Religious Orders

Draw Mohammed Day

Posted: Thursday May 20 2010 @ 5:22pm

Religious Order: Religion

So, it's Draw Mohammed Day. In case you're not familar with it, it's basically a reaction to Islamic threats towards those who have portrayed Mohammed in drawings. (Specifically, the recent South Park episode. Although the problem is more wide-spread than just that.)

It's also become, unfortunately, an outlet for a shit-load of racism.

The problem Muslims have regarding drawing Mohammed is two-fold. On one hand, some interpret the Qur'an to forbid drawing the prophet at all, in order to forestall people from worshiping the prophet in place of God. Well, that's fine, if that's what you believe. But don't expect me to follow suit. Additionally, if you're worried about me worshiping Mohammed, well, don't worry. Ain't gonna happen. So there's some irony there. Muslims may expect me to follow some rule for reasons that explicitly don't apply to me.

On the other hand lies the respect issue. Many, even most, of the people drawing Mohammed lately are being as rude with their drawings as they can. And Muslims are taking offense and asking for/demanding respect. And, again, that's fine. But then it escalates to threats and even attempts at violence. Then, it's not so fine.

Of course, on the gripping hand, the US has fucked around with the Middle East quite a lot, both historically and lately. And if I came from that perspective, I might throw a bomb myself.

Yes, that's right, I said it. Much of the Muslim anger towards the US is entirely justified. Radical Islam itself grew from the shitty things we did to Iran with the Shah. We are reaping what we've sown. That said, if y'all keep hitting at the US, we will eventually just blow you up. No, really, we can do that. I hope we don't. But we can. We really can. When US hawks yap about turning the Middle East into a smooth plain of glass, they're not kidding. I don't think folks in the Middle East really understand that we have enough missiles to take out the former Soviet Union. Sad, but true.

Well, in any case, I can't draw worth shit. But I can use an avatar creation program. So, here are my drawings of Mohammed. I decided to work against the can't draw the prophet at all rule instead of trying to be offensive just to establish that I can be offensive. So I went for cute and clever:

These next two aren't really drawings of the prophet at all. Rather, they're rather obvious plays on words:

Finally, if you want to draw Mohammed quickly and easily, here are two emoticons:

Stern Mohammed: (((:~{>
Happy Mohammed: (((;~)>

I did follow the Facebook group for awhile and engaged in some discussions with Muslims. And I learned some things, both good and bad. I'll post some thoughts on that tomorrow.

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The Morality Paradox

Posted: Monday December 07 2009 @ 1:53am

Religious Order: Religion

(Yes, it's another one of those long serious posts where I pretend to be all intellectual and shit.)

Reading this article, Creating God In One's Own Image, reminded me that I had been meaning to write about the Morality Paradox. Maybe paradox isn't the right word. I don't really know. Anyway, I find it interesting.

The article talks about how people attribute their own values to God. In other words, instead of deriving their own values from God, they decide on their own values first and then project them onto God.

And it reminded me of something about which I've been thinking recently. In short, people of faith, with a God-given set of rules upon which to draw, can't seem to come to any common moral conclusions. Meanwhile, atheists, who have no set of rules handed down, are surprisingly uniform on many moral issues.

Maybe I'm just grossly misinformed, but religious folks seem to cover the vast spectrum on moral issues. You have folks on each side of issues like abortion or gay rights. As one evangelical I know and respect said In their rhetoric, it is almost like progressive and conservative Christians are reading from two different Bibles. (Well, okay, I know this person's spouse. But the person quoted seems just as nice and smart. And I have loads of respect for both of them.) Of course, you also see them all over the political spectrum on money-related issues as well.

But, when you look at atheists, you just don't see many (any?) who are pro-life or who think we ought to restrict the rights of gays. Atheists are all over the place on other political issues, particularly money-related issues. I know far lefty atheists. I know libertarian atheists. And I know a shit-load of liberal Democrat atheists. But, on morality issues, we tend to line up pretty well.

I don't know any straight-up conservative atheists, presumably based on incompatibility with the moral issues listed above.

And I most certainly don't know any pro-life or anti-gay-rights atheists.

Shouldn't we be expecting the opposite? Shouldn't folks who don't recognize any supreme authority be all over the place on these sorts of moral issues? Shouldn't folks with a God-given book of laws all agree?

We can partially explain away the lack on consistency on the religious side by pointing out that the books of rules tend to have so many rules, you're almost forced to pick and choose which ones you want to follow. The Bible has Leviticus, a collection of rules that are followed or ignored based at least partially on who or what the follower doesn't personally like. Not to be outdone, the Qur'an tells you how to wipe your butt. No, seriously, including which direction to face so that an all-seeing God doesn't see you dirty butt.

Or, as the good Reverend Lovejoy once pointed out just about everything is a sin, technically we can't even go to the bathroom.

So, okay, it's understandable that they would come to differing opinions on what the various books of laws actually say. (Which brings up the question of why then bother with the book of laws. Another topic for another time.)

But I remain fascinated by the uniformity of us atheists on certain moral issues when we certainly don't agree on much else. Money issues? No way. There's a healthy percentage of atheist libertarians to counter all the liberals. Foreign relations? Nope. Sure, there's plenty of doves. But some of the most famous atheists are outright hawks.

But on personal morality issues? Right down the fucking line!

So, why would that be? The glib answer is that, without a book of laws, we're forced to actually think about the issues rather than having the answers handed to us. So we naturally come to the same correct answers.

Is that all there is to it? Yes!!! Bwaa-ha-ha!!! That's all there is to it!!! Ahem, sorry, got carried away by glorious rationality.

But that does lead me to another issue that's been rattling around in my skull. Long ago, I read Hitchens' god is not Great. I didn't much like it. It's long on shallow bitching and short on actual analysis. The only really interesting piece comes on page 126, I think. (The fact that I remember the page number is testament to the general lack of ideas in the book.)

Basically, Hitchens makes the assertion that good religious folks would still be good without their religious belief, but that bad religious folks are at least enabled by their belief. And I think that's true. But, how to actually prove that? Well, I don't think you can, but the study at the top of the post leads you in that direction. Their personal ethics and decisions drive their take on religion rather than the opposite.

The other thing that leads in that direction is the realization that atheist are basically a control group for moral decision-making, at least in some areas. Following that line of reasoning, we see that religion doesn't really make people good. They would be good anyway, like the control group. But religion can indeed make you bad, at least on some issues.

Yeah, I know, dime-store ethics. Whadda want for nothing? Rubber biscuit?

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In Good Company

Posted: Thursday October 08 2009 @ 6:25am

Religious Order: Religion

Here's a cool letter from Albert Einstein where he lays out his view of religion:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

Ooo! Harsh!

It is important to note that Einstein not believing in a God doesn't mean there isn't one. (Although there isn't. Sorry.) It just means that I'm in good company. Sorta. After all, Al was a nice guy, but he still cheated on his wife. And he pissed the end of his career away with an adamant refusal to accept quantum mechanics.

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Fundamental Difference?

Posted: Thursday July 02 2009 @ 12:13pm

Religious Order: Religion

So, I was pondering about whether there was some sort of fundamental difference between believers and non-believers. I'm sure there isn't any one simple thing. But I did run across what seems like a significant difference that I'm gonna explore a little here.

There's a family of arguments for the existence of God that all have a common basis. I don't know what the technical term is, so I call them Arguments that posit an extra-logical being to get around unwanted logical outcomes. Here are some examples:

First mover arguments argue that every object has to have some external force move it. Therefore there must be some first mover to start it all off. And that mover is God. Some call this the Big Domino argument. Creator arguments are also of this ilk. Everything needs a creator, therefore there must be a God to act as that creator.

Designer arguments argue that everything has a designer, thus there must be some first designer, again, God. This is often posed as a watchmaker scenario. If we find a watch, we assume there was a watchmaker. Similarly, we see the watchmaker and we should also assume that there was a watchmaker-maker.

Another one is where folks argue that our morality can only exist is derived from the higher level authority, again, God. I call this the Big Daddy argument. Just as kids get their morality handed down from their parents, their parents get it from God.

There are certainly more arguments along this line. These are just the first ones that pop to mind.

They all take the same form. They all start by asserting for every A, B must be true. A can be real world objects or concepts like morality or something else. B usually refers to another A as the source for the current A. It'll be something like has a creator, or derives from another source of morality.

The problem with these arguments is that they aren't really logically sound. If everything has to get their morality from somewhere else, where does God get his? If every object has a creator, who created God? These aren't logically sound arguments. (Realizing this propelled Bertrand Russell towards atheism.) The key is, they aren't meant to be logical arguments. They're really more a statement that logic doesn't suffice and that something extra-logical is required.

These arguments present situations which require an extra-logical concepts to exist in order to resolve things. The logical alternatives are unacceptable and demand the extra-logical being.

For example, if the statement is that everything truly needs to have a creator, then, logically, there are are two possible outcomes:

  1. There's an infinite chain of creators, or
  2. The statement is false and not everything needs a creator.

And, when faced with that choice, people seem to have one of two different reactions. Either they're okay with those options, or they can't accept either and instead posit an extra-logical being to resolve things. And that leads to the actual point of this (overly long) post. Is that reaction the difference between believers and non-believers?

Or put another way, does a fundamental difference between believers and non-believers lie in whether they find positing an extra-logical being to be a comforting answer to the logical situation that these sorts of arguments pose. (I'm not happy with using comforting here. It sounds like I'm being judgmental and I'm trying hard to not be that way in this post.)

For me, having some sort of infinite series or just having things be created from nothing isn't a big problem. Sure, it doesn't square with common sense. But neither does relativity, much less quantum theory. And exotic particles actually do appear and disappear from the quantum foam all the time. I stopped expecting the universe to conform to my ideas of common sense long ago. But many, perhaps most, people have a real problem with those sorts of concepts and find positing an extra-logical being to be a good solution.

Conversely, for me, saying that God starts things off as the prime creator/designer/hander-down-of-morals doesn't really resolve things. I keep asking myself, well then, who created/designed/handed-morals-down-to God? But, obviously, for a great many folks, that's an answer that works for them.

So, are we looking at a fundamental difference here? Does it explain at all why believers and non-believers often talk past each other?

And, from my standpoint, the biggest question is why does positing an extra-logical being satisfy believers? (And they all want to ask me why it doesn't. :)

I really don't have any answers here. But it's what I've been thinking about on my last few walks, so I thought I'd write it down. I'd love to hear other folks' take on it. And I'll try hard to just listen to comments rather than argue against them.

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National Day of Prayer?

Posted: Thursday May 07 2009 @ 10:35am

Religious Order: Religion

So what's the deal with the National Day of Prayer? Does that imply that the other 364 days in the year are days of non-prayer? Does it mean that religious people need to be reminded occasionally that they're supposed to pray? When is the National Day of Meditation, for those with non-theistic religions?

And why the hell does it need a Task Force?

It's just weird. That's all I'm saying. Especially since it follows the equally weird Loyalty Day.

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Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

Ooooh! That's just wrong!

But I am feeling a bit snarky. I was reading an article in USA Today earlier in the week. (I was out of town on business and that's what they leave at the door each morning.) The article was about whether people still believe in sin. That's sin as laid out by a god, not individual morality. Turns out, people are kinda turning away from the concept. And, predictably, some religious leaders were all worked up about that.

Part of the discussion was some reverend ranting on about how the Easter Bunny was even worse than Santa. At least Santa was a saint, said he. But the Easter Bunny and all the eggs had nothing at all to do with Easter.

Of course, the opposite is really true. The death and resurrection of Jesus has nothing to do with springtime fertility festivals, other than to use them as a means of accelerated acceptance by the masses. (Same thing with Xmas. And St. Valentine's Day, maybe. And basically all Christian holidays. Usually it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Celebrate All Saints' Day much?)

So the Bunny ain't piggybacking on Jesus. It's the other way around.

For me, Easter is simply a day on which I can't really do any shopping. Which isn't to say that, after a long morning of canoodling, we didn't try. At least the local candy store was open and Easter candy was already half off!

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Apparently They Didn't Have Enough Faith

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

Here's an appalling little story from Wisconsin, via WCCO.

Seems there were these parents who had an 11-year-old girl who developed diabetes. Instead of bringing her to a doctor, so she could get insulin treatment, they decided to just pray for her. So, for a month, this little girl was in pain and torment as she slowly died.

According to the police chief, their explanation was "apparently they didn't have enough faith."

Apparently they didn't have enough brains and a little girl died in pain because of it. But the police chief isn't much better. The girl has three older siblings. And these nut-job parents still have custody. Said the chief, "There is no reason to remove them. There is no abuse or signs of abuse that we can see."

What the fuck? Hope they don't get sick.

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The Line is Drawn

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

Some folks may read my Religion posts and decide I'm a little harsh on the really devout. Well, I'm not harsh enough. Republican front-runner Huckabee told a Michigan crowd yesterday that he wants to amend the Constitution to reflect his god's standards.

And this guy is the front-runner for the Republican party!

Honestly, anyone who votes for this schmuck is an un-American jerk-off, literally below my contempt.

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Tea Pot Worship

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

Via our good friends at Indonique, we find this gem of religious tolerance: Woman Jailed for 'Worshipping Tea Pot'.

That's right. Jailed. For worshipping a giant tea pot as part of the Sky Kingdom "cult." Why is it a cult? Maybe it has to do with their emphasis on inter-religious harmony. Can't have any of that! Ruins things for Islamic and Christian dictatorships alike.

It happened in Malaysia. Malaysia is pretty screwed up. They have constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship. But, if you're born Muslim, then you're stuck with their repressive Sharia law. You are actually forbidden from converting to other religions. Isn't that nice.

Actually, she's lucky. In some interpretations of Sharia law, trying to abandon Islam is punishable by death.

Let me be very clear here. Sharia law is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid! If you want to follow it, go right ahead. But to force others to live under it is barbaric.

There may be a load of nut-case Christians in this country, but the majority of Christians are nice folks. (I'm particularly fond of Catholics.) The big difference with Islam is that the nut-cases seem to be the majority.

I find this personally distressing as I am a devout Russell's Teapotarian.

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Atheists != Parents?

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:47am

Religious Order: Religion

Time is reporting on a case in New Jersey where an atheist and a pantheist are being prevented by Judge William Camarata from adopting a baby girl. The adoption agency is fine with it. Even the judge admits that the folks have "high moral and ethical standards."

So, what's the problem? He's worried that the child won't be able to worship God the way she might due to her disbelieving potential parents. I'm sure he's just as worried about all those kids forced to go to church each Sunday.

See? This is why we have to steal unbaptized babies for our, literally, infernal experiments and rituals.

Anyway, the NJ Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Stay tuned!

Most interesting is that the article boasts a date of Monday, Dec. 07, 1970. Weird. I'm pretty sure that Time didn't have a website back in the 70s. On the other hand, I can find no other mention of the story that doesn't stem from the Time article.

This case reminds me of one from 2005 about two Wiccan parents from Indiana. A judge was forbidding them to expose their own child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals." Freedom of religion indeed.

It ended up in the Indiana Court of Appeals, where it was unanimously overruled.

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