philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Hey everyone!

Anyone have any opinion on "The Conjuring"? (I made a post about my initial thoughts here. Review on the way.)

I've been meaning to rewatch "The Exorcist" for a while now, but the last time I saw it I was still somewhat religious. (I've never been VERY religious, but I grew up as your typical non-Churchgoing CofE member-by-default.) A friend of mine had said he thought "The Exorcist" was hilarious at the time, while I genuinely found it pretty creepy.

In recent years I've decided to get more into horror movies than ever before thanks to encouragement from others on Livejournal. I've realised that I have a big horror-comedy um... fandom?

Anyway, I'm finding horror-comedy is everywhere. "Return of the Living Dead" and "Re-Animator" are awesome horror-comedies with zombies, the Child's Play movies are great horror-comedies, there's some clear horror-comedy in the "Nightmare On Elm Street" series and some of my favourite Friday the 13th movies like "Jason Lives" and "Jason Goes To Hell" seem to be, you guessed it, horror comedies!

Still, there are certain horror films which seem to be taking themselves deadly seriously and end up seeming unintentionally hilarious to me and I'm beginning to notice a pattern. I'm an atheist these days, so perhaps there's a link between that and my inability to take the following movies seriously:

The Rite

(my review)
This was actually doing a pretty good job of making me take it seriously. I felt the style of the movie was a little formulaic and it has a very blatant pro-exorcism message in the background. Still, I was prepared to accept it on its own terms to start with. It was in the second half where thinks went nuts and when Anthony Hopkins shouted "BAAAAAL!" that was where I finally cracked. It was pretty ridiculous.

The Possession

(my review)
I wrote the review quite a while back, but it took me until now to post it to my own journal. I think there are hints all the way through the film that it was originally written to be a horror comedy and Sam Raimi's presence as a producer makes that seem very likely. Sam Raimi is absolutely brilliant at making movies which are equally scary AND funny, often at the exact same moment. But once we reach the finale, the big 'shocking' moment involved one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen.

The Conjuring

(initial comments)
The very first scene of the movie had me cracking up. If this were a horror-comedy, I think I might have loved it.

Notice the pattern? Yep, they're all exorcism movies.

And it's not like I will inevitably hate exorcism stuff. I absolutely LOVED the tv series Apparitions. Though that being said, Apparitions is the creation of Joe Ahearne and he's actually an atheist. But I must say, I think what really matters is whether you can tell a convincing and engaging story.

I think I need to finally give "The Exorcist" a watch. I'm quite interested to see what happens. On the one hand "The Exorcist" is the critic Mark Kermode's favourite movie of all time. On the other hand, my friend who is a horror fan (and pretty religious too btw) does not really think "The Exorcist" is a very good movie. But even if I don't end up liking "The Exorcist" (and I don't remember being terribly keen on it before) that doesn't mean that I'll find the scary moments laugh-out-loud funny.

I'd like to finish by pointing out the rather cool podcast "Monster Talk". It's a science-based podcast about monster stories. They have a very cool podcast they released detailing the full story of the Warrens from "The Conjuring":
I first head about this podcast when it was recommended by the hosts of the Horror Etc podcast who appreciated the movie of "The Conjuring" a great deal, even if it does beatify blatant scam artists. (Actually the controversy over the central figures actually increased rather than decreased my interest in this movie. I had every expectation that the fictional version of the Warrens story could make for a great horror film, even if the real life story was much more mundane.)

Did they change the doll because they couldn't get the rights to use Raggedy Ann? Because they wanted to make the doll more scary? Or because the doll needs to pick things up and Raggedy Ann has no fingers?
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)
If anyone's been following Pharyngula, they will already know that Bill Nye has decided to debate a creationist. Lots of people think this was a bad idea because its easier for creationists to poke holes in science (not least because scientists are always actively looking for how to poke holes in the research themselves) than it is to defend science. Ignorant criticisms are short and easily stated, but decent explanations can be long and complicated.

It was also suggested that the creationists would just use this to promote themselves, which already seems to be demonstrated in that Ham's own organisation is going to be profiting from the DVD sales of this event.

Bill Nye, "the science guy" (from an American tv show), not to be confused with Bill Nighy, the British actor.

Anyway, some guy on Buzzfeed decided to ask creationists what questions they had for people who weren't creationists. Here's an example:

Oh dear... (and the use of 'their' rather than 'there' is not great either)

More images under the cut... )

(Pharyngula's post)
(More daft creationist questions in posed photos on Buzzfeed)
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

*Mild/Moderate Trigger Warning* This discussion of misogyny and the damsel in distress trope may inevitably be triggering for some readers as it discusses power-imbalances and some violent or abusive scenarios. That said, there is no use of graphic descriptions nor any reference to sexual violence.

The post below is going to analyse some bigotry against Anita from Feminist Frequency. She has released the first of her "Tropes Vs Women" series about videogames now. Personally, I was unsure about some of the stuff about Starfox Adventures (since I cannot help but imagine that the character change in that game must be somewhat related to Microsoft buying Rare - since it would be harder for Nintendo to keep hold of a game not starring one of their copyrighted group of characters), but asides from that I was mainly reacting with "ah, I guess that's right".

Inevitably there's been some backlash. One of the videos criticising Anita (and undoubtedly NOT one of the best critiques she'll receive) comes from a Youtube user called Thunderf00t....

Now it's been a while since I've been made really angry by some bigoted ranting. I've reacted to some news articles, sure, but I've generally not been chasing down internet idiots. I've been a lot better off for it though.

The last idiot I really thought I needed to alert people to was Pat Condell. Condell was seemingly only known on the internet, but he seemed to have a wide following. So when his videos went from annoying and crass to all-out hate-mongering, I felt the need to expose precisely why people shouldn't support him. (He's still up to the same old tricks it seems. One of his latest videos claims that it's racist not to consider all Palestinians, every man, woman and child of them, to be evil terrorists. That's pretty typical rhetoric from him sadly.)

But the recent dodgy internet hatred doesn't seem to come from a single person. Instead it seems to be embodied by a large gang of mostly libertarian internet users who are strangely opposed to feminism and demand protection from criticism if they post offensive comments (on the grounds of 'free speech' apparently).

"Thunderf00t" seems to be a pretty big ringleader of this group. By this point Thunderf00t is pretty well known to be someone your average decent supporter of feminism will be upset by, but he attracts a lot of attention so I feel like he's probably as good a representative as any for this disgusting internet misogyny recently.

First of all some background...

Thunderf00t and Freethoughtblogs

Thunderf00t had a run-in with well known pro-feminism atheist blogger P.Z. Myers (who runs the blog Pharyngula) who is disinclined to accept misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc. on his comments threads. When Thunderf00t was offered space in Freethoughtblogs and decided to use it almost entirely to dismiss women's rights the other bloggers on Freethoughtblogs decided that he wasn't fitting in. He was alienating their female audience and conveying bigoted views with which Freethoughtblogs bloggers did not want to be connected.

Anita's "Tropes Vs Women" series

Anita used Kickstarter to get funding for her project to analyse the history of gaming and the portrayal of women within videogames. The comments at Kickstarter began to fill up with misogynistic comments from utter scumbags and the response by decent human beings across the internet was to donate huge amounts of money to her project. The misogynist comments had made it very clear to everyone just how much of an idol videogames were to these horrible individuals and just how sorely the world of videogames needed to be analysed from a feminist perspective.

Thunderf00t's video "Feminism Vs FACTS (RE Damsel in distress)" and how it completely misses the point of Anita's original video at Feminist Frequency, feminism as a whole, and plain old common sense.

I only came to watch Thunderf00t's poor attempt at a critique because I stumbled on someone showing one of his old videos "The Internet: Where Religions Come To Die". Not knowing it was from Thunderf00t I approached it with a pretty open mind. There were parts that were well-argued and other parts where it was more obviously labouring the point. I noticed that the video seemed to have a very "us and them" stance which appeared to represent the vlogger's genuine stance rather than being a rhetorical tool.

1- Double Dragon Neon

Thunderf00t's latest video begins by questioning Anita's research for her videogame critique. He argues that she is wrong to claim the damsel in distress of the game "Double Dragon Neon" is portrayed as weak, ineffective or ultimately incapable because the game finishes with her punching the villain in the crotch.

While this might seem like a reasonable argument to someone who had never watched the original video, already Thunderf00t is showing a clear failure to understand Anita's argument. Anita's concern with "Double Dragon Neon" mainly focusses on the opening which, as an update of an older game, rejigs the 8-bit classic by showing the damsel in distress character being punched in the gut and carried away in deeper colours, pristine 2D graphics with her cleavage clearly visable as she is punched and her knickers clearly visible as she is carried away. This update of the older classic begins straight away with an utterly demeaning image for women, right before introducing the two MALE playable characters.

The ending where she gets to help beat up the villain in the end is earned after the two male characters have spent the entire game trying to save her, while she sits and waits for them. There's even a part of the game where the two playable MALE characters (since Marian herself is NOT a playable character) can fight for her affection, while she cheers them on in the background. This all serves to back up the idea of women as objects the male characters compete for. Yes, even if the unplayable female character gets to help deliver the finishing blow at the last minute, she's still been completely helpless for the whole game and used as a woman-shaped trophy by the game designers.

Read more... )

Thunderf00t simply doesn't understand the topic he is trying to discuss and yet there are internet misogynists rallying around his video which now has over 10,000 likes. Meanwhile Anita has had no choice but to disable ratings and comments because of an over-abundance of misogynistic trolls. Check out her excellent analysis of the Damsel In Distress trope in videogames below:

(video link)
philosoraptor42: (Default)

(Via Heavenly Nostrils @ GoComics)

Just discovered that the comic artist who did the excellent "I Drew This" comic has a new strip called 'Heavenly Nostrils' about a girl and her unicorn. It's BRILLIANT (though you probably ought to read it from the beginning).

Dana Simpson (previously known as David Simpson) made the "I Drew This" strips during the Bush era. Here are a few links to some of my favourites:
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3
Link 4

The "I Drew This" Archives are here

Another comic I've discovered that's really good (though it's more plot-related than comedy) is "Strong Female Protagonist". It takes superhero themes in a new direction by starring a female superhero who has decided to give up crime-fighting upon discovering, from her arch-nemesis no less, that they are both being played for fools. One of the early parts of the story involves this former heroine marching at an Occupy Wall Street protest demonstrating very clearly how superpowers can sometimes be more harm than good, particularly when things get political.

(Via Strong Female Protagonist)

There's a rather neat article on the "Strong Female Protagonist" strip here.
philosoraptor42: (Default)

(video link)

This time Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland decides to come out with the same BS that we've seen in the past. He says that Christians are being persecuted for wearing crosses in public.

0:31 Beginning of relevant report.
2:24 Interview with Andrew Copson on the issue.

Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association strikes again. Once again he explains very clearly and diplomatically why the latest "Christians are being marginalised" story is BS. (His phrasing: "their claims have very little basis in fact" rather than "they are making s**t up".)

Also liking the new beard. :)

Cardinal O'Brien has previously claimed that when the New Labour government were in power there was "a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values". Why's this? The introduction of civil partnerships, allowing adoption by same-sex couples, allowing embryo research and not passing a law to lower the legal time limit in which an abortion may be carried out. He also referred to the Equality Bill as "legislation which would completely and permanently undermine religious freedom". And now he has the audacity to push the lie that Christians' rights to wear crosses are under attack. Ugh!

(cross posted to [ profile] atheism )
philosoraptor42: (Default)

"Beyond Belief" is a BBC podcast that often does a good job of getting an even explanation of religious ideas. However, this new entry is one where I think people might be interested. It's a discussion about "New Atheism" and it seems that all three contributors are atheists.

The three contributors are:

From left to right: Professor Simon Blackburn, Vice President of the British Humanist Association; Mark Embleton, a psychologist and President of Atheism UK; and Lois Lee, founder of the Non-Religion and secularity research network.

You can download this particular podcast here

If you are interested in following this podcast in the future, the RSS feed is here.

Haven't listened to this yet, but I'm intrigued.

Cross posted to atheism
philosoraptor42: (Default)

Alain De Botton has decided that the current state of atheism is no good and has instead proposed what he decides to call "Atheism 2.0". But is Atheism 2.0 really any different from Atheism 1.0? Who does Alain De Botton think he is arguing against? Why promote this now?

I think we need a bit of background first of all....

Why Have An "Atheism 2.0"?

Read more... )

Religion For Atheists?

Alain De Botton is a popularist philosophy writer. There was a point where his book "The Consolations of Philosophy" was on shelves everywhere, though he wasn't really so interested in exploring the ins and outs of classical philosophy as giving a massively simplified and trivial version. Still, as was noted before, sometimes you can't show the entire depth of the argument if you want to appeal to the wider market.

His latest ideas in his book "Religion For Atheists" are explored in a lecture viewable here:

He also gives an impassioned speech about the ideas of "Religion For Atheists" in the audio form and you can listen to that here.

He says that the most boring question about religion is whether or not it is "true" and says that the issue has become a matter obsession for "fanatical atheists". I think what he ignores here is that while it might be "boring", the matter of truth is actually rather important. There are number of reasons to say this because there are plenty of cases where the unquestionable truth and authority of doctrine and/or scripture is used to justify what are sometimes quite influential political positions. Proposals for limiting access to abortion, limiting rights of certain groups in society, insisting on old traditional stances on gender roles, promoting abstinence education and, yes, even ID Theory are all often (though admittedly not every single time for every single one of these examples) tied to the believed doctrinal truth and authority of particular religions.

Essentially De Botton takes the old line that while you might not believe in religions you should still respect them. The question arises once again: What is it about religions which makes them worthy of respect? I don't think De Botton actually has an answer to this though (or at least not a convincing one).

De Botton claims that religion serves two central needs "which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill":
1) "The need to live together in communities in hamony, despite our deeply rooted, selfish, violent impulses."
2) "The need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our own decay and demise."

Or to put it another way:
1) Secularism heralds the breakdown of society.
2) There are no atheists in foxholes.

To be quite frank, the need for secularism would appear to me to arise precisely from the fact that, when people all belong to different faiths, religion doesn't help to promote harmony. Religion is often divisive and sectarian. As such, the idea that setting up non-religious communities must involve learning from the actions of the religious seems like nonsense. Far more often than not, the lessons are more likely to be cautionary tales; examples of what NOT to do when trying to foster a spirit of unity in diversity. Yes, there have already been figures like Martin Luther King and Haille Selassie who have been religious and attacked social injustices in ways that might be inspiring to the non-religious, but these figures can often be seen to be actively subverting the religious ideas they were brought up with. Dr. King, for example, takes the example of "the promised land" but does not imagine it as a contested strip of land or as some kind of post-apocalyptic paradise, but rather as the hope of a united humanity.

On the second point, I'll firstly note that atheists are found in all walks of life and don't appear to see their disbelief in God as a disadvantage. However, I think it's also worth asking, if atheistic modes of tackling these issues are so unskilful, why are there religious groups pretending to offer therapy without the professional background in the subject? Surely if religious methods were superior to secular ones on this front, Churches and places of worship would already be pioneers in the field, with absolutely no need to use fraudulent behaviour like this in order to promote themselves?

Rallying Points For The Failings Of Secularism...

Alain De Botton makes a number of points at this stage on the failings of secularism. But these points about modern society are either patently the result of good common sense or quite clearly false:

Read more... )

Useful and Effective?

Read more... )

Yeah sure we can learn a few things from studying religion, but that doesn't mean religion deserves respect or politeness automatically. Religion used to be a much more central part of society than it is today and inevitably a great deal of what is good in society today will be based on the more religion-centered form that came before. But most often, the better way to tackle these kinds of issues is to cut out the religion. In fact even some religions are retreating from the term "religion", themselves recognising that certain religious ideas are simply no good. Some of these figures will want to retreat to some more primordial and "pure" version of their religion, insisting that their shift away from religion makes their ideas even more traditional, while others will be more progressive noting that old religious ideas have also been tied to old political and cultural ideas (noting, for example, that a morality based on honour and shame is clearly present in the Bible, but is rightly alien to our modern sensibility). Even the religious can tell that religion isn't all great and it would be extremely stupid of us not to share the fruits of this important lesson.
philosoraptor42: (Default)
[ profile] that_atheist's most recent post gives yet another example of apologetic methods used on religious or non-religious internet forums. In this case it's the old "I'm sure you'd agree" method of asserting truisms in order to sound reasonable and like a moderating voice of reason.

Actually I've no idea where [ profile] that_atheist discovered this apologetics trope. I'm just guessing religious or non-religious forums because that's where I used to see that sort of thing. There were a few forums I used to visit, but I've just not really seen the point for quite a while now. I've been back to freeratio a number of times, but my hearts just not in it anymore, but it's also been a long time since I went to the faithspace forums. I decided to see what they are like these days. Well, on the one hand membership of the forum is lower than ever before, but on the other hand the regulars haven't changed a bit.

Now I could give vague charicatures of the various figures on that forum, but what I found particularly entertaining was watching a debate between Martin, who lacks (... um... what's the internet equivalent of oratory skills?) clarity sometimes, and Jan, who is a Christian spiritualist and believes in all sorts of new age woo. Martin was getting frustrated in just the way I always used to be.

Here are some highlights from one thread...

There is no evidence that has satisfied proper experimental scrutiny, of the existence of such a thing as a soul.  Just as there is none for the existence of minotaurs or zombies.

Is there any point in me actually answering you on that?

The Electronic Voice Phenomenon (Spirit Voices on Tape), Instrumental Transcommunication (two-way communication with those who crossed over), the SCOLE Experiments, Out of Body Experiences, Near Death Experiences, Empirical Materialisation,  Trans and Mental Mediumship; Poltergeists, Xenoglossy and Reincarnation,  the Cross-Correspondences, Proxy Sittings. In relation to the issue of materialization, this lawyer also discusses Prof Albert Einstein's E=mc2.
Read more... )

philosoraptor42: (Default)
(Short answer is "no" btw..., but there's more.)

Interesting article.

The article states its focus as follows:
"Joseph Ratzinger knows that he can’t aim his pious invective at the Jewish people as his predecessors did. So this most contemporary pope takes aim at the next best enemy of his faith: atheists. It’s another blood libel in the making."

Now it's quote strong words to call Ratzinger's rants against atheism equivalent to the blood libel against the Jews. But I think the point is that if Ratzinger still held the politcal power that Popes of the past did, this would be a great deal more worrying.

That said, the rise of secularism and the Church's waning reputation are precisely why Ratzinger is making comments like this in the first place. Personally I see this not as a worrying blood libel, but as another example of the Pope talking out of his arse.

However, I think the article may have a point that ranting about atheists is a more publically acceptable alternative to ranting about Jews. Apparently there's been a recent shift of people moving out of the Church because of its dealings with the "Legion of Christ" religious order, whose leader is known to have been a drug addict involved in a string of sexual abuses including paedophilia. Meanwhile seemingly in the same week there's been an uproar over a bishop in the "Society of Pius X" blogging the blood libel. The fallout of this specifically anti-semitic issue forms the context for Ratzinger's speech in Assisi.

When the focus is on the crimes of religion, how can he shift the blame? The answer is simple: lie.

"The enemies of religion – as we said earlier – see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.

"Yet I do not intend to speak further here about state-imposed atheism....

Now Ratzinger knows damn well that the Third Reich did not have state-imposed atheism. He also knows that the holocaust was fuelled by anti-semitism, often backed up by Christians. Even Martin Niemoller, remember for his poem "First They Came..." is known to have committed the blood libel. The fact is that anti-semitism was a fact of life for most people at the time and using religious, specifically Christian, excuses for bigotry against Jews was far from uncommon in Germany long before the Nazis gained power. In fact, this bigotry was, for many Germans, an incentive to elect Hitler in the first place as a strong leader entrenched in good Christian values.

What's more, for many Jews expressing God's absence was the consequence of experiences in the camps, not the other way around.

So why does Ratzinger, who grew up in Nazi Germany, put the blame for the camps on atheists? They're a handy scapegoat and one that much of his audience will readily accept.

Meanwhile Ratzinger informs us that agnostics choose to be agnostic because really they are "they are seeking the true God". While I can imagine a few agnostics agreeing with that, it's pretty condescending at heart. "You know when you said you weren't sure that there's a God? Well that's just because you were searching for the real God. I guarantee that you are most likely to find Him if you check out our traditions. Go ahead, dive right in!" - Yeah, f***ing charming...

In other news, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have asked Susan Sarandon to apologise for calling the Pope a "Nazi". Because "it only serves to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust". Perhaps they should talk to the Pope about that little issue too....?

(Via Butterflies and Wheels)
(Also several articles used on "The Freethinker")
(Ratzinger's full speech)

x-posted to atheism
philosoraptor42: (Default)

Okay, so I just heard of her for the first time ever the other night when she appeared on the BBC Radio Comedy show "Museum of Curiosity". I've got lots to say about what I've come across, but for now I'll simply leave you with this transcript of her bits on the show.

Remember that it's a comedy show, so she's being intentionally flippant and her fellow contributors to the "museum" aren't taking it all entirely seriously either:

Host: Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou is the senior lecturer of theology at the university of Exeter, a member of the European Association of Biblical Studies and the presenter and writer of the BBC series "The Bible's Buried Secret". She also happens to be an atheist.

What's more, her time on TV has been spent arguing that Moses never existed, and that the Bible was re-written to malign Eve and erase God's wife from memory.

So Francesca, God's wife who was she then?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Well, she's a goddess called Asherah who was responsible for various life-giving functions in the earthly realm along with her consort, her husband, Yahweh. She's kind of fairly well known throughout the ancient Near East and she's pretty cool.

Co-contributor: What was she called again?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Asherah.

Co-contributor: So God was married?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Hmmm.

Co-contributor: Wow. I imagine that was a big spread in Hello wasn't it?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: But he divorced her and she didn't do quite so well in the divorce settlement. The God that's worshipped today by Jews, Christians and Muslims isn't the same as the God that the Bible was written about - and that God actually was the God who was married.
Host: That's really remarkable, I mean this has been kept a pretty tight secret then?

Francesca Stavrakopoulou: Really it's like a testimony to how bad scholars are at just communicating stuff that we talk about, because we've been talking about it for a long time. But a lot of people disagree with me. Anne Widdecombe disagrees with me.

Co-contributor: I think calling her "a lot of people" is a bit cruel.

The rest is under the cut... )
Cross-posted to atheism
philosoraptor42: (Default)
The following is a clip from a tv programme about near-death experiences. A major focus is an atheist woman who is a secular officiant. (She performs non-religious weddings and other non-religious ceremonies. In the video they strangely call her an atheist minister.)

The way she describes her brush with death in purely non-religious terms is really uplifting and quite beautiful. Even her interviewer, who understood their own NDE from a religious perspective, seems to be somewhat moved by the way she expresses her interpretation of the experience.

(video link)

(Some little details are cleared up at Friendly Atheist)

(Cross-posted to [ profile] atheism )
philosoraptor42: (Default)
A Templeton Foundation fellow and journalist in the Guardian has discovered Conor Cunningham's book. I've written about Conor Cunningham a couple of times already. Anyway, he's decided that Cunningham's book shows that there are serious problems with "Ultra-Darwinism" and would like to explain them to you....

Ultra-Darwinists and the pious gene

Richard Dawkins won't like it, but he and creationists are singing from similar hymn sheets, according to a new book

Here are three questions of the kind evolutionary theorists love. First, why do most mammals walk on four legs? Second, how come some single-celled protists have genomes much larger than humans? Third, why have camera eyes evolved independently in vertebrates and octopuses? 
They're important questions as they challenge certain versions of Darwinism that are dominant today in popular discourse.

My comments on this, under this first cut... )Rest of Vernon's article under the cut... )

Also one more thing. I'm not aware of Nietzsche ever using the phrase "true lies". A google search comes up with either this article or references to the James Cameron movie. *shrugs*

cross-posted to [ profile] atheism 
philosoraptor42: (Default)
Maybe Kirk Cameron can explain these bird deaths!

This week saw two massive bird die offs, first 5,000 in Arkansas, then 500 in Louisiana.  Scientists don’t have an explanation yet, and that’s rough on CNN, because 24 hours of news programming is a lot to fill with, “Damn, homes. That’s messed up.”  What to do?  I know!  We’ll call Fireproof star Kirk Cameron!  He’s bound to have some crazy sh*t to say!  At least, that seemed to be the idea behind having Cameron on Anderson Cooper (either that or they both go to the same bath house). Only when Anderson asked him whether the bird deaths were a sign of the apocalypse, Cameron flipped the script, and actually sounded pretty sane.

Kirk Cameron is not your monkey, Anderson Cooper, he doesn’t even believe in evolution.
[are the birds the end times, Kirk Cameron?]

“Well, I first think that they ought to call a veterinarian, not me. You know, I’m not the religious conspiracy theorist go-to guy particularly. But I think it’s really kind of silly to try to equate birds falling out of the sky with some kind of an end-times theory.”

“That has more to do with pagan mythology [and not the apocalypse] — the directions the birds flew told some of the followers of those legends that the gods were either pleased or displeased with them. I think people just have a fascination with the religiously mysterious.”
[via Moviefone]
“Look, Anderson, if you’re looking for someone to spout off some crackpot religious theory, you’ve got the wrong guy.  I don’t go in for a lot of that hocus pocus.  I’m just a hard-working fella who puts his pants on one leg at a time and believes the grooves on a banana are a code from God that disproves evolution, you know? I leave these conspiracy theories to somebody else.”
(Taken straight from the immature and sporadically hilarious movie news website "Filmdrunk")

x-posted to atheism
philosoraptor42: (Default)
Okay, I've had a bad day of apologetics recommendations. (Well, just two actually, but anyway.) I don't seek this stuff out, but in two separate places it's been recommended to me and so I'm being actively encouraged to get pi***d off.

The second (and far more annoying) of the two recommendations came from [ profile] talk_religion in this entry. The piece of apologetics they link to says "oooh btw the verse in the Bible doesn't say girls must marry their rapist" and then goes on to say "stupid atheist should have known better".

(Please note: The two quotes above were paraphrased from the general gist of the article for the purpose of summarising and comic effect.) 

The apologist give three reasons why they disagree.

The first reasonRead more... )

The second reason Read more... )
The third reason is the only one I felt it necessary to comment on. And that was this:
The third reason is that, to interpret the law in Deut 21:28-29 as a rape is to make God the commander of a morally heinous command.
Oh I'm sorry. It's horrible, so we'll have to change it, eh? After all, that's obviously how you should read the Bible. You don't go into the Bible looking for moral truths. You go into the Bible interpreting it especially so it fits with your existing understanding of morality, don't you?

For me, this was quite enough. No need to make a big long explanation (as I have done above). This alone was enough to show how daft this whole thing was. I gave the following response:
So the reason it can't be translated as "rape" is because that would be horrible....

Yeah, that's some pretty lame apologetics right there.
Then I found myself following up with this:
I do wonder what his explanation is for punishing a woman who loses her virginity outside of marriage with stoning....
(Deut 23-24)
And that's when I got the following response and the naivety managed to quite severely enrage me. (I kept my annoyance restrained obviously, but even so. Grrrr!):
Well, ask. The website itself deals with a lot of biblical stuff and in interesting ways. He or she (there are two) might make it a blog post.
The basic gist of this response being "hey, if there's still some stuff you aren't sure of, maybe they can explain!" The commenter didn't seem to understand from my nice and restrained response to the initial article quite how ludicrous I would find this. My stance is that the initial article (which they recommended) was rubbish and quite possibly intentionally disingenuous. As such, I have little reason to think any follow-up articles won't be similarly rubbish and disingenuous.

The first line of my response to them was this:
There are tons of apologetics websites out there. What's so special about this one?

I'm not really terribly interested in apologetics, wherever it comes from. The fact is that there is tons of sexist stuff in the Bible and plenty of religious people who want to offer excuses for it.
I then looked into the article further and found a number of issues, and I'll quote the rest of my response below. The main discovery however, was that they were actually responding to an article from Michael Martin (amongst other things, the editor of the "Cambridge Companion To Atheism"). The article he wrote is available online and the point of it was not to start whining about particular verses in the Bible, but to respond to the idea that atheists can't have objective morality. His argument was intended to demonstrate that looking to the Bible for morality doesn't work and if there's one thing that the apologetics article failed to demonstrate in response to that, it's that the Bible is a clear source of moral precepts. In fact, they've shown, at very least, that there are clear language barriers and cultural barriers to interpretation, if not actually unconscionable recommendations for the treatment of women.

The rest of my response is quoted below. Including the bit where I get annoyed by yet another mistake in his references, this time for a passage from Aquinas. Grrr!:Read more... )
x-posted to [ profile] apololgetics 
philosoraptor42: (Default)
John Milbank first notes that Ed Milliband, the new Labour leader in the UK, is actually an atheist. Something he has actually kept rather quiet. (This is by contrast to the current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who is now deputy Prime Minister of the coalition government and announced his atheism several months prior to the last general election.) Since Milbank is writing for an Australian audience these days he compares this with the figure of Julia Gillard. (Goodness knows why he's now writing for an Australian publication. Perhaps his suggestions about how to "improve" feminism didn't go down so well with The Guardian.)

As per usual, John decides to name a load of different writers without giving much reason for his choices. So apparently Nietzsche, Heidegger, Carl Schmitt and Louis-Ferdinand Celine are all right-wingers who are darlings of the left-wing. Milbank follows this selection up by saying:
Atheist, and especially nihilistic, Right-wingers can be applauded, even if their thinking requires a little radical-chic tweaking. (The exception clearly is the Catholic Schmitt. But it is not accidental that the bleakness of his vision caused him to regard politics in a more or less nihilistic light.)
Sorry, hang on... Heidegger was also a Christian. I can only presume that John refuses to ackonwledge this because of Heidegger's well-known Nazi party membership. This is the first time I've heard of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, so I can't really comment. Apparently he wrote anti-semitic tracts but also inspired later writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre.

As for Nietzsche's "right wing credentials", Nietzsche does have some right-wing elements. However, he's not easy to pin down. He was most certainly against anti-semitism and nationalism. While most certainly a misogynist (in the footsteps of his early inspiration Arthur Schopenhauer), he believed it important that women be educated. (Amusingly at one point Nietzsche argues that women should not be kept to the kitchen... because the kitchen is far too important to leave to women. *facepalm*) The thing to point is firstly that I have as yet to hear Nietzsche touted as an important left-wing political thinker and secondly that Nietzsche, in spite of his misogynistic views, was actually a hero for many early feminists. Nietzsche's has all sorts of unusual perspectives to offer on a variety of topics and he writes with the firm intention of starting a fight. He wants you to disagree with him. His most important contribution to the history of western thought was his demolition of oppositional binaries. Whether it was war and peace, selfishness and piety, love and hate or good and evil, Nietzsche always tried to mix everything together to get us to see the wider picture.

Thus ends today's Nietzsche rant. On with the show...

So who are the contrasting left wing figures? "T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and Joseph Ratzinger." Oh yeah, he went there. Apparently Joseph Ratzinger is a left wing figure:
the Left bizarrely ignores the way in which they advocate an ethical critique of capitalism and propose alternatives that may be both more practical and more genuinely transformatory than the average run of Social Democratic proposals.
Yeah, I'm sorry, when did Joseph Ratzinger outline a practical proposal to solve issues of Capitalism? Also, isn't that a bit rich coming from a Pope who is trying to canonise one of his forebearers who was prepared to make a deal with fascists rather than risk the Marxists (who really did want to oppose capitalism) making any headway?
One can only conclude that what is really hated here is religion, along with certain moral stances that religion tends to advocate. And not just religion - more specifically Christianity, because the academic secular Left can sometimes forgive also Right-wing thematics if they derive from an Islamic source.
Of course, this is rubbish. If there were an Islamic figure that the left was really keen on then Milbank would not have hesitated to list it above along with all the white male authors he decided to mention. He refers to "the academic secular Left". If he'd referred to the left-wing media, he might have had more ground since we recently saw how Maryam Namazie (campaigning against the stoning of a woman for adultery) was left out of a debate to which she had been invited to contribute, while two apologists for stoning were given screen time. However, he has instead decided to talk about academic figures where, unlike with his own ranting here, the opinion tends to be more nuanced.

Of course, where he is absolutely right is where he mentions the "moral" stances religion tends to advocate. By moral he is, of course, referring to things which you and I would consider thoroughly immoral. The Pope has most notably contested the UK's equality laws. The Pope's moral stances appear to be opposition to gay rights, opposition to women's rights and opposition to police inquiries into Church figures. Excuse me if I don't think any of those stances are terribly "left-wing".
This prompts the question: can atheism sometimes be not just incidental to a political program, but lie at its very source - as Pope Bendict recently suggested on his visit to Britain?

I think that this can indeed be true of both ostensibly Right-wing and ostensibly Left-wing programs. The Nazis tried to disenchant the world by enthroning pure material force as the only reality: in conversations Hitler admitted that even his racist rantings were but a populist gloss upon this goal.

Stalin and Mao tried to disenchant the world by removing all traces of tradition and most traces of beauty from the world. For the problem with beauty is that it is too enigmatic and unsettling in its intimations of transcendence. Was the Cultural Revolution in China driven by socialism? Surely it was driven by a ferociously virulent and scientistic secularism.
Yeah "scientistic". A new word has just been invented.

What we are looking at here is the real crux of John Milbank's comments here. What he is basically saying is "the Pope is right. You atheists are all a bunch of Nazis".

It's one more excuse to add to John Milbank's absurd campaign for "Red Toryism" (i.e. I'm support the Tories but I'm actually really liberal donchaknow?).

At this point there's a (very) random aside about how awful Thatcher was, along with a claim that Thatcherism wasn't really compatible with religion (depsite Thatcher being a self-professed Christian).
Given the evidence that atheism itself can become a political program and seek to enact nihilism with dire results, should we not be worried about the gradual drift of the Labour party towards atheism, despite the genuine - though varied - pieties of both Blair and Brown? 

I would go further, and suggest that this drift towards atheism keeps exact pace with a retreat from any genuine radicalism. The party of R.H. Tawney, the party shaped by Methodism, by Anglo-Catholic socialism and the legacy of British philosophical Idealism, was a party that sought to create an entirely ethical market, whether through State intervention or (in my view more promisingly) through mutualist association.

But the largely secular party we have today essentially agrees with the Right about the inevitably amoral character of the market, a view that is increasingly backed-up by new modes of social Darwinism.
"New modes of social Darwinism"? What the hell is he on about?

By the way, the idea that "atheism and secularism are nihilistic" is a common refrain in John Milbank's work. Don't you just love how his method of justifying this position to his popular (rather than academic) audience, is to note how lovely and perfect one random unsuccessful political party was?

Let's also not forget that the "piety of Blair" apparently encouraged him that it was good idea to go to war with Iraq when we still hadn't finished our war with Afghanistan under the ridiculous pretense of weapons of mass destruction. In an interview with Michael Parkinson, Blair claimed that he asked God for guidance in this decision....

After a while of asserting that neo-liberalism and democratic socialism are pretty much the same thing before finally asserting that what they really need is Jesus, John Milbank finally calls atheism "totalitarian". But not before insisting that only atheists would have any problem with the monarchy and a political body traditionally run by the aristocracy and of course, we're opposed to Churches (rather than simply not wanting to make use of them ourselves) and we're opposed to the family (do I really need to explain how dodgy this assertion is in view of John Milbank's "critique" of feminism?):
A programmatic atheism is at work in the growing hostility to the Crown, to the House of Lords (which needs reform, not total mutation into a second House of Commons which would likely be a less radical body), to the Churches, to the family and to group-rights, and in favour of foxes, exclusively metropolitan life-styles and absolute value-pluralism.

Indeed, it can sometimes appear that for sections of today's Left, as for past totalitarianisms, a naturalistic atheism is the main program. This is why political categorisation is increasingly made in terms of attitudes to sexual issues, to traditional cultures and to religious belief, rather than to issues of substantive economic justice. 'Culture wars' have come to displace older debates about just distribution.

But the evidence of history is that the politics of atheism drifts towards a nihilism of the rule of power alone. The evidence is equally that advocacy of the sovereign power of the individual soon gives way in practice to the absolute power of the amoral market and of the sovereign State whose only purpose is itself.
As opposed to the sovereign state of the past whose only purpose was the sovereign.

John Milbank's full article can be found here.

I've also cut and pasted it below for the hell of it: 
Read more... )

Article discussed on ONTD_Political
Article discussed on Atheism


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