Plots and Thoughts

Letters to God – A Christian Insult

Posted in Art, Musings, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 24, 2010

Billed as a Christian movie, the trailer reaches down and touches something primal with me.

“Hope is Contagious” is the tagline.  Hope?  HOPE? I’m sorry, does the 8 year old live and beat his cancer?  Does God get the fuck off his cloud and decide to spare a young child a slow and torturous death as his own body kills him from within?

No of course not.

Instead we’ll be treated to wooden acting and empty assurances that the big guy is up there looking after us and deserves our faith.  Of course he does.  Nothing says “holy” like a being that let’s children suffer and die.

Disagree?  Go ahead.  Respond.  I triple fucking dog dare you.  What are you going to say?

  • We don’t know God’s plan.
  • There’s a heaven so its all good.
  • We are the sinners and cannot judge God.

Let me beat each of those sorry ass excuses into the sludge from which they spring.

We don’t know God’s plan

An argument from ignorance?  Fan-fucking-tastic.  What possible plan could he have that involves doing things we would never do?  Humans aren’t supposed to be morally superior to the supreme being, but here I am right now, not murdering and torturing people with cancer.  But hey maybe God wasn’t smart enough to figure out a way to “test” us without torturing some kids to death.  By the way, can you conceive of a “test” that is worth this level of suffering?  Oh you still believe even though God took away your loved one?  Great.  Here’s an A+ and a sticker.  Tell you what, you keep your stellar grades, I’m off to find a teacher who isn’t a psychotic violent prick.

There’s a heaven so its all good

Ends justify the means huh?  So if I slice open your arm, then teach you how to sew it back up, that’s ok right?  I’m teaching you!  Or if I punch you until you are wobbling from a concussion, only to attack you further.  But if I’m teaching you how to fight, that’s ethical right?  If getting to heaven is so fucking amazing, then why don’t we just kill everyone at birth when they are still innocent?  After all, we are such sinful creatures in the eyes of a Christian fundamentalist.

This is grade A bullshit.  Not only do we instinctively reject the notion that “by any means necessary” is ethically valid, we would never engage in such behavior ourselves.  Once again we are more ethical than God.

We are the sinners and cannot judge God

Of course we can.  A thief in the dirt can still judge a murderer on a mountain top.  Even if one accepts the ridiculous notion of original sin, and lives by the backwards moral code that reduces harmless urges to sins and considers harmful actions and bigotry righteous – one can still recognize the sin in causing others to suffer.

Gah, were does this leave us?

I can say where it leaves me.  I oscillate  between belief in God and atheism.  It is hard to reconcile the quantity and quality of suffering in the world with an all knowing, all powerful, all loving being.  Manipulative dreck like this  does nothing to deal with the very serious and important questions that arise from contemplation of suffering.  All it does is seek to score abominable street cred by pretending God only exists in the efforts of people to come together and deal with suffering compassionately and bravely.  God is also responsible for that suffering – a biblical nod to Stockholm Syndrome perhaps.

This movie is insulting to Christians as well.  There is a long and proud history of Christians attempting to deal seriously with the Problem of Evil.  It isn’t a subject to exploit for evangelical purposes.  It is a topic one must either approach with the humility necessary to honor those who feel evil’s effect directly, or with the humor necessary to keep sane those who battle it constantly.  To treat it with faux seriousness in order to convert the vulnerable and naive is contempt worthy.

A movie like this deserves only one thing – to be utterly destroyed on Pajiba.  I’m crossing my fingers.

Why Be Tolerant? Fun With Religion!

Posted in Musings, Observations by Captain Optimistic on December 2, 2009

Pastor Dan advises us to beware of tolerance!

But tolerance means something completely different today.  Most of the time you hear the tolerance doctrine taught in the world today, whether in schools or in the media, it means that we are to accept all values, beliefs, lifestyles and truth-claims as equal.

I agree!  This of course, leaves the good Pastor’s own beliefs in a vulnerable position.  There is no non-circular reason to believe in the Bible, and plenty of reasons to reject the anti-gay anti-women bigotry it espouses. Especially, and above all else, there is reason to reject the notion of an arbitrary, jealous and violent micro-manager vision of God.

Here’s the catch:  when it comes to people, we are indeed to be loving and gracious toward others, bearing with things we don’t like.  But when it comes to truth and holiness, we dare not tolerate sin or compromise God’s holy standards.  God’s Word is our standard.  It is absolute truth!

Loving? – ALWAYS!   Tolerant of sin and unbiblical values? – NO!  It’s time for Christians today to stand up for truth and righteousness in America!

Let’s give Pastor Dan credit and join with him in committing ourselves to being loving and gracious towards others.  It is a wonderful sentiment and a powerful  act of social responsibility and compassion.  Yet this very call, to be loving and gracious, urges us to stand up to the Christians who are stamping their boots down on the throat of religious liberty in this country.  When a Christian cites biblical reasons for attacking women’s health care, gay rights we need not and should not worry about being tolerant.  We should be direct.  The problem is with their backwards religious text.

The Bible sanctions murder and rape.  It views women as second class citizens, and offers up the death sentence for a range of “infractions” that are decidedly non criminal.  Its barbaric and out of date.  So why be silent?  If Christians can calmly observe they have the truth and we are going to burn, let us just as calmly respond that they have nothing but lies and willful ignorance.

Evolution, Religion and Bullshit

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on November 19, 2009

Gather round for a lesson in poor reporting.  The NYTimes has an article on the relationship between evolution and religion, and wow do they make a zinger of a mistake (I’ve gone ahead and highlighted the stupid for your convenience):

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

Let’s look at the fallacies:

  • Failure to consider co-evolved vs evolved traits
  • Failure to consider vestigial traits

If the traits necessary to support religion did evolve for a purpose, what proof do we have that purpose still persists to this day?  Or that those traits are the best solution?

It is easier to see from hunter-gatherer societies how religion may have conferred compelling advantages in the struggle for survival. Their rituals emphasize not theology but intense communal dancing that may last through the night. The sustained rhythmic movement induces strong feelings of exaltation and emotional commitment to the group. Rituals also resolve quarrels and patch up the social fabric.

What effects do rituals have today?  How does this kind of tribalism and tendency to follow the leader play out in today’s global society?  Looking at religion through the lens of an evolved trait lends it an additional appearance of usefulness and legitimacy.

All this allows that the traits which support religion evolved directly, and didn’t co-evolve with other directly beneficial evolutionary traits.  Following the logic present in Nicholas Wade’s article, one might consider anything from red hair to armed conflict to be “evolved”.  They too have “occurred in societies at every stage of development”.

This article is one in a long line of “gee golly” articles meant to lend religion the legitimacy of science.  They let faith put on a labcoat and call itself doctor.

Could the evolutionary perspective on religion become the basis for some kind of detente between religion and science? Biologists and many atheists have a lot of respect for evolution and its workings, and if they regarded religious behavior as an evolved instinct they might see religion more favorably, or at least recognize its constructive roles

Religion can be viewed, and judged, within the context of its impact on society today and historically.  The addition of pseudo-scientific hypothesis about religion as an evolved trait will not clarify the debate over the role of religion in society.  It can only muddy the water.  And at some point we must question why so many of religion’s proponents feel the need to dip into trickery and dishonesty to prop up their cosmology. And we must re-evaluate our own responses keeping that tendency in mind.  Especially when responding to apologists who hide under a guise of science.

 

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Sao Paulo – This is What Theocracy Looks Like

Posted in Musings, Observations by Captain Optimistic on November 17, 2009

Roman Catholic Sao Paulo, Brazil, has decided to give us Americans a jolly preview of theocracy in action:

Outrage over female sexuality?  Check:

A video showed Arruda sitting in a classroom in a mid-thigh length red dress, then six military police officers protecting her as she left the campus wearing a white jacket. A line of students stood by chanting “whore.”

Another video showed a mob stopping and kicking her car and blocking her when she tried to escape on foot.

In fact, violence over female sexuality.

Uniban said it had also suspended a number of students identified by video footage and witness accounts of taking part in the violence last month. The university’s legal advisor said Arruda had been expelled for “gestures” and “attitudes” she had manifested rather than because of her short outfits. He would not give details.

Of course he wouldn’t give details.  He’s full of shit.

There’s something deeply wrong with people who get angry and violent over the sexuality of others.  There is also something deeply wrong with a belief system that encourages the transformation of the natural into the hated and feared.

So much of religious conservatism is about denying the aspects of human sexuality that go against painstakingly constructed myths – the same myths used as social livestock fencing for centuries.

When we go beyond rules of civilization and morality to deny who we are and what we allow our neighbors to be we provide the kindling the hate and violence.  These kinds of beliefs are fundamentally at odds with equality and justice.

How could anyone believe they were born of a divine source?

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