Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm not a witch, either

Illustration of Pendle Witches

I wonder if trick-or-treaters will be coming to Christine O'Donnell's house this weekend. She would be a particularly scary neighbor for many reasons, witchcraft being the least of them.

So anyway...

I was curious about the witchcraft persecution so I looked for some sites. I found some interesting stuff about European history, including my favorite period, ca. 1150-1300:

During the period I have studied, I learned about the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar Heresy. The Cathars were "heretics" who believed what is pretty much accepted by the fundamentalists of today: God & Satan are engaged in a war. They lived in the South of France, and they were stinking rich. They also had highly developed musical and poetic artistry, which also made them suspiciously un-Christian.

The Albigensian Crusade put an end to Catharism, supposedly. The Dominican Order had the charge of ensuring that only "correct" theology was available to Europeans. They apparently didn't care about the Eastern Orthodox Church or the North African & Middle East versions of Christianity. This probably wasn't a racist decision. *wink wink*

So under the guise of the Albigensian Crusade they could slaughter them and plunder their wealth, and then when they were through with them they went after the Muslims with a goal of taking over Jerusalem... and plundering the wealth of anyone in their way. Hey, in a Holy War you can pretty much do anything. In the Middle East there were Christians, but they were rather brown, spoke the wrong languages, and wore funny clothes, so they deserved to die. Killing Christians isn't wrong if they live in a desert. They also didn't deserve to be rich, so the fine knights of Europe brought back goodies when they were through.

What makes this period interesting to me is the art and culture that spread throughout Europe as those with the means to escape settled in Northern France and Germany. And contact with the learned Arabs of the Middle East brought Greek philosophy and mathematics to the nascent universities of Europe. If not for them there might not have been a 13th-Century Renaissance in Paris.

medieval illustration of knights fighting Arabs

Back to witches... Superstitious people who want to stay in power can believe or be made to believe almost anything. Not surprising considering the general stupidity of 99% of humanity.

But here's a scary statistic: Over the 160 years from 1500 to 1660, Europe saw between 50,000 and 80,000 suspected witches executed. About 80% of those killed were women.

Why would tens of thousands of women be more scary than their fathers, brothers, and husbands? Apparently, whenever things don't go your way, you can blame women you don't like and kill them to set things right. Connect them to an inconvenient thunderstorm or a tragic death in the community and voila! You're safe again! If they are practitioners of "traditional medicine," that's a good reason, too. And if they're mentally ill, they're possessed by devils and that's reason enough.

Today, "witches" are imprisoned in Africa. Praise be to the missionaries who brought Christianity to the heathens of Africa! People who wouldn't dream of resurrecting this superstition and its resulting murder, are going to Africa and other countries spreading the "Good Word." And this is the result.

You'd think that Christians would be on the forefront of putting an end to the persecution of the "witches" of Africa, considering the embarrassment of their history with this. After all, most are either mentally ill and thus deserving of pity, or practitioners of native healing "arts" and thus great targets for being "saved." But no, guess who is coming to the rescue? Secular Humanists! and

Most of the "witches" are elderly women, and children are the witnesses against them! WTF???

This is a perfect evolutionary tactic - dispose of the infertile women who are dragging down the community and put the next generation in charge even if it means putting words into their mouths.

...but oops... children aren't immune either:

SO ... is anyone safe from witchcraft hysteria? Anyone at all....?

Let's look at the evidence: Cathars, traditional healers, people we don't like, senile old women, a few old men, even children: victims

Adult men who are in positions of power: immune

If witchcraft really were a supernatural or heretical act, wouldn't men in positions of power be the first ones to go to witchcraft school? Why rely on trials, stoning, burning and mob violence to ensure nobody messes with their mojo? Just whip up a few incantations and put a hex on your enemies and then....

oh wait.... they do that. It's called "prayer." Apparently it's not as powerful as the incoherent babbling of senile old women.

If I lived in their world I'd be scared, too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Do you "love God?"

famous photo of Beatles fans being watched by security

This site is a hoot: It's supposedly a multi-religion site about loving your god, whoever he may be. Of course it's mainly Christians that go there. And how open-minded of them to acknowledge that all gods that are loved are equal. If they're all equal how can their god be the one true one? They can only be equal if they're all false!

So anyway...
It has a poll, do you love god? Naturally, I voted, just to see what the results were. The clever little site has rigged a pop-up text box to ask me why. So I answered:

God is a fairy tale, and I don't love fairy tales. Even if God weren't an amoral jerk who punishes the innocent, allows us to slaughter each other by the millions in his name, and "speaks" so ambiguously nobody can tell which of his holy "texts" is correct, I wouldn't love him because supposedly the purpose of having a god is to have someone who loves YOU. If he's an almighty omnipotent omniscent omnipresent non-corporeal force, he shouldn't have such a weak ego that he needs to be told how great he is every day. I don't love narcissists!

Apparently we are no supposed to tap into our oxytocin reservoirs to get flushed with ecstacy whenever we praise any god, not just jebus and his genocidal daddy.

The sadder thing, is that the pop-up also asks the cretins who vote "yes" why they love God. Here's a sampling of some of the pathetic answers:

  • anonymous loves God because God is there

  • AC loves God because he keeps me on the right path

  • because whenever I feel that I am at my lowest point, he shows up just in time to save me

  • because he has given me everything

  • because God gave me life. He runs the world, and he wants good things to happen

  • because he knew about me even before my grandparents were born

  • because he is my father

  • he offers hope, meaning and purpose to my life

  • because he shows love in very strange ways. But now I am starting to see them. Even through a [sic] mp3 sound. It's still a good sign.

  • because he died on the cross for my sins (also, because he sent his son to die on the cross for my sins)

  • because God is love

  • because He/She is love!

  • because I am a sinner but he forgives me. I love God most of all because he is my light and saviour

  • because he loves me the way I am, even if I don't deserve it

  • Becoz he loved me 1st

  • because he never gave up on me!

  • because he's jesus duh!

  • because he died for me, so I live for him!
They go on and on, all on the same few selfish themes. I have read through pages and pages of these and haven't found one post saying "because he helped me become a better person." This is despite the frequent protestations of Christians that it's impossible to behave in a moral fashion without believing that their sky-daddy is looking over their shoulders and adding up reasons to throw them into the fiery pit. All the posts are about what God has done for their well-being, sometimes also the well-being of others, but never about personal improvement.

Another common thread is the immaturity of the posts. At times it sounds like lovestruck teens talking about Justin Bieber (or Bobby Sherman, or Elvis, or Frank Sinatra, or Caruso...) Other times they sound like little kids saying why they love Santa Claus: "Because he gave me everything!"

The most pathetic ones, in my opinion, are the self-berating posts. These poor souls have been convinced that they are worthless sinners, and that they really lucked out in having god forgive them. Why on earth should someone love an abuser who tells them they're a piece of crap then turns around and says it's okay that they're crap?

"You're a horrible horrible person and you're worth nothing and everything you do or think sucks and I know this because I'm super wonderful and so fantastic you're totally unworthy of my attention so I really should kill you... I should but I won't! I'll punish Jesus here instead. He doesn't mind. It'll only be for a few days anyway."

Uhhh gee thanks!

Well I guess being a better person really isn't a goal here. Nothing you could do could change your initial status from "sinner" to "pretty nice person." And nothing you could do to redeem yourself could match the ultimate redemption of Christ to take on your sins for you. So why bother trying to be a better person? Why worry about the commandments, morality, taking care of yourself or others?

I can think of only one word to describe this theology: mindfuck. What a messed up way to live.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What is a "miracle?"

I've been reading John Loftus' Why I Became an Atheist lately, and had just started on the chapter discussing theories of miracles when I broke one of my own rules: not to debate religion with FB friends.

Well, I didn't really debate religion so much as dispute the assertion that the safe rescue of the trapped Chilean miners was a "miracle." Instead of biting my internet tongue, I asked whether the engineers didn't deserve some credit. My friend responded, and I just pointed out that her post seemed to give God 100% of the credit. She agreed that the engineers had done a great job and all is happy again in Facebookland. *whew*

But then... I had CNN on while making dinner and one of their interviewers was saying what a "miracle" it was. So apparently, "miracle" is synonymous with "happy ending" since this guy wasn't invoking God particularly. A search of the CNN website yields several hits for the word "miracle" relating to the miners' situation, but not this particular broadcast. I wonder now just how often it was used.

So what is wrong with simply having a 'happy ending?' CNN is the worst for obsessing on one topic and overdramatizing it, yet they did show the planning and logistics of the rescue in great time-filling detail. They had diagrams, experts, people on the scene, and every resource they needed to tell this very human and natural story. And yet they called it a "miracle," not a "triumph of engineering."

Perhaps the lack of serious supernatural claims in our time has watered down the concept to the point that any good thing that happens in the presence of Christians can be termed a miracle. We haven't seen Moses parting the waters, eight days of light from a one-day supply of oil, or dead people walking around (unless you count Elvis). So Christians have to take their "miracles" where they can find them, or invent them.

I have CNN on now, and they're reliving the whole thing. Can't waste all that good video! One commentator says it reminds him of watching Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. I remember the moon landings too. I don't remember calling them "miracles" though. Our heroes were computers, dorky men in white shirts, and the brave men who volunteered to make the trip. I credit these same heroes for the safety of the Chilean miners too.

What would a real, supernatural, old-fashioned Old Testament miracle have looked like in Chile?

For starters, perhaps the mine wouldn't have collapsed in the first place. If God is so great, why did he endanger all those Christians?

Another good one would be opening a crack in the earth, without dropping any rocks on the noggins of the miners of course, then having the miners fly upwards and land on a soft bed of uncharacteristic fluffy white snow that had fallen just at the same moment.

Or how about this? The miners die, and then their bodies be brought back to the surface in body bags, and then one by one you hear "hola" coming from under the zippers. That would be chilling, and it would make great video too, as the frantic relatives unzipped the zombie body bags and hugged their resurrected loved ones.

Or maybe a mudslide opens up a crack in the earth and pushes the miners out through an unknown fissure in the earth, and the earth poops them out in a geologic diarrhea of Biblical proportions? It would be even cooler if they came out at a nesting ground for penguins, and the penguins lie on their bodies to warm them up. An all-powerful all-knowing compassionate loving God could do that. A side benefit would be convincing the heathens of his existence. Might prevent another 9/11 as a side benefit. Wouldn't that be cool?

No, all this omnipotent being does is make sure that all the equipment works properly and that the engineers don't do something stupid like calculate in meters and engineer in inches.


I'm very impressed


Monday, October 4, 2010

Stupid Christian Women

The latest Christian idiot on the squawkbox has been Christine O'Donnell. Granted, her stupidity is in the past, as shown in clips from Bill Maher's old show, but she's yet another example of how a woman can go anywhere in our society as long as she 1) has rotten mulch where her brain should be, 2) claims to be a Christian and 3) has a pretty smile.

God forbid (literally) that a woman should be able to think for herself, have a thoughtful message, or need some help from Invisalign. She also needs long hair (also Biblical), and she should dress nicely.

She's being touted as a mini-me for Sarah Palin, but Sarah Palin herself is a mini-me for a long string of conservative religious American women. The irony of women who tout "old-time" values making a living doing just that seems to have been lost on them. They have decided they can't change things from the sanctuary of their kitchen and bedroom, and so they have stepped out of their Biblical roles to make the world a better place.

A woman who works to make her children's world a better place is still rather uppity to these people. If a woman has the misfortune to be dumped by her husband, she should live with family until she can find another man... that's if she can find another man, being damaged goods and all. And of course, despite the theology of "getting what's coming to you" in the afterlife, they believe that we get what's coming to us in this life when it suits them.

Sadly, her past includes a spiritual quest that resulted in becoming a "Christian." And she's now the brunt of jokes for her "dabbling" in witchcraft. Personally, I suspect some neo-pseudo Satanists may have had her eye on her for virgin sacrifice, but I digress.

What was she "seeking" anyway? Judging from the variety of Christianity that she found, she was looking for something that would exempt her from thinking too hard. Perhaps she had low self-esteem and being "loved" by God and Jesus gave her ego a boost. Maybe she felt guilty for something (existing, maybe) and wanted to be forgiven.

Because as a woman, her worth comes from outside not inside, and mainly from her value to men. Don't have sex before marriage, because your future husband won't want you. Don't go to therapy for your neuroses, because even a male therapist won't love you enough. Don't expect too much from the men in your life. You really have no right to expect anything at all, so Jesus' sacrifice for you is all the more miraculous.

Atheists are often accused of being arrogant for rejecting religion. Perhaps that says something about believers' self-perceptions. They are stupid and they know it, deep down. They are afraid to challenge themselves, so being given a value system and social group on a silver platter is a great relief. Don't worry that everyone else (justifiably) hates you. Jesus loves you, and because Jesus is supernatural, that counts more than all the other people who don't love you, including yourself.

So... is it arrogant not to need validation from an imaginary supernatural entity? I think my turnaround was when I realized that if you want self-respect, you have to do something worthy of respect. The more you respect yourself, the less you need to imagine you're loved by a sky-daddy and his rock star son.