Archive for the ‘Religion & Atheism’ Category

If God must have a story, like Him that story must have a beginning, a way to begin explaining how we all came to be living. Why flowers are pretty and mountains are high and why it takes a watchmaker to fashion an eye. But shouldn’t this story make sense, and stand up to reason? and tell us why we have stomachs, sunlight and seasons. Nature itself is unforgiving and cruel, noteworthy by it’s absence of patience for fools. It needs no creator to light the touch paper on a universe full of gaps. Filling holes with His Holiness and watching logic collapse.

So when it comes to Genesis logic is the nemesis, that lifts the lid on those story’s main premises. There’s no reason that I can see to read beyond The Fall, the point at which God’s plan hits that metaphorical wall. Everything up until the birds and the fishes had perfectly matched His deepest wishes: Five days straight without any slippages. Day six begins quite smoothly, not jittery, with the creation of creatures both ambulatory and slithery. But His vision is lost, His plans turned to dust, when from dust he makes a couple whose purpose is just to live and play in this garden enjoying all that they can see, while giving a wide berth to just one plucking tree.

Not any old tree, not by any degree, but one that let’s you see that nothing is worse, there’s no greater curse, than lounging nakedly. Adam & Eve, the first people deceived, had unwittingly sealed their fate, for when God spied the bits they dared hide he kicked them right out the gate. No second chance, no mitigating circumstance, could save them from his wrath, they had heeded a snake and did therefore forsake the good for the crooked path.

What happened next is right there in the text but it doesn’t get easier to believe, and trust me I’ve tried, I’ve looked at both sides but can’t see what was achieved. By evicting his kids for this one little slip God proves himself to be one righteous prick. Because he hadn’t even defined the punishment for this crime, but merely mentioned death. A concept as yet, to their enduring regret, unknown to all who drew breath. Giving reasons to be obedient is always expedient, but right there at the beginning, before ever there was sinning He was unwilling to behave in any way lenient. With no prior knowledge to call upon, no oral traditions of morality, no conception of the reception their transgression would get them, how guilty were they in reality?

OK, reality is not the best choice of words to apply to a story so patently absurd. But in trying to find a way to engage with the religious mind it must be observed that the reason we are all here, they’ll have you believe, is because of that sin and it’s lack of reprieve. If that tree hadn’t been plucked and it’s succulent fruit so sediciously sucked God’s plan might have gone to plan, but it didn’t, now we’re fucked. Because if things had turned out the way He had apparently intended, The Garden of Eden is where the bible would have ended. And we wouldn’t still have this shit to contend with. No, if Eve had only ignored what that snake had to say, herself and Adam would still be living in the garden today. 

The generations of their children free from all cares, playing with the infants of leopards and bears. Every day beautiful, sunny and dry, nothing to bring a tear to the eye. No thorns on the roses they joyfully pick, eating Deadly Nightshade would not make them sick. No need for doctors or butchers or priests, nobody sins, gets ill or eats meat. Happyness obligatory, fornicating compulsory, an orgy of nakedness let loose in the shrubery. No hint of rain, no incidents of pain, nothing to purchase no toiling for gain. Making babies is the only commandment that God ever gave to those who would never encounter a grave. No Hell below them, above them only sky: Heaven is where you live if you’re never meant to die.

Now picture a situation where unbridled procreation is the only order to follow. And for the sake of speculation let’s run with creation, no matter how difficult to swallow, is a universe so vast for such a small cast to simply sit back and wallow. Riddle me how would life unrestricted, even if it were perpetually gifted, not eventually lead to a garden constricted by the mass of living things on which it was inflicted? On a planet of ants and beetles and plants that outnumber the stars in our sky, I for one can see no fun in a world where none of them die.

Just what kind of mentality accepts as reality that Earth is a gift to God’s peoples? When Haldane noted, as is often quoted, God’s ‘inordinate fondness for beetles’. For that one biological order accounts for a quarter of all moving life on our planet. And if you want to stretch reality, try working out mathematically the number of creatures we can fit, if we lickity split simply omit death from our locality. But omit it God did, and eternity did He give, to ‘every living thing that mov-eth’. And if He’d had his way, as I’ll repeatedly say, that is where the story should have end-eth…

But disobedience to the maker, to the first time creator, of everything that we can see caused the first couple a whole heap of trouble and screwed us all indefinitely. Because God could have said ‘My bad, if only I had not pointed out that tree. Or left it barren of fruit, a torturous root not worthy of your curiosity. I should have made it tall and impossible to pick, or found a safe place to stick, this most deadly of plants and removed any chance of it ever falling under your glance. Maybe the snake was the bigger mistake. I thought a forked tongue and a larynx high hung would make him effectively dumb. But I’m the dumb one, and look what I’ve done, such a shame this is not a dry run. So the consequence I see for all humanity is a lowly and desperate fate, you must worship and praise me, and hope that I’ll save ye from a Hell that I now must create. No, I really must censure your gullible nature or what kind of teacher would I be? If you were simply forgiven, what lesson in livin’ would that be from me to thee?

My mind is made up and I know this may suck, but from now till the end of days, a most hateful existence at my own insistence awaits anyone who disobeys. For I now see before me an opportunity for Glory, not to be mistaken for Pride, as your decendants in their billions become my minions, while I simply hide. The longer you go, the more than you learn, the less likely am I going to seem. But you’ll still be required, no matter what transpires, to keep believing this meme.

So get out of my garden, my resolve has been hardened, and I’m no longer feeling so kind. I’ll give you thistles and rain, demand sacrifice and pain, as punishment for being undermined. Childbirth will incur labour, and as the sheriff of your behaviour I want you to keep your hands out of your pants. I’ll now decide what’s wrong and what’s right in any given circumstance. I’ll put all of this in a book that will eventually look like the ramblings of a feeble mind, full of torture and death, pillage and rape, delusions of the grandest kind. Then we’ll see, who believes in me, and who will be left behind.

So now the ground needs tilling, and you best get used to killing, I’m going to need plenty of that. As you pay for your vice with blood sacrifice by cutting the heads off your chickens. And as a matter of fact, although it might show poor tact, I’m going to insist on this: after all your advances, your progress from trances induced in credulous heads, the battle will be drawn between those who were born to insist that I surely exist, and those who expose me as myth. I’ll fuck with your heads, I’ll give you no rest as you scramble around for a clue. You’ll be swamped with religion each sharing a smidgen but with no way to tell which is true. Let’s see how you like them apples as the human mind grapples with the nature of what you call God.

Ok back to reality, back to me, back to your good friend Daithi. I’m gettin’ carried away and I’m startin’ to say some things about which I disagree. But it’s easily done, and it’s so much fun to let your imagination run free. But it’s time to speak clearly as I lay out my theory of where the bible comes from. 

It’s definitely not divine, or else we would find more logic and reason in it’s pages, than was there to be found in the minds of scribes from the late Bronze and the early Iron ages. To me it seems clear that the real godhead here is the capacity of humans to think. There is no height that we can’t reach and no depth to which we can’t sink. But our greatest treasure, the source of all pleasure, is the organ between our ears. It is the font of all joy, the root of all fears, and our pilot through this vale of tears. But it’s a dreadful mistake to think it can’t make one thing appear like another. So it’s no great wonder that when we came to ponder the question of whence we came, that with little to go on and much to explain we came up with the answer we did. It’s just a shame that the modern brain still labours and fumbles amid, the fantastical story, masquerading as Glory, that we are a sky daddy’s kids.

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The story of Harold Camping’s 2011 Rapture campaign is growing cold in the public’s imagination, but we had no want for coverage on May 21st, when the prophecy that Camping’s prophecies were false came true. That was a bad day for the Electronic Bible Fellowship. But the media swarm on Camping when he resurfaced days later to offer his explanations was practically the last that was heard of him.

The five months of global catastrophe, death and abomination he predicted leading up to the end of the world on October 21st were anything but. The world is in some turmoil, definitely, but when is it not? We had famine in Somalia, flooding in Pakistan, Cambodia and Thailand. There was a Volcanic eruption in Chile. There was the terrible massacre in Sweden by Anders Breivik. The financial crisis has rolled on, as have the various wars and terrorist attrocities we’ve endured with such intensity for the last decade or more.

That still didn’t add up to the kind of apocalyptic scenario that Camping’s Electronic Bible Fellowship CD led me to expect. I sent for my copy of the CD at the start of this year. I’ve had it now for about seven months, but I’m still a long way from getting through all the tracts and sermons included. It’s tough work to put yourself through. Each sermon is an hour or more of monotone drivel. I listened to about 10 hours of it in the first week after it arrived, looking for soundbites for a YouTube video I wanted to put together for May 21st. It was very hard to sit through. It was repetitive and tiresome and  it can be reasonably broken down into a few key points.

There is the explanation of how the bible was interpreted to calculate the dates. Which involved a lot of elaborate wrangling to get around those parts of scripture that state very clearly that it is not possible for any human to determine ‘the day or the hour’.

Then there were the descriptions of what is going to happen on Rapture day after the faithful had disappeared. These amounted to little more than glee at the fate of the faithless. There were endless, and bizarrely specific details such as it would be very difficult to have a shower or take a bath after the Rapture. Well, it would be, as the earth was to be buckled my thousands of earthquakes that would dislodge all the pipes. Chris McCann, the pastor whose voice is heard on most of the sermons had a never ending stream of such trivial details. The product of an feverishly over-active imagination.

His foresight into the state of life on Earth in the five months leading up to October 21st was astounding in it’s inaccuracy. This last decade has given eschatalogical preachers a gold mine of topics to lend credibility to their nonsense. Wars, terrorism and financial collapse, political shenanigans, natural disasters, gay rights and marriage, sex scandals, and all the other things that indicate a broken world ready for Jesus to call judgement on. The same troubling times make certain people vulnerable to charlatans like Harold Camping.

But the last five months have seen some great things happen. Some hopeful, inspiring and wonderful things. The Arab Spring has moved through the Arab world as the population of one oppressed nation after another rose up against tyrrany. Ratko Mladić, the Bosnian Serb butcher was finally arrested for genocidal war crimes. India and Bangladesh ended their four decade old border dispute. Muamar Gaddafi was finally killed. ETA, the Basque seperatist movement of northern Spain officially ended it’s 43 year-old campaign of terror and political violence.

Science too has ignored the warnings of apocalypse, and Camping’s rebuke of those who were making plans for anything past May 21st. The first artificial human organ transplant took place in Sweden in June. A 3D computer model of 36-year-old African patient, Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene’s own windpipe was used to create a glass replica. This was then soaked in the patients own stem cells, and nanotechnological processes constructed the replica organ. Because it was a replica of his own, and constructed from his own cells there was no need for the drug treatment normally needed to control the bodies rejection of foreign material. This technology will soon be adapted to create a number of different organs for transplant, removing the need for waiting lists and the possibility of organ rejection by patients bodies.

The Space Shuttle program ended on July 21st, with Atlantis’ safe return. Far from being an end to space exploration, this paves the way from an entirely different space program. More use of robotics will be the key to the next phase as new technologies are tried out. The first solar powered spacecraft was launched on August 5th, and is now on it’s way to Jupiter. On that same day NASA announced that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had photographic evidence of possible liquid water on Mars, giving new impetus to the search for life there and also making Mars even better suited to human exploration.

And around the world the Occupy movement had seen ordinary people speak out and protest the scandalous situation where those who shaped the financial meltdown are being assisted back to prosperity, while their victims are being asked to pay the bill.

These are all hopefull signs for what is to come. Just because terrible things have been happening, that doesn’t mean that we won’t find a better way. We may always have wars and terror and exploitation and deprevation to deal with, but the true human response to that is to keep on looking for that better way. We keep looking to make those small steps forward that will make life better for us all. Where there is oppression, we oppose it. Where there is hypocrisy, we expose it.

What troubled me most about this year’s Rapture nonsense was the lack of faith such people have in humanity. How their beliefs closed off for them even the possibility that in our own hands we could make good on all that is bad. Or that we should even try. It is this fatalism that troubles me most about religion. Camping and his followers are only a small part of the lunatic fringe, there are many others like him. But they are only the fringe to a wider swathe of believers in similarly unfounded claims. They all hold the ultimate belief that life on earth is doomed to ultimate judgement. The notion that no matter how far we progress will will always fall short of some creators ideals.

So I don’t want Camping to slip off quietly into the night. I’m not satisfied to hold him up for ridicule as an example of religion gone wrong. To me, he is an example of religion as it really is. The belief that we are imperfect from birth, need to apologise for this until we die and then spend eternity thanking God for the opportunity. This belief that we are destined to fail is the strongest resistance to any kind of social, cultural and scientific change aimed at improving our finite lives, and the countless lives to come. We can help safeguard future life on this planet, and potentially on other planets besides or own. That is an actual possibility these days. We can conceivably do things that not even the wildest dreaming religious zealot has ever dared to claim that their god could do. Please don’t ask me to ignore that.

Here are a few Rapture related videos I posted  on YouTube.
This first one was my contribution to a collaboration that was called The Day After The Rapture. The collaboration video was released on May 22nd, and was addressed to the disappointed members of Camping’s cult.
If you are a member of the of the electronic bible fellowship
and you find yourself today, the 22nd of May
Dejected, rejected, denied your rapturous trip
Then take some solace from these comforting words I'll say

God has not denied you a place at his side
And Jesus has not neglected his most faithful pride
You were not forsaken, but your pastors mistaken
There never was a plan for you to be taken

There is no God in Heaven, no everlasting realm
No self replicating son, born of a virgin at the helm
No purposefully created demonic gaoler in Hell
Just this beautiful assemblage of atoms on which we all dwell

There is no pre-ordained ending of days
No immortal soul, no creator to praise
There is no heavenly host to battle ultimate evil
You are no more likely that the lowliest weevil

But take some comfort in the unlikeliness of your birth
Of your extraordinary existence on this island Earth
Don't let a day pass without valuing your worth
For the atoms of dead stars that are temporarily You
Will all too soon be recycled, giving sustenance to dirt.

But if you believe in Rapture, and you consider me to be the loon
Don't be too downhearted, there's bound to be another one soon.
The full collaboration can be found here.
This next one contains the excerpts I had taken from my ten hour sermon-a-thon.
This final one was a quick before, during and after montage of Camping as he looked forward to the Rapture, his response on the day and his press conference in the aftermath of his failure.

I decided not to make a video about the October 21st end of the world deadline. I think there have been enough videos made about Camping this year, and they weren’t really serving any great purpose. I have been making and posting videos about religion and atheism for about a year now, and I’m starting to loose some interest. My opinions are unchanged, but I’ve been feeling lately that most atheist videos are just variations on each other. There are very few fresh ideas, and the more variations on those fresh ideas that get added, the more watered down becomes the message.

This is part of a broader issue I have with YouTube right now, and I think it’s something I’ll save for another post. So for now, I’ll put Mr. Camping to bed for a while. I think I’ll revisit him sometime, but only as part of the rise of end time religious fervour that is a long way from ending yet.