left biblioblography: July 2012

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Imaginary Accountant–The Lamer Explanation Of Why Life Slaps Us Around

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis

godsufferingTo be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? – Hamlet

It was some time ago, but not measured in decades – when I used to think this silly thought. When my life was going horribly, I would lay awake nights trying to figure out, just exactly what had I done, to deserve some of the shit that would transpire in that roller-coaster we call life. Everyone prefers to be going up. Most people aren’t too thrilled about going down.

It’s a question that’s plagued mankind since…well, since whenever. Maybe that dim thought some troglodyte had as he shivered in his cave: why didn’t I get that female? How come some predator ate my foot? Why do all the other cavemen do better at hunting and gathering?

It’s the clarion call of the self-absorbed: why me? (Because, let’s face it folks – as a species, we tend to be more than a tad introversive.)

The best answer is; shit happens. It just does. We can drill down deep into the reservoirs of human philosophy, cobble up some pretty weird and complex explanations, but the best response is always, poo-poo occurs.

It took me a goodly amount of time to figure this out (some 40+ years, give or take). I’d have figured it out a lot quicker if the supernatural nonsense had been subtracted from the equation at an early age.

And let’s face it. It’s easier to blame someone, sometimes ourselves (because that’s the usual culprit), or another entirely.

Personally, I prefer to live by the concept that it’s best not to speak ill of another in the workplace, because you can really fuck up someone’s life inadvertently.

So I can’t help but get more than a little pissed off, when some dimwit starts blaming the weather or climate on humanity’s flaws, or rattles off some idiotic biblical verse (the usual gist of which is that everybody’s fucked up, it’s their own fault they’re fucked up, even though they were supposedly made that way) to illustrate why our lives are so tangled up, or try to blame the deaths of thousands/millions on some sex act their “perfect religion for the imperfect person” despises.

The thought of there being an invisible ledger being kept in some etheric elsewhen, where all injuries are jotted down and all debts are being penned in red ink, is somewhat comforting to the naïve mind. This is commonplace in all religious thought. Even in Buddhism, one of the religions I can mildly relate to, has this concept, the term that  everyone bandies about is ‘karma’. There’s even ‘great karma’, ‘mediocre karma’, and bad karma.

Because eventually, to the naïve mind, their [insert cosmic power/being here] will descend from on high (or reach up from down below), weigh and parse out the assholes and sociopaths, and put paid to said debt, and those left over (who of course are required to take some sort of spiritual SATs) will be rewarded for their trials and tribulations.

Sorry to say, this is all comic book crap. The major reason the Axis lost to the Allies, is that America had more resources to draw upon, not because we were ‘on the side of the angels’. People love the ‘good vs. evil’ metaphor, mostly because people are lazy thinkers. It’s an evolutionary mechanism: we tend to go for the easy meal.

But it boils down to this: we’re here, we live in fear, get used to it. And, as I am fond of quoting, “There’s nobody upstairs watching out for us. More’s the reason we should take of each other.”

Pardon my rambling, and thanks for listening.

Till the next post, then.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

‘Because The Devil Made Him Do It’–The Dark Knight Shootings, Who To Blame? Another Episode Of Scapegoat Theater…

warrenbraindead(Controversy courtesy of Pharyngula)

As many of you have no doubt already heard, some disturbed young man took it upon himself to gear up for war and go on a shooting rampage in a Colorado theater.

James Holmes, Colorado Shooter, Described as 'Normal' Christian Boy Amid Mental Health Investigation

James Eagan Holmes has been described as a shy and well-mannered young man by a neighbor, who claims the Colorado shooting suspect was heavily involved in his local Presbyterian church.

My personal response is the same as the Pekka-Eric Auvinen debacle. He was unhinged. Did religion drive him to do it? Of course not, any more than ‘evolutionism’ caused Auvinen to do as he did. My main issue is that religion doesn’t really do much of anything in this world, except give crazy people rationalizations to do what they’re going to do anyways. If we lose religion, that’s one less umbrella to hide under.

There are of course knee-jerk responses, in lieu of all the facts unknown (as of yet). Here’s a risible one:

Satan Rears Himself in Colorado Shootings

A piece I wrote last weekend on Christian businesses prompted a snarling response from a reader who clearly was no follower of the Son of God. “Hail Satan!” it closed.

I thought nothing of the comment, chalking it up to the hostility Christians sometimes face from non-believers. That is, until I saw the news reports of the horrific shootings today at a suburban Denver movie theater.

The suspected triggerman, 24-year-old James Holmes, will be described variously as “troubled” or “unstable” or “detached from reality.” But I am convinced that the young killer was operating under satanic influence. 

Of course, to attribute today’s murder spree in the Rock Mountain State to the supernatural machinations of the evil one is to invite ridicule from those who refuse believe there are demonic forces at work in this fallen world of ours.

But the Scripture warns us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

An invisible wrestling match? What an image that conjures up. And – who can rear themselves? There’s plenty of folks out there who’d never leave home if they could.

And Onenewsnow, those despicable fearmongering bible-thumpers? Who do they blame? Why, all the usual suspects:

I can't help but feel that to some extent, we're reaping what we've been sowing as a society. We said to God, "Get out of the public arena." Lawsuit after lawsuit, often by misguided "civil libertarians," have chased away any fear of God in the land -- at least in the hearts of millions.

The article goes on to echo all the hollow strawmans we’ve heard before – the Founding Fathers said this, nobody believes in hell anymore, and no matter how the language is couched, it boils down to one thing: their invisible, imaginary friend is a raging narcissist and sociopath, who will heap piles of eternal pain on you if you don’t insert your nose right up his imaginary ass and sing muffled hosannas to his intestinal tract. It’d be pathetic, if it weren’t so scary.

On the flip side of the coin, and just as ridiculous, is Debunking Christianity’s take on the mess:

Why James Holmes' Rampage is the Result of the Teachings of Christianity

It’s ridiculous: there’s no way to tell if Holmes would have done it (or not) had he been of any specific ideological bent. History has had its share of bloodthirsty lunatics. Mussolini was an atheist, Attila the Hun was an animist, Xavier was a Catholic, Torquemada was a Dominican, Charlie Manson a self-proclaimed messiah, Jim Jones another self-proclaimed messiah…the list goes on. What did all those people have in common? They were crazy enough to murder people to achieve their ends. Some were even nuttier than that. 

The breakdown is this: he was a lone loon. It wasn’t video games, or evolution, or religion that prompted him to go bugfuck crazy. It was a chemical imbalance that shorted out his circuits.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

More On The Madness Of Muslim: Xenophobic Flailings, And The ‘Religion Of Peace’ Is Failing…

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
moderate_muslimMuslims the world over whinge on about persecution and stereotypes, when the majority of the news seems to reinforce these epithets. Truly, the pedophiliac Muhammad did us all a disservice when he imprinted his delusions on the people around him, plaguing the world with yet another unique brand of crazy.

Timbuktu world heritage site attacked by Islamists

Islamists armed with Kalashnikovs and pick-axes have destroyed the centuries-old mausoleums of saints in the Unesco-listed city of Timbuktu in front of shocked locals, witnesses say.

The attack by the al-Qaida-linked Ansar Dine group came days after Unesco placed Timbuktu on its list of heritage sites in danger and will recall the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of two sixth-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.

"They are armed and have surrounded the sites with pick-up trucks. The population is just looking on helplessly," said a local journalist, Yeya Tandina.

Tandina and other witnesses said Ansar Dine had already destroyed the mausoleums of three local saints – Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi el-Mokhtar and Alfa Moya – and at least seven tombs.

"The mausoleum doesn't exist any more and the cemetery is as bare as a soccer pitch," a local teacher, Abdoulaye Boulahi, said of the Mahmoud burial place.

"There's about 30 of them breaking everything up with pick-axes and hoes. They've put their Kalashnikovs down by their side. These are shocking scenes for the people in Timbuktu," said Boulahi.

Ansar Dine backs strict sharia law, and considers the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam to be idolatrous. Sufi shrines have also been attacked by hardline Salafists in Egypt and Libya in the past year.

Locals said the attackers had threatened to destroy all of the 16 main mausoleum sites. The Unesco director general, Irina Bokova, called for an immediate halt. Late on Saturday, Tandina said Ansar Dine had halted the attacks. Attempts to contact members of the group were unsuccessful.

Ansar Dine has gained the upper hand over less-well-armed Tuareg-led separatists since the two joined forces to rout government troops and seize control in April of the northern two-thirds of the inland west African state.

The sites date from Timbuktu's golden age in the 16th century. Located on an old Saharan trading route along which salt from the Arab north was exchanged for gold and slaves from the south, Timbuktu blossomed as an Islamic seat of learning, home to priests, scribes and jurists.

Mali had in recent years sought to create a desert tourism industry around Timbuktu, but even before April's rebellion many tourists were being discouraged by a spate of kidnappings of westerners in the region claimed by al-Qaida-linked groups.

Unesco's world heritage committee said this week it had accepted the request of the Malian government to place Timbuktu on its list of endangered heritage sites.

"The committee … also asked Mali's neighbours to do all in their power to prevent the trafficking in cultural objects from these sites," it said.

The rebel seizure of the north came as the southern capital, Bamako, was struggling with the aftermath of a coup on 22 March.

Mali's neighbours are seeking UN backing for a military intervention to stabilise the country but security council members say they need more details on the mission being planned.

And who are the Ansar Dine, exactly? More insane shitheads:

The group seeks to impose sharia law across Mali, including the Azawad region. Witnesses have said that Ansar Dine fighters wear long beards and fly black flags with the Shahada (Islamic creed) inscribed in white. According to different reports, unlike the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Ansar Dine does not seek independence but rather to keep Mali intact and convert it into a rigid theocracy.

Oh, fucking joy. More nutters who want to dictate the terms of how others live. How droll, how novel – NOT.

To paraphrase Hitchens, you can pretty much get away with any fucking thing, if you don the robes of a holy man and declare that the voices in your head are divine revelation.

The fires of fanaticism need to be put out. The only better world, is one where nobody has to live in fear of their lives. And as long as we accommodate these madmen, this shall never be.

Till the next post, then.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Happy Birthday, USA! A Brief Commentary On What Was Intended, Vs. What Happened.

Cross posted @ the Atheist Oasis
SOCAS"My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." – Carl Schurz

July 4th has come and gone –and despite all of my country’s flaws, I am glad to be a citizen. There are few countries where you can step up to the stump and holler about indignities visited upon yourself and/or others; where the standard of living is high enough that one can, through education and perseverance, throw off the shackles of ignorance; we are a rich country, and a bootstrap one at that.True, we could go on at length about how America’s gains have been ill-gotten, that we as a nation have not always been at our best (or anyone’s guesstimate of best, to boot), and that there are dark underbellies to our past as well as present. We live in a state between utopia and dystopia, constantly evolving with the times (though sometimes it’s hit and miss).

It’s still a pretty great country, though.

A constant and consistent plaint from the religious side, is that things aren’t quite going the way the Founding Fathers envisioned the way it should be (it’s a continuation of the old Hume “is/ought” problem). Which is really quite amusing, as if any of these people have the slightest grasp of the dynamics of the group that formed this nation. Instead they have this idealized (fictional) version of some people who were so far above the ordinary man, they’re almost deified. There is no doubt that these men who helped found this nation were extraordinary for their times (even today, I have no doubt they would be exceptional) – but they were men. They had their flaws (Jefferson died in debt; Franklin was a bit of a lecher even into his 80’s; Paine and Adams loved their ale a bit much; the whole bunch of them actually never drank water, which they were convinced was bad for them, but were lit from dawn to dusk on grog).

For the most part, many of them were all for the Separation of Church and State (excepting Benjamin Rush, and maybe John Jay). Jefferson called it a wall, Madison termed it a ‘line’. But bring this up in a conversation with a religious person, and they’ll holler persecution, try to haul out some incomplete gibberish about what the ‘founding fathers’ intended, and whine about how people (usually ignorantly blaming the ACLU) are trying to strip religious beliefs and iconicity from our culture. When the fact of the matter is, is that the religious (read: WASPs and Catholics) have been having a field day for the last 2 centuries shoving their personal nonsenses into the public face. And of course, since none of them understand the difference between having the right to a belief as opposed to being shielded from the criticism of said belief, they tend to get upset as if it’s a personal attack.

For instance, the Ten Commandment courtroom displays are actually (surprisingly enough), recent enough to not fall under the purview of the ‘founding fathers’ umbrella. A large percent of them were put up in the 20th century. We all know about how IGWT on paper money long after these fellows passed away. The Pledge and ONUG was implemented during the Red Scare/McCarthy era. In fact, a huge percentage of the religious iconography was embedded into the culture at a much later date – again, long after all of the FF had been dead, buried, and halfway to dust.

The truth of the matter is, regardless of how much I despise religion, I would never dream nor sanction mistreatment of others based on their beliefs. Nor would I force my ideals upon them. That would be un-American. But it’s a two-way street.

My intent was not to re-interpret what was written: smarter people than I still wrestle with this issue daily. But to me, what the Founding Fathers wrote was (for the most part) unambiguous. America was meant to be secular – this is the state in which all diverse ideologies can survive and live in peace. To be partial to one, is to be biased against the others. So: no favorites. Everybody gets a seat at the table, everyone gets a say. The preference is that rationality should be the prevalent mindset, but that is still decades away, but getting closer.

So, as always: fight the good fight, shout down the madness. But never forget, as Paine once put it so eloquently, “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

Till the next post, then.