MLP XX: Douglas and Daniel

Time to close some tabs, this time on my perhaps greatest intellectual heroes. Daniel C Dennett and Douglas Adams.  Starting with Adams:

  • Is there an artificial god?” – Douglas Adams brilliant speech on Digital Biota 2 Cambridge U.K., September 1998. Fabulous stuff in a rambling typical Adamesque way. Including the famous puddle analogy and the ages of sand. Long read, but worth it.
  • “Parrots, the universe and everything” – A likewise rambling speech, but this time on video. Hilarious and reflective, just what we loved him for. And do read the book, it is rather nice.

And now Dennett:

  • “Free Will” – A lecture from Edinburgh University. This is, if you like, a short version of his book Freedom Evolves. Which you should read (I’m re-reading now).
  • “Thank Goodness” – Reflections on his near death experience (from an atheist’s perspective) and a moving thanks to the advancements of science and medicine we tend to take for granted these day. I don’t think I could be as hard on the theists though, but the man has a point.
  • “Autobiography, pt I” – And if you need more, here’s some on the man himself.

Enjoy!

The tired narcissism of hereditary sin

So, last night I sang at a midnight mass together with St Jacobs Chamber Choir. The darkest night in the quiet week. Right in the plot, the longest dark, where our heroes seems doomed, with evil on all sides and no way out. And it struck me, forcefully, how self-centered and, here comes an ugly word indeed, whiny the religious angst is often portrayed, especially during passover.

(And with failed metaphors all around. How about this: the congregation gathered outside the church, in the graveyard, around a fire. After a few quiet words a large candle was lit, and carried at the head of a procession into the church. So far so good, eh? But what happens to the metaphor when the candle is blown out halfway? Hmmm?)

The theme of the night was of course angst and darkness. And so it has been for a while now. It’s like a big hammer swung by the church to keep the peasants in line. “You’re wretched creatures, you have no purpose in life except in Christ, you have no meaning in life except through Christ.” And so on. I remember, 17 years ago when I too really believed, that it had an impact. According to me at the time, people had existential angst all the time. (I loved Jean-Paul Sartre.) And they, the nameless sheep, rightly had angst because they were too far from god. Obvious isn’t it? And hang on, we shouldn’t be so fast slapping each others backs even if we’re Christians, we have angst too, we sit in the dark corners shuddering and only the light of Christ can save us. When the priests said things like, and this is an example from yesterday, “where do you go, what do you do, when the café latte have turned cold in your hands?”, I thought it true and manifestly profound.

But in reality, its only empty posturing.

Yesterday, for every metaphor and every story weaknesses popped out of the bare walls of the place. Is your latte cold? Well mate, let that be the most of your worries. Personally I’d go to the nearest microwave oven and heat it. And what of the terrible story you told us last night, including bloody details, of “we can call her Tanni” who is now being refused permanent citizenship in Sweden and is being sent back to the country where she was repeatedly tortured? The story of is “we can call her Tanni” is horrible, and we should be rightly ashamed that it happends on our watch, but did you offer anything concrete, anything tangible we can do to make it better? No. Did you offer any plausible explanation on why she’s being refused? No. Did you in fact, use her misery only to depress us, swing her story like a so gory hammer on our heads, forcing home you message of darkness, depression and angst? Yes. And damn disgusting it is mate. You see, you can keep you blood and damnation, here’s my suggestion to you: instead of gathering the sheep in a cold dark church to no readily discernible purpose at all, you could have stayed home and made love with your wife, you could have held each other warm against the darkness tapping your window. And then, afterwards, you could have sent 100SEK, a small sum indeed for 99.9% of anyone who was in church last night in Sweden, to charity. A tiny token of your love and gratitude for all you have been given. Imagine how much money it would be if everyone had done that, instead of rolling in you mass-produced misery, like so many Stockholm-syndrome sufferers with fat wallets? How many “we can call her Tanni” could we have actually helped with such a small gesture?

Every time a child is saved by the doctors, from an accident that only 20 years ago would have been lethal, we should celebrate. For every “we can call her Tanni” that is given a new chance, a chance that 100 years ago would not have existed, we should celebrate. Every time we solve a conflict at the diplomacy table instead of the battle field, we should celebrate. Every time the sun shines on our, frankly rather privileged, faces, we should celebrate. In fact, we should celebrate and then go out and do something practical, something with our hands or our words, to help those less privileged.

You can keep you bleak, angst-ridden narcissism for yourself.

A small easter rant

You know, I never understood this easter thing. Even as a Christian I thought is was pretty dump to mourn on the black Friday. You see, I thought like this at the time:

  1. Judas betrayed Jesus to the romans. Ok.
  2. Jesus gets crucified by the jews. Mind you, not the romans.. Right.
  3. By dying on the cross for our sins, he saves our souls. Uhm… Ok, check.
  4. Consequently, if he hadn’t died we wouldn’t be saved. Seems right to me.
  5. Therefore, it is a good thing he was betrayed and died. Er… Right?
  6. I mean, seriously, isn’t this all a part of the divine plan? And god is almighty? Right?!
  7. So, hang on, almighty? He really couldn’t have not died then?.
  8. Because like, if he wouldn’t have died, the plan for our salvation would have failed.
  9. And, I mean… Really. This is getting strange. Ho hum…
  10. Ahh, sod it. Praise the lord brother.

Nowadays of course, I’d agree with most of it, except obviously step nr. 10. The Gospel of Judas does make a lot more sense than the traditional Christian gibberings in this case. We should mourn that he finishes off his glourious plan and saves our souls? Oh, bugger off. It just goes to show you what inane fantasies we’ve been taught to swallow the last 2k years. Stupid shit.As the t-shirt says: If Jesus comes back, we’ll kill him again.

Re: The Blasphemy Challenge

I really don’t understand what all the fuzz is about. The Rational Response Squad makes a PR-bid and challanges people to put a video of themself denying the holy spirit on YouTube, with the incentive that they’ll get a free copy of The God Who Wasn’t There.Were’s the problem? When PZ links to a defense, the normally thoughtful and readable Orac weights in:

[...] it irritated me because it was just plain immature and silly, not to mention probably based on a false premise. It also inspired truly childish and embarrassing spectacles like the guy who cleaned up dog crap with the pages of the Bible.

Silly? I don’t understand what’s silly with it, it seems like a well executed PR coup to me. It “inspired” childish spectacles? *shrug* I certainly couldn’t care less, the idea that athests are less childish than xians is misplaced, you will get all sorts, good and bad. And even so, who cares? I can point out childish xian behaviour, but I wouldn’t use it in an argument, and I expect any xian wishing to argue with me to do the same.And “based on a false premise“? Well, yes, perhaps and “probably”. From the article:

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is making the claim that the works of the Holy Spirit are actually the works of Satan. It has nothing to do with denying the existence of the Holy Spirit [...]

So, if they had said “I deny the work of the holy spirit”, would that have been more palatable? I think not. This sort of defense is slightly emberasing if taken serously. Fortunately I don’t, I think it misses a number key point.Also I think Greta forgot a key point (although her post is very good, go read it) in why, perhaps The Rational Response Squad, but certainly many of the “childish” posters, are doing it: Because it’s good old entertainment poking fun at authority, even more so when the target can’t at all take it. Is poking fun at authority silly? I don’t think so. Is childish behaviour when poking fun at authority childish? Perhaps, but if the target takes it too seriously, they’re often being just as childish.And let’s not forget, as Greta points out, that there’s some really good responses in there, just look at the ones she posted for example.Anyway. I really don’t understand what all the fuzz is about. It seems like good old fun to me.