Carnival of the Godless #70

After a hectic week, it’s a relaxing Saturday evening and I’m going to enjoy watching my Chicago Cubs crush the Pittsburgh Pirates!

Oh crap.

I have to do the Carnival this week, don’t I…?

I will just have to do both at the same time.

The Cubs have been doing well in the past couple weeks and whenever they get hot, talk in Chicago turns to their chances of winning the World Series. Some have said the Cubs’ odds of winning the title are astronomical. But our universe is pretty amazing. If life can form on at least one planet, then the Cubs can win the World Series. (Don’t question my logic there. It’s perfect.)

As Ain’t Christian puts it:

When you consider the incredible numbers of planets spiraling and circling throughout this vast cosmos you must entertain the thought that for some bursts of time a planet would be in the rolling in the right place at the right time with the right conditions to allow moss to gather on it.

(That post impressively ties in both the Andromeda Galaxy and boobs.)

Woo! Top of the 1st and Cubs are up 1-0! No outs.

The only thing that could stop them at this point is a disease.

Evanescent expands on the idea of one particular virus that could take ahold of anyone. (Hint: It’s religion!)

This vile infection is so ubiquitous it has even diversified so that in some parts of the world it produces different symptoms in people. Oddly, this mental pathogen will not tolerate variance of any kind even amongst other carriers, so a strong aversion to change and total lack of tolerance are classic symptoms of infection.

The Cubs’ Jacque Jones ends the top half of the inning on a close play at first. It looked like he beat the throw, but the first base umpire called him out. Jones is yelling at him. He’s mad. I think that’s a sin. (Jesus would never tolerate that.)

John at Hell’s Handmaiden also talks about sin when referencing this piece by Christian writer Dave Daubenmire:

Dave and those like him seem inclined to fix the smashed up [sinning] people anyway, not bothering with such things as finding out whether the people are actually injured or, if they are injured, with finding out what actually injured them.

Hmm… bottom of the 2nd. Cubs are up 2-0. But the Pirates have two on with two outs. Pitcher Ted Lilly’s disappointing me right now. They might need to take him out of the game.

That solution worked for one Mormon woman.

Eight Hour Lunch tells the story of Nannette and her son Tyler. Tyler was on a mission trip for the Mormon church. His mother was sending the church $400 for his “blessings.” That’s when Nannette got a disturbing email from him:

Guess what?” he said. “They just cut our food budget from $145 a month to $130. It’s going to be really hard to eat well on that amount of money.”

Meanwhile, as Tyler and the other the missionaries in his area tried to scrape by on about four dollars a day, the Mormon Church blithely carried on with the construction of its massive billion dollar mall in downtown Salt Lake City.

So the women pulled her son out of there.

Lilly got out of the inning unscathed. *phew* We can keep him in a little longer…

Top of the 3rd. Bases loaded for the Cubs. We’re up 3-0. One out. To see a grand slam would be heavenly!

Speaking of Heaven, Tristan L. Sullivan shares a story about Paradise:

The place to create paradise is here and now. There will never be a better one. I have come to believe that the tendency to always put it ahead of us in space (up there) and in time (after I die, when I achieve this or that) is completely wrong. This is the place to do it. This is why we are here.

Ok, we got a sacrifice fly instead. 4-0. I’ll take it.

And one minute later, pitcher Lilly gets a hit! 5-0. Nice. That doesn’t happen too often for pitchers. Lilly should take that ball and put it into a museum.

But not this one. Bay of Fundie dissects the website of Canada’s Big Valley Creation Science Museum:

It is Canada’s first permanent creation museum.

As weird as that sounds, Canada has at least two traveling creationism museums. I wonder if that’s by necessity and not design. If your museum is on wheels, you can flee town before the locals realize they’ve been swindled.

Still 5-0 in the top of the 5th. The Cubs’ Jacque Jones hits a long ball! The outfielder can’t get to it in time! Home r— wait. No. It bounces near the warning track and goes into the stands for a ground rule double. Damn. Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

That’s what the Anonymous Coward believes, too. At least that thought runs through his head when he hears a sick woman talk about why certain African countries are so poor:

Her basic conclusion was that people are starving in Africa because they are evil. They deserve it. God is punishing them for their wrongdoings.

Of course that’s not true. Life just isn’t fair.

Bottom of the 5th. Cubs up 7-0 (on 7/7/7, of course). The Pirates can still make a comeback. They just need to have faith… and faith is a good thing, right?

Richard at Philosophy, et cetera doesn’t think so. He uses a typical conversation snippet between a skeptic and a believer as a starting point for discussing how great (or not-so-great) faith is:

Skeptic: “Doesn’t it bother you that there’s no real evidence that God even exists?”

Christian: “Not at all. If God gave us proof, there’d be no room left for faith!”

Wow. Christian got me there. Guess I don’t need to look for that evidence thing after all…

Jacob at Winter’s Haven also agrees that faith is not a virtue. He goes after parents who encourage it:

… parents who teach that faith is a virtue are guilty of a high epistemic crime. To deliberately choose to believe something — anything — on faith alone is to positively embrace madness.

It’s a response to a piece written by the Atheist Ethicist (who, for the record, is not saying that faith is a virtue). I’m sure there are readers who would like to respond to Jacob.

Jamonation also distinguishes between Good Faith and Bad Faith:

The defining characteristic of bad faith is that it is not based on evidence. It is a faith that is based on wants, needs, superstitions and, if evidence is considered at all, erroneous evidence.

We’re going to the 6th inning. Cubs up 7-0!

They have great pitching. Excellent hitting. It’s not because of God that they’re doing so well.

And I was content in my atheism until I saw this statement by Francois at Check Your Premises:

Nonbelief is the realization that one has been cheated.

WTF? Oh… I see what he did there. Touché, sir.

Bottom of the 6th. Pirates have a guy on second base with no outs. Hitter Freddy Sanchez didn’t like a called strike, but after he popped out, he just walked back to his dugout. No arguing with the umpire. He would’ve been thrown out of the game if he had tried.

Had he been thrown out, though, we’d be saying how that guy was an obnoxious idiot.

Much like Rick Warren, says Shalini of Scientia Natura. (In fact, her post is called “Rick Warren is an obnoxious idiot, Part 2.” Part 2!)

… Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is one of the statements that Rick Warren seems to love in his repulsive, god-licking, mess of a self-help book…

And that’s the least critical part of the post.

Speaking of which, should religion be subject to harsh criticism? Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have done their fair share of it. No More Mr. Nice Guy agrees that doubt is good and religious claims need to be examined closely. On top of that, he shares an anecdote that really got to me:

I’ve known people in various parts of the US (not just the Deep South) who’ve had one or more of the following happen to them: cars keyed; pets tortured and/or killed; house windows broken; fired from their jobs; hate mail; death threats; beatings – just because they happen to be atheists. They weren’t trying to convert anyone, just trying to mind their own business and get on with their lives, but apparently their mere existence is enough to provoke fear, hatred, loathing and threatened or actual violence by believers.

Wow. That’s horrible. Anyone else share his experience…?

Let’s move on to something happier.

Like the 7th inning stretch!

It’s a perfect time to catch up on some reading. The Uncredible Hallq has a review of a book that’s not out just yet. It’s called Christ’s Ventriloquist. Here’s an excerpt of one of Hallq’s criticisms of the book:

The aggressive disregard for scholarship in interpreting ancient documents is inexcusable.

The author responded to the review (also in Hallq’s post). Let’s just say he wasn’t a happy camper.

Before we get back to the game, let’s open up the newspaper to the comics section. Ahh, Family Circus. My favorite. Waitaminute… this isn’t funny

The Greenbelt adds a couple thoughts on the comic:

That’s disturbing on many levels – not least of which is that Bill Keane either didn’t think of it, or didn’t mind it. (That smug grin on little Billy’s face is pretty disturbing in itself, come to think of it.) I mean, think about it for a minute: God owes allegiance to the USA?

President Bush thinks He does, so I don’t know what The Greenbelt is talking about…

And what’s this in The New York Times? Stanley Fish has a piece on faith/science/atheism and ChemJerk doesn’t think it’s up to par with Fish’s usual work. He ends with this lovely line:

You can have faith and you can have reason, but you can’t reason faith.

Back to the game. Bottom of the 7th.

Curses! The Pirates scored. It’s 7-1.

Buddha has let us all down yet again. Maybe we should stop believing in him. He’s not all he’s cracked up to be.

Steve, the Socratic Gadfly, agrees:

… if the Buddha himself had actually obtained Buddhahood, he would have said, “Life appears to be suffering.”

Cubs get out of the inning. Still 7-1.

Time for some porn.

Twelve Years Of Being Annoyed By Chloe Sevigny (coolest blog name *ever*) talks about XXX Church’s outreach to porn stars:

Not surprisingly, in its some five years of existence, XXX Church hasn’t “saved” too many porn queens. According to most published reports, the industry and its members tend to ignore the church, regarding it as a fly in the KY, so to speak.

And we haven’t even gotten into the Christian Domestic Discipline. Darn.

Back to the 8th inning. The Cubs are going to yank their pitcher and call in someone from the bullpen.

Change is sometimes necessary, though. Akusai at Action Skeptics talks about how Emporer Constantine changed Christianity– and not for the better:

Christianity, on the other hand, was irreparably scarred by his involvement. It went from a quiet, private faith populated by the truly faithful to a massive social phenomenon populated by the socially and politically expedient.

We’re going to the bottom of the 9th. Cubs are still up 7-1.

At this point, the Pirates’ fans can do themselves a favor by going through a sense of detachment and being “outside” of their bodies. But Jack at Glittering Muse explains that the popular definition of “detachment” isn’t the best explanation for it:

… it is not a separate being or other self, but a description of where the true self seems to come from when it is balanced within the body.

Game over! Cubs win!

Since I wagered a bit on the game (only Monopoly money, of course), I’m rolling in the (Monopoly) dough.

Godma knows a little something about wagers as well. She has a revamped version of Pascal’s Wager that points out a flaw in the argument. Here’s one of the revised parts:

If you don’t believe in foo and it exists, you’ll be punished for your good sense in insisting on evidence.

(What is “foo”? Read the post to find out. While you’re at it, check out the picture of the Crocoduck.)

I love living in Cubbie Nation. Everyone should join it. Then again, that could lead to fascism. And The Antichristian Phenomenon wouldn’t like that. After discussing Hitler and Mussolini, we read this:

The only other entity in the history of mankind that ruled with such absolute power has been the Abrahamic God. The same God of Endless Love who’s history is one of Endless Hate.

That game was just embarrassing for the Pirates. There’s really nowhere left for them to go.

Except the afterlife.

(Work with me here. It’s getting late.)

Doctor Biobrain has some interesting questions for those Christians who think you drop all your earthly relationships when you get to Heaven:

Why are they cool with this? I mean, what’s the point of living in Heaven for eternity if it’s not us anymore? If we completely lose our identity, memory, etc; aren’t we effectively dead? I mean, if some evil doctor removed your brain and placed the brains of another person in your head, would it still be you?

Dying doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, though. Greta Christina has a terrific article where she discusses comforting thoughts about death:

I think there are ways to look at death, ways to experience the death of other people and to contemplate our own, that allow us to feel the value of life without denying the finality of death.

That’s it for this Carnival!

Oh… there was one more submission that I couldn’t fit anywhere. (And I was so close!)

Mark at The Skwib presents popes and nuns of the future:

Sister Mary Xtron the Destroyer and her accompanist, Sister Mary Catherine Crudlik-Pamby (of the Space Ship BingePowder) will be in the Trans-Vatican this week for a limited engagement, entertaining His Hyper-Holiness, The Trans-Dimensional RoboPope, Lexnor Innocent III, and his Death Cardinals of Extreme Planetary Retribution.

You try putting that somewhere.

The next CotG is at Aardvarchaeology in two weeks.

Submit your entries here!


[tags]atheist, atheism, Aardvarchaeology, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, World Series, Christian, Andromeda Galaxy, boobs, Jacque Jones, Jesus, Dave Daubenmire, Ted Lilly, Mormon, Salt Lake City, Tristan L. Sullivan, Big Valley Creation Science Museum, Freddy Sanchez, Rick Warren, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Family Circus, God, Pledge of Allegiance, The New York Times, Stanley Fish, Buddha, porn, XXX Church, Monopoly, Hitler, Mussolini, Heaven[/tags]

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  • http://12yearsofbeingannoyedbychloesevigny.blogspot.com aspeth

    aaaaw….”coolest blog name ever” ????

    tyvm :)

  • http://www.dbzer0.com db0

    Hey, glad to see our first post from the Antichristian Phenomenon get in the carnival so soon. ‘scool.

    I was expecting it at least in a month or so :)

  • Applefall

    “Buddha has let us all down yet again. Maybe we should stop believing in him. He’s not all he’s cracked up to be.”

    I wish someone else had the guts to say that. I’m tired of Buddhism getting a free pass when it’s filled with the same mumbo-jumbo as the other religions. And anyone who lives where there is a substantial Asian community knows it is a religion, with gods, demons, heavens, hells, misogyny, superstition, and unreasoning faith just like the others. Those who say, “Yeah, but the Buddha didn’t intend all that” should think twice, because Jesus didn’t intend for a separate religion to be founded in his name and turn into a systematic theocratic wack-tank either. Thank you Socratic Gadfly, even if you did write it tongue-in-cheek!

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  • http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/podcast.html Peggy Clarke

    Hi Hemant,

    Follow this link http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/podcast.html to an interview with Richard Dawkins about The God Delusion (look for the June 19 show) that was broadcast on CBC radio. It’s been a while since I updated my podcasts otherwise I would have sent this sooner!

    Peggy

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  • http://glitteringstew.com/muse Garnet David

    wow, what a fun, creative combination of baseball and atheist philosophy. perhaps i’ll call myself Jack from now on; it sounds more cool than garnetdavid. thanks for the fun post.

    GD

  • Champ

    Carnival of the brainless.

  • Darryl

    Champ, you scamp!

  • http://12yearsofbeingannoyedbychloesevigny.blogspot.com aspeth

    Applefall,

    You have to be kidding, right?

    Because living in a neighborhood with a lot of “mumbo jumbo” on the periphery does not mean that one has engaged, much less say even remotely tried to understand, what is going on around oneself.

    As someone who has lived in both eastern and western hemispheres, your post sounds like an extreme extrapolation, IMO…..

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  • monkeymind

    I’m tired of Buddhism getting a free pass

    I don’t see too many Buddhists asking for free passes.

    The post by Socratic Gadfly is also pretty ignorant. He seems to be mixing up the Buddhist concept of suffering (which means something more like existential dissatisfaction) with the Christian Science idea that pain and sickness are illusions.

  • Richard Wade

    I used to be a Buddhist but I never got the free pass. How come I always hear about these perks after it’s too late?

  • Miko

    He seems to be mixing up the Buddhist concept of suffering (which means something more like existential dissatisfaction) with the Christian Science idea that pain and sickness are illusions.

    There is that aspect. But more importantly he’s criticizing the Buddha for not practicing satori, which is a Japanese concept that developed quite a bit later and is only accepted in one of the many Buddhist traditions.

    . I’m tired of Buddhism getting a free pass when it’s filled with the same mumbo-jumbo as the other religions.

    It contains some mumbo-jumbo, but it’s not the same mumbo-jumbo as the other religions. If you take the intersection of all of the Buddhist traditions, you get down to a fairly rationalist core with a decent message. Many atheists identify as Buddhists when they really mean this common core, so these ideas are being practiced separately and are not viewed as religion by their adherents. There’s also the key difference that Buddhist teaching is not claimed to be divinely inspired in almost all schools of Buddhism and thus is able to be continually updated (and is, in many traditions). Not to mention the fact that Buddhism is just light years ahead of any other religion straight out of the gate. When we have suicide bombers on one hand and people who believe that lotus flowers blossomed in the baby Buddha’s footsteps on the other hand, it’s really hard to argue that we should be spending as much time on the second class of nonsense. (Although Wikipedia’s WikiProject Buddhism desperately needs a complete rewrite, if anyone’s up to doing the research necessary…)

  • http://thegreenbelt.blogspot.com The Ridger

    Great job! Good selection of posts and some blogs that are new to me – some good reading here.

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  • monkeymind

    Richard:

    If you don’t mind my asking – what type of Buddhism did you practice (you said something about doing meditation in another post so I’m assuming that you weren’t just saying that for the joke – though it is a shame you never got the pass for a free roller coaster ride.

    Miko – you also seem very knowledgeable about Buddhism – is it just intellectual curiosity or do you practice some kind of meditation or …? Have your read Stephen Batchelor’s “Buddhism without Beliefs”?

    ‘scuse me for hijacking the thread, folks.

  • Miko

    Miko – you also seem very knowledgeable about Buddhism – is it just intellectual curiosity or do you practice some kind of meditation or …?

    I tend to think of Buddhism and meditation practice separately. Among scientific atheists, it’s fairly common to claim that we’d accept religion if it were actually demonstrated to work. From what I’ve seen, meditation (but not necessarily Buddhism) has passed that test: while many of the claims of higher planes of existence and other metaphysical benefits are obviously unverified and almost certain not true, there’s good evidence that meditation has positive health benefits, both mentally and physically, so I do practice meditation as such. But this has more in common with going to the gym than with religious belief. And obviously, supposedly related things like transcendental meditation are just quackery.

    Regarding Buddhism itself, I’ll opt for the intellectual curiosity option. Buddhism has fractured into so many sects that in makes Christianity look unified by comparison and some of them act in ways that seem rather contrary to the goals of the teachings. Take the schism between Mahayana (“the greater vehicle”) and Hinayana (“the inferior/disgusting vehicle”): any guess on which side came up with those names? And there are so many ridiculous claims in many sects (e.g., Mahayana was founded by the discovery of the Lotus Sutra, allegedly written by the Buddha despite the absence of writing at his time and delivered to its ‘discoverer’ by dragons who had been hiding it for 500 years out of fears that people weren’t ready for its teachings) and intermingling with the indigenous religions of various areas as Buddhism spread (e.g., Tibetan Buddhism) that it’s hard to say what ‘Buddhism’ actually means.

    Under this surface noise, I think that Buddhism has a lot of worthwhile teachings. However, I think that other religions have worthwhile teachings as well. I try to extract the positive teachings from each and throw away the superstitious detritus.

    I have a great deal of respect for Buddhism: despite its myriad of traditions, there is almost no conflict between members of different sects, it values pluralism and doubt, it places the focus on present rather than future rewards, it’s championed equality based on race, gender, and class for most of its history, and it doesn’t typically inspire people to kill each other. I wouldn’t identify as one myself, but I will hold it up as an example of what I wish all religion looked like in our world (although as I’ve noted above, it definitely doesn’t deserve a free pass and I think it would be better yet if more of its adherents viewed it as philosophy instead of religion).

    Have your read Stephen Batchelor’s “Buddhism without Beliefs”?

    No, but based on the title it sounds like something I’d be interested in taking a look at.

    ’scuse me for hijacking the thread, folks.

    At the risk of pushing the thread further off track, what about yourself, monkeymind?

  • monkeymind

    what about yourself, monkeymind?

    Let’s just say that I’m Buddh-curious.

    I worked with Indochinese refugees in the late 1980′s, so I got a perspective on Theravedan Buddhism from people who were trying to rebuild their lives after some of the most catastrophic events in the 20th century.

    Lately I’ve been discovering the more intellectual tradition of Buddhism, and also the Buddhist traditon in the West, like the Stephen Batchelor book I mentioned. (I recommend it highly)

    I find meditation very helpful, but it’s hard to make myself do it. I still haven’t committed to going to any of the local sanghas, though they all seem pretty un-mumbo-jumbo-y and all have women as the lead teachers.

  • Richard Wade

    monkeymind, to answer your question:
    For many years I practiced zen buddhism and meditation in a center that followed both the Soto and Rinzai traditions. I liked the humanism and the community outreach, the ethics, precepts and emphasis on personal responsibility. The meditation was difficult but good for relaxing the body, clarifying the mind and helping with sleep. It would be good for my mental and physical health if I still meditated but I’m lazy. I lost interest in the pursuit of enlightenment and I don’t believe in any of the older ideas of rebirth or karma, but much of the basic principles, especially the detachment from material things, still strongly influence me.

  • monkeymind

    Hi Richard, thanks for that explanation. I find myself drawn to the Vipassana or insight tradition. I like the Zen aesthetic though.

    I’m not sure what I think about karma, but at the Vipassana center they say that it is not necessary to believe in reincarnation to practice meditation or follow Buddhist ethics. I agree with the general principle that our actions have consequences beyond the immediately observable ones.

  • Miko

    I worked with Indochinese refugees in the late 1980’s, so I got a perspective on Theravedan Buddhism from people who were trying to rebuild their lives after some of the most catastrophic events in the 20th century.

    Sounds like both a noble and a cool thing to do. Good for you. Based on what you say later, are you suggesting that Theravada is not an intellectual tradition? I realize that it has some weird things like stories about wars between devas, etc., but I’ve always thought of it as being one of the purer traditions in theory. Of course, I haven’t encountered the Indochinese practice of it, which could differ wildly from the textual/theoretical.

    Lately I’ve been discovering the more intellectual tradition of Buddhism, and also the Buddhist traditon in the West, like the Stephen Batchelor book I mentioned. (I recommend it highly)

    I’ve found that there are two separate Western Buddhist traditions: one which tries to extract the intellectual content and moral precepts and one which tries to extract the superstition. (The latter is typically known as New Age.) While I think the former is a noble pursuit, I wouldn’t identify with it, especially because so many people would instantly assume I meant the latter. (I think that courses in world religion promote this view: Buddhism has a lot of lists which are easy to teach but which really say nothing about Buddhism.) It’s always a shame when opposing ideas get lumped under the same name. I’ve checked out a copy of Batchelor’s book, by the way; it looks like it’s going to be well worth reading.

    I find meditation very helpful, but it’s hard to make myself do it.

    Yep. As I said, it’s like going to the gym. We feel better when we do it, yet we still try to find excuses not to. :-)

    I lost interest in the pursuit of enlightenment and I don’t believe in any of the older ideas of rebirth or karma, but much of the basic principles, especially the detachment from material things, still strongly influence me.

    I’ve heard this sentiment from many ‘ex-Buddhists’ and feel somewhat the same way myself without having actually gone through the intermediate stage of being a Buddhist in the first place (at least not officially: I have attended sangha along with the services of other religious traditions). It makes a pretty compelling argument that the two can be separated, although I’ve met some Buddhists who are quite dogmatic about rebirth and kamma as the core of the tradition.

  • monkeymind

    are you suggesting that Theraveda is not an intellectual tradition?

    No, I definitely dont want to give the impression that I think that. I also think it is one of the purer traditions. But when I first encountered it, I wouldnt have known a forest monk from a Tibetan deity. Between language barriers, my cultural filters, and the fifteen year or more history of catastrophic cultural disruption, the impression I got from the Cambodian and Lao refugees I worked with was of a pretty simplistic “worship” of Buddha. Also there were no monks in the community I was working with, though there was an older woman who identified as a nun but she spoke no English.
    I realize now there was probably a lot I missed. I remember being impressed by the gentleness and basic optimism that most of them had retained.


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