Short Stack #5

We live in a lesser age. My proof for this is the fact that you can no longer see sword-fights in public like you once could. I long for that bygone era when you could swing on a chandelier into the center of a group of royalist thugs, fight your way clear with a nimble blade while making joking comments about your opponents’ foppish dress and churlish table manners, and then leap onto a black horse and gallop away. Man, those were the days.

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Anybody familiar with DC comics over the last 50 years could tell you that Superman had some really silly years back there in the 60s.

Some of the stories were about dopey things like Lois demanding some sort of fantastic present from Supes, to prove his love. It was like the writers just couldn’t imagine anything new for him to do.

The problem was that Big Blue was just too powerful. Super strength, super speed, invulnerability, flight, x-ray vision, microscopic vision, telescopic vision, heat vision, super breath, frigid breath, super-ventriloquism (wtf!?), super-breath-holding and faster-than-light flight in space, super hearing, super intelligence, hell, even time travel. How the hell do you challenge such a hero?

It’s the same with God, isn’t it? No details, no conflict, no real origin story. And just one rather dull story, rather than a series of fabulous adventures. Besides which, the one really interesting villain, goddy people won’t even talk about him.

I often think comic book fans and science fiction readers make the best atheists. At least we can tell a good fantasy story from a fantastically lame one.

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Why is it nobody ever dresses up for Halloween as Jesus?

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I tried Astral Projection when I was younger. But it turned out most of the universe is ugly and crowded, and the food is bad. Plus, most places smell like the Pope after the Vatican’s Friday night Burrito Bar.

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A fellow atheist once told me, “Religion is like a dog’s butt. We already know it stinks, but we have to keep sticking our noses in there to check.”

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When I hear someone say “science is just another religion,” or “evolution is just another faith,” I always wonder if the people saying it really understand what point they’re making. Because basically they’re saying “The stuff you believe is every bit as stupid and baseless as what I believe.”

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Hey, it’s not fundamentalists themselves that people like me object to. It’s the fuzzy-minded mental processes they sell. Put that kind of fuzzy thinking in a position of power, and people really do suffer.

I’m afraid of the way they think, because I know that manner of thinking, left unchecked, can lead to the burning of witches, the torturing of heretics, and the denial of rights to all manner of other human beings, simply because they’re not “blessed by God.”

The same kind of thinking is what’s behind racism. Take a loose and unsupported assumption and offer it as absolute truth, and all sorts of bad results follow.

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I hear it all the time from godders: Where did the Universe come from? This focus on the importance of the “moment of creation” has always seemed kind of weird to me. It’s a melding of curiosity, which is fine, with an ultimate perfectionism, which is not.

The person who has to know the answer to this one question before he will accept anything else is really someone who doesn’t want to know anything at all, it seems to me.

It’s like saying, well, I’m not even going to talk to women (or men) until I find the one Perfect Woman (Perfect Man). Meanwhile, a lot of friendships and fun are missed.

Ditto with a curiosity willing to accept part of an answer as opposed to one which demands the whole answer. You learn a lot of things you really can know, a lot of little parts of the big puzzle, instead of learning nothing while you wait for the Ultimate Answer.

And there are so many delightful things to know. Every tiny bit of science, both the tools of science and the things discovered as a result of their use, is a bit of power placed in your hands, a bit of light added to your mind.

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Some people profess religion so strongly as a way to keep from involving themselves freely with other humans. It’s a way to be totally selfish without being censured for it.

I know of a woman who converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith and stole Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays and even the Fourth of July from her kids for the rest of their young lives. She wouldn’t even attend their baseball games and cheer them on.

Can you imagine? No celebrations, no gifts to show love, no holiday family gatherings? Just day after day the same. All your friends come back to school after the holidays with new toys, new clothes, new stories. They ask “What did you get for Christmas?” and you never have an answer. The rest of the year, no fireworks, no turkey dinner, no cake with candles on it. Ever.

Because “we have to respect other people’s beliefs,” nobody ever told her what an utterly selfish bitch she was.

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Why is there no combat form of yoga? Who’s keeping it from us? I say it’s another goddam conspiracy to keep the masses ignorant and helpless!

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It’s scary and disheartening how few get the idea that if there are ten thousand DIFFERENT religions, and if every one you examine closely has desperate flaws, including the assertion that all the rest are wrong, the strongest possibility is that they’re ALL wrong. And that something else entirely, something non-religious, is much more likely to be true and real.

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I’ll bet if you looked into it, you’d find that Christians have more ear hair and flatulence than unbelievers. Atheist teenagers get more dates with intelligent babes than the wimpy, doughy Christ-boys. Once you become an atheist, your skin clears right up too.

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The main thing I take away from all these religions and the way they divide and differentiate is that NONE of the fans of the mystical have any clear idea of what’s true. That, to me, is the best evidence ever that everyone is pretty much making it up as they go along. To put it bluntly, they’re lying. I like to think they don’t always know they’re lying. But that doesn’t make any of it any more true.

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Like I said before, a lot of what we humans do in our heads is attempt to “model” the external reality in our heads.

There’s this Real Reality out there, and we have certain tools — our senses, our intellect — to try to understand it. One of the ways we construct these models is with philosophy. Another is science.

We have to live in Real Reality, so the closer our philosophical and scientific models parallel it, the better our lives work.

Yet another of the ways we do this modeling is with language — a set of verbal/written symbols we manipulate in various ways. Just as with philosophy and science and every other human mental endeavor, though, there is this big problem: words are NOT the things they model.

So with words, and the concepts attached to them, we can build very complex conceptual constructs, but the only way we have to know if those constructs are right or not is to test them out in the real world.

Some models might sound good because they contain no internal contradictions. But the test of any model is not how internally consistent it is, but how well it reflects reality.

The Harry Potter universe is interesting and complex, and internally consistent to an amazing degree, but does it reflect Real Reality? Nope.

Ditto for these god stories. I think they’re an unwarranted stretch, myself.

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Some part of me really does believe that all the answers in the world are there for me, if I only work hard enough to learn them. All the answers in the world are there for my people, the human race, if we only work hard enough to find them. And religious devotees are an offense against that idea. Maybe I dislike people like that so much because they represent the defeat of the human spirit.

Why do you WANT prayers to work? Would it really be so bad if life was mundane? What’s so bad about a substrate of existence that’s just ordinary matter, ordinary physics?

You know, assuming those of us who believe that’s the case are actually right, there really is nothing but reality all around us. And yet we still seem to produce music, and poetry, and have soaring flights of imagination. All of this without gods or magic.

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There is a very fine line between praying and whining.

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“Have you ever read the Bible??” Heh. That’s always the lure that godders demand you bite on. First you have to read their entire friggin’ holy book. You have to “understand” what it says before you’re allowed to criticize it, or its silly cult.

Bull puckey. I don’t have to be an expert in child psychology to know that playground bullying is wrong.

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Sure, the idea of flying horses makes for wonderful mythology. But can you imagine the effect on car windshields?

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WE’RE the higher power. I guess we don’t usually think of ourselves that way because we were first on the scene.

I have this ugly image in mind of an auto accident in a small town where there are no emergency services. Everybody stands around waiting for the ambulance, refusing to believe that they themselves need to render aid to the injured occupants of the cars.

Everything would have been much better if the human race had had parents. As it is, we’re having to discover the meaning of life, and how to live it, as we go along. But not all of our siblings are bright or responsible.

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Ever notice how many godders seek to confuse the definitions of words?

How many times have you heard people say that science is a religion? Or that atheism is a religion? People who say such things want to make every idea that is the opposite of their package of lies seem like just another package of lies. The level of dishonesty among such people is breathtaking.

The tyrant who can destroy the ability of language to actually communicate detailed concepts can own you with his lies. Ditto for religion.

This business about destroying language, it’s one of the many things you start to notice once you get religion out of your head. Rational people seek to sharpen the definitions of words so they can power razor-sharp reasoning. Godders seek to make words progressively fuzzier, so that eventually nobody can think clearly about anything.

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Maybe we should have a rule that anyone who preaches that the world is going to end on a certain date should be killed on the day after. It would certainly cut down on the bobblehead cult leaders.

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Unlikely superheroes: SpackleMaster, Ironing Board Boy, The Human Wrench, Karate Transvestite, Jell-O Shots Teen, ThunderButt, Steel Knee, Captain Scrapbooking, Mr. Filtrum, Doc Brainless, Cretaceous Man, Refrigerator Magnet Girl, and The Mysterious Odor. Oh, and Loaves and Fishes Guy.

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There are no gods. There’s just us. The more people realize this, the better off the world will be.

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If you have a faulty model of a system in your head, you get right answers only by accident. Which means, if your mind is stuck in a religious framework, if you’re operating from a fantasy world-view, you can’t help but misinterpret just about everything you see.

Say you thought there were powerful invisible spirits running the world — you’d see every drop of rain as a deliberate act, every storm as a personal threat. Life would be hopeless because you’d believe you were a powerless slave to these bigger forces.

And once you believed THAT, your basic approach to life would be “I give up, screw it, anything goes.”

Interesting side thought here: If generations of people grew up feeling powerless and had that “screw it, anything goes” attitude, the only way to combat it would be with a counter-acting morality imposed by a priesthood and enforced by fear. So it might be that the only reason we needed priestly moral coaches was to counteract the influence of those true believers who had given up caring. In other words, both the problem and its supposed solution are the result of religion.

It’s worked out pretty well for the priests, though, hasn’t it?

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  • kennypo65

    Great stuff, Hank. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m stealing some of this to use against the godders in my own life.

    • Hank Fox

      Heh. Send ‘em here, and we’ll all help!

  • sqlrob

    Why is it nobody ever dresses up for Halloween as Jesus?

    Jesus won a Halloween costume contest at my college lo those many years ago. (I was second with my executioner’s outfit)

  • Caz fans

    Haven’t gotten far enough in your very TALL short stack to comment beyond saying that if it is dramatic sword fighting you crave, this is the season to see it in your local (or regional) neighborhood Nutcracker ballet. We’ve expanded our community company to include the local college kids. We’ve got two theater majors as Nutcracker and Mouse/ Rat King, and this year is the BEST battle we’ve ever had. (And we say that as progenitors of not one but two earlier fighting nutcrackers and as creators of biologically correct mouse (NOT rat) and nutcracker masks.) No dialogue, but a batch of cute little pre- and grade school mice and soldiers do almost as well. The music is some pretty quality stuff as well.

    Caz Fans

  • kdan59

    Actually, Jesus is a common costume at Halloween. At New York City’s annual Halloween parade, Jesus is one of the most popular costumes. Jesus on roller skates, Jesus on a tricycle, Jesus in drag (it started as a gay parade, after all).

  • http://sidhe3141.blogspot.com sidhe3141

    “Unlikely superheroes: SpackleMaster, Ironing Board Boy, The Human Wrench, Karate Transvestite, Jell-O Shots Teen, ThunderButt, Steel Knee, Captain Scrapbooking, Mr. Filtrum, Doc Brainless, Cretaceous Man, Refrigerator Magnet Girl, and The Mysterious Odor. Oh, and Loaves and Fishes Guy.”
    I follow a comic with one of those…

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

    Why is there no combat form of yoga?

    I am definitely making an RPG superhero character that performs combat yoga.

    • anthonyallen

      Did it.

      I used to play Ninjas and Superspies back in the day. My character could focus his Chi and accelerate his metabolism to “slow” time for himself, thereby giving him the ability to use his Yoga to dodge bullets and stuff.

      Wasn’t much good when on the offensive, though.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/TabbyLavalamp Tabby Lavalamp

    It’s the same with God, isn’t it? No details, no conflict, no real origin story. And just one rather dull story, rather than a series of fabulous adventures. Besides which, the one really interesting villain, goddy people won’t even talk about him.

    The problem is that the supposed “villain” in the book isn’t as evil and villainous as the “hero”. The “good guy” killed off almost the entire world! Once that’s happened, there is nothing his nemesis can possibly do to top that.

    Atheist teenagers get more dates with intelligent babes than the wimpy, doughy Christ-boys.

    I’m confused. Are the wimpy, doughy Christ-boys gay or bi? Why else would they want to date the intelligent babes who have lean muscles, chiselled good looks and reasonable penises?

  • Phillip IV

    Unlikely superheroes: SpackleMaster, Ironing Board Boy, The Human Wrench, Karate Transvestite, Jell-O Shots Teen, ThunderButt, Steel Knee, Captain Scrapbooking, Mr. Filtrum, Doc Brainless, Cretaceous Man, Refrigerator Magnet Girl, and The Mysterious Odor. Oh, and Loaves and Fishes Guy.

    Oh, I dunno. Sounds like most of them would fit neatly into the Legion of Super-Heroes, right next to Matter-Eater Lad and Bouncing Boy. In fact, Matter-Eater Lad and Loaves and Fishes Guy could strike up a memorable rivalry!

  • inflection

    Loaves and Fishes Guy isn’t a “super”hero, at least not if you go by TV.

    He’s saved more lives than most superheros will in an entire career, unless they save the world, but because he does his work with $5 worth of bread and cans of tuna in desperately poor Third World countries, he never gets in the news.

  • jamessweet

    Why is it nobody ever dresses up for Halloween as Jesus?

    I talked about doing “Sexy Jesus” for Halloween this year. My wife was all for it, but I chickened out.

  • rikitiki

    Exxxcellentt! Now I’ve got my next-year’s Halloween costume idea: Jesus with a crutch! Should be simplicity itself.

  • JoeKaistoe

    I was Jesus for halloween a few years back (back when I had shoulder length hair). Everyone loved it. We went glow bowling, and took a picture of me under the black lights, glowing in a Jesus-like arms spread, looking to the sky pose. It was the background to the engineering student society’s computer for longer than any other picture.

    Good Times.

  • HP

    “Combat yoga” is usually referred to as śastravidyā or dhanurveda. Wikipedia has a decent overview.

  • http://killedbyfish.blogspot.com feralboy12

    Why is there no combat form of yoga?

    Because it’s utterly useless against someone well schooled in the ancient martial art of haiku.

  • dust

    You’re jonesing for some sword fighting? Two words: Douglas Fairbanks.

    You’re welcome!
    Dust

  • Lauren Ipsum

    We had friends who had cousins who were JWs. My friends’ parents were so appalled that the kids couldn’t celebrate birthdays that they would show up the week before or after with random “Hey, we’re giving you this for no reason at all!” gifts, so the kids wouldn’t be totally SOL.


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