philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

Giles Fraser is an odd sort of theologian. I've found he's said some quite interesting things in the past and apparently he's quite keen on social justice, but this morning I must say that I was rather disgusted with him.

He was on the BBC's "Thought For The Day" programme. A rather annoying segment which bizarrely has pride of place right in the middle of typical morning commuter listening times and acts as an annoying interruption in the middle of the genuine news that takes up most of the Today programme during that time. Another regular guest includes Anne Atkins, who is given free reign to spout vile homophobic bigotry or to wax lyrical about the joys of traditional marriage. In spite of the controversy she often causes her last "Thought For The Day" broadcast was on the 2nd May (so less than a week ago). On that particular occasion, this woman who is a member of a 'pray away the gay' group known as 'Council of Reference', explained "Judeo-Christianity, like other faiths, is full of respect".

But Giles Fraser is one I'd normally expect to be a little more even-handed, if not generally that inspiring. I don't tend to pay much attention to who is offering the 'sermon' (let's call it what it is). I generally just hope its over quickly so I can hear a bit more about the current news before I get to work. So imagine my annoyance when the speaker filling this slot in the radio timetable seemingly designed to waste my time began by saying: "I probably shouldn’t be doing Thought for the Day this morning."

Why's that then? A chest infection apparently.

He then explained that anti-biotics are ceasing to be so effective. Not a pleasant thought, I'm sure we'd all agree. I was expecting a fairly banal talk about the doom-laden subject, but what I got was a lot worse: Something almost approaching delight.

"Just maybe, we are losing our immunity from those medical conditions we thought we had beaten. In which case the enlightenment dream of continual never-ending progress looks increasingly hubristic. It seems we are no longer mini-gods after all."

Hey, what's so bad about the prospect of an enormous increase in death by disease if it means you get to prove that you are right? It's always seemed weird to me when religious speakers pose their religion as outwardly opposed to progress. Heaven forbid (literally) that we strive for a better and longer life for each other. While Buddhists are wishing each other long life on a regular basis, it seems that modern Christian clergy cannot wait for us to all to die. So for Giles Fraser the demise of anti-biotics is looking like quite a triumph.

As the show went on, I found myself guessing what was coming next:
"For one of the things that the Judeo-Christian tradition has always insisted upon is..."

... fear.

"...Only God is God. And we are mortals, and intrinsically vulnerable."

Hmmm... same thing.

Ancient religions made use of sympathetic magic. Christian tradition demands fear and trembling. Giles Fraser joyfully denies the Enlightenment dream and happily anticipates increasing mortality rates....

... all while complaining that anti-biotics aren't working effectively enough on his chest infection.

Antibiotics are not recommended for many chest infections, because they are only effective if the infection is caused by bacteria rather than a virus. Your GP will usually only prescribe antibiotics if they think you have pneumonia, or you are at risk of complications such as fluid building up around the lungs (pleural effusion).

(A full transcript of Giles Fraser's sermon can be found here.)
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

The figure above is Tubal-Cain, the villain played brilliantly by Ray Winstone in the "Noah" movie.

There were a few important differences between the Noah movie and the excellent graphic novel. One element which I already mentioned in my review was the way the introduction was handled. In the movie there's a long explanation of the early parts of the Book of Genesis.

It should probably be noted that in explaining the Cain and Abel story, the movie fails to mention that Cain made a vegetable offering to God while Abel offered an animal sacrifice (which God apparently approved of more). That might be slightly at odds with Cain's descendants in the movie being meat eaters while Noah's family (descended from Seth) are vegetarians.

From now on you should be warned that there may be SPOILERS for the movie "Noah" (and, of course, for the graphic novel). I shall be working through both in the same order found in the films, so the earlier parts of this article will relate to earlier parts of the film or graphic novel. So the further through you go, the more spoilery it will get. You have been spoiler-warned!


Setting up the world of the Noah re-interpretation
Read more... )

Noah's family values...
Read more... )

The role of Japeth
Read more... )

The ending of the story. How important is Biblical accuracy?
Read more... )
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)
Considering Aronofsky's Noah Film

1. The Ridiculous Bible Story

Noah has long been a bit of a punching bag when it comes to criticising religion. Certainly when Christians are deciding which stories to reject as fables, the truth of the Noah story seems to be rejected quicker even than the truth of the Adam and Eve story. And I can understand that.

Both stories have a clear problem with a population bottleneck, at the end of the story we are expected to believe that just a very few people are going to need to produce the entire human race through centuries of inbreeding and it's generally just presumed that God would have to make it work somehow. But the Noah story also brings in some very concrete and obvious logistical issues that are much harder to ignore.
- How does Noah gather up the animals?
- How does he make space for all of them in one craft?
- How does he keep them from eating one another during the long time at sea?
- How does he feed them if they cannot eat each other?
- How does he clean up the excrement of this varied group of animals?
Read more... )

2. Aronofsky's Graphic Novel

So how is Aronofsky going to make this story compelling for modern audiences? Well, now I've had a chance to check out the graphic novel Aronofsky is basing this one there are several clear reasons why this is compelling. And they might be rather surprising to anyone who is seen the rather uninspiring trailer.

The graphic novel is, essentially, science fiction.

Yes, you read that right.

Read more... )

3. The Target Audience?

Which is why it is so annoying that the trailers for the Noah movie seem to avoid suggesting that there is any kind of interesting reinvention of the story present. It looks mostly like a bland by-the-numbers version of the story. There's a simple reason for that though and it's not hard to work out. Conservative literalist and hardcore Christians came out by their droves to see "Passion of the Christ". They are saving the recent "Son of God" from being a complete flop. The Bible has a massive fandom and the studio funding "Noah" do NOT want to miss out on this.

Read more... )

4. Poor Marketing

The trailer could be said to mislead the audience because it looks like a simple retelling of the Noah story. But actually there are loads of snippets of the imagery Aronofsky intends to employ. They are just buried as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments.

This includes Noah with a flaming sword:

Read more... )
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

But remember, Jesus wasn't a zombie... He was a Lich. (Explanation below.)

(click here or on the image to see it slightly bigger)
philosoraptor42: (Fatpie42)

With the recent change in Pope and the long-running child abuse scandal the new Pope must now handle, Roman Catholicism is clearly in the spotlight. The recent news that Pope Francis has a history of close cooperation with the military Junta in Argentina is clearly not a good sign.

As head of the Jesuit order from 1973 to 1979, Jorge Bergoglio – as the new pope was known until yesterday – was a member of the hierarachy during the period when the wider Catholic church backed the military government and called for their followers to be patriotic.

Bergoglio twice refused to testify in court about his role as head of the Jesuit order. When he eventually appeared in front of a judge in 2010, he was accused by lawyers of being evasive.

The main charge against Bergoglio involves the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests, Orland Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were taken by Navy officers in May 1976 and held under inhumane conditions for the missionary work they conducted in the country's slums, a politically risky activity at the time.

His chief accuser is journalist Horacio Verbitsky, the author of a book on the church called "El Silencio" ("The Silence"), which claims that Bergoglio withdrew his order's protection from the two priests, effectively giving the military a green light for their abduction.

(Via The Guardian)

There's also a comment from an Argentinian on Pharyngula's blog summing up the situation as follows:

As an Argentinian I can confirm your “rumours” and add that this guy was a collaborator with the military during the last coup d’etat during the 70′s : Among many things, he informed to the military that two monks that were working in a low income neighbourhood were no longer protected by the catholic church, facilitating their detention and posterior disappearance.

Mind you, to “disappear” at that time meant to be detained by the military, held without rights or trial, possibly (and often) tortured under suspicions of being a Marxist/ “terrorist”, being completely incomunicated [sic] with your family and finally be killed and buried on an unmarked grave, or thrown from a plane into the river.


From a fucking plane.

Into the river. (Known as “deathflights”: )

(via Butterflies and Wheels)

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) with General Jorge Rafael Videla leader of the oppressive Argentinian military junta, who seized power in a military coup d'etat in the late seventies and early eighties.

However, while the religion I wish to talk about today certainly committed recent atrocities in full knowledge of the central authority, I do not mean to discuss Roman Catholicism below. Sure, I'm going to talk about forced child labour and there IS at least one Roman Catholic example of this. The film "Oranges and Sunshine" dramatises the real life event where children where taken from their parents without permission and sent to Australia for 'a better life' which, for those sent into the care of the "Christian Brothers" meant forced labour and abuse.

However, while there are plenty of cases of religions where individual groups have been involved in horrific practices, some of which they are unwilling to apologise for and which may continue to this day, there's one religion for which is seems to comprise a central raison d'etre. I am of course talking about the religion of Scientology and their organisation known as the Sea Organisation.

It's recently been revealed that the Sea Organisation deliberately denies children a proper education, forces them to engage in hours and hours of forced labour, and keeps the children separate from their parents for much of their lives. When followers of Scientology sign up for the SeaOrg they sign a billion year contract. That's possibly one of the most creepy things I have ever heard.

This isn't a matter of a religious organisation being stuck in old fashioned thinking or taking advantage of the current political situation or even a horrible act from centuries past for which they still hold the guilt. This is an organisation set-up within a particular religious body by its central authority figures and run centrally with the sole purpose of exploiting, abusing and neglecting its followers, including many young children.

Now I'm not about to give other religions a free pass here. I've already stated that Roman Catholicism, amongst others, has a lot to answer for. But I really do wonder whether this new revelation about Scientology doesn't make "The Church of Scientology" the most abhorrent religious organisation of its size functioning today. And I seriously thought the bar was already pretty high....

For the whole transcript for Jenna Miscavige Hill's interview with the BBC plus a video of another interview look under the cut below...

Read more... )

Also, check out the recent podcasts from "The Good Atheist" about the Church of Scientology:
(Part one)
(Part two)
philosoraptor42: (Default)

Religious leaders furious over Norway’s proposed circumcision ban

by Barry Duke

JENNY Klinge,  Norway’s Centre Party justice policy spokeswoman, has angered religious leaders by condemning the ritual circumcision of infant boys. Calling it “outdated” and “dangerous”, she called for its ban. She said:

In my view, this is a custom that we cannot accept in a modern, civilized society. Our aim is to prioritise the rights of small children. Fortunately, it has become forbidden to circumcise girls, now it’s time for boys to get the same legal protection.

Jenny Klinge says the ritual circumcision of infant boys is barbarous

She stressed that boys who have been ritually circumcised can never remove what she called “a religious marker” if they choose to convert to another religion or have no religious beliefs.

I’m not buying the argument that banning circumcision is a violation of religious freedom, because such freedom must involve being able to choose for themselves.

Read more... )

Glen Poole, Strategic Director of The Men’s Network in Brighton & Hove, reports on his Ending Unnecessary Male Circumcision in the UK blog that the proposed ban had also been condemned by Espen Ottosen, Information Director of Misjonssambandet (Federation of Christian Missionaries), and a Muslim Norwegian physician, Mohammad Usman Rana, who voiced his opposition in a newspaper article entitled Circumcision: Those who will forbid circumcision of young boys in reality invite a totalitarian guardian-state.

Poole points out that pro-circumcisionists claim:

To circumcise boys is a minor operation. Internationally there is a plethora of medical studies which report few complications. We know that the procedure actually provides health benefits.  Urinary tract infections for example are far less common among circumcised boys.  The risk of HIV contamination is also reduced.

Poole counters:

We say all the reported health benefits have either been disproven, contradicted or considered too insignificant to justify the agreed risks and complications which include bleeding, infections, meatus stenosis (narrowing of the urethra) and panic attacks. There isn’t a single medical association in the world that supports the procedure. 

The British Medical Association, for example, stated in 2003 that ‘the medical benefits previously claimed have not been convincingly proven’ and ‘that the evidence concerning health benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification for doing it.

(Source: The Freethinker)

Nothing much to add to this except that I find it amusing to see a religious objection that protecting young children from abuse is "totalitarian". 'My goodness, laws against the mutilation of young boy's genitals? Parts of young children cut off in the privacy of my own home should be of no consequence to the government. It's the nanny state I say!'

Pretty much the only argument against this law is "what about freedom of religion?" and, to be frank, it's not looking like a strong case. You could make a similar argument for human sacrifice, though that has the added benefit that at least the person affected would be doing it of their own free will.

(x-posted to atheism)
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)

Town councillor Simon Parkes: My mum was a 9ft green alien

Town councillor Simon Parkes has claimed his mother is a green alien and extra-terrestrials abducted him as a child.

Parkes believes a 2.7m (9ft) lifeform stood next to his cot when he was a baby and ‘two green stick things’ appeared.

‘I thought “they’re not mummy’s hands, mummy’s are pink,’ Mr Parkes said in a YouTube video.

‘I was looking straight into its face. It enters my mind through my eyes and it sends a message down my  optic nerve into my brain, saying “I am your real mother, I am your more important mother”.’

The extraterrestrial is said to have had huge eyes and tiny nostrils.
Mr Parkes, 52, said another alien  encounter occurred when he was three and had chicken pox.

A 2.4m (8ft) ‘doctor’ dressed as a waiter offered to help after Mr Parkes’s mother left him at home,  it is claimed.

Three years later his ‘real mother’ took him on board an alien craft.

‘The reason why extraterrestrials are interested in me is not because of my physical body but what’s inside – my soul,’ he said.

Mr Parkes, a Labour member elected to Whitby town council in North Yorkshire last month, says his beliefs have not interfered with his work.

‘For many of the people who don’t experience it, it’s very hard to accept.

‘We are taught to only see and  believe what we can touch, but it’s acceptable to believe in religion,’  he said.

‘I’m more interested in fixing someone’s roof or potholes.’

He added: ‘I get more common sense out of the aliens than out of Scarborough town hall. The aliens are far more aware of stuff.’

Terry Jennison, a fellow councillor in Whitby and former mayor of the town, said: ‘I am completely in the dark about this.’

If you are interested in hearing more about Simon Parkes' bizarre delusions there's a video here where, according to the video notes:
Simon Parkes discusses his highly detailed and complex contacts with Extra & Interdimensional beings called Mantis, and the Greys and Reptilians.

(video link)

As you can see, above there is a brief point where he is questioning whether there is anything more strange about his beliefs and any religious belief. Okay, fair point, but we'd actually be pretty concerned if a politician in the UK started getting public about Rapture beliefs too.

X-posted to Atheism
X-posted to ONTD_P
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)

I have now worked my way through Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou's "The Bible's Buried Secrets" and I f---ing LOVE it.

I think the great thing about it is that, while she is often stating outright what popular scholars will more often cover with more guarded language, she doesn't end up saying anything terribly controversial. During the second episode there was one point where I thought she'd skipped a step in her argument.... because she had. Intentionally. By the end of the episode she'd filled in the blanks and the argument was pretty solid.

She has clear and careful arguments which are rooted in the historical evidence and she's always careful to remind us that history and archeology is an ever shifting discipline which has to cater to new evidence constantly. She makes clear where she has strong backing in his discipline and where she is going out on a limb.

And to think there are people on the blogosphere comparing her to blooming Dan Brown. (This guy's a symbologist <A what?> and he's discovering patterns in symbols and numbers. <Based on historical evidence?> -No, based on patterns in symbols and numbers. I just said. <Well that's stupid isn't it?> - No, it's brilliant. Look he's discovered that Jesus was politically important <bollocks> and that he had a wife <based on bollocks> and that the female protagonist is Jesus' direct heir <which after two thousand years means precisely bollocks>. -Well it's an exciting enough story, right? <No, the writing's bollocks too.>)

The choice of topics has been pretty cool too. Did King David really exist as the powerful king he is described as in the Bible? What function might tales about King David have served? Were the Israelites always monotheists? When might they have shifted to monotheism and why? But perhaps the real kicker (and the thing that I suppose has earnt her the Dan Brown comparison) is whether God had a wife. Her issues with the influence of patriarchy on ancient stories carry on with her criticisim of the way Eve is presented in the Garden of Eden story. Along with that she asks: What elements are read into the Garden of Eden story today that are not even in the text? Was there a real Garden of Eden? Did the story have political relevance?

Also interesting is the number of people responding not with "BLASPHEMY!" but rather with "well yeah... of course". People being shocked by the claim that King David never existed, that Yahweh had a wife and that the Garden of Eden was originally a temple would be unsurprising. To hear them saying that this is all obvious is a bit of a shock.

Now going round the internet there is no shortage of people trying to poke holes in Dr.Stavrakopoulou's arguments. There are claims that she doesn't show alternative viewpoints. (Not only does each show feature at least one viewpoint from each of the Abrahmaic religions, but she often disagrees with scholars in religion and/or archeology too.) There are claims that her accounts are too superficial. (A dodgy argument when we are dealing with a TV programme for a typical layman audience with only a single hour on each of the three big topics.) There are claims that she is putting forth the arguments as her own innovations. (She also speaks to scholars/archeologists who agree with her arguments and are working on the vital evidence. The title of her programme "The Bible's Buried Secrets" means that the evidence for her claims is found in archeology i.e. "buried", not that she's uncovering some kind of conspiracy.) So yeah, some people are wrong on the internet. Big surprise.

Francesca Stavrakopoulou's Three Claims

Claim One: King David was a myth.
(Youtube link for part one of episode one)

Read more... )

Claim Two: God had a wife
(Youtube link for part one of episode two)

Read more... )

Claim Three: The Garden of Eden is the Temple in Jerusalem
(Youtube link for part one of episode three)

Read more... )

Stavrakopoulou VS Widdecombe

Read more... )

Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou has an article about Abraham here:

I'm putting her book on my Christmas list:

Also, you can find my transcript of her appearance on the radio programme "Museum of Curiosity" here:

And I'm really interested to see what she has to say in the future. Awesome stuff....

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)
There are two sides to every story, but sometimes one of those sides is mainly BS.

With the recent story about France banning Muslim prayer my first reaction was that it was absurd. But then I thought about it...

Read more... )
(Main Source: EuroNews)

Muslims using the new space provided after the recent French ban on Muslim prayer.
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)
I've got a fair range of podcasts I'm following now:

1. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo Film Reviews
This week the main feature is "Black Swan". I've only just start listening, but they've already done a review for a brand new John Carpenter movie! I am, of course, a big John Carpenter fan. I'd heard about John Carpenter's "The Ward", but with very little marketing I presumed it would probably go straight to DVD. Kermode actually seems to like it, though he doesn't wax lyrical about it.

Mark Kermode is a film reviewer with some very strong opinions and it's recently been claimed that one of his movie rants woke someone from a coma.

2. The News Quiz
The Friday Night comedy news quiz is a great way to feel better about the increasingly depressing news under this coalition government. The voices I recognise most easily are Jeremy Hardy and Sue Perkins. Sandi Toksvig does a great job of presenting the quiz.

3. Film Sack
I discovered these very recently. They like to pick cheesy movies and pick them to pieces. They also have an announcer who reads movie lines in an even cheesier voice than before. It's really really funny. This month's movie is Time Cop. It's actually the only Jean-Claude Van-Damme movie I've ever really enjoyed, but as you'd expect with this sort of movie, the best thing about it is the premise. It's noted early on that time travel is a great way to make money, yet nearly impossible to police. I'll be interested to see what they have to say about this one....

4. The Pod Delusion
Apparently these guys are now affiliated with the British Humanist Association. I haven't really been following these though.

5. Sounds Jewish
Having made four recommendations, it seems wrong not to add one more on and make this a "top five". Sadly we still haven't had a Guardian "Sounds Jewish" podcast this year. The Guardian podcast on Islam known as "Islamophonic" (who did a joint show on the Gaza troubles with "Sounds Jewish") appears to have disappeared entirely (though Riazat Butt is still busily writing religion stuff and caused some rather OTT annoyance for fellow Muslim bloggers with her twitter feed from Hajj).
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)

Earlier this year, Rice, who was raised a Catholic, lost her faith and returned to it in middle age, posted a message on Facebook. "I quit," she wrote. "In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

Given the unchanging nature of the Catholic church, the obvious question is, what took her so long? "Yes," she says, carefully. "I'm still stridently criticised by Catholics who say, you should've known, when you came back. But we all learn; isn't that part of life, that you learn? I joined with the best of intentions, thinking I knew this religion from childhood, thinking it's a fine religion, an honorable religion. Then I began to really study it and I found it was not an honorable religion, that it was not honest. Now, someone else, maybe, would draw totally different conclusions. But I think the argument that I didn't have a right to change my mind is absurd."

Attending mass became stressful. She had a terrible row with a priest friend. "He said Obama was just as bad as Joseph Stalin because of his allowing abortion. And I said, 'Are you seriously saying that? Do you know who Joseph Stalin really was and what he did?' And he wouldn't back down and there was no more discussion."

For years, she thought, if she studied the Bible hard enough she might work out the contradictions. "But then, as I increasingly saw what I thought was sophistry and lies, I thought: 'I can't abide this.' I can't remain with this. This is crazy. There is no basis in scripture for any anointed hierarchy, let alone a male hierarchy. It's just not there. And how in the world did this man-god die, preaching against the temple, and then we wind up with St Peter's in Rome? How did that happen? There were so many issues where I thought the church was flat-out immoral. I had to leave."

I must say, I was one of the people saying "how could you not know?" However, I cannot help but feel like I understand the sentiment in the interview here. I really do see how the Church can seem quite attractive when you don't look too far into scriptural dictats, hierarchy or history. When I visited St. Peter's in the Vatican City I found the experience very powerful indeed (even if the expense of the building doesn't quite feel in keeping with the teachings of the religion - though naturally the expected response would be that the cost of the Church is dedicated to God and not the possession of a rich man). In the end though, you cannot remain in a religion for long without recognising its politics. I know some Catholics are hoping for big changes in Church politics, but those changes are looking pretty remote right now.
philosoraptor42: (Default)

I'm very pleased to see that this includes the awesome David Schneider, who I first saw in various projects of Armando Iannucci such as "The Saturday Night Armistice" and "I'm Alan Partridge". (Armando more recently writes and directs "The Thick Of It".)

Another good video from the same guy.
Grey Guy Learns About The New World Order (other guy in the video is a comedian)


philosoraptor42: (Default)

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