left biblioblography: June 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rolling Back The Red Carpet Treatment

(cross-posted at God's For Suckers)redcarpet

I say it's high time we shredded the obligatory red carpet we roll out for the religious in this country.

For instance, if the Vatican wants to shield some pedophiliac priest from the laws of the land said priest has violated, they shouldn't get a free pass, let alone get promoted.

We see these memes perpetrated on many levels, from the running gags about apologizing to nuns and priests (for swearing or discussing 'inappropriate' topics in their presence), to the reverence for these mooks in films, TV shows, and books. Our songs, literature, even our money bear some sort of nod to the 'on high'.

Bad news:

This is America. Land of the free, home of the brave, and if I might be so bold, irreverence is king here.

Entitled to believe you may be (it is a constitutional right, after all), but by no stretch is any religious person exempt from criticism, large or small. Nor am I required to respect a religious opinion simply just because.

So, religious folks, consider yourself on notice. Your red carpet's been shredded, all free passes have been revoked, no more special privileges, it's a level playing field now.

Which makes the fall from the elevated pedestal all the more painful on impact.

Bring a first-aid kit, 'cause it's gonna hurt. 

The hollow echoes of some dim, distant pagan mythology are not the words of wisdom most deem them to be: they are, at best, a peek into the past of how we were, but not who, what or how we are today.

It is high time these anachronisms were laid to rest, on a shelf in a museum, or buried in some metaphorical graveyard with the other absurd oddities that litter our illustrious history.

I'd be more than happy to administer the last rites, in a manner of speaking....


Monday, June 25, 2007

The Ten Percent Solution - Another Psycho Fact Refuted

We hear this occasionally: "We only use 10% of our brains." This is false.

According to Snopes.com, it's an urban myth, usually trotted out by frauds like Uri Geller, or Caroline Myss -

"This was also the reason that Caroline Myss gave for her alleged intuitive powers on a segment of Eye to Eye with Bryant Gumbel, which aired in July of 1998. Myss, who has written books on unleashing "intuitive powers," said that everyone has intuitive gifts, and lamented that we use so little of the mind's potential. To make matters worse, just the week before, on the very same program, correct information was presented about the myth. In a bumper spot between the program and commercials, a quick quiz flashed onscreen: What percentage of the brain is used? The multiple-choice answers ranged from 10 percent to 100 percent. The correct answer appeared, which I was glad to see. But if the producers knew that what one of their interviewees said is clearly and demonstrably inaccurate, why did they let it air? Does the right brain not know what the left brain is doing? Perhaps the Myss interview was a repeat, in which case the producers presumably checked her facts after it aired and felt some responsibility to correct the error in the following week's broadcast. Or possibly the broadcasts aired in sequence and the producers simply did not care and broadcast Myss and her misinformation anyway."

This nonsense rates right up there with the 'swimming right after you eat' myth.

Just so my readers know that I don't cherry-pick my links, here's two more links  - three different sources, one to state, two to validate.

I've learned a new word from this - psycho-fact. From the first link given:

Regardless of the exact version heard, the myth is spread and repeated, by both the well-meaning and the deliberately deceptive. The belief that remains, then, is what Robert J. Samuelson termed a "psycho-fact, [a] belief that, though not supported by hard evidence, is taken as real because its constant repetition changes the way we experience life."

I have a few more of these examples, but let's have some fun: how many do YOU know of? Non-religious, that is. (We all know that religion ABOUNDS with this folderol, so let's find some 'secular' samplings, shall we?).

You'll probably use more than ten percent to dredge them up, too, I'll bet.



Sunday, June 24, 2007

Belief Is Not Enough...

(Cross posted at God is For Suckers!)


As I've mentioned previously, I have a new job, and am in the process of the good old 90 day probationary period. As such, I have to decidedly scale back my usually loud and aggressive personality (not to the point of mumbling to myself, I might add: lately, I've been making an effort to balance my 'militancy' with diplomacy).

And so, I have an anecdotal tale to tell, which set the gears in my thick Irish skull a-turnin'.

I step out occasionally for a ciggie break, and occasionally I chat with this nice lady (who, incidentally, is a preacher's daughter).

We began discussing how politicians are inherent untrustworthy, and I pointed out to her that there's a distinct difference between flip-flopping and a politician changing his/her mind based on evidence. (I cited Bill Simon as an example, as I recall reading that he'd changed his mind on abortion, but cannot find a citation, and a Jon Carroll column that I read some years back, where he made a good argument that a politician can change his/her mind, if there's reasonable evidence to the contrary. Again, cannot find).

I brought up the recent Republican debate, where three of the runners didn't 'believe' in evolution - and of course, this opened a bit of a can of worms.

She kept emphasizing that it was important that she knew what a politician believed - I pointed out that evolution is the backbone of biology, is a science, etc.

Time for a flummox moment:

I was told that it didn't matter - it was what the person believed was important. I was also treated to the old 'Where's the spirituality? Either we came from Adam and Eve, or we just sprang up from animals" canard. I also heard about how scientists can't agree on any set theory (I very patiently pointed out that there are theistic evolutionists, such as Ken Miller, Francis Collins, etc), but she was having none of it.

I also (quite diplomatically) told her that while these 'scientists' (I love how no name-dropping is ever involved in these personal discussions, in re: the theist) disagree on the details/approach, they're in general agreement on the overall picture.

I was told if I wanted to believe that, that was fine. I began to point out that science isn't about belief, that it was based on facts and evidence, that science was about catalogued observations, at which point some fellow joined in on her side with some utterly vacuous platitudes about believing (which sounds fine and good if you're an overly tolerant lamb), at which juncture, I bit my tongue and walked away.

I'll just wait until the 90 days are up to rejoin that conversation, you betcha.

She's a nice lady. I rather like talking to her. Like myself, she's a sunny, happy person. Obviously, she's not completely daft - her job is quite a bit more complex than mine.

On the flip side, I go to lunch with the computer 'nerds' - one young fellow (I'm old enough to be his dad - no joke) is also an atheist. We struck up a conversation about thermodynamics and quantum physics, and thus, I've been dubbed 'Doug the Physicist' (utterly hysterical, as I've no college background whatsoever). He stated at one point, that being logical, he can't accept religion - it's either logical or not. Not? Gone.

In my roundabout way here, I'm somewhat indulging in what I would've liked to say - which is this:

Belief is not enough. It is not an explanation. It is not a shield. It is by no means a badge of honor, whether it is treated as such by the majority or not. It is an eccentricity, and should be treated as such.

You cannot tailor the facts to fit your worldview. Rather, you have to tailor your worldview accordingly.

When a child tells a wild fable, replete with magical creatures and wizardly feats, we laugh, pat said child on the head, and nod in agreement. After all, they're children: likelihood is, that someday they'll outgrow these wild extravagancies, or perhaps ply them as a trade, such as a fantasy/sci-fi/horror writer.

But if adults base their decisions on some obscure anachronistic piece of writing, indeed, not only their worldview, but all their decisions - politics, discrimination, if they feel the need to play mathematical games to extract an answer (rather than use their own noggins) or to randomly pick some verse from their wholly bibble, I'd have to say that the whole 10 percent of the brain being used myth may have some merit after all.

The day has passed, humanity's adolescence is long gone, the time for adulthood is far overdue.

Fantasies are a fine pastime for idle moments, but are unfit for that short time we have allotted to us on this planet. This cloak of flesh is all there is: best to use it wisely, live fully, for reality is a handful enough.

This is the Apostate, signing off.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

...A Wage Slave Yet Again...

- Green Day Lyrics

As some of you may have noticed, I'm not making my rounds like I used to, my comments are somewhat less scintillating than they have been in the past, and I'm not posting as often as I used to. So an explanation seems to be in order, and I'm a little overdue, so apologies.

I am now working full time (excuses, excuses, yeah, I know) at Google (key word here is at - I'm a contractor via an outsource).

It's mostly in a warehouse environment, which means as a rule, I tend to come home somewhat exhausted. Not to mention that I'm usually drowsy from all the good food that's served there (all free - whatever costs I incur from driving and toll fees is frayed by saving a bundle on groceries. I'm fairly sure I've gained a pound or two, as I adore eating).

So I intend to keep on blogging (I hear that Grateful Dead tune when I say that), but be advised that I may (and am) doing three to four posts a week, as opposed to my old standard five-to-seven.

Such is the nature of blogging, that I've noted a distinct drop in my readership as well as comments left. Between the nature of the beast (is there anything new and shiny?) and the constant barrage of new content (what is it, a thousand new blogs every single day? Something like that), that it's difficult to overcome what I'm beginning to think should be termed the Prat Race (I'm generalizing here, gimmee a break).

I find this somewhat daunting, not to mention irksome, as I've provided more than enough past content to keep many readers occupied for hours, let alone days, were they to search my archives.

Granted, I do this myself, and it's a habit I need to break. I swing by some of my blogging friends, and if it's not a new post, I hopscotch over to wherever there's a new post - and while I realize there's much of other people's content that is well worth backtracking to read, there's also the measured growth of a person's thought processes as they flesh out the unique philosophies that make them worth reading just as much as the brand-spanking new post that shows their perspective on this bank and shoal of time (nods to Shakespeare).

So bear with me. I fully intend to keep on providing my dervish dance of the deranged for your entertainment, punctuated by my unusual spin on the worldview we all share, but the minutes in the day have taken a new pattern, and as such, there is a finite amount of time I have per day, just as there is a finite amount of heartbeats in a given life.

So, I ask of my dear readers, is that they spare a few pulse beats to give me a read, and feel free to start some blogversations. I'll make an effort to participate when (and if) I can.

Bear in mind that I am not ignoring thee, nor have I forgotten thee - I am just busy.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, June 22, 2007

This Should Boost Readership - Readers Under 17 Require A Parent Or Adult Guardian

(Hat tip to Pharyngula)

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

As an aside, I just watched This Film Is Not Yet Rated.  A snippet:

Much of the film's press coverage was devoted to Dick and his crew's use of a private investigator to unmask the identities of the ratings and appeals-board members, a feat that had never been accomplished before, although 60 Minutes and other news organizations have tried.

Other revelations in the film include: the discovery that many ratings-board members either have children 18 and over or have no children at all (typically, the MPAA has suggested it hires only parents with children between the ages of 5 and 17); that the board seems to treat homosexual material much more harshly than heterosexual material (this assertion is supported by an MPAA spokesperson’s statement in USA Today that "We don't create standards; we just follow them"); that the board's raters receive no training and are deliberately chosen because of their lack of expertise in media literacy or child development; that senior raters have direct contact in the form of required meetings with studio personnel after movie screenings; and that the MPAA's appeals-board is just as secretive as the ratings board, its members being mostly movie theater chain and studio executives. Also included on the appeals-board are two members of the clergy (one Catholic and one Episcopalian, who may or may not have voting power).

I wish I could say I found all this amazing, or shocking, but sadly, it's not. Some cultural cabal is running interference in order to save our precious bodily fluids from being sullied.

And then there's good ole Ray Comfort, of banana fame:

Did you know that there was a time when the entertainment industry was bound by a code that forbade them from using any blasphemy in a movie? The “Hays Code” stated:
Pointed profanity--this includes the words “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ” (unless used reverently), “Hell,” “S.O.B.,” “damn,” or every other profane or vulgar expression, however used--is forbidden.
Hollywood is no longer restricted by the code. Many of today's movies don't simply blaspheme the name of Jesus. They go one further. For example, the award-winning Blow, directed by Ted Demme, is a typical R-rated film. The name of Jesus Christ is blasphemed eleven times in the movie. Three of those times, for some reason, the "F" word is used in the middle of His name.

Yeah, Ray-Ray, I knew about that (didn't know the name of the 'code').

Welcome to America. It's called Freedom of Speech. Don't like it?



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Profiles In Atheism - The Vindicated Feminist

A shout out to the lady who began the feminist movement (well, the modern, Westernized version at least):

"Mary Wollstonecraft, (born April 27, 1759, London, Eng. — died Sept. 10, 1797, London) English writer. She taught school and worked as a governess and as a translator for a London publisher. Her early Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787) foreshadowed her mature work on the place of women in society, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), whose core is a plea for equality in the education of men and women. The Vindication is widely regarded as the founding document of modern feminism. In 1797 she married the philosopher William Godwin; she died days after the birth of their daughter, Mary (see Mary Shelley), that same year."


And, of course, some choice quotations:

"Standing armies can never consist of resolute robust men; they may be well-disciplined machines, but they will seldom contain men under the influence of strong passions, or with very vigorous faculties."

"Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison."

"No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness."

"If the abstract rights of man will bear discussion and explanation, those of women, by a parity of reasoning, will not shrink from the same test: though a different opinion prevails in this country."

"Independence I have long considered as the grand blessing of life, the basis of every virtue; and independence I will ever secure by contracting my wants, though I were to live on a barren heath."

"Children, I grant, should be innocent; but when the epithet is applied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness."

"Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man."


Monday, June 18, 2007

Freedom's Cage

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
- Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

Beware your blood pressure: this might get your dander up.

For a country that's the 'home of the brave, land of the free' this administration's got some heavy explaining to do.

While our commander-in-thief lives in his Nixonian cocoon, his 'handlers' (a more appropriate term could not be used) have decided, for the last seven years, to keep Curious George well in the dark.

I speak of course, of Free Speech Zones.

"Free speech zones (also known as First Amendment Zones, Free speech cages, and Protest zones) are areas set aside in public places for political activists to exercise their right of free speech in the United States. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The existence of free speech zones is based on U.S. court decisions stipulating that the government may regulate the time, place, and manner - but not content - of expression.

The most prominent free speech zones are those created by the Secret Service for
President George W. Bush and other members of his administration.[1] The stated purpose of free speech zones is to protect the safety of the dignitary, or the protesters themselves. Critics, however, suggest that such zones are "Orwellian",[2][3] and that authorities use them in a heavy-handed manner to censor protesters by putting them literally out of sight of the mass media, hence the public, as well as visiting dignitaries. The Secret Service denies specifically targeting protesters, but, on a number of occasions, these denials have been contradicted by local police officers who have stated under oath that Secret Service agents specifically ordered them to target protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a number of lawsuits on the issue.

Many colleges and universities earlier instituted free speech zone rules during the Vietnam-era protests of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, a number of them have revised or removed these restrictions following student protests and lawsuits."

The rationale for these 'zoos' is that the Department of Homeland Security claims that terrorists might be hiding amongst the hoi polloi, but the inference is that protesters are aiding and abetting the terrorists.

Oh, wait, did I say 'inference'?

"Attempts to suppress protesters become more disturbing in light of the Homeland Security Department’s recommendation that local police departments view critics of the war on terrorism as potential terrorists. In a May 2003 terrorist advisory, the Homeland Security Department warned local law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on anyone who “expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government.” If police vigorously followed this advice, millions of Americans could be added to the official lists of “suspected terrorists.”

Austin Cline has a similar article here.

Now, for the sour icing on the spoiled cake (from the first link provided above):

"The Secret Service says it does establish 'public viewing areas' to protect dignitaries but does not discriminate against individuals based on the content of their signs or speech. 'Absolutely not,' said Tom Mazur, a spokesman for the agency created to protect the president. 'The Secret Service makes no distinction on the purpose, message or intent of any individual or group.' Civil libertarians dispute that. They cite a Corpus Christi, Texas, couple, Jeff and Nicole Rank, as an example. The two were arrested at a Bush campaign event in Charleston, West Virginia, on July 4, 2004, when they refused to take off anti-Bush shirts. Their shirts read, "Love America, Hate Bush... The ACLU found 17 cases since March 2001 in which protesters were removed during events where the president or vice president appeared. And lawyers say it's an increasing trend."

 So now the blackshirts are dictating not only how we can protest, they're also instructing us on casual wear?

This goes to bullet point #5, from Umberto's Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt:

5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity.

Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

Dissent is the lifeblood and foundation of our great country. It goes to the open-ended portion of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. Do I need to mention also, that this is a suffocation of anything resembling a redress of grievances (also granted as a right by that selfsame amendment)?

This cannot stand. It sets fire to the Bill of Rights, it immolates the Constitution, and violates all this country was built on.

It is un-American. It's unpatriotic. It chokes the roots of freedom, so that the brushfire of fascism can sweep the landscape, and shackle the citizenry into blind fear. Every man, woman and child will become wards of the state, herded into conceptual pens, and told what to bleat, and when.

Share the outrage. Point the finger.

Or, as Howard Beale said in the movie Network:

"Go to the window and shout as loud as you can: 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!'"


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me…

(Cross-posted at God is for Suckers)DeMilleTenCommandmentsDVDcover

I have discussed the Inquisition elsewhere, but this obscure, little-known chapter deserves far more press than it receives. It serves as a reminder to those missionaries who seek to spread the ‘good news’: sometimes the tidings you bring wreck cultures, and become flotsam and jetsam in the river of history.
This one, however, wasn’t predicated on the I Samuel 12 verse (consultation with a sorceress), but instead on one of the Ten Commandments: specifically number two of the Hebrew version, number one of the Catholic, etc.

Goa is a small state on the West coast of India, a lovely vacation spot, whose history is as rich in content as its landscape is lovely:

”Goa has a long history stretching back to the 3rd century BCE, when it formed part of the Mauryan empire. It was later ruled by the Satavahanas of Kolhapur at the beginning of the Common Era and eventually passed to the Chalukyans of Badami, who controlled it from 580 to 750. Over the next few centuries it was ruled successively by the Silharas, the Kadambas and the Chalukyans of Kalyani. The Kadambas are credited with constructing the first settlement on the site of Old Goa in the middle of the 11th century, when it was called Thorlem Gorem.
Goa fell to the Muslim Sultanate of Delhi for the first time in 1312, but they were forced to evacuate it in 1370 by Harihara I of the Vijayanagar empire whose capital was at Hampi in Karnataka state. The Vijayanagar rulers held on to Goa for nearly 100 years, during which its harbours were important landing places for Arabian horses on their way to Hampi to strengthen the Vijaynagar cavalry. In 1469, however, Goa was reconquered, this time by the Bahmani Sultans of Gulbarga. When this dynasty broke up, the area passed to Adil Shahis of Bijapur, who made Goa Velhaa their second capital. The present Secretariat building in Panaji is a former Adil Shahi palace, later taken over by the Portuguese Viceroys as their official residence.”

Subsequently, the Portuguese came, bearing gifts and crosses, and pincered between the Eurocentric perspective and Judeo-Christian ethic they brought, this Hindi oasis became a hellhole ravaged, rarely equaled in the long appalling history of European colonialism.
From 1560 to 1812 (with a brief lapse of four years, 1774-78), the ‘good news’ was spread in an appalling manner:

“Persecution of Hindus
"The condemned Hindus were publicly burned at the stake in the square outside the Sé Cathedral in batches during ceremonies known as auto da fé (Portuguese: act of faith). Those who confessed to their accused heresy would be strangled prior to the burning.
Brahmins were nailed to crosses and beheaded by the Portuguese to spread fear into the local populations. Hindus were slaughtered by the dozens by the marauding Portuguese armies and Catholic priests.

"A large number of restrictive religious laws were enacted, including the banning of Hindu musical instruments, dhoti, betel leaves and cholis. Many Hindu temples were converted or destroyed, and Christian churches built in their place, often from the materials of the temples they replaced. Throughout this period several important Hindu texts were burned in an effort to saturate the area with Christian religious texts. Most notably, the Kama Sutra increased in infamy with its "lewd" alternatives to the endorsed Missionary position.

"The Portuguese let out their Negro slaves into the streets and as soon as they found a Hindu, they smeared the person's mouth with beef, making them untouchable in the eyes of other Hindus. Then they forcefully converted them.[1]

"People who were accused of heresy (not all of these were Hindus, though they were the majority) were subjected to gruesome punishment generally done in secret. "Pagans" were flogged, interrogated, and dismembered in front of relatives. The Portuguese's studies in anatomy enabled them to chop off limbs from people while they were still alive, even if all that was remaining was the torso attached to the head[2].”

Not content with the indigenous religion, the madness spread towards anyone who didn’t hold with the Holy See:

”Persecution of Muslims
The large Muslim population of Goa, was massacred and decimated by the Jesuits[3].
Persecution of Jews
There was a large population of Jews in the Konkan region. Celebrating the Jewish Sabbath was enough to get a person burned at the stake[4].
The Jewish presence in the South Indian state of Kerala has been notable. In the 16th century, the Portuguese massacre of South Indian Jewry led to a significant decline in Jewish settlements in the region. Eventually, they sought refuge with the Hindu King of Cochin. In a letter written by the Portuguese to their king in 1513 permission is sought for their extermination. The Portuguese destroyed the remnants of the Jewish population in Kodungallore. They also destroyed the Jewish settlement in Cochin and damaged the Jewish synagogue as well as their historical documents.
"In AD 1662 the Dutch attacked Cochin but were driven out. The Jews were severely punished by the Portuguese for allegedly aiding the Dutch. In AD 1663 the Dutch returned and defeated the Portuguese. The Jews were treated more tolerantly by the Dutch rulers. The Cochin Jews reestablished their links with European Jews. In 1687 a Jewish delegation from Amsterdam arrived under the leadership of Mr. Thomas Perera. His report published in 1687 under the name "NOTSIAS DOS JUDEOS DE COCHIM " details the history of Cochin Jews.[2].”

And, alas, among their own ilk:”Persecution of Christians (non-Catholic)

"In 1599 under Aleixo de Menezes the Synod of Diamper converted the Syriac Saint Thomas Christians to the Roman Catholic Church. The synod enforced severe restrictions on their faith and practice of using Syriac/Aramaic. Those Kerala Nasrani who resisted the conversion to Latin rite faced persecution.
The Portuguese through the Inquisition drove both the Syrian Christians and Jews to the interiors of the Kerala.What was unbearable for the Syrian Christian was the interference on his freedom. A synod of Diamper was convened where we find that the Arch deacon and the prelates were forced to sign the instrument of loyalty to Rome.There is a saying that these priests were held at sword end and any one who refused was killed immediately. The churches where razed to the ground or the altar was pulled down to meet catholic criteria. The Syrian church of malabar remained under the persecutory rule of the Portuguese Catholics for 60 yrs.”
"During the past few centuries the most belligerent, the most aggressive, the most rapacious, the most power-drunk section of humanity has been precisely, the Christian Western world. During these centuries western Christendom had invaded all other continents; its armies followed by priests and merchants have subjugated, robbed or pillaged most of the non-Christians. Native Americans, African, Australian, Asiatic populations have been subjugated to this peculiar brand of Christian "love" which has generally manifested itself in pitiless destruction, enslavement, coercion, destruction of the cultural values, institutions, the way of life of the victims and the spread of alcoholism, venereal disease, commercial cynicism and the like." - Pitirim A. Sorokin

And for more horrors perpetrated in the name of the ‘prince of peace’:

”The Archbishop living on the banks of the Ethora had said during one of his lecture series, "The post of Inquiry Commission in Goa is regarded as holy." The women who opposed the assistants of the commission were put behind the bars and were used by them to satisfy their animal instincts. Then they were burnt alive as opponents of the established tenets of the Catholic Church.The victims of such inhuman laws of the Inquiry Commission included a French traveler named Delone. He was an eyewitness to the atrocities, cruelty and reign of terror unleashed by priests. He published a book in 1687 describing the lot of helpless victims. While he was in jail he had heard the cries of tortured people beaten with instruments having sharp teeth. All these details are noted in Delone's book.So harsh and notorious was the inquisition in Goa that word of its brutality and horrors reached Lisbon but nothing was done to stop this notoriety and escalating barbarity and it continued for two hundred more years. No body knows the exact number of Goans subjected to these diabolical tortures, but perhaps it runs into hundreds of thousands, may be even more. The abominations of inquisitions continued until a brief respite was given in 1774 but four years later, the inquisition was introduced again and it continued un-interruptedly until 1812. At that point in time, in the year of 1812, the British put pressure on the Portuguese to put an end to the terror of Inquisition and the presence of British troops in Goa enforced the British desire. Also the Portuguese power at this time was declining and they could not fight the British. The palace of the Grand Inquisitor, the Big House, was demolished and no trace of it remains today, which might remind someone of inquisitions and the horrors inside this Big House that their great saint Francis Xavier had commenced.”

It seems that ‘Saint’ Xavier actually supplanted Torquemanda in not only body count, but numbers as well as an ongoing, bloody legacy for nigh well two and a –half centuries.
There were monsters and madmen aplenty in those days, but Xavier stood the tallest: let his name ring out in infamy – his memory exhumed from the bloody shadows of forgotten history.
Another lost chapter in that realtime Necronomicon – the bible. More pages written on human skin, the quill dipped in blood.
‘Tis a good thing I believe not in ghosts – or I’d imagine hearing the ghastly cries carried on the winds of the ages.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I Wonder What Hanna-Barbera Has To Say About This...

As most of you know, I've taken a real shine to The Venture Brothers - an hysterically funny urbane take-off on the Hardy Boys and Jonny Quest.

I grew up watching Jonny Quest. It was about the only Hanna-Barbera production I liked as a kid (though in retrospect, it was thoroughly misogynistic, never a female form shown, and testosterone-nuanced).

For one instance, I absolutely disliked Scooby-Doo from the get-go. Although both shows mentioned were formulaic (with a capital F), the latter was fairly stupid, even from a child's perspective.

The plot of each Scooby-Doo episode followed a formula that would serve as a template for many of the later incarnations of the series. At the beginning of the episode, the Mystery, Inc. gang bump into some type of evil ghost or a monster, which they learn has been terrorizing the local populace. The teens offer to help solve the mystery behind the creature, but while looking for clues and suspects, the gang (and in particular Shaggy and Scooby) run into the monster, who always gives chase. However, after analyzing the clues they have found, the gang determines that this monster is simply a mere mortal in disguise. They capture the monster and bring him to the police, usually with Fred tugging at his mask and saying, "Now, let's see who you really are!" Upon learning his true identity, the fiendish plot is fully explained, and the criminal would utter the famous catchphrase, or a variation thereof: "And I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!"

The part that really made me switch channels, was that Shaggy and Scooby Doo were always terrified by the 'monster'. I mean, every time. It was ridiculous. Even a child can figure out after the umpteenth time that the monster was inevitably a human in disguise. Always some guy who, upon being revealed, simply gave up right there on the spot.

I found it terribly insulting to my intelligence. Even as a little kid.

So when I saw this little bit on the Venture Brothers, I just about split a gut laughing:

Of course, the names have been changed to protect the creators from lawsuits, but it's fairly obvious who's who.



Monday, June 11, 2007

Gore Vidal Shines

Due to a recent blogversation, I learned about Susan Greenfield (she was being quoted WAY out of context by a theist, what a surprise). While hunting about, I stumbled on this video:



Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is There A Moral To The Story...?


Cross-posted at God is for Suckers!

(The title is completely tongue in cheek, as it implies there was an author to our entire story, and that is obviously not true.)

Cartoon courtesy of Jesus and Mo.

As I've stipulated before, I'm not a moral relativist. Also as I've stated before, I think these discussions about morality are pretty much a waste of time. The last time I posted on this, an individual named Beowulf and I had a bit of a soiree about the whole thing (read it here).

So again, despite the protestations of my fellow atheists, I say it again: I reject moral relativism. It isn't (nor does it need to be) the default position for those of us who profess an absence of belief.

I find the system bankrupt, to be blunt.

There is one good reason for doing so.

It has no solid basis for criticizing the actions of others. If there's a genocide being perpetrated in another country, regardless of the rationale behind it (be it race, color, religion, etc.), it blinds the critical eye and softens the hard word to a voiceless whisper.

A moral relativist cannot, for instance, find fault with biblical events, as said events took place in a time and an environment that was exclusively set 'back in the day'. By the epistemology of it, projecting our mindset and cultural values on another culture in another age would be primarily anachronistic.

To verify that we're all on the same page, this is the definition I'm using:

In philosophy, moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect absolute and universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances.

However, to infer that I'm a moral absolutist would be ridiculous as well, since that would involve a false dichotomy (or even a dilemma, to be pedantic and redundant), as there are multiple -isms to choose from.

Most theists I've engaged proclaim themselves to be absolutists (I'd give you an example, but since they're a dime a dozen in the blogosphere, I leave that to the reader to come up with a few), but tend to veer wildly to the relativism aspect when confronted with obvious contradictions in their wholly bibble book (we've probably all heard it on more than one occasion: "Hey, that was then, this is now!" Or some variant thereof. My all time favorite is, "gawd changed his mind!").

Like most people, I tend to borrow a few values here, a few 'don'ts' there, and come up with my own version of ethical stew.

So mix in six parts value pluralism, two parts moral naturalist, some secular ethics, a liberal helping of the Moral Razor, a goodly smattering of reciprocal altruism, and voilà! Apostate soup is served! (The 'krystals' are what make it crunchy, hehehehe.)

I've said this before; it is harm inferred and harm incurred. It takes no degree to see, that when we willfully harm another, the ripples that disturb the pool of our existence take on a cumulative effect that can be felt for years, even centuries in some cases, and have an ethical impact akin to the butterfly effect in the world around us.

Any questions?


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Profiles In Atheism - The Playwright's Pen

I have thus far only touched upon the male atheists - as such, I feel obliged to point the finger to the past towards the other gender.

"Aphra Behn

English poet, novelist, and playwright Aphra Behn (c. 1640-1689) was the first of her gender to earn a living as a writer in the English language.

Aphra Behn was a successful author at a time when few writers, especially if they were women, could support themselves solely through their writing. For the flourishing London stage she penned numerous plays, and found success as a novelist and poet as well-and through much of her work ran a decidedly feminist strain that challenged society's restrictions upon women of her day. For this she was scorned, and she endured criticism and even arrest at times. Another similarly free-thinking female novelist of a more recent era, Virginia Woolf, declared that "all women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn," according to Carol Howard's essay on Behn in the Dictionary of Literary Biography,"… for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."

A Childhood in Kent

It is likely that Behn was the infant girl Eaffry Johnson, born in late 1640 according to baptismal records from the church of St. Michael's in Harbledown, a small village near Canterbury, England. This region of England, Kent, was a conservative, insular county during Behn's youth, but the English realm itself was anything but calm during her era; Behn's fortunes and alliances would be tied to the series of political crises that occurred during the seventeenth century, and her literary output drew from and even satirized the vying factions. First came a Civil War that pitted Puritans against King Charles I; the monarchy was abolished with the king's beheading in 1649. Until 1658 England was ruled by Puritan revolt leader Oliver Cromwell, and upon his death in 1658 the monarchy was restored; hence the term for the era in which Behn wrote, Restoration England.

Behn was likely the daughter of a barber and a wet-nurse, and through her mother's care for the children of local landed gentry, the Colepeppers, Behn probably had access to some educational opportunities. Literary scholars agree that Behn most likely left England as a young woman with her family in 1663 when her father was appointed to a military post in Surinam, on the northeast coast of South America. It was an arduous journey, and some evidence suggests that Behn's father did not survive the trip. In any event, Behn, her mother, and sister stayed on at the English settlement for a time until a return trip home was possible, and the experience provided the basis for her most famous literary work, Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave.

Oroonoko in the Annals of English Literature

This novel, published only near the end of Behn's career in 1688, chronicles the tale of a cultivated, intelligent West African prince who speaks several European languages. He falls in love with a West Indian woman named Imoinda, who is also the lover of his grandfather, the king. Imoinda is sold into slavery, and Oroonoko is kidnapped by the English and brought to Surinam as a slave. Imoinda is also in Surinam and becomes pregnant by him. Oroonoko then leads a slave rebellion-an actual event from the era-but is captured, and falsely promised freedom for Imoinda and her unborn child. When this is rescinded, he kills her so she and his child will not fall into enemy hands, and dies by rather barbarous means in English hands at the conclusion. Some of the villains and heroes were actual names from the period, English men who held posts in Surinam before it became a Dutch colony.

Literary historians trace the development of realism in the novel back this 1688 volume. Realism is a literary style that uses real life as the basis for fiction, without idealizing it or imbuing it with a romantic bias, and it became prevalent in the nineteenth century. Behn's Oroonoko has also been termed groundbreaking for its depiction of the institution of slavery as cruel and inhumane, making it one of literary history's first abolitionist proclamations. Behn has been praised for her characterization of Oroonoko, a just and decent man who encounters some very cruel traits among his white enemies; critics point to him as European literature's first portrayal of the "noble savage."

Astrea the Spy

England's troubles with Holland played a decisive part in Behn's fortunes as a young woman. Following her return to England in 1664, she met and married a Dutch merchant by the name of Hans Behn. Though it has been hinted that her brief marriage may have been her own fiction-widows were more socially respectable than single women during her era-other sources indicate the unfortunate Hans Behn died in an outbreak of the bubonic plague that swept through London in 1665. Later, many of Behn's works satirized Dutch merchants, the cultural icons of the era when Holland was growing rich from trade and giving birth to the first class of savvy capitalists. Behn may have been well-off herself for a time, and became a favorite at the Court of Charles II for her ebullient personality and witty repartee.

But then Behn's fortunes took a turn for the worse. It appears that she suddenly became destitute-perhaps after her husband died-and in 1666 was summoned into the service of the King as an agent in the war against Holland. She went to Antwerp to renew contact with a former lover, William Scot, who was a spy in the city; Scot was an Englishman who was involved in an expatriate group who once again wanted to abolish the monarchy. Behn's mission was to get him to switch sides, and to send reports on behalf of Charles II back to England in invisible ink using the code name "Astrea." During her work as an infiltrator Behn learned of plans to annihilate the English fleet in the Thames and, in June of 1667, Dutch naval forces did so. Yet her English spymasters left her virtually abandoned in a foreign enemy nation with no money-for a woman in the seventeenth century, this necessitated a very distressing and extreme crisis. She probably borrowed a sum, managed to return to England, and still was unremunerated by Charles II. Her numerous pleading letters, which still survive, were met with silence. She landed in debtor's prison in 1668, but at this point someone paid her debt and she was released.

Writing as a Profession

It was at this juncture that Behn resolved to support herself. She moved to London, and took up writing in earnest-not a revolutionary act at the time for a woman, but to expect to make a living at it certainly was. In Behn's day, a woman possessed no assets, could not enter into contracts herself, and was essentially powerless. Financial support came from a woman's father, and then her husband. Some well-born women escaped such strictures by becoming mistresses; others did so by entering a convent. The Restoration was a somewhat debauched period in English history, however, and its libertine ways were well-documented. Behn's ambitions coincided with the revival of the London stage; the Civil War had darkened the city's already-famed theaters in the 1640s and the London plague further shuttered them, but as England regained stability Charles II re-instituted the two main companies. Behn began writing for one of them, Duke's Company at Dorset Garden, and her first play was produced in September of 1670. The Forc'd Marriage; or, The Jealous Bridegroom ran for six nights, a successful run, since playwrights usually went unpaid until the third evening's box-office take. The plot concerned a romantic comedy of errors, which was standard fare for the day.

Behn would pen a number of works for the stage over the next dozen years. Most were lighthearted tales of thwarted love and cavalier seduction. These included The Amorous Prince; or, The Curious Husband (1671); The Dutch Lover (1673), with its vicious caricature of a Dutch merchant; Abdelazer; or, The Moor's Revenge (1676); and her most successful play, The Rover; or, the Banish'd Cavaliers. This 1677 work is centered around an English regiment living in exile in Italy during the Cromwell era; one of its officers, Willmore, is the "rover" of the title, a libidinous sort for whom Behn seemed to have modeled on the similarly randy Charles II.

Found Fodder in Restoration Foibles

One of her final plays, The Roundheads; or, The Good Old Cause, was produced in 1682 and achieved notoriety for the way in which Behn's pen ridiculed a faction of republican parliamentarians. But Behn's strong opinions landed her in trouble that same year when she was arrested for writing a polemic on the Duke of Monmouth, Charles II's illegitimate son and claimant to the throne. This also coincided with a merging of London's two main theaters and a subsequent decline of the medium. Behn then turned to writing novels. One of her best-known works was published in three volumes between 1684 and 1687, and was based on an actual scandal of the time. Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister was a thinly-disguised fictional treatment of the antics of one Lord Grey, who in 1682 eloped with his wife's sister; Grey was a Whig, or anti-monarchist, and would go on to play a real-life role in other political machinations between the throne and Parliament.

Behn's other novels include The Lucky Chance; or, An Alderman's Bargain (1686); a 1688 tale of a clever and remorseless woman serving as a spy in Holland, The Fair Jilt; or, The History of Prince Tarquin and Miranda; and The History of the Nun; or, The Fair Vow-Breaker from the same year. This last work was Behn's fictional saga of Isabella, who breaks her vow of chastity, marries two men, and in the end slays them both. In the twilight years of her brief career, Behn earned a living from Latin and French translations, and also penned versions of Aesop's Fables and poetry-some of which was quite racy. Yet she still struggled financially, and historians surmise that her lack of funds forced her to submit to substandard medical care when her health began to decline, which only worsened the situation. During the winter of 1683-1684, she was involved in a carriage accident, and also may have been plagued by arthritic joints; from some of her letters it can be inferred that she was also suffering from some sort of serious illness that may have been syphilis.

Behn died on April 16, 1689. She was buried in the cloisters at Westminster Abbey, and her admirers paid for a tombstone with an epitaph that read: "Here lies a proof that wit can never be/Defence enough against mortality," which she probably penned herself. Behn's literary reputation then sunk into obscurity for the next few centuries, and in England's Victorian era she was vilified. In 1871 a collection of her works, Plays, Histories, and Novels of the Ingenious Mrs. Aphra Behn, appeared in print, and the Saturday Review, a leading London periodical of the time, condemned it as a sordid assemblage. The reviewer noted that any person curious about the forgotten Behn and her infamous works will "find it all here, as rank and feculent as when first produced." It was not until well into the twentieth century that literary scholarship restored Behn's contribution to English letters. "Aphra Behn is worth reading," wrote her 1968 biographer Frederick M. Link, "not because she ends or begins an era, or contributes significantly to the development of a literary genre or to the progress of an idea, but because she is an entertaining craftsman whose life and work reflect nearly every facet of a brilliant period in English literary history."

That perfect tranquillity of life, which is nowhere to be found but in retreat, a faithful friend and a good library


Monday, June 04, 2007

Let's Get Squalid, You Wankers!

I ran into this little ditty over at Beep's blog, and courtesy of the Spanish Inquisitor, it turns out that...self-play is actually good for you.

I'd actually heard this before, via word-of-mouth (no, not that kind, get yer mind outta the gutter: there, that's better), but I've heard different attitudes on this before.

We're all familiar with the adage about how athletes abstain prior to the big game (and seeing how most men tend to nod off afterwards, myself excluded, it's understandable), but in martial arts, specifically Taoist/Wu Tang (the mountain range, not the rap group), semen retention is actually encouraged. I've even read where there's a training regimen where after 100 days, the man is returned to the state of virginity (nice trick, no?).

The ascetics of the Orient make the Western counterparts seem like hedonists.

I had a Tai Chi instructor who told the class one sweat-soaked evening (it was exercise, jeez loweez, is that all you people think about?) in regards to the Taoist concept of AIDS - that depletion of this resource lowers the immune system directly correlated (I think) to the concept of the 'three treasures', shen, chi, and jing.

Much as I enjoy Taoism, there's an innate tendency in the philosophy to return the person to the original state, i.e., infancy. Indeed, Taoism is about the only philosophy I know of that aims at actual physical immortality (I kid you not).

Be that as it may, I have encountered the opposite viewpoint here:

Masturbation and consequent orgasm depletes the brain and spinal fluids of acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin and the hormones such as hGH, DHEA, testosterone, thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3), neurotransmitters that are responsible for human functioning and very important when it comes to sex. This deficiency melts the brain’s acetylcholine/parasympathetic, dopamine and serotonin nervous functions and your endocrine functions. The damage results in the symptoms of bladder and prostate problems; frequent urination, incontinency, semen leakage, enlarged prostate, etc.
People also experience hair loss and they have no idea why they are losing hair. Even young men come to me and wonder why they are losing hair. The answer lies in the imbalances of the bodies nutrients and hormones that overmasturbation produces. Over burning of testosterone into DHT and the excessive DHT binds to the root of hair cells, blocking it from growing and cutting off supplies of nutrients and proteins so that hair will thin and eventually stop growing.

Holy crap! And here I thought I just had a recessive gene. Note that the article in question is speaking of excessive ejaculation.

I recall from having read the Sensuous Man in my teen years (hey, it was the 70's, AIDS hadn't reared its ugly head, and boys my age constantly fantasized about 'doing' it: only one thing hasn't changed in that list, guess which one), and, from memory, it cited that masturbation wasn't harmful unless you were A. missing meals, B. not taking care of your normal daily duties (work, paying bills), or C. not cleaning up after yourself, so it was okay to indulge yourself somewhat.

I also recall from my tender years, that I was reading the dictionary one day (yep, something of a bibliophile, even then, albeit excessively), and I came across the 'M' word. It had only one definition: 'Self pollution'. So I asked my mom (yeah, what a creepy story this is, in retrospect). Being the good Irish Catholic lady she was (and is), I was treated to her look of shock and horror at the question, and she asked me where I'd learnt that word. I told her what the definition said, and she agreed with it wholeheartedly. Later, I was informed by my peers (in middle school, where dead baby jokes were considered the height of humor -  I'm rolling my eyes too, I was a kid, gimmee a break here) as to what the word actually meant.

I am so very glad we live in the 21st century, not in those 'good ole days' some of the religious curmudgeons spout off about.

Now, having said my piece, I will henceforth take matters fully in hand, and stave off the deleterious onslaught of prostate cancer.

Let the innuendoes begin.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Slaughtering The Species

(Cross-posted at God is for Suckers!)250px-Meteor 

This is a threat. We need to take it seriously.

And no, there's no 'secret conspiracy' in this regard, no cabal secretly planning to annihilate the unbelievers.

In their efforts to 'save us from ourselves', the effort to prove any sort of 'Intelligent Design' will likely get the species slaughtered.

You see, we have a big problem. One that no one seems to have considered: in the ongoing battle of evolution vs. creationism, serious resources are being diverted to combat the intrusion of religion.

If the religious succeed, then we will all be forced to sit on our hands if and when some oversized meteor plants a killing kiss on our planet.

Think about it.

Instead of actively preparing for an upcoming collision of spheres, the religious will (if they take enough power) insist that we leave it all in the hands of some cosmic babysitter. We die? Then it will somehow be all our fault anyways, and the 'chaff' will be separated from the 'wheat'.

I was watching Hyperspace a while back (its original title was Space, but renamed for distribution in the U.S), and apparently there's quite a few threats posed to us from the vacuum of space.

We are long overdue for a major hit from free-range asteroids, for one thing. Luckily for us, Jupiter tends to suck most of them in (all hail, Zeus!), due to its powerful gravity.

So thus far, we've been lucky. However, Jupiter hasn't caught every single one, as evidenced by the Barringer Crater (shown above) or the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event.

(I won't go into detail about how many black holes pepper the universe - save that there's at least a hundred million of those pea-sized doomsday devices around.)

The religious, of course, believe that all is in 'gawd's hands', and we live or die at their deity's will.

Time better spent planning our escape (eventual or otherwise) from planet Earth. Likelihood is, it won't be in our lifetimes, but the thought of our beloved species going into the trashbin of history saddens me to no end.

And while today, it's biology, tomorrow it'll be quantum physics, or some other scientific discipline - the invasive nature of the Abrahamic religions (one in particular: can you guess which one?) will get a foot in the door, and next you know, we'll be wallowing in our own garbage (and hey! It's all GOD'S plan!), and claiming the hurtling death is a form of divine retribution.

And the bleat goes on - but there will come a time of silence, one we collectively should avoid.

Once more into the breach, dear friends...