised that you're proud of yourself. However, I am surprised that you have the chutzpah to say that in public. To call this "substantive", however, shows an even greater failing of language than your flubbed preposition. Substantive, if I'm not mistaken, means "with substance". "[U]rg[ing] all nations to work toward undefined goals of reducing such emissions" is not particularly substantive.
It's like saying, "You know, if you want to, maybe you could reduce GHG emissions. If you want."
Steve. Fuck off. I can't say it any more clearly than that. Do something about Canada's GHG emissions. Or don't. But if you don't don't say you are. Genocide is bad enough. Lying about is somehow worse.
This is the big thing. He was supposedly elected to form a transparent government. Then he shut everyone out. He appointed a new ethics commissioner, and then fired him when he started looking into Conservative campaign contributions and the defection of a Liberal. I figured that was going to be the order of the day for Canada's new government (they're still calling themselves that, too, which is annoying).
But now he's lying (some more, I guess) about climate change.
Steve, don't punch me in the balls and tell me you're sucking my dick. I know better.
I can see through you. I hope the rest of Canada can.
There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. God always answers each of our prayers. Yet he may not answer in the way we prayed he would. Sometimes the answer is, “Wait.” We must wait on his timing in order to move ahead. Sometimes his answer is for us to “grow.” Our request is right on target, but we still have some growing to do in order to move ahead. Still, sometimes we are disappointed to hear his answer is, “No.” Our request is not in line with his will, or the timing is not right. And sometimes, the answer is, “Go.” Our request is on target. We are spiritually prepared, and the timing is right. What is God’s answer to your prayer right now?
It's about how god always answers your prayers. Mine were always met by silence.
Was that my fault, or his?
I guess mine. He's not real.
Monday, November 26, 2007
The credulous and the gullible are having their day. They are deviants, moral worms, intellectual midgets, practitioners of political self-abuse, with the wit of a circus clown, the subtlety of a sledgehammer and the credibility of a gangster."
Putting aside the fact that Michael Coren is at best a jerk, and more likely an asshole, and the logical fallacy that not believing in God makes you believe in all kinds of crazy things (http://www.secweb.org/index.aspx?action=viewAsset&id=770), I believe in a few things, but not everything.
I don't believe in God. Or Odin. Or Allah. Or Zeus. Or Ra. Or faeries. Or unicorns. Or Hogwarts. Or Gaia. Or any of the other Titans, for that matter. Or Satan. I don't believe that Jesus was god, or the son of god, or the fulfillment of prophesy. I don't believe that if god existed, killing himself would get him to calm down enough so that he could tolerate us and let us into heaven. I don't believe in heaven, either.
I don't believe that the US or Israel brought down the WTC, but they sure as hell made hay while the sun was shining, if you get my drift.
I don't believe that Elvis is still alive, nor is he in Belgium. If he is alive, he's probably in Memphis, because you wouldn't notice another Elvis there. But of course, he's probably not.
I believe that there probably are aliens out there, but they think we're idiots, and probably leave us alone. If they do visit, they're probably more interested in our crazy superstitions than our assholes. Unless we're talking about metaphical assholes, like Coren, and then they might be interested in him. I think he's interesting. Chiefly because he's an asshole.
I believe my senses, and despite what Kant said, I don't think that their limitations prove a world beyond this one. They only prove their limitations, and therefore my own.
I believe that most people are good.I believe that I don't need religion to behave myself.I believe that doing good for its own sake is better than doing it because I'm afraid of burning for eternity.
I believe that all good things in the world come from the world. I believe that all bad things in the world come from the world.I believe that ultimate evil and ultimate good are human constructions, and therefore we are responsible for not only the concept of evil (and good) but also the comission of evil (and good).
I believe that almost all the guilt and shame I carry are leftovers from my god-fearing days.I believe that religion did NOT make me a better person. It made me scared.
I believe that other people find comfort, purpose, solace and joy in faith. I wish them well, but I no longer envy them.
I believe that religion can teach tolerance, love and understanding, and that it can teach hate and prejudice.
believe that Michael Coren is a bigot, and asshole, and an arrogant prick. I believe that if Jesus really were the son of god, then He wouldn't like Michael Coren. Though He would love him, because Christ is supposed to love everybody. Even assholes.
If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”
Then would I bear, and clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased, too, that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.
But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
--Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan….
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
In the beginning, god created the heavens and the earth. Then sky, soil, plants, animals, a man and a woman, and he put us in the Garden of Eden, and said, "Here you go. It's all yours, to have dominion over. Eat it all, name it all, you're in charge. Except. These two trees here, don't touch these."
Adam and Eve (although there are two man & woman stories, too), said, "Cool. Whatever you say." And things were good.
And then this talking snake came by and said to Eve, "Check this out. It's, like, god's private stash." And Eve, being impressed by a talking snake, ate some. Then she said to Adam, "Dude, this is good. Check it out." and he ate some. Then god came by, and they tried to hide, even though he was god, and god asked, "What have you done?" and kicked them out, even though he knew what they had done, because he was god. And he made snakes crawl and Eve bear children, and we were damned to hell forever. Adam and Eve had sons, and one killed the other, and he was banished and made a king, and his brother was still dead. And apparently everyone was having sex with their mother, sister or cousin for the first couple of generations, or god kept making more people.
Then later, god killed everyone, because things got worse than just eating some fruit.
And then later, god killed a guy (who was supposed to be god), so he wouldn't have to kill the rest of us anymore. Except most of us (read all) are still dying, even the ones who believed that this one dead guy was god having us kill him, and doing it so he wouldn't have to kill us and damn us anymore.
He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He created everything. I assumed he was responsible for everything.
However, he gave us free will. Which means we have the freedom to screw up. And he can't be held responsible for our mistakes. But, being omniscient, he knew that would happen didn't he?
He set up Eden, and knew the talking snake would come around. He knew Eve would eat, and then Adam. And he knew he'd have to kick us out of Eden and damn us all to hell. Then he knew he'd have to kill us all. And he knew he would have to kill a guy so he wouldn't kill the rest of us.
Now, I'm no expert, but these things always bothered me:
- When god set this up, and he knew it was all going to go to shit, and did it anyway, how is that our fault?
- Why should Eve (and all women for the rest of eternity) be punished for being impressed by the talking snake? Unless all snakes talked in the Garden, that's pretty damn cool.
- And if the snake was Satan in disguise, why should snakes be punished 'cause Satan was sneaky?
- Where did Satan come from? Isn't he god's fault, too?
- Why was I being punished because some guy did what his wife told him to?
- After the Garden was screwed, he knew things were going to get worse (probably because everybody was inbred), and so he knew he was going to have to kill everyone. Why bother? Omniscience isn't all it's cracked up to be, apparently.
- Why did he kill everyone if he knew it wasn't ultimately going to help?
- Why did he have to promise us he wasn't going to do it again? How can we believe him, anyway?
- Why did he have to kill a guy? Why couldn't just forgive us? Doesn't he make the rules? Can't he change them? If not, omnipotence isn't all it's cracked up to be, either.
- What makes this guy a loving god? What kind of a sick fuck sets up a game where you can't lose because of some past injustice? Jugsaw in the Saw movies, that's who. God's like Jigsaw. Except I bet Shawnee What'shername is cuter.
The long and the short of it is this: if you know about a problem, and have the ability to fix it, you're responsible when things fuck up. Therefore omniscience and omnipotence mean omniresponsiblity (My word, but feel free to use it. Just give me credit.). Every fuckup in the history of man is his fault. Every fuckup in the history of history is his fault. Hitler: his fault. Stalin: his fault. Iraq: his fault. When I flunked American Lit.: his fault. Katrina: his fault. Every rape, murder, assault, molestation, and oil spill is his fault.
If it's not his fault, then he's not omnipotent, is he? And if he's not omnipotent, then he's not the god they sold to me. And he's not very nice, either.
I demand a refund.
The central contradiction in theology bothered my since I was twelve. Before that, I just bought it, for a while after that, I tried not to think about it. I was told a long time ago that god gave us reason. Then when I used it, he seemed unreasonable.
Juvenile, simple and kinda bitchy. But ultimately compelling. It's either all his fault or he's not as cool as I was led to believe. If he's not cool enough to fix things, then he's not cool enough to start them either.
Friday, November 23, 2007
"Concern widens over 'anti-religion' book
Dufferin-Peel Catholic board to review fantasy after neighbouring board pulled it from librariesNov 23, 2007 04:30 AMKristin Rushowy
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic board is conducting an informal review of The Golden Compass because concerns have been raised about the children's fantasy book in the neighbouring Halton board."
The "His Dark Materials" books are amazing: well-written, well-constructed and introduce big ideas to younger readers (I'm almost through the second book for the second time). And Phillip Pullman is an atheist. The books are about religion and how is has been tainted throughout history and used for oppression. I concede that they are inflammatory, and antagonistic towards religion in general, and the Roman Catholic Church in particular.
Know what? It makes no difference. These books ought to stay on the shelves.
There are a number of reasons:
- Phillip Pullman is an atheist, but that's no excuse for censoring his books. If the Catholic school board tried to censor a Jew's books, or a Muslim's books, or a Protestant's books, there would be a justifiable outcry. You cannot discriminate against a person because of their religious beliefs, and therefore, their lack of religious beliefs.
- The books contain things that are critical of the Roman Catholic Church. But so do history texts.
- There are themes and issues discussed which Catholics may find uncomfortable or offensive. Same with almost any literature worth reading. Such themes include: other religions (and religion itself), idols, murder, coveting, blasphemy, lying, adultery, working on the sabbath, disobedience, the death penalty, suicide, racism, socialism, communism, fascism, pornography, unmarried sex, contraception, abortion, teenage pregnancy, climate change, revolution, slavery, war, homosexuality, the nature of reality, capitalism, and Satan.
- Catholicism has been given a free ride in Ontario's marketplace of ideas. It needs to stop. We've funded this particular flavour of religious education and no other since our Protestant education system became our public education system. It's a funny little quirk of Confederation that has given them this special privilege, and we now know better. Ontario has been censured twice by the UN for this discriminatory practice, and has refused to change. It's about time that Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim families (and a whole lot of other kinds) stopped paying for Catholic education. So let's stop. Other provinces have done it. We can do it. Catholics are only 1/3 the population of Ontario, and some of them support eliminating the public funding of Catholic education.
- If your faith can't stand up to the criticism in three children's books; if your child's faith can be jeopardized by exposure to a story about a little girl whose father wants to finish the war in heaven, then maybe you ought to take a closer look at your church, its message, its marketing, and whether or not it's a good idea at all.
- Because the Catholic school board gets funding from Ontario's secular government, we get to tell them what to do. They are not allowed to discriminate against other faiths (and by extension, again, those without faith). Removing an atheist's books containing atheist ideas, besides being discrimination, won't make atheism go away.
Why am I so pissed about this? First of all, I don't think the Catholic school system should be publicly funded by Ontario's taxpayers. That's a big burr under my saddle. Second, it directly affects me. If this ban stands, and as a consequence, other atheist texts are removed from Catholic school libraries, then my daughter, who is being raised Catholic and will be going to a Catholic school (and don't even get me started on that), will get not be exposed to the ideas in atheism in the same forum as other ideas. Atheism, alongside theism, will not be addressed, examined and judged. She will not have all the information she needs to form an opinion on her own faith.
And that's really the crux of the problem, there. Religion is just like all other ideas or sets of ideas, and it needs to suffer the same rigours of evaluation. Communism, socialism, fascism, anarchism, capitalism, liberalism, conservatism, and ecocapitalism are all ways to organize your life, your community and your society. They've all been subjected to tests of evidence, practicality and application. They've all passed or failed to some degree. But what is most important is that they were tested. Religion has been given a relatively free pass. And I'm not talking about any particular religion, because they've all been criticised by other religions. Other religions assume god(s) (with the exception of Buddhism, and to a lesser degree, Taoism), and criticise methods of worship.
Not good enough. Religion's central idea, that there's a god (or several) and he (she, or they) cares what happens here, needs to be tested, too.
Pretending that atheism isn't a valid viewpoint doesn't make it go away (insert pretending there's a god joke here). And ultimately, that's why I'm so offended. I've been told by two Catholic school boards here in Ontario, two school boards that are publicly funded, and therefore told by Ontario as a whole, that my opinion isn't valid, and not worth discussing.
I suppose Pullman should be flattered. He's making Ontario Catholics nervous.
But until we stop giving special status to one faith above all others, or none, then I do not enjoy the same rights as other Ontarians. In Canada, more so than elsewhere, that's unacceptable.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
It's funny that I feel the need to say that. But I wanted to get it out right away. It's been the focus of much of my intellectual, psychological and philosophical life (not to mention my romantic life) recently, so it'll be a large part of this blog. The reason that it's funny that I have to say that is that if I wrote, "I don't believe in Ra." or, "I don't believe in Santa Claus." People would be puzzled. Why should I list the things I don't believe in?
Because people assume you believe in god. I don't.
I don't believe in God, Ra, Allah, Yhwh, Odin, Zeus, Jupiter, Krishna, Vishnu, Dieu, the Great Spirit, Huitzilopochtli, Baron Samedi, the Jade Emperor, Chac, Jurojin, or Dievas. I don't believe in fairies, faeries, pixies, leprechauns, sidhe, sylphs, nymphs, or dryads. I don't believe in vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches (though I do believe in Wiccans), or ghosts. I don't believe in Mjolnir, Gungnir, Ogma's whip, Hrunting, Cupid's bow, Poseidon's trident, Clarent or Excalibur. I don't believe in magic underwear. I don't believe in dietary restrictions (although some stuff is just too damn nasty to eat.) I don't believe in heaven or hell. I don't believe in a whole lot of stuff. To list all the things I don't believe in would take forever. But I want to make it clear that I don't believe in god. I'm an atheist.
Let me say it again. I don't believe in god.
Why? Well, that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question, isn't it? There are several reasons why. Today, you get the first.
It's an analogy I've used several times, and I wanted to immortalize it. For me, religion is like chicken pox. I had a pretty bad case when I was a kid, and now I'm immune.
Atheism didn't come easy to me. I was raised Baptist. To ex-Baptists, that says a lot. To people with relatives who are Baptists, that says a lot. To Baptists, that says a lot. As far as religions go, it's slightly on this side of madness. We believed that the Bible was largely inerrant, except for the bits that were metaphorical. We didn't handle snakes. We didn't speak in tongues. We didn't kill infidels. And to be honest, I didn't spend much time spreading the Word (it had a capital "W"). But I spent every day afraid of God, Satan, and the world around me. I was convinced that I was sinful, the world was sinful (Holy Christ, was it sinful) and I was going to hell, except that god had once given me a loophole. I was so scared I took it.
Funny thing, that. When I was about eleven (entering puberty and having VERY sinful thoughts) and God scared the hell out of me. I was reading Chick tracks (available here: http://www.chick.com/default.asp) and hearing all kinds of terrible things about rock music, swearing and homosexuals. So I took the plunge. I asked Jesus Christ to forgive all my sins (past and future, remember that), and to be my own personal saviour. So, I don't believe in god, but I once did, and I was saved then. I believed that I was going to hell. To a lesser degree, I was already in hell. Satan had control of the world. God had given me an out: about two thousand years ago, god killed a guy (or, more charitably, had a guy killed) so I could go to heaven.
I now view the "reborn" bit of my past faith as my "Get out of jail free." card. If god exists, I asked him to forgive me. He had to (so I believed), and so I am forgiven. No matter what happens. It's kind of surprising, really, that more born-again Christians don't fall away from the faith, like I did. Once you're saved, you're saved. There was a particularly good Chick tract that showed a heathen cop going to hell, and a saved murderer going to heaven. Seriously. I could commit genocide, but I'm going to heaven.
If that isn't opening your faith up to all kinds of perversions, I don't know what is.
So, part one of "The Nature of Things", or "Why I'm an Atheist: Because Hell is Cool". Why don't I beleive in god? Because I don't have to. God said so.
Check for answer number two tomorrow, unless, Dubya, Steve Harper or some other politician important to me does something cool.