left biblioblography: April 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Urethra Franklin And D.A.R.E

Here’s a nice little medley from LooseCannonComedy:



Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pro-Life/Anti-Life: The Frippery Of Framing And Overreaction.

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!2008-11-14-speciesist-bigot

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’ –Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll.

I may have mentioned this before, but I’ll bring it up again:

I am both pro-life and pro-choice. Not necessarily in that order.

I admit freely and without qualms, that I am a speciesist. In that vein alone, I am bigoted. I am a bigot towards my own species. It is not that I consider lesser species to be our slaves, toys, or any other ridiculous thing. I simply value human beings above other animals. As such, I do lend value to human embryos, zygotes, blastocysts, or other variations of how a child comes to be.

Hold it right there.

This isn’t meant to be an insinuation, an inference, an implication, that any of these stages have attained the value of personhood, especially contrasted with person of the mother. The woman gets a choice. Simple enough?

My point here, is that through all these years of blogging, I’ve seen numerous EPIC FAIL arguments because of the intense polarization of the dispute. And as polarizing arguments go, both sides go too far. Ours as well as theirs. I’ll cite a few:

A. The growing child in the womb is a parasite.
This fails spectacularly, because actually, parasites don’t detach from the host, grow up, and end up taking care of the host in the host’s golden years.
B. Anybody who is pro-life is a practitioner of ‘sperm magic’
Again, fails. Sperm is only one component, so this is the logical fallacy of composition, not to mention a strawman. I find this particularly obnoxious, so do avoid this stupidity.
C. Accusations of ‘ensoulment’. I don’t need supernatural tendencies to value a child, or the beginnings of a child.

I’m sure numerous others will be brought up, and I’ll deal with those on a case-by-case basis. Here’s the point that grinds my gears:

It’s not a ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ situation. To clarify, the two sides of the issue go to ridiculous extremes. The pro-lifers holler that an embryo has full personhood value, the pro-choicers holler that it has zero. (This is also the fallacy of the false dichotomy.) As it is in real life, the actual answer lies somewhere in-between. As does my point. It’s natural, a part of the human condition, that we go to extremes. You, me, everybody, in some order, in some way, we all go overboard. And on polarizing issues, well, the extreme is almost cliché.

I can pretty much get an all around agreement that the majority of readers here love children. Why do we? Because of all the near-magical possibilities, the potentialities that can reach into the future. Most cultures are based on potentialities anyways, that foresight, looking to the future. And there are fewer more powerful symbols of that than children.

And while being pro-choice as well, I can haul out an extreme (but extremely possible) example: if say a woman who was two days away from giving birth went nutso, and decided that she was carrying the Antichrist, and wanted it cut out of her, there’s no way I could stand by and mumble that I was ‘pro-choice’, because obviously this lady’s brain has landed somewhere south of Pluto and obviously she isn’t fit to make a decision of that import.

And let’s face it: abortion is a no-win situation. Nobody’s in favor of it ‘just because’ – there’s long-term ramifications that have to be examined on a case-to-case basis. Tubular pregnancies, incestual rape (or any rape for that matter), drug addiction – it’s a necessary evil. Not a cause for celebration for anyone. The biggest concern is poverty – because being poor means a lack of education, lack of security, lack of everything that would be optimal for a child’s upbringing. Concerns such as birth control, religious folderol, and varied other variables put forth by the far right in their efforts to control the common woman.

So a wee bit o’ advice: the next time you (figuratively) inhale to bellow at some nimbulb who’s blattering on about abortion, take a bit of a breath, and think first. It’s natural to take the other side of the argument and go to extremes (I’ve done it too, guilty!) – but we promote ourselves as the rational ones, and it behooves us to walk the talk as such.

And that, dear readers, is my nickel’s worth. Spend it freely, or sock it away for a rainy day.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Funny – NewsRadio

I used to really enjoy this old show – NewsRadio. Apologies for the video’s graininess, then again, I didn’t post it. Truly a classic comedy moment:



Saturday, April 17, 2010

Signs Of Ubiquity – We Are (Slowly) Becoming More Accepted

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!rohvarfantomex

So often are we embroiled in contextual as well as metaphorical battle with the minions of religious darkness, that we sometimes neglect to notice that the world is advancing. True enough, it is halting, it is sporadic, but the days of torches and pitchforks at the door seems to become more a thing of the past, and those of us that aren’t supernaturally dysfunctional needn’t develop cricks in our necks by glancing over our shoulders constantly. 

I stumbled upon this little gem recently, and found it cool.

This is a panel from a graphic novel from Marvel, a part of the Dark Reign story arc. More specifically, the gentleman in white is one Fantomex, and the other fellow (without the mask) is Noh-Varr. The synopsis can be found at this link, as this is just an example of what I am speaking to.

Now for a personal anecdote. I’ve been unemployed since February of 2009, and just recently, I was contacted by the US 2010 Census for work. I took the test (and scored pretty high too), and called them every couple of weeks to see what was up. Finally, I fielded a barrage of calls from them after months of silence, and this last Friday (April 16th), I was sworn in. As the group I was in was walked through the folder full of governmental documents, we came to the swearing-in document. Upon reading it, the code words “So help me God” caught my eye. The Asian gentleman who was giving us the run down was reading it off to us prior to the swearing-in. Oh crap, I thought silently, here we go. I raised my hand. “Yes?” “I’m an atheist.” The older fellow responded, “So?”, but his (much) younger assistant popped up with, “I can give him the alternative oath.” So as the rest of the group (9 people) were swearing and affirming to uphold the constitution “so help me god”, I was off to the side, using almost the same oath verbatim, sans the nod to on high. The only response outside of this was one elderly retired woman snorting derisively, but everyone else took it in stride. Once done, we were trained on how to fingerprint people (as we will be spending an entire day fingerprinting other enumerators), and there was no drama, no confrontations during or after the procedure. In fact, I had most of my co-workers alternately laughing or in stitches, and I let the snort go.

So, let’s try this gedankenexperiment – please share your positive experiences with other readers. Some time or another when you weren’t excoriated for your lack of religious dysfunction.

It might do you a bit of good – or me – or someone else. Masticate on it, and get back to me.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Christian Vs. Atheist (PC Vs. Mac Style)

There’s no disputing the logic:



Sunday, April 11, 2010

Allegories Gone Wild – Utopian Communism Of A Different Level…And Spooning!

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!spoons

There are strange, small pools of thought that emerge sporadically from the landscape of any culture. Oddities that come bobbing to the surface like so many bits of driftwood on the beach of obscurity, that do not enrage the heart but cause a furrowing of the brow and a stroking of the chin by the fingers.

One of these oddities was one John Humphrey Noyes.

Noyes was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, and was not even 21 before he started voicing his first "heretical" ideas. While studying at Dartmouth College, Andover Theological Seminary, and Yale Theological College he used his skills at theological argument. He combined this with his skill in religious science, and the common sense he had gained as a farmer, to “make the application of a revolutionary religious doctrine to everyday life, an application that produced a social revolution.”

Where have we heard that one before?

It was in his second year at Yale that he made his first theological discovery. He was trying to determine the date of the second coming of Christ, and determined it had already occurred. His conclusion was that Christ’s second coming had taken place in 70 A.D., and that “mankind was now living in a new age.” With this in mind he became increasingly concerned with salvation from sin and with perfection. He began to argue with his colleagues that unless man was truly free of sin, then Christianity was a lie, and that only those who were perfect and free of sin were true Christians. This internal religious crisis brought about a religious conversion within Noyes. From there he began to proclaim that he “did not sin.” The idea of Perfectionism—that it was possible to be free of sin in this lifetime—caused his friends to think him unbalanced, and he began to be called a heretic by his own professors. From the moment of his conversion Noyes maintained that, because he had surrendered his will to God, everything he chose to do was perfect because his choices “came from a perfect heart”. His theory centered around the idea that the fact that man had an independent will was because of God, and that this independent will came from God, therefore rendering it divine. The only way to control mankind’s will was with spiritual direction. And Noyes proclaimed “it was impossible for the Church to compel man to obey the law of God, and to send him to eternal damnation for his failure to do so.” Noyes claimed “his new relationship to God canceled out his obligation to obey traditional moral standards or the normal laws of society.” As a result Noyes started acting on impulses from his intuition rather than giving thought to the actions or consequences. On February 20, 1834, he declared himself perfect and free from sin. This declaration caused an outrage at his college, and his newly-earned license to preach was revoked.

This obsession with ‘perfection’ has laid many low, and may eventually be the downfall of the human race.

Upon his expulsion from Yale and the revocation of his ministerial license, he returned to Putney, Vermont, where he continued to preach, declaring, "I took away their license to sin and they go on sinning; they have taken away my license to preach but I shall go on preaching". At this time his Putney community began to take shape. It started in 1836 as the Putney Bible School and became a formal communal organization in 1844, practicing complex marriage, male continence and striving for Perfection.

Like so many people before him, upon being cast out by his peers, he went out and founded his own community:

Community structure

Even though the community reached a maximum population of about 300, it had a complex bureaucracy of 27 standing committees and 48 administrative sections.

The Oneida Community was a self-supporting enterprise. Its primary industries were the growing and canning of fruits and vegetables, the production of silk thread, and the manufacture of animal traps. They were the primary supplier of animal traps to the Hudson's Bay Company. The manufacturing of silverware, the sole remaining industry, began in 1877, relatively late in the life of the Community, and still thrives.Secondary industries included the manufacture of leather travel bags, the weaving of palm frond hats, the construction of rustic garden furniture, and tourism.

All Community members were expected to work, each according to his or her abilities. Women tended to do much of the domestic duties. Although more skilled jobs tended to remain with one person (the financial manager, for example, held his post throughout the life of the Community), Community members rotated through the more menial jobs, working in the house, the fields, or the various industries. As the Community thrived, it began to hire outsiders to work in these positions as well. They were a major employer in the area, with approximately 200 employees by 1870.

Interesting, but little more than a raised eyebrow.

Gender roles

As a goal subsidiary to achieving religious and social revivalism, Noyes believed that one of the major purposes of the Community was to regenerate relations between men and women, which he believed to be deteriorating in the larger society. In theory, males and females had equality and equal voice in the governance of the community.

However, scholars disagree about whether gender roles at Oneida were, on the whole, feminist or conservative. On the one hand, women were relieved of the special duties of childcare by a community nursery, which provided care for infants and children so that both parents could work. Females adopted a style of dress, believed to have been copied from the Iroquois, consisting of a short skirt over trousers (bloomers). This allowed them much greater freedom of movement than contemporary women's styles.

On the other hand, Marlyn Klee-Hartzell has shown that women were disproportionately assigned to tasks—like nursery duty, housekeeping, and laundry—that were traditionally considered women's work. Some women may have been required to wear bloomers against their will by Noyes, who believed that allowing women to wear dresses would make them materialistic.

Hmmm…some sexual equality, but a disparity between theory and practice is to be expected. Now here’s where it gets interesting -

Complex marriage

In theory, every male was married to every female. Status at Oneida was based on people's spirituality. Community members were not to have an exclusive sexual or romantic relationship with each other, but were to keep in constant circulation. To help prevent a "special love" from forming, each Community member had his or her own bedroom. This extended even to couples who came to the Community already married. A married couple entering the Community was not required or even encouraged to legally dissolve their union, but rather to extend the borders of it to the rest of the Community in complex marriage. The average female Community member had three sexual encounters, or "interviews", a week.

I would imagine that if they’d gotten farther than one generation, the diversity may have well broken down into the third and fourth generations, contingent on the restrictions of community.

Postmenopausal women were encouraged to introduce teenage males to sex, providing both with legitimate partners that rarely resulted in pregnancies. Furthermore, these women became religious role models for the young men. Likewise, older men often introduced young women to sex. Noyes often used his own judgment in determining the partnerships which would form and would often encourage relationships between the non-devout and the devout in the community, in the hopes that the attitudes and behaviors of the devout would influence the non-devout.

Interesting, and this sort of practice would have discouraged the raging ageism we see today.  Here’s where I get a tad irked:

Noyes believed that sex had not only biological, but social and spiritual purposes as well. To Communitarians, it was yet another path to perfection. Generally, it was believed that older people were spiritually superior to younger people, and men were spiritually superior to women. Noyes and his inner circle were at the top of this hierarchy in the Community. In order to improve oneself, one was only supposed to have sexual relations with those spiritually superior. This was called "ascending fellowship." Once a Community member had reached a certain level (usually determined by Noyes and his inner circle), they were then to turn around and practice "descending fellowship" with those Communitarians trying to work their way up.

The idea of ‘perfection’ seems to always include some hierarchal concept of superiority – and I myself have met many older men and women who were anything but ‘superior’ in any way.

I found this intriguing:

Mutual criticism

Every member of the community was subject to criticism by committee or the community as a whole, during a general meeting. The goal was to eliminate bad character traits. Various contemporary sources contend that Noyes himself was the subject of criticism, although less often and of probably less severe criticism than the rest of the community. Although this could sometimes be a harsh process, the majority of community members appreciated this criticism because it allowed them to try to better themselves.

I think a great many folks in this day and age should embrace criticism (as long as it’s constructive and not constrictive), but we tend to lead with our emotions and confuse our opinions with ourselves.

Here’s where it gets a little scary…


A program of eugenics, then known as stirpiculture, was introduced in 1869. It was a selective breeding program designed to create even more perfect children. Communitarians who wished to be parents would go before a committee to be matched based on their spiritual and moral qualities. 53 women and 38 men participated in this program, which necessitated the construction of a new wing of the Oneida Community Mansion House. The experiment yielded 58 children, nine of whom were fathered by Noyes.

Once children were weaned from breast milk (usually at around the age of one) they were raised communally in the Children's Wing, or South Wing. Their parents were allowed to visit, but if those in charge of the Children's Wing suspected a parent and child were bonding too closely to one another, the Community would enforce a period of separation.

This is truly illustrative of how a slippery slope argument actually does work. First, the environment is too controlled and structured. Second, interfering with a parent-child bond violates some serious ethical imperatives. Third, perfection of any sort is a plateau: you cannot by definition become more perfect – A. it’s an impossibility, and B. there’s utterly no yardstick for this falsehood.

Of course, since this community was too close-knit and too internally diverse in so many ways, it started to come apart at the seams (and you folks will love one of the factors):

The community lasted until John Humphrey Noyes attempted to pass the leadership of the Community to his son, Theodore Noyes. This move was unsuccessful because Theodore was an atheist and lacked his father's talent for leadership. The move also divided the Community, as Communitarian John Towner attempted to wrest control for himself.

Them durned atheists! And of course the eventual confusion about sex:

Within the commune, there was a debate about when children should be initiated into sexual rituals, and by whom. There was also much debate about its practices as a whole. The founding members of the Community were aging or deceased, and many of the younger Communitarians desired to enter into exclusive, traditional marriages.

Noyes had a penchant for the youngsters:

The capstone to all these pressures was the harassment campaign of Professor Mears, of Hamilton College. John Humphrey Noyes was tipped off by trusted adviser Myron Kinsley that a warrant for his arrest on charges of statutory rape was imminent. Noyes fled the Oneida Community Mansion House and the country in the middle of a June night in 1879, never to return to the United States. Shortly afterwards, he wrote to his followers from Niagara Falls, Ontario, advising that the practice of complex marriage be abandoned.

And the polygamy/polyandry/universal marriage thing came apart at the seams (a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one):

Complex Marriage was abandoned in 1879 following external pressures and the community soon broke apart with some of the members reorganizing as a joint-stock company. Marital partners normalized their status with the partners they were cohabiting with at the time of the re-organization. Over 70 Community members entered into a traditional marriage in the following year.

On a final note:

The joint-stock corporation still exists as of 2008 and is a major producer of cutlery under the brand name "Oneida Limited". In September 2004 Oneida Limited announced that it would cease all manufacturing operations in the beginning of 2005, ending a 124 year tradition. The company would continue as a marketer for products manufactured overseas. The company has been selling off its manufacturing facilities. Most recently, the distribution center in Sherrill, New York was closed. Administrative offices remain in the Oneida area.

Hence the ‘spooning’ joke in the title.

Thus endeth the history lesson. While Noyes had some interesting (and eclectic) ideas about communal organization, gender roles, etc., it is readily obvious that he would have failed regardless of whether religion was involved or not. However, it’s safe to say that religion usually ends up helping these oddballs screw the pooch even sooner.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tuesday Funny – MadTV

The ultimate birth control - Little Pilgrim (the subtitles are in what I assume is Dutch):



Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Greatest Story That Never Happened – A Dropkick In 3 Acts

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!lolbrb

By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out. - Dawkins

Today is that day the Christians hail as fundamental to their belief system, the resurrection of the larger-than-life mythical being we know as Jesus. In real life, we usually realize that when a story is chock full of ‘miracles’, it’s more likely than not what is termed a ‘fish story’ (to those of us who aren’t wide-eyed and gullible, that is). Until recently, we as a culture have been told ‘hands off’ when it comes to religious topics of any sort (unless they tend to be absolutely bugfuck crazythen it’s okay to mock) – but recent events as well as archeological discoveries have been the gale wind to knock down houses built on foundations of sand.

The first item on the agenda: the empty tomb. Somehow this has become one of those hoary old chestnuts we’re fed as children, inundated by cheery Xmas songs and the inculcated idea that the bible has any shred of veracity whatsoever. Yet, as we’ve seen over the past few centuries (as the religious tend to argue and war over petty items), nobody can seem to agree on where the damn thing is. The most basic point is best: this location would have been inundated by pilgrims from the get-go, especially if the mass conversion of many thousands in the Middle East was true. In fact, the standard measuring point in any form of historical veracity is the same as it is in the retail motto: location, location, location. Yet somehow this is overlooked in any discussion of the topic among the Christians.

Item two: the missing body. I think Richard Carrier puts it best:

In Acts' history of the Church, from the moment the Church first goes public, right in Jerusalem, nowhere do either the Romans or the Jews ever show any knowledge of a missing body, nor do they ever take any action to investigate what would only be to them a crime of tomb robbery and desecration of the dead (both severe death penalty offenses), or worse. The Gospel of Matthew even claims the Jewish authorities accused the Christians of such crimes before Pilate himself (Matthew 27:62-66, 28:4, 28:11-15). Although that is certainly fiction (as I have argued elsewhere, external and internal evidence confirms Matthew's story is a poetic and apologetic fabrication), it reflects what could not fail to have happened--if any body had gone missing.[17]

Since Christians were supposedly capitalizing on this fact, they would be the first suspects--or at least the second ones if (as the Gospels claim) Joseph of Arimathea was the last person known to have had custody of the body (Mark 15:43-46, Matthew 27:57-60, Luke 23:51-56, John 19:38-42). In that case he would be the first man hauled in for questioning. Yet he vanishes completely from this earliest history of the Church, as if no one knew anything about him, or he didn't exist at all. Though Christians would be suspects in a capital crime of grave robbery, and Acts records case after case of them being interrogated at trial before Jews and Romans on other offenses, never once in this history of the Church are they suspected of or questioned about grave robbery. It's as if there was no missing body to investigate, no empty tomb known to the authorities. Which means the Christians can't have been pointing to one. If they had, they would have been questioned about it (and possibly convicted for it, innocent or not). Yet Acts shows there were no disputes at all regarding what happened to the body, not even false accusations of theft, or even questions or expressions of amazement.

Thus, either Acts deliberately suppresses the truth about what happened to the body and what was really being argued, said, and done about it (which entails the truth must have been severely embarrassing to Christians), or there was no missing body and no one was claiming there was. In alignment with the latter conclusion are the facts already surveyed above, which suggest the original Christians were preaching that Jesus rose in an entirely new body, not the old one left in the grave, and the fact that Acts fails to mention any debate or discussion about any tomb being empty or any body being missing (e.g. it never occurs as an argument or a defense in any of the trials or debates it records).[18] Such an incident was evidently entirely missing from the history of the original Church.

The Romans would have had an even more urgent worry than body snatching: the Christians were supposedly preaching that Jesus (even if with supernatural aid) had escaped his execution, was seen rallying his followers, and then disappeared. Pilate and the Sanhedrin would not likely believe any of this resurrection or ascension nonsense (and there is no evidence they did), but if the tomb was empty, and Christ's followers were reporting that he had continued preaching to them and was still at large, Pilate would be compelled to haul every Christian in and interrogate every possible witness in a massive manhunt for what could only be in his mind an escaped convict (guilty of treason against Rome for claiming to be God and King, as all the Gospels allege: e.g. Mark 15:26; Matthew 27:37; Luke 23:38; John 19:19-22). And the Sanhedrin would feel the equally compelling need to finish what they had evidently failed to accomplish the first time (finding and killing Jesus). Yet none of this happens. No one asks where Jesus is hiding or who aided him. No one is at all concerned that there may be an escaped convict, pretender to the throne, thwarter of Roman law and judgment, dire threat to Jewish authority, alive and well somewhere, and still giving orders to his followers. Why would no one care that the Christians were claiming they took him in, hid him from the authorities, and fed him after his escape from justice (according to Acts 1), unless in fact they weren't claiming any such thing?

The best explanation of this strange omission is that the body was still in its grave, since then all the Christians' claims could be legally ignored. That's why those claims are dismissed as mere madness (Acts 26:24), involving no possible criminal charge of any kind under Roman law (e.g. Acts 18:12-17, 23:26-35). Otherwise, the crime of either robbing graves or aiding and abetting an escaped felon and royal pretender would certainly have been obvious grounds for an inquest or trial. Yet neither occurs. Thus, if Acts records any truth about the history of the first Church, its narrative all but entails there was no empty tomb, the body of Jesus was not missing, and that the earliest Christians, including Paul, were instead preaching a resurrection by transfer to a new body, residing in heaven (at least after the Pentecost), a fact known only by private revelations and interpretations of scripture.

Item three: the evidence of absence, or an argument from silence. We know of Julius Caesar quite well, for instance. There are statues and coins a-plenty. He wrote quite a few items – memoirs, some poetry. His enemies spoke/wrote of him, as did his extensive family. Yet the Christians make the claim that Jesus was indeed a historical figure, more so than any other. Yet there is a dearth of evidence surrounding this mystery figure. Of forty historians of that time period, not a word. Not from Philo Judaeus, nor Seneca the Elder or the Younger, not from Velleius Paterculus nor Livy. For someone who allegedly attracted droves of followers (so many that some were trampled underfoot), this is a suspicious silence. Josephus mentions him (among numerous other Jesii), but contemporary sources fall silent. Note that Flauvius was born seven years post ex facto, and brief mentions of rumors heard do not an account make. There is indeed, not one written account from an external source who looked in the face of our mystery man – no one who wrote about that day on Golgotha, or sat and ate a meal with him. Not a whisper. It’s well-established fact  that the Synoptics were written well past the given date by a century or more of the alleged event.

And there you have it. Three simple items that would not only make the less gullible amongst us pause, but those of us who have a sharpened sense of critical analysis laugh out loud. But it is difficult, when the meme has had centuries to take deep root, and the resistance squashed by those who claim to practice ‘turn the other cheek’ but in reality cannot internalize the concept.

Welcome to the 21st century, where finally these anachronistic superstitions will be laid to rest in a shallow, unmarked grave.

Till the next post, then.