Saturday, September 02, 2006

48th Carnival of the Godless

Welcome to the 48th installment of Carnival of the Godless. I must admit that I have never contributed to CotG myself, however, I have been an avid reader. First, a word about my blog, Deep Thoughts. I write about whatever I care about. At the moment, its my 26 years living as an atheist, photography, art, culture, nutballs, and my pet peeve, Christians who think they should rule the world. But, enough about me, let's start the Carnival with a poem:

Gadfly of The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly penned this ode to Olympic National Park:

Mount Olympus stands enshrouded,
Wrapped in a wreath of cloud.
Pull back the cumuli, and what do you see?


This would be hard to top but the prolific Gadfly delivers with this second effort entitled Beaches of Faith. I read it five times in silence - then twice aloud - Thanks Gadfly, your work is uplifting.

The ocean surge constrained by lurking volcanic headlands,
Brackets questions of ebbing faith within a particular context.
Faith in what? About what? For what? To what end?

One of my most favorite quotes is "Specialization is for Insects". It would seem that Gadfly has taken this quote to heart. Gadfly's poems are excellent, while his blog provides a diverse and interesting experience to the casual reader.

The Ridger, of the language, liberalism, freethinking themed blog, The Greenbelt. offers a book review for our consideration. Not the End of the World is a novel by Christopher Brookmyre. The book is about... oh heck, read the review for yourself. Here is a snipit.

No, it's not about them (ed. fundamentalists). Exactly. What it's about is the people who are in their way. You know: the sinners in that old chestnut "hate the sin, love the sinner" (which, as the book points out, is so hard it always turns into just plain hate). An LA cop (mentioned in Quite Ugly...), a Scottish photographer, an oceanographer, and a porn star - well, an ex-porn-third lead. They're the heroes, and they're in that large group of people the bad guys - led by a charismatic fundamentalist preacher who once ran for president - decide can be sacrificed to save the world. Because...

What is another term for big words? Oh, large words. This next post is full of large words and even larger ideas. The Collectivist Assumption of Depravity - as I slowly reach for the dictionary, I steel myself for the intellectual battle to come, I start with the title. Collectivist = the political principle of centralized social and economic control. Assumption = the act of taking for granted or supposing. Depravity = moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles. My conclusion after reading the title of this heady piece - Francios Tremblay went to a better school than I did.

So what is the natural state of human groups? Is it, as the collectivists claims, a state of immorality and brutal violence, upon which their “outside” morality must be imposed to restore order and peace? Is it a nihilistic oblivion?

The American Talliban strikes at defenseless ancient stone carvings in far off Qajartalik Island Canada. Babbler of See you at Enceladus asks why fundamentalist Christians have No Respect for the Past. It seems fear and primitive superstitions have reared their ugly heads in a Tallibanesque form - killed that which competed with it, much like the Catholic Missionaries did with the Druids of old Ireland.

If the archeologist’s accusation is true, then this is more an petty vandalism. This is an attack against the common heritage of humanity. They have ruined irreplaceable artifacts, of a peoples who can no longer protect them.

I am sure we will hear that this was purely the act of some deranged Christian sect and not in any way associated with mainstream Christianity. Now, where did I put those sarcasm tags?

Few things are more frustrating than discussing religion with a true believer who falls back on his or her divine experience to justify belief in God or the superiority of their religion. Jeff at A Nerds Country Journal reckons that using divine personal experience is a bit of a copout. In his submission Personal Religious Revelation As Evidence for God he explores the problems with this concept.

....they are common to humans throughout the world, in a variety of religious traditions. A Hindu feels that same subjective sense of God as strongly as you do, as strongly as a Muslim does, as strongly as a Mormon does, as strongly as those Aztec Sun-God Worshippers did. Can you doubt that their strong subjective religious feelings were as valid and as powerful as yours? That they believed as completely as you do? How can one tell the difference between the "real" sense of God you feel as a Christian from the "false" sense of God felt by that Muslim, Hindu, Aztec, or Mormon?

Personally, I think it is quite easy to have a personal religious revelation. All one needs is an unscrupulous youth pastor, a liberal amount of LSD, peer pressure, and a lengthy backpacking trip in the Sierras. I must tell this story at some point in the future.

My favorite Atheist read, the blog Atheist Revolution, contributed a short but powerful post called The War on Reality by vjack. I recently heard this concept referred to as truthyness, "the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts". Truthyness is like believing that abstanance is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies even though the facts suggest that the morning after pill radically reduces unwanted pregnancies. vjack nails the concept in his post.

If I had to select one thing that frustrates me about Christian extremists more than anything else, it would be their apparent inability to separate belief from truth. Believing that I can lift my car over my head does not make it true no matter how much I believe it. Believing that I have a soul does not make it true no matter how strongly I believe it. It appears that the Christian extremist concludes that anything they believe strongly enough becomes part of reality...

I wrote a short post on this myself a few days back, Doubting Scientific Truth - a Christian friend posted on the same topic from a reformed perspective about a year ago. This subject scares me, after all, the people who run America subscribe to this nonsense.

Fellow science fiction fan and Geocacher, Martin of Salto Sobriu submits a blog post by guest blogger Jim Benton called Jim Benton on Divine Free Will. To quote Martin "Everybody knows that a belief in divine omnipotence carries with it a series of logical conundrums. But, as this entry shows, so does the idea of divine omniscience."

God -- your favorite monotheistic omniscient deity -- knows, along with everything else, the results of his own actions. And he/she/it/they has a "plan for the Universe." (It isn't reasonable to assume that such a deity is just a spectator, watching to see how things turn out because "he" -- let's make things easy -- knows the answer already.

I do not contemplate the nature of god much - I don't believe there is a god. However, unless one falls back on the "God is unknowable" copout to explain things, the arguments constructed by Benton are similar to the twisted thought process I went through when I became an atheist many years ago. I enjoyed this article.

If I can take one thing away from the process of putting together this issue of Carnival of the Godless, it will be that I found Letters From A Broad. This is a truly enjoyable blog written by C.L Hanson about her experiences as a friendly American ex-Mormon (exmo) Atheist mom living in France. Part of the attraction is that I identify with her. I lived and worked for a year in France a few years ago. Ironically, I worked with a devout Utah Mormon named Hanson. Additionally, back in the day, I dated a Mormon girl for nearly a year and suffered through a never ending trip down the logical rabbit hole know as Mormonism.

C.L. Hanson submitted a story in three acts about her experiences with Mormon Missionaries (mishies) while living in France:

Act One - The Mishies and Me: Cultural Mormon nostalgia

So a subtle distinction like whether a given person believes it's real or not seems like a big deal to you. But here in France, Mormonism is so freakishly rare that it makes sense that all of us "cultural Mormons" should stick together.

Act Two - The Mishies and Me II: The Revenge & The Mishies and Me: The rest of the Story

The So they told me a story about how they had had doubts as well when they were younger, and the one was telling me about how his father encouraged him to doubt and question. I agreed with him that it's important to seriously analyze and question your beliefs. I told them that for that reason I was making a point to see to it my sons would be exposed to different religions so they could make informed decisions about the subject.

Act Three - More musings on mishies

When the warriors of Truth (with a capital "T"!) discovered that I was a former Mormon yet not hostile towards Mormonism, they immediately assumed that I'd never tried very hard to believe in it. That's what I figured they'd conclude -- if they're confident that their beliefs are correct, that would be the most logical explanation for them of my situation.

I thoroughly enjoyed these posts. They took me back to the many long hours spent drinking beer with my designated Mormon driver and my devout Catholic friend, in the various Irish Pubs that infuse Paris with islands of English speaking sanity. No matter how illogical and fact challenged the Mormon religious may be, my friend's faith was unshakable. His was a faith founded in family connections and the fear of excommunication. Truth did not matter.

Hells Handmaiden attempts to draw a connection between Hitler, Saint Peter, and Christian culpability for Nazi atrocities. The Nazis and First Peter examines the meaning of bible passage 1 Peter 2:13:17 while asking the question "Did God tell the citizens of Germany to follow Hitler's orders?".

My point is not to point a finger at Christianity and blame it for the whole of what happened in Hitler’s Germany. There are complicated reasons for his rise to power and for his ideology. My point is this: Pious Germans “just followed orders” because God told them to follow orders.

My brain is flashing a skeptical "warning warning" as I read this post. I know enough of Christianity to know that the bible is full of other instructions that help believers live what they believe to be a godly life. Additionally, 1 Peter is not a commandment to follow blindly. Common sense dictates that Christians would understand the nature of evil that Hitler's existential will-to-power Nazi movement represented. Many Christians fought or objected to the Nazi's and died. Tying divine sanction to the support Hitler received from Germany's citizens absolves the citizens of individual responsibility for the horrendous decisions they made.

Relig-o-Matic by Fugginwad of Wad's Place is another post that I find myself at odds with. Fugginwad attempts to dissuade seekers by presenting a series of satirical "...important questions for which you should have definite answers before committing your life to this religion or that cult." Although I find Fugginwad's post funny, my political philosophy guides me towards acceptance of other's proclivities, even if they are Christians.

Number two: exactly what is the benefit package you will receive once you're dead, assuming you have fulfilled all organizational requirements and are a normal member? Are requirements negotiable? Are prizes awarded on a sliding scale? A lot of variation exists here so check around. And be sure to get it all in writing so in case something goes wrong you'll have recourse for your grievances.

Like I said... funny - but in conflict with my core libertarian values which can be summarized as "people are free to do as they please as long as they don't hurt me or others by their actions." So... people can believe in God or the six toed horned rabbit of Lakewood - I don't care and expend zero effort trying to convince them otherwise. I do care deeply about what I believe. However, preaching to seekers is too much like handing out bible tracts. It gives me shivers.

I'll conclude this issue of CotG with The Ridger of The Greenbelt's short but powerful post titled September Then and Now. Written to commemorate the anniversary of the start of WWII.

American journalist William Shirer was in Berlin as a correspondent for CBS Radio, and he wrote in his diary today in 1939:

"It has been a lovely September day, the sun shining, the air balmy, the sort of day the Berliner loves to spend in the woods or on the lakes nearby. I walked the streets. On the faces of the people astonishment, depression. Stunned."

But we just don't learn.

Wars everywhere. Chronic wars. Decades-long wars. Wars we cease to notice, and wars that suddenly flare up and catch our brief attention - until the next one comes along. We don't seem to be able to do so much: pay attention to it all, understand any of it ... stop it. And it does get worse.

This brings us to the end of the 48th Carnival of the Godless. CotG returns in two weeks on Sunday, September 17, 2006 at Grounded in Reality. I willingly pass the baton – because putting this together was quite a bit of work. Keep writing and keep sending your godless best to Brent Rasmussen. There are slots open for hosting duty of Carnival of the Godless. Check the site for open dates. This has been fun – maybe next time I’ll write something too!

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Anonymous said...

Hey Mojoey - great carnival, good on you for putting the effort in.

I've just tagged you with a book blog meme (see for when you've recovered from the hosting!

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks for including my little adventure with the missionaries in this carnival!!!

I'd like to make one small addition: it was actually a four-part series, and I think the missing one is probably the most entertaining of the lot: The Mishies and Me II: The Revenge.

This one is the first part of "Act II".

vjack said...

I can tell this carnival was a lot of work. You are the only one who can decide whether the effort was worthwhile, but I just wanted to tell you that I thought this one was outstanding. Excellent job!

Mojoey said...

vjack - this was great fun and a good diversion after a couple of hard weeks at work. I'll do it again for sure.

Lifewish said...

Great work!

Minor point: the Brookmyre book in question was "Not The End Of The World". His book "Boiling a Frog" also has quality religion-bashage.

Mojoey said...

LIfewish - thanks for the note. I corrected the link.