Rev. Mark Sandlin, our designated Christian, had to miss the first session. By the time we caught up with him, he was drinking on a beach in North Carolina for some reason.
JT EBERHARD (atheist blogger, What Would JT Do?): Mark, how’s the vacation?
MARK SANDLIN (Presbyterian minister, blogger at The God Article): First full day, had a great time on the beach. Grilling up some salmon after this.
JASON MANKEY (Pagan blogger, Raise the Horns): So what we are talking about this evening? And how much hazing of Mark do we get to engage in for missing the first meeting?
Mark: Me! And zero.
JT: Okay, in the interest of saving time, I grabbed the first two things I saw — chocolate whipped cream vodka and strawberry-flavored carbonated water. And it’s actually good. O.O (That’s my surprised face.) Oh! There was just a huge burst of thunder here in Kansas, just as an atheist and two spiritual people start having a chat. It’s the end times.
Jason: Could just be the gods trying to tell you something.
JT: Or maybe it’s just a hot and cold front running together… but, yeah — I’ll go with God too. 😉 That’s it, let’s just finish our drinks and fight.
Okay Mark, since we’re talking about you: What are your hobbies, aspirations, and fears? Go.
Mark: Drinking, drinking, and drinking. And intentionally avoiding the Oxford comma.
Voice of God: FIXED IT FOR YOU.
JT: This man drinks like an atheist…or a lifelong Catholic. Here’s one we can all answer: What drives you crazy about your belief community?
Mark: Mine’s easy: Hypocrisy.
JT: Kinda the same here. I think fundamentalists can carry a strain of arrogance…I mean, when you believe god has your back…but I’ve noticed atheists can carry a different, almost more pompous strain. That drives me bonkers. And the ones who care the least about evidence tend to be the most egregious offenders.
Mark: Agreed. Fundamentalists of every ilk are a serious problem.
JT: And I guess ours manifests itself via hypocrisy: we demand evidence, talk up our skepticism, but on the whole I’ve found most atheists treat beliefs like football fans treat Sundays — they just want their team to win, evidence and effort be damned. In other news, I’ve realized I’m a cynic and a misanthrope.
Mark: Good word.
JT: I write a blog.
Jason: We are starting to get Pagan fundamentalists. One of the reasons I became a Pagan was to get away from that. I had hoped a polytheistic worldview, or at least a sympathy with that worldview, would spare me from that.
JT: Pagan fundamentalists? H-H-How? How does that even happen?
Jason: I’m not sure, but I think it has to do with absolutes, and people proclaiming that their way is “THE ONLY WAY” when defining a particular word or ritual idea. We see it sometimes with a groups dedicated to a certain deity or pantheon of deities. Or people who just enjoy belittling the practices of others.
Mark: Given time, every belief system will develop fundamentalists — it’s human nature, I guess.
JT: Seems that way. The problem seems to be humankind. So…is there a solution? Drunk Mark, fix humanity! GO!
Mark: Ha! Maybe the problem isn’t our nature, but that we expect something different out of it. What if we just recognized that it was going to happen and be prepared for it?
Voice of God: WHOA. DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.
Jason: I think for many people, religion and spirituality are a quest for truth, and when one thinks they’ve found the truth, they make the assumption that their truth should work for everybody. I think what I do works for me, I don’t give a shit if it works for everyone else.
Mark: I’m not sure I can go with that in terms of ACTUAL thought occurring.
JT: FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! Well…I think everybody’s convinced they’re right. I mean, that’s what it means to believe something. But what kills me is the staggering number of people, including atheists, who would rather overlook the evidence to feel as though they’re presently right, than acknowledge and work towards actually being right. That make sense?
Mark: I hear what you are saying, but it makes “truth” the highest human pursuit… and while, idealistically, I’m with you… in reality, I think it comes back to power. If my belief is “Right” and yours is wrong.. I have an advantage over you — I am better than you. That sounds like fundamentalism to me.
JT: Meh, even great people are wrong about some things. Blaise Pascal, genius mathematician, made *ahem* very bad apologetic arguments. I don’t think it makes a person better, I think their willingness to consider new things is what speaks to their character and intellect.
Jason: The very nature of religion is often about being special. Different groups like to think that they are the “chosen ones” or are somehow more important than every other religion or denomination.
JT: Man, I wonder how many atheists traded in “I’m god’s chosen” or “god loves me individually” for “I’m way more logical than you!” all with about the same amount of intellectual effort.
Mark: But there are religious teachers who teach the opposite of “I”m God’s chosen.”
Jason: Of course there are, I love that I’m a part of a faith tradition that doesn’t tell me we are the only ones who are right.
JT: Yeah, so back to point — is there a way to get people to not be so certain? I mean, I’m a fan of the axiom that expectations only breed disappointment, and I certainly don’t expect more out of people…but is that all we’ve got? Do we have to just resign ourselves to throngs of fundamentalists ruining it for all of us?
Mark: The only way I know is education, and the GOP is dismantling that in the US.
JT: In other news…may have gone a little heavy with the chocolate whipped cream vodka. O.o And holy shit, they are! I teach private voice lessons in Kansas. My students don’t know if they’ll have school in the fall and, as far as I can see, the population is greeting this result of a GOP-bankrupted state with, “Meh, Democrats just wanna raise your taxes.” Have I mentioned I hate humankind?
Mark: Sam Brownback is the greatest advertisement against the GOP agenda ever, and yet he still got re-elected. “What’s the matter with Kansas” indeed.
JT: Right, Mark?
Jason: One of the things I’m proudest about as a Californian is that I pay a lot of taxes, and I often see the result of those taxes. Our roads aren’t a mess of potholes, we have at least a little public transit, beautiful state parks…
JT: Yeah, Jason. I live in Kansas, and Lucifer himself could get elected governor here if he was on the Republican ticket. Hatred of Kansas growing…growing…Okay, backing away from the anger. Uh, weird talents! I sing opera, do magic, and can lift anything with my toes.
Mark: Seriously? I juggle and can lift anything with MY toes. Not kidding.
JT: Another mutant. I thought I’d be saving the world alone.
Mark: We will “stand” together.
JT: *golf clap*
Jason: I feel so inadequate, I don’t think my toes do anything special.
JT: Jason, perhaps you simply require training. Come with me and Mark to the Dagobah system…
Jason: I’m more of a Cloud City kind of guy, they have showers.
Mark: Yes!!! I’m not the lone geek!
JT: Come with us…to Dagobah. Where we’ll all play D&D and never talk to girls again.
Mark: HA! I’m not sure my girlfriend is going to be able to get behind this plan.
JT: Does she know how to cast Magic Missile? If so, she’s in.
Mark: She’s Wiccan — I think that mean she can do it in real life, right?
JT: Remind me: who worships Satan more, atheists or Wiccans?
Mark: They are both going to Hell, so what does it really matter?
JT: And there it is: soda water, straight out the nose. My cue to go. Ok guys, have a kick ass night.
Mark: Alright, been a lot of fun…but time to cook! Later!
Jason: Good night gentlemen.