left biblioblography: November 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The League Of Militant Atheists – A Sobering Look At History

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!militant_atheists Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

In today’s PC-proactive world, the slightest critique of religion is viewed as being the metaphorical equivalent of jack-booted thugism, and bellows of “Persecution!”, “Intolerance”,  and “Hate Crime!” can be heard in the echo chambers of the internet. As the comic illustrates, it’s very much a non-sequitur. As a rule, we atheists are fairly quick on the draw to disavow any connection to monsters like Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao, inasmuch as there were far more complex variables in play than the simple lack of belief. (In an Ayn Rand interview, she avowed that despite the atheistic state, Russia was deeply entrenched in mysticism, for one example). Atheists of course, come in all sizes, shapes, temperaments and ideologies. However, I stumbled on this blast from the past, and I see some actual parallels between then and now. Mind you, I’m talking about specific items: obviously not our culture, nor the politics, but specific thought processes (not the actions taken, be clear please) that are startlingly similar. I will outline those in bold (and items in underline that I think to be of interest), so as to be clear.

So firstly: yes, Virginia, there WAS a League Of Militant Atheists, AKA the Society of The Godless:

Society of the Godless (Russian: Общество безбожников); other names include Союз воинствующих безбожников (The Union of Belligerent Atheists or The League of the Militant Godless[1]) and Союз безбожников (The Union of the Godless), was a mass volunteer antireligious organization of Soviet workers and others in 1925-1947. It "consisted of Party members, members of the Komsomol youth movement, workers and army veterans"[2]

S.o.G. was an antireligious movement that developed in Soviet Russia under the influence of the ideological and cultural views and policies of the Communist Party.

Hold your cheers – it wasn’t quite the ideological utopia one could hope.

S.o.G. embraced workers, peasants, students, and intelligentsia. It had its first affiliates at factories, plants, collective farms (kolkhoz), and educational institutions. By the beginning of 1941, S.o.G. had about 3.5 million members of 100 nationalities. It had about 96,000 offices across the country. Guided by Bolshevik principles of antireligious propaganda and party's orders with regards to religion, S.o.G. aimed at fighting religion in all its manifestations and forming scientific mindset among the workers.

Sounds good, no? No:

It popularized atheism and scientific achievements, conducted 'individual work' (a method of sending atheist tutors to meet with individual believers to convince them of atheism, which could be followed up with public harassment if they failed to comply) with religious people, prepared propagandists and atheistic campaigners, published scientific literature and periodicals, organized museums and exhibitions, conducted scientific research in the field of atheism and critics of religion.

Mind you, when they say ‘public harassment’, it’s not similar to our culture – a spirited debate on PBS, the BBC, or somebody’s blog. We’re talking Stalinist Russia here.

The debate on how to best combat religion was argued across the Soviet leadership, until in the late 20s and early 30s, it was resolved by Stalin who condemned the extremes of both sides, and Yaroslavsky followed suit. The do-nothing approach of the rightists who thought religion would die away naturally and the leftist approach to attack all forms of religion as class enemies were both condemned as deviations from the party line. Yaroslavsky argued against the leftist (who had earlier criticized him) that if religion was simply a class phenomena there would be no need to combat it if a classless society was truly being produced. He affirmed that an all-sided attack on religion was needed, but did not subscribe to the leftist deviation that had been condemned.

I find it terribly difficult to envision Stalin as a moderate of any sort.

The League did not only attack religion but it also attacked deviations from what it saw as the proper line to combat religion in the USSR and in effect set the 'proper' line to follow in this sphere for party membership. Early marxist beliefs that religion would disappear with the coming of a tractor (claimed by Trotsky) were ridiculed by the League.

I assume the tractor in question was metaphorical?

The popularity of religion among nationalistic intellectuals was pointed out by Lukachevsky (LMG) and he claimed that if religion was only rooted from ownership of property, it could not explain the growth of the renovationists.

I’ve never taken a class in psychology, but even I could tell you that religion’s rooted in identity issues.

It employed the powers given to it by the CPSU Central Committee at the 1929 congress to dictate orders to schools, universities, the armed forces, the trade unions, the Komsomol, the Organization of Young Pioneers, the Soviet Press and other institutions for the purpose of its anti-religious campaign. It criticized many public institutions (including the Communist Party) for failing to adequately combat religious belief and instructed them on how to be more effective. The People's Commisariat for enlightenment was heckled and Glavnauka, the Chief Administration for Science and Scholarship was also singled out for criticism. A spokesperson for the latter tried to justify their behaviour to the LMG by claiming that they had reduced the total number of historical buildings under its protection (mostly ancient churches and monasteries) from 7000 to 1000, by destroying them.

The next time someone claims we’re militant, you can point this out as an example, and see how it epically fails when applied to today’s standards. Property damage? Really? Wow.

And boy, were these folks busy. None of that ‘herding cats’ nonsense for those people:

In 1931, the LMG boasted that 10% of the nation's schoolchildren were LMG members.

The LMG underwent great growth between 1929 and 1932, partly as a result of the requirement of Komsomol members to join it. The LMG's hold over the Komsomol is reflected in the latter's programme at its 10th congress that state 'The Komsomol patiently explains to the youth the harmfulness of superstitions and of religious prejudices, organizing for this purpose special study circles and lectures on anti-religious propaganda.  The League had grown from 87,000 members in 1926 to 500,000 in 1929 and it reached a peak of 5,670,000 in 1931 (it had intended to get 17 million, however, as its target). It declined to 2 million in 1938, but rose again to 3.5 million in 1941.

The enthusiasm of its new members was notably poor, however, as its dues were left unpaid and only a minority appeared to have great interest in anti-religious work.

The League printed masses of anti-religious literature. The weekly Bezbozhnik reached 500,000 copies per issue in 1931. The monthly Bezbozhnik, grew from 28,000 in 1928 to 200,000 in 1931, dropped to 150,000 after 1932, climbed to 230,000 in 1938 and went down 155,000 in 1939. The Bezbozhnik u stanka consistently ran 50,000- 70,000 copies per issue, however, it changed from a monthly to a fortnightly in 1929 and continued to produce until it was closed in 1932. Yaroslavsky's scholarly monthly for the LMG central committee 'Antireligioznik' (The Antireligious) appeared in 1926, and reached 17,000 circulation in 1929 (it was a 130 page publication), 30,000 in 1930 and 27,000 in 1931. Its material was often repeated over different issues and it was more primitive in its scholarly material than it had beeen intended. It was reduced to 64 pages in 1940, and produced between 40,000 and 45,000 in 1940-41 before it was finally cancelled.

The League also printed anti-religious textbooks. An 'Anti-religious Textbook for Peasants' was produced between 1927 and 1931, with a circulation of 18,000 for the first edition and 200,000 for the sixth. A similar textbook for urban people was created in 1931, followed by a universal amalgamated textbook.

LMG member, I A Shpitsberg began publishing a scholarly journal in the late 20s called Ateist. It was changed to Voinstvuiuschii ateizm (Militant Atheism) in 1931 and it was published by the LMG central council. In 1932 it was swallowed up by Antireligioznik.

From 1928 to 1932, a journal for peasants named Derevenskii bezbozhnik (The Rural Godless) was produced. It was claimed to be so popular among the peasantry that it was 'read to tatters', and contradictorily it ceased publication in 1932. The supposedly popular nature of the atheist propaganda was also contradicted by cases of reported lynchings of anti-religious propagandists and murder of LMG agitators[. In a similar vein, in 1930, the LMG leadership advised that social surveys of believers in schools classes where the majority of pupils were believers was harmful, and that such data should not, as a principle, be used.  Another such anecdote can be found in the 1929 Moscow religion survey, in which 12,000 industrial workers were surveyed anonymously and only 3,000 returned the survey, of which 88.8 % claimed to be atheists, and it was then declared that 90% of Moscow industrial workers were atheists .

[Author’s aside: skewing figures is decidedly a human condition, because the human animal sees what it wants to, not what is contrary to itself.]

The non-serial LMG literature grew from 12 million printed pages in 1927 to 800 million in 1930. In 1941 sixty-seven books and brochures of antireligious propaganda were printed with a total circulation of 3.5 million copies.

A textbook produced by the LMG in 1934 admitted the existence of sincere believers among the intellectuals, however, this was contradicted by Yaroslavsky in 1937 who claimed that all scholars and scientists who believe in God were insincere deceivers and swindlers .

The League trained a massive number of anti-religious propagandists and anti-religious workers. This work included lecture cycles.

The LMG had successfully reduced the number of religious communities of all faiths from 50,000 in 1930 to 30,000 by 1938 and 8,000 by 1941. The last figure includes, however, 7,000 communities in the annexed western territories (thereby making only 1,000 remaining in the rest of the country) .

It sure sounds incredibly successful, yes? Not really:

The climate of the campaign against religion was changing in the late 30s and early 40s. The regime slowly became more moderate in its approach to religion. Yaroslavsky, in 1941 warned against condemning all religious believers, but said that there were many loyal Soviet citizens still possessing religious beliefs. He called for patient and tactful individual work without offending the believers, but re-educating them. He claimed that religion had disappeared in some parts of the country but in other parts (especially in the newly annexed territories) it was strong, and he warned against starting a brutal offensives in those areas.

He claimed that there were very few attempts to re-open churches and that this was a sign of the decline in religion. He branded those who tried to re-open churches as former kulaks and falsifiers of figures . This report was contradicted, however, by the LMG's own figures that found perhaps half the country still held religious beliefs, even if they had no structures to worship in any longer and they could no longer openly express their beliefs.

And the next time you hear that hoary old chestnut that Nazis were atheists, trot this little factoid out:

A glaring answer to this report was found when the Nazis invaded in 1941, and churches were re-opened underneath the German occupation, while believers flocked to them in the millions. In order to gain support for the war effort against the German forces that were effectively liberating religious believers from the persecution against them, Stalin ended the anti-religious persecution and the LMG was disbanded. All LMG periodicals ceased to publish by September 1941. It's official disbandment date is unknown, but traced somewhere between 1941-1947 .

There’s a moral to the story here – you can’t change hearts and minds at gunpoint, by property damage or force. Violence as a rule tends to breed a silent resistance, and religion tends to thrive under these circumstances, when people are shorn of hope and forced to silence. No, it will likely require long years of waging a (metaphorical) war of attrition, chipping away at the memes like drops of water eroding a brick – it will take time and patience. It’s likely why a great many of us waging this war of words are so cranky.

Be that as it may, take the lesson seriously – Santayana’s aphorism may seem cliché and time-worn, but it most assuredly is not.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Funny – Edward Current

I’m sure that many of my readers are familiar with Edward Current, YouTube sensation and master of Poe’s Law. Here are two of his vastly amusing clips.

The first one is titled God Doesn’t Exist? Prove It!

The second – An Atheist Goes To Heaven:



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Anselm’s Ontological Argument – What Ought To Be, Isn’t

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

The consciousness of God is the self-consciousness of man; the knowledge of God is the self-knowledge of man. Man’s notion of himself is his notion of God, just as his notion of God is his notion of himself – the two are identical. What is God to man, that is man’s own spirit, man’s own soul; what is man’s spirit, soul, and heart – that is his God. God is the manifestation of man’s inner nature, his expressed self; religion is the solemn unveiling of man’s hidden treasures, the avowal of his innermost thoughts, the open confession of the secrets of his love. – Frederick Feuerbach, The Essence Of Christianity

The ontological argument is one of those strangenesses of religion – it is indeed an item that illustrates the essential difference between believer and non-believer. The believer cheers! The non-believer says, you gotta be kidding.

In summary:

The argument examines the concept of God, and states that if we can conceive of the greatest possible being, then it must exist. The argument is often criticized as committing a bare assertion fallacy, as it offers no supportive premise other than qualities inherent to the unproven statement. This is also called a circular argument, because the premise relies on the conclusion, which in turn relies on the premise.

It is no wonder that the human animal thinks in circles. The world rotates: the sun goes down, the moon comes up, this reverses, and goes again. There are four distinct seasons, readily apparent (except for perhaps Manipoor, which has five), that come and go in intervals. Circles are ubiquitous – they’re everywhere.

This would also go to explain why we’re such a dizzy species.

Anselm’s ‘argument’ is as follows:

1. God is something than which nothing greater can be thought.
2. God may exist in the understanding.
3. To exist in reality and in the understanding is greater than to exist in the understanding alone.
4. Therefore, God exists in reality.

As ridiculous as that sounds, Descartes (of course!) comes up with some real head-splitting sophistry:

  1. Whatever I clearly and distinctly perceive to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing.
  2. I clearly and distinctly perceive that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Interestingly enough, some have employed Hume to dismantle this:

In David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, the character Cleanthes argues that no being could ever be proven to exist through an a priori demonstration:

[T]here is an evident absurdity in pretending to demonstrate a matter of fact, or to prove it by any arguments a priori. Nothing is demonstrable, unless the contrary implies a contradiction. Nothing, that is distinctly conceivable, implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive as existent, we can also conceive as non-existent. There is no being, therefore, whose non-existence implies a contradiction. Consequently there is no being, whose existence is demonstrable.

Though this criticism is directed against a cosmological argument similar to that defended by Samuel Clarke in his first Boyle Lectures, the point applies to ontological arguments as well.

I’m going to employ Hume in a little bit, in a different way (hence the title of this essay), but first, let’s expound on the problem of evil:

Classical theism states that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Ontological arguments, both old and revised, have also assumed this explicitly or implicitly. Many philosophers are skeptical about the underlying assumption, as described by Leibniz, "that this idea of the all-great or all-perfect being is possible and implies no contradiction."

For example, moral perfection is thought to imply being both perfectly merciful and perfectly just. But these two properties seem to contradict each other. To be perfectly just is always to give every person exactly what he deserves. But to be perfectly merciful is to give at least a person less punishment than he deserves. If so, then a being cannot be perfectly just and perfectly merciful.

To resolve and dissolve this, I’m going to employ Hume’s Is/Ought problem. Using the guillotine, we can pare this down accordingly.

We ought to live in a perfect world – but it isn’t. We ought to be perfect in some way (though this can digress into multiple subjective observations) – that is to say, we shouldn’t become ill, catch viruses, ever go hungry or homeless or jobless. Nothing’s perfect. Then again, perfection is a hollow fantasy, entirely contingent on the individual’s perception.

Perfection is, broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness.

We ought to be complete and flawless, but we are (subjectively speaking) most certainly the opposite. And given that we live in a world where there are counterpoints, Yin to a Yang, hot to cold, solid to fluid, we assume that there has to be a polar opposite of our existence – in other words, a perfect being that has none of the flaws and foibles we manifest (and likely doesn’t drool in its sleep). But the other problem arises: perfection is static. It would have to be. Interaction with the imperfect would introduce flaws into the hypothetical flawlessness. Nothing escapes creeping entropy, after all. Even a hypothetical flawlessness would eventually be worn down to a sliver – and then the hypothetical flawlessness would be flawed, as that item or person would be much less than itself and ergo, not perfect.

And, as I am a non-reductive materialist, understanding (See Anselm’s #2) is entirely contingent on the physicality of the brain, and when that brain is gone, poof! so is the understanding. Not that imagining something makes it real (would that it were – Angelina Jolie materializing in my apartment dishabille would certainly make a believer outta me!), but humans tend to reify these illusions.

So hopefully, much of this (or I’d settle for some of it) has been useful to the gentle reader, and perhaps it can be used to mystify and stupefy any religious folks (usually pretty easy to do) who use this supercilious piece of fluff as a talking point.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Funny – MADTV

Highlighting the show, ‘Touched By An Atheist’, with George Carlin:



Monday, November 16, 2009

Discerning The Anti-Semite – Signs And Portents

This is a great video, frankenspliced to portray crazy Mel as an anti-Semite.

It’s no secret that I support Israel (and, I suspect, it’s likely the reason I lose people off the feedburner that shows how many people subscribe to my blog, but I’ve been wrong in the past). But I’ve noticed tip-offs when someone on a blog comments about Israel and/or Jews. Patterns emerge. It usually goes a little something like this:

1. Generalized derogatory comments on Jewry. They can be subtler hints, like “I think that there is no doubt that there are many american citizens that have greater loyality to Israel than the US.” (My subsequent challenge to that assertion consisted of getting absolutely no evidence other than the assertion, I might add). Then there are more flagrant commentaries like “If for whatever reason, the USA entered into military conflict with the foreign nation Israel, could we count on all the Jews in the US military to support and not sabotage the operation?” I have seen some truly idiotic and despicable comments that state that ‘Jews are over-represented in Hollywood’. You ken me drift, I think.

2. Usually, I point out that Jews are a race and an ethnicity, not just a religion. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Without exception, I hear this: “You can convert to Judaism, that makes you a Jew, so you’re WRONG.” Never mind that if your mother’s a Jew, you’re born a Jew. This is pretty much a false dichotomy: there’s more than one way to be a ‘member’.

3. Entering into discussion with these folks and calling shenanigans usually ends up degenerating into a pissing contest. I get accused of being brain damaged, rabid Zionism, and other ridiculous nonsense. Even of not being a ‘True Atheist™’

4. Usually this devolves even more into ridiculous comparisons: Israel commits genocide, accusations of apartheid, comparisons to Nazi Germany (that last part should Godwin a thread, but doesn’t, as the clown is usually building up some lather).

Now, as a qualifier, some people go directly to number 4. Once upon a time, I was one of those folks. And someone challenged me on it. So I did the research. I’ve other posts on the subject, so before you take a swing at me, do a little reading up. I have valid reasons for ‘switching sides’.

One of the issues you’d imagine I’d have as an atheist, is this: they started the whole shebang, the whole monotheistic trinity of nonsense we have to endure and combat in the name of reason and rationality. More correctly, their ancestors did that, and I’m not a big fan of children inheriting the ‘sins’ of their fathers folderol. The other fact of the matter, is that aside from the latest problems occurring in Israel, Jews aren’t in the news. Or rather, they’re more sporadically in the news – outside say, the Madoff scandal, the contrast of bad press from either Islam or Christianity (or the variants thereof) outnumber the bad press from Judaism by at least 20 to 1 (that’s a guessed margin – feel free to correct me).

Have no doubt, I’m firmly against religion. As Einstein so succinctly put it, "the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions." My major beef is that folks (especially on the left) indulge themselves in (sometimes unknowingly) distinctly racist (yes, Jewish is a race) scapegoating, which I might add, is a religious practice, and one that should be tossed in the garbage with all the Talmuds, Korans, and bibbles. I do have a sort of empathy for them as a people, because I’m fairly sure no other group gets blamed for so much on so little evidence, and anti-Semitism is an evil Christian legacy that atheists should not espouse.

Make of that what you will.



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Allegories Gone Wild – Of Papists, Popes, And Puerile Prophecies

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

SpacePope In the wild weird and wooly world of woo, the Catholic Church has had some truly bizarre ideas. From stigmata to the cilice, from the flagrum to exorcism, these people seem to have all sorts of crazy ideas.

One of the major fantasies of the monotheists is the concept of the end of the world. As we see lives begin and end, we project this cycle of life and death and rebirth onto the larger world, and the theists among us re-interpret wildly to retrofit reality to their pre-supposed peccadilloes.

Among the odder oddities one can stumble across in the laundry lists of lunacy, is the Prophecy of the Popes, as given by one alleged Saint Malachy:

The Prophecy of the Popes, attributed to Saint Malachy, is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. They purport to describe each of the Roman Catholic popes (along with a few anti-popes), beginning with Pope Celestine II (elected in 1143) and concluding with a pope described in the prophecy as "Peter the Roman", whose pontificate will end in the destruction of the city of Rome.

Are there issues with this? You bet your sweet aunt’s fanny there is.

The prophecy was first published in 1595 by Arnold de Wyon, a Benedictine historian, as part of his book Lignum Vitæ. Wyon attributed the list to Saint Malachy, the 12th‑century bishop of Armagh in Northern Ireland. According to the traditional account, in 1139, Malachy was summoned to Rome by Pope Innocent II. While in Rome, Malachy purportedly experienced a vision of future popes, which he recorded as a sequence of cryptic phrases. This manuscript was then deposited in the Roman Archive, and thereafter forgotten about until its rediscovery in 1590.

‘Cryptic phrases’? Is this facepalm time? facepalmua8

On the other hand, Bernard of Clairvaux's biography of Malachy makes no mention of the prophecy, nor is it mentioned in any record prior to its 1595 publication. Some sources, including the most recent editions of the Catholic Encyclopedia, suggest that the prophecy is a late 16th‑century forgery. Some have suggested that it was created by Nostradamus and was credited to Saint Malachy so the purported seer would not be blamed for the destruction of the papacy. Supporters, such as author John Hogue, who wrote a popular book titled The Last Pope about the claims, generally argue that even if the author of the prophecies is uncertain, the predictions are still valid.

How so? Let’s take a brief look into it:

Interpretation of the mottos has generally relied on finding correspondences between the mottos and the popes' birthplaces, their personal arms, and the events of their pontificates. For example, the first motto, Ex castro Tiberis (From a castle on the Tiber), fits Pope Celestine II's birthplace in Città di Castello, on the Tiber.

Pope Celestine II (died March 8, 1144), born Guido di Castello, was pope from 1143 to 1144. Self-fulfilling prophecy there. Next.

Pope Clement XIII, referred to in the prophecy as Rosa Umbriae, the rose of Umbria, is stated to have used a rose "as his personal emblem" (his coat of arms does not include one, however, nor was he from Umbria nor had any but the most marginal connection with the region, having been briefly pontifical governor of Rieti, at the time part of Umbria). The technique of word play was evident in instances where interpreters find a phrase fitting more than one explanation.

‘Word play’ is christlation for ‘let’s make it fit!’

It is notable that where the interpretation of the prophecy is clear (as is the case for almost all of the Popes prior to 1590), the reference is almost always to some characteristic possessed by the Pope prior to assuming the Papacy -- e.g., his birthplace, his arms, his surname, or his cardinal see. However, for more recent Popes, efforts to connect the prophecy with the pope have often focused on the events of his pontificate.

This sounds more like a literary version of cold reading to me.

In recent times, some interpreters of prophetic literature have drawn attention to the prophecies, both because of their success in finding connections between the prophecies and recent popes, and because of the prophecies' imminent conclusion. Interpretations made before the elections of recent popes have not generally predicted their papacies accurately.

Small wonder that.

For those interested, the popes and their ‘corresponding mottos’ can be found here. And the skepticism kept on coming for the prophecies of Saint Malarkey:

Spanish writer father Benito Jerónimo Feijóo wrote in his Teatro Crítico Universal (1724-1739), in an entry called Purported prophecies, that the ones by Saint Malachy's were a shameful forgery, claiming that they were created ad hoc during the 16th century. As a proof, he offers an accurate fact: that the first time the prophecy is mentioned is on a handwritten account by patriarch Alfonso Chacón (a.k.a Alphonsus Ciacconus, 1540-1599) in 1590 (this account would be later published, in 1595, by the abovementioned historian Arnold de Wyon); in this account, Chacón only comments the prophecies until the papacy of Urban VII (whose papacy only lasted September 1590, and was the current pope at the time Chacón wrote the comment). According to Feijóo, Chacón, who held a great intellectual prestige at the time, was lured to comment the prophecies by someone who wanted to help cardinal Girolamo Simoncelli (1522-1605) reach the papacy. By showing them to be accurate till Urban VII, it was expected people to believe the next ones; that way, Girolamo Simoncelli could be easily elected pope, since the prophecy after Urban VII's one tells about a pope Ex antiquitate urbis (from the antiquity of the city), a fact that seems to fit him, who was cardinal of Orvieto (literally "old city", urbs vetus), or at least better than Gregory XIV, who was elected pope after Urban VII. Thus, the forgery would have been useless, since Simoncelli was not elected pope. Jesuit father Claude-François Menestrier also claimed that the prophecies were forged in order to help the papal candidacy of Girolamo Simoncelli, offering similar reasons to those of Feijóo. Spanish historian José Luis Calvo points out that the prophecies seem to be very accurate till Urban VII, fitting perfectly even the antipopes, but that afterwards great efforts have to be made in order to make the prophecies fit their pope. Feijóo's explanation is usually regarded as being the most probable proof of the forgery.

So, nutshelling it: said ‘prophecies’ were forged in the 16th century, and were eerily accurate (if you accept the 12th century publication fib) up to Urban VII who was pope during…drum roll please…the 16th century.  Many many tickle up the raisin (if I might use a little wordplay on an old bibble saying). For those of you who don’t get the esoteric mangling: it’s easy to see the writing on the wall, and it’s mostly graffiti that adorn the smoke and mirrors.

And one has to but Google this topic, to see that this obvious hoax has survived nearly 5 centuries, even though anyone with half a mind (or half a critical eye) can see that this is an utter fraud.

The ubiquity of stupidity is appalling.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Funny – Comfort’s Nightmare!

I’m convinced that Ray Comfort sees this on one of those bad nights:


Actually, this is from the show, That Mitchell And Webb Look. 

Also, I find Sir Digby Chicken Caesar is particularly amusing (yeah, I know, not particularly PC):

And of course, the game show Numberwang:



Saturday, November 07, 2009

On The Heels Of A Tragedy, The Dogs Of War Will Root Out The Outsiders…

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

As no doubt some of you are aware, recently a Muslim military psychiatrist went haywire, and shot (and killed) a number of people. Recently, CNN did a report on Hasan’s motive and background, and yes, it doesn’t look too damn good.

Humanity being a species of extremists, the days to come will no doubt illustrate polarization issues. And one of the worst cornerstones of the problem, is this idiocy we term religion, this superstition we are told to nod and murmur over and grant obsequiousness to.

It is no secret that I’m no fan of being told to be quiet when idiocy raises its ugly head. Most of you are like-minded. Those few of us who recognize the ideological blind spot are considered pariahs and told to shut up and sit on our hands, instead of vocalizing our criticisms. Even though 9/11 should have taught us collectively that unrestrained superstition is dangerous in any hands.

And to top off the scare-mongering, I found this deeply disturbing as well:

Within the fundamentalist front in the officer corps, the best organized group is Officers’ Christian Fellowship, with 15,000 members active at 80 percent of military bases and an annual growth rate, in recent years, of 3 percent. Founded during World War II, OCF was for most of its history concerned mainly with the spiritual lives of those who sought it out, but since 9/11 it has moved in a more militant direction. According to the group’s current executive director, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Bruce L. Fister, the “global war on terror”—to which Obama has committed 17,000 new troops in Afghanistan—is “a spiritual battle of the highest magnitude.” As jihad has come to connote violence, so spiritual war has moved closer to actual conflict, “continually confronting an implacable, powerful foe who hates us and eagerly seeks to destroy us,” declares “The Source of Combat Readiness,” an OCF Scripture study prepared on the eve of the Iraq War.

‘Spiritual battle’? We’ve heard that trope before. The troops blared that at the Crusades, the priests trumpeted that during every inquisition, in fact that fuckhead Woodrow Wilson alluded to it in his speech on Manifest Destiny.

Inevitably this ends in tears. Someone somewhere will be broken over the knee of ideology.

But another OCF Bible study, “Mission Accomplished,” warns that victory abroad does not mean the war is won at home. “If Satan cannot succeed with threats from the outside, he will seek to destroy from within,” asserts the study, a reference to “fellow countrymen” both in biblical times and today who practice “spiritual adultery.” “Mission Accomplished” takes as its text Nehemiah 1–6, the story of the “wallbuilder” who rebuilt the fortifications around Jerusalem. An outsider might misinterpret the wall metaphor as a sign of respect for separation of church and state, but in contemporary fundamentalist thinking the story stands for just the opposite: a wall within which church and state are one. “With the wall completed the people could live an integrated life,” the study argues. “God was to be Lord of all or not Lord at all.” So it is today, “Mission Accomplished” continues, proposing that before military Christians can complete their wall, they must bring this “Lord of all” to the entire armed forces. “We will need to press ahead obediently,” the study concludes, “not allowing the opposition, all of which is spearheaded by Satan, to keep us from the mission of reclaiming territory for Christ in the military.”

These people are undermining the SOCAS. They are most emphatically not putting their country first: they’re obviously putting it second to their superstitious drivel. If you’re a soldier, you put the country first. Otherwise, you’re an extremist, and need to be watched very carefully.

Every man and woman in the military swears an oath to defend the Constitution. To most of them, evangelicals included, that oath is as sacred as Scripture. For the fundamentalist front, though, the Constitution is itself a blueprint for a Christian nation. “The idea of separation of church and state?” an Air Force Academy senior named Bruce Hrabak says. “There’s this whole idea in America that it’s in the Constitution, but it’s not.”

Huh. Skipping over the fact that the Constitution states baldly that ‘no religious oath is required for office’, that there’s not one breath or iota of religious rhetoric contained in the whole damn thing, the only people who think that the SOCAS is in it are undereducated (and I’m being kind here).

If the fundamentalist front were to have a seminary, it would be the Air Force Academy, a campus of steel and white marble wedged into the right angle formed by the Great Plains and the Rockies. In 2005, the academy became the subject of scandal because of its culture of Christian proselytization. Today, the Air Force touts the institution as a model of reform. But after the school brought in as speakers for a mandatory assembly three Christian evangelists who proclaimed that the only solution to terrorism was to “kill Islam,” I decided to see what had changed. Not much, several Christian cadets told me. “Now,” Hrabak said, “we’re underground.” Then he winked.

Again, the target isn’t a single religion, it’s all of it. It needs to go. One of the more frightening asides in the article was this:

3. Warren’s bestseller sometimes displaces Scripture itself among military evangelicals. In March 2008, a chaplain at Lakenheath, a U.S. Air Force–operated base in England, used a mandatory suicide-prevention assembly under Lieutenant General Rod Bishop as an opportunity to promote the principles of The Purpose-Driven Life to roughly 1,000 airmen. In a PowerPoint diagram depicting two family trees, the chaplain contrasted the likely future of a non-religious family, characterized by “Hopelessness” and “Death,” and that of a religious one. The secular family will, according to the diagram, spawn 300 convicts, 190 prostitutes, and 680 alcoholics. Purpose-driven breeding, meanwhile, will result in at least 430 ministers, seven congressmen, and one vice-president.

Obviously these ‘numbers’ were retrieved from that mysterious place where the sun don’t shine.

Here’s a high note, though:

Mikey Weinstein, for his part, doesn’t mind being called demonic by officers like Boykin. “I consider him to be a traitor to the oath that he swore, which was to the United States Constitution and not to his fantastical demon-and-angel dominionism. He’s a charlatan. The fact that he refers to me as demon-possessed so he can sell more books makes me want to take a Louisville Slugger to his kneecaps, his big fat belly, and his head. He is a very, very bad man.” Mikey—nobody, not even his many enemies, calls him Weinstein—likes fighting, literally. In 1973, as a “doolie” (a freshman at the Air Force Academy) he punched an officer who accused him of fabricating anti-Semitic threats he’d received. In 2005, after the then-head of the National Association of Evangelicals, Ted Haggard, declared that people like Mikey made it hard for him to “defend Jewish causes,” Mikey challenged the pastor to a public boxing match, with proceeds to go to charity. (Haggard didn’t take him up on it.) He relishes a rumor that he’s come to be known among some at the Pentagon as the Joker, after Heath Ledger’s nihilistic embodiment of Batman’s nemesis. But he draws a distinction: “Don’t confuse my description of chaos with advocacy of chaos.”

I think we need more Mikey Weinstein’s in this world. Of course, the ‘dog loves you unconditionally’ crowd responded with their usual ‘love thy neighbor’ tactics:

But as Mikey’s client base grows, so too do the ranks of his enemies. The picture window in his living room has been shot out twice, and last summer he woke to find a swastika and a cross scrawled on his door. Since he launched MRFF four years ago, he has accumulated an impressive collection of hate mail. Some of it is earnest: “You are costing lives by dividing military personnel and undermining troops,” reads one missive. “Their blood is on your hands.” Much of it is juvenile: “you little bald-headed fag,” reads an email Mikey received after an appearance on CNN, “what the fuck are you doing with an organization of this title when the purpose of your group is not to encourage religious freedom, but to DENY religious freedom?” Quite a bit of it is anti-Semitic: “Once again, the Oy Vey! crowd whines. This jew used to be an Air Force lawyer and got the email”—a solicitation by Air Force General Jack Catton for campaign donations to put “more Christian men” in Congress, which Mikey made public—“just one more example of why filthy, hook-nosed jews should be purged from our society.”

The abuse has become a regular feature of Mikey’s routine in public appearances. There’s a sense in which Mikey likes it—not the threats, but the evidence. “We’ve had dead animals on the porch. Beer bottles, feces thrown at the house. I don’t even think about it. I view it as if I was Barry Bonds about to go to bat in Dodger Stadium and people are booing. You want a piece of me? Get in line, buddy. Pack a lunch.” Mikey sees things in terms of enemies, and he likes to know he’s rattling his.

Charming. Again, there’s religion, bringing out the best in people.

It’s a huge article, so I’ve only quoted snippets. But it’s downright scary – the military should be entirely secular. Mind you, secular, not religion-free – that would be a violation of the SOCAS, to encroach on people’s rights. But the freedom of religion also constitutes a freedom from religion, otherwise the former would be meaningless.

In the meantime, be afraid. Because extremists with guns are taking over the military. And that bodes well for no one except those who march in lockstep with them.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday Funny – Seth McFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy

I’ve always enjoyed McFarlane’s sense of humor (especially when it comes to religion – I wonder why, hehehehe).

Anyways, here’s a REAL good clip:




Sunday, November 01, 2009

With The Feel Of Death’s Breath Upon Our Napes, What Tales We Spin

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!yerka_450

That quarter of the year is upon us now: when Fall’s chill threatens Winter’s white cold, and the snow and darkness remind us of our mortality.

As we are the creatures who are self-aware, and from that springs our awareness that each of us will end some day, we as a species draw strange maps of nowhere, calling upon vague shadows to hear our supplications, and some among us will lay claim to that most ephemeral of claims, the mantle of immortality.

In some ways, it is to be expected. We see our loved ones pass – we watch also the passage of strangers and acquaintances alike. It is a foible, this superstition that we tell our neural pathways, this insistence that we should rise, become some other, wisps of energy to be reunited by other wisps, to whisper to those that have gone before, and say hello, I’ve missed you sorely, and that the pain of passage is assuaged, we are all together now, as it should be.

It is also only human, to hope for a redress of the grievances visited upon us by others in this short-lived life, and to imagine there are reckonings amid the shadows and dark places.

Such are the banes of consciousness. The human animal perceives that there’s a beginning to its life, and after some years, an end. But also observes that many things in nature run in cycles, and deludes itself that there’s some cyclic undercurrent as to the state of consciousness, and sees also the inherent unfairness of having learned so very many things, and the knowledge ending upon death. (Of course this can be passed on to others of the pack, but still, it seems unjust.)

So it is the onset of winter that our (some of us blatantly, others subliminally) thoughts may turn to ending. We see the four season in ourselves, microcosmically: spring as birth, summer as youth, fall as middle age, winter as dotage.

As the animal who perceives, we spin tales, we construct elaborate rituals and dances, some of us dancing widdershins upon the heath and jump the bonfire and telling old rumors like true stories, others among us hide within stone walls and sackcloth and print voluminous tomes that recount badly remembered cautionary tales from another age, and yet others unfold and create metaphorical origami that is pleasant to the ear and the mind’s eye but anachronistic and of little use in reality.

And to forestall the inevitable end, we build cathedrals and monuments and graveyards and mausoleums to the beloved dead, and useless monks intone futile hymns to the unproven afterlife, in hopes of shoring up some form of invisible capital like karmic interest, and preparing a road where none lay.

Life is precious, and its passing sadness. But denying death and claiming life everlasting has led to naught but madness.

While there is no soul, life is good, there is no hole in us that cannot be filled by ourselves. We are all stardust dancing in this cloak of flesh, and the loss of the supernatural is a boon to the heart, and we dance, awkwardly or with grace, to the end, smiling, for life has been good for it has been there, and the inevitable quiet is to be embraced and not feared, for a human end should be soft and calm and good, to be painless it is hoped, and a life fully lived need not be shot through with regrets.

I hope your Halloween was a happy one, and may all your tricks be kind ones, and all your treats be pleasant both before and after.

Till the next post, then.